HOW MUCH MUST WE GIVE TO GOD?
WE DO NOT PAY TRIBUTE, WE DO NOT OWE A ‘TAX’, BUT GOD ASKS THAT WE GIVE OUR ALL. HOW DO WE DO THAT?
"And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter and said, Doth not your Master pay tribute?
He saith, Yea. and when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?
Peter saith unto Him, of strangers.
Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea and cast an hook
and take up the fish, that first comes up, and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money and take, and give unto them for Me and thee."
This was not a tax by the political rulers, the Romans, for Jesus taught there, to "render to Caesar the things that were Caesar's." This was the temple tax of a half shekel of silver that all males were to give to the Temple yearly. Jesus is here dealing with religious tribute. The tithe and offerings to the Temple are Jesus' concern here.
In the Old Testament, a tribute was to support the priesthood. Now, in the New Testament, we are all the priesthood. God does not ask a tithe, He does not ask the 23 1/3 per cent that the law demanded in the Old Testament.
We, as Christians, have given 100 % to Him, and are now in the family of the King of Kings. All we have is His... and we are not to go back to just "paying tribute". The "tithers" of the church age have short-changed themselves... and have missed the calling and demands of this ministry in the kingdom of heaven.
WE ARE CHILDREN OF GOD, AND OUR GREATEST
IS MEASURED BY HUMILITY, CHILDLIKENESS,
NOT BY OUR PURCHASE OF RELATIONSHIP,
BUT BY SHOWING THE NATURE OF OUR GIVING GOD.
"At the same time came the disciples to Jesus saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
And Jesus called a little child unto Him, and set him in the midst of them. And said, Verily, I say unto you, Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever, therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
Too many Christians seek applause, greatness, and fame. The seeking for recognition, for a name in lights, and to be a celebrity. Jesus came to this earth, being One of the holy Trinity, and yet, His claim was that He was the "SON OF MAN". This is a claim to be a "descendant of Adam." It took some time for most to realize that this One was truly the "SON OF GOD".
Too many saints today, and in that day, try to do the opposite way, seeking to be acknowledged, advertised, and recognized. If they are not announced, proclaimed, and publicized they are angered and embittered. This is contrary to the desires of the Lord for the kingdom of heaven.
HOW WE TREAT OTHERS DURING OUR MINISTRY IS WATCHED.
"And whoso shall receive one such little child in My name receiveth Me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones who believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh."
There has been in the church, in the kingdom of heaven, too much abuse, offending, and hurting of others. Most ignore this teaching, and squabble, hurt, criticize, fight, etc., in congregations. The treatment of one Christian upon another is closely watched by the Lord, by the King of the kingdom of heaven. It would be better if a millstone were hanged upon their neck, and they would jump in the sea, than to face the angry King of the kingdom.
A millstone was a stone about 18 inches in diameter, and three inches thick. It was a mode of punishment used by the Syrians, Greeks, and Egyptians. It was a feared and hated form of punishment to those to whom this was first written. We, too, should fear and dread doing anything that would make our Lord as angry as our King of kings says that He becomes when one mistreats one in His kingdom.
Athletes spend much time in training, conditioning, strengthening, and developing skills. When in a contest, the athlete is then ready to give full effort toward the victory. It is the same for the church. An unhealthy, weak, and sickly church cannot do the work that the Lord wants done.
"... build up the body of Christ."
Unhealthy congregations cannot effectively evangelize. Spasms of zeal do not replace spiritual health and fitness. Many congregations have been so unhealthy that they only occasionally exert a spasm of muscular effort to evangelize. The effort is short-lived, and so ineffective that it usually leaves its perpetrators with a frustration that discourages any further effort.
When there is sickness in a body church, (such as prejudice, hypocrisies, spiritual abuse, grudges, bitterness, etc.) the congregation is made unfit for the work of the Lord. These sins, and many others, afflict many congregations. They struggle to survive as a body, like a sick patient in intensive care. It will be a wonder and miraculous, if this kind of congregation can just survive till the rapture. The sickly, anemic, body churches will never see sustained growth, revival, and ministry development. They may try programs, contests, crusades, and other outward programs, but the church will always go from crisis to crisis. They may seek someone to blame for the crisis, but the reality of the problem is the anemic, sickly condition of the congregation.
The congregations face the same kind of problems today that they faced in the early church. There are still church cliques. Immorality is still rampant in the congregations. There is immaturity, doctrinal error, marriage troubles, abuse of spiritual gifts, misused liberty, rule adding, judgmentalism, hypocrisy, etc. The admission of these kinds of problems in the church congregations of today bring embarrassment, discouragement, misunderstanding, and opposition from the ones who suppose to lead the congregations. The Lord is more embarrassed than any of us. He has made it possible and easy for the church to function properly, but we as a church have failed to heed His way, and have attempted to create dogmas, rituals, and denominational structure to accomplish what they can never accomplish. The congregations will never become healthy by neglecting the path that Lord has directed us to take to find spiritual fitness.
Physical health is shown by measuring blood pressure, heart rate, amount of weight lifted, speed, endurance, etc. Spiritual health in a congregation can be measured by KOINONIA. Koinonia is the fellowship, close intimate friendships, the bearing of the burdens of others, the confessing of faults, the intercession (not gossip and judgmentalism), the exhorting, ministering, loving and caring of the cell churches for each other. This is the measurement of spiritual health of a body church. Koinonia is the test of a healthy church, in the same way that a physical exam is the measurement of the conditioning of an athlete.
Koinonia proves the existence of true love. Love proves spiritual health.
"A new commandment, I give unto you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one for another."
This kind of concern of Christians for each other makes the world marvel. They stand in awe when they see a healthy church body at work. The love is so evident, and so different from the love they see on the soap operas, at work, or in their own homes. Jesus is the divine example and prototype for this kind of love. The Holy Spirit deposits this same kind of love into the hearts of believers. Believers can either allow the love to develop and shared with others, or can allow it to be self consumed. It is so vital to the church, to have this love in operation, that the Lord Jesus made it a commandment.
"Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ."
"A new commandment I give unto you... that you love one another."
In some congregations, the love is replaced with judgmentalism, rule adding, critical appraisals of each other. When wardrobe and other outward manifestations of culture become the judging standard of congregations, the love, acceptance, and burden bearing of others' hurts is pushed aside. These congregations may feel superior to others, by reason of their "holy" standards, but in truth are the weak and sickly congregations who are in need of a transfusion of love from the Lord. The cancer of judgmentalism, and hypocritical living will kill many in the congregation. The judgmentalism, and the lack of love that allowed it to grow, must be surgically removed by repentance. Then the Lord will send in the love of the Spirit to restore life and health to the body.
Many such congregations cannot admit to their unhealthy lack of love. This is why the Word of God so emphasizes the confessing of weaknesses. The Bible also encourages the intercession of one saint for another. This fault confession with intercession will bring a sickly church into a healthy condition of love and koinonia.
"Confess your sins one to another, and pray one for another that ye may be healed."
Pride shows weakness. The proud congregation that wants to hide its lack of love, cover over its hypocritical judgmentalism, and escape listening to any sermons on its own sins, will die a sickly body church in these last days. Humility and admitting the need of help shows the strength necessary for the body church to undergo the surgical removal of the cancers that have kept the body sick.
The world teaches that one should reject or ignore one's faults. Some Christians have also taught to only confess the positive, and never admit a fault. This is nearly as un-Scriptural as one can get. Some of these, who won't admit their own faults, will try to blame others for the problems. This creates bickerings, anger, and grudges. Some of them will try silence, and think that if the sins are not admitted, they will go away. They will "put on airs", and hide their faults. Ignored cancer will not go away, and neither will ignoring the lack of love and koinonia make the associated weakness of the body go away. The congregation can only get into right standing with the Lord by confessing their weaknesses.
The second part of confession of faults, is the interceding of one saint for the other. Whenever a fault is admitted to another, the proper response is to pray for them. The next verse after the one encouraging confession and intercession says:
"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."
It is necessary to note here that the confession of certain intimate and scandalous matters should be reserved for more private times with a proven intercessor. Some have tried to obey James 5:16 and found in so doing that the one who should have then interceded for them was only a gossip and hypocrite. The results are tragic, and the end results have made many Christians shy away from ever attempting to obey this passage. We must not let the hypocritical judgmentalism of some cause us to not obey the Lord. We must simply seek out the kind of loving, caring saint that the Lord wants all of us to be. When we find such a non-judgmental Christian, we can then unburden ourselves with the weight of our besetting sins, and receive the intercession from that one that will result in the church body becoming healthy.
