Saturday, April 09, 2005

Tithing

My church is planning three Sunday nights of messages on stewardship. The first message was preached this past Sunday night... with a rousing intro by my Sunday School teacher. The message in Sunday School was unabashedly in support of New Testament tithing, while the pastor's evening message never mentioned it except for one instance in which the example was given, that if you have 1000 dollars you should give 100 dollars.
I have heard some rather extreme views on giving at other times. Such as, you must give 10% of everything, including Christmas gifts, your employer's matching SS contribution, etc. Of course, it is also said by some that not only will not tithing bring on the curse of God, but you have to give offerings above your tithe. Some even say that you should attempt catch up on tithing on income recieved before you were saved!
In Hebrews 7 we are told that the Levites were given the commandment to take tithes. This commandment was neither given nor did it pass to anyone in the NT church. The common response that tithing was before the law merely warrants a reminder that circumcision and sabbath keeping were before the law as well.
Now, I know about the pitfalls of not giving. The Bible is clear, that God is not mocked, and whatever a person sows, that is what they will reap. God is not out to curse NT Christians if they don't give 10% plus offerings. What is in effect though, is the law of sowing and reaping... if you withhold, expect to be withholden from. If you give, then you can expect to be given to. Also there is God's blessing on a cheerful giver. However none of this has to do with a requirement to tithe. God may let you live on the edge financially, if you don't give, but He can't break His promise to provide for His children's necessities.
I would rather hear giving preached from the pulpit as a matter of sowing and reaping, rather than for the tithe hammer to be used to threaten everyone... perhaps some might say "threaten" is too strong of a word, but it is descriptive for many of the messages I have heard in the past.

4 comments:

the snack chief said...

Did your pastor refer to Malachi 3:8 - It is O.T. - but I think it's a bit more positive of a message, more so than trying to "guilt" you into tithing.

8 "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.
"But you ask, 'How do we rob you?'
"In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit," says the LORD Almighty. 12 "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land," says the LORD Almighty.

David T. said...

You are right- Malachi 3:8 has a positive message. It all depends on what emphasis you put on it, and what you focus on.
It also depends on how sensitive you are to the subject. Every message about giving is a threatening message to those who don't like the topic.
I think the positive aspect of this passage is a permanent principle that should be taught- that God will bless those who support His work.

donald f :) said...

Remember also that tithing began before the law as well (Abraham giving tithes to Melchizedek, who I believe is Christ). So the levitical priesthood was not the only repository for tithes. A (not very firm) case can then be made that since Christ's priesthood is eternal, and therefor better (see Hebrews), the NT "storehouse" might be the Church, it's priests being Christ and the saints.
An idea that I've thought a lot about lately that can be potentially dangerous (yet very useful and appropriate at times), is the application of OT laws in a NT context. Let me explain. Christ took the OT laws and even Roman laws, and took them to their spiritual end: hate=murder, go the extra mile, cut of an offending body part :), etc. Paul said that the command not to muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn was not written for the ox'sake, but for our learning (1 Cor 9:1-10, 1 Tim. 5:18, Ro. 15:4). Notice that Paul makes two entirely different arguments based on that passage. Now apply this line of thinking to OT tithing. "All scripture...is profitable for doctrine..." I don't think any preacher would be out of line for making a case for NT tithing, as long as it is not preached as a prerequisite for salvation. Now, I have the same doubts about the validity of doing so as you do. But ask your pastor sometime to share some stories with you about what families he has counselled have experienced when they quit tithing.
We often claim the OT promises, yet we shy away from the OT commands like the plague! Remember that many OT promises were attached to commands - honor parents> long life; Meditate on God's word (and Law!)> great success; etc, etc, etc. If you want the blessing, you must obey the command. Is tithing required by God of the NT saint? The NT never explicitly restates the OT command, but definitely commands giving. And gives examples of how the early church gave. Anybody feel like selling their home? How about impoverishing yourself in order to help another church? Or, as Christ said, sell all you have and give to the poor? In that context, a tithe seems like an awfully easy cop-out!! So get out your deeds, titles, stocks, bonds, and savings accounts, and get ready to sell! Ok, maybe not.
So here's my whole point: don't muzzle the ox when the offering plate comes by!!!

David T. said...

People shouldn't use NT freedom as an excuse for selfishness. It shows that they really don't care about what the Bible says but rather about their own things.
True Christian freedom is a balance that is hard to maintain. On the one hand, some will use freedom as an excuse for evil or selfishness. On the other hand, others will point to those who abuse their freedom as justification for cancelling that freedom. These are two ditches on either side of a narrow road.
Of course, as I said, circumcision was before the law as well, although no longer required.
As regards giving, we ought to be willing to take care of those who have given themselves to the Lord's work, and to provide for those things which will advance the gospel.