David Thomas, Brant Berglin, and Mathilde Frey provide the commentary for this week’s lesson. The audio file appears at the end of this article.
Memory Text: “‘But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience’” (Luke 8:15).
The lesson this week is quite interesting in that it focuses on one characteristic that every good steward should have, honesty, particularly when it comes to honesty with God. The lesson then goes on to use the biblical teaching of tithing to illustrate the way this principle plays out in life.
We begin by talking about honesty, noting that it is a prized trait in all humans but it is particularly both valuable and beautiful in those who are stewards. Honesty is a virtue that is not automatic in life. Nor does it grow in a moment. Honesty is a trait that has to be developed over time. It grows by practice. Jesus noted these things in his comment recorded in Luke 16:10 – 10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” Behind this comment can be seen a growth process. One can see that persistent honesty, being faithful over and over again, is what produces the kind of effect being looked for.
A very good place to witness the development of faithfulness is to look at the life of Abraham, the prototypical pilgrim who appears early in the Old Testament. Read the story in Genesis 22:1-12. As you read it, notice that this is not the first story about Abraham. It is preceded by a host of other stories, some of which indicate great faithfulness in following after God, some of which indicate failures.
- Which of the stories about Abraham indicate faithfulness?
- Which stories indicate failures?
The story in Genesis 22 is very significant because it comes well after some of Abraham’s failures. He now has the promised son Isaac. Then comes the command to take the young man to Mt. Moriah to make a sacrifice. Along the way, Abraham learns he is to sacrifice Isaac. We are greatly alarmed by this request, but it was not out of the realm of the reasonable in Abraham’s day. In the end, God prevented the sacrifice of the young man, then provided Abraham with a substitute sacrifice. There is great significance to this story, but for this lesson we look at the fact that Abraham was willing to obey God. We conclude that, as his life progressed, he learned to be honest with God, faithful to God’s admonitions. For this he is later on commended.
The lesson, having established the value of honesty and faithfulness, turns to discuss the subject of tithing as a place where faithfulness to God is demonstrated. This is a very interesting example to turn to because it involves material substance, money, particularly gain. Because money and assets enable our living, giving away money can be particularly hard.
- Can you explain what “tithing” is all about?
- Leviticus 27:30 is a particularly interesting verse here: “‘A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord.” (NIV). What, in particular, do we learn about tithe from this verse?
- On what basis does God ask for a tithe?
- What texts would you use to support your ideas?
- Does tithing earn you any credits with God?
- What happens when people do not pay tithe?
- Luke 11:42 is another very interesting verse on the subject – 42 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.” What can be learned from this verse?
A closing thought to ponder here has to do with the human reluctance to be faithful. So often it looks like being unfaithful would bring advantage so we become expedient.
- What are the effects of this?
- How can one fix the damage of unfaithfulness?
- What ideas can you offer to help grow faithfulness in your life?
- What makes being faithful difficult?
- What makes it joyful?
This Sabbath School lesson & commentary originally appeared on Good Word and is shared here with permission.
David Thomas is Dean of the School of Theology and Professor of Practical Theology & Apologetics at Walla Walla University.
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Stewardship - Honesty with God.mp3