When Your Life is Stuck on Pause: Glorify God in Your Victory Part 2 (Gen. 14:20c-24)
When our lives are stuck on pause, it is not all doom and gloom pity parties. There are times of victory. Abraham’s life is stuck on pause. He is living in the reality gap, which is a time of waiting for God to act on His promises. All of us may be waiting for different things, but in this study we have been seeing that God is not a genie in a bottle, but has His heart bound up with ours. He is our Spouse. As a result, our choices that we make that hurt him deeply affect and grieve Him. And so really the life stuck on pause is about getting our hearts unstuck on things that we love more than God. That is victory!
Abraham rescues Lot, his conceited nephew, and has a moment where he is tested with victory. God cares just as much as how we handle adversity as how we handle success. We said:
I. In victory, let God replenish you (Gen. 14:17-18)
When we have moments of victory, it is usually because we have been fighting from battle to battle. Melchizedek, this historical King of Salem, comes with bread and wine to replenish Abraham. How kind of God to provide a way to physically serve Abraham. Secondly,
II. In victory, give God the glory (Gen. 14:19-20b)
God also gives Abraham perspective through Melchizedek. It wasn’t because Abraham was a great warrior, had a great strategy or had great allies, but Abraham had a great God. He deserves the glory! And we learned that giving God glory means that we recognize subtle ways we steal His glory for ourselves as we are glory thieves. Here is the last and only point for us today:
III. In victory, continue to trust God’s for His best (Gen. 14:20c-24)
As Melchizedek speaks these words, Abraham then responds by giving a tenth of his bounty or spoils. Now this is not technically what the Law considered tithing. Abraham gives a 10th of his spoils (Heb. 7:4), not everything he had. What makes Abraham give? Was it the law? But there was no Mosaic Law. This is why the Bible says that the law of God is written on our hearts. God designed us that way. Trusting God’s best means (I’m going to steal part of these sub-points from the show Friday Night Lights):
a) Full Hearts and Open Hands
When God’s glory fills our hearts and minds, our hands will always open to give. Jesus says, “Worship the Lord your God and Him only will you serve” (Luke 4:8). We serve what we worship and we worship what we serve. We are poor servants of God because we are poor worshippers of God. Abraham’s hands open when his heart is full of the weight of who God is. Thus, he gives.
Let me share briefly about financial stewardship. I grew up in a church where people gave $1 a week (sometimes dropping in a $5 in the offering bag and removing $4 in return) with an added “subscription.” Later when I left, I was shocked when I saw people writing checks at church. I would wonder why they would write a check for a dollar! So I definitely needed some teaching on giving and know we need to as well. I am going to “inceptionize” this point with a point within a point.
1. What is a tithe? And is it for us today?
Before we ask that, we need to back up. First of all:
- God owns it all. We need to have a theology of stewardship. Notice Melchizedek says, “God Most High, Possessor of Heaven and Earth.” What he’s saying is, “God owns it all.” So the question is not “how much should I give?” When you ask that, are you really saying, “God, this is mine and I’m willing to share with you”? However, it is God who says, “This is mine and I’m willing to share with you.” Everything belongs to God and he’s willing to share with me, so my car belongs to God, my house belongs to God, my money belongs to God, my stuff belongs to God, my TV belongs to God, and every day I should say, “Thank you, God, for sharing your stuff.” Basically all of life is a stewardship. We are each servants of God who will be held accountable for the way we have used our stewardship. So do not think like an owner. Start thinking like a manager.
- Tithe means “tenth.” In the Old Testament, there is good evidence that the believer would give two, possibly even three tithes. The first was ten percent of all one’s possessions (Lev. 27:30-33). This was given to the Levites for the temple ministry (Numb. 18:20-21). A second tithe was taken from whatever produce was left after the first tithe was given. Another tithe was taken every third year for the welfare of the Levites, strangers, orphans and widows (Deut. 14:26-29). This third tithe may have been separate from the second, though we are not certain. At any rate, each Jewish family was responsible to give not ten percent, but approximately 19 percent. Some have said it was close to 25%. Nevertheless, it was way more than 10%. So if you want to go by the Old Testament, giving 10% is definitely under giving.
- Believers voluntarily gave their best by faith. They also gave first fruits in the OT apart from tithing. Pastor Kent Hughes notes, “There were first fruits offerings in which an Israelite, out of love for God, brought the first fruits of his crop or livestock to God (Numbers 18:11–13). The beautiful thing about this was that he did so when he had not yet harvested the rest of the crop and did not know what he would ultimately reap. He gave the best to God, trusting He would bring in the rest. It was faith giving and was totally voluntary.”
2. What does the NT teach about giving?
The NT teaches: “proportionate grace giving.” The following list is from J. Hampton Keathley in bible.org’s article called, “Financial Faithfulness.” Look at 2 Cor. 9:7. Here are some principles:
- Grace giving is from the heart.
- Grace giving is in faith: He has promised to supply all our needs; our giving will not be our lack (2 Cor. 9:7f; Phil. 4:19).
- Grace giving is purposeful: We are to give from careful and prayerful planning. “Let each one do just as he has purposed (planned beforehand) in his heart” (2 Cor. 9:7).
- Grace Giving is regular: “On the first day of every week” helps promote diligence and disciplined giving. This creates a consistency and regularity that translates good intentions into actions (1 Cor. 16:2).
- Grace Giving is personal: “Let each one of you” brings out the need for every believer to take giving as a personal responsibility for which God holds us each responsible (1 Cor. 16:2).
- Grace Giving is systematic: “Put aside and save” brings out the need to have a method or system whereby money for the Lord’s work is specifically set aside, stored up for giving, so that it is not used for other things (1 Cor. 16:2).
- Grace Giving is proportionate: In the New Testament, set amounts of compulsory giving (as in the tithe) have been replaced by the grace principle of voluntary, purposeful, and proportionate giving. The new standard for today is “as He may prosper” (1 Cor. 16:2), “they gave of their own accord” (2 Cor. 8:3) and “let each one do…not under compulsion” (2 Cor. 9:7).
Keathley uses this illustration to demonstrate giving proportionately:
Believer A has an income of $20,000 per year and he gives ten percent, which is $2,000. Believer B has an income of $50,000 per year and he gives ten percent, which is $5,000. Believer B has given $3,000 more per year but this is not proportionately more because Believer A has $18,000 left to live on and Believer B still has $45,000 left, over twice as much. Believer B could give 20 percent ($10,000) and still have $40,000 left to live on which is still over twice as much as Believer A. Believer B would then be giving not only more, but proportionately more as well.
3. Who should we give to?
- The church. Some would say 10% of your income should go to the local church alone and then give above and beyond that to other ministries. We do not have that as a requirement here at Living Hope. But we sure hope you would see that the church is important for God’s mission in the world (cf. 2 Cor. 8:1; Gal. 6:6, 1 Tim. 5:17-18) and give accordingly. By the way, all monies given here in the offering bag or in a joint service are separated according to the ministry. We have our own budget here at Living Hope and all money given by any one of you goes there, if you were wondering. However, for tax purposes, please write the checks to “EFCC.”
- Para-church organizations and individuals. This means missions and others serving the Lord in ministry (2 John 5-8). We are currently trying to create a missions team to be more purposeful in this. Please see Steve for more information. I read this week that the American church gives 2 cents of every dollar for overseas missions.
- Believers in need. Those unable to support themselves or who have faced serious problems are to be helped as we are able. Those who refuse to work are not to be supported (1 John 3:17; Jam. 2:15-16; Gal. 6:10; Heb. 10:33-34; 13:1-3 with 2 Thess. 3:6-10). We do have a benevolence fund for people in trouble financially.
- Unbelievers in need. Our first priority is to the household of faith, but we can use our wealth to help others in need (Gal. 6:10).
Let us be careful here. Though I believe in “Proportionate Grace Giving,” I do not think we can then say, “Well, it’s all about how much I feel like giving and sometimes I don’t feel like giving anything!” Pastor and Author Randy Alcorn says, “We must examine our hearts to discover whether when we say, ‘Tithing isn’t for today,’ we are using grace as a license to clutch tighter to material wealth.” Sadly, do you know that the two groups in the United States that give the highest percentages of their income are the poor (those making less than $20,000 per year) and the rich (those making more than $100,000 per year). Middle-class Americans (those making between $40,000 and $100,000 per year) are the smallest percentage givers. People generally give more as they make more, but they often give a lower percentage of their income. Only one-third to one-half of U.S. church members financially support their churches. In addition, Christians worldwide had personal income totaling more than $16 trillion in 2007 but gave only 2 percent, or $370 billion, to Christian causes. Overall, only 3 to 5 percent of those who donate money to a church tithe (give 10 percent of) their incomes. This last stat is troubling.
Alcorn puts it well: “…the Israelites’ triple tithes amounted to 23 percent of their income—in contrast to the average 2.5 percent giving of American Christians. This statistic suggests that the law was about ten times more effective than grace! Even using 10 percent as a measure, the Israelites were four times more responsive to the Law of Moses than the average American Christian is to the grace of Christ.” That is sad. As Malachi says, we are robbing God (Mal. 3:8).
My point here is not to put us on a guilt trip. I want the Lord to shine on our hearts. Are we robbing God? Why? We rob God because we are greedy and we are glory thieves. We love, trust in and serve money. Wait a minute, what is something we love, trust and serve? A god. It is idolatry. We are lovers of money when we are thinking excessively about it whether in anxiety or daydreaming about it. We are trusters of money when we feel like we have control of our lives because we have wealth. We find our security in it, so we serve it because it serves us, instead of using it to serve the Lord. So really the idol is not money, but money reveals where the idols are. If we love God, we will use money to glorify God, but if we love money (and what it brings us), we will use God to get more money and glorify ourselves. If worship is enjoying the presence of God, then to worship something else is to lose His presence.
So here are some questions to think about: Has money become your heart’s functional trust, preoccupation, loyalty, fear and delight? Do you think having more money will make you happy? Do you think having more money will make you an acceptable person? Do you look to money to define you or make you powerful or successful? Look at your spending habits (checkbook). What message will it convey?
The Bible talks a lot about money. There are 500 references to prayer and faith, but 2,000 references to money. Out of the 38 parables in the Gospels, 16 have to do with money. Jesus says we cannot serve Him and money (Luke 16:13-15). Interestingly, Jesus warns us in Luke 12:15, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed” (NIV). Why? He doesn’t ever say, “Watch out! Be careful that you are not committing adultery!” Because when you are in bed with someone that is not your spouse, you know it. As Tim Keller says, “Halfway through you don’t say—‘Wait a minute! I think this is adultery!’ You know it.” Jesus warns us about greed because it is a sin that no one thinks they have, because they are blind to it. Keller adds:
“Money is one of the most counterfeit gods there is. When it takes hold of your heart it blinds you to what is happening, it controls you through anxieties and lusts, and it brings you to put it ahead of all other things.”
In the end, it is not that we treasure money too much, but that we treasure Christ too little. Where our treasure is, there our heart will be (Matt. 6:21) and where our treasure isn’t, shows us where our hearts aren’t right? The movement of our money signifies the movement of our heart. Scotty Smith says that the more we treasure Christ, the more our other “treasures” become like “empty-nothings, fool’s gold, and broken cisterns.” How do we treasure Christ? We treasure Him when we remember what He has done for us. Paul says, Christ, though He was rich, became poor for us so that we by His poverty might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9). Jesus had ultimate wealth, but if He held on to it, we would die bankrupt in our sin. If He stayed rich, we would become poor. But if He died poor, we could become rich. Jesus gave up all His treasure in Heaven, in order to make us His treasure (1 Pet. 2:9-10 says we are a treasured people). When you see Him dying to make you His treasure that will make Him your treasure. 
When we see that God has poured out His wealth on us, we know He cares for us and gives us ultimate security that money can never give. And Jesus didn’t just tithe Himself did He? He gave Himself completely for us, so we can now give ourselves completely to Him. We have a generous God. It is hard to be a stingy and greedy follower of a generous God.
So I have no rules to place upon you here, but if you don’t know where to start, start at giving 10% of your gross income and continue to increase in giving. So think increasingly and think proportionately and trust God for His best. Think simplification more than accumulation. Think of ways to use money to invest in others for the advance of the gospel. Never resist a generous impulse. Let’s not simply remove this idol of money, but replace it with the Lord, who became poor to make us truly rich!
