Thursday, November 24, 2011

Having the Tithe of My Life (7) - Final Thoughts

What I Believe & Teach NOW
As I have already mentioned in earlier posts, not long ago, I went back to our denominational Manual to re-read the stance on tithing and look up the Scripture references included with that doctrine.  My denomination includes explanations and directions for "storehouse tithing."  Beneath these paragraphs were almost 15 different Bible passages.  As I went through them one by one, I found something rather shocking.  Almost none of them have any form of the word "tithe."  In fact, almost none of them even relate to the practice of tithing at all!  Of the few that do, I have discussed all of them in the previous posts.

Quite frankly, if we were to form our beliefs and practices about financial stewardship from the references listed, then it probably wouldn't resemble the challenge to "tithe to the storehouse" as our Christian duty.  No, it would actually raise the calling much higher.  The call on the Christian life is to give
everything.  According to the New Testament writers, money needs to be put in its proper place as far as level of importance.  The amount of money isn't the issue; the heart is the issue!

Let me share some of the examples:

Matthew 6:24-34 ~ Do not worry because God meets needs.

Matthew 25:31-46 ~ Separation of the sheep and the goats.  Take care of the needy because that is how we serve Jesus.
Mark 10:17-31 ~ Jesus tells a rich young man to sell everything and give to the poor if he wants to enter the kingdom of God.  (Not an "altar call" invitation I hear often!)
Luke 12:13-24 ~ A parable about a rich fool to warn the readers to guard against greed.
Luke 19:11-27 ~ A parable of 10 Minas to stress the point of putting your talent to work.
John 15:1-17~ Not sure what the thinking was as to why/how this got thrown in as a "proof text" for tithing, but it is about the importance of abiding, or remaining, in Christ, and illustrates how we are nothing apart from him.
Romans 12:1-13 ~ Paul's famous teaching about "living sacrifices."  There is a reference to sharing with those in need in verse 13.

There are others, like
1 Corinthians 9 or 2 Corinthians 8:1-15 or 1 Timothy 6:3-21 that are also cited.  These passages discuss the rights of an apostle and encourage generosity and caution that the love of money can lead to evil.  Even the oft-quoted 2 Corinthians 9:6-15, which instructs the reader to "be a cheerful giver" makes NO mention of (or even implies) tithing!

So what do I teach people now when tithing or money or stewardship comes up?

1.  Read the Bible.  Seriously!  Read it for yourself.  Go directly to the Scriptures and look it up.  (I am ashamed to say that this is not something I taught much in the past.  I would tell people what the Bible says so they wouldn't have to go look it up on their own.  What a service I provided them, huh?)

2.  Stand on what is certain.  Just because we might be confused about some things in the Bible doesn't mean there are not some obvious, clear convictions in it that we can "take to the bank" (poor pun intended).  For example, James is pretty emphatic when he states, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" (James 1:27).  This is one of many references throughout the Scriptures that clearly and consistently indicate that
God cares for widows, orphans, aliens, and the poor, and in turn, desires that we care for them, as well.  God's priorities do rise to the surface when people honestly read the Bible, whether they have a seminary degree or a 3rd grade education.

3.  Allow for FREEDOM where you can't be certain.  Let me conclude again - It may be that some people should tithe.  Others probably should not.  This series of posts is NOT a tirade against tithing.  It is about receiving truth from God's words outside of our distorted denominational and traditional lenses.  The truth is that God may want someone to give 10% of their income to one cause and someone else 40% to another cause.  It is apparent that Jesus invited people to salvation in different ways.  We need to be open to the idea that entrance into salvation for some people might be selling everything they own and giving their profit to the poor, while for others it might be declaring Jesus is Lord and confessing it with their mouth publicly.  To some he says, "Be born again!"  To others, he says, "Believe in me!"  All these ways point to the same place, but we must allow for people to freely live in Christ in unique ways.

God wants it ALL!!!  My final word on all this is that the irony of this whole discussion is that it is actually pretty silly.  A debate of whether we should give 10% here or there, or in which way, gross or net,...blah, blah, blah.  Can you imagine the early disciples who gave their lives for following Jesus being time-warped to our day and hearing these conversations and sermons?!  They could only react, "This is so ridiculous! What are these people talking about? Where in the world did you get the idea that you owe God 10% or 23% or 90% of anything?"  We would do well to look at what Jesus demands of his followers in the New Testament.  Guess how much? Yeah, ALL OF IT!!! Everything. Everywhere. Every time. No exceptions. He says that if we won't give our whole lives, then the deal's off. And we're sitting around debating about 10% of our material wealth! Hmmm...something's wrong with this picture!

But don't take what I teach as your gospel.  Review the passages referenced above for yourself and see what conclusions you reach.  You will know the truth and the truth will set you free!

I have a friend who, when asked now about whether he tithes, he answers that he now practices
radical generosity. I like that. Let's try that for a bit, shall we?

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