I have a little ritual here in Ensenada, Mexico while on vacation. In the mornings, while the family is still asleep I get up and go across the street from where we are staying to a little pavement cafe' for a cappuccino, the scriptures, some prayer. Okay, I also check twitter and facebook, I admit. But I've been blogging what I've been reading and thinking from the Cafe'Tu Taozo. All before my family surfaces!
Jesus redeemed us from the curse of our first father Adam by becoming a curse in our place. He was forsaken by His Father so that we could be adopted by Him. And he left us a better earthly model of a father in Genesis. Abraham, the father of our faith.
Abraham has feet of clay for sure, but the contrast between the two is stark. Yesterday we looked at Adam's doubt and disobedience versus Abe's faith and obedience. Here's another one. Adam took and consumed what was not his, while Abraham gave back what was not his. That Adam consumed the forbidden fruit is iconic. Abraham's generosity is less renown.
In Genesis 13 Abraham and Lot his nephew have a business disagreement.Their flocks and herds have prospered and there's not enough room in town for the both of them. Abraham ignored seniority, and lets Lot take the choice pasture. He takes whatever his nephew leaves. Lot considers the goodness of the land but ignores the wickedness of the Sodomites who kidnap him.His uncle has to go and rescue him and win back the stolen goods.
It is here that a mysterious figure named 'Melchizedek' appears to him, and breaks bread with him. Abraham gives him a tenth of the spoils of victory. It is from here that we get the idea of the tithe. In Hebrews 7, Jesus is called a high priest in the order of Melchizedek. It makes sense. We break bread with Jesus, and we still give him a tenth of what we earn. People have tried to disregard the tithe as law, but this was pre-law. Even Jesus affirms the tithe in Matt 26, adding that we are to keep our hearts in it, not allowing ritual to creep in.
But can I tell you a story that has brought the tithe alive in me? My wife and I have been married for almost 18 years. As far as I can remember, we have never missed a month of tithing. We simply settled it as a biblical conviction at the start. It is both stewardship and worship for us. This last month for the first time ever, though, I think I was tempted not to tithe.
Our elders had insisted we take two weeks vacation, which I appreciated, but we had nowhere to go, and no money to pay for a place. I honestly asked the Lord if he would let me off the tithe for once so that could have a nice vacation. I wrestled with God, asking him to prove Himself to me show Himself faithful. So we tithed. A few days later we were given 7 days at a house on the beach in Northern California. On the morning that we were to leave, someone came and gave us a financial gift that paid for another week of accommodation, plus spending money. The total value of what we received was about 4 times what we tithed. A powerful reminder that God is faithful. I am sitting typing this in a place I did not pay for. Not even the coffee!
Adam is such a common figure of consuming what does not belong to him. Abraham gives us a model of generosity that flies in the face of the rampant individualism and unbridalled consumerism of our day and age. Jesus empowers us to follow the model of our second father, not our first.