Matthew 25:11-12 Afterward the other maidens came also, saying, Lord, lord, open to us. But he replied, Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.
Amos 5:22, 24 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and cereal offerings, I will not accept them, and the peace offerings of your fatted beasts I will not look upon. . . . But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Have you ever felt cheated? Have you ever seen someone else take the credit for the good you have done? Have you ever been punished for something that some one else did? Is there a voice inside you that cryís, I wish things would be fair? There is no justice, when life isnít fair, and though we believe we would like justice, perhaps we ought be very careful, for we will discover that justice is not what we really want.
As long as others are the only ones who are guilty, justice sounds like the answer. As soon as we see that we are guilty too, justice, the punishment of sin, begins to affect us personally. When we are guilty, we want mercy. Sometimes we are blind to our guilt, and unaware of our debts, and that is what todayís texts are all about.
The debt is universal, and so often we never speak of it. The debt is owed to God. All over people try to cheat God, claiming credit for the things he has done. Did you earn a raise? Did you earn the car? Did you earn the grade? Was it really you all by yourself? Did God really have nothing to do with it? This is how it happens to us allÖ we take the credit for the good, and we forget to thank God, or acknowledge the part that he plays is all good.
We owe something to God for the food that we eat, for the clothes that we wear, and for all the other good in our lives. What we owe is more than a half hearted thanks, we owe God true worship and praise, and real gratitude. And this is where the tithe begins. Jesus was quite clear, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesarís, and unto God the things that are Godís." In the same way that we owe taxes to the government, so we owe a tithe to God. Its not that God needs our tithe, it is rather that all need to acknowledge their debt to God. And justice is paying your debts.
We often speak of Godís gifts to us, but our understanding of gift is flawed. God doesnít give us these things because we deserve them, rather he gives to us in spite of the fact that we do not deserve them. That is what makes the grace of God a gift, it is undeserved, it hasnít been earned. It is not that we have done something for God, and so now, God does something for us. Even though we are already in debt to God for the things he has done for us, God continues to do more for us.
Our response begins with thanks and respect. We see the gifts, and acknowledge the giver. Its basic, and its something that everyone already owes to God. No merit in doing something already required, but there is judgment for not doing it. What is respect? Is it to honor someone? Is it to hold them up as a good example? Is it to want to be like them? Is it to treat them as a special person? Is it to drop everything, when we hear them call? Is it to sacrifice what we want to their will? It is all this, and to fear that if we fail in the basics, they will turn our back on us, and say, I do not know you.
If there is little thanks to God, could it be that many do not even know of their debt to Him? If there is little respect for God, could it be because they do not know what he has done? Or who He is? And thatís where the tithe comes in, it was a universal way for all men to acknowledge and remember God as the giver of all good things, and of all things necessary. The tithe is not a gift, it is an acknowledgment, and partial payment of debt. The tithe is the beginning of Christian stewardship, 10% off the top, acknowledging God as the giver, and all that we owe to Him. And all this is before we even speak of the great gift of forgiveness and everlasting life that is ours in Jesus Christ. If all people owe God 10%, what do we owe God for the forgiveness of sins, the peace, and the everlasting life that is ours in Jesus Christ? Our thanks, our worship, our honor, our respect, and if we return a portion to God for all his benefits, we do not do it as the repayment of a debt, as much as we do it to make certain that the Word of God is spread so that all might see their sins, and see a need for a Savior, and then hear the Good News of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and for everlasting life. So Christian Stewardship is beyond the tithe, a gift of love, an expression of gratitude, and the desire to share good with allÖ