By Aniel Barbe

John the Baptist was a preacher of spiritual revival. We read in Luke 3:3 (NIV), “He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” One day some people, touched by what they heard, came to him for baptism. He welcomed them with these words: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:7, 8, NIV). His listeners were challenged to demonstratesigns of repentance.

Luke 3:14 provides an idea about what John the Baptist meant by signs of repentance:

• The crowd was urged to share their shirts and food with those in need.

• The tax collectors were called not to collect more than what they were supposed to.

• The soldiers were asked not to extort money, not to accuse falsely, and to be content with what they have.

This is not an exhaustive list of the signs of spiritual revival, but it is interesting to note that all the examples given by Luke are related to resources. In the following text, we will see that spiritual revival is associated with the acknowledgement of God’s Lordship, and it manifests itself in the management of our material resources.

Lordship in the Bible

Revival is an invitation to turn away from foreign gods and to acknowledge Him as the sole Lord of our lives. From the very beginning, it was essential for human beings to express clearly their affiliation with God. In Genesis 3:4, we read about an extract of the proposition of the devil: “You will be like God.” Humans were already like God. They were created in His image, sharing honor, privileges, and responsibility. What was the essence of the devil’s suggestion? The devil was, in fact, making the following suggestions: Why don’t you aspire to be God yourself? Why don’t you stop acknowledging God as your Lord?

The test in Genesis 3 is one of lordship, and the forbidden fruit was only a sign. In response, Adam and Eve acted as the lords of the earth in place of the real Lord. Our first parents failed the test of lordship, resulting in terrible consequences.

After Eden, acknowledging God’s lordship has remained essential for believers of all generations. It was the primary code of conduct for ancient Israel: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deut. 6:4, 5).

 The apostle Paul presents lordship as a condition for salvation: “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is LORD,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”  (Rom. 10:9). Acknowledging Jesus as Savior and Lord is equally essential to salvation.

Jesus, the Lord, explains that lordship is much more than a verbal confession: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven”  (Matt. 7:21). Lordship has to be demonstrated through concrete, tangible actions, through signs.

According to Acts 17:26, humanity’s existence takes place along two dimensions: time and space.

How does one undergoing spiritual revival show that God is the Lord in these two fundamental dimensions of life?

The Bible provides a clear sign for humanity to acknowledge the lordship of God over time: “Hallow My sabbaths, and they will be a sign between Me and you, that you may know that I am the LORD your God”  (Ezek. 20:20). The Sabbath has been a sign of lordship from the very beginning, together with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.Our first parents kept the Sabbath but failed the test about the forbidden fruit.

The issue of the lordship of God over the material world is a crucial one. Jesus informed His disciples that money or material possessions can compete with God for lordship. “No one can serve two masters [Lords]. For either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon”  (Matt. 6:24). How can we show that God is Lord of our resources?

Tithing and Giving Offerings as Signs

 God has appealed frequently to His people for a spiritual revival. Each time the Israelites were called to revival, there was a recurring process.

The Bible reports on the reform that took place during the time of King Hezekiah (2 Chr. 29-31). The major components of Hezekiah’s revival were: (1) the temple restored, (2) Worship services restored, (3) Passover celebrated once again, and (3) Levites restored to ministry. We can read about the response of the people to the call to revival: “As soon as the commandment was circulated, the children of Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of grain and wine, oil and honey, and of all the produce of the field; and they brought inabundantly the  tithe of everything ” (2 Chron. 31:5, 6). They gave tithe and offerings. 

The same process is described in the book of Nehemiah

(Neh. 10:37, 38; 12:44; 13:5, 12). During this time of revival, Ezra read the law. Corporate worship was restored. The people made a commitment to faithfulness to God in tithe and offerings. Storerooms for the tithe and offerings were established.

The time of the prophet Malachi was an age of apostasy, and the book of Malachi is an appeal from God to His people. An extract of the first chapter describes the rebellious nation: “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am the Father, where is myhonor? And if I am a master, where is my reverence?”  (Mal. 1: 6). The major issue was the absence of acknowledgment of God as Master, as Lord. God is asking for signs of true revival.

Chapter 3 of Malachi presents the plea of God to His people. It is a call to return to Him: "Yet from the days of your fathers you have gone away from My ordinances and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘But you said, “In what way shall we return?”  (Mal. 3:7, NKJV). After listening to God, the people asked a pertinent question: “How should we demonstrate that we have returned to God?" Before He provides the answer, He reminds the people how they have departed from Him: “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me ” (Mal. 3:8, 9, NIV). They were robbing God of the honor that He deserves as God. He ends the conversation with an appeal: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord  Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it’”  (Mal. 3: 10).

Ellen White, the messenger of Lord, also links lordship with tithing and offering: “He asks us to acknowledge Him as the giver of all things; and for this reason, He says, of all your possessions I reserve a tenth for Myself, besides gifts and offerings, which are to be brought into My storehouse” (Counsels on Stewardship,  pp. 80, 81). She also writes: “Tithes and offerings for God are an acknowledgment of His claim on us by creation, and they are also an acknowledgment of His claim of redemption. Because all our power is derived from Christ, these offerings are to flow from us to God. They are to keepever before us the claim of redemption, the greatest of all claims, and the one that involves every other” (Testimonies for the Church,  vol. 6, p. 479). 

The sign of lordship pertaining to material resources has three distinct components: tithe, gifts, and offerings. Tithe is 10 percent of our income. Gifts are special donations. Offerings are systematic giving in proportion, as a percentage, to blessings received. Giving was established by God for us to honor Him as Lord.

When keeping the Sabbath, we are reminding ourselves and acknowledging that not only the seventh day belongs to God but all the days of the week and all the days of my life. He is Lord. When returning tithe and bringing our gifts and offerings, we are reminding ourselves and acknowledging that not only a portion of our income belongs to Him but all our belongings and the material world. He is Lord.

John the Baptist, the preacher of spiritual revival, appeared before the first coming of Jesus. Today, we are so close to His second coming. A spiritual revival is needed for His children. Do not allow anything to be lord of our lives in the place of the real Lord. Instead, use everything to acknowledge His lordship. Is it not time to return our tithe faithfully and to give offerings in proportion to blessings received?

Aniel Barbe

Pastor Aniel Barbe is an associate director of Stewardship Ministries and editor of Dynamic Steward at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland.

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October–December, 2019

Tithing