Glenn Riggs is the pastor of Starlight Baptist Church in Winter Springs, Florida.
“And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king’s dale. And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.” (Genesis 14:17-20)
Genesis chapter 14 is the record of the very first act of tithing. Tithing is something about who we are. The Bible tells us that when we tithe, we’re showing where our heart is. I want to reach your heart today. I want to preach to your heart.
It’s not talking about your physical heart. God tells us that where your treasure is, that’s where your heart is. In Matthew 6:21, He tells us that our heart and our treasure are linked together. In Genesis 14, there is an interesting story because it is the record of the very first tithe, not the first sacrifice, not the first offering, but it’s the first act of tithing. There is a principle in study called the law of first mention. It means this. Whenever you want to learn about something, go back to the first place it’s mentioned in Scripture and really study that instance because God’s going to give you a foundation there that is necessary to understand what it’s all about. So here is the first mention of tithing. Notice the story here.
The Bible tells us that Abraham received God’s call to relocate. “Abram, I want you to go to a land that I’m going to give unto you. I’m going to bless it, and I’m going to bless your seed.” The Bible tells us that Abram responded, obeyed God, and he moved in that direction. Abram also talked to his nephew, Lot, and invited Lot to go with him. The Bible tells us that Lot followed Abram. It is also interesting to notice that God prospered Abram, but he also prospered Lot because Lot hung out with a righteous man.
Your prosperity will be linked to who you admire and who you hang around, too. Because Lot chose to be near Abraham, to stay close to Abraham, when God prospered Abraham, Lot also prospered, as well. The Bible tells us that together they moved into this new land. When they got there, God had so blessed these two, Uncle Abraham and the nephew, Lot, that both their families and servants had so grown that the Bible said there began to be strife between their herdsmen. It was getting crowded and it didn’t seem like there was enough pasture for all their herds of livestock.
Abraham, not wishing to live in all of this confusion and arguing and unhappiness, and being the bigger person, he turned to his nephew, Lot and said to him, “Look, let’s not have this discord between us. Just look around you. If you want to go to the right, I’ll go to the left. If you want to go to the left, I’ll go to the right. Let’s not let anything come between us. You just choose, and I’ll go the other way.”
The Bible tells us that Lot looked. On one side there was desert and rocks and sand. On the other side there was a beautiful green valley with cities and prosperity. The Bible tells us that Lot selfishly chose these green valleys for himself. The Bible tells the story how he went to this well-watered valley. When he got there it wasn’t quite what he thought it was going to be. What may seem to be best or easiest or most prosperous at first may not really be the best in the long run. Abraham instead went the other way, and God continued to bless Abraham, and things began to happen in a wonderful way.
Lot had moved his family near the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. They were located among five cities there on the plain. These cities were well known for their wickedness, so wicked in fact that not even ten righteous people could be found in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Bible tells us that because of prosperity and ease and convenience, Lot moved his family into the midst of this lifestyle and influence and began experiencing far worse strife than he had experienced back with Uncle Abraham in tight quarters.
You see, folks, it’s easy when we’re having a little difficulty to start blaming the sources around us instead of recognizing that we ourselves are the source. Here is Lot, and Lot chose a new area and found worse problems than he had before. The Bible tells us that he moved into those cities. When he got there, these cities had been paying some kings to protect them. They had just decided, “We’re not going to pay anymore.” So there was a king by the name of Chedorlaomer, and he aligned himself with several other kings, and attacked those five cities and overcame them. When he did, he took captives, some of the people, and he took all of their goods. He took Lot, Abraham’s nephew, and he took his family and his goods and carried them away as prisoners.
Let me stop and say that when you align yourself with good people, you are blessed. Let me also say that when you align yourself with the wicked, you are cursed. Lot, up to now, had benefited greatly because of who he knew, Uncle Abraham, but now he suffered tremendously because he chose the wrong crowd. Did you ever hear people like him? “I’m so sick and tired of my uncle. He’s a preacher and bugs us all half to death. Whenever we have a family get together, we can’t even have any fun because the preacher is there. I just wish we didn’t have to deal with him.” The best asset you have in your family is somebody that knows the Lord and prays and encourages you to do right. Many families are being blessed because of one person in that family that serves God with all of their heart.
The Bible tells us that Abraham, when he learned what had happened to Lot, Abraham went out and gathered up his own troops. He armed his 318 trained servants. That’s success. He has 318 servants to help him handle the sheep. He gathers these 318 and some other good men to help him. The Bible says that he went after Chedorlaomer and those kings, and God gave him a total victory.
Abraham was coming home. He had just rescued Lot and his family. He’s gotten all of the provisions that were lost. Everything that people had taken away from them, Abraham has got it all. All the bounty is in his hands and he’s coming home. Boy, when he gets back the people are so excited. Their loved ones have now been returned. Their goods have now been restored.
In the customs of Bible times, when a person overcame someone else in battle, all of the loot, so to speak, was theirs if they chose to keep it. The Bible says as he came back in, two kings went out to meet him. One was the king of Sodom. The other one was the king of Salem. You might not know about Salem, but let me give you the modern name for Salem -- Jerusalem. The king of Salem, the king of Jerusalem, was a mysterious person called Melchizedek. He was a prophet of God. Many people believe that he was a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ upon the earth. When these two kings came before Abraham, the Bible said they said to him, “Abraham, we want to give you all of these riches.”
Abraham said, “Oh, no, I’ll not take it. I don’t want the world to ever be able to say that what I have is because of what the world gave me. I want it to be because of what God has given me.” The Bible says that Abraham was so blessed and so happy, that of what he had, he gave a tenth. He gave a tithe of all that he had to Melchizedek. This was the very first example of tithing in the Bible. Now from that I want to give you four truths today.
#1. Tithing needs to begin early in life. This experience happened relatively early in Abraham’s life. When this experience took place, Abraham has not yet received the child of promise. You remember that God said to him, “Abraham, I’m going to make of thee a great nation. You’re going to be like the sands of the sea shore. Your descendants will be like the stars of the sky. I’m going to multiply thy seed, and through thee, you’re going to be a blessing to all the nations of the world.
Yet at this time, Abraham has not even had one child when he started giving his tithe. I want you to notice that he has not yet received the rite of circumcision, that special covenant relationship between God and Israel. That has not yet been given to Abraham when Abraham first experienced the principle of tithing. His name has not yet been changed from Abram to the blessed name of Abraham, when he experienced this moment of tithing. Sodom and Gomorrah have not yet been destroyed when Abraham first gave his tithe.
I’m saying, folks, that it’s never too early to teach your children to begin to tithe. Every young Christian, the first thing they need to learn is this principle about tithing. Why? Because where your treasure is, that’s where your heart is. When a young Christian gets saved, they ought to start tithing right away.
It was through my dear wife that I got saved in August of 1968. My wife said to me, “Honey, now that you’re saved, we need to start giving a tithe.”
I said, “What?”
She said, “We need to start tithing.”
I said, “What do you mean?”
She said, “I mean we need to start giving 10% off the top of everything we have by faith. We need to give that to God.”
I said, “Honey Bunch, we don’t have it!”
She said, “That’s why we’d better start doing it.” There is nothing worse than a wife that knows all this stuff. The only thing worse than a wife that knows all that is to be a preacher and have a wife that reminds you what her preacher preaches. That’s really rough.
She said, “Dear, we need to just believe God for this.”
I said, “Honey, we don’t have it.” We were just a young married couple. “We’ve moved from the rural country of Marmaduke, Arkansas, to the big city of St. Louis, Missouri. I only bring home $68 a week working for McDonald Aircraft. We’re running $40 a month in the red. We don’t have it. We can’t afford it.”
She said, “Honey, our very first debt we have is to God, and we can’t afford not to do it.” I remember going to church and my preacher got on it. Boy, did he ever tear it up. Man, could that man preach. He went from Dan to Beersheba on this thing. He covered everything there was. I got under such great conviction as he preached on tithing. I’ll never forget it. I wrote my first check for a full tithe. He said, “You’re not only supposed to give a tithe. You should give an offering above the tithe.” My tithe was $7.23 cents a week and being a great and sacrificial giver I wrote it for $10. I’ll never forget putting that in the offering plate. For the first time in my life, I had done exactly what God said to do.
The Bible tells us that we ought to begin to tithe faithfully and we ought to begin early. Do you know why? Because your treasure is where your heart is. God doesn’t need your money, but He sure wants your heart. He gives us a very practical thing. He gives us a little meter that shows us, because it’s exactly how we feel about giving.
Here in the Bible is the first example of tithing. It’s not a part of the law. This is 400 years before there ever was a law, but it’s a principle that God’s people learned and experienced. The Bible says that Abraham began to tithe very, very early.
That’s why you ought to teach your children to tithe. If somebody comes along and gives your son a dollar for sweeping the porch, say “Now, son, a dime of that, where does it go? It goes to God.” If they get a little allowance, teach them to tithe a dime from every dollar. Let them learn very, very young. Why? Because the Bible tells us that that’s where your heart is. It’s where your treasure is.
