Old vs. New, Part III (II Corinthians 8 & 9)
Speaking for myself, I want to live the life of Jesus, fulfilling the Law from the heart, in His power. That was the last statement in Part II….it was also the first thought of a Pharisee who met the risen Jesus. This man had been operating under the Old Way, trying to produce righteousness in his own strength, according to his own intellect, pulling himself up by his own spiritual bootstraps. He didn’t know the New Way. He didn’t know that the demands of the Law had been fulfilled in the Perfect One, and that those demands could be fulfilled in his own life as he surrendered to the Perfect One.
But that day on the road changed everything. You can read it for yourself in the 9th chapter of the book of Acts. This record was written by direct interview of the man himself.
After the man came face to face with the Perfect One, and got a correct understanding of the Law and righteousness, he spent 3 years in the Arabian Desert getting private tutoring from the Perfect One. He was taught all the details about the New Way, the Fulfilled Way, the Jesus Way. And for several decades this man passed along that teaching to the new believers, and the teaching was written in letters which have been passed down to us.
We have seen how Jesus presented pictures in 2D and 3D to demonstrate to others the comparison of the Old vs. New, the unfulfilled Law vs the fulfilled Law, the self-righteous vs. Jesus-righteous ways. We looked at several of those pictures in Part II. The bottom line is that the New Way includes the matter of the heart. It is the way of integrity, and judgment will go according to the heart as well as the actions. There is no division, no seam between the internal and the external. The Perfect One can see all the way thru a person, can discern the thoughts & intents of the most private spaces, and will allow participation in His Kingdom based upon the total picture.
Let us look at one last picture, the Picture of Giving. Some people call it tithing, or ‘tithes & offerings.’ It is a picture that is presented in letters written by the man taught by Jesus in the Arabian desert.
In the Old Way, under the Law, the people of God were required to give a certain percentage of their possessions. Some people know only of the 10%-of-gain requirement, but there were many other giving requirements under the Law. The total of all these requirements comes to about 20-23%! Today we have to give percentages to the government. We usually talk about income tax, but there is also real property tax, personal property tax, sales tax, estate tax, & many other taxes. In much the same way, when talking about the giving requirement under the Law, people today only talk about the 10% giving requirement, which was assessed in kind, on the gain; only food products were assessed but they could be converted to money if it was too difficult to carry them to the temple. So if a farmer under the Law gained 99 bushels of corn from his field, he was required to bring 9.9 bushels to the temple to feed the priests of the Law. If the owner of a winery got 500 baskets of grapes from his vineyard, under the Law he had to bring 50 baskets of grapes to the temple to feed the priests. This “cooperative program” was needed because the priests were not allowed to own fields to gain their own food. It is interesting to note that the priests themselves, then had to give a portion of what they received into the Store House, which distributed to the poor, widows, orphans, aliens. (The Book of Malachi was written as a stern reprimand to the priests, and one of the complaints of God was that they were not sharing the people’s offerings with the poor; they were not putting the required portion of the offerings into the Store House to be used for the poor & needy.)
In addition to this 10%-of-profit giving (called “the tithe”), there were other prescribed offerings to the temple system. As I have already noted, some have calculated that the total “tax” for the temple was about 23%.
But under the New Way, most people today have forgotten the other prescribed offerings…they only know about the 10% tithe offering. And in the midst of living the New Way, under Jesus, they have brought this item over from the Old Way. They place themselves under obligation to the 10% rule, and they quickly place others under the same rule. But they cannot agree to 10% of what? after-tax gain? before tax profit? before or after contribution to their retirement plan? 10% of contribution to the retirement plan, or 10% of the collection from the retirement plan? And what about earnings on investments? If these earnings are reinvested, should they be included in the base for the tithe? Are capital gains tithed only when sold, or on a year-by-year basis? (Did they have capital gains in the Old Way?) And what about gifts received at birthdays and Christmas…does the 10% apply to them also? Does it apply only when the gift is a cash gift, or does it apply to the value of a material item?
Most people do not think thru all the nuances of keeping to the Old Way in a New Way religious economy. Yet somehow they make this 10% mark as the dividing line between self-righteousness and guilt. Further, they make this 10% mark as the point at which God will bless them. Often quoted is the passage in Malachi 3:10 “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, and see if I don’t bless you!” They take this verse out of context, forgetting that it was written to the priests (not the people).
Many Christians treat the area of Giving as they do murder, adultery, divorce, etc. They have remained under the Old Way, even though they acknowledge that Christ is the fulfillment of the Law and His perfect sacrifice is the salvation of their souls. It’s like talking out of both sides of the mouth…or straddling both sides of the fence. They take salvation under the New Way, but they arrange their lifestyle according to the Old Way.
Jesus said, we must come to Him wholly, without any self-righteous deeds, and as we have come to Him, so we must live in Him. (Col. 2:6)
The man saved on the road, who was taught personally by Jesus in the desert, showed us the New Way of giving. In his letter to the believers in Corinth, he wrote in II Corinthians 8:1-13….
And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will. So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.
Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.”
According to this passage, note these things about Giving under the New Way…
- We surrender ourselves first to God; giving follows this surrender….first things first
- It is a privilege to give; this honor is to be envied
- Good Intentions are inadequate
- The Christian grows in giving, just as he does in faith, knowledge, self-control of speech, etc
- The sincerity of love is demonstrated thru giving
- Jesus is our example; as His followers, we must replicate what He did for us
- Willingness, joyfulness, eagerness is the foundation of giving; without this spirit, nothing counts
- An acceptable gift is based upon the attitude of the giver, not the amount of the gift
- The purpose of giving is to help others who are less fortunate than we, so that there is equality
He continues to discuss this grace of giving, particular their gift for the suffering brethren in Jerusalem. So in II Corinthians 9, he writes…
There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the saints. For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action. But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be. For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we—not to say anything about you—would be ashamed of having been so confident. So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given.
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:
“He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”
Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
And according to this passage, note these things from this passage…
- Our giving encourages others’ giving, just as our faith encourages other’s faith
- We must have a regular lifestyle, a habitual sharing; otherwise Time passes and we miss opportunities
- Habitual/lifestyle giving helps us in our attitude; generosity should be habitual
- As with other areas of life, we reap what we sow; sow stingy-ness…reap stingy-ness, sow generosity, reap generosity
- Giving is personal; we have freedom to be different
- God is ultimate supplier of our needs; we can trust Him to care for us in future hard times..so no need to hoard what we have today
- God is the One who gave us what we have in our hands to give, thereby giving us the ‘tools’ for righteousness & expanding our giving ministry
- The end result of giving is not meeting the needs of others, or gaining righteousness for ourselves, but generating thankfulness and praise to God, the source of all giving
- Obedience must accompany a confession of the Gospel…obedience to the Spirit in giving, as well as other things
- Giving, sharing in the needs of fellow believers, generates unity & companionship in the Body
So, here is the conclusion of the matter. Those of us who claim Jesus as Lord, to embrace the salvation offered thru Him, who affirm His fulfillment of the righteous demands of the Law….we have left the Old Way. The Old Way was fulfilled in Jesus. Now we are following the New Way, the way of the Spirit, of the indwelling God. It is the way of integrity, of 3D living. It is not the way of externals only.
In the area of giving, we have left the Old Way of prescribed giving. Now we give from our hearts, joyfully responsive to the Spirit, each one giving as the Spirit directs him, in a lifestyle of habitual generosity, following the example of Jesus’ giving, recognizing that the Lord gives us what we give & He will provide for the future, focusing upon the needs of our fellow brethren so that they do not suffer at our negligence, looking for the harvest of righteous living & enhanced Body Life. All of this comes after we surrender ourselves to the One who purchased us on Calvary.
Are you surrendered? Or are you still fighting Him?
Are you growing in giving as well as faith, knowledge, speech, etc?
Are you giving in 3D, according to the New Way….or are you still straddling the fence in your lifestyle?