Deuteronomy 25:4 – If the Church Were An Ox, Are You Muzzling It?

Posted: April 10, 2017 in Book of Deuteronomy
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Deuteronomy 25:4

Muzzling an Ox

 

As Christ followers, the last thing we usually give up to the Lord is His rightful rule over our finances. When it comes to money, we often come at maturity in Christ in our finances last. Until we reach that maturity, we are often no different than non-believers when it comes to money. Non-believers crack on the church as simply wanting our money. Many Christians have the same view about money and church.

 

Although we are commanded to be cheerful givers by Paul (and to Paul the tithe was just the beginning of being a cheerful giver), American churchgoers, in the most recent survey by Barna Research, give about 2.4% of their income to the church, the lowest level of church support since the survey began back in 1968. Only about 10-25% of your average church membership are tithers. These are facts that I bemoan often here because it saddens me, because we are muzzling the ox. Although we sing about the glory of God, we give very little to His cause. Although we talk about how much we love what our church does for our community, we give very little to make that happen. We are muzzling the ox. How often do we speak glowingly about our church to others, but we do not support it any sacrificial way. We think it’s pretty cool that our church puts on events for the community and we might even participate as a volunteer, but we give very little to our church.

 

According to an article in Christianity Today, it says,

 

“For Christians in the richest nation in history to be giving only 2.43 percent of their income to their churches is not just stinginess, it is biblical disobedience—blatant sin. We have become so seduced by the pervasive consumerism and materialism of our culture that we hardly notice the ghastly disjunction between our incredible wealth and the agonizing poverty in the world. Over the last 40 years, American Christians (as we have grown progressively richer) have given a smaller and smaller percent of our growing income to the ministries of our churches. Such behavior flatly contradicts what the Bible teaches about God, justice, and wealth. We should be giving not 2.4 percent but 10 percent, 15 percent, even 25 to 35 percent or more to kingdom work. Most of us could give 20 percent and not be close to poverty.”

 

Many of us see the church as just wanting our money and we don’t want to give our hard earned money to the church. We think the preacher gets paid too much and only works on Sunday. We think that if we give to the church that we will miss out on something that we could have spent that money on. We think we could go on vacation with that money. We think that somebody else richer in our church should be giving. We want our Word from God each week but we can’t be bothered to make ministry happen with our checkbooks. That whole money thing and giving it to the church is for those rich folks who have extra to give. It’s their job not ours. We want to be involved at church when it’s convenient. We give to the church when it’s convenient. We don’t want to live more simply so that we can give more to our church. We like the preacher but geez that a bit much to ask that I give a tithe. I have a house, two cars, kids to pay for.

 

The way that we, as Christ followers, hinder the mission of the church at large by the way we give restrains what the church can do in the world is the thing that came to mind this morning over one simple verse, Deuteronomy 25:4. Let’s read it now:

 

4 Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.

 

What is the point of this Old Testament regulation? Oxen were often used to tread out the grain on a threshing floor. The animal was attached by poles to a large millstone. As it walked around the millstone, its hooves trampled the grain, separating kernels from the chaff. At the same time, the millstone ground the grain into flour. To muzzle the ox would prevent the oxen from eating while it was working. Paul used this verse/regulation as an illustration in the New Testament to argue that people productive in Christian work should not be denied compensation and be fairly paid.  Paul said this,

 

1 Corinthians 9:9-12

9 For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.”Is it about oxen that God is concerned? 10 Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. 11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 12 If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.

 

As Christians, we must learn that we are commanded to be generous to the point of being sacrificial. Watching the movie, Silence, last night showed how Christian converts held to their faith in the face of merciless persecution in 17th century Japan. They would go their graves rather than renounce their faith in Jesus Christ. They really sacrificed. Think of Christians in Muslim countries today. They really sacrifice. They are generous with their lives and well as their livelihoods. Yet, we who have the freedom to go to church every Sunday and not have to hide it, think that the preacher makes too much money and that our wages are our own. We give to the church when we have an extra $20. We give to the church when we can fit it into our budget. We have been given the freedom to worship as we please but yet we do not put forth sacrifice in any way for the cause of Christ. We muzzle the ox.

 

We muzzle the ox from reaching more people for Christ. We muzzle the ox when our church has to worry about making payroll much less doing ministry. We muzzle the ox from helping families in need when we do not tithe and give sacrificially. We muzzle the ox from helping people go on mission trips to far away lands. We muzzle the ox when our church cannot afford to support missionaries full-time in the field. We muzzle the ox when we do not give sacrificially. We muzzle the ox when we do not live more simply and give more to the cause of Christ. We muzzle the ox when we have to delay a church plant in a new city.

 

Let us be a people that see giving to the church as our first priority. Let us see our money as coming from our abilities that are given to us by God. Let us think of living more simply and being more generous. Let us think it a privilege to give more and more to the cause of Christ. Let us be a church that thinks its about being obedient to the Lord. Let us trust the Lord when he says test me in this when it comes to giving sacrificially to the Lord. Let us be cheerful and less stingy. Let us be obedient to the Lord. Let us not muzzle the ox.

 

Amen and Amen.

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