Insights on Prosperity!


November, 2000

Dear Ministry Friends,

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 Matthew 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.

Next, the Israelites divided out a tithe (10%) of the finished harvest, which God directed to go to the "central temple" in Jerusalem (Deut. 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. 14, Neh. 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 Malachi 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,

Dale Leander


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