Christianity 201

August 17, 2019

The Offering: To Whom are We Giving?

Today we are again returning to Wes McAdams’ blog Radically Christian. If you’re reading this mid-August, 2019, Wes is currently in the middle of a series titled What is the Gospel? You might want to click through and check out those articles.

Secondly, it’s Saturday, so why did I put the “Sunday Worship” banner on this article? Simply because many people decide on Saturday night what they’re doing for the offering on Sunday morning. It’s one part of the weekend worship service that we indeed do as an act of worship, but only after we’ve often begun that process earlier by writing a check.

Are We Giving Money “to God” on Sundays?

For decades there have been countless church arguments and even splits over how “the Lord’s money” can and cannot be spent. But what if we’ve been working from some flawed assumptions? We typically assume that putting money in the collection plate is giving money “to God” and we assume the church’s bank account is a treasury of sacred funds belonging to the Lord. But are these biblical assumptions?

To Whom are We Giving?

I’ve always assumed that when the collection plate is passed on Sunday mornings that we are giving our money to God. In fact, I used to tell my children on Saturday evenings to set aside the money they would “give to God” the next morning. That’s actually a habit I am trying to break.

I’m trying to break that habit for a couple of reasons. The first is that it is inconsistent with the idea that God already owns all of our possessions. When we became followers of Jesus, we renounced all that we owned (Luke 14:33). Because of his mercies, we have given our whole selves to the Lord (Romans 12:1-2). We give money on Sundays not because we’re giving some of our money to the Lord, but because we’ve given our whole selves to him already (2 Corinthians 8:5)

But if we are not giving to God, when we put money in the collection plate, to whom are we giving? When we look at the examples of giving in the New Testament, it seems they were giving to “one another.” They were giving to support the poor, the elderly, and the spreading of the gospel.

To Whom Does the Church Treasury Belong?

The early church seems to have believed the collected funds were the shared property of the Christian community.

Acts 2:44-45 says:

And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.

And in Acts 4:32-35 it says:

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

The church is supposed to be a community where everyone believes, “mi casa es su casa” and when we give, we are simply proving the genuineness of our love for one another (2 Corinthians 8:8). The church leaders oversee the funds and distribute them to the people, ministries, and good works where they are needed. But the funds are simply the common property of the church community.

I know of no passage in the New Testament that justifies us treating the collected funds as some sort of sacred treasury. Should the church be good stewards of collected funds? Obviously so, but no more than you and I should be good stewards of the funds in our personal accounts. It all belongs to the Lord and we should be good stewards of whatever is entrusted to us.

What Are the Rules for Spending Church Money?

And there’s the rub, “How can church funds be spent?” This is where we have massive disagreements in the church. But it seems to me our disagreements are completely unnecessary when we read Scripture contextually.

Some will point to a passage like 1 Timothy 5:9-10, where Paul gives Timothy instructions about supporting widows, to prove there are strict rules for how church funds can and cannot be spent. However, a close look at 1 Timothy 5 will reveal that it is not really about rules for how church money is spent but about protecting people (specifically young widows) from “toxic charity.” In other words, it’s not about protecting church funds from unauthorized spending, but about protecting church people from becoming spiritually unhealthy (see also 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12).

The church is nothing more than a gathering, or a community, of individual Christians. The New Testament never lays out one set of rules for individual Christians and a different set for the community as a whole. The money that belongs to the community no more belongs to the Lord than the money that belongs to individual Christians. The same principles that govern how you spend the money in your wallet are the same rules that govern how church leaders oversee the spending of church funds.

Conclusions

It seems to me we need to stop being so critical about financial decisions church leaders make. We need to realize there is as much freedom for church leaders to spend shared money on good works they believe glorify God as there is for you and me to spend personal money on good works we believe glorify God.

We especially need to stop splitting churches over how funds are spent. The New Testament says little to nothing on this issue, but it says so much about love, unity, and peace within the church. The world will not recognize you as followers of Jesus because of your congregation’s frugality but because of your love for one another.

When we put money in the collection plate we are doing it to honor God and in response to God’s love for us. In this way, you can certainly say we are worshiping when we give. But we are doing it because we have already given everything to him, because we are part of something bigger than ourselves, and because we belong to our church family and our church family belongs to us.


I want to recommend another article from the same writer which I considered for today: The Sexual Ethics of Jesus and His People.

November 26, 2014

The Time Jesus Commented on What Someone Put in the Offering

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Time for our regular midweek contribution from Canadian pastor Clarke Dixon. Click the link in the title below to read at source and then check out the rest of the series on generosity.

offering boxWhat Would Jesus Say About Our Offering?

Have you ever thought you had privacy when you really have not? There is something about putting on a full-face motorcycle helmet that can make you think you have as much privacy as sitting in a car, and so I have heard at least one motorcyclist singing at the top of his lungs while waiting for a light to turn green! We take privacy seriously at [our church] and have all the policies and procedures in place to ensure people’s givings are kept confidential. I am not aware of what people give. But one thing we cannot do is ensure that giving is kept hidden from the Lord’s eyes. Let us consider one moment that Jesus was watching the offerings:

41 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” Mark 12:41-44 (NRSV)

A few questions may help us get into this passage:

1. Who is the example of generosity?

The rich put in a lot of money while the poor widow put in very little. Yet according to Jesus she is the example of generosity for she is making the greater sacrifice. Suppose I were to peach on tithing and everyone walked away convicted that they ought to give 10% of their income. Now suppose one such person earns a million a year, and therefore commits to giving $100,000 a year. We would certainly celebrate such generosity and the opportunities it would grant a small church like ours to increase in mission and ministry. Now suppose a single mom with children and rent earning $25,000 a year commits $2500. Who is more generous? I do not know this from experience but I would think you could live quite comfortably on $900,000 a year. I also do not know this from experience but I would think a family living on $25,000 per year would miss the $2500 very much.

Now we need to make a decision. By commending the generosity of the poor widow is Jesus commanding those of little means to give what little they have or is he challenging those with abundance to break through to greater generosity? For the rich, a 10% tithe may keep the religious police happy, but does it please the Lord? For the poor, a 10% tithe may keep the religious police happy, but does it further cripple people who are already financially beaten down? Which leads us to our next question.

2. Is Jesus celebrating or lamenting?

We tend to assume that Jesus is celebrating the generosity of the poor widow here. However some Biblical scholars think rather that Jesus is lamenting over what he sees. Consider what Jesus said immediately before this:

38 As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! 40 They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” Mark 12:38-40 (NRSV emphasis mine)

What we may have here is Jesus pointing to the poor widow as an example of someone who is “devoured” by the religious leaders. That she, “out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on” (v.44) may be something regrettable. It is worth noting that Jesus next speaks about the destruction of the temple. The poor widow has just given all she had to support something that will soon be under judgement.

Or perhaps we have both, that along with a condemnation of the scribes’ warped religiosity is a commendation of the widow’s generosity. The religious leaders are looking to take all the poor widow has to live on, and soon they will be looking to take the life of Jesus. But the poor widow’s heart is generous and she gives what she has to live on, pointing forward to the supreme example of generosity, Jesus, who gives His life.

We can tend to get pretty religious when it comes to financial support for the church. Jesus has a lot to say about money, yet he never directly commands or commends a tithe. Nor does it appear to be a theme within the early Church as we encounter it in the New Testament. But generosity is something that is very much commended by our Lord and the apostles. Generosity is a character trait the Holy Spirit develops within us as we yield our lives to the Lord. The question is not “are you tithing” but “are you being generous toward the Lord’s work?” What generosity looks like will be different for each person. 10% may be a good goal for a great many, but it may not be wise for some, and may not be generous for others. We do well to drive not deeper into religion, but deeper into our relationship with Christ to discern the answer to that question. Which leads us to our final question:

3. If we were the ones Jesus watched putting our offering into the treasury that day, what would He say?

This part is for you to write:
_________________________________________________________
_________________________________________________________
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July 18, 2014

Right Attitudes Toward Money

ESV Proverbs 28:6 Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity
    than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.

ESV Proverbs 19:22 What is desired in a man is steadfast love,
    and a poor man is better than a liar.

NIV Proverbs 18:11 The wealth of the rich is their fortified city;
    they imagine it a wall too high to scale.

NIV Proverbs 23:4 Do not wear yourself out to get rich;
    do not trust your own cleverness. 

