Not #1, But Important
Matthew 23:23
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

Our last two lessons gave eleven vital lessons parents and grandparents should teach children and teens about money.

One, God owns everything. Two, spending depletes. Three, start teaching children about money when they are preschoolers. Four, if the budget method is used, make it stick. Five, don’t always try to say “I love you” to children by purchasing things for them. Six, don’t curse your children with an attitude of entitlement. Seven, practice what you ought to preach. Eight, reward good behavior. Nine, expect college students to help pay for their education. Ten, discourage impulsive buying. Eleven, handling money is a matter of the heart, not the wallet.

Vital lesson twelve: Tithe. For more than half a century, I’ve heard church members argue the pros and cons of tithing. “It will bless us, New Testament believers shouldn’t give less than Old Testament saints, God doesn’t change,” versus “It’s legalism, tithing is under the Old Covenant, and no longer binding, tithing serves no spiritual purpose any more.”

Raised by tithers to be a tither, I never had trouble believing God expects us to live on 90% of what we make. My earliest remembrance of an allowance was fifty cents a week, of which a nickel had to be put in a church envelope. This left me with forty-five cents, which was painful, because it cost fifty cents to go to see a movie. Roy Rogers always seemed only a nickel away.

I’ve had no trouble with tithing, but did for years struggle with the church members’ tithing tug of war. For my own clarity of thought, and mental composure, I as a Pastor had to come to a firm settled conviction about tithing.

I finally put the controversy to rest in my heart by grasping Matthew 23:23, where our Master said, “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.”

Based on this verse, I settled in my heart the issue. Tithing is not the most vital trait of Christian living, but must not be neglected. It is not #1, but is important. The requirement to tithe has not passed away. It is still binding. Not tithing is a sin. To preach tithing is not legalism, adding manmade stipulations to God-given law. Jesus’ own words require us to give a tenth of our income.

The expectation to tithe obviously is not limited to the Old Testament. As heard in our text, Jesus clearly discussed it in the New Testament. We should thus avoid using the “Old Testament only” smokescreen. I’ve never had anyone ask me to avoid using Psalm 23 at a funeral because it’s in the Old Testament.

We need to teach children and teens to tithe. Don’t lead our youth into not tithing. Giving less than a tenth is a bad habit they will find hard to break someday. Obedience to God comes easier when learned early.

By training children to tithe on allowances, bonuses, gifts received, and all money earned, they are forced to take notice of the Lord’s provision for them at every hint of financial blessing in their life. By tithing first, young people learn when anything good comes their way, they are to think of God immediately.

Teach children and teens the way of duty. Failure to tithe is serious business. When we put our hand on what belongs to the Lord, we repeat the original sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve, who violated God by taking His property. To withhold a tithe is to repeat the deed that ushered evil into our world.

Help young people from their earliest days to walk the pathway that yields God’s richest blessings. Dr. John Haggai believes our prayers for revival will remain powerless as long as 90% of our people are stealing God’s 10%. Dr. Haggai is the first person I’ve read who puts these two matters, revival and tithing, face to face. His coupling of the two was not a random, haphazard act.

Dr. Haggai’s Scriptural basis for linking the two is the heart-searching passage, Malachi 3:7-10. Israel was in rebellion, needing revival, far from God. The Lord promised, “Return to Me and I will return to you.” When Israel asked, “How can we return?” Did the Lord say, “Send missionaries, organize crusades, distribute Bibles, plan prayer meetings, go on mission trips”? No! These are all wonderful in their place, but are not the first step toward blessing. The path begins at, “You are robbing Me!” Their curse was due to not tithing. Don’t let our children and grandchildren go down this wayward road. Teach them early.

Parents and grandparents, we all know before we can teach tithing we will have to be tithers ourselves. For some adults, the most embarrassing question they could hear from their children would be, “Do you tithe?”

I fear too many of us can relate to the following humor. After church one Sunday, a family was heading home in the car. The children were in the backseat, listening to their parents assess the day. Father was pessimistic, “The drama was dull, the music was loud, the sermon was awful.” Mother was optimistic, “You have to admit, for a family of four it was a pretty good show for a dollar.”

Parents and grandparents, don’t go there. Tithe, and teach our children and teens to do the same. Ten percent is a small price to pay for God’s smile.

Vital lesson thirteen: Never buy a lottery ticket. Gambling addiction in the USA is reaching epidemic proportions. It is a curse destroying marriages and lives. Parents and grandparents, let’s not be the ones who start our own children and teens down the dangerous slippery path of thinking it’s okay to gamble.

Vital lesson fourteen: Giving is a joy. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35b). UCLA basketball coach John Wooden says, “Happiness begins where selfishness ends.” Indulge children too much too long, and they will grow up miserable; but teach them to give, and they will have joy.

Some adults have trouble teaching this because they feel no joy in giving. They give grudgingly, not excited about something they cannot control or profit from. It’s all about them. They never find the excitement of joyfully letting go, of being part of something beyond and bigger than themselves.

Adults often actually try to find ways to get out of tithing, “Do I tithe on my gross or net? Do I tithe on Christmas bonuses and birthday gifts?”

Let young people enjoy life more than this. Don’t hinder generosity when children and teens want to give. Let them experience the joy many of us are missing.

Teach our young people to give. It sets them free. Generosity is God’s kind way of keeping people from sad greed, miserable selfishness, and slavery to stuff.

Vital lesson fifteen: Don’t covet. Combat any “Keeping up with the Joneses” thinking. “Godliness with contentment is a great gain” (I Timothy 6:6). To succeed in Christian living, we must desire Godliness, and be content with what we do or do not possess.

Covetousness destroys both Godliness and contentment. It destroys Godliness by making us lose our contentment in God so that we start to seek it elsewhere. Covetousness destroys contentment by making us desire something so much that we lose our contentment in God.

Covetousness tries to glean from something else the contentment we are meant to have in God. This is why Paul, in Colossians 3:5, says covetousness is idolatry. It is a heart divided between two gods.

The ten commandments begin and end with about the same command. “Have no other gods before Me” and “Don’t covet” are two sides of the same coin.

Vital lesson sixteen: Give God everything. We finish these sermons where we started. Lesson one was, God owns everything. Lesson sixteen is, give God everything. Life, talents, time, energy, words, actions, plans, dreams ( surrender all to God.

We best begin to express this sentiment tangibly by yielding our finances to God. All of life, in one way or another, flows through the filter of money.

Money is coined personality, embodying time, energy, jobs, talents, etc. As we learn to be faithful in money, much of the rest of life will take care of itself.

This sentiment was expressed by Lida Leech in a song many of us grew up singing, “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, All your money, talents, time, and love; Consecrate them all upon the altar.” In other words, by giving money we make a statement that we mean to set aside for God’s use every aspect of our lives. May God help us teach our children and teens how to handle money well.