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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Don't Touch the Tithe

Genesis 2:15-16-chapter 3

“One of the greatest missing teachings in the American church today is the reminder to men and women that nothing we have belongs to us.” - Gordon MacDonald

The American way of thinking is that we are self-sufficient and that we are responsible for all that we possess. The Bible provides a different perspective, of course: that we are merely the overseers of God’s earthly domain, responsible for taking care of His resources until Jesus returns. Getting people to understand and accept our role as managers rather than creators of wealth and resources is a crucial element toward encouraging good stewardship.
Scriptural Perspective

• Genesis 14:17-24 (Abraham acknowledged that his victory spoils were a gift from God).
• 1 Chron. 29:14-18 (everything is God’s; we watch over it on earth).
• Psalm 24:1-2 (everything belongs to God).
• Psalm 50:10-12 (God created, knows and owns everything that exists).
· 1 Cor. 4:2 (Paul exhorted those being trusted to prove themselves faithful).

However, there is another passage of scripture on the level of stewardship that we often times don’t see as a passage on stewardship or one as a lesson on tithing. This passage is recorded in Genesis 2:15-17.

Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. [16] And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; [17] but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."

What does it mean to be a steward? To be a steward is to be a manage of God’s divine resources. Understand that being a good steward is not that of being cheap, stingy, over-protective, and/or a numbers watcher. A good steward is a good manager for manager.

A man doesn’t decide to become a steward after he has been saved, nor after he begins to make good money. He is a steward—good or bad—when he becomes a Christian.

Stewardship in the Christian life demands that a man take good care of his financial affairs because he has been commissioned by Christ to manage those affairs for the Lord.

Stewardship is seen in how we manage our time, talents, and tithe. And the beginning account of scripture teaches us that God expects us to:

- Work: “tend and keep”
- Eat: “of every tree of the garden you may freely eat”
- Tithe: “of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat”

Here’s the underlining theme of the message we all need to get. As stewards of God’s divine resources make sure you don’t touch the tithe. I believe our stewardship is measured by how well we stay away from the tithe.


Well, let’s unwrap this text so that we can become better stewards (managers) of God’s divine resources.

I. The Call to Stewardship – v. 15

Understand that the book of Genesis is the book of beginnings. It is in Genesis that we read, witness, and believe that God spoke into nothing and created something. It is in Genesis where God forms the oceans, lakes, and land. It is in Genesis where we see God separate the moon and sun. It is in Genesis where we see God hang stars in the sky. It is in Genesis where we see God create the birds of the air, fish in the see, and animals on the land. It is in Genesis where we see God create man from the dust of the ground in God’s own image.

By the time we get to chapter 2 God breathes breathe into the nostrils of man. In verse 8 of chapter 2 we see God now creates a Garden which is named the Garden of Eden. In this garden, God placed 2 trees. One tree is the Tree of Life and the other Tree of Knowledge of good and evil and there where other trees in the garden as well.

Out of all the things we see in the Book of Genesis, we see a very important concept here. We see the concept of stewardship in the book of Genesis for in chapter 2 verse 15 the text says; “God took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” The verse shows us a very important concept here that we cannot forget and miss. God places Adam in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it. In other words, God places Adam in the Garden to manage that which God has created and given unto him. Here’s what we need to understand:

- Everything belongs to God

- Everything we possess is a blessing from God – v. 9

- God provides and sustains our every need – v. 10-14 – understand that no rain had come to water the garden. However, God provides and sustains the garden by allowing water to come from the ground to water the garden. What that means is that God can provide and sustain the stuff he places in your care.


II. The Command in Stewardship – v. 16-17


Chapter 15 of 1 Samuel reveals the developed flaws in Saul’s character that serve as warnings to believers today. Once humble, power made him so arrogant that he disobeyed God in the name of godliness. God regrets Saul and sends Samuel to call king Saul on the carpet. In verse 13 Saul feels as if he obeyed God’s command to destroy Amalek. Saul and the people of Israel pick the best animals to bring to God as an offering of sacrifice. In 1 Samuel 15:22 (NKJV) we read these words:

So Samuel said: "Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.

The message that Samuel brought to Saul is the same message that God brings to us today; sacrifice and obedience is not the same thing. More than what you bring to God, God wants your obedience. See, if we get being obedience right, we won’t be fighting with God, the pastor, and/or church over how much we ought to give of our time, talents, and tithe. God wants you to obey Him!

There is a positive and negative command here for those who obey to voice of God:

Positive - Satisfaction – The text says; “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat.” 1 Tim. 4:4 (NKJV) “For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving…” See many of us are not satisfied with what we have because we’re not thankful for what we have.


Negative - Suffering – The text says; “If you eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you will surely die”. Will a person physically die from being a bad steward? My answer is “I don’t know”. It is possible. Romans 6:16 (Msg) says – “You know well enough from your own experience that there are some acts of so-called freedom that destroy freedom. Offer yourselves to sin, for instance, and it's your last free act. But offer yourselves to the ways of God and the freedom never quits. All your lives you've let sin tell you what to do. But thank God you've started listening to a new master, one whose commands set you free to live openly in his freedom!” In other words, when we disobey God we open ourselves up to a life of suffering and pain which can lead to death physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. Disobedience breeds consequences. But if you keep reading chapter 6 you will find out that while Romans 6:23 (Msg)
You work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death. But God's gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master.

The only way out is to do what God tells us to do.


III. The Challenge in Stewardship – Chapter 3

The challenge of stewardship is seen in chapter 3.

First, the TEMPTATION – v. 1-5

As a little boy my mother would tell me over and over again, Clint don’t touch that, don’t do that, stay away from that. Don’t play with matches. Stay away from the electrical socket. Stay out of that field. And everything she told me to stay away from seemed like that’s what I wanted to do most. I heard her voice with the command of what to do and not do but challenge was trying to stay away from it.

The challenge in life is resisting temptation. We fight hard to resist all temptations of life but when it comes to our money we tend to be care-free. We give in to the temptation to spend what we know we don’t have, for things we don’t need, to impress people we don’t like (and they don’t like us). The serpent tricked Eve into believing that her disobedience was the right thing to do. He made her to think that she will not die nor will there be any consequences for her actions. And that’s what temptation will do, it makes you think it’s the right thing to do even when you know it’s the wrong thing to do.

Second, DISOBEDIENCE – v. 6-8

The 2nd challenge of stewardship is just as important and vital as the first, disobedience. Yielding to temptation leads to disobedience. I’ve learned a new definition for disobedience, disobedience is being spiritually stubborn. Nehemiah chapter 9 describes this spiritual stubbornness during the time when scripture is being read and study and true revival takes place with the people Israel. As they confess their sins to God in response to the word of God, v. 26 of chapter 9 gives this description of stubborn disobedience;

"Nevertheless they were disobedient
And rebelled against You,
Cast Your law behind their backs
And killed Your prophets, who testified against them
To turn them to Yourself;
And they worked great provocations.

Here is what you need to understand about disobedience, disobedience is never rewarding! Throughout all of Scripture, you will learn that disobedience doesn’t bring any good to the one who disobeys. Nehemiah 9:27 says;

Therefore You delivered them into the hand of their enemies,
Who oppressed them;
And in the time of their trouble,
When they cried to You,
You heard from heaven;
And according to Your abundant mercies
You gave them deliverers who saved them
From the hand of their enemies.


Adam and Eve disobeyed God and the text says their eyes were opened, they covered themselves, and tried to hide from God.

Disobedience is never rewarding!

Third, ACCOUNTABILITY – v. 9-19

God held the serpent, Eve, and Adam responsible for what took place in the Garden of Eden. The point is simple here, there is no escaping God’s accountability. He will hold you (and I) accountable for everything deed done good and evil.


Praise God that the story doesn’t end in Genesis chapter 3 with Adam and Eve being kicked out of the Garden of Eden. And praise God that whatever was lost due to our disobedience can be restored. Here’s a few suggestions to help each of us get back on track with God on this issue of stewardship:

- Confess Your Sins - James 5:16A
Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.

- Pray Hard - James 5:16b - The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

- Be realistic (frugal) - Luke 14:28 (NKJV)
For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it--

- Stay away from people, things, and places that will tempt you to spend the tithe - 1 Cor. 15:33 (NKJV)
Do not be deceived: "Evil company corrupts good habits."

My final suggestion, pray harder than the first time:

Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin;Each victory will help you some other to win;Fight manfully onward, dark passions subdue,Look ever to Jesus, He’ll carry you through.
Ask the Savior to help you,Comfort, strengthen and keep you;He is willing to aid you,He will carry you through.

Let’s pray!