Among the Barbarians…

I’m done. Finally. The withdrawal period from Churchianity ran its course awhile ago.

If your church teaches things I don’t agree with, I don’t care. You will believe what you want to believe and you will see what you want to see. I no longer feel a need to create a blog post regarding something that I see as “incorrect” with the church. I no longer feel the urge to engage in an argument over the same stuff all the time on Facebook. What’s funny to me is that I notice people still argue over the same things: tithing, worship, dress code, alcohol, cussing, legalism, etc., ad infinitum.

Literally, same shit, different day.

It reminds me of the song lyrics of “What it’s worth” which go, “Singing songs and carrying signs. Mostly say, hooray for our side”. That’s what it feels like and I just don’t care anymore. It’s a big joke and I’m not laughing anymore. Not even going to listen to the same old lines.

Literally zero fucks given.

 

Here’s the thing: I want the real thing. The real Christianity. I haven’t found it. I’ve seen glimmers of it, like the sun being reflected off the water in a fast flowing stream. Here one moment, gone the next, here again, gone again. The closest thing I have come to in regards to a real “picture” of our Lord and Savior, our Elder Brother, our One True Reflection of the Father, is in the book “Beautiful Outlaw” and in the audio series “The Life of Jesus”, both by John Eldredge. On the whole, they are a “retelling” of the Gospels. It’s the most riveting description of Jesus that makes me want the real thing. I’m not saying it’s 100% accurate, either. There are things I don’t necessarily agree with him on in his writings, or teachings, however he has been a great help over the years. This isn’t a book review. This isn’t even to praise John Eldredge. I mention those things here on the off-chance that you even care about what I am getting at.

You see, I don’t see that Jesus being discussed and shared in the Institutional Church. When I was a leader, I tried to bring that Jesus in. Some took to it, the majority didn’t. They wanted gentle lover, school boy, creepy religious Jesus. Enough, it’s not about that.

Inside and outside the Institutional Church has profited me about the same, spiritually, within being outside profiting me slightly more. Why? All I know is that I know enough to know that I have more planks in my eyes than I thought I did when I was in the IC.

Let me try it this way.

The early converts to Christianity from Ireland used to call the Holy Spirit, ‘The Wild Goose’. Because the call of the Wild Goose was haunting and to follow it over the moors and foggy areas into the Wild could be dangerous. Forgive me if I am slightly inaccurate here, just stay with me. In ancient Greece, the term “barbarian” could refer to anyone of a different culture. In Roman times, it was used for many peoples, Germanics, Celts and Gauls to name a few. They were the people “outside” the protection and borders of the empire. Outside the city gates.

Those outside the gates of the IC are barbarians.

I don’t hear any semblance of the call of the Wild Goose inside the borders of the “kingdom” of the IC. Once outside the city walls and in barbarian territory, venturing ever outward, away from the IC, I could barely, barely hear it carried on the wind.

Does the word picture make sense?

I want the real thing. The real Jesus of Nazareth. I know more “of” Him than I actually “know” Him. Do you know him or are you just leaning on your theological degree, or your latest euphoric worship experience? Just because we know His words in the Gospels doesn’t mean we know him. Do you know him like you know your best friend, or your close neighbor, or your brother?

Isn’t that the offer? To know Him?

Why would He say, “I never knew you.”, if that wasn’t the offer.

And honestly, it should scare the living shit out of us that we do not know Him!

I think I am looking for a different kingdom, a different city. Where the battle hardened soldier and the young choir boy can agree on the character and nature of Christ, because they know Him. Where the career criminal and the old lady who sits in the second row of your church can relate to each other about their experience of Jesus, because they know Him.

It’s probably out there, amid the lands of the barbarians. And I am content being out here in the wild, among barbarians for now. To paint another word picture: Their lives are unfettered, their communities are close-knit, their words are true, their mead is good, their feasting is magnificent and their tattoos are pretty damn epic.

The truth is that none of us escape this life alive. The only one that we know of that has come back from the grave is the one we place our mustard seed of faith in. And all we know is that He is preparing a place for us.

That’s it.