#2. Abraham is not just the father of faith, but the father of tithing. Abraham, the Bible talks about him in the Faith Hall of Fame in Hebrews chapter 11. He’s referred to as the father of faith. They called him Father Abraham, but he’s not just the father of faith; he’s also the father of tithing. Moses, the lawgiver, was not the first to tithe. The prophets, the voice of God, they were not the first to tithe.
Here from the very beginning, the father of faith is the father of tithing. Do you know why? Because tithing and faith are so intertwined that you cannot really practice it living daily in your life, without first of all experiencing the faithfulness that comes from serving God and being faithful in the tithe. Faithfulness is rendering unto the Lord in a fair and proper proportion of what He has given to me. “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?” (Psalm 116:12) Abraham was the father of faith, but if you’re ever going to tithe faithfully, it will be because you have experienced the faith. If you are going to continue on in faith, it will be evidenced in your faithfulness, which includes being faithful with the tithe.
#3. Tithing is an ancient doctrine. Abraham’s tithing shows that tithing is of very, very ancient origin. In other words, it’s not a new doctrine or teaching. It’s not something that someone has just come up with, some gimmick, something that somebody thought of, something that we could maybe help the church with, something maybe the preacher got together with the deacons and they came up with this newfangled scheme called tithing.
No, sir! Tithing is one of the most ancient doctrines of the Word of God. Why? Because where your treasure is, that’s where your heart is. God knew that you needed something to remind you weekly of Who it is that’s good to you. God established the principle of tithing to keep us constantly aware of all of our benefits, all of the blessings, all the good things that we have, that it all comes from God. “What shall I render unto the Lord...?” What could I give unto Him? So the Bible tells us that God shows us about proportionate giving because it’s the beginning of faith, because it reminds us of God’s love for us.
#4. Tithing demonstrates our thankfulness and gratitude. Abraham tithed out of a thanksgiving for what God had given him from the battle. Catch this. He went into the battle, 318 trained soldiers, but the enemy had a much larger force than they had. Abraham, by faith, went into that battle to rescue his nephew, but God gave him such a tremendous victory that when his nephew was restored, all the benefits were restored along with him. God gave to him, and Abraham out of that experience said, “God, because You have given to me, I’m going to give a tithe back.”
God never reaps where He has not first sown. Did you catch the order here? He didn’t say, “Hey Abraham, you tithe and I might do something for you.” No, no, the blessing came first. Then came the obedience. The blessing came first. He had to first receive it.
Here’s what God wants you to do. God wants everybody whom the Lord has blessed, He wants you to tithe back out of that blessing. But if you have not received, God does not wish nor accept the tithe. You must first receive, then you tithe. Let me ask you a question. I know we’re going through some challenging times right now. There may be some that didn’t even get a paycheck this whole past week or past month. I want you to know something. Where God has not sown, God does not desire a tithe. Notice this. The blessing comes first. The tithe comes after.
How many of you have received a financial blessing? You’ve received an income, a check. Maybe it’s a paycheck. Maybe it’s an insurance check. Maybe it’s a Social Security check. Maybe it came from a family friend, maybe a rich aunt passed away, but you have received something in the past 30 days. All right, here’s what God says. Those of you who have received, I want you to tithe, because you recognize from whom you received it. “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?” (Psalm 116:12) Do you realize what all God has done for you? Do you realize all of the blessings that He has given you? Tithing is a recognition and a show of thankfulness for God’s blessings.
Sometimes the blessing does not come in dollars and cents. We’ve had some deaths in our church family over the past year. Maybe you have as well, but you know what? We haven’t had death in our personal family this past year. How many of you did not have a death in your immediate family in the last year. Praise God from whom all blessings flow! We’ve had people in our church who’ve heard the doctor say, “We’re very sorry, but the cancer is malignant.” No doubt there are some in your church family right now who carry that burden of a malignancy in your body or in a family member. I wonder how many of you in the past year did not hear a doctor say, “I’m sorry. It’s malignant.” How many of you did not hear those words in your immediate family this year? You are so blessed.
Heart attack is one of the major killers in this land. I wonder how many in this church family did not have a heart attack in this past year? How many did not lose someone in your family to a heart attack this year? You’re blessed. Do you see what I’m saying? The Bible tells us that God first sends the blessing, then we respond with our heart because He has blessed us. God has blessed me. Say it. God has blessed me. Say it again. God has blessed me.
