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Passing the Golden Plate

Acts 2 is a famous chapter because it tells the story of Christ’s church here on Earth. It talks a little about how they met, what they did, and well.. here let me read a portion of it.

Acts 2:42-46 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common.

45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes.

So notice, in this section, it says that the believers “sold their possessions and their belongings” and “gave the profit to those who had need.”

Acts 4 says pretty much the same thing 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

So that seems to be how the early church gave their money, so the question arises. How did we move historically from that method… to the method of “Passing the golden plate” down the row? How do we as a church move from giving freely… to giving the offering during the solo?

Right? Did you ever wonder about that?

So today I wanted to start with these funny gold plates and talk about the biblical idea of tithing. A great example comes to us from the book of Malachi. God speaks to the nation of Israel

Malachi 3:5-10 7 From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ 8 Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. 10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.

This is a great passage to preach – when giving is down. God has commanded that you tithe, if you don’t do it, you are robbing God. In other words – your tithe is necessary – and it’s mandatory.

Now, “Is tithing biblical?” Yes, it appears in the bible so it is “biblical.” Tithing was essentially the state tax of ancient Israel.  The tithe was meant to support city employees, it funded state holidays and it funded the state welfare. So in many ways, it worked a lot like what you and I would consider a “tax.”

But if we’re going to be good bible scholars we need to look at what this passage in Malachi is saying. First, the audience of this passage is ancient Israel. People who lived before Christ, people who lived under the Mosaic and Levitical law. In other words, they were under the “system” of sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins. Right now there is no cross, no grace. The relationship between God and people is very “at-arms-length.”

The tithe is established as a state tax to fund the state workers and state aid systems. And just like what happens today, if you don’t pay your taxes – what happens? They come after you. It’s a crime, rigth? This is why verse 9 says that the people who don’t tithe are “thieves.” God made the tithing system, he established it – so to ignore it meant to ignore God’s commands.

Verse 10 says, 10Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house

The storehouses were located in the temple. The poor and those who had need, came to temple to receive these gifts and so if the temple was empty, God’s house was empty and thus the people were “robbing God.”

And actually if you look at verse 5, God says he will judge those who oppress the widow and the fatherless, and against those who thrust aside the sojourner

That’s because those people were the rightful receivers of the tithe.  The poor. And so because Israel was withholding their tithe, she was guilty of ignoring the poor. This is the heart of what Malachi 3 is talking about.

This is what the passage is about.

So why do Pastors use this passage when they are talking about our “offering?” Surely times have changed, right? Our churches don’t have storehouses anymore.

This should challenge us to look further at what the tithe is, biblically……

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