You and I have to deal with this black wall of Mortality that creeps ever closer to us each and every day. Not a single one of us knows the day that we will meet our end. We just know it’s coming. And if we are truly honest with each other and ourselves. We would admit that none of us, not a single one, can see past that curtain. You don’t get to. I personally suspect anyone who boasts of being able to see through that curtain as trying to manipulate or sell me something.

If He truly is preparing a place for us, then we need to know him. Really know him. He would be our only glimpse of what is over there and only because He came back.

I can’t settle for anything less than actually knowing Him.

Really.

I can’t waste my time on anything less.

I won’t.

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Movie Review: “Will A Man Rob God?”

A movie caught the eye of my wife and I a few weeks back.

Title:  “Will a man rob God?”

Description: “Corey faithfully donates money to his church.  But when the pastor begins to flaunt wealth, Corey questions the church’s intentions and investigates.”

Now to be fair, Netflix doesn’t do a great job anyways with the descriptions of the movies, well at least on the streaming subscription service we have.  One wonders how they get their movie descriptions…

“Johnson, here I need a synopsis of this movie STAT.  Don’t watch it, we don’t have time, just look at the cover, flip through and watch the first five minutes and have it on my desk in the next thirty minutes!”   This is kind of how I envision the person who has the job of putting the descriptions on each movie.

However, this one is so far gone, its unreal.  So I did some looking to see what other sources have as the description.

Convinced that his pastor is getting rich off of the donations of his congregation, lifelong Christian Corey begins to ponder the prospect of robbing the very same church he has attended since childhood.

Yeah…no.  This isn’t a bank robbery type movie.

Good ole’ Wally World states that the below description is from the publisher:

Corey and his family grew up listening to their pastor preach about the importance of donating money to the church. But the more they give to the church, the richer its pastor seems to get. Confused about the church’s intentions, Corey decides to take matters into his own hands and investigate how far a man is willing to go before sinking to the ultimate low: robbing God Himself.

Closer….but not quite.  This is a similar description to the Netflix online description, VS., the streaming description.

So, after about a couple of weeks in our “list” of movies to watch, we watched it on Monday.  

Now, most of you know that I can appreciate the grilling of a good sacred cow every now and then.  So you can understand my disappointment when this movie doesn’t even come close to any of the descriptions available for the movie!

First, this movie is actually a play that is recorded like a movie, with cameramen all over the place.  Seriously, there is one shot where you see one of the other cameramen on the opposite side of the stage.  At first, my wife and I thought that we were watching a play put on by the characters as part of the plot and after about five minutes it would turn into a movie…nope. 

But, that’s O.K., my wife and I like plays and musicals.  So we endured.

It starts off well enough and for over half of the movie, we were wondering, “Which way are they going to go with this?”.  My wife and I kept going back and forth on whether or not this was going to be a neutral movie on the subject of tithing and the prosperity message or if it was going to lean for it or against it.  The movie does after all, take its title from the famous Malachi scriptures that people like to use to support tithing.

SPOILERS AHEAD

The father character, has a gambling addiction and has basically drained the family finances.  The stronger mother character suffers a health issue and is in the hospital for a good part of the play (offstage, they don’t show any hospital scenes, which is ok for the format) which puts further strain on the family.  Corey, after trying to carry the burden of his family by taking three jobs, working some eighty hours a week to help pay the bills, finally gives in to an offer from his triple-platinum selling rapper friend to go on tour for six weeks with him for $150K, and it is looked down upon because of the rap stars “moral choices”, yet, paradoxically, the scripture used about “the wealth of the wicked is laid up for the just” that is used in many prosperity circles isn’t even used to justify Corey doing what he can to get his family out of debt (See Proverbs 13).  Rather it is viewed as taking matters into his own hands, except he was offered the job and didn’t go to his friend to beg for money or a job.  The sister character, who seems to be the one who “having done all to stand, keeps on standing” in her faith, wins a contract with Microsoft for $30 Million dollars and one of her final lines is how she “knows” she will automatically give 10% of it to her church (the pastor is standing right there when she says that, of course…what did Jesus say about making a show of your giving?) but “she doesn’t know what to do with the rest”??

