Thursday, January 31, 2008

To Tithe Or Not to Tithe...That is the Question

I had a friend approach me the other day about the Biblical mandate to tithe. She stated that God did not command us to tithe ten percent, and that it should be a free will offering, the quantity joyfully determined by the giver. Let me state first and foremost that the word 'tithe', and it's original Hebrew 'Maser' mean tenth. So, really, it is not a question of the quantity, it is a question of whether it is a command to tithe, or not.

The Old Testament refers quite a few times to tithing. It was a law in those times. Critics of tithing argue that we are no longer bound by the law, but by grace, since Jesus shed his blood for us. They also argue that the tithe was a 'tithe of the land', giving a tenth of of crops and livestock raised on the land, for the Levites. The Levites were not given a division of land, but were promised a share from the land distributed to the other tribes so they could continue their work for the temple of God instead of having to seek a livlihood.

There are few mentions of tithe or tenth in the New Testament. Jesus spoke of it when rebuking the Pharisees.

Matthew 23:23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.

Luke 11:42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.

Jesus tells us that justice, mercy and faith, are the most important things, and they were being ignored by the Pharisees. But he tells them not to pick and choose one or the other, but to do BOTH. He did not want them to be so focused on their tithe, believing that they had met the requirements of the law, and were therefore exempt from meeting the emotional and spiritual needs of the poor. Jesus tells us to feed the poor and clothe the poor, but not to just meet their physical needs and push them away. He wants us to embrace them, love them, and tell them about God also.

I have heard and read arguments for both sides of the tithe issue. I know that both sides are gifted at picking apart the scripture the other side chooses in defense of their views. I am not. I am not a debater.

The reason is that I don't care if God commands me to tithe or not. I am going to tithe whether it is a command or merely a suggestion or request. I am not interested in meeting the bare requirements of the law. I am interested in honoring God by being a sacrificial giver. I was once at the point where I was not a tither. I gave maybe one percent, and then, only if I had it on me. And I was struggling financially. It hurt me to hand over that five or ten dollar bill. But it wasn't really a sacrifice. I didn't go without anything because I handed it over.

My family reached a severe financial struggle when I first quit work. My husband made less than a thousand dollars a month, and our house didn't sell, so we had a $535 house payment and a car payment to cover with that, along with insurance and groceries...and tithe. We did not stop tithing. I will admit to you that things were difficult. We did not have our choice of foods. We were pretty much going through the stockpiled pantry items we had and what I could buy with a few dollars a week. Some weeks we bought nothing. We didn't go hungry. We may have had beans and water a few meals, or spoons of peanut butter, but we did not go without. This is the way we saw it. We gave God the opportunity to provide. He knows our needs, and promises to provide for them, if we are faithful. O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matt 6:30-33 We actually went three weeks without buying any groceries, and God met our needs. Some days we would come home to find a neighbor had left a bag of greens or some other garden goodies on our door. Right after those three weeks ended, we had a party and fed over sixty people. God made that possible.

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, "He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever." 2 Cor 9:6-9 Some interpret this to mean that a person should choose the amount they desire to give, but not beyond the line of discomfort. I believe that the intent of this passage is to show people that they must have a heart change about their giving. It is not their giving that needs to change, it is their intent and attitude. Paul tells us that if we sow sparingly, we will reap a sparce harvest. I think he is trying to give us the key to unlocking the door to prosperity. I would be foolish to discard that key without a second glance.

Another reason I tithe is in support of the furthering of God's kingdom through our church. I have faith that our church is meeting the needs of not only people that attend our church, but people in our community at large, and I want to be a part of making that happen. I realize that the more money they receive, the more money they can pour into making a difference in the community. I think God receives honor and glory for this outreach. And, quite selfishly, I realize that as other people in my community are brightened with the light of Christ, it ripples back to me.

God owns everything. I do believe that he expects us to give a portion of what is already his to those he has chosen to carry on his work. Does he need our money? No! There are many things that he doesn't need from us, but does expect from us. But I do believe he expects us to give out of submission and reverence for him.

I don't believe it is entirely for him. It is for us! We benefit when we tithe. We loosen the hold that money has on us, and give God the opportunity to meet our needs and prosper us. God wants us to be generous in all matters - in love, in mercy, in forgiveness, and in money. And for that reason, if for not other, I will continue to tithe generously.

"Judge not , and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you." Luke 6:37-38

What about you? What are your experiences with tithing? What has study of the Bible directed you to in relation to this subject? This is one of those subjects regarding which people have a rather strong opinion. Please leave your comments...but show respect for the opposing view.

No comments: