September 25, 2010

Tithing – Challenging Tradition

Torah inside of the former Glockengasse synago...

Tithing is a time held tradition in churches. While it may be necessary, it is often times taught wrong. Some people feel that they only have to give 10%. Some people feel that they need to give above and beyond this. Then, there is the question of should you give your 10% before or after taxes?

What does the Bible really say about tithing? Is it really important? How much should be tithed?

Why Tithe?

Why should anyone put money into an offering plate? Does the Bible really command it? In the Old Testament, it is commanded to the Jews to tithe a tenth, or 10%. Not just 10%, but the first and the best portion.

But, let’s face it, I am not a Jew. So, should I tithe? In the New Testament, Paul mentions "receiving support" from churches with a greater ability to help churches with a lesser ability.

Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge? I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you.

2 Corinthians 11:7-8

This sounds like tithing to me. In reality, it sounds more like an offering. Paul mentions making a living off of tithes and compares it to the Law of Moses.

Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk? Do I say this merely from a human point of view? Doesn't the Law say the same thing? For it is written in the Law of Moses: "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn't he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn't we have it all the more?

I Corinthians 9:7-12

It is important to note that you can give more than money. Time is an important thing to spend in the right church.

What Is The “Right” Church?

Here are some important questions as they will often times lead to you know the spirit of the church. Is it of God or man? What happens to the money? Does the church use it pay a large staff? Or to purchase material items used by the church? Or is a portion used to give support mission type of work? 

"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

Matthew 7:15-20

Bottom line is, know where your time and money is going. If there is a substantial portion going into missions, then that is where you want to send your support. The more time and money poured into missions, the more valuable your gift means.

How much?

The is not one single reference to the 10% tithing rule anywhere in the New Testament. The only exception is where the New Testament references the Old Testament. The only reference to how much someone should give, is the Widow's Offering.

Jesus 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. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on."

Mark 12:41-44

How much was given wasn't measured out of a fixed proportion, but out of one's ability to give.

And, Paul encourages a generous giver to support the church.

And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will. So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But just as you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us — see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

2 Corinthians 8:1-7

And, there are many references to helping the poor and giving to their needs (not necessarily money). And, it is often overlooked how much Paul gave in his devotion to preach, including not asking for support from churches who were not able. It isn't money that he gave, but it is worth much more.

The 10% rule is a good rule of thumb. It is good to have a way to pay the utilities in a church and other things. It is also good to have a good roof, heat and air conditioning as needed. It helps provide a place of worship and fellowship. It is important that is provides for missions work. For this is the heart of the church.

The 10% rule is not a rule, but a rule of thumb. The exception being for the Jews. If all you feel you should give is 10%, then give 10%. If you cannot, then do not. Whatever you give, if you give, give your first portion and your best portion. It doesn’t matter if it is time, or money.

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