Support Your Troops

You have much to thank the military for today.  They have kept the United States safe in times past, especially during World Wars One and Two.  Today they are keeping us safe by being overseas and sniffing out the radical militant Islamic factions that wish for, and plan for the demise of the United States and much of the Western world.  These brave men and women fight the battles that we can not fight to protect our interests here at home.  They are on the front lines learning the enemy and fighting them face to face sometimes…all on our behalf.

Then, beside thanking the military, we should be proud of our military.  In times of disaster, they have brought humanitarian assistance to those in need.  The military, sometimes in the form of the National Guard, are called on to assist in devastations like Hurricane Katrina on the gulf coast, or when there is flooding in the Midwest.  Our military even relocates for weeks and months in foreign lands like Haiti and Chile after their respective earthquakes.  They’ve even done humanitarian work among the innocent people caught up in the military campaigns of our sworn enemies.  The military has a heart for people, and it should be commended.

The military even provides a setting for young men and women to be trained in the skill sets needed for a career in the military.  Military schools like West Point, Annapolis, the Air Force Academy, and the Coast Guard Academy all train these men and women for service in leadership roles where they will be called upon to train their subordinates in the various duties needed to carry out the missions and objectives of the particular group’s focus.  Those academically trained officers will teach and charge the vocationally trained enlisted personnel to carry out their marching orders all while they are under the watch and care of their superiors.

So the military needs our support…and prayers.  This is evidenced by the fact that God inserted a story for us in First Samuel 25:1-44 that speaks of just such an issue.  It’s a story of David, Abigail, and Nabal.  David, at the time, was on the run from Saul.  He and his army went down to a town called Carmel.  While he was in the area of Carmel, for some time, his armies had been protecting a flock of sheep for a man called Nabal.  Under the protection of David’s armies, Nabal had grown his flocks to 3000 sheep and 1000 goats.  He was a wealthy man enjoying his prosperity.  Now David had sent some of his men to Nabal to ask for a gift in return for the protection they had provided.  But, Nabal, being a churlish man with evil ways about him, refused to pay David’s men what they were owed.  Upon the return of these men to David, he became angered and started back to the town of Carmel with 400 soldiers to confront Nabal.  But before the young men had returned to David earlier, one of them had told Nabal’s wife Abigail about what had transpired about Nabal refusing to pay what David’s army was due.

Well, Abigail didn’t waste time going into action.  She hurried and met David on the road before he even got close to Nabal.  She came with much food and supplies that were a more than adequate payment for the services David and his armies provided.  David was ready to confront Nabal with a long list of what his men had done for him and what he felt they were rightly owed.  If it hadn’t been for David’s protection, Nabal would have much less than he had.  You might argue that all Nabal had was a result of the direct involvement of David’s men in his life…and his wife saw what Nabal couldn’t see.  Therefore, she ran and begged David’s mercy on Nabal.

David decided to spare Nabal and to leave it up to the Lord to deal with Nabal’s selfishness toward David and his men.  But do you know what?  God dealt quickly and harshly with Nabal.  While his wife was pleading for mercy on his behalf, Nabal was home getting drunk.  So drunk in fact that Abigail had to wait until the next day to tell Nabal she had given the gifts owed to David’s men, and how she spared his life that day.  When she finally was able to tell him, Nabal had some kind of medical event that ushered in his death ten days later.  Everything that Nabal had worked for and stockpiled up so selfishly was worthless to him now.

But before you begin giving it to Nabal for being so selfish; let’s bemoan the fact that some of you reading this right now do the exact same thing.  You don’t give God, or God’s appointed “troops” their proper due for what they have done in your life.  Remember, we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:12).  Also, Paul reminds us that though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:  For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds…” (Second Corinthians 10:3-4).  So, I say these two things to try to bring this matter into practicality.

The church, its pastors and staffs, and its missionaries have all provided for us, in both the spiritual and physical realms, much of what today’s military has been known to do.  The church protects its families from spiritual onslaught by evangelizing, training, and discipling individual families and family members.  Pastors have a love for people and a desire to see them remain safe, and will go to great lengths to provide that spiritual safety.  Whether it’s in the realm of counseling a family or whether it’s the way a pastor and staff will lift up a hurting family in prayer, the church uses its tools against the enemy on our behalf probably more than we realize.

