Read this message transcript from the "In ____ We Trust" message series
Harold Bullock: There is a very unusual situation that occurs in the Bible, in the first of the Bible. It just sort of crops up, and then the story moves along. It's about a guy named Abram. Abram is a fellow that the Lord encountered, God himself encountered this guy. He's a very, very well off businessman in a major cosmopolitan city at the time, Ur. Ur was a walled city, well fortified, very prosperous. And we don't know exactly how it occurred, but God encountered him one day and Abram responded to him. As a result, the Lord directed him to leave the security of the city and move to an area he'd never been to and live the rest of his life in tents in a area of marauders. That was a challenge, but he did it. He continued to grow in prosperity and wealth.
And as the story picks up here, he's been living in a very fertile valley. His nephew, who had gone with him, has decided to live in the city of. Sodom and Gomorrah, of course, right now are words for real corruption. They were very corrupt places, but Lot lived there. Lot was a good guy. And at one point, neighboring kings, there were sort of city states around the region. A city would have a king and they would have so much territory around the city. Several kings got together and decided to just rob everybody. So, they assaulted different parts of the region and took captives for slaves and then took everything people had. They assaulted Sodom and Gomorrah, and defeated those kings and just took everything, took all kinds of people's families to be their slaves and had moved on.
Abram finds out his nephew, Lot, has been taken captive. So, he goes after him. Abram has about 385 guys who know what to do with a sword. So, he takes his little army and goes after this coalition of kings. And they actually defeat them. God gives them into his hands. So, he takes everything that they took, possessions and people, and brings them back. As he passes one city, this happens, then [Melchizedek 00:02:48], King of Salem ... Salem means peace, probably the name of the city here, brought out bread and wine. He was a priest of God most high, that's very unusual. Priests are not mentioned until this point, at least of God. And he blessed Abram, saying, "Blessed be Abram of God most high, creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God most high who delivered your enemies into your hands."
Then, this is the strange thing, then Abram gave him a 10th of everything. That's strange. A 10th of everything. Why? Why did he give him anything, first? And then, why a 10th? Why not 5% or 15% or 20%, or 3%? Why a 10th? And then Abram moves on. He gives back to the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, all the possessions and people who were taken from them. And he does not give a 10th out of their stuff, he gives out all back to them out of all that he gained.
Time goes on. 200 years pass. And one of Abram's grandsons, named Jacob, is on the run. Jacob is a ... He's a twin, fraternal twins. His brother's big hairy guy, a man's man. Jacob was sort of ... Didn't have much hair. And he sort of hung around the tents. The brother became a hunter. Jacob became a trickster. His name means supplanter or trickster. And he actually did his brother out of all the brother's inheritance rights. So, the brother wanted to kill him. Right now, as the story picks up, he's on the run for his life. And he spends the night, just out in the open, and there's a rock there he lays his head on for a pillow because he ran for his life.
In the night, he has a dream about angels, going up and down this stair to God. And he realizes God's very aware of him and God must be present here, so the next day, he tries to get God on his side. He knows about God from his grandfather, Abraham, and his dad. And he tries to get God on his side. Jacob made a vow saying, "If God will be with me, and will watch over me on this journey I'm taking," ... Again, he's trying to get him on his side. "If he will, and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I may safely return to my father's house one day, not any time soon, I'll be able to come back, then the Lord will be my God. And of all that you give me, I will give you a 10th."
How did he come up with a 10th? Why didn't he say 5%, 15%, 20%, 3%, 4%? Why a 10th? It's very interesting, because this is the only two times these things were mentioned until the people of God pulled together as a nation and make a covenant with God. Why, first of all, why give ... Well, that's obvious, I guess. He wants the favor of God on him. But why a 10th? Why is it the same figure that Abraham used? If you have a church background, you may have heard the word tithe before. Tithe is Anglo-Saxon. It means a 10th.