Where is your heart? When Abraham came back into the city, there were the kings to meet him. There was the king of Sodom. There was Melchizedek, that mysterious kingly priest of Salem. They came to him and looked at him, and they were so blessed, and Abraham was so thrilled and happy because of what God had done for him. The spontaneous response was that he gave the first tithe in the Bible. I wonder how many of God’s people, if they would just stop and think about the blessings of God, would be anxious to follow suit with their tithe. It’s about where your heart is, folks.
A lot of times it’s not so much the tithe of our money. I was preaching to our folks. Every year I take a month and teach on stewardship, Sunday morning, Sunday night, and mid-week service. I keep a record of what I preach on, how many times I preach on salvation, comfort, prophecy, and I keep up on how many times I preach on stewardship. Do you know what I do? I preach my stewardship messages all at one time, Sunday morning, Sunday night, mid-week service on Thursday night, every week for a solid month. Do you know why? Because I found folks can take a message or two and ignore it, but buddy, when you plow down their middle every service for a solid month, that’s stronger than two acres of garlic.
We have some old timers in our church. Brother, they have got it down. They are a blessing to their pastor because they understand this thing. They not only give a tithe, but they give above the tithe, and they’re very, very generous. They love this time of the year. They love it when I’m preaching on stewardship.
But you know what? Many times it’s not the tithing of our money that is the problem. It’s the tithing of our time. How many hours are there in a week? 168 hours in a week. Let’s see. A tenth of that would be 16.8 hours in a week. Do you tithe on your time? There are some of you saying, “Oh, no, we’re having church tomorrow. Revival goes through Wednesday night. I’m going to work all day and come home and pray and spray and have to go to church.” A tithe of 168 is 16.8. Let’s give an offering above the tithe. Let’s make it 17 hours. How are you doing on your tithe of time? Folks, right now is when you ought to pick up the phone because your number is ringing. There are scores of people who complain. “Sunday morning, and then you expect us to come back Sunday night. I can’t believe the pastor expects us to come back Sunday night, and then throws in Thursday night. Three to thrive. If I hear that one more time, I want to squeeze somebody till they’re dead.” If you tithe on your time, you’ll put a lot more in than just three services at church.
Tithing involves not just our money, but it involves our time, our talents. Are you tithing on your time? If you were to come on Sunday morning from Sunday school to the end of preaching, that’s about four, maybe six hours. But if you’re there Sunday morning and you’re back Sunday night. You come Wednesday night. That’s a great place to start. “Preacher, where do you tithe?” The first place you tithe is in God’s store house. A great place to start tithing on your time is around the church. Come Sunday morning. Come Sunday night, Wednesday night. Then you tithe on your time when you read your Bible and pray. If you spend 15 minutes in private devotions with God in the morning, and 15 minutes with Him in the evening that’s 30 minutes a day. That’s three and a half hours in a week. If you add that to coming to services, Sunday morning, Sunday school, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and spend 30 minutes a day in prayer, you’re looking at what? Ten, ten and a half hours.
I had a man call me two weeks ago he said, “Brother Riggs, I’m a new Christian. I was saved in your church a couple weeks ago. I got in trouble with the law a few months back and I need to burn off some community service, and they tell me I can do it at the church. Do you mind if I come up there and cut the grass and spend Saturday all day just doing some trimming? Would that be all right?” I said, “Sure, come on.” There are a lot of God’s people who need to burn off some service, too. Tithe on your time.
We have a man in our church. He’s in the lawn business. He told me a few years ago, “Pastor, who’s doing your yard?” I told him that I was. He said, “Not anymore, from now on I’ll come by every week and cut the grass, trim along the sidewalks and weed. I’ll do that every week. I don’t want a dime because that’s part of my service to God.” Do you know what he’s doing? He’s tithing on his time.
We’ve got people that come to church. We’ve got some men that are retired and another man that’s out of a job right now. Do you know what they do? They come to church every day. They get out there and fix the water cooler. Sometimes they’ll rent a carpet cleaner and shampoo the carpets or repaint the hallway. Sometimes they’ll work on a door. Do you know what they’re doing? Tithing on their time.
How do you make a living? What abilities has God blessed you with? Do you tithe on that talent? Do you use it for God? We have a man in our church who is a roofer. Whenever my roof has problems, he comes and brings his crew. They get up there and fix that roof. He said, “Pastor, I don’t want a dime. God’s given me the talent to do this. This is something I can do for my Lord.” What is he doing? He’s tithing on his talent, tithing on his time.
