Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Having the Tithe of My Life (5)

Jesus & The Early Church
Interestingly, for as much as tithing is emphasized in churches today, if you were to do a Bible study on the practice of tithing in the New Testament, it would be a short study indeed.  Now that we've looked at some of the Old Testament background behind the tithe, we must wonder what Jesus said about it.  How often did he instruct his disciples to do it?  What instruction did Paul give the churches he helped plant in regard to receiving and distributing tithes?

Strangely, the New Testament is virtually silent on the issue.  Some will argue against that statement, but a lot of our teachings about tithing and stewardship and giving that we take from New Testament passages may have more to do with what we read into them than what we discover out of them.  So, let me bottom line this point by saying that we have no record of Jesus ever directing his followers to give tithes to anyone.  We also have no record of any first-century church practicing the ritual of giving/receiving a tithe.  This will probably come as a surprise to some because many of us have been told our whole lives how tithing is a biblical practice and a divine expectation of church members.  (I confess to believing this and teaching it to others in the past. See my first post in this series.)

Let me share an interesting discovery I recently made.  I went through our denominational manual and looked up the section on tithing.  It begins by explaining that we teach and practice storehouse tithing for all the reasons I used to teach people.  Then, it lists all scripture references related to the topic (you know, as the "biblical backing" for why we do what we do).  I looked up every single one and read it in its context.  The main ideas ranged from not worrying about anything because God meets needs (Matthew 6:24-34) to guarding against greed (Luke 12:13-24) to understanding worship as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-13).  There were others:  "Rich Young Man" (Mark 10), "Vine and the Branches" (John 15), and the ever famous "love of money" passage in 1 Timothy 6.  While all these are wonderful teachings, do you know what was remarkably, strangely absent?  Any reference to tithing!!!

Even the oft-quoted "be a cheerful giver" reference from 2 Corinthians 9 makes no direct mention or even an implication to the practice of tithing.

Tell me why, if it is so Christian to tithe, is it so difficult to find a single commandment in the New Testament telling believers to do it?!

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