And you may associate that with the practice of ancient Israel. Whenever they came out of Egypt, they'd gone in as a large family, they came out a nation of people. About a million and a half. Two million. Left Egypt under Moses' leadership. And they met God in the desert at a mountain, where God's fire appeared. And they made a covenant with God that he would be their God, they would be his people and walk in his ways. A part of the covenant, part of the requirements, was a 10th of their increase. Whatever increase they had, a 10th went to God.
Now, you may associate that idea of the 10th with that action of Abraham and Jacob, but you have to understand Abraham and Jacob are a long time before this. If we say ... In 2018, if we were God, or we were God's people making a covenant with God ... Now, in 2018, then Jacob would be ... The distance back would be Shakespeare. It would be back in Shakespeare's time. That's when that occurred. That's a long time from now. Abraham, well if you look back to where he was, he would be Robin Hood. 700 years ago. 500 years ago, 700 years ago. This is just very strange. Why did these guys do a 10th?
Israel does a 10th because God speaks, but there's no necessary requirement for a 10th. Why? Well, it turns out that the practice in the ancient cultures was 10th-ing. This was wide, widespread practice, strangely enough. I want to show you some slides. These are from a book that summarizes a lot of the scholarly research into ancient cultures. So, let me give you a few of this. This is ... You may not know this. Throughout the ancient Pagan world, the right of the power to a portion of all property was universally recognized. Centuries before the time of Moses, when that covenant was made. And indeed, centuries before even Abraham.
Clay tablets of Assyria, one of the ancient empires, and Egypt, dating as far back as 3800 B.C. as well fragments of Chinese tradition and the lore of India and other lands, furnish conclusive evidence of this fact. That is, the evidence of the fact that everybody thought that the power got a slice of what I had. Very interesting. In Egypt, the portion given to the gods was a 10th of a whole. That statement said 3800 B.C., the records say this, show this. Abraham lived about 22 thousand B.C., roughly. So, this is almost 2000 years before Abraham.
Among the ancient Egyptians tithe giving, a 10th giving, was a recognized duty. Claims of the gods had to be satisfied before the claims of men. Very interesting. The azra, or tithe, was a Babylonian institution as well. Ancient Babylon, modern day Iraq, paid to the temples on the produce of the land. The cuneiform inscriptions of Babylonia ... Cuneiform is a kind of writing they did ... Contained frequent references to this, to the tithe. The great temples were largely supported by the esra, or the tithe, which was Lebanon prince and peasant alike.
Tiglath Pileser, these are several names, if you're familiar with the Old Testament, you may recognize them. If you're not familiar with it, they're hard to pronounce. Tiglath Pileser. He was an Assyrian emperor. They basically destroyed all kinds of nations. He became sovereign over them. Tough, tough, mean guy. Tiglath Pileser. Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar was over Babylonia, modern day Iraq, and at one point was basically ruler of the known world. Now, you read about him in the book of Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar. Nabonidus, another Babylonian king. Belshazzar. And Cyrus. Cyrus was a Persian who conquered Babylon, took over everything. Cyrus and other sovereigns, all of them, annually offering a tithe of their increase that their temples not be furnished and endowed, their priests supported and their gods honored.
Tithe giving was practiced among the Ancient Greeks. Roman farmers paid a tithe of the first fruits of the ground. This is very interesting. Whenever Abraham meets the priest of God, he doesn't make up a 10th. It's just what you do if you honor your God. Whenever Jacob is on the run and he wants to get God on his side, he offers a 10th because that shows genuine respect. Very interesting. Since it's not mentioned in the Bible, you sort of read these two instances, you go, "Where did that come from?" It actually came from general broad understanding.
So, why was it a 10th? Why did everybody give a 10th? Why not 5%? Or 20%? Why a 10th? Scholars have really studies this and debated it and know what the answer is? We don't know. So, when I get to heaven, I'm going to go to the library and try to find out why. Or if I can get a conversation with God and just ask him directly. Why? Well, a lot of people speculate that actually from the beginning, this was God's thought, and really affected Cain and Abel's sacrifice, so it's not said specifically.
