What does the New
Testament really teach about prosperity and money? There are several
key scriptures that must be kept in mind when trying to determine
this issue, especially when interpreting the less-clear Biblical
passages on finances. The first scripture is Hebrews
8:6 which tells us that Jesus came to give us "a
better covenant established on better promises."
The Old Covenant included many clear promises that God would financially
bless His obedient Jewish believers. Deuteronomy
28:1-14 is a stereotype of many passages that detail God's
blessings on an obedient Old Testament believer. So if Hebrews
8:6 tells us that we have a "better covenant" than
those Old Testament believers, you have to arrive at the honest
conclusion that God wants His obedient New Testament children
to be at least as blessed as those Old Testament believers were.
That brings up a
second scripture we have all heard. Philippians
4:19 promises that God will supply all of our needs according
to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. A first point is very
important He didn't promise to supply all our "wants"
or "luxuries" but rather our (basic) needs. Next, God
is not obligated to meet a need just because we have a need. The
people of the world are full of needs hundreds starve to
death every day. God designed a system where He responds to faith,
not needs. For example, salvation is available to everyone
but only those who have faith in Christ Jesus are actually saved.
God meets our needs as we have faith in Christ Jesus (as the passage
concludes). Now, God is also a rewarder of those that diligently
seek Him (Hebrews
11:6), and He will give people the desires of their hearts
if they delight themselves in Him (Psalm
37:4). But these extra rewards come from diligent commitment
and service for God, not casual service.
Last, we all know
6:33 says if we seek God first, He will add the things we
need. But again, it doesn't mean if we just go to church and own
a Bible we will be blessed. I have known totally unsaved people
that owned a Bible and went to a church as often as many Christians!
This brings up what
it means to put God first. There are only 3 areas of our lives
that we can measure this in. They are our three T's TIME,
TALENT, and TREASURE. Concerning
TIME, we all have 168 hours in every week. If
someone was watching, could they tell that you or I put God first
in our time each week? Measuring God's place in our TALENT
is more difficult, but are we honoring God and in His will
with what we are doing in our vocation or career? Last,
are we putting God first in our TREASURE? This
is our money. This is the easiest to measure (we just review our
checkbook), and perhaps the most difficult for people to want
to fully comply with. A minister I worked for in 1985 said he
thought people were 3 parts: spirit, soul and body. But after
pastoring for many years, he came to believe they have 4 parts:
spirit, soul, body, and wallet!
So how much of "our
money" does God want? (It is really all belongs to Him anyway
if you have been bought by the blood of the Lamb.) The answer
is probably close to 25% and let me tell you why. In the Old Testament,
the first giving God instructed was to the poor (Lev.
19, 23, & Deut.
24). The Israelites harvested the main body of their fields.
But they were supposed to leave the stalks standing in the edges
of the fields (mingled in the weeds) for the poor to glean out,
as well as what fell on the ground as they were carrying the harvest
away. Scholars tell us this was about 2% of the total harvest.
the Israelites divided out a tithe (10%) of the finished harvest,
which God directed to go to the "central temple" in
12). This "central temple" corresponds to our "home
church" as a New Testament believer. But as Israel spread
out all across the land "from Dan to Beersheba"
it was too far to go to Jerusalem (up to a 212 mile round trip)
if they needed personal ministry. So God designated that "local
Levites" were close by in all the cities to provide pertinent
personal ministry in addition to what the "central
temple" made available. The Israelites were commanded to
provide a "second tithe" to these "local Levites"
that ministered to them (Deut.
10). These "local Levites" today would be the radio
and TV ministers, those that minister through audio and video
tapes and the printed page, and traveling ministers (evangelists,
teachers, etc.). The question is: who ministers to you outside
of your local home church? You should support them financially
with up to 10% of your income. Originally, when the Israelites
were few and still close to the central temple, they only gave
the second tithe every third year. This would be 3% to 4% on an
annual basis. But as the people grew in number, and were more
distant from the central temple, the Israelites gave this second
tithe annually because the work load on the local Levites increased
(Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 4, Ch. 8). With the moral
and spiritual condition of America so low, the workload for the
"local Levites" has never been greater.
Last, the Israelites
gave special offerings as the occasion arose (peace offerings,
wave offerings, sin offerings, free-will offerings, etc.). Some
of this giving could correspond to our modern missions giving.
They also contributed to building programs when the need existed.
This easily brings the total to 25% or more of their gross income.
But God certainly blessed them tremendously when they were obedient!
He made them the head and not the tail, above and not beneath,
etc. Why aren't more Christians blessed in their finances? A big
reason is because they thought the first tithe to their local
church was the goal (and ending point) for their giving. But in
fact, scripturally it is just a starting point (and over
80% of all Christians don't even give the first 10%). Isn't it
striking how Christians are not committed to God in His money,
but they want God to be committed to them in their money! And
if God's people would give God's money to God's ministers, they
would have God's blessings and God's work could get done
in God's way in God's timing!
This is why the famous
3:10 passage says people are robbing God if they don't give
tithes (plural for two tithes) and offerings. You might say, "Brother,
we are not under the Law!" I would agree, but Abraham
gave tithes to Melchizidek long before the Law. Joseph instituted
two tithes before the Law (Gen.
41,47). Furthermore, we had scripture reading and prayer under
the law, but we know we should still do those things today!
Tithes and offerings
are eternal principles that are just as valid today as ever. The
problem lies in the human heart, not in theology or dispensations.
Don't let any person or any devil talk you out of tithes and offerings.
They are a very important key to God's blessings on your money!
Don't knock it before you've "tithed" it!
Giving for God,