HELLO!  Your family is in over their heads!  You live in a terrible neighborhood, your house is falling apart!  Your dad almost died from his gambling debts, he needs his debts settled before they come after you too and ask for “interest” because you know they will hear about your nice payday.  Your father needs to come to terms with and get treatment for his addiction.  Your mom was hospitalized for a good while and you KNOW how much that costs, almost ALL of your own bills are past due.  And there is at least one free-loader in your house…  None of that is dealt with, or implied.

God “comes through” and “proves” He is good on his word of prosperity and they all lived happily ever after…

Long story short:  After meandering down the middle of the road for quite a while, it quickly turns into a very…VERY weak propaganda piece for the prosperity gospel as they wrap up the movie at the end.

There are a few great questions in the play about hardship and faith that are brought up and even a good theme about trusting God, but they don’t follow through with them in a consistent way to have made it worthwhile to bring them up.  There are even some funny moments, but the entire thing is so wrapped up in trying to make a great case for the prosperity message that it fails on all sides.

There are more holes, as the saying goes, than a slice of swiss cheese.

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.

Grilling A Sacred Cow: The Tithe and Tithing – Part 2

In Part 1, I gave you my back story regarding the research, questions, feelings and other stuff I had regarding this doctrine and a little bit of my experience when I took the journey out and away from this doctrine; we ended the post by diving into the “Malachi 3 Model”, which is constantly used to “prove” this doctrine and “true”.  This post will explore more of the teachings than the last one did. 

My thoughts in both of these posts, honestly, aren’t “original” in any sense of the word.  I’m not the first and definitely not the last to write about this subject, I am just another voice in the chorus.  Hopefully my “voice” helps those who are looking for answers.  Hopefully, the way I write and the way I put this blog together helps people think through things like this and gives them courage to dig in and question the long-held beliefs, doctrines or traditions that they or their church cling to, but don’t really understand why..  Time and time I’ve said it already and this blog is relatively young:  Questions are good and you can find Life in them.  Take these things to the Father.  He will show you Truth.

So, without further ado… let’s throw some more steak on the grill, shall we?

Using Abraham as our model for tithing:

I use to be one of the guys up on the podium who would try to smack his (very…VERY) amateur theological chops at using Abraham as an example of tithing before the law.  I would do this to try to “prove” that the tithing requirement should be followed using the “Law of First Mention”.  The biblical account is found in Genesis 14, the text referenced is found in Genesis 14: 18 – 20.

The “Law of First Mention” is basically a way to interpret Scripture through looking at the first mention or first occurrence of a certain subject in Scripture and it states that the first mention/occurrence establishes an unchangeable pattern and sets the tone for the rest of Scripture to be interpreted.  Another way of looking at it is this:  There is where it is first mentioned, that is God’s mind and final word on the matter.

Since we Christians are blessed with Abraham’s blessings and he tithed before the Law and since good old Melchizedek is a type and shadow of Jesus, then we should do as Abraham did and tithe…right?

Now, I do find validity in the “Law of First Mention” regarding other things, including giving (as a quick example – Abel gave to God by faith and Cain didn’t, thus demonstrating that God approves of our actions when they are motivated and done freely in faith) however I do not believe it is being used correctly when it comes to the principle of the tithe or tithing with Abraham.

What I have learned:

It is true that Abraham tithed before it was ever required by the Old Covenant Law.  I have read different viewpoints talking about how Abraham’s tithing was based on old arab or old heathen/pagan traditions and although interesting, I didn’t dig too deep into that.  The point is, he did give a tenth.  Yes, his account of giving a tenth was the first mentioned in Scripture.

However…

One important thing that is left out of using the example of Abraham tithing is:  WHAT he tithed and HOW he did it. 

Go back and read it for yourselves. 

First, Abram went to war.  Whether this is important or not, he was still being called Abram, not Abraham.  Although God was leading him out, He had yet to make a covenant with Abram and change his name to Abraham.  Back to the first point:  Abram went to war.

The story in Genesis 14 goes like this:  A group of kings (Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Kedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim – Gen 14:1) basically made an alliance with their armies and went to war against another group of kings (Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela aka Zoar – Gen 14:2).  Four kings against five.  Apparently the second group had been harassed or “under the thumb” of at least one of the kings for about twelve years when they decided enough was enough and revolted in the thirteenth year after gathering together and joining armies in the Valley of Siddim(Gen 14: 3-4 – which apparently is where the southern part of the Dead Sea is now located).  From what I can tell (based on the short account in Gen 14) , the first group went on a rampage defeating other territories and then came back to wage war in the Valley with the group they originally had set their sights on (Gen 14: 5-9).  Battle ensued, the first group was the victor and it is mentioned that they took all of the possessions, food, and equipment of the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, including Lot, Abram’s nephew and everything Lot owned also (Gen 14: 10-12).

Now, this is where Abram goes to war.  The rest of this account is Genesis 14: 13-16.  He wasn’t active in this fight until they captured his family, someone came and told him about all that happened.  Abram decided to fight and did so in a manner that the kings didn’t expect:  he fought what would we now call a “guerilla war”, he broke his army up into small groups and attacked by night.  Makes sense, an effective way for a smaller armed group to maintain momentum and minimal losses is basically to attack quickly and by stealth under cover of night.  It worked, because the armies kept running away and Abram’s little band of ancient guerillas kept chasing them down until they recovered all of the plunder, his nephew Lot along with his possessions and apparently all the women and people who had been captured.

This is what sets the stage for Melchizidek and the exchange that Abram made.  Melchizidek blesses Abram and then Abram gives Melchizidek a tenth or tithe.

Second, Abram gave a tenth of the spoils and plunder of that battle, not from his own income or property.  Some translations actually say “Abram gave him a tenth of all the recovered plunder” in Gen 14: 20, where some translations just say “and he gave him a tenth of all”, normally the latter is used over the former.  Obviously you could see why, “a tenth of all” is a lot easier to use than “a tenth of all the recovered plunder”.

Third, he gave all of it away…all of it, not just the 10%.  Read further into the text.  He gave the tithe to good ol’ Melchizedek and then gave the other 90% back to the King of Sodom (Gen 14: 21 – 24)

Lastly, it was a one time thing.  It has never been taught, and I can not find (although I may be wrong) another recorded instance of Abram or Abraham giving a tenth to a priest or any other holy man of God.

If you want to use that example and the “Law of First Mention”:  Go to war and bring all the spoils back, then give your 10% to a local church or holy man and then freely give the 90% away to a crooked politician of your choosing (Crooked, you say?  You remember the King of Sodom, right?)

I don’t see many Christians running off to follow that example, do you?

Ok, how about an easier example:  Take your bonus from work (you worked hard or “fought” for that), or tax return check, or lottery winnings and then give 10% to your church and 90% to the Porn Industry.

Any takers?

Personally, I would opt to follow Abel’s example and strive to give to God freely and by faith, faith made the difference, not what he brought according to Hebrews 11.

You get my point.  Moving on.

Using “experience” testimonies to back up and reinforce the practice of tithing:

“Test me” is what God says in Malachi 3 (yeah…we are going back to Malachi 3 for a moment or two).  We hear from the pulpit how this is the ‘only’ Scripture that God says that we should test him to be faithful to his promises.  So we do.  We don’t tithe (or aren’t tithing yet) and then we decided to give this tithing thing a shot (or start back up) mainly because there is some sort of financial need or crisis in our lives, like needing a job or needing to pay the bills.  We start to tithe and we get blessed through some channel or another.

It is a simple formula:  A + B = C. 

God wants to bless you financially (but can’t because you are withholding the tithe from him) + you start tithing = You get blessed.  It’s not coincidence, this is God’s blessing on your life for being faithful in your tithing.  This is the message and this is what we are taught.

What I have learned:

Is this really the Scripture we want to test God on?  Doesn’t that say something about ourselves if we want to test him on giving to get blessings instead of testing him on the truths of the New Covenant? 

Just curious.

As far as coincidence in the tithing and your blessing that followed:  No, it isn’t coincidence.  Yes, it is. 

Wait…what? 

Yeah, I’m having my steak and eating it too (see what I did there?).

It is no coincidence that God is blessing you, HE LOVES YOU, you’re his kid and he is trying to raise you into adulthood!

It is a coincidence that you were blessed right after you started tithing.

Ok, think this through with me for a moment.  God is your Father now, we have been given sonship and our very spirits cry out “Abba!” – or Papa or Dad/Daddy, if you will.  According to Jesus’s own words, he knows what we need before we even ask it or before we even know that we need it right?  Isn’t that what the Scriptures tell us?  And as a Father, he is trying to help us grow up into the full stature of Christ, basically grow up as an adult in our faith and walk with Him.  Let that sink in a moment.  Reread that if you need to.  Okay?  Good.

With that thought in mind, isn’t it possible, that God was already working on that need of yours because he knew about it before you did and was delivering it to you anyway when you decided to tithe?  Maybe, as a father, he was watching and waiting to see if you would come to him and ask him for his advice on what to do?

Why would he wait to help you out until you decided to finally hand over that money or that job or that blessing? 

The Scripture doesn’t say that he knows what we need before we ask or think of it, but holds it back until we tithe to him!  Remember, God works through people.  People get in the way all the time.  That’s a reason why “your blessing” would’ve been held up in the first place.  By the way, if the blessing is really “your blessing” because you tithed, so God is “obligated” to do it…then…was it really from God? 

Isn’t any gift from God undeserved and unearned; freely given?  Just a thought…

Further, if God is our Father and trying to help us become adults in our faith and Walk with HIm, why would he want us dependent on tithing as a catalyst for him to provide?  I thought he wanted us to have faith in Him, not a regulation?  Wouldn’t faith in Him spur us to go to our Father and ask Him for his thoughts or what to do in any given scenario?

But, but Tom!  I wasn’t working before I started tithing and then God blessed me with this job after I started tithing. 

Did He really do it because you were giving him money that you could barely afford to give him?  Maybe it was because you had been hitting the streets for the last six months with job applications and he had been trying to guide you to a certain job (because he loves you and knows what you need) and you finally applied for it?  Remember, he works through people.

No, no Tom, you don’t understand!  God has put tithing in as a way for us to be blessed and if we don’t tithe, we can’t expect any financial blessing to come our way.

Ok…  besides the fact that God already fulfilled this requirement, that we are redeemed from the curse of the Law and it was never intended for us since we are not under the Law?  He didn’t fulfill the Law and then “reinstitute” certain things…that sounds a bit more like another religion I know about outside of Christianity.

So let me get this straight, if I am supposed to be the picture and model of God to my children, should I expect them to give me things before I bless them?  I am their father!  I shower love, attention and all sorts of blessings on them because they are my children!   Yes, they disobey and sometimes that disobedience gets in the way of me blessing them, there are consequences for their actions after all, I am trying to help them grow up.  But that doesn’t take away from the fact that I want to give them everything I can.  Sometimes, I bless them in spite of their disobedience because I’ve already planned on blessing them; because blessing them isn’t based on their actions but on my love for them!

Why does God have to “wait” until you bless Him before He blesses you?

Okay, let’s take a break here.  Looks like my remaining thoughts will be put into another installment.

Woohooo!  Hooray for longwindedness!

Enjoy your steak and I will see you in a few days with Part 3!

Grilling A Sacred Cow: The Tithe and Tithing – Part 1

Ahhhhh, the tithe… this brings me back.

Let us start with a little story. 

When I started to question things, one “big” doctrine that stuck out was the doctrine taught about tithing.  This was the first sacred cow that I decided to throw on the grill over in Facebook land before I eventually came to WordPress.  I decided upon this topic because, well, it was taught every Sunday at the churches that I have called home.

Every.

Single.

Sunday.

Without fail.

Truth be told, it is taught practically every time the church doors were open, no matter the day!

Truth be told, you can’t escape DayStar TV or TBN or local christian radio without seeing nor hearing some pastor or evangelist preaching on it, or worse, using the same principles and scriptures during their beg-a-thons.

For the sake of “intellectual honesty”, I think it is very important for you to know that as long as I have had a church “home” I have been what is known as a “faithful tither”.  Every single paycheck that I have received, I have given 10% or more (which then, is technically not a tithe, since tithing is 10%..but still) of my gross income without blinking an eye – it never was hard to start, i just did it.  I believed in tithing.  I even took up offerings and taught about it during the “offering time” on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evening church, even when I was having questions about it.  I faithfully gave my tithe, for ten years, every paycheck until November 2011.  I was even one of those ‘crazies’ who would tithe off of their federal and state tax returns and even challenge the congregants to do the same!  If one paid attention closely in the last six months of me taking up the tithes and offerings, they would have noticed that my approach changed from staying in line with the Law and teaching/preaching tithing to just thanking people for wanting to give. 

So, hopefully that settles any questions of whether or not I’m just finger-pointing.

I’m not here to argue or attack anyone.  What this is, simply, is me telling you what I’ve learned and why I no longer believe in it, do with it what you will.

I would also like you to know that as I dug into this doctrine and began to come to conclusions contrary to what my pastors, leaders and favorite ministers taught; I struggled and felt ungrateful, very ungrateful for everything that my local church body has done for me and my family. 

Why would I feel this way, well, lets face it: tithing is more than likely the largest stream of income for any church

Unfortunately, the church (read: most institutional churches) depends on the faithful tithing and giving of its congregants in order to operate the way they do – like it or not, this dependency is a problem.  Some I’m sure will think I am trying to attack and take away the paychecks of the good people who operate the local churches.  If you believe that, well, that is on you, not me.  Maybe you should consider why exactly you are reacting the way you are?

As time went on, I read some impressive pieces regarding the subject of tithing, sometimes articles would even articulate almost perfectly what I was wondering.  I asked a handful of people their thoughts and opinion on the matter.  I’ve spoken to some different ministers about the subject to get their perspective but I have purposefully not asked those dependent on the system of tithing.  Hopefully, you can understand why.

Truth be told, as I started to uncover and deconstruct a lot of what I believe true about this topic, on top of feeling ungrateful, I was also afraid of being labeled a doubter or divisive or having “a spirit of division” if I raised a question or spoke up.  Getting into verbal matches with people is not my first option and being “pushed to the side”, silenced or disregarded didn’t sound very nice either.  I was also afraid of my viewpoint rendering me ‘incapable’ of service in the local church body.  I wanted to help people and at the time I thought the only “holy” way to do that was inside the church walls, under some sort of “covering” or “approval” of the leaders and pastors.  Well, all that fear has come and gone; the price has been paid and I do not look back wishing I could change it.  Thankfully I didn’t get burned at the stake, but taking these positions and asking questions has come at a cost to both my wife and I.   I no longer serve in the local church we called home, the choice was mine and I made it.  We rarely see anyone from our old church now.  People we thought were close friends, or even close as family.  All gone.  If we run into them, it is awkward and I get an empty “we miss you” from them.  I say thank you, but never return the false sentiment.

By taking this position, I have deliberately placed myself in a rough spot with those in the institution known as ‘the church’.  I’m not encouraging less giving, I am encouraging not being bound to the Law which actually frees Christians to give more!  The problem with this viewpoint (I guess it’s a problem if you are dependent on the tithe as your income) is that it frees Christians to give wherever the Spirit of God leads them and more than likely, it might not be to a church building! (GASP!)  If you want to give to an institution, that’s fine by me!  Give generously, just don’t give because you think that you’ll be cursed if you don’t or because you need to meet a requirement or expectation of an already fulfilled law.  More on that later.

By the time I published that note over in FB-land, I had been chewing on this subject, taking notes, reading articles, looking at scripture and occasionally asking people for their input for a good amount of time, I’d say close to 11 months.  I had stopped tithing altogether in November 2011 as a little “test” of what I will share below.  I published the note on a Saturday, 09/22/2012 to be exact and it was the product of writing, re-writing, chewing on it, pondering, questioning and even just letting it sit and simmer a bit since that last November when I stopped tithing altogether.  It was a mixed bag of reactions, however I was greatly and gratefully surprised by the outpouring of support, love and encouragement from other believers for taking this stand and putting my thoughts out there.  If you are reading this, I am still grateful to each and every one of you!