There's an idea that Christianity sort of emerged gradually from Pagan religions into this high Christian ideal by a sort of counter-religious evolution. But that's not what the Bible says. The Bible says we started off with a very clear idea of God and it deteriorated as we rebelled against him and became different religions. So, maybe that's true. Maybe God, originally, that was part of his thought. We just don't know. However, it is very obvious that that's the pattern of every place. Very interesting.
If you do have a Bible background, then you know about Israel giving a tithe to God. The interesting thing, though, is that they didn't give one tithe. They gave three. I grew up thinking that maybe they gave one, but they actually did three tithes. The first one was a tithe to the Lord's service. It was a 10th of the increase of animals and produce from the fields every year, was given to the temple and to support the priests. A second tithe, they call it the festival tithe. It was a 10th. Another 10th was taken of all the produce. It's not the animals this time, but the produce. And it was ... It could be sold, and the money taken with the family to Jerusalem, where the temple was. And that money paid for the family trip to Jerusalem, a week's lodging there as they participated in festivals and offerings that were made. That happened, that trip to Jerusalem occurred three times a year. Two times it was a week each. And then one time, it was about three days. But that took care of that.
The thought behind the tithe seems to be that God wanted all the people staying together on what was true and right, and in their worship. And then the third tithe was every three years. Another tithe was taken of the produce. And it was shared. In addition to the others, it was shared with the poor people around them. Widows and orphans, immigrants who were ... Didn't have much. And the local priests. So, this was a third year. This was more involved than you might think. This is sort of the background. We've talked the last few weeks about being God's entrepreneurs and the question of why am I giving my time and my abilities? It's answered by the fact that God wants you to entrepreneur for him.
He wants you to create family or to create business or to create jobs. He wants you to use your creativity and your mind, you energy, and participate with him in creating good things for the future. And he has different roles for all of us to play, but he's very personally aware of you. And he's actually very invested in you. He wants you to team with him, and he wants you to produce what's good for him and to bring in return things that he desires. And a part of that is financial, but this is they why.
So, we've looked a lot of different issues in this, the last three weeks. Today, though, I'd like to try to answer a question for you that a lot people ask. And that is when it comes to money, how much does God want me to give? What does he want? And it's a sincere question. And whenever you get into the New Testament, it's hard to nail an exact answer. My own, my Bible study, I think that tithing is what the Bible teaches. However, there's not a specific guideline in the New Testament that says this. Instead, some big questions are really raised for you. And you answer the giving question by answering the questions.
And the New Testament indicates that you're giving out to be like this, proportional. If you make more money, you give more. You make less money, you give less. If it were 10%, you made 600 thousand this year, you'd give 60 thousand. If you made 60 thousand this year, you'd give six. If you made 30 thousand this year, you'd give three. But it's proportional. It's not like someone gives a big chunk and so that's impressive to God and someone doesn't give much and God goes [inaudible 00:17:57]. No. He's looking for the heart, see. Proportional.
It outta be regular. In the New Testament times, the Jewish synagogues, they met for worship on Sabbath. And they pulled their money together then for the Lord. Paul talks about doing this. You can see the verse references on your handout. You can check these yourself. He says to do this on the Lord's day. The church moved to Sunday as the day of worship, because that's the day Christ came out of the tomb. So, regular.
It's to be given away. If it's still in your control, it's not given yet. In the Old Testament, on the Lord's tithe, the temple service tithe, there's actually a day whenever the owner of the household was to walk outside and say before God, "Nothing of what is holy to you remains in my house. It's all gone. I've given it." It's to be given away.