We have men in our church that are mechanics. I’m not mechanical. If it won’t start, I don’t know what to do. Check the hub caps maybe. I’m not mechanical. There’s been a few home fix it projects I’ve invested in. Did you catch that word invested? I’m not good at that stuff. We’ve got men in our church that are. We’ve got men that can fix cars. Do you know what? If my car breaks down, I don’t go to a shop and pay somebody to fix that car. I’ve got men who say, “No, no, preacher, don’t you ever take that to a shop. We’d be offended.” They’ll come out to my house, and they’ll take that car, and fix it. Do you know what they’re doing? They’re tithing on their talent.
We’ve got some old school buses we use to pick up boys and girls for Sunday School. Those things are broken down constantly. We can keep three mechanics busy every week. Bless those men’s hearts. Do you know what they do? They work their jobs during the week and on Saturday they meet at Starlight Baptist Church and spend all day on Saturday servicing and working and fixing and getting those buses ready to run Sunday morning. Do you know what they’re doing? They’re tithing on their time and on their talent.
When you come and work with the children’s program, when you prepare and teach a Sunday school class, and you get that phone and call those absentee members, when you come and get in your car and go out and visit lost sinners, or stop to visit someone who hasn’t been to church in a while, when you come up here and help mow the lawn and help fix the building, when you come and take care of your pastor’s needs, do you know what you’re doing? Tithing on your time and your talent.
How many hours are there in a week? 168. A tenth of that is how many hours? 16.8 hours. How are you coming? How many of you would say, “I have some time to make up.” God does not reap where He has not sown. How many of you didn’t get 168 hours of life from God this week? How many of you would like to be blessed with 168 hours again next week? Raise your hand. He does not expect it where He has not given it. But I can look at this congregation and I can tell you God’s been good to you.
When Abraham returned after winning such a fabulous complete victory, his heart was so full. He was so excited. He was so blessed that the Bible says that he gave tithes of all. He gave it to God because God had given to him. God is not some oppressive warlord, that wants to run down and grab what is yours and seize it for His own coffers. That’s not the heart of our God. He’s not some kind of colonial king who exploits and robs His people of what is theirs to fill His own heavenly camp. That’s not the nature of our God.
Instead the Bible tells us that God is a gracious loving parent, who loves you, and desires for you to enter into joy of partnership with God. Have you ever noticed how God does it? For example, John 3:16, how many of you know that verse? That’s considered the most favorite verse of all. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Notice how it begins. God so loved that He gave. God does not reap where He has not sown. God is gracious. God is loving.
Notice the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments begin with these words. “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” It is only after God reminds us and says these words that He asks obedience from His children. It’s after God gives that His request is that our giving be based upon His right to ask, because God loves us. God’s been good to you. God wants you to get involved in His plan. His plan is that we give back a portion of what He has so graciously given to us. Abraham recognized what God did and the Bible tells us that he responded because of his heart.
One man of very modest means was questioned why he gave, and why he always gave so much. Some were worried that he was going to give too much. Maybe he would go broke because of his giving. Here’s what he said, “Not at all. I shovel out and God shovels in. But God always uses a bigger shovel, and He always shovels first.” I shovel out and God shovels in, but He always uses a bigger shovel, and He always shovels first.
Let’s not forget that His shovel is bigger than ours. The way to the heart of God and the way to your heart is through the interchange of giving. The way to get closer to God is to experience this principle of giving. The shovel of God is bigger than yours. My Bible says that He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. His shovel is bigger than yours. The Bible says He is able to supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory. His shovel is bigger than ours. The Bible tells us that He who led us by faith, He said, “Ask and ye shall receive. Knock and it shall be opened, seek and ye shall find.” Why? Because His shovel is bigger than ours.
The Bible tells us in Malachi 3:10, “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” Why? Because His shovel is bigger than ours.
I know some folks get weary of hearing about giving. Someone said, “Preacher, do we ever get to the point that we can just stop giving?” I like what William Wattley wrote. Let me quote him. “We can stop giving when God stops giving to us. When God stops making ways out of no ways, we can stop giving to God. When God stops being our company keeper when we’re lonely, and stops helping us pull through the broken pieces of our lives when loved ones are taken from us, we can stop giving to God. When God stops giving us grace sufficient to match our trials and strength to bear our crosses and courage to face our tomorrows, we can stop giving to God. When God stops putting food on the table, helping us to raise our children and provide for our families, we can stop giving to God. When the blood given by Jesus no longer avails for our sins, and when the eternal flow of God’s love is dried up and we’re left alone against the wiles of the devil, and when the Holy Spirit refuses to give us the power we need to be victorious in our life, then we can stop giving to God. But until and as long as God gives, so ought also we to give.”
“What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?”
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