Saturday, January 8, 2011

Tithing - Part 2

So tithing is not a biblical practice or requirement for the New Testament church, why do we give?  Should we give at all?  And what did Jesus teach about giving and how much to give?

Matthew 6:19-21;24 - “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  20 “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;  21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also… 24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

He clearly teaches us that our value in this world is to be set on things above… not on money or possessions.  Children of God are to be a people of single-hearted devotion to God and God alone in all things.  So that is principle one in our effort to have a Biblical doctrine of giving.

Truthfully, if we were going to talk about Biblically following the word “tithing”, Old Covenant tithing, we would need to not only give 10th of our income but also of our land, crops, possessions, etc.  Tithing was a requirement for Jews under Moses in a theocracy.  As I said, most nations still practice a form of tithing today, only now it isn’t collected to show devotion to God, it is collected to run the nation.  We call it taxes.

Now, even though tithing is not a New Covenant requirement, it doesn’t mean that we toss out giving all together.  Not at all.  Tithing, like many other things in Christ, has been replaced with a new principle that we can most accurately define as Grace Giving.

2 Corinthians 9:6-7 - Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  7 Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Paul had instructed them not to be captive to covetousness but to trust God in all things and give FREELY, not under compulsion of Law, but freely.  We are not to give 1.) under obligation nor 2.) under compulsion.  Rather we are to give cheerfully as we purpose in our own hearts.  Paul says that God loves a cheerful giver.

Instead of a legal requirement to tithe, under the New Covenant we have the privilege and opportunity to give to the work of the Lord.  Now, under this covenant God has instituted the local church as being the place you give.  But it is not given to the church even though the church receives it.

When you give, you give it to God.  Truly you give it BACK to God because EVERYTHING you have money and otherwise already belongs to Him to begin with.  Your money, status, talent, time, family.  The church, then, is charged with the duty of stewarding the money received wisely and in a Godly way.  It should all be given to further the work of the church and the furtherance of the Gospel.

How much should we give if 10% is not the mandate?  Ready for this… I don’t know.  That is between you and God.  Each person can determine for themselves what they are going to give.  You are not required to give 10%.  You are, in Christ, encouraged to give freely as you purpose in your heart.  Cheerfully giving to the Lord.

Maybe 10% is what you can give.  Maybe it isn’t.  Maybe you can give 15-20% or maybe 10% is pushing you to the max.  If you are giving and worried that whatever percentage you are giving is more than you can afford, you cannot out give God, so rest knowing that God will provide for your need.  As a Pastor, it doesn’t scare me to teach this because I know that God will provide for the needs of this church regardless.  Giving is not, however, a promise of financial prosperity for you.  Just because you give doesn’t mean God will increase your money.  Sometimes giving of any kind, be it financial or otherwise, should hurt.  How much sacrifice does it take for us to give our time or money or whatever to something that takes little to no effort to do or costs us nothing?

You need to approach your money and say this is all God’s.  All of it.  You need to approach your marriage, kids, job, property, etc… the same way.  This is all God’s.  And so God, how can I use it to BEST glorify you?

All money is God’s, so as you determine what you are to give, seek His will to be sure you are stewarding your money wisely.  If you see this as a way of escape from giving at all, you are being tempted sinfully… Grace frees us from Law so that whatever we do, we do for Christ because of Christ out of our gratitude and worship for Christ.

You should approach your finances this way not only in determining how much you give to the church but also in how you steward the money in other areas.  How big a house should you buy?  Well, how big of a house do you NEED?  What car should I drive?  Well, what needs does your car need to meet for you?  Clothing?  Same question.  All of which are run through the filter first of what best glorifies my Savior in this expense or action?

There is no moral requirement for you to tithe 10% of your income, but, as born again believers, we should DESIRE to show our gratitude by cheerfully giving, as Paul says, “whatever we purpose in our hearts.”

Whatever we work out with God is right for us to give.  Paul doesn’t say that we shouldn’t give at all, in fact he says we should.  But we are under no compulsion, but encouraged to do so cheerfully.  Because we want to, not because we have to.

Now, who should we “give to?

Galatians 6:6 - The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him.

It directs us to financially meet the needs of and support those who are charged with feeding us spiritually.  That in this case would be the Pastor.  That includes also, this church’s ministries because it is your local church body, your local fellowship that is responsible for feeding you.

After you’ve given whatever you give to the church, I think it is good to give to any other source of feeding for us.  There are a couple of ministries that have been invaluable to me as tools of learning and training and Meg and I try to give when we can to them because they have been so beneficial to our feeding and spiritual growth through the years.  It should not take the place of giving to your local body, but it is good to do.

