Tithing

Tithing                                               24/04/2022

 

We’re going to look at a story from 1 Kings 17, it’s the story of a prophet and a widow and a miracle. Three keys to the miracle.

The Prophet was Elijah, and he was in trouble because the stream where he was camping in the desert had dried up.

God said to him: Go to the little town called Zarephath and there you will find a widow who will take care of you.

I can imagine him grabbing his few things all excited thinking; Here’s my breakthrough, I’m out of here, I can’t wait to see what God is going……

in his mind’s eye he can already see the widow’s mansion, Jag in the drive way, nice big pool outside, manicured garden, poodle strutting …

As he reached this little town God said; There she is!

But he can’t see her, all he can see is this little old lady battling along with her walking stick and he’s thinking; Where’s this wealthy widow?

Who knows sometimes God’s answers don’t look like what we had in mind?

Shame Lord, look at her bony legs, she can’t even take care of herself!

Is that her shack over there? Are you sure this is the one?!

That’s the one, go ahead, speak to her.

 

 

So, he walks over to her and asks her for some water.

When she turned to get him water he asked for a piece of bread as well.

That’s when she told him she didn’t even have enough for herself.

He’s thinking, Lord, I told you…

Then she reveals her situation; I only have a handful of flour and a little oil.

She was about to use her last flour and the last few drops of oil to bake the last loaf for her and her son and that would be their last meal, and then were going to die.

1Kings 17:12 “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.”

Notice there was no hope …… She doesn’t say, we’ll eat it and hopefully we’ll find something else. She knew she didn’t have enough.

That’s why she says; That we may eat it and die.

 

 

Miracles are born out of need.

If there’s no need, there will be no miracle.

If you could solve that need, you wouldn’t need God.

Here’s my point; God uses the need to stir our faith.

 

So, she says to him, I’m going to eat it and die.

He says, OK, go ahead and die, but before you die first bake one for me.

Is that what he said?

Well kind of, but there’s a small part that we’ve forgotten……let’s go back to the text to check it out.

1Kings 17:12b “I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.”

13 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son.”

How could we forget that part ….Don’t be afraid….. that’s the key!!

If he never gave her that assurance and he just said to her go and bake me one first she may have said; Get lost, voetsek, take a hike!!

 

 

I want to remind you that God has said the same to us in scripture over and over again and yet we forget it.

Scripture is full of …. ‘don’t be afraid’ …. ‘Fear not’ …. ‘Be strong and courageous’

Isaiah 41:10 Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Matthew 10:30 Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

God is saying the same thing to us today;

Don’t be afraid.

Even though you may not have enough of this or enough of that, I’m more than enough.

Don’t be limited by what you see.

 

What was being tested in this woman?

Her respect for God’s word and her faith. She obeyed the word of the prophet even though she didn’t understand how it was going to work out, but she respected it.

 

The human mind says; This is crazy, this is foolish, I don’t have enough.

The spiritual mind says; It may seem foolish, but I respect God’s word enough to obey it without understanding it.

Faith will require us to move forward without understanding.

God doesn’t always offer us understanding, He offers His word.

Isaiah 40:8 The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.

Jesus said; Matthew 24:35 Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will never pass away.

God doesn’t always offer us understanding, He offers His word.

 

You and I need to decide whether we respect His word enough to obey it.

Leviticus 27:30 A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord.

Notice these two things; it belongs to the Lord…it’s not ours.

It is holy……….. don’t touch it, don’t spend it, don’t save it.

The question is, do we respect God’s word enough to obey it?

 

Let’s get back to the story

She gave to God first.

It’s not just that she gave to the prophet, it’s that she gave to him first. That’s what unlocked the miracle.

If she had said; OK, I tell you what, may son and I are going to eat, and if there’s anything left over …….

She probably wouldn’t have had her miracle.

 

The miracle was not only connected to the promise, it was also connected to priority.

The fact that she gave priority to God’s word and giving to him first.

God wants to be first in our lives, He wants to be priority.

 

So often we give God our leftovers – left over time, left over money…

if I have time I’ll go to church,
if I wake up in time I’ll have a quiet time,
if I have some money left over at the end of the month.

Gods not interested in our leftovers, He wants to be first.

That’s why scripture says; Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.

It’s not just about seeking God; it’s about seeking Him first…. God wants to be first.

 

Think about it, don’t you get ticked off when you’re an afterthought?

When they’ve already made the mess and they’ve tried to fix it and they’ve gone to someone else and then they come to you.
When they’ve already invited everyone else and only when someone else cancelled, now you get invited.

