Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Grace Giving

In the back of my mind, I have always wondered about tithing. Boy, is it taught in churches today! I have heard from the pulpit more than once (innumerable times, actually), that it is Biblical.

But one must convolute the Scriptures to make that argument. One must mix Old Covenant with New.

Before, when I tithed, I believed I had fulfilled The Law and done my duty. Since I was told that ALL giving should be done through the local church, then by me doing it, I considered my responsibility met.

But even though I went along with that teaching, there was always a nagging doubt in my heart.

We were told that God would get His 10% one way or another.

But doesn't that make Him a tit-for-tat God. A quid pro quo God, if you will.

One freedom my wife and I have enjoyed is that we can now give of ourselves as HE leads and places people and opportunities in our paths.

Isn't THAT what Grace giving is? Giving out of the overflow of material AND spiritual blessings?

15 comments:

Gary Sparrow said...

John, I do believe tithing is Biblical, though it is still a transaction between the believer & God. I don't agree with some churches I've heard of that require a w-2 before you join the church. Jesus approved of it:
Mat 23:23 "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone."

Though Paul didn't mention the word tithe he presents the idea of a scheduled collection in 1 Cor 16:1-2 "1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. 2 Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come." This also points to proportional giving.

I think the tithe is not stressed because it was accepted as a normal part of life by both believers & unbelievers. I think the best teaching on giving is in 2 Cor 8:1-5 "1 Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; 2 How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. 3 For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; 4 Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. 5 And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God." The idea that they gave of themselves first is the key. Once you do that God will lead you what to give to his work and I would suspect it will be more than 10%.

Giving to the local Church to me makes sure you are being a good steward of your money because you know what the money is used for. That is not to say you can't give to another ministry but in the times we live I would be cautious.

Personally I think a church should be using all the money they collect for God's work and not have a large balance in it's account.

Just my perspective

John Fincher said...

Gary,
Are you saying that because Jesus MENTIONED the tithe that He approved of it? I say far from it.

I believe He is talking more about attitude than action - which is almost ALWAYS what He is talking about – not the WORK of man, but the attitude from which that work springs – that is, is it coming from a selfless attitude or from our self-righteousness or to striving to please or look good before men.

And not only that, wasn't Jesus still under the Old Covenant when He was alive? (That's a radical thought!) Didn't it still apply? Wouldn't, then, tithing still be lawful? I don't know.

I DO know that even when we tithed, (although God says He loves a cheerful giver) I was FAR from cheerful. The tithe, for me, created an obligation that after a while, I resented having to meet. I now believe that God wants NOTHING done out of obligation – where is the Love in that? That doesn’t create a 2 way relationship that He wants with each of us.

I was ALWAYS taught that tithing was pre-law so the New Covenant didn’t apply, and I bought that without doing my own study.

Where do we get that just because it was pre-law that the NC doesn’t apply? One man from another man from another man, ad infinitum.

If you can tell me specifically and without former teaching what Paul was talking about when he was talking about “storehouse giving”, I would be interested in hearing it. He is too vague to build ANY doctrine from it.

What if…what if (I’m just throwing something out here) he was merely giving instruction to something that was already happening that was causing some tension and strife within the community? I ask this question without any study on the matter. It is just new eyes that I have.

In other words, what if he knew that brothers and sisters were ALREADY giving and were asking Paul (or maybe he heard about the contention) about a procedure. He says, “that there be no gatherings when I come”. The Greek word “gatherings” means, money gathered for the relief of the poor (Thayer). Could it be he wanted this to be done before he got there so it would already be settled and not to take away from his visit? I don’t know. All I DO know is, again, I believe it too vague to say any thing more about it than IT says – a procedure, no more, no less.

You say that the “tithe is not stressed because it was accepted as a normal part of life by both believers & unbelievers”. Where do you get that? First, I believe that if it WERE important it would have been mentioned, and secondly, I think the talk of a “tithe” goes against all NT teaching – that everything be done out of the abundance of the heart, from the overflow of the Holy Spirit.

AND lastly….who says we can’t be good stewards with our money OUTSIDE of the local church? That would almost be saying that without someone else telling us what to do with what God prospers us with, the Holy Spirit wouldn’t be able to.

Just asking questions and tearing down preconceived notions about His Word!

Gary Sparrow said...

John, When Jesus says "ought ye to have done" I do think he approved of it. And though the New Testement doesn't really start until Jesus' death I don't think we can discount what he teaches when he is on the Earth.

I agree with the attitude aspect. That was the point I was trying to make with the Macedonians. They gave of themselves first which will always result in the right attitude. I guess I have a different perspective also because we work with the Church finances so I know where every penny goes at our church.

I didn't mean to suggest that the local church was the only outlet to be a good steward with what we have. If the Holy Spirit leads you to give to some other ministry or even a person on the street then that is what you should do.

I guess my whole point is people get hung up on the word tithe, both those for and against it, when if they would first give themselves and let the Holy Spirit lead them they will probably give more than 10% and be cheerful.

Out of time for now but I'll sned something on the other points later.

John Fincher said...

If Paul says that the law stirs up sin, then if tithing is law, then the sin it stirs up in ME is a "bad" attitude. ;-)

BUT, I will concede the point about attitude to you.

I believe we agree, but are just coming to the same conclusion from different starting points!

This is fun!

And guess what? This is church too!

Joel B. said...

Hey guys,

A few months ago I got into some neat discussions on this, and I mentioned on my blog that I would write a series of posts on the tithe. I'm now re-inspired to do so, and I'll begin working on it tonight. :)

One thing that I'll make mention of is the origins of the tithe. To whom was the tithe prescribed? Actually, the real question is, to whom were the tithes (plural) prescribed? There were more than one. And so, what exactly did the tithes consist of? What and whom were the tithes used for? Specific times, purposes and people were mentioned in each one. And they were all LAW.

I'll eventually get to Malachi, which most preachers start from. But Malachi isn't the beginning place. Malachi was a rebuke to the Hebrews for not following the previously prescribed lawful tithes. It has absolutely NOTHING to do with Christians giving anything to anyone!

Matthew 23 was brought up in the comments here. Take a good look at the whole chapter. Jesus is rebuking Pharisees (who were under the law) for their self-righteousness, pride and hypocrisy, all throughout the chapter. They said they were great law people but they didn't keep the law. Hypocrites! Jesus wasn't giving a Christian teaching here. For more on what I mean by this, see this post, from a year ago, if interested. My main point here: the tithes were for a certain purpose, to a certain people, at a certain time.

"The church" is not anything like "the storehouse." The church is a gathering of people. It's not a system, and it's not a "place" to bring money. The church is you and me. Christian giving is a bunch of you's and me's giving to other you's and me's, and to anyone who our heart cheerfully decided to give to.

A few times Paul indeed does speak of a specific type of offering or collection for various saints. It's great that "the church" gave from their hearts to help in these specific cases. But these specific cases are not any sort of model. The "model" for Christian giving is simply, "give cheerfully as you have decided in your heart to give." If there happens to be a specific offering or a collection, then great! Otherwise, I think most often true Christian giving is outside of the corporate gathering of believers. There are all kinds of needs and causes every day! And sometimes... we ourselves are the ones who do the receiving, rather than the giving. How many of Paul's talks about giving were a matter of thanking others for giving to him? :)

Gary Sparrow said...

Wow I didn't realize there was so much animosity over the teaching of the tithe. Maybe I'm naive but I just see it as a way to give to the work of God.

John, you said Paul was just talking about a procedure. Well isn't that what the tithe is today, a procedure to give to God's work. It is scheduled and proportional giving. Though you can say it is pre Law or under the Law the principle still works. It's sowing and reaping.

Joel, I understand Jesus was sometimes speaking to those that weren't his followers but I think those are still lessons we can learn from. There are plenty of self-righteous, prideful "Christians" that need that lesson. 2 Tim 3:16 "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness"

I also think the New Testement Church was a little more organized than you make it sound. I know wher 2 or 3 are gathered he is in their midst and that can be considered a church but they did meet regularly established the ordinances (Baptism & Lords Supper, though the Corinthians were misusing it) and had Pastor's or Bishops and Deacons. Why do we want to move away from something that was such an integral part of the New Testement because of some "bad apples"?

John Fincher said...

Gary,
Please believe me when I say Joel and I hold NO animosity!

The problem with email is that it doesn't convey tone.

We are just discussing Scripture here - nothing more, nothing less.

I will not be upset if you don't agree with me, just as I believe that you won't be upset with me. I do not feel COMPELLED to make you see my view. Paul says to let "each man be persuaded in his own mind." If you are persuaded, that is good, but I am just giving you my viewpoint.

For ME, the tithe is Law, and therefore dead, as I believe we are COMPLETELY dead to the Law.

Do you think God punishes the believer who doesn't tithe?

As to what the Church Body means or is SUPPOSED to mean, I am still searching that out. I am not for throwing it out just to be throwing it out, BUT I also want God's BEST FOR US!

Like I said before, I am starting over in learning about Him, and ONLY throwing out previous teachings about Him and His Word that come from ONE perspective.

With His Love!

Joel B. said...

Hi Gary,

As John said, there's no animosity here. :) Just a discussion of thoughts and scripture. In my opinion, that has been formed through looking through the scriptures and through my understanding of the major differences between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, giving is a wonderful part of New Covenant life. As the title of this post implies, we are "grace givers."

But what is taught as "the tithe" in the church today is not New Covenant doctrine. It's Old Covenant doctrine that has been manipulated (taken out of context) and skewed to fit into church life. It's just plain wrong. :)

As with John, I'm not planning on turning your whole view around. I'm just taking a look at what the church teaches vs. what the Bible teaches about "the tithe," and showing how the Old Covenant tithes have nothing to do with New Covenant giving. The tithes had specific purposes, for specific times. If you don't believe me, look up all references of "tithe" and "tithes" and see exactly what the purpose of each one was! I've done that, and I'll be blogging about it soon. One of the major problems with the way the church teaches "the tithe" is that tithing never had anything to do with gross income (or net income), and the tithing laws weren't given for use in the ways that churches teach "the tithe." I will cover all of this on my blog when I post my series, hopefully very soon.

As for all scripture being profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness, I don't disagree with you at all! What I think needs to be the case, however, is that all scripture is looked at from a perspective of "rightly dividing" it, and understanding all of it in the context of Old Covenant and New Covenant. I don't have time to get into that here, but on my blog I've talked about it lots of times.

Gary Sparrow said...

John,

Punish is a strong word. I think giving whether talking about tithing or offerings falls into the sowing and reaping category for lack of a better word.

Of course if the Holy Spirit leads us to give to whatever cause and we resist couldn't that be considered sin. James 4:17"Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin."

Aida said...

John, I'm still catching up on some of your older posts and this one caught my eye. I've posted a few blogs on tithing so I was interested in seeing what you had to say. I agree with what you and Joel have commented.

As Joel commented, there is more than one tithe described in the Old Covenant. The most interesting is the one in Deuteronomy 14:23 where the people were instructed to eat their tithe. That certainly goes against all of the teachings in the institutional system which says to give the whole tithe to them.

Barb said...

At Tithingdebate.com there is a free download of a book Eating Sacred Cows = a closer look at tithing. My husband who is a Seminary Grad (Southwestern Baptist) and had been taught tithing from birth read this book and it blew him away. It answers all the questions here. I recommend it. Here is the link to the book itself: http://www.tithingdebate.com/EatingSacredCowsDownload.pdf

Joel B. said...

Barb,

I downloaded and have begun to read the pdf you linked to here. Great stuff! It's a very thorough look into the tithes as mentioned in the Old and New Testaments. A great resource and aid in helping to dispel the wrongful teachings of the tithe in the church today.

John Fincher said...

Joel,
Me too! Thanks for sending Barb my way! Father really seems to know what He is doing, doesn't he! ;-)

Barb said...

Thanks guys, my favorite part is when he expains HOW the tithe was to be used. Basically my wonderful God let his people put away money/resources so they could take some time away and have a party with their family. The priests benifited also but the party was for all to enjoy. Then every 3rd year (I think if I remember right) the gift was left for the poor. It probably changed my view of God more than anything else has yet to date. he loves his kids and wants to provide for them.

Aida said...

Barb, that looks like a great book and, if Joel likes it, I think I'll enjoy it too. I bookmarked it and I'll start reading as soon as I get a chance.