Problems are quickly solved in body churches once admission starts. When a body church starts to openly admit their failures and weaknesses, healing will take place like never before. Many a congregation has sought and prayed for physical miracles and healings to occur. They wonder why they are so rare. The reason for the rarity of physical healings is the spiritual weakness of the body of Christ. When the proper functioning of the body begins, when the saints begin to admit weaknesses, and then intercede one for another, the body church becomes healthy enough that the miraculous becomes normal.
"Brethren, if a man is overtaken in a fault, you who are spiritual restore him in a spirit of gentleness."
"If I then, you Lord, have washed your feet, ... you also should wash one another's feet."
When a church body can get to the loving exhortation to those who confess faults to us, spiritual health is the result. The process may seem frightening to the inexperienced. Yet, to those who have seen the body church in health enough to obey the Lord's instruction, know that the miracles, the growth, the health of the body is almost un-imaginable.
The early church came to this kind of accord and love in the upper room. They went from a few sickly, scared members hiding during the crucifixion, to 120 in the upper room. Then suddenly when the body became healthy, 3000 were added with the first sermon. In seventy years, the number of saints in the body grew to over half a million. Then in the next hundred years, the number grew to over 2 million. In the next 100 years, the number again more than doubled to 5 million. When the body churches become healthy again, the church will astound the world with its growth and blessings.
We must get the church body to again love as it was always intended. Until it assumes the role that will put it into a healthy state, it will continue to be the anemic group of congregations that it is now . The church congregations are now beset with unrest and many demands for change. The Holy spirit is unsettling the church bodies. The traditional forms of services, the hymns, and even the architecture are being shaken and changed. People are clamoring for replacing the large congregational services with smaller fellowship groups. Small group worship will be more effective, personal, and spiritual, we are told. The Holy Spirit is attempting to get the church bodies to change, and to get back into harmony with the plan of God for the church.
The debate will continue, and the search for the "perfect" church will not end in these searches. The key is not to find the perfect ritual. Ritual of any kind is not to be an end in itself. Our rituals, and forms of worship, are intended to be vehicles to get us to the proper expression of the church. The proper expression of the body church is the koinonia fellowship between the members of the congregation. Worship of the Lord cannot find its epitome until love of the brethren finds its proper zenith.
Worship requires us to commune with the Lord. It is adoration of our Lord Jesus, with the aid of the Spirit, that brings us into a harmony of relationship with the Father. The problem of reaching this kind of adoration is that the Lord measures the worship by the koinonia between the members of the body.
Our RELATIONSHIP with toward God is measured by our attitude toward our brother. To love God, as we ought, we must love our brothers and sisters in the Lord.
The Lord desires to bring the congregations into a perfection of knowledge, of number, and of holiness. God is trying to add daily to the church (Acts 5:14, 2:47). There will come a time in the latter rain revival when the number will jump immensely. The Lord has begun a good work in us, and will continue to strive with our misconceptions, our mistaken rituals, and our hindering hypocritical ways until He gets the church to the revival of blessing that He wants us to have.
"He Who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ."
"The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me."
"Him, we proclaim, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man mature in Christ."
We need to know how to measure our love for the brethren. The deceitful kiss of Judas on the cheek of our Lord in Gethsemane shows the deceitfulness of the heart of people. Many churches have learned to pretend a love, and a fellowship. They may greet at the door with smiles and handshakes, and stab in the back in the committee meetings. They may say all are welcome, but shun those who do not measure up financially, or dress in proper wardrobe, or speak with educated verbiage. The traditional ways of measuring koinonia and love of the brethren need to be thrown out the door. God has given us a special way to measure our fitness in His program.
"Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive. But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, Who is the Head, even Christ. From Whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love."
The measuring stick with which we measure our maturity and accomplishment in the direction the Lord wants is the Lord Himself. We are to come into the "stature of the fullness of Christ." We have been predestinated to be "conformed to the image of His Son."(Romans 8:29). We cannot be like unto Jesus without first getting the body healthy, and then growing in this health to a maturity. Lack of love shows the unhealthy state. Lack of koinonia shows a sick and weak body church. However, even after we have gotten to the place of having healthy relationships in a congregation, we must then mature.
What God asks for us to give, is for us give of ourselves to His children. We minister, help, love, His family, and that giving is shown in a multitude of ways, and that is what God wants us to give.