Money, Sanctification, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday ~ To Tithe or Not to Tithe…

Originally published August 22, 2013tithetithe_challenge

…that is the question. But should it be? And is it really as simple as that? Yes. And no. On the “simple answer” side, there are two things to keep in mind:

First, Christians today are not required to keep any of the civil or ceremonial laws of Old Testament Israel. If you disagree, I hope you’ve got a parapet around the perimeter of your roof  and that when you harvest your wheat you’re sure to leave the gleanings on the ground. (Christians are, however, called to obey God’s moral laws –many of which are initially laid down in the Old Testament– not in order to earn or keep our salvation, but because we love our Savior and want to flee as far away from sin as possible.)

If you’re interested in the whys and wherefores of the reasons Christians are not required to keep the law of the tithe, there downloadare a number of great articles out there to help you understand. Check out this one, this one, and this one  for starters.

Second, the words “tithing” and “giving” are not synonymous. The New Testament is rife with admonitions to Christians to give, and examples of Christians giving (many of which went far beyond the amount that would have been required by tithing laws) to meet the needs of the church.

So, tithing- no. Giving- yes.

But there’s another aspect of this question, a bigger picture, that doesn’t fit neatly into a “yes or no” category. It’s the heart of the matter. The matter of our hearts.

There are those who will read the articles I’ve linked to above, and, despite solid biblical teaching on why Christians are not required to keep the law of the tithe, will balk at the idea. I know this because that’s exactly what I did when I was first introduced to this teaching. Most of the churches I’ve attended have taught that tithing is a requirement for Christians. It wasn’t a question of “should we or shouldn’t we,” it was the parsing of “gross or net”. Tithing was just assumed. And when you hear something that goes against what you’ve been taught in church all your life, you just naturally resist it. (As well you should. Many of the “new teachings” and “fresh approaches” you’ll encounter out there are nothing but centuries old heresies with a shiny new coat of paint on them.) But sometimes somthing we’ve been taught in church all our lives is wrong. Once you put your Berean spectacles on and thoroughly examine the Scriptures, do you still bristle at the idea of throwing out the requirement to tithe? Why?

Because it’s easier to write a check on autopilot than to take the time to examine our hearts.

Raise your hand if you remember offering envelopes in Sunday School. When I was a little girl, we filled out an offering envelope every Sunday in Sunday School whether we were giving an offering or not. There were little check boxes on the front of the envelope that said things like “Bible brought,” “Attending worship,” “Bible read daily,” etc. It was the way the teachers counted attendance and organized statistics. 

As fallen creatures, we are bent towards keeping one of those offering envelopes in the back of our minds. “Read my Bible today.” Check. “Prayed.” Check. “Wrote out my tithe check.” Check. And our spiritual lives never go deeper than a check on a checklist.

Remind you of anybody? The Pharisees, perhaps? Ouch.

Time and again, Jesus told them that their relationship with God wasn’t about surface behaviors, but a heart to heart –my heart to God’s heart—communion and intimacy with their Creator and Redeemer.

And I don’t know about you, but my fallen, broken, old nature resists that like the devil. Why? Because it’s messy and dirty. There’s no clear cut, singular, magic “right answer”. It requires a lot of time and effort and trial and error. It can get frustrating and discouraging. It’s inefficient.

tithingIt’s so much easier to just check off a few boxes, be done with it, and be on my way.

But that bent of our hearts is exactly the opposite of what God wants. He doesn’t want to receive our remuneration; He wants to consume our hearts.

“You have heard it said…” Jesus said to the Pharisees, quoting the law, “but I say to you…” it goes much deeper than that.

It’s not enough to keep from murdering somebody. What are the selfish motives in your heart that made you angry with your brother in the first place?

It’s not enough to refrain from the act of adultery. What’s going on in your heart that you’re even looking at that woman?

It’s not enough just to dutifully fulfill the requirement of the law. I want you to have a heart that is so dead to self and alive to Christ that it goes the extra mile joyfully.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
Matthew 23:23-26

How’s that cup and plate looking? What’s going on in our hearts that we’re not already –simply as a result of being a new creature in Christ—giving of what we have whenever we see a need? It didn’t occur to the early church to quibble over percentages and gross vs. net. Their brothers and sisters were in need, and they dipped into the coffers of the treasure of their heartstheir love for Christ and the brethrenand met those needs.

Maybe we’re just not as acutely aware of the need today. Well get aware, and rejoice in your opportunity to give!

Your pastor and your worship leader and, depending on the dynamics and circumstances of your church, other church staffimages members, need to be able to support their families above the poverty level.

There are people in your church who have lost their jobs, and despite their best efforts, haven’t been able to find new ones. They need your help.

There are pregnant teenagers all over your city who don’t want to abort their babies but don’t see any other options. What can your offering do to help them?

There are people groups all over the globe who have never seen a Bible or heard the name of Jesus. How can we best steward our money to get the gospel to them?

People are dying and spending eternity in hell. Starving to death. Being abused. Living on the streets. Risking their lives to get their hands on a Bible. Trying to put food on the table as they labor to bring you God’s word. The check you put in the offering plate every Sunday can help them.

Forget the percentages and requirements of the law. How can a follower of Christ look upon those needs and ask, “Where’s my calculator?”

Where’s your heart?

Church, New Testament

Godly Giving ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 11-23-14

godly givingThese are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 47 ~ Nov. 16-22
Acts 1-14, James

Godly Giving

As Acts opens, we see the church in its infancy, experiencing the romance of its newness, but beginning to transition into maturity. Jesus reiterated His mission statement for the church -the Great Commission- in Acts 1:8. The church is to be about the business of making (missions/evangelism) and training (discipleship) disciples. Sunday school is one of the places where discipleship (training in God’s word, holy living, and the life of the church) takes place. Last week we trained on one practice of church life: the Lord’s Supper. This week, we will train on another practice of church life: giving and offerings.

As I said, the church was in its infancy, and you know infants– sometimes they get things wrong and sometimes they get things right. Today we’re going to look at one example of how they got giving right and one example of how they got giving wrong.

 

Acts 4:32-37

 

Taking Care of Our Own

Already bound together by their love for Christ, the ever present threat of persecution (Peter and John had recently been arrested) served only to draw Christians closer together, and to make sure they looked out for one anothers’ needs. There was no government safety net, and even in Jesus’ day (John 9:22), people were being expelled from the synagogue for identifying with Him, so the Jews could not be counted on to help needy Christians either. The church recognized that they were responsible for taking care of their own, and this is still part of the mission of the church today. Can you think of some specific examples of how our church has stepped up and taken care of its own?

Holding Stuff Loosely

Verse 32 says church members held that none “of the thngs that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.” We need to understand that this is not talking about socialism or living together in a commune and sharing everything (otherwise, no one would have owned houses or lands as verse 34 mentions). It means that church members loved their fellow Christians so far above material things that it was nothing to them to sell their possessions if it meant helping a brother or sister. They did not have the American mentality of acquiring more and more stuff to hang on to, or measuring their worth or success by their bank accounts. 

It’s All God’s Anyway (Psalm 50:10-12; 24:1)

The early church had an understanding and a reverence for God’s sovereign ownership of every molecule of the universe that we would do well to cling to. To these first century Christians, saying that nothing that belonged to them was truly their own was a recognition that everything belonged to God– their houses, their lands, the cattle on a thousand hills, the earth and the fulness thereof (Ps.). To them, money was simply a tool they could use to minister to others– a tool owned by God that God Himself was entrusting to them to use for His glory. We are also to hold our money and possessions with the question always in our mind, “How can I use this to glorify God and further His kingdom by ministering to others?”

We Joyfully Give All Because Christ Joyfully Gave All (2 Corinthians 9:7, 1 Corinthians 1:22-24)

Verse 33 almost seems to be stuck into this paragraph at random. After all, the other five verses are about giving, and 33 is about preaching. But it’s a very important verse. Notice what the apostles were preaching: the gospel. The church heard about the Savior who gave everything, His comfort, His security, even His very life- everything -for them. And what was the response? Out of love for Jesus, gratitude for all He had done for them, and a desire to follow in His footsteps, they joyfully gave to others. 