How do we trust God’s best in victory? Open our hands generously. Let the Lord control us, more than money. Lastly:
b) Clear Eyes and Firm Feet
Abraham in Gen. 14:21-24 is tested further. He gave 10% of all the spoils to Melchizedek, so 90% is left. So the King of Sodom says, “Give me…” Can you believe this guy? Two guys go through the same exact experience. One comes out and says, “Praise God!” and the other says, “Give me…” Melchizedek gives to Abraham, but King Bera wants to take. His eyes are like Lot’s and he is deceived. This is the seed of the serpent right here, always characterized by self-exaltation and self-glory and blinded by sin. He just got beat up, possibly thrown into the tar pit and gets up and thinks he has bargaining power. Abraham was the one who liberated him! Not even a “thank you” or “thank the God of Abraham.”
If I were Abraham, I would have thrown him into the tar pit. Abraham has a king status here. With all the stuff and people, he could possibly make a move to set up a kingdom. Notice what he says. “I have lifted my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth.” Where did he get those words? Melchizedek. Melchizedek gave Abraham the right perspective, which was to glory in the Lord and not in himself. Abraham sees God clearly for who He is.
Abraham has security in the Lord. Abraham finds significance with the Lord. When your heart and mind is full of the weight of who God is, your eyes become clearer and your feet firmer in Him. Abraham refuses to weaken his testimony by accepting from the world what ultimately will come from God. Let us never settle for success without the presence and blessing of God. It is dangerous to have possessions, pleasure, power and prestige without His presence!
If Abraham goes home with all this stuff (like he did in Egypt, where he greedily accepted all the treasures from Pharaoh), King Bera of Sodom could brag and say, “He’s blessed because of me!” And we can all picture him doing that. So Abraham says, “Not even a shoelace. I will not take any shortcuts to glory. God said He would make my name great. You are not better than my God and I don’t want to do anything to steal His glory. My eyes are clear and my feet are firm. God will provide for me better than I can. All Glory to God!” Wow. Abraham gives it all away and glorifies God. He then makes sure his allies and those who helped in the fight get their share, because he knows God has called him to a higher calling.
King of Sodom reminds us of Satan who told Jesus “I will give you all this if you worship me” (Luke 4:7). Take a shortcut. Seize God’s promises your way in your time. Press “play” yourself because you cannot trust God to do it. He will keep you on pause forever. Meet your legitimate need illegitimately. Sacrifice the future at the altar of the immediate. Take the forbidden fruit. But Abraham refuses. But we don’t refuse. We are Lot. We are King Bera. We find our security in stuff. We shave corners. We are blinded by greed. But for us, we have One who was a greater Abraham. Thank you Jesus for being faithful for the faithless, for being generous for the greedy, for having clear eyes in the place of blinded people, for having full hearts in the place of empty hearts and not just opening up your hands for our salvation, but opening up yourself completely, not tithing yourself, but completely giving all to bring us into relationship and to have true riches with you and in you.
Driscoll, M. “Abraham rescues Lot and meets Melchizedek,” http://marshill.com/files/2004/12/19/20041219_abraham-rescues-lot-meets-melchizedek_en_transcript.pdf accessed 2 February 2012.
Hughes, R. K. (2001). Disciplines of a Godly Man (10th anniversary ed.; rev. ed.) (193–194). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.
Keathley III, Hampton J.
Alcorn, R. (2003). Money, Possessions, and Eternity. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale.
Stafford, T. The Anatomy of a Giver: American Christians Are the Nation’s Most Generous Givers, but We Aren’t Exactly Sacrificing, Christianity Today, May 19, 1997. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/1997/may19/7t620a.html?start=2 accessed 3 February 2012.
Alcorn, R. Ibid.
Keller, T. (2009). Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power and the Only Hope that Matters (57). New York: Riverhead Books.
From the blog http://www.redeemingriches.com/2010/02/27/is-money-your-functional-savior/ accessed 3 February 2012.
Keller, T. (58).
Smith, S. A Prayer about Life as a Nonstop Coming to Jesus Meeting,” http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/scottysmith/2012/02/03/a-prayer-about-life-as-a-nonstop-coming-to-jesus-meeting/ accessed 3 February 2012.
Keller, T. (67).