No one wants to be an afterthought, and our God is no different!!!

Proverbs 3:6 “In everything you do, put God first, and He will direct you and crown your efforts with success.”

What an incredible promise!

God promises us success if we’ll put Him first.

***One of the keys to the miracle is putting Him first, giving Him priority.

 

Exodus 23:19 Bring the best of the first fruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God.

The bible talks about first fruits or the tithe, which basically means a tenth.

The first fruit doesn’t mean your leftovers!

It means it’s the first EFT that you do.

 

One of the reasons I think God tells us to give our first fruits is to remind us where it all comes from.

Every time you do that EFT you’re saying;

God if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have a business or a job or an income or a cent, I wouldn’t have anything.
If it wasn’t for your grace O Lord, I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning. Thank you, Lord.

Tithing is gratitude to God, expressed in giving to His house.

 

Let’s get back to our story – she says to Elijah, I don’t have any bread… He says to her, don’t be afraid. Just do what I’ve told you.

Bake me a bread first ……….then he gives her the promise;

1Kings 17:14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: “The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.”

I want you to notice something ……. he didn’t say your oil and flour will run over, he said it will not run dry…….big difference!

Maybe that’s you, you haven’t had overflow, but let’s be honest, you haven’t run dry either.

One of the ways that God provides for us is not with overflow but preventing us from running dry.

Many people don’t see this because they are looking for overflow, they are looking for abundance.

Has it ever occurred to you that one of the ways God provides for us, is on a daily basis?! Give us this day our daily bread….

Instead of giving us more than enough, He gives us just enough.

 

I think one of the reasons God does that is to keep us dependent on Him. He knows if we have too much stashed away, we’ll lean on that rather than on Him.

God wants us to develop a dependence on Him ….the just shall live by faith.

He wants us to trust Him and make Him the priority and not our investments.

I’m not saying don’t have investments, I’m saying lean on Him.

 

Remember there are three keys to the miracle

Her respect for God’s word.
She gave to God first.
She used what she had

 

Just as the widow used what she had, you and I need to use what we have. i.o.w. You’ve got to learn to be faithful with little.

If you can’t be faithful with a little, you won’t be faithful with a lot.

If you can’t master, it on a small scale you won’t master it on a big scale.

Have you noticed how there are people who are broke with no money and there are people who are broke even though they’re earning a lot of money? What’s the problem?

They’ve never learnt to master the little, then when they get more they still can’t handle it.

 

God made her a promise if she put Him first.

But do you know God makes us a promise as well?

 

Proverbs 3:9 Honour the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops,

10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.

Malachi 3:10 “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

I’ve had people say; But Leonard, I’ve tried tithing, but it doesn’t work.

I’ve tried to tithe, and God hasn’t opened the floodgates of heaven.

Here’s how it works – the promises aren’t a quick fix, it’s not a case of if you’ll do this then immediately, I’ll do that.

The Promise say; If you’ll stay on this road, it will eventually lead to that destination.

 

The principle is this;

If you’ll give the first 10% the other 90% is blessed.

90% with God’s blessing is better than 100% without.

There is no doubt that God gives us a formula for greater blessing.

 

The principle of tithing is not about gambling at church and saying; Well let’s try this and see what happens.

No, it’s about priority. It’s about saying……..

God, I respect your word, you’ve told us to give 10% to your house.
I’m going to put you first; I’m going to give you priority.
I’ll be faithful with what you’ve already given me.

 

This is what the widow did, she went away and baked the bread.

Think about it, probably the two best smells in the world is braai vleis and fresh bread!

Do you know that she resisted the urge to take some for herself and she gave to the prophet first?

1Kings 17:15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So, there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family.

16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.

This is what I want you to see ……… even though the drought was not over, her drought was over!

Even though nothing had changed in her neighbourhood, everything had changed in her home.

God provided for her day after day right in midst of that drought.

 

I’ve got a feeling this may be for some of you today.

Maybe you’re going through a tough time;

Not enough finance,
Not enough business,
Not enough……

 

God is saying to you;

I don’t need the drought to be over in order to bless you.

I don’t need the pandemic to be over and the economy to be booming.

All I need is your obedience.

If you’ll do what I’ve told you to do, I’ll do what I’ve promised to do, and that’s to open the floodgates of heaven and to bless you.

 

God is the great giver, and His heart is to bless His children.

If you’ll take His word seriously – the tithe belongs to him and it’s holy
If you’ll put Him first in your finances and not give Him leftovers…
If you’ll give God what you have, He’ll give you what you don’t have.

 

Amen.