These folks are the “cheerful givers” Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians. We are not to give under compulsion: not the compulsion of the Old Testament Law, since Jesus fulfilled it and we are no longer bound by the tithe, not the compulsion of guilt that we’re not giving enough or trying hard enough, not the compulsion of fear that God will zap us if we don’t give enough, and not the compulsion of peer pressure, desiring to look good to others. God wants our giving to be motivated by our love, joy, and thankfulness to Him. And when churches preach Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor.) as the Jerusalem church did, they produce grateful, joyful saints who desire to give everything back to Christ.

Trusting and Submitting to Trustworthy Pastors (Hebrews 13:17)

Twice (35 & 37), this passage says that when the church gave money, they brought it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. This tells us two things about the Jerusalem church: 1.) The apostles (their pastors) lived their lives, made decisions, and taught God’s word in a way that earned the church’s trust, which all pastors should strive to do. It helped that there were twelve of them to keep each other accountable. 2.) The church trusted their pastors and submitted to their leadership. They did not feel they had to take control over the pastors or their decisions about distributing the money. They trusted their pastors’ judgment and leadership. Hebrews 13:17 says:

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

As long as our pastors are trustworthy and not violating Scripture or scriptural principles, we are to submit to their leadership.

 

Acts 5:1-11

 

Motive Matters (Matthew 6:3-4)

Why did God kill Ananias and Sapphira?

a) They didn’t give a big enough offering.

b) They didn’t give all the money from the sale of their land.

c) They lied about how much of the money from the sale of their land they were giving.

 The answer, of course, is “c”. This wasn’t about their offering. This was about lying to make themselves look like hotshots to other church members. Remember, we just discussed 2 Corinthians 9:7, which makes clear that God doesn’t want us to give under the compulsion of fear that He will zap us for not giving enough or the compulsion of peer pressure– trying to look good to others. This was God’s judgment on their prideful desire to be esteemed by others as big givers instead of being humble and not letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing (Matt.).

As Peter pointed out (4), they didn’t have to sell the land at all, and when they did sell it, it was up to them to determine how much of the money they would give to the church (back to 2 Cor. 9:7- “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart”). All they had to do was be honest about it. First Samuel 15:22 says:

And Samuel said,
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen than the fat of rams.

When it comes to giving, God cares far more about the attitude of our heart than the amount of our check.

Users are Losers

Not only were Ananias’ and Sapphira’s motives for giving wrong, but they used a ministry of the church (the offering) and the people of the church to get what they wanted: admiration and accolades. We don’t use the church to get an ego boost or build our reputation in society. God’s church, His ministries, and His people are not entities at our disposal for us to use to gratify our selfish desires. They are holy and precious to Him, and we are to treat them as such.

 

Giving is an act of worship, submission to God’s sovereign ownership of everything, and a ministry to others. It is an important way that all church members can take part in the life of the church. God wants our hearts to be so completely His that it is a joy to give back to Him as much as we possibly can.

Money, Sanctification

To Tithe or Not to Tithe…

tithetithe_challenge….that is the question. But should it be? And is it really as simple as that? Yes. And no. On the “simple answer” side, there are two things to keep in mind:

First, Christians today are not required to keep any of the civil or ceremonial laws of Old Testament Israel. If you disagree, I hope you’ve got a parapet around the perimeter of your roof  and that when you harvest your wheat you’re sure to leave the gleanings on the ground. (Christians are, however, called to obey God’s moral laws –many of which are initially laid down in the Old Testament– not in order to earn or keep our salvation, but because we love our Savior and want to flee as far away from sin as possible.)

If you’re interested in the whys and wherefores of the reasons Christians are not required to keep the law of the tithe, there downloadare a number of great articles out there to help you understand. Check out this one, this one, and this one  for starters.

Second, the words “tithing” and “giving” are not synonymous. The New Testament is rife with admonitions to Christians to give, and examples of Christians giving (many of which went far beyond the amount that would have been required by tithing laws) to meet the needs of the church.

So, tithing- no. Giving- yes.

