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Avoiding the Dog and Hog Disease Ė Part 3

Oh No! Heís Going to Talk About Giving

As promised, Iím going to talk about giving now.  This can be a controversial subject in the minds of some, because of what they choose to believe about it.  But even a cursory examination of the Scriptures will show us giving is not something that is open to debate; itís a foundational spiritual principle. In my brief travels across the world-wide web Iíve come across several opinions on the subject that indicate giving in general (or, more specifically, tithing for most people's understanding) is something believers can choose to ignore or forget altogether.  Of course this comes from those who have an axe to grind concerning traditional, institutional religion.

And donít get me wrong, I agree with some of the things being said by those who claim to have walked away from institutional religion, most of whom are now involved in what is commonly known as the house church movement (which looks pretty much just like institutional religion to me, only they meet in homes instead of church buildings).  On the other hand, I have to question the motives or understanding of these people.  Iíve read papers titled "Terminate the Tithe" and others similar to it.  These guys see tithing only as something used by religion to support and further those institutions and since itís used in that way, it must be wrong.  And in my view they are only half right.  Sadly, tithing is used to perpetuate religious institutions, but tithing is also a valid spiritual principle that must be embraced by every true believer determined to know and follow God.

Unfortunately, there are many who have left institutional religion for the simple reason they resented giving their money to build bigger and better monuments to their denomination or group.  They rebelled against religious leaders and their grand schemes because they felt this was a misuse or waste of money, or they were simply looking for a reason to hold on to what they worked so hard to get.  Regardless of the motivation, on the surface they were able to justify their decision.  The problem is they did the right thing for the wrong reason.  I would never question anyoneís refusal to support institutional religion; but for reasons that should become clear as we look to the Scriptures, I will always question the spirituality of those who look for excuses not to give to God.  However, I hope it will become clear, as well, that there is a difference between giving to religion and giving to God, an important distinction.

Now there are some who tend to treat tithing as strictly an Old Testament rule that is to be disregarded by New Testament believers.  Such a dispensational view of tithing is shortsighted at best, as are most other issues that tend to come under dispensational purview.  To them, tithing is simply a part of the Mosaic Law as it related to the nation of Israel beginning with the Exodus generation, requirements that went away when Christ came on the scene.  Such notions should be laid to rest when we see tithing practiced before the Law was ever given, and affirmed after Christ had come.  The principle of giving to God, and more specifically tithing, is an unbroken line that runs through the Word of God from beginning to end.

There may be those who think Iím reaching here, but I believe the principle of giving begins in Genesis 3:21.  Immediately after their original sin, God provided for Adam and Eve coats of skins.  This is not simply a reference to the sudden need for clothing to cover their newly discovered nakedness.  It is, in fact, their introduction to Godís covenant plan of deliverance, the instruction of which involved both giving to God and the sacrificial, substitutionary death of animals.  And at this point you may well ask what this has to do with giving.  To which I will answer, we must all understand this fundamental issue (look closely and consider carefully what Iím getting ready to tell you here): the requirement to give to God is inseparably tied to anyoneís participation in His covenant plan of deliverance.  Iíll explain exactly what I mean by this after I give you a couple of references showing the existence of tithing before the law was given to Moses.  I donít want to put too many irons in the fire at one time.

We see the first offerings brought to God in the very next chapter (Genesis 4:3-4) with the sons of Adam and Eve.  Here the text tells us that as time went on, eventually both Cain and Abel brought offerings to the Lord.  How did they know to do that?  Itís obvious to me that they knew because of the Lordís instruction, probably passed on to them by their father.  They knew what they were to do, even though Cain deliberately did it wrong.  And, how do we know it was deliberate?  We know because his brother knew exactly how to do it right.  The point, however, is not who was right or wrong or why, itís that they both knew they were to bring an offering to the Lord.  In fact, the text tells us that Abel brought "the firstborn of the flock and the fat portions from it", and though the information is brief, it lets us know that he had received specific instruction, on how to present a burnt offering to the Lord that involved both giving (a valuable animal from his flock) and the sacrificial, substitutionary death of an animal (looking forward to the time Christ would go to the cross to pay the penalty for sin).

The first reference to the tithe is then found in Genesis 14:20.  Upon his return from the rescue of Lot and the slaughter of the kings who had taken his brother's son captive, Abram (God changes his name to Abraham in chapter 17) gave tithes of all the plunder to Melchizedek, the eternal priest ("tithe" is from the Old English word teothe, used to translate the Hebrew maíaser, which means, "the tenth part").  Iíll not go into all the ramifications of this, except to say that from the description, Melchizedek seems to be a manifestation of the Lord Himself.  And, unless you want to believe that tithing was something Abram thought up on his own, youíll have to conclude his offering was no doubt the result of previous revelation he had received from the Lord and was his confirmation of the fact that he understood this aspect of Godís covenant plan, which Iím getting ready to explain shortly.

But first thereís one more reference I want you to see.  In Genesis 28:10-22 we see the account of Jacob on his way to Haran to find a wife.  Remember this is the same Jacob who through trickery and deceit had stolen his brother Esauís birthright and in the process had obtained not only his fatherís blessing, but Godís as well.  In verses 13-17 you see Jacob coming to the realization that God had spoken to him, reaffirming the same covenant He had made with Jacobís grandfather Abraham years before.  Then Jacob makes a statement in verses 20-22 that is significant to what Iím going to develop here, so Iíll quote it for you.  This is what he says.

"Then Jacob made a vow, saying, Since God is with me to keep me in this course of life that He has promised and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear and will bring me back to my fatherís house in safety, the Lord will be my God.  And this stone which I have set as a monument will be the house of God and of all the increase You give me I will surely give the tenth to You."

In addition to the obvious reference to the tithe in the last part of this statement, I want you to notice the first part where it says, "Then Jacob made a vow".  The word for vow here is neder and means "promise".  This word is used to illustrate the conditions of a covenant.  In other words, when you look at this passage it is Jacobís response to the covenant God reaffirmed with him earlier.  What has to be understood is that Godís covenants were never without conditions or requirements.  Itís the same as what Iíve said so many times before; God never offers anything unconditionally.  There are always conditions to be met, requirements to be fulfilled.  There is never a free ride where God is concerned.  If you want what He offers, you must do what He says.  In this passage Jacob is following his grandfatherís example, committed to keeping what was required on his part in a covenant agreement with God.

The very idea of a covenant makes this obvious.  A covenant (the Hebrew term is berith, and means agreement or stipulation) is not an unconditional, one-sided promise; instead, itís a conditional agreement under which both parties involved have responsibilities.  In the passage above Jacob confirms his understanding of this when he says, essentially, since God is going to do thus and so, Iím going to hold up my part of the bargain and do what Iím supposed to do.  Which brings us back to what I said earlier; those who choose to enter into covenant with God for His deliverance are not free of responsibility, and giving to Him is part of the deal.  Adam understood it, Cain and Abel understood it; Abraham understood it; and Jacob understood it too.

Letís look at Psalms 50 and you can see what I mean.  Since this is a long passage, Iíll not quote it all.  This is a prophetic Psalm of Asaph and reveals the heart and mind of God on the subject at hand.  And, by the way, when I say this is a prophetic Psalm, I donít mean that it foretells future events.  Itís prophetic because it proclaims and interprets the Divine will and purpose, always the primary function of the prophetic.

This is verse 1.  "The Mighty One, God the Lord has revealed Himself to the earth and summons them to respond to His call, from the rising of the sun to the time it sets."  In this opening verse God speaks to the earth, revealing Himself and His purpose, and then He summons them to respond.  The word translated "revealed" above ("hath spoken" in the KJV) is dhavar, one of the most generic words in the Old Testament.  It can mean either mental or oral communication and is translated into about 30 different English words in the KJV.  Obviously, the meaning is determined by the context.  When God reveals Himself to the inhabitants of the earth, it usually means one thing Ė Heís revealing His will and purpose so we can know Him and have relationship with Him.  And that will and purpose always comes in the form of a covenant agreement.

Then, "summons" above ("called" in the KJV) is qara.  The basic meaning of this word is "the pronouncement of a specific message, to a specific recipient in order to elicit a specific response".  I guess the key word here is "specific". In other words, this Psalm is about a particular, definitive message God had been speaking and the fact that He expected a response to that message.  And further, the last part of the verse about the rising and setting of the sun is used to illustrate the fact that He had been doing this continuously.

And I have to stop here and say this verse is another of many that illustrates the reality of just what a personal relationship with God is all about.  God communicates with man, revealing Himself and His message with the desire and expectation that man will respond to what He has said.  This is two-way communication, an example of the personal involvement and participation of God in the lives of men.  Those who say they have a "personal" relationship with God, but only participate in religious forms and rituals are deceiving themselves.  God has always wanted us to have a personal relationship with Him and the reality of that relationship is always found in revelation regarding His will and purpose; relationship with God void of revelation is not really relationship at all, itís religion.

The next couple of verses tell us that God intends to judge the earth.  His judgment will be fair, accurate, in your face, destructive and disastrous.  And because of the context, you can be sure His judgment will be based on manís response (or lack of it) to the covenant messages that had been given.

This brings us to verse 5.  "Gather together those who have responded to My grace, those who have entered into covenant with Me by their offerings."  Most translations have "saints" where you see "those who have responded to my grace" in the translation above.  The word is chasid, and is used to describe those who have answered Godís summons with submission and obedience.  They are then described in the next phrase as those who have entered into covenant with God by holding up their end of the bargain. And how did they do that?  They gave offerings to Him.  The word is "sacrifice" in most translations.  The Hebrew word is zevach and is a word that came from the verb zavach, which means, "to slaughter or kill", but came to be used in the Old Testament as a general term to designate any type of offering given to God.  Iíll say it again, Adam understood it, Cain and Abel understood it, Abraham understood it, Jacob understood it, and now the Psalmist makes it clear that he understood it as well.  Giving is part of the deal.

Verse 6 tells us the heavens will testify to the accuracy and fairness of Godís judgment.  Then in verse 7 God says He has something to say against Israel and reminds them that Heís not just God, Heís their God.  And in verse 8 He begins to explain what He has against them by saying, "Iím not going to argue with you about the sacrifices and burnt offerings that were to have been brought continually to Me."  In most translations youíll see "reprove" where I say, "argue".  The word yakhach comes from a root that means, "to be right" and by implication means, "to argue or dispute".  In other words, God isnít going to argue about the fact that they were supposed to have been giving offerings to Him, but hadnít; Heís always right.  Thatís why Heís God. He goes on to explain that He doesnít require offerings because He needs them (verse 9), that, in fact, every animal that exists already belongs to Him (verse 10), that He knows every bird that flies and every wild animal that exists (verse 11), that Heís not hungry, and even if He was, everything in the world that satisfies hunger is already His (verse 12) and that Heís not looking for something to eat (verse 13).

Then God makes a statement in verses 14 and 15 that confirms just what is involved in keeping covenant with Him.  "Bring your offerings to Me and be thankful, pay your vows to the Most High. Then you can call on Me when trouble comes, Iíll rescue you and you can honor Me."  Most translations start verse 14 with "offer" instead of "bring your offerings".  The verb is zavach mentioned above where the noun form zevach is found in verse 5.  Zavach is always used to describe offerings that were brought at the expense of the individual.  As weíll see in a later discussion, only healthy, valuable animals, the best flour, the best oil or wine and the purest spices for incense could be offered to God.  Here God is telling them to do what theyíve been instructed to do and be thankful for the opportunity.  The statement about being thankful goes straight to the matter of proving in a personal, practical way that relationship with God and spiritual matters are important, valuable, and worth paying a price to obtain, something Iíll say more about later.  And when He tells them to pay their vows, the word is neder, the same word mentioned earlier in the passage about Jacob making a vow.  Neder describes the conditions or requirements of a covenant.

Psalm 50 presents two perspectives of covenant.  The first is covenant as it relates to time; the second is covenant as it relates to eternity.  Verses 14 and 15 are talking about covenant in time.  If youíre holding up your end of the bargain (paying your vows), then God promises to take care of you in time. This is an aspect of giving that is a recurring theme in Scripture.  Weíll see it several times before this paper is finished.  When we get to the last verse (23) of this Psalm, weíll see what God says about covenant as it relates to eternity.

The next 7 verses (16-22) are directed towards the "wicked", those who have forsaken or rejected Godís covenant offer.  And, for your consideration, the New Testament equivalent to this Old Testament covenant offer is "grace".  If youíve read the paper "Grace, Faith and Salvation", then you may remember that in it I explain why "grace" is not "unconditional favor" as religion likes to define it.  "Grace" is our opportunity to pursue God and know Him; but itís clear that pursuit must be undertaken according to the conditions God requires.  And the process of meeting those requirements and experiencing God as a result is "faith".  Abraham knew God by faith (his experiences with God that came as a result of his submission and obedience), not by what he read in books or heard in sermons.  Abrahamís "faith" certainly had nothing to do with a denominational statement of doctrinal beliefs.

