Dt. 5:12-15, Gal. 2:16-20, Mt. 6:19-34
The mission of Jesus is to baptize the nations and teach them everything He commanded. This is how you distinguish between God providing in what seems like scarcity and folly. If God commands it, then He promises to provide for it. Justification is God’s gracious gift of setting up an account in our name that draws off of His infinite resources, and sanctification is the process by which we learn to draw off of that abundance for all of our needs. Frequently when Christians are foolish, flake out, or burn out, it is because they’ve been going to God’s bank and trying to draw off of different accounts, doing what other people thought they should do, doing what seemed like a good idea, rather than simply doing what Jesus said to do. We draw off of God’s abundance when we trust and obey Him, and we see this principle in the biblical teaching on keeping Sabbath and tithing.
Keeping Sabbath for the Mission
The Christian mission cannot be carried out well apart from an understanding of Christian Sabbath. This is because keeping Sabbath rests upon the foundation of God’s abundance. First, the Old Testament Sabbath was predicated on God’s abundance in the creation of the world (Ex. 20:8-11) as well as God’s abundance in salvation in the Exodus (Dt. 5:12-15). This weekly day of rest was also to include a “holy convocation,” a gathering together of God’s people (Lev. 23:3). This leads to the second point which is the pattern of Christians gathering together on the Lord’s Day in commemoration of the new creation in God’s saving action in Jesus (Lk. 24:1, Acts 20:7, 1 Cor. 16:2, Rev. 1:10). Whereas the Old Covenant saints looked forward to resting at the end of the week, we rest at the beginning of our week because the new creation has begun in Jesus. The fourth commandment fundamentally commands us to “remember” what God has done, and in the New Covenant, that is what the Scripture read and preached and the Lord’s Supper are – they are the remembrance, the memorial of Christ’s new creation and salvation abundance. Third, we cannot be a church that rightly carries out the mission of Jesus, if we are not a church that keeps Sabbath. This is because when God calls us to set this time apart, He is giving us time to share. In our flesh, we think we cannot afford to lose this time. In our flesh, it is sometimes hard to see how struggling to get our young children through a worship service matters. But this is the point of the exercise: God is teaching us not to rely on ourselves, on our own wisdom, on our own ordering of our time. He’s teaching us to rely on Him, to remember Him, and His abundance to give us all we need. Keeping Sabbath means acknowledging that all of our time is His and resting in the abundance of God in Jesus Christ rather than living from one frantic, distracted day to the next. And this peace is what your family, your neighbors, and our hurting world around us needs (Mt. 11:28).
Giving to the Mission
Tithing is really the same Sabbath principle applied to money and resources. A tithe is an offering of ten percent, a tenth of a person’s increase. The first tithe in Scripture is Abram’s tithe to Melchizedek following the battle of the nine kings (Gen. 14). Abram’s tithe on the plunder from the battle was his testimony that the victory was from the Lord. The Lord seems to be pleased with this when He promises Abram a great reward in the very next scene (Gen. 15:1). Jacob vows a tithe of all the Lord gives him when renewing covenant on his way out of the land (Gen. 28:18-22). Israel demonstrated their dependence on God by tithing from their flocks and produce (Lev. 27:30-33). This tithe was centrally the means of supporting the ministry of the Levites who led the worship of the tabernacle and temple as well as the teaching of the law in Israel (Num. 18:21-24). A portion of the tithe was also designated to be used for celebrating in the presence of God, and this celebration was also to include foreigners, orphans, and widows (Dt. 14:22-29). The tithe was also meant to support the needy in the cities of Israel (Dt. 26:12-15). When faithful worship was restored under King Hezekiah’s reign, we learn that the tithe was also called the “firstfruits,” and the people gave abundantly to restore the temple (2 Chron. 31:5-6, Neh. 10:38, 13:12). In Malachi, God rebukes the people for robbing Him in failing to give their tithes, but He promises that if they bring in the full tithe, He will open the windows of heaven and pour down blessings until there is no more need (Mal. 3:8-10, Prov. 3:9). In the New Covenant, Jesus is our “firstfruits” (1 Cor. 15:20-21) just as He is our Sabbath rest, and we demonstrate our trust in His provision by how we give of our firstfruits. When the apostles called upon the first Christians to remember the orphans and widows, to remember the poor and needy, and to provide for their pastors and missionaries, the clear assumption is that this would be through tithing or additional offerings (1 Cor. 16:2, Gal. 2:10, Js. 1:27, 1 Tim. 5:17-18). This is tied directly to the new creation and our mission in the world. Jesus is the firstfruits from the dead, the new, resurrected world breaking into our world. When we give our tithes, we are demonstrating that we believe this. We are saying that we believe that the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is now living inside of us and inside the Christian Church. We are saying that all of our money belongs to Jesus, and it is at His disposal.
Conclusion: Surrendering All
The bottom line of all of this is a question of identity. Whose are you? When we keep Sabbath, we are saying our time belongs to the Lord. When we tithe, we are saying all of our money and fruitfulness belongs to the Lord. But all of this is just short hand for saying, all that we are belongs to the Lord. I am not my own but belong body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful savior Jesus Christ. Burn out and over-commitment are actually based on not believing that you truly belong to the God. But God’s abundance allows you to take Sabbath and share Sabbath with a world running in frantic circles around us. God’s abundance allows you to tithe, when the world veers between materialistic greed and financial anxiety. When God’s people seek first His kingdom, He adds all that need to them (Mt. 6:33). When God’s people obey Him in the little things, He teaches them to be faithful in much bigger things. Those who are faithful in a little will be blessed with much more (Mt. 25:21-23).
Do we want to see the gospel of Jesus (in word and deed) fill Moscow and Pullman to the ends of the earth? God tells us how to accomplish this. We do this by resting in Him and sharing that rest with others, by surrendering our resources to Him that they may be shared with many others.