In my personal devotional time, I have been reading through the book of Nehemiah in Old Testament.
Nehemiah was a great leader.
He helped the Jewish people to rebuild the walls and gates around Jerusalem.
Nehemiah also helped the Jewish people to return back to the Lord and to remember the Lord’s ways.
One thing that Nehemiah reminds the people of Israel to continue practicing is the spiritual practice of tithing.
In chapter ten beginning with verse thirty-five of Nehemiah we hear these words:
“We promise to bring the first part of every harvest to the Lord’s temple year after year -whether it be a crop from the soil or from our fruit trees. We agree to give to God our oldest sons and the firstborn of all our herds and flocks, as prescribed by the Law. We will present them to the priest who minister in the Temple of our God. We will store the produce in the storerooms of the Temple of our God. We will bring the best of our flour and other grain offerings, the best of our fruit, and the best of our new wine and olive oil. And we promise to bring to the Levites a tenth of everything our land produces, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all our rural town. A priest – a descendant of Aaron -w ill be with the Levites as they receive these tithes. And a tenth of all that is collected as tithes will be delivered by the Levites to the Temple of our God and placed in the storerooms. The people and the Levites must bring these offerings of grain, new wine, and olive oil to the storerooms and place them in the sacred containers near the ministering priest, the gatekeepers, and the singers. We promise together not to neglect the Temple of our God.”
Here Nehemiah is reinstating the spiritual practice of tithing to God’s people.
The practice of tithing was first instituted at the time of the exodus when the people escaped from slavery.
Now Nehemiah is simply reminding the people to not forget this spiritual practice for the Lord.
The practice of tithing was seen as a visible way of living out your faith in the Old Testament.
Tithing helped the people to understand that you offer to God your best.
You gave to God your best grain, your best crops, your best wine.
You gave to God your first and your best of what you have not what is left over.
We give to God the first portion of our time, our money, and our talents.
This ancient spiritual practice still holds value today.
God gives to us everything that we have.
Our wealth, our food, our clothes, our homes, even our very lives comes from God.
We believe this to be true.
In a world where there is so much poverty and suffering God’s teaches us that we are not meant to accumulate large storage barns of wealth.
Even the church can be tempted to fall into the temptation.
That is why it is important even for the church to tithe.
Every month our congregation gives ten percent of its offering gifts to the wider church for mission and for mission.
On top of that tithe our congregation supports our ministries such as Lutherdale Bible Camp, Lutheran Social Services, CROP Walk, ELCA World Hunger, Lutheran Campus Ministries, and our local food pantry.
Just recently our church gave a gift to the Williams Bay school to help those children who need a little extra help with school supplies.
All of this giving keeps our congregation humble and connected to God knowing that we are able to continue moving forward as a church because we are caught up in the mission of God.
Tithing helps us from getting caught in the trap of materialism and it helps us to reevaluate what is most important in our lives – is it found in the things of this world or is it found in God?
In my own life I have found tithing to be a very difficult practice to follow along with it being a blessing.
At times when I wanted to give up tithing my wife Kalen has been quick to help me to see the importance of tithing and to persist in this practice.
Blessed indeed is the one whose spouse encourages such a practice when you when to quite practicing such a difficult spiritual discipline.
True joy, true peace, true happiness cannot be found in the things of this world.
God gives us things in this world for our own benefit but all we can take with us from this world is our soul.
And our souls are not for sell.
Jesus has paid for our souls on the cross.
His grace and forgiveness are real and lasting.