One reaction was very telling, straight “from the top” in the leadership chain.  If you have a smart phone this might not apply, but us-folk who have more ‘humble’ mobile devices get multiple text messages if a text is usually over a certain number of characters.  It was the morning after, Sunday morning, and I woke up bleary-eyed to the sound of my phone receiving a text message.  Before I could open my eyes, the text message ring went again…and then four more times.  It was six continuous texts from the pastor’s wife of the church we used to go to.  She was upset to say the least, at my humble version of a 99 Thesis regarding tithing.  She ran the gauntlet, saying everything from how I was very gifted and smart to then coupling that “compliment” with how the devil wants to use my brains and gifts for his purposes; to then accusing me of trying to destroy everything I once loved with ministry and also going so far as telling me that I had unresolved issues with leadership and that she would like to have a meeting with me.  Which meant her and her husband (the head pastor).

Like Han Solo says in Star Wars:  “Must’ve hit pretty close to the mark to get her all riled up like that, huh, kid?”

Believe it or not, I took the “high road” and messaged her back, assuring her that I wasn’t trying to destroy anything and that I wouldn’t mind meeting with them.  I explained that at the time (which is true) I was preparing for something important at work, which was taking much of my free time (it was) and that I should be available after the middle of October, closer to the end of the month.  We didn’t go to church that morning but decided to hang back.  We came off and on over the next few weeks, we did have an infant son to deal with anyhow.  The “appointed time” came where I was available.  It was a Sunday morning at church and she approached us to see “how we were doing” and then asked if we were still available.  I told her that my wife and I were available and we agreed that they would get in contact with us for a meeting.

The next time I would hear from either of them was in February when the Pastor called to “catch up” with me and see “where we had been”.

Crazy times…

Well, that is the back story. 

The following is my revision of the original article.  So, I hope you find this helpful and freeing.  Is it ironic that I hope it is helpful and freeing yet, this is a really, really long post about what I have learned/observed? 

Well if you read it all: thank you. 

I no longer believe in Tithing.

Yeah, I said it. 

It’s true:  I do not believe in the doctrine of tithing as it is currently being taught in churches the world over.

This is what I am currently seeing and understanding Scripture to really say.  Maybe you’ve been having questions about practices or theological stances at your church.  Maybe a constant question you have is:

Is what I am seeing taught/preached/and even practiced by myself lining up with what I am understanding, seeing and learning in Scripture?

Maybe this issue is the exact one you are struggling with.  Hopefully, this will help you.

Remember, questions are good.

From what I understand, the only way for a believer to ‘rightly divide the word’ is by The Word, Jesus Christ; by dividing what is Old Covenant vs what is New Covenant, by understand that yes, ‘all scripture’ is given to us but no, not all scripture is for us to obey.  If the scripture doesn’t point to Jesus, then it’s either being interpreted incorrectly, or it’s not for me to pay attention to.  Don’t take my word on that, Jesus said that to the Pharisees about the Scriptures job is to point to Him (you can find that in the Gospel According to John).

Anywho, back to the subject at hand. 

Tithing is clearly an old covenant requirement. 

Remember, I used to teach it and preach it and faithfully practiced what I preached and from my current understanding of Scripture, I admit that I was wrong in teaching it and believing in it

Now, it is very important, very important that you understand I am not attacking people or a particular person.  Most people who believe in this are very sincere, very good people.  They are practicing this out of a genuine sincerity to want to please God and “do good” by Him.  It’s not the people I am “going after”, I am deconstructing the teaching.  Which will, I hope, help these sincere believers to be more of a blessing to the world and their local communities than they currently might be.  Anywho…

I cannot see how tithing is actually “Biblical” for Christians in light of the New Covenant made by Jesus Christ – its Biblical for Jews under the Law, but not for me – I have always and will always remain a Gentile – the Law was never meant for me.  It’s only purpose for me would be to show me up and reveal my need for a Savior (look to how high Jesus returned the bar of the Law), encourage and entice sin to blossom in my life (look to Paul’s writings) and then point me to the Savior (again look to Jesus’s words on this one too). 

