Four Frightening Phrases
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 23:23 (Holman) “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy, and faith. These things should have been done without neglecting the others.”
Jesus expects us to live on ninety percent of what we make. The first tenth is His. This phrase is frightening because only about a tithe of Christians tithe.
This means ninety percent of believers live in financial disobedience. For many, tithing is a dark alley. People shudder as they enter it, but this is misplaced fear. Shuddering should come from disobeying Him with whom we have to do.
Jesus is our Master. The corollary to this truth is, we are His slaves. Our duty is to obey Him, no questions asked. We revel in accepting Him as Savior, but is He our Lord? The old saying is still true, He’s Lord of all, or not Lord at all.
We should have no hesitation in obeying Him. Would He who shed His very blood for us ever command something mean to us or to our detriment?
It can be tough to tithe, especially when we work hard to make money. Earning a salary is tough labor, but even our jobs are a gift from God.
“God gives you the power to gain wealth” (DT 8:18b). He wants us to earn money, to enjoy the reward of our work. Ninety percent is much; ten percent little.
Even more frightening than not tithing is the fact many believers give nothing. A. T. Robertson, one of my Grandpa Hill’s seminary professors, said he knew of a church that gave a stipend to each member who contributed nothing. The church leaders thought every believer would give, unless in extreme need.
Tithe. Jesus’ command is clear. To shirk this duty is frightening.
Mark 12:41a Sitting across from the temple treasury, He watched how the crowd dropped money into the treasury.
This is one of the most frightening phrases in the Bible. Jesus watches what we put in the offering plate. He sees and knows what no one else sees and knows.
Probably the only one who took notice of the widow this day, Jesus liked what He saw in her giving. Can the same be said of our weekly offerings?
The widow’s two mites have brought in a perpetual stream of money into Christ’s kingdom coffers. This fact adds an interesting wrinkle to His observation, “This poor widow has put in more than all these” (Mark 12:43b).
She gave her all, two mites, when no one would have faulted her for giving half, one mite. Her undivided gift demonstrated an undivided heart.
As the offering plate is passed, Jesus watches. To give little is frightening.
Luke 16:2b “Give an account of your management.”
Jesus’ quote from the parable of the dishonest manager reminds us we will someday render to God a reckoning of how we handled money. Jesus commands us to tithe, and watches our offerings. We will someday have to explain our gifts.
Notice what God scrutinizes about us: our management. Nothing belongs to us. Everything belongs to God. David said, “The earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants, belong to the Lord” (Psalm 24:1).
As Christ-followers, we know we do not own, we manage. The key to a believer’s spiritual success is administration, not acquisition, of money.
Managers administer property not their own for the benefit of the owner. This is frightening. Someday the Lord will ask, “What have you done with all I gave you?” A part of our duty is to manage His goods in ways which benefit Him.
We have seen many betrayals of trust. Investment firms, huge corporations – we have witnessed criminal mismanagement wipe out people’s whole retirement.
This is dastardly. It is wonderful when trust is verified, wicked when trust is betrayed. Trust bestowed is a kindness. Trust betrayed is villainy.
Since management is a trust, handling someone else’s funds, accountability must be rendered to that someone else someday. The unjust manager thinks only of himself. The just manager often asks herself, how will this fly on Judgment Day, what is my ultimate Judge, He who owns all this, thinking about me now?
We are commanded to tithe. Jesus watches what we put in the offering plate. We will give an account for our giving. None of us is too unimportant for our works to be unnoticed. None is too important to be ignored. Frightening.
Luke 16:10-11 “Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and whoever is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much. So if you have not been faithful with the unrighteous money, who will trust you with what is genuine?”
We prove our ability or inability to manage spiritual matters well by how effectively we handle money. Money in and of itself is a little thing, fleeting and temporary, but our handling of it lets us know how much we can be trusted with major matters, with spiritual responsibilities and power from God. It is no coincidence people who faithfully give money are more likely to faithfully give talents, abilities, time, and other resources.
By the way we handle money we have opportunity to prove what our basic ideals and motives actually are, whether selfish or generous. Money is coined life.
The true gut-level purpose of our life is also the purpose of our giving. By looking at our giving patterns we see what our life-values really are.
Why we live and why we give or don’t give, are one and the same. If our life purpose truly is to honor God, we will have no problem with tithing, being watched by Jesus, giving an account, or spiritual success.
I have called these four passages frightening, but in reality they are a wonderful gift. “Thank You, Lord, for telling us exactly what You expect of us, and precisely how to live the best life we can possibly experience.”