Grilling A Sacred Cow: The Tithe and Tithing – Part 3

Hello, again! 

If you haven’t read the first two installments, that probably explains the weird look on your face as I stand over this grill, ice-cold beverage in one hand and a plateful of grilled steak in the other.  If not, then I don’t know why you are looking at me that way… stop it! 

Part 1 can be found here and Part 2 can be found here.  Go read those first if you haven’t already.

Let’s dig right in.

 

Tithing and not tithing:  both sides of the fence.

Over four years ago I was laid off from a very well-paying job and I was a faithful tither.  I never received any checks in the mail, and never received any surprise bills being paid for me.  I still tithed.  Happily, willfully, faithfully.  Even tithing off my unemployment checks.  Two and a half months later, I got the job where I am currently employed.  I hit the streets and the internet hard to find a job.  I have no doubt that God helped me get this job, I’ve been tremendously blessed through this job.  Accepting this job meant that I had to take a pay cut compared to what I used to make (but then again, it was a pay increase from not making any money!), my wife and I applied and went through a home-modification because my income wasn’t enough to support our home payment.  The modification process itself took eighteen months to complete.  During that 18 months, I was late with my house payment once but continued to faithfully tithe.  My wife had to go to work for a while.  We tithed off of that.  We still didn’t receive checks in the mail, or my home loan forgiven, or people paying my bills for me.  We never received financial blessing that we didn’t “have room enough to receive”.  Trust me, I would have loved that!

Since ceasing the practice of tithing in November 2011, I have received multiple increases in my income in the last twenty months.  I’ve been the recipient of multiple paid vacations to resorts through campaigns at work which my team has conquered.  I’ve also been given a brand new laptop and a brand new electric start, push assisted lawn mower.  Yeah, brand new AND given to me, freely.  An opportunity presented itself at my work which provides even more for my family and I was able to get on-board with that.  Why should I get those things if I am not a tither?  I’m no superstar at work and many times I don’t think I “deserve” what I’ve received.  But I’ve still been blessed, it’s definitely not all me.

I would definitely attribute all the blessings in both paragraphs to God’s hand, without a doubt.  The only thing that happened out of the normal were some health concerns and obstacles a few months into the pregnancy and then also surrounding the birth of my son, which we had medical bills for after our insurance paid their part.  You’re not going to try to tell me that we had the medical issues and medical bills with our son because we didn’t tithe, are you?  If so, you might want to check your heart.

I’ve come to see that I get blessed by Him because He loves me, because I’m his son.  His blessings on my life are not determined by how faithful my tithing is.  His goodness, leads me to the waters of repentance and helps me change and renew my mind. 

Just think about it…

 

Practical Applications for ‘tithing’.

There are “practical” applications to tithing, yes, I’ll concede that.  But remember, these are practical applications not spiritual requirements.

I’ll give you two:

Create a savings account!  Take 10% of your income and just put it away.  Don’t touch it, let it build!  This is a great way to save for emergencies, unforeseen expenses, vacations and having cash put away when you want to give to a charity, ministry, etc.  This reminds me of what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 about preparing beforehand.  But I don’t call that tithing, I call it preparing to give so you can give generously according to who you are in Jesus!

Paying down debt is a great reason to use the ‘tithe’ method –  take 10% of your income and attack your debts (above what you are minimally paying).  Again, I don’t call that tithing.  I call it being smart and killing your debts!  If you are able to do that, DO IT.  It’s best to owe nobody anything except to love them, at least that’s what I seem to recall…

 

Miscellaneous thoughts and more piece-meal ramblings on the matter.

Did you know that the poor were exempt from tithing?  I didn’t know that, until a few months ago.  You read that right:  the poor are exempt from tithing under the Law.

