The Earth is the Lord’s and the Fullness Thereof
THE EARTH IS THE LORD’S AND THE FULLNESS THEREOF Ps. 24:1
A robber may approach us to take from us what is ours and to gain it for himself. He may threaten us, ‘Your money or your life.’ If we don’t give him our money, he will take our life. He uses brute force. Ah, but our God says to us, ‘Your money and your life, and…’ He beckons us to a totality of devotion to Him and His cause. His cause unlike the robber’s is just and right. There is a totality to His appeal for commitment. And why should it be otherwise, since He has given us all that we have and are. Naked we came into the world and naked we shall leave it. He formed us in our mother’s womb and since then bestows on us all that we have regardless of the methods by which we have what we have. The Lord of heaven and earth came to this world and took our human form to atone for all our sins by His giving up His life. Our God does not employ force but love to have us follow Him. Our God does not threaten us to follow Him, but rather gives us life abundantly here and even more abundantly above.
The Broad, not the Narrow Concept
Sometimes in asking for offerings from our people we present too narrow a concept. In considering offerings it is not just money. The whole broad issue of love is at issue, we loving Him because He first loved us. I Jn.4:19 There is the consideration of the relationship of believer to his God, the beloved Master and devoted servant relationship. This is not one of threats and force, but of grace, mercy and love. The question also arises of appreciation of what God gives which prompts thankfulness and how that is expressed. The broad view should be considered-a life in service to God.
In this study we are not considering the use of what God gives us for our brother and neighbor’s good except in so far as it involves the kingdom work. In who we are and what we have there is no question that we should love our neighbor and do good, especially to those of the household of God. I Pet. 4:10,Prov.19:17, Deut.15:11, Gal. 6:10 This study limits itself to who we are and what we have in regard to God’s kingdom work.
I Cor. 6:19-20 reminds us of the totality of whose we are in the church,”…You are not your own; you were bought with a price…”And 10:31 states clearly the broadness of our commitment, “…do all to the glory of God.” Hymn#400 in TLH details this, “Take my life and let it be Consecrated, Lord, to Thee; Take my moments and my days…my hands…my feet…my voice…my lips…my silver and my gold…my intellect…my will… Take my love , my Lord, I pour At Thy feet its treasure store; Take myself, and I will be Ever, only, all, for Thee.”
We Christians at times have an identity crisis. Who are we? What are we? What are we doing here? These and other questions may plague us. Delving into the Bible will yield
the needed answers as surely as day follows night. First, let us remember that God made the world, Ex.20:11, and upholds it. He owns all. Ps. 50:12 The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Job.1:21 In blessed addition our Jesus died once for all. Heb. 7:27 We now have one Master, the Christ. Mt. 23:10 Part of our service or daily worship of Him is using all to His glory. Everything is on loan to us: time, talents, treasure, and so on. In a sense while we are here in this life, we return to God what is His in the proper use of all we are and have as we seek to do His kingdom work to His glory not ours.
This simply put is Christian stewardship. In the parable in Mt. 20in verse 8 the owner of the vineyard speaks to his steward. The steward is one to whom things are committed. In the following four passages the word ‘steward’ is a house manager or one entrusted with the care of the owner’s house and goods. In Lk. 16:2f. we see how much responsibility the rich man gave to his steward. In Lk.12:42 the Lord speaks of the “faithful and wise steward” and in verse 48 reminds us, “Everyone to whom much is given, of him will much be required…” In I Cor. 4:1 we read that we are servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God and as such are to be trustworthy. In I Pet. 4:10 as each of us receives a gift we are to employ it for one another as good stewards of the varied grace of God. In each of these passages we see what the sense of a steward is. With everything we are and have we have been entrusted by God. There will come that time when He will reclaim what He has loaned to us. We now ask ourselves as to how we utilize such as good, faithful and trustworthy. It is not a matter of just, “Honor the Lord with your substance and with the first fruits of all your produce.” Prov. 3:9 It is a matter of loving the Lord Our God with all our heart, soul and mind and living accordingly the thankful life.
The Problem of Sin
In Rom. 11:35-36 we read, “Or who has given a gift to Him that he might be repaid? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory for ever. Amen.” Here is that totality, the broad view. The problem we have sad to admit is not to wonder in amazement, ‘How could I ever repay Him for what He has done for me, given to me and promises me?’ The problem is that I start to set my heart on the earthly which is on loan instead of on the heavenly. I may mouth pious sounding words but in the heart there can grown that which turns the heart in a disastrously different direction. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Mt. 6:21 As our Lord taught, we cannot serve two masters.
Even among the apostles the devil worked to redirect. Peter said, “Lo, we have left our homes and followed You.” Lk. 18:28 It can so easily begin to be a matter of having a balance sheet of gains and losses. Jesus points them again to what really counts, “Truly, I say to you, there is no man who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive manifold more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” Lk.18:28-29 The Lord can read hearts and knows that
there is the problem. I may start to think that I am giving up too much personally to follow Christ. Inwardly I must keep in focus that as Jacob confessed, “I am not worthy of the least of all the steadfast love and all the faithfulness which Thou hast shown to Thy servant…” Gen.32:10 I am a sinner to my dying day and do not deserve any of God’s mercies, let alone the least of them. Jacob pictures all of God’s manifestations of His steadfast love and faithfulness. It is as if they all lined up. In that line was the tiniest. Of that Jacob says he is not worthy. Jacob shows he is a servant of the Master and as such is appreciative of how the Master has treated him.
The appreciative heart is thankful to God and causes one to give thanks in time, talents and treasure to God that others may also know the generous Master. Paul encourages us in these appreciativeness. “There is great gain in godliness with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world…” I Tim. 6:6-7 Gain and loss the sinful flesh inverts from ‘Only one life ‘twil soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.’
Tithes and Offerings in Old Testament Times
When we finally do consider the offerings and tithes of Old Testament believers it is a context of service to God, the Redeemer whose sacrifice is pictured over and over again in the sacrificial offerings. Just think of the ‘waste’ in slaughter and going up in smoke as God’s people gave to Him. ’Waste’ is the word the devil uses to describe it. We do not. And just think that the animals had to be blemish free, hale and hardy. They could not be crippled or diseases animals. It was a matter of only the best for our dear Lord. The sinful flesh nags us that it is really too much, as a crippled animal can be slaughtered and burned just as well as a healthy one. And practically speaking (according to the flesh) the healthy one could be bred to produce more good animals, while the crippled and diseased were useless anyway. The sacrifices were an indication of how much God means to His people. How valuable is He to you? Does He deserve your best?
Our practice of giving a tenth, a tithe, in Old Testament times you can read for yourself: Num.18:25-32, Deut.12:6, 14:28, Mal.3:8-10. The chief thing we want to consider is that it was a giving of glory to God, a showing of worshipful service to Him. The practice demonstrated that He is involved in our daily lives just as the tithe was carried out. Of course Jesus is the end of the Law for righteousness. Rom. 10:4 Jesus fulfilled the Law of the Old Testament. Now we are not bound by tithe and offering rules. Before ever though the tithe law came through Moses there was a practice of giving God a tenth. Melchizedek, the king of Salem and priest of God Most High, came out and blessed Abraham in the victory over the enemy kings. “…and Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” Gen. 14:20 Likewise Jacob at Bethel spoke to God, “this stone which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house; and of all that Thou givest me I will give the tenth to Thee.” Gen. 28:22 If both of those ancient fathers of faith well before there ever was a law could do this willingly there are implications for us.
Passages from the New Testament on Offerings
Life under our Lord is a life of serving Him, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich.” IICor. 8:9 We serve in joyful thankfulness. Paul’s word here in II Cor. is in the context in which we find the majority of passages in the New Testament that discuss offerings, that of the special collection for Jerusalem, the saints of the congregation who were in dire need. It is interesting that we draw principles from these passages that go beyond the special collection idea and apply them to offerings in general. With the idea of special collection as that for Jerusalem and that the Macedonians out of their extreme poverty overflowed in a wealth of generosity, it reminds us that we can always do more to Gods’ glory. Consider the following references and see how we draw principles from them.
I Cor. 16:1-2 “Now concerning the contribution for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that contributions need not be made when I come.”
II Cor. 8:1-5 “We want you to know, brethren, about the grace of God which has been shown in the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of liberality on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own free will, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this not as we expected, but first they gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.”
II Cor. 8:10-14 “And in this matter I give my advice: it is best for you now to complete what a year ago you began not only to do but to desire, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a man has, not according to what he has not. I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of equality your abundance at the present time should supply their want, so that their abundance may supply your want, that there may be equality.”
IICor. 9:1-15 (selected verses) v.5 “So I thought it necessary to urge the brethren to go on to you before me, and arrange in advance for this gift you have promised, so that it may be ready not as an exaction but as a willing gift.” V.6 “The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” V.7”Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” V. 8 “And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work.” V. 11 “You will be enriched in every way for great generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.”
While Paul did mention that Galatia is also participating in the collection, his verses as follow are not in that direct context, “He who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.” Gal. 6:8-9
Paul does mention the collection for the saints in Rom. 14:25-28 and that he is carrying it to the destitute brethren. But his words in chapter 12 are broader than just that context. In 12:8 we read,”…he who contributes, in liberality.” But the broad context is definitely given in12:1”I appeal to you therefore, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” And so we come back to the broad context again, not just money, but our lives in service to Him.
Christian Principles of Stewardship
Consider just a few principles from Scripture on stewardship or a life of service to God.
The First Principle – In Lk.18:18f. the rich young ruler had treasure in first place in his heart. He went away sorrowing because he would not give first place to the Lord. God must come first as He is the one who has purchased us with the holy, precious blood and innocent suffering and death of His only-begotten Son. Mirroring this principle Paul encourages the Corinthians to put away on the first day of the week for the collection for the saints. Putting God first is also pictured in the following two passages: “gave themselves to the Lord” II Cor. 8:5, “present your bodies as a living sacrifice.” Rom. 12:l Could it really be otherwise when we consider who our God is and what He ahs done for us lost sinners? And consider what He continues to do for us until He then takes us to heaven.
The Proportional Principle –Abraham and Jacob gave a portion of their goods to God. In I Cor. 16:1-2 Paul encourages the people to set aside for God. Beyond money it is a matter of using our time and talents in God’s work like teaching SS and VBS, serving in some capacity in the congregation, working on a church building, donating food and materials and so on. Everything I am and have is His, to whom naturally a part should be returned in use and thankfulness. He has abundantly blessed me. Lk. 6:38 God is able to provide for me no matter what I return to Him in appreciation. “And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work.” II Cor. 9:8Let us let God be God.
The Cheerful Principle – We dare not give or serve begrudgingly, under compulsion, as an exaction or out of fear. The perfect love from God casts out our fears and with that all else of this kind of thing. The Macedonians had “an
abundance of joy to give.” II Cor. 8:1 The Lord loves a cheerful servant. When we do not act out of God’s love it is not pleasing to God, even if it may appear to be a great thing we do for Him or a great amount we give back to Him. It is the motive that first must be right. We are of all people most happy because if God be for us, who can be against us, and won’t the Father give us all things good for us through His Son? Rom 8:31-32
The Give and Receive/Withhold and Suffer Principle – The Bible is full of this principle. God blesses faithfulness. “As you sow, so shall your reap.” Gal. 6:6-7, II Cor. 9:6 If the earth is the Lord’s and fullness thereof and He is in charge and knows and loves us, what is there to keep us from serving Him with our time, talents and treasure unstintingly? In faith “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.” Ecc. ll:l “One man gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.” Prov.ll:24 Sadly, there are those foolish people who fear loss, if they ‘put too much’ time, effort, money, goods, gifts, abilities to God’s use. We can only ask ‘Is God God?’ Does anything escape His notice? Of course not.
He is our Good Shepherd – Jn.10:11-18, our Great Shepherd – Heb. 13:20, our Chief Shepherd – I Pet.5:4. When He comes in the clouds, He will give us the unfading crown of glory. Could He possibly neglect us now? Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness…
When the wise men came to Jesus, they came to their King. They came to worship Him. Their offerings were only a part of the worship. Mt. 2:1-11 Let us consider our lives as lives of worshipful service.
“Lord of Glory, who hast bought us With Thy lifeblood as the price, Never grudging for the lost ones That tremendous sacrifice; And with that hast freely given Blessings countless as the say…Grant us hearts, dear Lord, to yield Thee Gladly, freely, of Thine own; With the sunshine of Thye goodness Melt our thankless hearts of stone…” TLH #442