Are you ever confused about what it takes to be blessed by God? Do you wonder whether you should give up trying to figure out how to be a Christian when you hear theological arguments about whether tithing--or anything found in the Old Testament--is valid today?
The other day, a young mother wrote to me on Twitter, "Mrs. Harris, will you tell me the truth, do I need to tithe and go to church in order to be blessed?"
My answer is, first, what do you mean by blessed? If you mean "saved", the answer is "no". Probably that's not what my questioner meant, but I'd be negligent not to cover this anyway. The only requisite for salvation is your sincere acceptance of the fact that Jesus died to pay the price your your sins, and then to repent and ask God's forgiveness based on His sacrifice.
Now, do we need to obey Malachi 3:10 and tithe? Do we need to obey Hebrews 10:19-25 and worship in groups? Can we be blessed without tithing and going to church?
That question is kind of like asking "can't I have fun on the dance floor without any dance lessons?" Of course you can have fun without lessons--if fun is your only goal; however, if you're a contestant on Dancing with the Stars, you won't get very far unless you follow the lessons given by your professional dance partner.
When it comes to dancing, what is your goal: to have fun or to win Dancing with the Stars?
When it comes to being blessed, what is your goal? Are you hoping to gain material things--a new car, a few extra dollars? Are you hoping to gain favor on your job, or find a new friend? All of those things are wonderful and--surprise--you don't even have to be a Christian to be blessed like that. Matthew 5:45 tells us that God "maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."
But for Christians, the Bible says "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6:33) In other words, getting material things that anyone can have should not be the priority of a follower of Christ. The blessings we seek first from God should be spiritual. We should consistently look for ways to draw ourselves closer to our God, because we may be saved by grace but we can only know the true joy of salvation by conforming ourselves to His will.
One day, during my tumultuous teenage years, I had done something to aggravate my dad, and it happened to be Friday--the day he gave me my weekly allowance. My dad was upset with something I had done and he called me ungrateful and threw the dollar bills at me. In turn, I erupted and tore the bills to pieces. Of course, I later picked them up, taped them back together, and spent them.
The point of telling this story is that the money from my dad was a blessing, no matter how I got it. But the fact that I got it in spite of not pleasing him obviously did not bring me any joy, because I still remember the unpleasantness of that day which was over thirty years ago.
We can accumulate all the tangible blessings we want with or without pleasing God. Things like money, cars, houses, clothes are fun, even necessary, but they are only a part of our days on earth. Psalm 103:15-16 says "As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows it over and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more."
When you days on earth are gone, and you return to Father God, He has to take you in if you have been saved, but do you want Him to do it regretfully because you were disobedient or joyfully because you lived to please Him?
In conclusion, let me just say that until you tithe you will never understand the power of obedience. Before I became a tither I could not understand for the life of me how anyone with as little as I could afford to tithe. It baffled me. But then I stepped out on faith and just did it, and wonder of wonders, I found that when I obey God and give back just that little ten percent of what He has given me in the first place, I lose nothing, but gain the joy of knowing that my Father is pleased with at least this one act of faith in His word.
Malachi 3:10 says "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. (underlining mine) God is not a man that He should lie (Numbers 23:19). Try Him.
(Photo of Kristy Yamaguchi winning DWTS 2008)
(in my next post: the benefits of going to church)