NLT Proverbs 28:27 Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing,
    but those who close their eyes to poverty will be cursed.

ESV Proverbs 19:17 Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord,
    and he will repay him for his deed.

Yesterday morning James MacDonald concluded a two part series on wisdom in handling money.  Some of the scriptures he used are listed above.  You can listen to the audio for both this and the message which preceded it.

What struck me however was something that James said at the end when he talked about giving God the “first fruits” of our income. Of course, this was an agricultural society and “first fruits” meant that yes, you brought a bushel of apples to church! But today we have currency as a medium of exchange.

ESV Proverbs 3:9 Honor the Lord with your wealth
    and with the firstfruits of all your produce;

But then he pointed out that this is part of a trio of firsts that belong to God.

  • The first day of the week
  • The first hour of the day
  • The first part of my income

He said that just as one day a week to rest is an eternal principle, so also is giving first fruits to God an eternal principle.

10 then your barns will be filled with plenty,
    and your vats will be bursting with wine.

While it’s true that we’re not supposed to test God, there is one area where we are told to do so:

Malachi 3:10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.

James concluded with this verse:

NASB Proverbs 11:24 There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more,
And there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want.

Remember the illustration of the monkey with its hand in the jar. It wants the banana, but as long as its fist is clenched, it can’t get the banana. The proverb is teaching this:Those who are generous with what they have never run lack; it seems to increase; but those who hold on to it tightly are always in crisis.

Conclusion: His major points about money from the 2-part series:

  • Gain it honestly
  • Esteem it accurately
  • Share it generously

 

December 22, 2012

What Can I Do Next? versus What Must I Do Next?

Ephesians 2: 8-9

(KJV) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.

(AMP) 8 For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God; Not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law’s demands], lest any man should boast. [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself.]

(MSG) 8-9   Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing!

Earlier this week I had a conversation with someone who is moving from passive to active faith. I use that terminology because I don’t believe that his faith was non-existent prior to the past year, but rather, it was probably dormant.

So he asked about things like what is required in terms of tithing, and does he need to be baptized. I tried to give him good answers while at the same time being very aware of the fact he was wanting to do things instead of resting on what Christ has already done.

(Sometimes people coming from a Roman Catholic background wrestle with these things more acutely. I don’t know if that’s the case here. It’s interesting that the Catholic Church refers to certain days in the church calendar as “Days of Obligation.” In a sense this defines “religion;” the idea of obligation overshadowing all else. No wonder many Christians say that Christianity isn’t a religion it’s a relationship.)

Andy Stanley talks about surveys done among people who have been attending North Point Community Church for less than five weeks. Let’s just stop there. Imagine having enough new people constantly streaming through the doors that you can engage a survey company to ask them questions. But that’s a topic for another day.

Of those in that category, a large percentage of them were interested in what they call “discerning next steps.” They wanted to grow. They wanted to serve. They wanted to understand what it means to be a disciple.

But there are sometimes dangers inherent in wanting to do. The story of Mary and Martha is a juxtaposition of two attitudes: spending time with Jesus and doing things for Jesus.

Coincidentally, it is Andy Stanley who has this verse posted in his office from Acts 15:

(NIV) 19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.

(AMP) 19 Therefore it is my opinion that we should not put obstacles in the way of and annoy and disturb those of the Gentiles who turn to God…

We discussed this verse in detail previously here in February, 2011.

I think there are two different ways we approach the challenge of what it means to follow Christ:

  • We can ask, “What can I do;” and thereby focus on offering our lives as a response to the grace we have received and the love that has been poured out to us. “How can I express my gratitude?” “I want to give something back.”
  • We can ask, “What must I do;” and thereby miss the point. “What is this going to cost me?” “What am I going to have to give up?”  Or even, “I have a few hours free; how long is this going to take?”

As we said in the Feb ’11 post, this journey of following Christ should certainly involve counting the cost. In Luke 9 we read:

(NIV) 23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

But I do not believe it should be about the cost.

The person I spoke with definitely should start a program of percentage giving and definitely should consider being baptized. But it should be done joyfully and willingly.

 

 

 

 

August 25, 2012

The Spice Tithe: Selective Righteousness

 

Matthew 23:23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.

Tithe [tahyth] noun

1.

Sometimes, tithes. the tenth part of agricultural produce or personal income set apart as an offering to God or for works of mercy, or the same amount regarded as an obligation or tax for the support of the church, priesthood, or the like…
Word Origin & History

Old English: teogoþa (Anglian), teoþa (W.Saxon) “tenth,” from P.Gmc. *tegunthon, *tekhunthon. Retained in ecclesiastical sense while the form was replaced in ordinal use by tenth (influenced by ten). The verb is O.E. teoþian.

~dictionary.com

We live in times where an increasing number of Bible teachers are proclaiming that the “tithe” — the giving of ten percent to the Lord’s work — no longer applies to us under the New Covenant; while at the same time a vocal number of Bible teachers are reminding their flock that the tithe is a command that God has not revoked.

Tithing on your spice harvest might require some rather precise measurement. You would only grow what you needed, and in some of these cases you would not need to devote much land to these spices.  A little dill or mint or cumin goes a long way. So in a sense it would “cost you nothing” to give out of a surplus that you had no intention of consuming. But then you could boast of your righteousness in the matter of tithing. “Look,” you could say, “I tithe right down to the smallest crop in my field.”

Matthew Henry writes:

They observed smaller duties, but omitted greater; they were very exact in paying tithes, till it came to mint, anise, and cumin, their exactness in tithing of which would not cost them much, but would be cried up, and they should buy reputation cheap. The Pharisee boasted of this, I give tithes of all that I possess, Luke 18:12. But it is probable that they had ends of their own to serve, and would find their own account in it; for the priests and Levites, to whom the tithes were paid, were in their interests, and knew how to return their kindness. Paying tithes was their duty, and what the law required; Christ tells them they ought not to leave it undone. Note, All ought in their places to contribute to the support and maintenance of a standing ministry: withholding tithes is called robbing God, Mal. 2:8-10. They that are taught in the word, and do not communicate to them that teach them that love a cheap gospel, come short of the Pharisee.

But that which Christ here condemns them for, is, that they omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith; and their niceness in paying tithes, was, if not to atone before God, yet at least to excuse end palliate to men the omission of those. All the things of God’s law are weighty, but those are most weighty, which are most expressive of inward holiness in the heart; the instances of self-denial, contempt of the world, and resignation to God, in which lies the life of religion. Judgment and mercy toward men, and faith toward God, are the weightier matters of the law, the good things which the Lord our God requires (Mic. 6:8); to do justly, and love mercy, and humble ourselves by faith to walk with God. This is the obedience which is better than sacrifice or tithe; judgment is preferred before sacrifice, Isa. 1:11. To be just to the priests in their tithe, and yet to cheat and defraud every body else, is but to mock God, and deceive ourselves. Mercy also is preferred before sacrifice, Hos. 6:6. To feed those who made themselves fat with the offering of the Lord, and at the same time to shut up the bowels of compassion from a brother or a sister that is naked, and destitute of daily food, to pay tithe-mint to the priest, and to deny a crumb to Lazarus, is to lie open to that judgment without mercy, which is awarded to those who pretended to judgment, and showed no mercy; nor will judgment and mercy serve without faith in divine revelation; for God will be honored in his truths as well as in his laws.

Are there areas where I am precise and exact in doing what I feel God requires while completely missing the point on larger, more important issues? I’m sure there are. I call this selective righteousness and we can use this brand of righteous behavior to cover over other areas in our lives where we are not doing so well in terms of what we know God requires.

I wanted to end this with the same passage from The Message Bible, where Eugene Peterson loses the agricultural reference in verse 23 to something more recognizable in a balance-sheet world. But then I felt the entire passage bears repeating:

Matthew 23:13“I’ve had it with you! You’re hopeless, you religion scholars, you Pharisees! Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God’s kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won’t let anyone else in either.

 15“You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You go halfway around the world to make a convert, but once you get him you make him into a replica of yourselves, double-damned.

 16-22“You’re hopeless! What arrogant stupidity! You say, ‘If someone makes a promise with his fingers crossed, that’s nothing; but if he swears with his hand on the Bible, that’s serious.’ What ignorance! Does the leather on the Bible carry more weight than the skin on your hands? And what about this piece of trivia: ‘If you shake hands on a promise, that’s nothing; but if you raise your hand that God is your witness, that’s serious’? What ridiculous hairsplitting! What difference does it make whether you shake hands or raise hands? A promise is a promise. What difference does it make if you make your promise inside or outside a house of worship? A promise is a promise. God is present, watching and holding you to account regardless.

 23-24“You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but on the meat of God’s Law, things like fairness and compassion and commitment—the absolute basics!—you carelessly take it or leave it. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required. Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that’s wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semicolons?

 25-26“You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You burnish the surface of your cups and bowls so they sparkle in the sun, while the insides are maggoty with your greed and gluttony. Stupid Pharisee! Scour the insides, and then the gleaming surface will mean something.

 27-28“You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You’re like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it’s all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh. People look at you and think you’re saints, but beneath the skin you’re total frauds.

 29-32“You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You build granite tombs for your prophets and marble monuments for your saints. And you say that if you had lived in the days of your ancestors, no blood would have been on your hands. You protest too much! You’re cut from the same cloth as those murderers, and daily add to the death count.

 33-34“Snakes! Reptilian sneaks! Do you think you can worm your way out of this? Never have to pay the piper? It’s on account of people like you that I send prophets and wise guides and scholars generation after generation—and generation after generation you treat them like dirt, greeting them with lynch mobs, hounding them with abuse.

 35-36“You can’t squirm out of this: Every drop of righteous blood ever spilled on this earth, beginning with the blood of that good man Abel right down to the blood of Zechariah, Barachiah’s son, whom you murdered at his prayers, is on your head. All this, I’m telling you, is coming down on you, on your generation.

May 10, 2012

Money and Wealth: It’s All His

Today we’re zooming in on part two of a two part series about money… so you might want to read part one.

[visual: me leaning on one foot, and then the other, waiting for your return]

…Okay, we’re back.  So you already know that this is by David P. Kreklau who combines something that sounds really exciting with something that sounds rather boring — he’s a CPA with the US Air Force.  Part two (click the title to link direct) is:

Awkward! …the Impact of Sovereignty on Our Money

Have you ever been in that awkward situation where somebody wants to give you money but you are embarrassed to receive it… or maybe you want to give money to someone but they are too embarrassed to take it?  As my daughter would say, it feels “awkward…!”

In my last blog I talked about how we take pride in our money and we allow it to bleed into our identity… making us feel like we have all the control over our money, which can create these awkward situations where we convey feelings of pride either in giving or receiving.

But the point I made was that God is sovereign over all things, including whatever it was that helped you obtain your wealth… whether your choices or upbringing, etc.  And therefore, whatever amount of money you have, that is what God has chosen to distribute to you.  Thus, you need not tie your identity to your wealth.

The Impact of Sovereignty

Here are some practical ways that this understanding should affect our money.

1)      Humility.  Knowing that it is God who distributes to whom He wills should disarm our pride over our wealth and lend us to feel humble in knowing that what we have is only of grace… not ourselves.  And let’s face it, we could all use more humility.

2)      Gratitude.  This humility should naturally flow into gratitude, recognizing that this grace is not deserved and that we actually deserve nothing.  Yet, God gives to us lavishly.

3)      Giving.  Just as we model everything we do after the Gospel of Jesus Christ – how He gave Himself for us when we deserved nothing good – we ought to give graciously to those in need, despite what they “deserve.”

4)      Stewardship/Redistribution.  Remember that since God decides in His sovereignty who gets what, then those who have been given much must remember that they have been given much for a reason.  You have been made a steward by God, and it is up to you to redistribute to those in need.  This is easier to do when you remember that it is not your money.  It is God’s… given to you to use for the kingdom in bringing about His good purposes.  This knowledge should also directly impact how you spend your money.

 5)      Receiving.  We need not feel embarrassed when receiving charity, as this is what God has appointed.  His way of you obtaining that money in this instance just happens to be a gift of love from someone as opposed to a wage.  Is there a better way of feeling the Gospel than receiving a gift instead of earning it yourself?

As you can see, this understanding of our wealth brings profound consequences to how we view money.  You can stop looking inward in terms of valuing yourself by your wealth and start looking outward by trying to breathe value into others.

If God gives abundantly to you, use that money to glorify Him.  If He gives you a nice home, use it to entertain in a Christ-exalting way.  If you are short of cash and someone helps you out, use that money to His glory and see the Christ-like quality of giving in that moment and worship Him.

If the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10)… then the love of each other will disarm that evil.

~David P. Kreklau

November 18, 2011

Ten Reasons to Tithe

I can’t think of a topic that pastors hate preaching about more than giving.  It appears like they are just taking their 30-minute sermon time and holding out their hat in their hand and rebuking the congregation for not doing enough.  But in fact, no pastor would be declaring the whole counsel of God, if they didn’t, at least every two or three years, broach this difficult and sensitive subject.

The title of this post is a bit of a misnomer, for several reasons, not all of which we’ll get into here.  Andy Stanley uses the term I prefer, “percentage giving.”  Others teach that the requirement to tithe ended with the Old Testament era, though the Apostle Paul seems fairly clear about supporting those who teach you, and about giving to widows and orphans.

For the rest of today’s consideration of offerings and tithes, we turn to Trent Griffith, pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Granger, Indiana, where this appeared on his blog as The Truth Behind The Tithe.   Be sure to read the introduction carefully so you’re following the rest of the piece.

Tithing is one of the most misunderstood concepts in the bible. Giving ten percent of your income is certainly noble and would be a worthy goal for every Christian. But if you think 10% is God’s and 90% is yours, you’ve missed the truth behind the tithe.

The Old Testament teaching on tithing was more akin to our modern tax code than generosity. There were actually 3 different tithes required in the Old Testament to fund the theocratic government. One was to be paid every third year. So if you follow the pattern of the Old Testament tithe you would actually be paying 23.3%. But remember it was more like paying your taxes. What is the biblical teaching on giving? Pay your taxes AND give generously to the Lord from your heart.

I believe the Old Testament teaching on the tithe reveals 10 truths BEHIND the tithe that every New Testament Christian must embrace BEFORE he can consider himself an obedient giver.

1) Give with pre-determination.  Rather than asking, “What should I give?” every time God gives to you, decide now. Just like you budget for recurring expenses, predetermine where and how much you’re going to invest in funding ministry before it comes in.

2) Give as a priority. God’s priority is always give, save, spend NOT spend, save, give. When you have the right priority your giving will determine your spending. When you have the wrong priority, your spending will determine your giving.

3) Give a percentage.  Don’t get hung up on 10%. Some can’t give 10% but can still give generously in faith. Others can give 10% without exercising faith. Generosity is not determined by what you give. Generosity is determined by what is left over after you give. Whether you give 10%, 11% or 1%, give something that stretches your faith. Giving a percentage of your income forces you to look at all of your income and expenses from God’s perspective. Do you know what you make? Spend? Give? If not, how can you determine if you are being generous?

4) Give the first and best of what God provides.  Quit feeling so generous when you drop off your old underwear at Goodwill. God doesn’t want your leftovers. Give God your best stuff. Give off the top of everything you take in. Write the check for ministry before you write the check for the mortgage and groceries.

5) Withholding what belongs to God forfeits God’s presence. In Malachi 3:6-9 God tells his people why He had left them. They had stolen what rightfully belonged to God. If God seems distant to you, you might to see if you have His money in your bank account.

6) Bring what you give to the place of worship. In the Old Testament, God’s people brought the tithe to the place where they worshipped. Today, God’s people should bring their gifts to the local church where they worship. The local church is God’s plan to reach the world. Other ministry giving should be above and beyond your responsibility to fund the ministries of your local church.

7) Giving is a test God loves to prove He can pass. In Malachi 3:10 God invites you to test him in your giving. Leonard Ravenhill said, “You have an incredible opportunity to be the first person in the history of the world whom God has every failed. So test Him.”

8) Giving acts on the promise that God has plenty. Only when you believe that God can open the windows of Heaven to supply all your need will you give at a level that demonstrates faith.

9) Giving invites God’s protection. Malachi 3:11 promises God will “rebuke the devourer” for those who honor God in their giving.  Times of economic hardship are the worst time to hold out on God. You can’t afford to go without God’s protection during difficult times. Get God’s money where it belongs now, before God sends the devourer to collect it!

10) God delights in blessing people who give in faith. Do you want God to bless the things you care about most? When you give God’s way He will ensure that you become the object of His blessing so others will take note of His ability to provide.  God has no greater delight than showing off His glory in those who trust him with their finances.

~Trent Griffith

December 25, 2010

A Christmas Consideration: Who Are You Giving To This Year?

With Christmas 2010 now consigned the realm of “memories,” and with most people feeling “tapped out” when it comes to giving, it’s time to think of another aspect of giving; the donations we make in the area we generally refer to as “tithes and offerings.”

Oh no!  Not that topic!

decemberBeing self employed and in retail means Christmas isn’t a lot of fun. We are about to put the last of our supplier payments in the mail. If there wasn’t going to be any further December activity and the amounts were low, we’re paying all the current invoices as well. We don’t pay ourselves a salary, so just getting bills paid is a major goal.

So this is a good time to start thinking about our personal finances, and in particular, our charitable donations. Not knowing exactly what our income is going to be makes it harder to figure out what we should be giving, but I don’t know anybody who, at tax time in April, looks at their receipts and says, “I should have given less.

Giving shouldn’t be done in December just to get a receipt. We give because we’ve been blessed, and because God commands it. But December is a good time to take stock of our personal finances and see what we can do to help others

So who can we bless this year? Here’s some suggestions:

  • Our first responsibility is to our local church, the place we call our spiritual home, where we receive teaching, prayer support and fellowship.
  • If there’s a “second” on the list, for many this year it is giving to relief and development in the third world, especially projects which are bringing fresh water wells to areas that don’t have potable water.
  • Has there been a natural disaster somewhere in the world this year that you watched on television but didn’t actually respond to?   Find out if your denomination or churches in your area know of people who are actually “on the ground” working alongside people in devastated areas.
  • Locally, who is actually doing ministry where you live?  There are always examples of people doing really exemplary work among people in need; people in prison; people dealing with addictions.   Find out what these people need and what avenues of support exist to help financially.
  • Is there someone in your area who does student ministry who is lacking in financial support? Consider urban missionaries and youth workers with Youth For Christ, Campus Crusade, InterVarsity and YWAM.
  • What about camp ministries? Is there a Christian summer residential camp that is in need of funds for capital projects or to sponsor children in the summer?
  • What about your local Christian school? Do they need money for capital projects;  are they operating at a deficit?
  • Do you have a local Christian radio station? This isn’t limited to the “preacher programs,” the stations themselves often need additional support to pay staff and overhead.
  • Who is working with the poor in your community? Who provides meals, or transportation or moral support to people who are disadvantaged economically?
  • The very fact you’re reading a Christian blog means that means you love the written word. Consider those who are putting the scriptures in the hands of people who don’t have them, such as Wycliffe Bible Translators or the various Bible Societies.
  • And speaking of Bibles, this book is illegal in more than 50 countries.  Consider helping organizations that work with the persecuted church around the world.
  • You first considered your local church. Is there another church in your community that is doing good but struggling financially? This year we heard a story of one church putting another local church on their missions budget with a sizable donation. We’re all playing on the same team, and what a wonderful witness this is to those who think we’re competing.

Also, there may be a family in your community, or in your extended family, or someone you work with who cannot provide you with a tax receipt but needs a blessing this Christmas. Consider also directly donating to someone who is in need.

‘…I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’  ~ Matthew 25:40

May 26, 2010

Taking It To The Next Level

Today we began the day listening to a download of an Andy Stanley sermon on giving.   I gotta say it was a bit of a yawner — Andy’s a master speaker but the topic is too often done — until the last ten minutes, when Andy really took things to the next level and presented his vision of what his church would look like and what his church could do if people really embraced the idea of putting God first with their finances.

Then later in the day, we listened to a sermon by Francis Chan, who until recently hasn’t been part of our sermon download routine.   I’ve been impressed with things I have been hearing about him, and the sermon did not disappoint.   This is a guy who is totally sold out to God and literally drips passion with every sermon sentence.   He talked about the sin of Achan and how each one of us is a threat to our spiritual community if we are holding on to sin and sinful patterns.

This day was about the difference between good sermons and great sermons; and great sermons are the ones which truly shake us to our roots, and challenge us to actually do the things that Christ calls us to do.