It's to provide income for church staff, this is very clear in the New Testament. It also is to reflect your gratitude to God. We give because we're grateful. God's done good for us. So, it reflects your gratitude. And it outta reflect the greater privilege we have than the guys who didn't know about Christ. Until Christ died on the cross, people were really guessing about what the future would be about, because there were these figures promised by God who would come and salvation was promised. But I mean, they trusted God in the present but it was sort of a cloud up there in the future. We know what happened. We know who Messiah is. We know the presence of God in our lives. Having experienced a greater privilege than them, then our giving reflects that.
But the key question is really what do you want? What do you want? What do you want in honoring God? Proverbs 3:9 and 10 in the Old Testament, it's one of the key verses that talks about this arena of giving. It says, "Honor the Lord with your wealth. You honor him. And with the first fruits of your crops, he gets the first slice. Then, your barns will be filled overflowing, your vats will brim over with new wine." It's an agricultural society. Prosperity is in terms of produce. So, "Your barns will be filled overflowing and there will be plenty of crops, and new wine. The vats will be full of new wine. Plenty to drink for the year."
This comes as you honor God. And the reason it comes is because he's actually in control of this stuff. So, you honor him. So, what do you want? How do you want to honor God? In your eyes, how great is he? Now, you do need [inaudible 00:21:13]. You do need to live on money. So, what do you give? It's a matter actually between you and God. What do you want in ... What do you want in seeing God work through you? A God, actually you're his entrepreneur, he's going to work through you. So, what do you want?
On the back of your handout is Second Corinthians 9:6 through 11. It's one of the key passage in the New Testament on giving. I'd like to read through it with you. Paul, the church ... The first century church planner, wrote a lot of the New Testament. He writes, "Remember this. Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly." Farmers know this. You sow a little bit of grain, you get a lot more. But not as much as if you had sowed a lot of grain. If you sow a whole lot of grain, you got a whole lot of grain. Why? Because that's the nature of crops. You sow, it produces more. You sow a lot, you get whole lot. You sow a little, well, you get some.
So, this is the way it works. Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly. So, what do you want to reap? However sows generously will also reap generously. It's your choice. You make the choice. But this is the rule, this is how it goes. Each man should give what he's decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion. This is actually between you and God. I mean, this is a God thing. You go to God and you decide. You decide in your heart, you make all your decisions in your heart. That's sort of like the cockpit of your life, the real you down deep. You decide there, and then you do it. Give what you decided, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
As you give, you want to give with a cheerful heart. If you've come to the point that you are giving at a level that you really are grudging about it, [inaudible 00:23:24], you need to back up. You need to get to the point where you're grateful and cheerful. God loves a cheerful giver. Whenever the grudging money comes in, the Lord will only sigh and goes, "Ah," because he loves a cheerful heart. He's looking for the heart. It may be that no matter what you give, you grudge over it. You need change. But it's really between you and God, and it has to do with a cheerful heart.
Here's the next verse. "And God is able to make all grace about you." Joseph was trying ... Sorry, Jacob was trying to get God on his side, get God to favor him. Well, that's what grace is, it's God's favor. "God is able to make all grace abound to you, all favor abound, be plenty of it, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. In all things, that's all arenas of life, and at all times, that's ... As time moves forward. Having all that you need, you'll have what you need. You will. You will abound in every good work." That is good stuff will be happening through you. It'll be good. The Lord's able to make all grace abound to you so that all this will happen. As it is written, he has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor, his righteousness endures forever.
This is not talking about God, actually. When you look at the Old Testament, it's a statement about the people who walk with God, giving. And since they have, the grace of God abounds. And Paul goes back again to the sowing. "Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed." He supplies seed to the sower, that is ... You have to sow seed if you're going to get a crop. God's the one who supplies the seed for sowing. And of course, he's also the one who supplies the crop that comes. And bread for food. Now, sometimes we have the idea, well, we make money and we give God some of it, but it's a tough life and we have to really slave at it and make stuff happen. And we do. Now, you have to exert yourself. However, God is the one who brings things to harvest. He brings things to pass.
We tend to think about water cycles and crop cycles and the weather and climate as we think about grain growing and stuff. However, if a dust bowl happens, you can forget the rest of it. God is the one who controls these things. And this country learned a huge lesson in the dust bowl era, in the 1900s. He's the one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food. He will also supply and increase your store of seed. Hm. Your store of seed. You sow seed in the ground. You put it in the ground. So, you don't have it. However, when the harvest comes in, there's plenty more seed. He will supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. What he's saying is as you do the sowing and the return comes, one of the things that's going to happen is because you've done what's right, all kinds of things will happening through you and through what you've done.
You will be made rich in every way. Wow. You mean, Bill Gates is going to envy me? No. The thought in the Greek language right here is there will be abundance. There will be plenty. But you'll be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion. Hm. More comes, so I can do more sowing. And more comes, so I can do more sowing. You can be generous on every occasion, and through your generosity ... Through us, your generosity will result in thanks giving to God. Through us, your generosity will result in thanks giving.
Friend, if you contribute to the ministry, you're working through those who work out of that money. If you give to Hope, then everything I do, you have a part of. Everything the staff does, you have a part of. Ben and Matt were on the mission trip. All the [Antioch 00:28:38] students paid their own ways. They had to raise their own money. But they were on the mission trip, and you were with them leading teams in Germany. Your body was here. Physically you're here, but spiritually, you're with them.
We tend to separate life, you see. We have a life here and we have our religious department, takes place on Sundays. And then we have our ... We give money, and that sort of disappears. But that's not the way it works in God's world, as you're participating in what others are doing. That's one of the ways the harvest grows for you. You'll be made rich in every way, and thanks giving will abound to God.
There's a guy I'd like to introduce you to, some of you know about him, but most of us don't. His name's R. G. LeTourneau. LeTourneau University's in Longview, Christian school that he started. He was born in the late 1800s. He dropped out of school in sixth grade, and loved welding so he began to work as a welder. Had an inventive ability. He could invent stuff. And he got into road building, and he was a good road builder. He would invent equipment to move more dirt faster. And when he finished a project, he'd sell the equipment and then do another road project.
1927, a project went bad. And I've explained things in 2018 dollars for you, just to let you see what's going on. 27, he ended up 1.5 million on debt. Period. Debt. That's not a great way to go into the Great Depression. The lenders put some controllers in his company and he had gotten behind on his giving. So, he wrote a, what today would be a 70 thousand dollar check. And the lenders just about had a heart attack as that money went to the work of God rather than to the lenders. He persuaded them to hang with him.
29, the Great Depression began, him way in the hole with a family. 1932, something happened after that money was given. A friend said to him, "You know you've been building roads all these years and you keep inventing equipment to move more and more dirt. Why don't you just start manufacturing equipment?" People would love to buy it. They always scoop it up. So, he thought about it, prayed over it, and he decided he would start. So in 19 ... While the rest of the nation is in the pit during the Great Depression, 1932, his income was 740 thousand bucks. 1934, 15 million. Wow. In 1938, 24 million, but in 1935, his wife talked to him. She said, "You know, God's meeting our needs. We're out of debt, he's meeting our needs. I think we need to give 90% and live on 10."
He said, "I think you're right." So, from that point, for the next 40 some years, they lived on 10 percent, gave 90 percent. Through them, I mean just incredible things happened, through what they were able to fund. Amazing story. Now, you might think, "Well, if I was making 24 million a year, I could live on 10 percent too." Well, I've never seen that kind of money myself. I live at a very different level. But what's going on here is not the money, it's the heart. It's the heart. You'd like to be in his kind of place where you're making that kind of money. I heard a friend who had a lot of money years ago say, "God doesn't let that happen to most people because if they made that kind of money, they would twist off." I thought, "Well, that's why I haven't made that kind of money. God knows what's good for me." However, God's looking for the heart. And that's what he really desires. Your harvest can grow for him. Your harvest can grow.
Last question is what do you want in return from God? It's a good question. Luke 6:37, Jesus says, "Give and it'll be given to you." Good measure, press down, shake them together, running over. Be poured into your lap, the idea is you got to row bone and you hold it out and they dump all this grain back in your lap. For with a measure you use, it'll be measured to you. Now, you give a teaspoon full, you'll get back a heaping teaspoon. You give a tablespoon full, you'll get back a heaping tablespoon. You give a bucket full, what comes back is a heaping bucket. That's a whole lot of teaspoons. You give a pickup truck load, what comes back is a pickup truck just weighed down to capacity.
But here's how it works. You don't give a teaspoon and get a pickup truck load. The same measure that you use is what will be measured back to you. So, the question is what kind of return do you want? A.J. Gordon is a man, really respected man, started one of the major seminaries in the U.S. He said this, "If any Christian who has not tried it will make the experiment," He's talking about tithing, giving a 10th, "Conscientiously follow it through to the end in prosperity and adversity," He's saying "and adversity," because as soon as you commit to do something like this, trouble starts. But you get to see God deal with it. I mean, you'll go through good times, you also go through difficult times.
[inaudible 00:34:41] "You have to stick through to the end. We predict for him two surprises. First, he'll be astonished at the increased amount he's enabled by this method to give to the Lord. And secondly, he'll be astonished at the increased spiritual and temporal prosperity the Lord will give him." That's true. It's not only temporal prosperity, it's spiritual. The way God works, God works in all our lives. We see segmented lives. For him, it's one life. He works in your relationships. He works in your own emotional health. He works in jobs. And he works over time. The prosperity goes across the board. It's more than just money.
So, as we wrap up, what do you want? I'd like to challenge you to take a stand through the end of January. If you've never given to the Lord, start giving. And just see what he does by the end of January. It takes time for him to act. He doesn't normally just do things suddenly. Give him time, and give, and see what he does. If you have give, begin to give regularly. Give on a regular basis, see what he does. If you've been a regular giver, give a tithe. Give a 10th. That actually ... It requires some courage, as you really ... I mean, you're not really up against the wall on who [inaudible 00:36:14] why do you trust. But I'd encourage you to take the step and make it work through the end of January and see what God does. If he doesn't come through, then back off.
If you have been a tither, you may want to step it up a notch through the end of the time and see what God does. You may want to automate your giving. For me and my wife, we did that because we kept showing ... Even though I was a pastor, we kept showing up at church. We needed to give and we left checkbook at home. We didn't have card swipe at that time. So, you may want to automate. Just to make sure it's regular. But what I'm saying to you is move forward with God. He's the one who's given you all kinds of things, move forward with him. You're his entrepreneur. Entrepreneur. Return benefit to him. See what the one who gives seed to the sower will do. And then see what kind of harvest grows over time.
It's a real challenge. If you go ahead and take a step forward in faith because it's a real world. It's whenever we begin to take those steps that you realize there's also a real God who does come through. So, I'd like to encourage you to do that. I don't want you to make a commitment right now. I want you to go home, pray about it. Talk to God about this, see what God says. But I would encourage you, take the challenge. See what God will do by the end of January.
I'd like to lead us in prayer. Father, thank you for your love for us, for your kindness, for your greatness. Thank you for all the ways that you give in us life and breath. And Lord, you know, we've gone through a lot of times where things are lean and we are hurting, but you have always ... You've always taken care. We ask you again and again and again, in the middle of our busy world that is so so focused, help us raise our eyes to the maker of the stars. Help us raise our eyes to the Lord of heaven and the creator of heaven and earth. And Father, grant that as our days go on, we will not simply walk like ordinary people, but we will walk as God's people, who know him and who trust him. It's in you we trust. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.