But there’s another aspect of this question, a bigger picture, that doesn’t fit neatly into a “yes or no” category. It’s the heart of the matter. The matter of our hearts.

There are those who will read the articles I’ve linked to above, and, despite solid biblical teaching on why Christians are not required to keep the law of the tithe, will balk at the idea. I know this because that’s exactly what I did when I was first introduced to this teaching. Most of the churches I’ve attended have taught that tithing is a requirement for Christians. It wasn’t a question of “should we or shouldn’t we,” it was the parsing of “gross or net”. Tithing was just assumed. And when you hear something that goes against what you’ve been taught in church all your life, you just naturally resist it. (As well you should. Many of the “new teachings” and “fresh approaches” you’ll encounter out there are nothing but centuries old heresies with a shiny new coat of paint on them.) But sometimes somthing we’ve been taught in church all our lives is wrong. Once you put your Berean spectacles on and thoroughly examine the Scriptures, do you still bristle at the idea of throwing out the requirement to tithe? Why?

Because it’s easier to write a check on autopilot than to take the time to examine our hearts.

Raise your hand if you remember offering envelopes in Sunday School. When I was a little girl, we filled out an offering envelope every Sunday in Sunday School whether we were giving an offering or not. There were little check boxes on the front of the envelope that said things like “Bible brought,” “Attending worship,” “Bible read daily,” etc. It was the way the teachers counted attendance and organized statistics. 

As fallen creatures, we are bent towards keeping one of those offering envelopes in the back of our minds. “Read my Bible today.” Check. “Prayed.” Check. “Wrote out my tithe check.” Check. And our spiritual lives never go deeper than a check on a checklist.

Remind you of anybody? The Pharisees, perhaps? Ouch.

Time and again, Jesus told them that their relationship with God wasn’t about surface behaviors, but a heart to heart –my heart to God’s heart—communion and intimacy with their Creator and Redeemer.

And I don’t know about you, but my fallen, broken, old nature resists that like the devil. Why? Because it’s messy and dirty. There’s no clear cut, singular, magic “right answer”. It requires a lot of time and effort and trial and error. It can get frustrating and discouraging. It’s inefficient.

tithingIt’s so much easier to just check off a few boxes, be done with it, and be on my way.

But that bent of our hearts is exactly the opposite of what God wants. He doesn’t want to receive our remuneration; He wants to consume our hearts.

“You have heard it said…” Jesus said to the Pharisees, quoting the law, “but I say to you…” it goes much deeper than that.

It’s not enough to keep from murdering somebody. What are the selfish motives in your heart that made you angry with your brother in the first place?

It’s not enough to refrain from the act of adultery. What’s going on in your heart that you’re even looking at that woman?

It’s not enough just to dutifully fulfill the requirement of the law. I want you to have a heart that is so dead to self and alive to Christ that it goes the extra mile joyfully.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
Matthew 23:23-26

How’s that cup and plate looking? What’s going on in our hearts that we’re not already –simply as a result of being a new creature in Christ—giving of what we have whenever we see a need? It didn’t occur to the early church to quibble over percentages and gross vs. net. Their brothers and sisters were in need, and they dipped into the coffers of the treasure of their heartstheir love for Christ and the brethrenand met those needs.

Maybe we’re just not as acutely aware of the need today. Well get aware, and rejoice in your opportunity to give!

Your pastor and your worship leader and, depending on the dynamics and circumstances of your church, other church staffimages members, need to be able to support their families above the poverty level.

There are people in your church who have lost their jobs, and despite their best efforts, haven’t been able to find new ones. They need your help.

There are pregnant teenagers all over your city who don’t want to abort their babies but don’t see any other options. What can your offering do to help them?

There are people groups all over the globe who have never seen a Bible or heard the name of Jesus. How can we best steward our money to get the gospel to them?

People are dying and spending eternity in hell. Starving to death. Being abused. Living on the streets. Risking their lives to get their hands on a Bible. Trying to put food on the table as they labor to bring you God’s word. The check you put in the offering plate every Sunday can help them.

Forget the percentages and requirements of the law. How can a follower of Christ look upon those needs and ask, “Where’s my calculator?”

Where’s your heart?