Releasing Our Grip
Lately I’ve been working my way through the book of Deuteronomy in my Bible journey. I know, sounds exhilarating right? Perusing the seemingly endless lists of various and sundry laws is such a great way to get your soul prepared for the day! Seriously though, it actually has been very eye opening for me. There’s a ton of priceless little nuggets in there that you might miss if you’re intimidated or bored by the OT books such as this one. But quite honestly, it hasn’t been boring in the least bit for me this time through.
In my reading yesterday I was reminded and confronted again with a great truth regarding our worship. It’s nothing earth-shattering, but it’s important to be reminded. No, it doesn’t involve instruments. No, it doesn’t involve our voices. No, it doesn’t even involve music at all. It involves tithing. (Oh, no, the “T” word). I know. I know. But you need to hear this out. (And no, my pastor did not tell me to write this! Ha!)
There is a direct correlation between the authenticity of our worship and our ability to surrender to God the rights to our possessions (or what we think are our rights). Check out these verses from Deuteronomy 26:
2You shall take some of the first of all the produce of the ground which you bring in from your land that the Lord your God gives you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place where the LORD your God chooses to establish His name.
5You shall answer and say before the Lord your God …
10”Now behold, I have brought the first of the produce of the ground which You, O Lord have given me.” And you shall set it down before the Lord your God, and worship before the Lord your God;
There are a few key worship principles here in this passage related to tithing that I want to point out:
1. Authentic Worship involves giving to God the first of our income.
Verse 2 says, “You shall take the first of all the produce of the ground.” In other words, you take what’s off the top. That means before Uncle Sam takes his share. That means before VISA or MasterCard take their share. That means before your mortgage company gets their share. You don’t wait to see if there’s anything leftover after you pay bills. You don’t give God the leftovers. That becomes leftover worship. I’m not sure about you, but to me that’s embarrassing—to give God what’s leftover. Authentic worship requires offering to God the first.
2. Authentic Worship involves acknowledging that it all comes from God’s hand of provision.
Verse 10 makes it clear that the worshiper realizes that all he has comes from God. Look what he says: “I have brought the first of the produce of the ground which You, O Lord have given me.” The worshiper in this passage understands that without God’s hand of provision working on his behalf, he would have nothing. We come into this world with nothing. And we’ll leave this world with nothing. All that we attain in this life is simply borrowed. It all belongs to God and He graciously lends it to His children as a way for us to return worship to Him. I can’t think of a more perfect system. If you think about it, we get the better end of the deal. Because when we realize that it’s all His anyway, it becomes that much easier to give it back. The gift that blesses His heart has been loaned to us by Him already. We don’t have to try to earn it, search for it or purchase it. He gives it and then simply wants us to offer it back. Unbelievable! That’s so simple! Or at least it should be. Authentic worship requires understanding that it’s all His.
3. Authentic Worship involves releasing our grip on our stuff.
Verse 10 continues: “You shall set it down before the Lord Your God, and worship before the Lord Your God.” Here’s the bottom line: The tighter you cling to your money and your possessions, the softer your grip on Christ becomes. And your grip determines your belief. If you’re clinging tightly to your stuff, it reveals that you actually doubt that God is who He says He is—Your provider. If you’re clinging tightly to Christ, the opposite is true. It reveals that you trust that just as God clothes the grass of the field and the birds of the air, He will take care of you that much more (Matt. 6:25-34). If you cling tightly to your stuff, it reveals that you actually think it all came from you. And if you believe it all came from you, then what you’ve done is set yourself up as God, essentially worshiping yourself and the works of your hand—self-idolatry. And that’s a scary place to be. Authentic worship requires that we simply relinquish the hold we have on “our” stuff and give it back to the Lord as a means of worship.