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the treasure of the heart...

The heart is complicated above all else, both physically and spiritually.

Recently, I had a cardiac issue. Lying in the hospital room, the nurses opened the door to do yet another EKG. Thankfully, my heart wasn't doing it's normal skipping, I felt great and knew I was good to go. But as soon as they hooked me up, it was evident that my t-waves were inverted. Medically, it meant that my heart had memorized the trauma from the past week and was letting off signals that all was not well. From the outside, my heart seemed strong - but from the inside, my heart was struggling.

Sounds cliché, but it's often times like these I start examining my own life...and my own spiritual heart. Recently, I was asked about tithing and my thoughts on the matter. It really sent me into some contemplation around the issue, assuming I knew the issue well, and I found myself asking, "But what does the Bible really say about tithing?" I knew what I had learned growing up, but was it true? 10%. Everything you have. 10%. Churches make it easy..."reoccurring gifts, take it straight out of your paycheck..." but is that really what it is all about? Most of us don't even think twice about what we give. How many of us pray before we give? Heck, how many of us pray about what to give?

As I started studying, I quickly saw a direct contrast between the Old Testament Mosaic Law vs the New Covenant under Jesus. It was tithing vs giving in the ring.

Tithing. The word was used in the Old Testament and literally in Hebrew means "tenth". You see it in multiple places, one of those being Deuteronomy 14:22-23. Moses was speaking to the Israelites about setting aside a tenth of their produce. And then again in Genesis 14:20. Abram returned from a victory, and after Melchizedek blessed him, he gave him a tenth of everything.

There are many more references: Numbers 18:25-28, 2 Chronicles 31:4-10...the list goes on. But a key point to recognize, is that in each and every instance, the people brought it to the storehouse, the people set it aside, the people took from everything they had. No one set it aside for them. It was a matter of the law, but it was also a foreshadow of the matter of the heart and what was to come.

This is given no more straightforward then in Amos. He chastises the nation of Israel for their idolatrous ways, going so far as to point out their rebellion in their sacrifices and tithe - because that is what they "love to do" (Amos 4:4-5). And over and over his chastisements end with, "...yet you did not return to Me." The Israelites were so consumed with their rituals that they forgot about the heart of the matter.

Giving. This word seemed to signal something much more was at play. No where in the New Testament do you find the word tithe, unless given in a specific situation to make a broader point, like the one below.

Luke 18:9-14: a poignant story of a Pharisee and a Tax Collector. Both sinners. Both puffed up with pride. The Pharisee gloated about fasting and giving a tenth of everything, admonishing the tax collector, as any good law abider would do. The tax collector on the other hand, beat his chest and admitted he was a sinner. To God, among many other truths in this story, tithing wasn't/isn't a law or a requirement...he looks for the treasure of the heart...a heart of humility and of sacrifice.

1 Corinthians 16:1-2: There is a lot here, but in short, Paul is exhorting everyone in the church to "set something aside" and "save in keeping with how he prospers". The idea that he was teaching was to come to the church with your gift ready - seek God in the matter - and then give. When this happens, the manipulation, the legalism, and the law to tithe disappears and brings forth a law to truly be a giver.

And the most famous verse misquoted consistently when coupled with sermons about 10% tithe, is 1 Corinthians 9:6-7, "...each person should do as he has decided in his heart - not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver." Did you catch that? Not out of reluctance or necessity - this is the story of the cross. It has done away with the Mosaic Law and has given us a greater salvation...Jesus...His grace is sufficient. When we taste that grace, the motivation inside ourselves to live as a new Creation trumps our outward tendencies. We fall into the trap that the rules and obligations of the Christian life are how we are to live. Instead of asking ourselves, "How much can we give?", our focus turns to "How much do I have to tithe?"...when in all reality, we are not commanded to tithe...we are commanded to be generous and give abundantly.

"Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure - pressed down, shaken together, and running over - will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you." Luke 6:38

It wasn't until I was hooked up to a machine that I knew anything was still wrong with my heart. From the outside, I felt fine, felt healthy, checked off all the boxes. But when the report came out, my heart was indeed not 100%. What I had believed to be true, wasn't true at all.

Our hearts are what Jesus is after, not a do's and don'ts list. Because then and only then, when our hearts are fully His, we bear fruit, and we give because He gives, we love because He loves, we live, because He lives. It isn't a tithing issue, it's a heart issue.

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:21


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