After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). 18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) 19 And he blessed him and said,
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
20 and blessed be God Most High,
who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”
And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
A friend recently asked me, “What do you do with people who don’t pay at your church?” The question took me completely by surprise. I had never thought in those terms. We do monitor peoples’ giving, but do so mostly for the sake of being able to supply receipts for tax purposes. But the idea that people had to pay for church never occurred to me. We do have to pay the bills. We do want people to be generous, but we don’t charge admission. And when we have a suggested donation it is truly suggested. We tell people that if they can’t afford to pay not to worry. Recently, for example, we made THE STORY available for a $10 suggested donation. This abridged Bible arranged in chronological order is the focus of our church’s preaching and teaching for the next 6-1/2 months, and we wanted it available to all more than we worried about having everyone pay for it. We also told people simply to take one if they could not afford it. The answer regarding what we do with people who don’t pay is, “nothing,” or better yet, “help yourself.”
Giving is a response to God’s goodness, not a payment for services rendered. Giving is an outflow of the blessings we have already received, not a means to attain more and better blessings. Although the practice of paying a tenth to a king or to a god was widespread in the ancient Near East, Abraham’s gift to Melchizedek was probably not the payment of the “king’s tithe” (cf. 1 Sam. 8:15, 17), but rather was an offering that reflected Abram’s regard for Melchizedek (the name means king of righteousness) as a priest of the true God (thanks to Ligonier Ministries, and their Reformation Study Bible notes).
People “who don’t pay” will always be with us. The greatest need of those folks, is to recognize the great blessings of the God of Abram, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has poured out his Holy Spirit on his people, and whose gifts truly motivate generosity and God-honoring gifts. Their gifts then become offerings, not payments, and God is truly honored.