Will a man rob God?!?!  This is also found in the much harped on Malachi 3 and I’ve seen so much abuse regarding this scripture!  Basically, the insinuation to the listener when the “robbing God” part of Malachi is brought up is:  if you aren’t given to your church or visiting minister or take your pic of christian television networks (yeah, I’ve heard it used there by big name ‘ministers’.  Almost shot my poor 19″ TV too!) then you are robbing God.  Context?  Who cares about context!  Pfft!  (sarcasm implied here)

Did you know that the tithe was a tithe of food, not currency?  I didn’t know that until I started reading and researching.

You have to realize that no matter how faithfully you tithe, you aren’t being generous with your giving.  You are merely meeting a requirement.  If you want to do the 10% as a standard for giving, that’s fine.  Just don’t think you are entitled to some blessing because you are meeting an old testament/old covenant requirement.

I understand that the income which comes from tithing and giving goes to help pay for mortgage expenses, property taxes, utilities, salaries, etc.  But, is this really the way?  The church doesn’t live or die based on how much people give, a church building and the institutional church might, but THE Church (His Body of Believers) and the Gospel of Jesus lives forever based on what God gave us in the form of Jesus.  If a handful of believers want to “own” a particular plot of land, why are you passing the expense on to the rest of the body of believers?  It is a common pattern that when giving/tithing goes down, one of the pastors at any given church on any given Sunday, will have a teaching or a ‘heart to heart’ or ‘family time/fireside chat’ or a moment of ‘transparency’ type message that talks about the importance of giving.  I’ve heard too many of these in the past ten years.  Why is this done?  Is this really the way? 

Again, I personally think that we aren’t seeing generosity and giving like the early church did in the book of Acts because of the tithe requirement that is being held over the heads of Christians today. 

We aren’t being taught that we have also been made in the image of God in his generosity.  We have settled for the ‘safe’ requirement of knowing how much to give instead of the ‘dangerous’ method of giving as we determine in our hearts to give (which means to give not only as you are led, but as you are moved to give).  It’s a dangerous thing to give according to who you are in Jesus.  I’ve been learning that.  Because giving like that requires a generosity that isn’t based on anyone else’s performance.  You go to a restaurant, for example, and instead of mentally taking away money from your server with every mistake or minute that she is late with the food – instead you give generously no matter how bad his or her service was.  Because it is not about her performance, it is about who YOU are in Christ!  Speaking of restaurants, did you know that Christians are among the WORST tippers?  Your servers (in most states) make less than minimum wage because their job allows them to collect tips.  Be a blessing to these people, give according to who you are, unless you are an asshole, then make sure to leave a BIG tip to make up for the grief you caused your server.

Tithing isn’t mentioned as a practice in the New Testament, only giving, and giving generously.  This giving is a reflection of the abundant nature that we have been recreated in: the image of our generous father.

Nowhere does Paul remind his Gentile converts that they need to tithe.  He gets more angry at people trying to make his Gentile converts observe the Law!  Nowhere in the book of Acts when the believers willingly pooled their resources did the Apostles remind them of the law to tithe.  Time and again the argument is made to come out of dead works of the Law.  (See more of this below)

If someone comes to you, stressed because they are over their head in bills to pay, they don’t see a way out, do you ask them if they are tithing?  If so, don’t you think it to be a cruel thing to ask them if they are tithing?  And if they aren’t, to point to that as the cause for their problems?  “I’m sorry to hear about all these problems Jim.  Tell me, are you a tither?  No?  Well, that might be a good reason why all this stuff is happening.  You see, I’m a tither and God has always blessed me….”   Isn’t that cruel?  Where is your compassion and love?

Redeemed from the Law or not?  You can’t have it both ways here.

One of THE biggest things to consider is whether or not the Law applies to us.  To answer that, you need to consider what the purpose of the Law and Scripture is.  Both the words of Jesus and Paul agree that the Law does one thing:  The Law points us to Christ!   Paul says it is our “tutor” (even to Gentiles) to bring us to Christ, once in Christ it is useless.  Jesus says that the Scriptures & Law “testify of Him”.  Personally, if Jesus (pre-cross) and Paul (post-cross)are agreeing on this subject, I’d pay attention and leave whatever your pastor/evangelist/teacher/etc says in the dust.  And when Jesus said “Do not think I came to destroy the Law  or the Prophets.  I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.”, He meant that.  He did  fulfill it.  It is finished…in so many ways!!  Or do you think that He didn’t do a complete job in fulfilling the requirements of the Law?  The Cross changed everything.

