Sunday, October 13, 2013
We will not neglect the house of our God.
Neh. 10:38 And the priest, the descendant of Aaron, shall be with the Levites when the Levites receive the tithes; and the Levites shall bring up a tithe of the tithes to the house of our God, to the chambers of the storehouse.
Neh. 10:39 For the people of Israel and the sons of Levi shall bring the contribution of grain, wine, and oil to the storerooms where the vessels of the sanctuary are, and where the priests that minister, and the gatekeepers and the singers are. We will not neglect the house of our God.
The exiles were pledging their support to God's work in the rebuilt Jerusalem. This time around there would be no king to financially support the work of the temple, or those serving in the temple. Now, the people would have to determine that they would not neglect the house of their God. The entire passage lets us see how they planned to bring in a tithe -- the first fruit of their labors to be used in the kingdom. The Levites who were spread about in the cities would collect this tithe. This helped to support the local ministry and the Levites themselves. The Levites would then send a tithe of these offerings to the temple to support the Temple and the Priests who served there. The commitment of these people was great. They would do all they could to ensure the enduring ministry of the Levites, the Priests and also the work of the Temple. They would never again, "neglect the house of our God."
I'm afraid that there aren't many Christians these days who truly believe in tithing. Statistics show that tithing is decreasing (at least in America) and strategists are telling those who are working in the Church to plan on the support to continue to decrease. People are too overcome with debt and the demands of society to tithe. If that is true, what is going to happen to the Church? Have even Christians determined that they WILL neglect the house of our God?
No matter how you feel about the faithfulness of the Jews -- from this time on they faithfully supported the work of the Temple. Many gave up to 30% of their income in service to God. They did this steadfastly even in face of high taxes and pressures imposed upon them by their own and surrounding governments. This was a commitment that they had made -- and they were going to be faithful in caring for the things of God.
The Church will survive these difficult days if the people of God will again be committed to the house of God. God helped the Israelites establish a system to support the Levies, the Priests and the Temple. The system worked! The system works today, when all of God's people are faithful. Churches today would not have any difficulty in fulfilling their mission if the people attending were faithful in their tithes and offerings. Not only would the house of God be cared for -- but the workers would be paid as well -- and there would be money to do ministry in the community.
Sadly, we are facing a crisis in the Church. Many of our ministers are barely being paid and are having to work in secular employment to be able to support their own families. Churches can barely keep their utilities paid, let alone minister to their surrounding communities. Instead of the Church being the recipients of the first-fruits, she has become the recipient of the left-overs.
Nearly every day I indulge myself in reading different commentaries on the scriptures. I always find it fascinating to see what these other authors get from these scriptures. One of those commentators is an older, classical commentary by Adam Clarke. What I found fascinating about his response to day's text was that it was not his normal reaction. After giving his commentary he wrote a section to the Reader.
"READER, 1. Art thou of this house? 2. Art thou in this house? 3. To what part of the family dost thou belong? 4. Art thou still an infant in this house? 5. Dost thou attend the ordinances of this house? 6. Hast thou forsaken this house? These questions are of great importance; answer them as in the sight of God."
He almost sounds emotional as he gets to this point. This idea of supporting the work of the ministry is no light matter. We have a responsibility to not neglect the house of God and we will have to answer for this before God. What are the priorities in our life? Will we care for the house of God and of those serving in the house of God? As God's people we must not be influenced by the culture of our day, but we must, instead, stand up for what we believe in and continue in faithful support of the Church that God has placed into our care. We must never again neglect the house of our God!
Lord, help us to be your faithful people. Amen.