Contractual relationship with God
“And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king’s dale. And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: and blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all. And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself. And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich: save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.” (Gen 14:17-24)
The relationship between Abraham and God was a contractual relationship. A contract. Contractual relations are very important in modern society. It’s about having an agreement between two parties, A and B. A offers to do something for B in exchange for something else from B, and if B agrees, then they enter into a contract. If both parties do not agree, that’s it – a contract is not made. God appeared to Abraham and said, “I will do this for you. I will make you a blessing, make your name great, and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. What you need to do then is to follow Me”. If Abraham had said, “I don’t want to”, then it would’ve ended there. However, Abraham agreed and followed. So God then assumed all responsibility for him. They entered into a contractual agreement – a contract.
As we believe in God, we believe that we have entered into a contract with God. But if one is doubtful of whether God will keep His promise or not, then the contract can’t be held. God is not the One who is unfaithful. If I am unable to trust the agreement made and were to neglect that contract, how can it possibly continue? That is why marriage is also a type of contractual agreement. Hence, regardless of how the other person might have lived in the past, both are committing to a contract that they will only be faithful to each other. Once they enter the contract of marriage, the trust they have for another is what keeps that relationship going. But if any one side breaches that trust, it will be difficult to maintain that relationship.
For example, if one’s husband has gone out to work, does the wife feel anxious all day about him thinking, is he coming home tonight? Will he keep his promise or not? Or even going on to think that her husband doesn’t love her. A majority of people don’t think that way unless they suffer from morbid jealousy (delusional jealousy). So once you are in a contractual relationship, you trust the other party and the agreement you have with them and make sure you fulfill all of your obligations to the other person.
Our relationship with God right now is a mutual one. Thus we must not be worried about the possibility of God abandoning us. God will not abandon us. Instead, we have to be sure not to breach the contract. What are the terms of the contract? That we rely on the name of Jesus and His blood and remain in Him. Then God says He will make us His children and guide us into heaven. That’s the contract. Nevertheless, people ignore God’s faithfulness and think as if He will terminate the contract. This is because they feel anxious and worried. It’s an issue they have with their own emotions and yet they make God out to be the unfaithful one. Irrespective of my emotions, God keeps His promises. In other words, God says that if you want to live, you must remain in the contract. What we have to do is keep the agreement.
Abraham fully trusted that God would be with him. Therefore, if he were to lose his life perhaps while fighting in a war, he would have no children and could not possess Canaan. However, he believed that as long as God promised He would protect him, give him children and the land of Canaan, God would surely be with him. So he went ahead to rescue Lot. As he went, three kings joined forces in the battle against him, and it was a tough fight. Yet, he anticipated and trusted in God’s help. And he returned with victory. He acknowledges that victory came because God was with him. That is why he gives tithe – one tenth of his plunder to God. He gave to Melchizedek, but Melchizedek said to Abraham as he blessed him: Blessed be your God, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth.
Apart from Abraham, there was someone else who had known the God whom Abraham believed in. Melchizedek knew that this God is the Possessor of heaven and earth and praised Him. That is why Abraham gave him one tenth of his plunder. He had given that to God. That’s when tithing first started. With this deed of faith, he acknowledged, “As You have demonstrated Your faithfulness by protecting me and not breaking Your promise to me, I have confirmed that everything God has promised me will be fulfilled. Hence I will give one tenth of all that I earn to You God”. That continued to his descendants. When Jacob fled Canaan for fear of his brother, he had one concern. He must leave in order to save his life, but if he leaves the land, how can God’s promise be fulfilled that He would give that land? So although he had no other choice but to leave at that time, he had to return for God’s promise to be fulfilled. Only then would the blessing he received become a reality. So he said to God before he left, “If You are surely with me, then let me return to this land. And when I do return, I will give a tenth of everything I have earned”. And sure enough, he did return later on, and the first thing he did was give tithes to God.
Thus, the tithe is the way to acknowledge that God is keeping His promise with me, and the covenant between Him and I still stands. Whoever acknowledges that God continues to bless him and is faithful in keeping His contract agreement, gives a tithe to God. It is a testament. A tithe is a testament of our faith. No matter how I am tossed and turned by my emotions, I can still give tithes to God. What does that mean? It shows with objectivity that the covenant (contract) between God and me is secure. Why would anyone want to give a tenth of what they worked so hard to earn? But it’s because the contract with God is in effect, and thus, the one that acknowledges so will give tithe. For this reason, Abraham offered tithe, and even presently, those who acknowledge that God is with them will likewise give tithes to God. How thankful we are that we can give tithes! At times, we may feel alone as though we have become distant from God, but by giving tithes, we acknowledge that our relationship with God is secure at the least. If I am keeping my side of the agreement, God will never break His promise but definitely keep it. That is why we have the assurance every time we tithe – God is with me. He is fulfilling the promises He gave me. Hence it is a joy to put my tithe into the offering basket each time because I am acknowledging that God is with me.
Abraham kept his agreement with God, and moreover, was truly thankful to God so that he considered God’s honor. The king of Sodom told him to take all the goods. In such a situation, it’s not easy for most people to do what Abraham did. It’s when their faith really shows its true colors. When the treasures, the riches were right before his eyes, Abraham thought about what people would later say if he took them and became rich. They would all say that he became rich because of the king of Sodom. Abraham did not want that to happen. He knew that it was God who was with him and so refused to receive any of the goods for the sake of God’s honor. Similarly, the man that acknowledges that God is with him first upholds God’s honor. Those treasures that were before him meant nothing to him. However, a lot of people hesitate in that situation. We Christians value and uphold duty and honor. Duty is of great importance. Honor is important. We choose to keep our duty even if that means to sacrifice such treasures rather than renouncing our duty for some petty treasures. Such a person is able to uphold God’s honor.
Let us pray that we can be the ones who first consider God’s honor. If we are sure that God is with us and have received testimony from Him, may we regard God’s honor first and foremost and be the souls who have the faith and courage to cast aside insignificant profits presented before our eyes. Let’s pray together.
God our Father, help us to acknowledge that God is always with us, faithfully keeping His covenant with us, and therefore always have a testimony of it. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center