You can’t have it both ways: choosing what to observe in the Law and what to throw away.  Going back to the Law requires you to fulfill all that is within the Law.  Look it up.  There are some very, very grim commands and issues we need to deal with if we are still under the Law, so I’d think about that one carefully.  Also, the majority of “us” Christians come from a Gentile/non-jew background – which means we were never under the Law in the first place!

You can’t have it both ways:  choosing to observe the Law and be in Christ.  Going back to the Law makes you fall from Grace!  Look it up. 

These issues are as old as the church in regards to the Law vs Grace in Christ, and I’m not the “best” voice on this subject.   I would highly recommend (as a start) reading the Gospel according to John and the Epistles to the Romans; to the Galatians and also even the book of Acts. 

Don’t take my word for it.  Look it up.

 

A few more thoughts…

Hopefully this has given you pause to think and assess what you do and why you do it.  This doctrine on tithing is a WORLDWIDE issue in churches large and small and abused by larger ministries and pastors just as much as smaller ones.  Just watch 15 minutes of any christian television’s “beg-a-thon”, tell me with a straight face that they aren’t manipulating scripture to make people give.

I assume that I was taught tithing the same ways you were: by pastors, guest speakers and leaders who passed this stuff down from where they got it:  their leaders, speakers, pastors, etc.  And then it is reinforced by coincidental blessings that seem to prove what we have heard.  So it isn’t a personal attack, or a question of integrity on the part of those teaching it.  It’s only a matter of integrity if a leader teaches tithing in this way knowing that it doesn’t reconcile with what Jesus did for us and does it out of fear of the congregation no longer giving or fear of losing a paycheck.  Is that a reflection of God?  Did he refuse to give us Himself in the form of Jesus because we might not come to Him?  Mmmm nope. 

Again, the great majority of people who practice this are doing it with a sincere heart, even I did it with sincere heart.  So why mess with that?  Well, because these sincere people help further the practice and belief in it.  I did.  The Body is free, so should its individual members.  This doctrine binds, it doesn’t set free.

It is very frustrating and heartbreaking thing to have a fellow sister come to me, asking what to do because she wants to tithe and her husband is against it because they couldn’t afford it.  She tells me that she wants to give, but she doesn’t want to cause strife between her and her husband.  So I assure her that God sees her heart and that he desires unity between them more than tithing and that they aren’t going to be cursed if they don’t tithe.  I go on to assure her that God will show her ways to give like she desires to give and love and honor her husband at the same time, because the giving she wants to do is from the heart.  Then I go into the Sunday morning service a few moments later and the message is about tithing and basically kills what I have said.  What is she to think?  I’ve just told her she isn’t curse, and the pastor now is saying she is under a curse if she isn’t tithing.  Who is she to believe?   One answer leads her to freedom in Christ, the other from an authority figure, promising blessing but leads to chains.  I haven’t a clue what she eventually decided to do.

If you would like to read one of the amazing articles that I came across during my research phase, check this out!

 

A few final questions in closing…

What does this freedom mean for the Body of Christ?  For you? 

What does that mean to you, knowing that you are free from tithing and are now able to give freely, not according to a requirement, but according to who you are in Christ? 

What will you do with this information?  Does it change the way you view giving?

Would you prefer the abundant life-giving works of the Spirit; a natural by-product of the new creation with you?  Or would you prefer the dead, faithless works of the Law; having written requirements that will always be showing you how you don’t measure to the righteous standard? 

Hopefully this has helped illuminate some issues for you.  Remember, questions are good.  Take these things to the Father.  Take them to Jesus.  He is the One who promised you that His Spirit would lead us into all truth and not mislead us.  Take it to Him.

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