I personally think the great majority of these genuine and sincere believers are misled regarding tithing, not out of their own doing, but out of traditional teachings that have been passed on from one believer to the next, from one pastor/preacher/teacher/evangelist to the next from one Christianity 101 Membership class to the next.  For some reason or another, the connections aren’t made and they just assume that these teachings must be correct without really questioning it themselves.  I did the same thing.  Its hard questioning the understanding of those you love and respect.  So, again, I’m not trying to vilify any person who currently preaches or teaches the tithe (teaches it while knowing the things I share might be a whole other ball o’ wax…) or even practices it.  Just because someone has an incorrect mindset or mentality, doesn’t necessarily make them the enemy.  Remember, we are called to renew our minds.  Which means changing the ways we think, our old mindsets and mentalities, changing or renouncing our old traditions that render the words of Scripture useless. 

So, let’s cut some steaks off this cow and get to grilling!

Tithing as it is taught today – The Malachi Model:

When tithing is taught in the church today (remember the back story I shared earlier) it is usually taught that we should give 10% to God and then live off of the 90%.  Many times, it is taught that it should be 10% of our gross income, not net.  That is what I’ve always done, and even taught.  This 10% is your tithe, tithe literally means “tenth” and anything over and above it is considered an offering.  We are taught that we should give both of these cheerfully, happily, looking at them as a form of worship.  It is also taught that tithing enables God to bless us and to remove curses that are on our lives and pour out blessings that we don’t have room enough to receive.  This is usually backed up by the famous scripture in Malachi 3, it is also backed up by testimony after testimony of how one person wasn’t tithing and then they did tithe and then God blessed them.

I have a really, really hard time with this method of teaching and ‘proving’ that tithing is what we ‘should’ do and that its required.  I suspect that one of the reasons we don’t see free-flowing, community changing, overly abundant giving like in the book of Acts and in the epistles is because the law of tithing is being held over our heads and being taught as obligatory.  So we give 10%, doing our duty and then we rarely, if ever, give to anything else unless it’s through the channels of our local church.

What I have learned:

From my reading of Scripture, Malachi 3 and following the tithe according to the Law does not apply to us as believers IN Christ. 

  • Malachi 3 was written to the nation of Israel and more specifically to its priesthood who were not tithing according to the Law’s requirement; 
  • God did away with the Law through Jesus.  Remember Jesus didn’t come to destroy the Law but to FULFILL it.  Once it was fulfilled, it was done away with and the New Covenant was laid down.  This is covered in fairly good detail in Scripture.  Jesus said it best:  It is Finished!
  • Galatians 3 clearly shows us how Malachi 3 doesn’t apply to us because Jesus has redeemed us from the curse of the Law.  If we are redeemed from the Curse of the Law – how can Malachi 3’s curse STILL apply to us?
  • Trying to fulfill any portion of the Law when Jesus has already done so is the only definition of “falling from Grace” per the Apostle Paul.  You don’t fall from Grace by sinning, you fall from grace by trying to go back to the Law.  See the example of the “foolish” Galatians.

I find it really hard to believe that Jesus came, fulfilled the Law, nullified its hold on us, removed us from its curse but then left tithing in there and its penalty to curse us if we don’t tithe.  That sounds more like the “unfinished work” of the cross, compared to the “finished work”.

I will say that in this world, probably more in “westernized culture” we do have self-imposed curses of financial ignorance:  lack of understanding how to use money, spending above our means, large mortgages, large credit card debts, lack of self-control in our purchases, not knowing how to properly balance a checkbook and avoid overdrafting your account…get the picture there?  We still have poverty – which can be a curse in and of itself – but it’s not something that you have to stay in and it’s not something that God has sent as punishment for not tithing!

Well at almost 3000 words, I’ll stop here for Part 1.  In Part 2, we’ll discuss the Abraham Example and a few other things.  Stay tuned, that will be published in a few days!