Tithing Redux

A few weeks ago, I felt compelled to post a blog on the importance of tithing.  With this week’s trend of money posts, I’d like to continue to build upon those thoughts and readdress what some might consider a controversial subject, the tithe.  Yesterday’s post, Gain, Save, Give highlighted the importance of being a steward of God’s financial blessings, because as we learned in Luke 16:10-12, if we’re unable to manage worldly wealth, who will trust us with the true riches of heaven?  While few of us would debate the importance of gain, more might debate the importance of saving, and increasingly more might debate the importance of giving.  That’s the point I want to hammer home. 

To be a truly unselfish giver, we must first realize that our money, our income, our possessions are not ours at all.  They’re all God’s; blessings that he’s entrusted us with.  The second truth that we need to understand is to realize that it’s not about giving out of abundance.  Again, I’m not focusing on the amount or quantity of any of that, but instead how you manage what you’ve been given.  This very point is illustrated in Mark 12:41-44, 41Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.  43Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything-all she had to live on.'”  The third principle that must be realized is that tithing is not giving.  Let me say that again.  Tithing is not giving.  I’ll explain what I mean in just a minute. 

A tithe, or tenth, is 10% of our income and in my opinion, our pre-taxed income (if anyone would like to debate the importance of giving to God before giving unto Caesar, let me know).  Proverbs 3:9-10 says, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.”  First fruits, pre-tax, not leftovers.  The reason why I stated earlier that tithing is not giving, is because it’s already God’s, this is the amount that He asks for.  Since it is already His, we’re not giving, but rather returning to God what He asks.  Anything above the tithe, or 10%, is giving.  I know it sounds like semantics, giving vs. bringing, but I think if we look at it in this light, we’ll be more likely to faithfully tithe.  I used the following  illustration in the last post on tithing, but I think it helps relate the point in modern terms.  Think of going out to eat at a restaurant.  Most of us would realize that the “expected” tip amount is 15%, it’s societal courtesy.  Anything above that would be exceptional and anything below would be seen as insulting.  If we’re under the mindset that 15% is the expected amount to give a waitress, how can we possibly justify giving less than what God expects in a tithe?  Malachi 3:8 addresses this point, “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.  But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings.”

In writing this, I did a quick internet search on tithing and was quite surprised at the results.  I’m amazed that some “Christians” can honestly justify that tithing is not biblical, or even required.  Justifications included that it’s a Mosaic law and not part of the new covenant or that salvation is through grace, not through giving.  While yes salvation is through grace, to me, these are just excuses of a selfish heart.  One article that I came across was a CBS news story from 2008. LINK The article states that on average Christians give 2.5%, not 10% (actually I’m surprised the amount was that high).  Just to put this in perspective, a person that makes $30,000 would bring $14 a week.  That’s barely a lunch or two and won’t even get 2 people into a movie.  Frankly, it’s a convicting statistic.  Another item the article mentions is those churches that value the dollar more than the Gospel and place their focus more on getting, rather than giving.  We’re all aware of those that teach prosperity doctrine and I want to clarify, I’m not advocating the methods of these questionable pastors or networks.  Tithing is much bigger than those people and they will get their end reward. 

I know some people might read this and think, how can I possibly give 10%, when I’m struggling to make ends meet, living paycheck to paycheck.  Well later this week, I hope to post a blog that will show you how to re-structure your finances in a way that will free up money, not only for tithing, but for improved stewardship.  Ultimately, tithing should be something we pray about.  God knows each of our financial circumstances.  Ask the Lord to show you the importance of it, how much you should bring, and pray before placing your tithe in the offering plate, that God uses those funds for His glory.  I want to close with one final verse, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” II Corinthians 9:7

 

“There cannot be a surer rule, nor a stronger exhortation to the observance of it, than when we are taught that all the endowments which we possess are divine deposits entrusted to us for the very purpose of being distributed for the good of our neighbor.” – John Calvin

Gain, Save, Give

Having led off the week with a post on the love of money, I really feel like there is so much more that can be said regarding it, especially in light of the emphasis it has on our culture.  When briefly researching an idea for this second post, I kept finding one central quote.  As you might have noticed from time to time, I’ll include brief sermons from John Wesley and hope to include other historical figures, but for now, let’s focus on the familiar quote from Mr. Wesley’s sermon The Use of Money.  He states, “Having First, gained all you can, and Secondly, saved all you can, Then ‘give all you can.'”  To many of you Dave Ramsey fans, this might sound familiar, because his mantra is “Live like no one else, so you can give like no one else.”  Do you notice a central theme here?  The idea is to DO what we can, to honestly GAIN what we can, so we can GIVE all we can.  I think too many times we’re focused on the gain and not on the give.  Note the following excerpt from John Wesley:

But let not any man imagine that he has done anything, barely by going thus far, by “gaining and saving all he can,” if he were to stop here. All this is nothing, if a man go not forward, if he does not point all this at a farther end. Nor, indeed, can a man properly be said to save anything, if he only lays it up. You may as well throw your money into the sea, as bury it in the earth. And you may as well bury it in the earth, as in your chest, or in the Bank of England. Not to use, is effectually to throw it away. If, therefore, you would indeed “make yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness,” add the Third rule to the two preceding. Having, First, gained all you can, and, Secondly saved all you can, Then “give all you can.”

As Christians, our role is to be Christ’s faithful stewards.  Among other things this means responsibly handling the monetary gain that we have been given.  It’s not about how much we make as a dollar figure, but how we manage what we do have.  God tests our stewardship to see how we handle what He gives us.  Luke 16:10-12 says, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?”  If we view our personal finances with that perspective, we’ll ensure that we are proper stewards of God’s blessings.

 

“One of the great dangers of having a lot of money is that you can be quite satisfied with the kinds of happiness money can give and never realize your need for God.” – C.S. Lewis

For the Love of Money

…is the root of all evil.  That’s what the Apostle Paul was teaching to Timothy in I Timothy 6:10 KJV.  In context, his message is in direct response to the church at Ephesus and their leaders’ desire for financial gain.  Not only is this message one of conviction for that church, but it’s also equally applicable to today’s society, as the focus on money seems greater than ever. 

Turn on the evening news these days and what’s the major topic?  Money.  It’s all about money, in the form of bailouts, stimulus, greed, corporate corruption, financial advisors stealing, the housing bubble collapse, bank failures, the stock market…money, money, money.    I would argue that the majority of the current problems our country is facing are the direct result of the love of money, rooted heavily in a lack of Godliness.  We’ve become so obsessed with money on a global scale that it is literally undoing countries left and right. 

Case in point: I began following the news, via the cable news channels, after the presidential election of 2000.  It was such a contested event, that I wanted to tune in daily for new updates.  Since then, I’ve made it a point to monitor world news and current events, though more so from a Biblical perspective, in the past year.  In this time, I’ve never seen such an obsession with the stock market as I’ve seen within the last year.  Rather than searching for the latest Dow Jones index in the morning paper or on the old CNN Headline News, you now see it everywhere; it’s a ticker on every channel.  It’s even a category on my new iPhone (yeah, guilty as charged).  People seem to bow to the market as though it’s an idol, a beast capable of controlling a person’s destiny, when in fact it’s nothing more than man-made instrument used by many to measure self-worth.  One of my biggest pet peeves regarding the stock market is the daily office discussions.  I remember the stock market taking nose dive last year and the monitoring fixation that took place several times a day.  It became such an annoyance that I would jump into the conversation just to offer up an opinion like, “You can’t watch that every day, it’ll drive you crazy”, in an attempt to discourage the exchange.  These examples are just microcosms of the passion, or love, of money that’s captured our society.

So what’s the Christian’s role in these discussions?  How are we to live in a society so obsessed with money?  Our role is to let Christ’s love and Light shine through us.  We can do this, not through negative comments, like I made above, but through sharing the truth of the Gospel.  Paul enforces this very action in I Timothy 6:17-18, “Command [warn] those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  Command [charge] them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.  In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”  When we use Christian love to point out the dangers of the love of money it will open up the door for us to share the Gospel.  Instead of saying, “You can’t watch the market every day, it’ll make you go crazy”, maybe something more along the lines of “That market is just so unreliable and unpredictable isn’t it?  I used to follow it pretty regularly too, but after reading a passage in Mark 10, it changed my whole perspective on money.”  Then just kindly tell of Jesus’ parable on the Rich Young man.  That’s just one example, but hopefully it will make you think of opportunities to share the gospel when conversations, such as those on money, come up.

It’s easy for any of us, believers and non-believers to get caught up in race for money, but ultimately as Christians, we need to avoid the trap of trying to get money and focus on how we can give more.  It’s times like these when Christians need to step up their giving, not only through tithing more, but through giving to local shelters and food banks.  In doing so, we’ll show that our true Master is not money, but God. Matthew 6:24

Hebrews 13:5 “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Ephesians 4:15 "Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ"