We Are So Wrong About Tithing

4 03 2008

CBS news ran a story this past weekend regarding the issue of tithing.  I think that, from a secular point of view, the story was balanced and fair.  This thing about tithing is a true curiosity.  The story questions why some pastors have become so extravagantly wealthy, and whether the church has any right to ask for a tithe.

It’s foremost in my mind that the church is a) held to standards that most others are not held to, and b) held to standards that are not even biblical.  Of predominant importance is the fact that individuals do not represent the church as a whole (the Bible is clear about this – we are called parts of a bigger “body”).  There are certainly some perverse and horribly misguided people out there waving the banner of “ministry” over their ego-driven, money-grabbing motives.  These have no desire to remain humble servants, rather they covet after recognition and fame.  These do not represent the church, and in fact, a sound argument could be made that they are not even part of the church (see Ephesians 4).  I also look on with pained amusement as those outside the church insist on dictating what they believe the church should be.  tithing - how should we view money?

Careful and serious study will show a vast wealth of ministers and churches who do their work humbly and without regard for wealth or reward.  In my denomination, I don’t know a single pastor who would come close to qualifying as “rich” (although I would argue that from a whole-world perspective, there are few Americans who are not rich). 

So as I once again explore my theology on tithing, giving, and sacrifice, I find that while scripture is helpful, reality is much more definitive.  Let’s for argument’s sake say that there is no valid Biblical teaching on tithing (I would disagree, but that’s a whole other article!).  Reality itself dictates that if we are to be a part of any thriving, healthy community, we must financially support it.  For the smaller church, staff and insurance issues are the biggest budget items, along with utilities and basic maintenance.  I know that my church exercises the strictest of stewardship when it comes to using our resources, and we still barely make ends meet.  This issue alone, I would think, should sway any reasonable person to conclude that financial giving is in order.  We do this for clubs, we pay for memberships, we pay taxes.  All these things we cede because we, in some general sense, conclude that we desire to enjoy the outcome of any such giving.  The second step, then, is to ask how important the church is.  From a secularist viewpoint, this might be minimal (such thinking is misguided, but that too is another article).  But for those who believe in the mission of the church, there then comes the primary issue we confront.  If we believe in the Bible as we claim we do, we must confront the fact that nothing is really ours.  If you don’t believe that, just tell it to a hurricane or tornado victim who has lost all worldly possessions.  No matter how careful and prudent we are, our possessions can come and go via the forces of nature and financial world issues. 

It’s also quite pertinent to mention that we Americans are a greedy, covetous lot.  In this regard, the middle-easterners are completely correct in their perception.  We want more for ourselves at the expense of whoever we have to destroy to get it.  We judge our worth based on cars, homes, jewelry, status, and other such things.  Temporal stuff is a mighty poor way to assess our value.  Christ called us to live lives of sacrifice to each other, not to out-do each other at the gain game.  Therefore, those who truly value the heart of scripture (caring for the needy, loving justice, forgiving all, etc.), then there automatically becomes no end to the amount we are willing to give to ministry work.

All of this, of course, involves finding healthy, Biblical ministry communities.  As part of the body of Christ, as Paul calls us, we must be participants and generous givers to ministry works that exercise above-the-board stewardship.  There simply is no release to this.  Remarkably, those who live out these ministry ideals are some of the most humble and loving people you’ll ever meet.  Those who truly exercise their right allow God to have what’s already His are those who find release from the guilt of the law and enter into a state of something very similar to wedded bliss.  In a truly healthy marriage, each partner gives of themselves completely to the other without wanting more for themselves.  When you love this way, you want to give more.  Who do we most value in our communities?  Those who give of themselves.  Who are those who’ve found the greatest contentment in life?  Usually it’s those who’ve learned the value of others.

So should we tithe?  No.  I would argue that we should exceed any expectation of giving, and do so not just with money, but with all our resources and time.  There are many more aspects to this that can’t possibly be argued here.  Perhaps that will come on some future day.