Just like the military, the church uses its resources to provide humanitarian aid to those who are in need.  Nursing home ministries, single mom ministries, widow ministries, pregnant teen ministries, and the list goes on, are all works the church does because they see the need and will fill that need because of the heart they have for those people.  And the church doesn’t only want to help them physically, but spiritually as well.  What about the faction of the church that takes the battle to those who can’t fight for themselves?  These are the missionaries the church sends out and supports to go and teach a people ignorant of the Bible, the tools necessary to mount an effective assault against the devil.

These are the pastors, staff, and lay people who make up the army of God who serve to protect, train, and help people like us.  So why are there so many Nabals?  Money – especially the tithe – has been desired by God for the day to day running of the church including the salaries of the pastor and the church’s staff.  Above and beyond that are the offerings which help offset the costs incurred by the various ministries.  Churches also will generally support missionaries by what people will promise to give above and beyond their tithe.

Now, if you think that tithing is just an Old Testament matter of the Law that does not carry over into the New Testament, consider that Abraham tithed long before the Law was written and the temple was even in existence (Genesis 14:20).  No, Abraham loved God and the servant of God (Melchizedek) and recognized what God deserved from him, and it was laid on his heart to tithe…and he obeyed!  Remember, everything Nabal had was possibly due to the protection of David’s army.  Everything we have, spiritually and maybe even physically in some cases, may be the direct result of the protection, teaching, training, prayer, and solid foundation we receive from the church.  So why not support it scripturally?

Tithing is the tenth of the first fruits.  In today’s vernacular it would be a tenth of our gross income before taxes.  In the Book of Leviticus, chapter 27:30-32 both farmers and herdsmen had to give a tenth of what they took in.  This command, as I mentioned earlier, came after Abraham practiced tithing to Melchizedek.  So God had probably began laying it on the hearts of people to tithe (i.e. Abraham) but perhaps people were neglecting the tithe and thus caused God to mandate it in the law.  I still don’t believe it to be not a valid expectation on God’s part that we tithe to support the church.

Think of it this way.  How effective would a military be in the field if they weren’t properly equipped?  Suppose they had no ammunition.  Suppose they had some resources, but those resources would dry up.  Who would make the advance…the good guys or the bad guys?  I say the enemy would advance if the military could not keep them at bay.  Well, so too does the church need resources to mount the attacks against the devil and his ilk.  Else how can we defeat the enemy?  Do we want to be responsible for arming our “soldiers” in the local church or those on the mission field, or do we want to be responsible for their retreat?

Nabal took his protectors for granted.  He was content to sit back and take without giving.  If you want to know just how selfish Nabal was, consider that the Bible says that David knew Nabal sheared his own sheep.  Probably looking to barter some wool perhaps, David’s men went to where Nabal was.  Imagine Nabal standing there among his piles of wool he has just sheared and telling the young men who came to ask for payment of some kind that he wasn’t going to give anything.  Can you imagine sitting in church, while the offering plate is being passed, having your checkbook with you and saying to yourself “Nope!  But wait a minute…I have a couple of ones in my pocket.”  How much concern, love, commitment, and support does that show for your church and all it’s done for you and countless others?

Consider studying what the Bible has to say about scriptural giving of tithes and offerings.  Here’s a true exercise in faith in these uncertain financial times.  But challenge God to allow you to give…to get more…to give more.  Besides, God looks upon money as being the least thing when it comes to seeing how we would handle more pressing spiritual matters.  If we can handle taking care of what is least (money/possessions) then God will see we would be good stewards of much (spiritual matters).  However, suppose we don’t honor God’s wishes with what God has given us in the matter of money.  God may not use us to any great degree when it comes to spiritual matters.  Money is less important because it is temporal.  Spiritual matters are only a matter of concern to the spiritually minded person who looks beyond their wealth and sees eternity.

Wonder why God’s not allowing you to do what you believe He’s called you to do?  How’s your giving?  Are you holding back from God the things that don’t really matter…money…being the least?  How then will you give to Him what he needs from you where the spiritual realm is concerned?  Begin by tithing faithfully and be willing to sacrifice your temporal possessions and invest them in the eternal work of your local church and supported missionaries.  To do otherwise would be foolish, this, by the way, is what Nabal means in the Jewish tongue.  Nabal means fool!

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