WARNING... how and what one should give to God gave birth to the first jealous rage recorded in human history - and ended with murder. In Genesis 4, Cain concluded that whatever I choose to give is a personal and private matter and God should appreciate my decision. In fact, whether to give in the first place, and if so how much, has been sacred groundsince the beginning of human history, and anyone who treads there does so at his own peril.
Later, the Law would conveniently mandate the proper amount down to the minutest degree, but long before Moses and the Law, God had made it clear that what He required was simply our best. Just as Able gave the first of his flocks, and did so without knowing how his decision would affect the future of his herds. His brother Cain's gift required far less risk but was well in line with the still popular notion that something is better than nothing and whatever I choose to bring should be appreciated.
Nonetheless, God rejected his frugal offering and condemned his attitude. Then, like so often happens to this very day, this volatile issue led to discord, hatred, and in the case of Cain, the murder of his own brother. No relationship is safe when humans feel obliged beyond their willingness or have their efforts scorned. In fact, God even warned Cain that his attitude was certain to bring pain and heartache, and yet his idea that it was no one's business but his own was more than he could resist.
So, what should we give... our best. Our best will require sacrifice, risks, and much consideration. Paul taught that "each should give as you have decided in your heart to give... ." We should consider in our heart ahead of time how we plan to honor God with our gift. Our heart is where our deepest expression of love toward God rest and is a clear indicator of our priorities.
Paul continues that "You should not be sad when you give, and you should not give because you feel forced to give. God loves the person who gives happily" (2 Cor 9:7 NCV). Imagine seeking legal counsel as to the least amount one must give to his children in order to be lawfully supporting them. Such selfishness would not convey love but rather an obligation.
So, what about tithing? The tithe is an Old Testament requirement that is easily and perhaps legitimately dismissed as legalism. But, for most, 10% is rarely a consideration anyway, and the reality is that most actually give little or nothing. However, the New Testament teaches that we are simply stewards, not owners of anything. Our responsibility is to see that every cent of the Master's resources is used to glorify Him.
Still, we may feel that "I worked for it and so I deserve to keep as much of it as I choose." I challenge you to make it a matter of prayer. Ask God what would be pleasing to Him. Seek His will for your finances, time and all other resources over which He has given you responsibility. This will allow Him to create in you the heart of not only an obedient giver but a cheerful one.
Pastor Michael Snelgrove