Advertisements

Actions

Information

12 responses

4 03 2008
Marianne

I agree with you. The tithe is actually misapplied today, although we are to still give as we are able, from our hearts. Many times membership demands a tithe commitment, and this suffocates many that do not have much to give. They leave because they cannot fit into the system, and the business demands of the church.

thanks
marianne
http://heavenawaits.wordpress.com/108/

8 03 2008
Stephen Davis

Money in the Manna Pot

This is the same as money in the storehouse. The tithe cannot be money because the law says that you can exchange the tithe for money (Deut. 14:25). In this regard the tithe has something in common with Jesus. Both were exchanged for money. THis is why i say that the ‘thirty pieces of silver’ prophecy in Zechariah is primarily of the taking of monetary tithes. It says “if you think good GIVE SALARY (price) if not, forbear (leave it alone).”

If you thing good don’t put money in the manna pot and don’t put money into the storehouse.

Isaiah 33:15 says to despise the gain of oppression/extortion (NIV). This word has the Hebrew tithe maker (ma’aser) called ‘mem’, the thirteenth letter of the alphabet. So if you hear of the numbers on overall contributions going down, it may be that there is less tithe collecting/extortion going on. That is a good thing. It is called Christian liberty.

8 03 2008
Marianne

the tithe is corn, oil, wheat……..

10 03 2008
gregfish

Well, I do believe in tithing. It is a blessing that is far greater than anything I’ve ever given up. But, just as I stated in the article, even if I didn’t think there was Biblical grounds for this concept, it’s just plain good Christian practice. Why? If we believe in a ministry, we support it. Money, time, resources – these are all crucial gifts to bring. It’s not a matter of Christian liberty, it is a matter of human selfishness to withhold from God what is His anyway. If your church is abusing their resources, then find another. Our money is such a small gift to bring for a God who blesses us richly in so many ways. We think too highly of our money. The more important question to ask is, do we worship God, or the dollar? Even if you don’t think tithing is Biblical, you surely must agree that a responsible ministry with a valued pastor as shepherd is worthy of our support. The sacrifices we make will have an earthly impact that will last through eternity. And you can take that to the bank.

10 03 2008
Marianne

Giving to God should be from the heart, and not from a pre-determined formula. Paul did say he was worthy of support, but many times would not take anything, in order to present a proper witness for Christ. He did not collect a tithe. The tithe is actually misapplied in the modern church, and the amount required, and how often, along with what is exempt, is not followed. But giving is always good in general. Most people do not know what was to be done with the tithe, and what it was actually used for. They just give money now.

marianne
http://heavenawaits.wordpress.com/

11 03 2008
gregfish

I wanted to step back and give this more thought so that I could give you a prayerfully considered response. I understand the heart of what you’re saying, and it does make sense on the surface. However, there are problems lying just below. When you say “Giving to God should be from the heart”, I agree 100%. In fact that is one of the main things I hoped to communicate in my blog entry. However, the word “should” is the tricky part. There is one word that I need to interject at this point: discipline. Discipline is something that we truly dislike in our culture. We see it as being a negative – an infringement on our “rights”. This of course is doublespeak for our desire to have it all and do it, to quote the song, “My Way”. Problem is, my way is corrupted by the temporal and the corrosive nature of the world. So, if we leave giving up to the undisciplined heart, the joys and blessings of the tithe may never be discovered.

It’s important to note the WHY of such disciplines. Why would God require something He doesn’t need? Why would God require worship – is He an egomaniac? Why would God require us to follow His rules instead of letting us find our own way? The answer, of course, is that our way is what messed us up in the first place. God gives us requirements not for His benefit, but for ours. He requires worship to draw us into communion with Him; worship cultivates the relationship and helps us focus our love more just as we also need to do in marriage. And so it goes that tithing is a discipline that creates a guideline by which we can learn just who our money belongs to anyway. If you don’t teach your children to save, chances are they will not be savers as adults. It stands to reason then that it is a great discipline to have the tithe standard to help us put our money where our spiritual mouth is. It is up to the church to be good stewards of those monies, of course. Most are, a few aren’t. But in a healthy environment, a standard of giving creates a form of discipline that ends up being a blessing to us and to others. One more angle on this: we are by nature selfish people. Giving creates a guideline by which we can learn to give up something that we treasure to help others. In the case of most tithes, it’s to help others grow spiritually.

I also believe that you can’t say enough for the need to keep your church community’s bills paid! The heat isn’t free, and the pastor does have the need to provide for his family. You are right that Paul refused offerings – at times. Keep in mind that Paul was likely somewhat wealthy, and we know that he did practice a trade. Further, he had benefactors such as Lydia who assisted in his ministry so that those who were less fortunate could funnel resources into the local ministry/missionary work.

With apologies for such a long response, I would also differ with you on people’s knowledge of what is done with the tithe. There may be some that fit into that category, but to say “most” assumes that most people are intellectually flawed. I find that most people are able to discuss the tithe issue intellectually and with understanding, even if they are having difficulty with the discipline itself. Peter reminds us to equip each other for ministry work, and then use the tools we’ve got and do something. This can’t be done by people reticent to corral self-will with a discipline that effects blessing, joy and peace. The Biblical standard is that God blesses the many to bless the one, and blesses the one to bless the many.

12 03 2008
Marianne

According to the bible, only jews living in Israel gave tithes. Jews living outside Israel, and gentiles ( like us) do not pay tithes.

the tithe was meant to bless the land of Israel and to provide a communion meal between the Israeli farmer and his God. It was ONLY to be brought to the temple in Jerusalem. The tither ATE the tithe before the Lord. The priest did not get to start a building program with it or buy himself a car.

The temple tax was for the support of the temple, not the tithe.

Christians are not required to pay tithes because they are not jewish farmers, living in the land of Israel, with a temple to go to.

Christians are mainly gentiles, and the tithe was not intended for them. They are just to give free will offerings because they now walk in grace, and not by the law.

12 03 2008
gregfish

Well, I give. I don’t agree, but you are not understanding a single thing I’m saying. If you truly think grace is a one dimensional thing, you’re missing out on such much beauty and joy. Grace is not just given, but we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to live grace-filled lives. That means living in grace and mercy towards others. I truly wish I could show you the beauty of the blessing of God that in turn blesses many. Until you’re there, you’ll never know what you’re missing. May all go well with you and may the beauty and mercy of our Lord and Savior excite you and thrill you in ways that will rock your community. Peace be with you.

12 03 2008
Marianne

I am already blessed. Also, I have given much, and only suffered for it. There are many blessings that are not dependent on the amount of money given.

13 03 2008
Marianne

By the way, the idea that I am missing out on the beauty of the blessing of god because I do not give 10% is an assumption. I have given 10%, 20% and 100% at times. My life was no different then than it is now. Peace to you too.

13 03 2008
gregfish

Marianne, please don’t get all tangled up in knots because of what you assume I assume. Forgive me if I insinuated anything unfair about you. I truly am sorry. My biggest frustration is that your comments all talked around my blog, but never addressed the actual point. While I do agree with the concept of tithing, that itself had absolutely positively nothing to do with the point of the post, hence the title. My true concern is that we all understand that nothing is ours, and that the greatest gift in life is to live our life as a gift to others just as Jesus did. You’re probably doing that already, which explains why you are so richly blessed. We probably agree on more than you think we do, and the stuff we don’t agree on would be sinful for us to argue about (per Jesus’ instruction to the Pharisees regarding law). So, while we may have some uncommon ground, let’s agree that at least we agree with the truly important stuff: that Jesus is Lord, that His resurrection is real, and that we have a commission to carry out and a command to love. I suspect that’s all we need to truly recognize that we’re brothers and sisters together. Forgive me as well if my last note came off as snide – not my intention – but sometimes I don’t see that until afterwards. I am blessed to have had this dialogue with you and trust that we can now go forward united in Christ to do His work. Deal? Thanks!

13 03 2008
Marianne

OK. God bless you

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: