Thursday, November 17, 2011

Having the Tithe of My Life (1)

Well, it was only a matter of time I suppose.  I had to quit beating around the bush and plunge headfirst into a controversial topic.  My take on it will surprise some, bless others, and still offend a few more.  The issue I intend to take up in the next few posts is the subject of tithing.  Before I begin, let me make my often used disclaimer yet again.  My goal with these writings is to get people, including myself, to take the Bible seriously and contextually.  What I mean is that I don't want to be guilty of just imposing my own beliefs on the text while totally disregarding the "when, where, and why" the words were originally written in the first place.  These factors go far in shaping its meaning.

Today, let me begin with what I used to teach about tithing.  I spent a good portion of my ministry in the IC proclaiming these ideas, and even encouraging others to turn around and proclaim them also.  I apologize for any false teachings I may have spread along the way, and I can only say for myself that I did so with an honest and sincere heart.  And might I add, the same is true for me now!

So, what did I teach?

First, I taught that tithing was a duty of the Christian life - that it was a mark of discipleship, of spiritual maturity.  I encouraged people to give one-tenth of their income as a minimum, or "starting place."

Second, I taught that the concept of storehouse tithing known in the days of the Israelites in the Old Testament was still applicable today.  I taught people to think of our present churches (501c3 non-profit organizations) as the modern day equivalent of the ancient storehouses.  Therefore, I promoted the practice of bringing "your tithes to the storehouse" or church building.
Third, I taught that it was appropriate to use a significant portion of the tithes to pay clergy and staff as well as fund religious programs.  This teaching was partly based upon the Old Testament practice of using the tithe to support the Levites, who were the religious leaders (priests) of the people of God.

Fourth, I taught that tithing in the manner that I have described so far was justified biblically.  I offered several Scripture passages, including ones that I interpreted in such a way as to persuade people that tithing was both a serious obligation and a means to spiritual and material blessings.
Finally, I taught all of this because I wholeheartedly believed it.  I lived it.  I practiced it.  My family budgeted around it, and the practice of tithing was a strong conviction that I personally connected with my own integrity and discipleship.  It was literally one of the measures of my "walk with Christ."

That should suffice to set the scene for what I believe and teach now.  If you, like me, hold to many of the above ideas, then please proceed through upcoming posts cautiously.  In my final post on this topic, I will explain why I even write about it at all since I know it can potentially cause much disagreement.

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