Verses 16 and 17 go something like this.  "But to the wicked God says, What right do you have to recite in detail what is due Me or talk about My covenant?  You disregard My instruction and treat My words like trash." And in the next couple of verses He accuses them of giving their approval to the hurtful, sinful actions of others, of being evil and deceitful and of making false accusations against others for their own gain.  Then we come to verses 21 and 22.  "All these things you have done. And because I was silent, you thought I approved.  But I will come and rebuke you to your face.  Think this over carefully those of you who forget God, Iím coming to tear you in pieces and no one can save you."

The Psalm then ends with Godís statement regarding the perspective of covenant as it relates to eternity.  This is verse 23.  "Those who bring their offerings to Me and are thankful for the opportunity understand the value of what I have to offer.  And the one who lives in this way I will show the salvation of God."  The key words used in the beginning of this verse are the same as those in verse 14 above.  They are zavach (to bring an offering) and todah (thankfulness).  Then, where most translations have "glorifies", I use "understand the value".  The word is kavad and in this context means, "to esteem or highly value".

Now, this is where I finally get to make the application.  From the beginning of time God has required offerings as an expression of submission and obedience.  Those who wanted to enter into covenant with Him had to be willing to pay the price.  They had to prove their devotion and commitment to Him, not once, but over and over again.  He didnít require them because He needed them, but because men needed to be willing to give them.  The willingness to give to God is one of the few things that put us in a place where we can appreciate the value of what God is offering us, not just in time, but also in eternity.  The willingness to give is a continual test of our commitment to pursue and follow God.  Giving is our on-going opportunity to reject self-preservation and materialism.  Itís how we affirm Godís ownership of everything we have (Exodus 19:5, Deuteronomy 10:14, Job 41:11, Psalm 24:1).  And itís how we distance ourselves from the things of the world so we can focus on our spirituality.

Giving helps us keep things in proper perspective as we pursue God.  God knows that, and thatís why He requires it.  Thatís why itís part of the deal. Think about it.  At the beginning of this paper I said giving is a foundational principle.  Are there other foundational principles?  What about suffering? Itís a foundational principle.  Suffering is essential.  It keeps us from thinking weíre invincible and makes it difficult for us to delude ourselves into thinking weíre in total control of our lives.  Suffering is part of the deal.

What about the requirement of forgiving others to obtain the Fatherís forgiveness?  This is another foundational principle.  It keeps us from becoming arrogant, self-centered and insensitive.  We have to have that.  God knows it, thatís why itís part of the deal.  What about discipline and correction?  Should they be optional?  Of course not!  Theyíre foundational. We absolutely need God to train us so we can understand His righteousness and justice.  How else would we know them?  Our flesh wants nothing to do with any of those things.  I could go on, there are others; but you get the idea.

Now, why are they foundational?  Why are they necessary?  Because they force us to deal with our flesh, they force us to reject our flesh.  In reality, theyíre Godís way of giving us the opportunity to kill our flesh.  Remember what deliverance (salvation) is?  God wants to change us from what we are into who He is.  He wants to conform us to the image of His Son.  He wants us to be partakers of His nature, to share in Who He is and what He does. Thatís His covenant offer, His conditional promise.  And He promises to do His part, but only if weíre willing to submit to what He requires.

And while Iím here let me mention one more thing before we move on.  The very reason I bring up the idea that giving is only one of several foundational principles is to let everyone know that even though itís important, it does not stand alone as the only thing thatís required.  I say this because there are those who really donít mind giving, but tend to think that as long as theyíre doing that, they donít have to do anything else!  This is where I give you the verse that affirms tithing in the New Testament.  I can kill two birds with one stone.  Let me quote you the verse, then Iíll explain. This is Matthew 23:23.

"Woe to you scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites!  Youíre careful to give a tenth of your mint and dill and cumin, but you neglect the more difficult things that are required, such as justice, mercy and faith.  These are what you should be careful to do without neglecting the other."

OK.  First of all, let me point out that Jesus is confirming the fact that tithing is something that ought to be done.  Hereís your New Testament verse.  It was never Jesusí purpose to do away with anything that had already been established by the eternal God Who does not change (Numbers 23:19, Malachi 3:6, James 1:17).  He came to add to what had already been established, make it complete and finish it (Matthew 5:17).  So, here He affirms that tithing is something that is still required.

But at the same time He makes it clear that tithing is not the only thing.  In fact, He identifies tithing as one of the easier things when compared to justice, mercy and faith.  Letís look at this a little more closely so we can get a better perspective on what Jesus is saying.  We can start by breaking down these three words.  "Justice" is krisis and means, "a separation".  Itís used to illustrate the process of separating right from wrong with an emphasis on doing what is right in our actions towards others.  "Mercy" is eleos, used to describe a concern for the misery of others that has come as a result of their lack of submission and obedience to God, and must be accompanied with a willingness to help.  And "faith" is pistis, the on-going action of experiencing God as a result of submission and obedience to Him.

So, whatís Jesus saying here?  Tithing is a principle that should be followed. Itís the right thing to do.  In the above translation you see "more difficult things" where the word "weightier matters" is found in the KJV.  "Weightier" is the comparative degree, neuter plural of barus and is used to illustrate the fact that tithing is easy compared to the other things mentioned.  And hold on to the seat of your pants, if you donít, you might go through the roof when you read the next sentence.  If tithing is the easy thing, what does that say about the spiritual condition of those who donít tithe?  If they canít do whatís easy, how can they ever do whatís more difficult?  Jesus talks about this in one of His parables and weíll look at it towards the end of this paper.

Now, I hope Iíve at least established that giving or tithing is a valid, foundational principle.  The next question is, since we serve an unseen God, to whom do we give our tithes and offerings?  There is a short answer to that; but Iím not partial to short answers, so Iíll give you the long one instead.  Actually, the short answer is, the priest.  The long answer is an explanation of the development of the priesthood.  The function of the priest has remained constant over time from Adam until now.  The priest represents God before the people and the one thing that validates the priesthood is revelation, which Iíll talk about a little later.

In the Old Testament the first priests were heads of the family, the first-born male.  Adam was the first priest, and though details are sketchy, it remains to be seen whether or not he, Eve or firstborn son Cain benefited from his priesthood and the revelation God had given him.  However, Jesus tells us Abel, his second-born, was a righteous man (Matthew 23:35).  Itís clear from what we see in the record that Noah functioned as the family priest (Genesis 8:20-21).  Itís also clear that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were family priests. You should remember from the paper "Walking With God" that Jacob stole the right to be the family priest from his older brother Esau, who had no interest in it, then carried out his priestly duties with Godís blessing (Genesis 25:29-34, 27:1-46, 35:1-15 with Hebrews 12:16-17).  Job, a contemporary and most likely a personal acquaintance of Moses, was a family priest (Job 1:1-5, 4:3-4).  Iíve alluded to the family priest in earlier papers in my mention of Jethro, the priest of Midian.  Jethro, a direct descendant of Abraham through his son Midian (Genesis 25:1-6), taught Moses the ways of God during those 40 years Moses spent in the desert in preparation for the task of leading Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 2:15-16, 3:1).

Then, Moses acted as priest under Godís direction in establishing Aaron the Levite and his sons Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar in the priesthood (Leviticus 8, Exodus 28:1, 41).  Then, because Nadab and Abihu were killed when they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, the established priesthood was limited to the lines of Eleazar and Ithamar (Leviticus 10:1-2, Numbers 3:4).  So, for approximately 2500 years, the knowledge of God was entrusted to and perpetuated by the family priest.  Then, beginning with the Exodus generation as God began to mold Israel into a nation, the concept of the family priest was replaced by a more centralized Levitical priesthood.

To speed things up we can jump forward about 1100 years to the time of Malachi to see how the Levitical priesthood had become little more than an ineffective, self-serving, religious crowd that had incurred Godís curse. Godís message to the priests in Malachi accuses them of dishonoring Him by offering unacceptable sacrifices consisting of spoiled food, probably soured wine, rancid oil, flour with bugs in it, and so on (Malachi 1:6-9).  They had prostituted themselves, taking bribes from the people in exchange for accepting sick, lame animals for sacrifice, instead of the healthy, sound ones God required (Malachi 1:12, where the verb chalal, translated "have profaned", means, "to prostitute").  They saw their priestly duties as drudgery and no longer functioned in the priestly anointing as Godís servants and representatives to the people (Malachi 1:13, Exodus 40:13-15).

God tells them that since they will not listen to Him (a reference to revelation), take their responsibilities seriously or give Him the glory due Him, the self-serving blessings they use to gain favor with the people will be turned to curses (Malachi 2:2).  The expression "spread dung upon your faces" is a picture of the embarrassment and public humiliation the priests would experience because of their unfaithfulness to God and their refusal to reverence Him (Malachi 2:3).

Then God accuses the priests of breaking the covenant He had made with the priestly line of Levi and tells them that since they had broken the covenant, He was establishing a new one.  In the original covenant God promised to give the priests life and peace and the priests would reverence Him and stand in awe of Him in return.  The priests were to speak only truth, stand against dishonesty and wickedness, walk with God in peace and justice and turn others away from sin.  They were to guard the knowledge of God and keep it pure.  And the people were supposed to be able to seek out the priests for Godly instruction, because the priest is Godís messenger.  But, instead, the priests had failed to do those things and had caused many to stumble by their poor example and wrong instruction.  So the Lord tells them that in the new covenant He will make them despised and humiliate them before the people (Malachi 2:4-9).

And while Iím here I have to say something about Malachi 3:8-12.  God tells them that even though they had been disobedient since the time He had initiated the Levitical priesthood, they could restore the covenant and put it in force (Malachi 3:7).  How?  This is what He says.

"Will a man dare to rob God?  Yet you rob Me.  But you say, How do we rob You?  You withhold your tithes and offerings.  Youíre cursed, because youíre continually robbing Me, even this whole nation.  Bring all the tithes to the house of God, that there will be food there, and put Me to the test by your obedience, says the Lord of hosts, and see if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing, so there will be more than enough (in My house).  And I will hold the devourer in check for your sakes and your crops will not be destroyed, neither shall your vine drop its fruit before it ripens, says the Lord of hosts.  And all nations will call you blessed, and yours will be a pleasant land."

The covenant was still available.  All Israel had to do was stop robbing God and start giving Him what He requires.  Be obedient to what He says and give Him the opportunity to prove Heís willing to keep His side of the bargain (to give them an open heaven, protect their crops and make them the envy of all nations).

The point I want to make with Malachi is that the Levitical priesthood was (to put it kindly) less than what God had intended.  About halfway between the times this priesthood was established and Malachi was delivering Godís message of condemnation, you find this statement in I Samuel 3:1 regarding the days of Eli the priest.  "Now the boy Samuel ministered to the Lord before Eli.  Revelation from the Lord was rare in those days and there was no prevailing vision (understanding of the will and purpose of God)."

When you continue on in time, from Malachi to the birth of the Christ was approximately 400 years.  During this time (known in history as "the 400 years of silence") Israel, as a nation was preoccupied with national survival, being dominated by the Persians, then the Greeks and, finally, the Romans. There was no prophet in the land and several groups emerged that, in effect, made a bad situation worse where the priesthood was concerned.  First, a group known as the Sadducees slowly began to replace the Levitical priesthood in terms of religious and political influence.  They were basically a religious-oriented political action organization that further diluted and perverted an already seriously distorted Judaism.  These guys didnít believe in much of anything where God was concerned, but instead, controlled the religious activity to achieve their own political and military ends.

Then about 150 years before Christ the Pharisees came into prominence.  The Pharisees were a backlash movement against the Sadducees.  An intellectual and grossly misguided fundamentalist group, the Pharisees wanted the freedom to practice a lifeless, rules-oriented, ritualistic Judaism, something the Sadducees cared little about.  But they, too, wanted to control the religious, judicial and political activity in Israel for their own self-serving and self-indulgent purposes, which they did with the help of those appointed to rule their country by the Greeks, then the Romans.  Itís clear by their rejection of Jesus and the constant and sometimes fierce opposition of the Savior that neither the Sadducees nor the Pharisees functioned in any capacity of the priesthood God had given to Aaron and his sons almost 1500 years before.

However, I should inject at this point something about the priesthood. Though the general influence of the Sadducees and the Pharisees on Judaism was harmful and the overall condition of the Levitical priesthood before and during that time was deplorable, God has always had a people who were faithful to Him.  At different points of time over the history of mankind the number of faithful could be very small, as in the time of Noah and the flood when they numbered only 8 (Genesis 6:9, 7:1, I Peter 3:20).  Yet even in the time shortly before the birth of the Savior, God had a faithful remnant.  Luke describes Zachariah, a priest, and his wife Elizabeth (the parents of John the Baptist) as "righteous in the sight of God" (Luke 1:5-6).  Itís obvious by Maryís response to the angel Gabriel that her heart was responsive to God (Luke 1:38), as was her intended husband, Joseph (Matthew 1:18-24).  And though the number may be small at any given time, there are always a "few" (Luke 13:23).

Then Jesus comes on the scene and the function of the priesthood gains a more public prominence.  And we need to clear up one other point before we move on.  The function of the priest has never changed from the first family priest down to the present time.  Iím kind of jumping around from one thing to another here, but I think I need to talk about this before we go any further.  What is the one thing that separates dead, empty religion from spiritual reality where God is personally involved and His will and purpose are understood and pursued?  Most people canít answer that question.  When you read about Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Job, David, the Prophets, James, John, Peter, Paul and some others in Scripture, what did they have in common?  If youíre thinking it has anything to do with revelation, youíre right.

The single, most important, essential thing that validates the priest (the one who represents God before the people, Old Testament, New Testament, it doesnít matter) is revelation as it relates to the will and purpose of God.  A manís ability to entertain a crowd, his ability in teaching the doctrinal positions held by his denomination, his charismatic ability to influence people, his talent for raising money to complete projects or his anticipation in developing ministry programs that appeal to people have absolutely nothing to do with Godís anointed priesthood.  Those things are merely signs of worldly, religious acumen.  Meeting with God on a personal level, understanding Him, hearing His silent, indistinguishable voice, developing the ability to follow His Holy Spirit and being able to relate His message to others so they can understand it, apply it to their lives and know Him, was, is, and always will be the function of the priest.

To think the only duty of the priest in the Old Testament (whether family priest or Levitical priest) was to mindlessly follow the same rituals, reciting the exact same dialogue over and over is just as wrong as it is to think that religious leaders today who blindly follow their denominational training in its forms and rituals or the latest canned program presented in seminar form as it travels from church to church actually represent God.  They donít.  They represent religious systems and religious programs.  Those who represent God and function as a priest will have a continuing, current revelation message from God and will be used by God to help people understand how to have a relationship with Him that is individual, personal and real.  The one thing that will forever separate religion from reality is the existence of a day-to-day, living message from a living God.

And the message of the real priest is always different from the message of the religious leader.  The priest will have a message from God that has to do with understanding His will and purpose and knowing Him in a relationship that is real.  The religious leader will have a message that will have to do with making the church membership grow, how to deal with depression or the latest gimmick on how to manipulate God to get what you want (just understand God can't be manipulated).

Godís condemnation of the priests in Malachi 2:2 when He says, "Since you will not listen to me, nor will you lay it to heart to give glory to My name" has entirely to do with the fact that the priests were not serving God, therefore He was not giving them revelation, therefore they could not represent God in a present reality to the people.  The function of the priest will always be the same Ė to give people a real, today message from a living God that helps them understand His will and purpose.  And Iím sorry, but I have to stop again and remind you that Godís will and purpose is not to make you healthy or wealthy.  Itís not to give you what you want.  Itís not to "bless" your "church" and make it grow.  Itís to deliver you from sin over time through your submission and obedience to Him, changing you from what you are into Who He is, conforming you to the image of His Son.  He wants to have a real, individual, personal relationship with you that is built on the foundation of His will and purpose.  It was never Godís intention that people struggle to know Him only on the basis of lifeless instruction and ritual.  While the rituals and festivals of the Old Testament had definite instructional and memorial value, it was Godís intention that there be revelation along with them to give them life and reality.

Now let me back up just a little bit and show you what I mean.  You only have to open your Bible to the Book of Genesis and begin reading and soon youíll start noticing phrases like "the Lord God said", "the Lord said", "and God said", etc.  How did Abel know to bring an offering of the firstborn of the flock and the fat portions?  How did Noah know how to build an altar and offer sacrifices to the Lord?  How did Abram know that he was to leave his home in the Ur of the Chaldees and journey to the Negeb?  And how did he know how to build an altar at Bethel, where he offered sacrifices to the Lord and worshipped Him there?  And on and on we go through the Bible from start to finish, God revealing Himself, His will and purpose to these and other family priests.

And later, when the Levitical priesthood came into being, did God stop the revelation?  Hardly.  When Moses is instructed by God to anoint Aaron and his sons and sanctify them to serve as priests in Exodus 30:30-31, the word translated "anoint" is mashach, a word used to define an anointing in which God Himself is the authorizing agent and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the result.  And when the Holy Spirit is present, revelation is part of the program.  The same word is used in I Samuel 10:1 read it along with verse 6 in the same chapter and see what I mean.

In addition, Godís instructions to Moses for the sanctuary in the desert where His presence would dwell is found in Exodus 25, and when you get to verse 22, this is what He says.  "There I will meet with you and, from above the mercy seat, between the two cherubim on the ark of testimony, I will speak intimately with you of all that I will command Israel to do."  Is that revelation or not?

When you get to Exodus 29, you find instructions for the altar outside the door of the Tent of Meeting and the sacrifices that were to be offered every morning and evening.  Here the Lord makes it clear, rules and rituals were not all that was involved in people coming to a knowledge of Him, that He wanted Israel to benefit from revelation and a present reality of Himself.  And I canít resist quoting verses 42-46.  Here it is.

"This shall be a continual burnt offering for every generation at the door of the Tent of Meeting before the Lord, where I will meet with you to speak to you.  There I will meet with Israel and the Tent of Meeting will be sanctified by My visible presence.  I will sanctify the Tent of Meeting and the altar; and Aaron and his sons will minister to Me and function as priests.  And I will dwell here among the Israelites and will be their God. And they shall know (because they see Me and hear Me) that I am the Lord their God Who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them.  I am the Lord their God."

You find much the same in Exodus 30:6, 36 where God gives instructions for the altar of incense and the recipe for the incense.  The altar of incense was to be placed outside the veil that made up the enclosure for the ark of the testimony or covenant in the sanctuary.  In the verses above youíll see that the Lord designates the altar of incense as another place "where I will meet with you."

As we come farther forward in time weíve already looked at the condition of the priesthood in Malachi.  Because of their rebellion and disobedience, revelation was relatively unknown to them.  God curses them and it goes from bad to worse.  Then (as I started to say several pages back) Jesus comes, revelation is restored and the priesthood is then vested in those who follow Him.  That Jesus communed with the Father and received revelation from the Spirit is obvious (Matthew 3:16, 17; John 5:30, 7:17, 8:38).  It is just as obvious that His followers and others were told to expect this same revelation from the Holy Spirit (Matthew 10:19; Mark 13:11; Luke 12:11,12, 21:12-15), and it became a reality (Peter in Acts 2:14ff, 3:12ff; Stephen in Acts 6:9,10; Paul in Acts 9:17, 20-22 just for starters).  And so, these and others became priests of the New Covenant.

Now, if youíre one of those poor souls who choose to believe God doesnít speak to men (and women) today, Iím sorry for you because youíre condemning yourself to a life (and an eternity) that is void of any present reality in God.  As I explained in my paper "Grace, Faith and the Invisible God", the Sovereign, Pre-existent, Eternal God of the Universe makes it perfectly clear in the Scriptures that He will not change in either His character or His nature.  In other words, Who He is and what He does will never change.  God will not change what He requires of us, He will not try to confuse us and Heís not trying to hide from us.  What He established in the earliest times with the family priest is the same thing He established later with the Levitical priesthood, which is the same thing He did with the early followers of Jesus as itís recorded in the Scriptures and is the same thing He does today with those who are submitted and obedient to Him and who refuse to be deceived by the religion experts that say God just doesnít do that anymore.  The idea that God hasnít spoken to men since the completion of the Canon of Scriptures is one of the most preposterous deceptions ever perpetrated by institutional religion.  And, itís one of the most damaging.

And, I need to say one more thing about this.  I donít mean to imply that only those special few that may function as priests, representing God before the people and taking responsibility for their spiritual welfare, are the only ones who can hear God and receive revelation from Him.  However, I will say that at this point in my experience I believe that those who clearly operate in some function (or functions) of Jesusí five-fold gift to His Church as described in Ephesians 4:11-14 receive the larger share of His revelation and are less likely to be mistaken about whether or not it really is revelation.  But, letís be clear, this is a simple matter of spiritual maturity, not religious exclusivity or elitism.

This brings us to a convenient end of the explanation of the development of the priesthood from Adam until now.  It makes no difference whether our consideration of the five-fold gift involves the apostle (a special messenger to the Church, not a guy who runs two or three different "churches"), the prophet (one who interprets the divine will and purpose, not a fortune teller), the evangelist (a church planter in the true sense, not one who simply promotes dead religion in a foreign country), the shepherd (not the entrepreneurial "pastor" seeking to build his own little kingdom, but the spiritually mature guide, willing to invest his life in leading others to the same maturity in Christ) or the teacher (the one able to instruct others in the ways of God, so they can experience Him in a present reality), every one of them are an extension of the function of the priest.  They represent God before the people and they absolutely require revelation from Him to be true.  And all of them continue today, only not nearly to the extent that religious institutions want people to think.  The real ones are very rare and have long since repudiated religious institutions.

So, hopefully, we understand the development of the priesthood from the beginning of time up to the present; and that revelation regarding Godís will and purpose is what validates any priest.  We also have to take notice of the changes in how the priesthood was supported.  God has always made provision for His priests.  The family priest received the double-portion inheritance from his father.  Although the double-portion inheritance to the firstborn, and the spiritual and other family responsibilities that went with it, are never specifically spelled out, itís not difficult to piece them together from the Genesis record.  Even after the Levitical priesthood was established the double-portion inheritance to the firstborn continued and was protected in the law (Deuteronomy 21:15-17).  In addition to the double inheritance, thereís obvious evidence to support the fact that the family priests who were faithful to their responsibilities enjoyed the blessing and provision of God, as all true priests do.

The law of the firstborn in which all firstborn males, both children and animals, were to be given to God, memorialized the old family priesthood and reminded the Israelites that everything, both the people and their possessions, belonged to God.  The animals were sacrificed (if clean), redeemed or destroyed (if unclean) and the male children redeemed, with the money going to the Levitical priests.  You can read about this in Exodus 13:2, 11-13, Numbers 3:50-51, 18:8, 14-18.

The Levitical priesthood was supported in a variety of ways, all established by law.  Certain portions of the animals that were presented for sacrifice, the best of the oil, wine and grain that was brought for sacrifice (as only a small representative portion was actually used for the sacrifices), portions of the firstborn sacrifices and the money from the redemption price of firstborn male children, and all the tithes and firstfruits offerings became the property of the priests (Numbers 18:8-24).  In addition to this, every three years an additional tithe was required of the people to further support the priests and to serve as a benevolence fund for widows, orphans and strangers (Deuteronomy 14:28-29).

As we look at how the priesthood was supported, we should take a look at what was required of the people.  There are some today who balk at the idea of giving 10 percent of their income to God.  Thatís cheap compared to what was required in the Law of Moses.  Israel was to tithe on all their increase, the crops, herds or money from business transactions (Leviticus 27:30-34).  As they began their harvest of crops, firstfruits offerings separate from the tithe were required to be brought to the priests before the harvest could be completed.  And we canít forget the extra tithe every three years.  In addition to these, another tithe was required to provide the travel expenses necessary for families to attend festivals, feasts and other national gatherings (Deuteronomy 12:11, 21; 14:22-26).

There were both voluntary and required offerings (burnt offerings, meat offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings and peace offerings) that required them to give valuable cattle, sheep, goats, the best of their oil, wine, incense and flour (Leviticus 1-7).  There were commemorative festivals and holy days (Passover or feast of unleavened bread, Pentecost or feast of the harvest, Trumpets, Day of Atonement, Tabernacles) that had to be observed throughout the year.  And in the observance of these special days they were expected to bring freewill offerings and the law specifically told them "none shall come before Me empty-handed" (Exodus 23:15, Deuteronomy 16:1-17). In addition there was the law of the firstborn mentioned earlier.  The Jews under the law had to cough up something every time they turned around, all to remind them that they, and everything they had, belonged to God.

I have one more loose end to tie up, before we move on to something else. Iíve heard the argument that thereís no connection between what God required in the Old Testament and what He expects of the believer in the New Testament.  Itís almost like theyíre saying "we donít need the same requirements put on us that were put on them, because weíre sooooooo spiritual."  I could whip out my sarcasm and say that anyone who subscribes to that argument is an ignorant, self-willed, spiritual pygmy, determined to avoid any personal responsibility, submission and obedience to God, are ungrateful, put no real value on spiritual matters and have placed themselves in a position that they will never be able to progress to any degree of true spirituality, because theyíre too distracted and absorbed by issues of self-preservation and materialism.  But then maybe that would be a little strong.

Anyway, I think weíll see that giving to support the function of the priesthood in the New Testament is well documented.  Where should I start? Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and by means of the revelation given to him in his function as a priest of the new covenant, defends his apostleship and his claim that those who reap spiritual benefits should materially support those who make it possible.  You can read I Corinthians 9:7- 14.  Iíll quote verses 13 and 14 for you here.

"Donít you know that those who are employed in the services of the temple get their living from the temple?  And those who tend to the altar share in the things that are offered on it?  In the same way the Lord has determined that those who make the Good News of the Kingdom known should make their living by it."

Just as the Levitical priesthood was supported by tithes and offerings, those who proclaim the truth of the Gospel are to be supported in the same way. And Iím not talking about all the religious nut jobs out there that have an angle, or the stiff, intellectual denominational types just struggling to perpetuate the institution.  Iím talking about the guy who understands Godís purpose, is submitted to Him, who is letting God change Him day by day and is honestly trying his best to lead others to do the same.

Actually, Paul made a mistake when he was in Corinth.  When he first arrived, he met a man named Aquila, a tentmaker by trade.  Like most men of the time, although well educated, Paul had been schooled in a trade and was also a tentmaker.  So for the eighteen months he spent in Corinth preaching the Gospel, teaching people the purpose of God and establishing them in the faith (not their doctrinal position, their ability to experience God), he lived with Aquila and supported himself in the tent making trade. He makes it clear in I Corinthians 9:12 that while there he did not ask the Corinthian believers to support him in any way.

Like I said, it was a mistake.  And Paul acknowledges that in II Corinthians 12:13.  This is what he says.

"And in what way were you disadvantaged in comparison to any of the other churches, except for the fact that I did not burden you with my rightful claim of financial support?  Forgive me, I was wrong!"

Of all the churches Paul established, Corinth was the most troublesome.  And many of their problems, no doubt, came as a result of them not taking responsibility for his support.  They were not allowed to properly value the message, the man or even the God who gave them both.  The result was that they questioned the message, criticized the messenger and tended to respond to God more out of their flesh than their spirit.

Paul has some other things to say about giving (so does Jesus, but Iím saving those for the end of the paper).  Over the years Iíve heard some preachers talk about the principle of sowing and reaping from Galatians 6.  But like most religious types, their tunnel vision usually kept them from noticing the context in which these verses are presented and they lost out on a great opportunity to talk about their favorite subject; because giving is the context. Let me quote them for you.  This is Galatians 6:6-8.

"Let him who receives instruction in the Word (both written and revealed) share all good things with his teacher (to contribute to his support).  Donít deceive yourself into thinking you can treat God with contempt and get away with it.  Whatever a man sows, that is exactly what he will reap.  If he sows to his flesh, he will reap destruction; but if he sows to the Spirit, he will from the same Spirit reap life eternal."

There are a couple of great applications here.  Iíll make them quick.  In verse 6 Paul reinforces the fact that those who labor for the Truth and for the spiritual well being of others have every right to expect material support in exchange for their labor (if you read I Corinthians 9:7-14 earlier, then you should remember the arguments Paul has already made on the subject).

Then, in verse 7 where you see the words "treat God with contempt" above ("mock" in the KJV) the original has mukterizo from mukter, "the nose", hence mukterizo means, "to turn up the nose".  In our English vocabulary the equivalent is "to sneer at" or "treat with contempt".  And we canít gloss over this by ignoring the meaning of "contempt".  It means, "to consider something as unimportant or worthless".  Whatís Paul saying here?  People who disdain any responsibility towards doing their fair share to support those who labor for their spiritual benefit obviously fail to see any real value in spiritual matters.  When compared to their fleshly desires, spiritual matters are unimportant and worthless, so they fail to support it, use what they have to feed their flesh and set themselves up for a destructive end. This is one of those passages I could have used in the paper on self-preservation and materialism, but saved it for now.

One other thing should be mentioned here.  Paul reaffirms the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.  Paul lets us know that what is really important to us will be apparent by what we do.  If we value the things of God, our support will show that; if we donít value them, our lack of support will show that, too ("where your treasure is, thatís where your heart is also" Matthew 6:21).  And, he holds true to a natural law that says what you plant is what youíll harvest.  You canít plant corn and expect to harvest wheat any more than you can cater to your flesh and expect to gain eternal life.  Just like you canít sow to the flesh and to the Spirit at the same time ("no man can serve two masters" Matthew 6:24).

Now, when I started writing this paper, I determined to try my best to keep it under 20 pages.  And I think I can do that if I start winding it down now. Several of Jesusí parables had something to do with the connection between the willingness to give and the ability to maintain spiritual values.  And since Iím only going to use one of them, I think we need to look at Luke 16:1-15.  This is the parable about the rich man and the steward or manager of his estate.  In verse 1 the manager is falsely accused of mismanaging his masterís affairs and in verse 2 he is removed from his trusted position.  In verse 3 he realizes the tough spot heís been forced into and then in verse 4 he comes up with a plan.  And in the next three verses (5-7), he puts the plan into action by allowing several of his masterís debtors to significantly reduce their obligations to his master, saving them money and, at the same time, indebting them to himself.

In verse 8 most translations say the master then praised the steward for his dishonest and self-serving actions.  The structure of the sentence, though, suggests it was actually a rhetorical question "Will his master praise the dishonest manager for acting shrewdly (in this difficult situation)?"  The implied answer would be, no.  And, as He does in many of His parables, Jesus makes this observation in explanation of what He has just said.  "The sons of this age are more shrewd in their dealings with their own kind than are the sons of the light."

And then he continues in verse 9 saying, "And Iím telling you, make friends for yourselves with deceitful riches, so that when the time comes that it (deceitful riches) canít help you, those you have favored will welcome you into everlasting habitations."  In other words, Jesus in His illustration doesnít commend the steward for his dishonesty, but, instead, commends his shrewdness in using money to secure his future.  The application is in the same vein as His comments at other times regarding the prudence of laying up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-20, 19:21), where they canít be destroyed, lost or stolen.

Here Jesus uses the term "deceitful riches" ("unrighteous mammon" in the KJV) to illustrate the fact that money and material things do not represent real security in this life.  The Aramaic term mamonas refers to anything people tend to put their trust in for security in this life and could refer to money, youth, physical strength or intellect.  But in Scripture it usually refers to material riches.  There is a future life for which we all must prepare.  This goes back to self-preservation and materialism; itís a spiritual issue.  The love for and preoccupation with materialism is a fleshly distraction that keeps us from truly committing ourselves to eternal values and spiritual issues.  To Jesus, wisdom dictates that we simply view material wealth as a tool and an opportunity to reaffirm and practice eternal values.  So then, real security in this life is only found in the confidence we have for the next life and our spiritual maturity is never based on the things of this world that weíre so determined to hold on to, but what weíre willing to let go of.

Then, when Jesus continues in verses 10-12, His application goes directly to the issue of giving and the inseparable connection it has to true spirituality. This is what He says.

"He who is faithful in the less important things will also be faithful in the more important things, just as he who is unfaithful in the less important will be unfaithful in the more important.  So, if you have not been faithful in (your management of) deceitful riches, who will entrust to you the true riches?  And if you have not been faithful in that which belongs to someone else, who will give you that which is your own?"

Here, Jesus uses a series of comparisons to illustrate His point.  The less important things refer to material riches.  The more important things are eternal, spiritual riches.  So, those who are faithful in regards to their management of the material (by laying up treasures in heaven) are faithful in their attention to the eternal and spiritual.  Therefore, those who are unfaithful in their management of deceitful riches will not be given the true (spiritual) riches.  And if you cannot be faithful in your management of material things that really arenít yours anyway (remember, everything belongs to God, Deuteronomy 10:14), who will give you that which would belong to you (the true, spiritual riches)?

At the beginning of this paper I made this statement: the requirement to give to God is inseparably tied to anyoneís participation in His covenant plan of deliverance.  Jesus is basically saying the same thing in these three verses. There must be a realization that the spiritual is infinitely more valuable than the material.  There must be a willingness to let go of and, if necessary, do without the material things our flesh craves in order to gain the spiritual. Those who fail to honor God with their possessions and who canít properly manage deceitful riches, demonstrate they do not value eternal, spiritual riches and will not be entrusted with them.

Jesus continues in verse 13 with the same statement found in Matthew 6:24, except here He keeps with the context and refers to a house servant instead of using the general term, anthropos, which can refer to either a man or woman, as He does in Matthew.  "No household servant can serve two masters; he will either hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and turn away from the other.  You cannot serve God and material riches."  And if youíre reading this paper because youíve read all the rest of the ones that came before it, then youíll know that Iíve mentioned several times before the emphasis in the Scriptures on the number two.  Old Testament or New, Moses, the Prophets, Jesus, Paul and others, all talk about the difference between the true God and false idols, spiritual things and worldly things or the will and purpose of God and manís religion.  And always the message is the same: you can have one or the other, the choice is yours, but you canít have both.

Then, as was often the case, Jesus had to take time to put the religious crowd in its place.  The Pharisees had been listening to Jesus and they didnít like what they were hearing.  "Now the Pharisees, who loved money and material riches, heard what Jesus had said and they began to treat Him with contempt.  But He said to them, You are the ones who set yourselves forth before men as righteous, but God knows your hearts.  For what is highly thought of by men is an abomination in the sight of God."  As it is in religion today, the Pharisees wanted to believe their righteousness was a matter of outward appearance.  As long as they looked good, thatís all that mattered.  As long as they put on a good show in public, they could live any way they chose.  Jesus reminded them (He was wasting His time) that they werenít fooling anyone but themselves; God knew what was in their hearts (I Samuel 16:7, Proverbs 21:2).  And like most everything Jesus said to them, it went right over their heads.

Thereís just one more passage I want to look at, then weíll be finished.  Itís found in Luke 19:1-10.  Jesus is coming into Jericho for the last time.  Heís on His way to Jerusalem and He knows the end of His mission in the world is near.  Thereís a large crowd accompanying Him and the closer He gets to the city the larger it gets.  The story is a familiar one.  Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector in the region was curious and wanted to see what Jesus looked like. But he couldnít see over the crowd, because he was too short.  So he climbed up a tree as Jesus was passing by.  Jesus saw him, called him by name and told him to come down and make preparations to receive a guest, which he did with generous hospitality and kindness.  The people were indignant. Tax collectors were at least one rung below pond scum in their view.

This brings us to verses 8-10.  "Then Zacchaeus stood and said to Jesus, Listen, Lord, half of everything I have I now give to the poor (to restore what I have overcharged them) and whatever I have taken from others by false accusation, I will now restore it back to them four times over.  And Jesus said to him, Today deliverance has begun in this house since Zacchaeus has become a true spiritual son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to find and deliver that which was perishing."  What did Zacchaeus do that convinced Jesus so quickly and completely?  What was it that showed without doubt Zacchaeus was being changed?  It was his instant and obvious repudiation of the material in favor of the spiritual!  He immediately demonstrated his willingness to properly manage deceitful riches so he could be entrusted with the true.  He put the value where it belongs, on the spiritual, rather than the material.  He was more than willing to pay the price.  In fact, the Mosaic law required men to restore what they had cheated others out of and add to it a one-fifth part or 20% as a penalty (Leviticus 6:2-5).  He determined to penalize himself by adding 400% to the amount.  Zacchaeus was dead serious and Jesus was impressed.

So, let me wrap this thing up by reminding you of why I wrote it in the first place.  The subject is avoiding the dogs and hogs disease or how to keep from getting pulled back into the world after you have learned how to escape it.  The previous paper talked about self-preservation and materialism and focused mostly on what Jesus had to say about those two things and the fact that rejecting them is the key to not coming down with this dreaded disease.  The natural follow-up, then, had to be a paper on giving, because the proper perspective on giving is absolutely necessary if self-preservation and materialism are to be avoided.  So, let me reassert a few short points and weíll be done.

Everything we have belongs to God.  He insists that we continually affirm this by giving a portion of it back to Him on a regular basis.  This forces us to resist self-preservation and materialism by not getting too attached to stuff.  It also gives us the opportunity to prove that we really value spiritual things, which gives us the ability and desire to truly focus on them.  And it gives us the opportunity to show our appreciation to those who are helping us understand spiritual issues by supporting their work.

The connection is, I believe, undeniable.  Anyone who truly intends to participate in Godís covenant plan of deliverance must face and overcome any objections they may have about giving.  If they donít like to give, if they think itís not important, if they resent it, if they think itís not necessary, if they think they canít afford it, then there are spiritual issues that need to be resolved; if they recognize those issues and do something about them, well and good.  But if not, check their temperature, they have a fever.  Itís a sure sign of the dogs and hogs disease.

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