Leviticus 7:34 “From the fellowship offerings of the Israelites, I have taken the breast that is waved and the thigh that is presented and have given them to Aaron the priest and his sons as their regular share from the Israelites.”
God provides for those who serve Him. The interesting thing about this passage is that these parts of the sacrificial animal were to be directly offered to the Lord by the worshiper, (verse 30) but they were then to be given to the priest. We do indeed give to God by giving to those who serve Him. However, that must not be abused by those in the priestly office. We have the record of the two sons of Eli, who “treated the Lord’s offering with contempt.” (1 Samuel 2:12-17) Paul also warned against such an attitude in the context of the New Covenant. (1 Timothy 6:5) Today we see some “ministers” who seem to have forgotten the meaning of the word, ministry, and revel in great wealth. I think those who give to them are rewarded by God if their motive is indeed to give to God, but the “ministers” are held accountable to God for how they seek and how they use those offerings. We cannot buy favor with God; He cannot be bribed, since He created everything. The whole matter of offerings, both financial and otherwise, gets complicated because of human greed. God sees the heart of the giver, but He also sees the heart of the one receiving. Both are open to Him. Paul pointed out that it is entirely appropriate that those who dedicate their lives to God’s ministry would receive their living from that ministry. (1 Corinthians 9:3-11) However, if the focus of the minister becomes their livelihood rather than their ministry, everything goes down the tube. I have known people who fell into that exact trap, and they are really pathetic.
This is of course intimately connected with me, since I am not just a pastor, but a self-supporting independent missionary. In the 35+ years we have been in Omura, in no year have I received as much from the church as I have given in tithes and offerings. That said, God has provided. As a matter of principle I do receive a set percentage of the undesignated offerings to the church, but the majority of my income is from teaching medical English and performing weddings at a “wedding palace,” and now I receive US Social Security as well as a Japanese pension. That said, my financial income isn’t to the point that either Japan or the US claimed any income tax from me for the past year. However, God meets our needs beautifully, and I am deeply grateful. I have had to learn to accept graciously when people have wanted to give to God by giving to me, and I have also had to confront myself for wondering how much I was going to be given for a funeral, for example. Things given to God are holy, and I need to treat them as such. At this point the whole situation is complicated by the fact that I now have an assistant pastor, who likewise has a secular job. I need to be fully open as a channel of God’s provision to Him, so that anxiety over finances will not be a snare to him.
Father, it’s interesting how complicated this all becomes, when You are the Creator and never lack for anything. Thank You for the opportunities You give us for spiritual growth and faithfulness in the matter of giving, directly to You and to You through others. May we make the full use You intend of every opportunity You provide, for the blessing of all the people involved and for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!