Your first priority in giving is to the local church.  This refers to financial giving.  Giving to the church in this sense does not include your time and service.  I’ve heard people say that they tithe their time to their church.  I think that’s dangerously close to a copout.  On the flip side, giving financially to the church is NOT the same as serving the church either.  Give your time to your church as you can and whatever financial support you can but don’t exchange one for the other.  Anytime your mindset in service or giving is to seek out whatever the bare minimum you can get away with is, you are really only cheating yourself…

Now, thirdly there are things like charitable giving.  That would include special offerings for something (Annie Armstrong, Lottie Moon, love offerings for guests)  Anything that you give over and above whatever you’ve purposes is the amount of your giving to the church but still is received by the church first is considered charitable giving.

Let’s make sure we are clear.  No where in the New Testament are we obligated to tithe.  If I told you that you were I would be not only lying to you but I would be putting a works yoke of legalism on you.  This is a dangerous thing to teach in a way, though it doesn’t scare me… because it could easily backfire on a church.  Some could say, well God directed me to no longer give the 10% that I thought I was obligated to give… God has told me to not give at all.

I can’t determine your number, but know that God knows and so I would encourage you to seek Him in the matter so that your conscience before Him is clear and you can testify before Him that what you are giving is what you can give.

Do I fear that giving will drop off as a result of saying this?  Nope.  I trust God more than that.  God will provide for the needs of this church through the giving of His Children, because true believers will not feel this an escape from giving but now hopefully prayerfully begin to see it as more of an offering of praise and cause for worship rather than a yoke.

God doesn’t bless the person that legalistically tithes.  He blesses the cheerful giver.  God blesses you for giving, not for going back to the old covenant system of tithing.  His blessings may or may not be financial, but He blesses.  And I believe that God will bless me and the ministry He has called me to, again not necessarily financial, because I am not shrinking away from my duty to preach the Word of God, the whole counsel of God, to you truthfully and clearly.

If you are a faithful giver to this church and have just been calling it a tithe because no one had taught you different, that’s ok.  God knew and knows your heart in it.  Your heart is what is important in the giving.  But I would just suggest that this may be one of those areas where our language needs to be cleaned up.

You don’t tithe, you give.  Giving is a gift.  Giving is of your own compulsion.  You don’t owe the church money.  If you owed the money, then it wouldn’t be a gift.   When I pay the bill collectors that I owe money to I never feel like I’m doing them a tremendous favor by paying them.  I feel obligated to pay because I am… I owe them.  And perhaps I even pay them a bit grudgingly, ha!

Show me a person who is thankful to God for saving them and I’ll show you a person who loves the church and desires to be involved in service and in giving what they can to the ministry of the church and the furtherance of the Gospel.

Tithing Revisited (or Tithing - Part 3)

2 comments:

  1. Jason, you have done well in pointing people to the section on generous giving in 2 Corinthians 8-9. While there is tremendous counsel in all the verses, I find that much hinges on two of them. In 8:5, the Macedonians did something totally unexpected. They gave themselves FIRST to God, and then set about to make a commitment of a sacrificial gift. Instead of making up God's mind for him, as some do when they un-prayerfully make a decision to give a certain amount or not give at all, they got humble and honest before the Lord and asked what it was that HE wanted them to do. If anyone had an excuse not to give, it was the Macedonians. But God had other plans. The text implies that God, in his grace, made his will clearly known and the Macedonians simply responded in obedience that resulted in good to others and glory to God.

    The other verse is 9:8. We focus on verse seven and the comment that God loves a cheerful giver. But it's verse eight that is really cause for a joyful heart. "And God is able to make all grace abound unto you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound unto every good work."

    We have no need to fear or worry about giving generously as God directs. He is able to keep on supplying our needs and making it possible for us to give on an increasing scale. It's all about God, anyhow, and like David observed in 1 Chronicles 29, everything we give comes from God's hand in the first place and all we are doing is giving back out of what he has given us.

    Parenthetically, but actually one other key thought, is that these chapters begin and end with a testimony of God's grace - and that's what giving is really all about. God has given us his grace in abundance, and through the instrument of money, we have an opportunity to share his grace with others by way of missions, ministry, evangelism and benevolence. God gives us his saving grace, his securing grace, his sustaining grace, his serving grace and his sharing grace. And often, as we open our hearts and hands in generosity toward others, he allows us to experience his surprising grace.

    And in my opinion, you'll miss out on that with a legalistic 10%.

    Thanks again for a good word.

    ReplyDelete
  2. John, couldn't agree more! Thanks for your contribution!

    ReplyDelete

There was an error in this gadget