Sabbath School Lesson for February 10-16, 2018
Last week we saw the marks of a steward in his faithfulness, integrity, loyalty, and obedience. None of these are possible though without another character trait, known simply as honesty. Honesty is something that happens in the heart, but there is one way the Bible has designated for us to show our honesty, while at the same time developing in us a more faith-filled experience with God.
God has shown us a way to reveal our honesty through the simple, fair practice of tithing. Tithing consists of returning one-tenth of our income to God. Just as God asks that we honor Him by keeping the Sabbath day holy (Exodus 20:8), He asks us to honor Him by returning one-tenth of our income (Genesis 28:22). The Sabbath recognizes God as Creator and the tithe recognizes God as our Provider and Sustainer.
Both the Sabbath and the tithe are said to be holy. They must be set aside for holy purposes. By doing so, we are pledging ourselves and revealing our loyalty to the God of the universe, the owner of all we possess, including time and material things.
Remember this: ” ‘But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.’ “ Luke 8:15
This refers to the parable of the sower, where we find that the seed which fell on good ground consisted of someone with an honest heart. One of the most notable characteristic of a good steward is one who has shown himself honest. It is only with honesty that we can bear fruit for God.
Unfortunately, we aren’t born with the virtue of honesty. It is something every child must be taught, and every adult must try to exhibit. Tithing is a faith-building practice that shows we are honest and reminds us that God owns everything we have. He asks us to trust him with 10%, so He can help us manage the remaining 90%.
It is as if God has offered Himself as our financial adviser with this transaction. Who are we to turn down HIS services? What a deal! It’s undoubtedly the smartest investment we’ll ever make!
Sunday: A Matter of Simple Honesty
Believe it or not, the people of God were at one time accused of robbing God (Malachi 3:8). They had become lax in returning one-tenth of their increase to God, as they had been instructed earlier to do so. The practice of tithing is recorded as far back as Abraham, but, over time, they had lost sight of its value, and perhaps had even neglected it entirely.
God does not ask us to tithe out of gratitude or to show our generosity. Offerings are available for that purpose. The sole purpose of our tithe (the tenth) is to show that we have an honest relationship with God.
We can be friends with someone, even close friends, but if we find ourselves borrowing or receiving funds from that friend, but never giving anything in return, how long will we be friends with that person? This might explain how God, our best Friend, felt when He said through Malachi, “…you have robbed Me!”
Let’s be careful not to downplay the role of tithing, and thus diminish our need to do it. When we recognize the dishonesty it represents, (see Malachi 3), we should not hesitate to give God His fair share. He is always ready and willing to be our business partner through tithing, with the added bonus of building our faith in Him through the process.
Read Luke 16:10. How is tithing a way to show our faithfulness, even when we have the “least” amount to tithe? Why is it hard to tithe when you have little income? What makes it hard to tithe when you have much?
Read Leviticus 27:30. Why is the tithe (or a tenth) to be returned to God?
Read Malachi 3:8 and Psalm 50:10. If God doesn’t really need our money because He already owns everything, why does He require us to return tithe? What are we really robbing God of, when we neglect to tithe?
Monday: The Life of Faith
Looking at the life of Abraham, who stands out for his faith, we find that he was given many opportunities to grow that faith before the day he was asked to sacrifice his son.
- He left the land of his birth and wandered about, wherever God led him. “By faith Abraham obeyed…and he went out, not knowing where going” NKJV (Hebrews 11:8).
- Are we willing to step out in faith to tithe, when God calls us to, even when it feels unknown and uncomfortable?
- He had faith that God would give him a son to become the heir of righteousness.
- Do we have faith that God will fulfill all His promises to us, if we obey him in tithing?
- He finally was given the supreme test to sacrifice his only son Isaac. And passed that test with flying colors.
- Will we trust God with our tithe, even when it means giving up some of our most prized possessions?
Abraham also showed his faith by returning his tithe (known as a tenth–Hebrews 7:4) to Melchizadek, the king of Salem. See Genesis 14:18-20.
Abraham left nothing undone, when it came to showing his faith in God. He was not attached to his worldly goods. Hebrews 11:10 tells us that “he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” NKJV He dwelt in tents, as in a foreign country, Hebrews 11:9 tells us. No lavish lifestyle for this humble servant of God.
Read Genesis 22:7, 8. In what way is God our Provider? Is it just with material things? What did God provide for Abraham, besides the ram that was caught in a thicket (v. 13)?
Read Hebrews 11:17-19. In what way was Abraham willing to give up everything to God? Did knowing that Isaac would be raised back to life someday ease the father’s heart of grief?
Read Hebrews 12:2. What is Jesus’ role in our faith?
Tuesday: A Statement of Faith
It’s easy to see why some might see tithing as an act of legalism, a way to “pay” our way to heaven. Indeed, many see tithing as a duty only–something one must do in order to be part of a Christian community. We can easily find ourselves sliding into a legalistic mode when we forget what tithing stands for and how it’s meant to enhance our relationship with God.
Returning tithe is designed to draw us closer to God by reminding us that He is our Provider and Sustainer in life. There’s no better way to demonstrate our faith than this one simple practice, performed systematically and with the faith that God is standing by for any need that may arise.
There’s a difference in belief and faith, as you’ve heard. Even the devils believe and tremble (James 2:19). But faith steps out and acts on that expression of belief. It partners with God, so that the two of you can enjoy an even closer bond. This statement becomes an act of faith, when we have laid hold of God’s promise to bless us by returning the tithe. It not only verifies our faith, it grows it.
One might wonder if those who are “dirt poor” are asked to participate in tithing, as with those who seem to have more than enough with the 90% they have left. God doesn’t seem to leave anyone out of this system. We have examples of people giving all they had to God, and they still had enough left to survive.
When you think about it, who needs faith more than those who can barely make a living for themselves? Of course, it may take more faith to begin with when you are poor, but if anyone needs God to be their financial manager, it would be those with low incomes.
Those with higher incomes need to tithe as well, so they are reminded of the source, and the protector, of their wealth. Keep in mind also that their gift offerings, in addition to the tithe, help keep the system of giving fair.
It definitely should be something we ALL consider, no matter what our income may be. We do it because we love God and He asks it of us. That, in itself, should be reason enough to follow through and act on our faith by systematically tithing our income, giving ten percent of it to God.
Read Luke 11:42. Did Jesus tell the Pharisees that they should cease tithing, even in the minute herbs that He mentioned? What message was He really giving to the Pharisees, and why do so many misinterpret its content?
Read Ephesians 1:3, John 16:33, and Malachi 3:10-12. What are some of the spiritual blessings we receive from God? Where do the blessings come from in this verse in Malachi, and how does that identify the kind of blessings God really desires us to have? Does God provide us with material blessings, even though we also have trials at times and may lose them?
Read Genesis 28:20-22. Why did Jacob choose to give a tenth to God? What might have been his motivation? Jacob had nothing when he made this promise to return tithe. Do you think he began his tithing immediately, when he was just starting out, or would he have waited til he was making a comfortable wage to do so? Why?
Wednesday: Honest Tithe–Holy to the Lord
We know Abraham’s story of faith, and how one of the ways he demonstrated that faith was through his practice of tithing. Since one-tenth of our income has been declared by God to be holy, the same as the Sabbath (one-seventh of our time), we definitely should learn all we can about this additional opportunity to declare our faith in God. And we must try to understand why Abraham felt a need to return his tithe to God as he did and to whom he did.
Because the Sabbath and the practice of tithing have been so firmly established by God, there doesn’t seem to be a need to establish them again in the New Testament. What God has declared holy, remains just that. It actually says, in the same chapter that focuses on robbing God, that “…I am the Lord, I do not change;…” Malachi 3:6 NKJV
The tithe is holy, just as the Sabbath is holy. But just as we often forget the Sabbath (which is surely why God told us to remember it in the fourth commandment), there is a tendency for us to become lax and forgetful when it comes to returning our tithe. Both God and we, His people, suffer when this happens. Our relationship with Him can never be as close as God desires it to be, when we either knowingly or unknowingly neglect those things He has made holy.
Read Leviticus 27:30. Does the tithe become holy after we have returned it to God, or is it holy even before? Why do we ask for a blessing on our tithe monies, if they are already blessed and hallowed by God?
Read Hebrews 7:1-10, 6:20, and Psalm 110:4. What characteristics made Melchizedek a type (or divine illustration) of Christ?
Read Matthew 6:19-21. Do we invest in God’s cause in order to ensure a place in heaven? What part do our hearts play in this transaction?
Thursday: Revival, Reformation, and Tithing
Revival and reformation are often spoken of together, but we mustn’t forget that there are differences in the meaning of the terms. When they occur together, they can be most effective, but let’s see just what these words mean.
- Revival (awakening)–By this is meant a renewal of our spiritual life. Revival wakens the desire in the heart for the things of God.
But is this all there is to it?…
- Reformation (commitment)–This consists of a change in our thoughts, habits, and behavior–a reorganization of our life that reflects the One we have made a commitment to follow. The heart commitment that follows our revival, or awakening, should lead to this reformation.
Without revival of the heart, our reformation is in danger of turning into legalism. And without reformation, revival most likely will not mature and bear fruit. Perhaps this is why we should continue to speak of the terms, “revival and reformation” together, and make sure they happen as closely together as possible.
But where does tithing fit into these programs? There are many examples of revivals and reformations that occur in the Bible, and we often see they include an increase in the practice of returning tithe, in addition to more giving in general. A more honest tithe and proper Sabbath observance should both receive attention when reformation occurs.
An example of this happened during King Hezekiah’s reign. The prophet Nehemiah and others saw a great revival and reformation back then. These included keeping the Sabbath more faithfully and commitments to tithe their increase, and to do it with a generous, loving heart.
Read 2 Chronicles 29:1, 2, 35, 31:4, 5, 12, 26. Are revival and reformation supposed to be somber events, or happy ones?
Read Nehemiah 9:1-3, 12:44, 13:4, 5, 10-12. Who were to profit from the tithes and offerings, and why was it important that consecrated offerings be given to consecrated priests?
Read Psalm 85:6, 80:19, and Revelation 2:4-6. What “first works” might be referred to in Revelation 2:5? Can we hate sin, but still find ourselves doing sinful things? When do we know that true revival and reformation have taken place?
Here are the highlights of this week’s lesson:
- Returning our tithe to God, it’s rightful owner, is not just showing faith, but being honest. (Sunday)
- Our life of faith is demonstrated by the act of tithing. (Monday)
- Tithing shows we are dependent on God. (Tuesday)
- The tithe, like the Sabbath, is holy and should be taken seriously by God’s followers. (Wednesday)
- Revival and reformation must include acknowledging the sacredness of the Sabbath–our time–and the tithe–our worldly goods–as part of our renewed commitment to God. (Thursday)
While God enjoys the special bond we have, when our commitment to Him includes both the Sabbath and tithing, we also receive benefits, such as…
- developing our integrity, or soundness of character
- growing our faith and trust in God
- experiencing emotional freedom and a clear conscience
Let us not neglect anything that would bring us closer to God. The cost is relatively cheap on our part, just ten percent, a mere pittance, compared to the price Jesus paid to redeem us at Calvary.
Next Week’s Lesson: The Impact of Tithing
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
All Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/