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Stewardship Part 1: Scriptural Giving

At the 18th All-American Council in Atlanta, the Assembly voted to move to proportional giving in the coming year. As we prepare for this transition, I will prepare articles, based on the Holy Scripture, to help us to better understand the Biblical precepts of Proportionate Giving through tithes, offerings and sacrifices. We will make use of both the writing of the New and Old Covenant. In doing so, the instruction of Saint Paul’s charge to Timothy in his pastoral letter is helpful: “Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, my sufferings, what befell me at Antioch, at Iconnium, and at Lystra, what persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work [2 Timothy 3:10–16].

In this passage of Scripture, Saint Paul is specifically referring to the writings of the Old Covenant, as many of the Books of the New Covenant had not yet been written and the ones that were had not yet been regarded as on the same level as the Scripture of the Old Covenant. With this in mind, we will begin our study of the Old Covenant passages, the Scripture of the early Church, related to offerings, sacrifices, and tithing, etc. Scripture being inspired by God Himself, let us not be dismissive of their instruction, as Saint Paul says they are “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Let us open our ears to hear what the Lord has taught through the Holy Scriptures and set aside all preconceived ideas. Let us remember the word of the Lord, spoken through Isaiah, the Prophet, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts [Isaiah 55:8-9].

When we read the Book of Genesis, we are told the Lord created the heavens and the earth and all it contains. The Hebrew verb for “create” used in Genesis specifically refers to creation ex nihilo – that is, God created out of nothing. This theme is also repeated in numerous passages of the New Covenant. Colossians 1:16-17 reads, “For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him: And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist.” Thus we acknowledge that all we have comes from the Lord. He is the source of all things. It all belongs to Him. Think of the words said at the gravesides of our loved ones: “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein [Psalm 24:1]. This psalm tells us not only of that which we accumulate during our lives or make use of is the Lord’s, but we ourselves belong to Him.

The only part of creation not created ex nihilo is mankind. In Genesis 2:7, we read, “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” Not only is mankind not created ex nihilo, but Genesis portrays God’s intimate involvement in the creation of mankind as a potter molding clay. Additionally, only mankind has the Lord breathing the breath of life into him. Mankind holds a unique position in God’s creation as he is created in the image and likeness of God and given dominion over creation. In Genesis 1:26-30, we read, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’ Then God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food;’ and it was so.”

This same theme is repeated in Psalm 8, verses 3-8: “When I look at Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars which Thou hast established; what is man that Thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that Thou dost care for him? Yet Thou hast made him little less than God, and dost crown him with glory and honor. Thou hast given him dominion over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the sea.”

Thus mankind occupies an exceptional place in the Lord’s creation, one of dominion, which entails responsibility and stewardship. Mankind does not own creation or even his self, but he is entrusted with their care during his brief sojourn in this life. As we will see as we continue our studies, mankind’s unique place in creation, as well as being in the Divine Image and Likeness, is a distinctive gift that comes with responsibilities. Mankind was given dominion over creation to fulfill a priestly role and one of stewardship in caring for God’s creation. The Lord blessed mankind with his very life, his gifts, his talents, abilities, good weather, fertile land, a bountiful harvest, multiplication of cattle, sheep and goats, etc., and as an expression of mankind’s gratitude and means of Communion, in his priestly capacity he offers back to God the very best of what the Lord blessed and gave to him. “Thine own of Thine own we offer unto Thee in behalf of all and for all.” There is nothing we can offer to God that is not already his, other than our free will and obedience.

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