STEWARDSHIP, TITHING etc
This is related to our recent discussion on the Parable of the Shrewd Manager. Over the years, I have come to an understanding that everything I own actually belongs to God. "What do you have that you did not receive?" asked the Apostle Paul. With this in mind I look at the issue of giving more on the basis of stewardship than giving percentages. I take the much bandied 10% figure only as the minimum I should give. I think it is wrong to assume that because you have given 10% of your income as a tithe somewhere, you are at liberty to do whatever you like with the remainder of the money.
I believe we shall be called to account for every single penny that came through our hands and in addition we shall be called to account for how we "tithed" our time and our talents. - Robbo
I think that the notion of tithes is a gross misrepresentation of an Old Testament truth that many church organizations have jumped on to make money. No where in the New Testament is tithing taught as a must. I think that it is mentioned but not as doctrine for us to practise as a command as opposed to say communion.
In any event who gets the tithes? Who or what is the "local church"? Is it the brick and mortar that we worship in or the spiritual body of Christ, which could even be us when we exchange ideas on this forum. I personally think that everything belongs to God and we are custodians of whatever He has given us for His work. So my money goes where His work is and not necessarily to the brick and mortar that people have mistaken for the Church of Christ.
A lot of churches are even confused on what to tithe. Is it your gross income -which is the popular church teaching (no surprise here) or is it your net income? Some even teach that people who are in debt to pay their tithes before the debt and do nothing to train people to be spiritually responsible about spending, saving and giving, the lack of which is the cause of most of the indebtedness of Christians today and hence their inability to give to God’s work.
A lot of Christian money is going to the wrong things. Is it not a ploy of Satan to hinder the gospel? Purely intellectual giving or misguided giving is meaningless and of no value. How do we address this in our personal lives? - Gaius Texas.
On this issue of tithing I agree with you in some aspects but disagree on others. You're right in stating that Christian giving does not have to go only to congregational churches, but any organization, individuals or charities that seek to expand the kingdom of God. We should however not discard the practice of tithing irrespective of where we choose to send the money.
The principle was given before the mosaic law- first to Abraham, then later Jacob promised a tenth of his possession if the Lord helped him on his way to his uncle Laban. If those under the harsh requirement of the old covenant gave that much, we who are under the covenant sealed by the blood of Jesus ought to give our all to the Lord. It should be seen as something to guide our giving and some of us pray for the day when we can give 90% of our earnings to the Lord and live on the 10%. That is the importance of deep pockets for the kingdom. I think I read one millionaire say that he was able to tithe on his first million because he learnt to tithe on his first ten. - Gaius Chicago
G Chicago. I think that you and I are saying the same thing, but a little differently. I definitely tithe but use the principle as a crude rule of thumb. I believe that the New Testament teaches that 100% of anything I own belongs to God. So I believe that we need to teach people to give as the Spirit leads them and not make a principle of giving 10% and saying you are ok at this point and everything after that is an offering.
Some people because of their bad debt may only be able to give 1% (remember the widow's mite?) As they are freed through better fiscal responsibility and God's grace, the 1% may become 20% or more with time. I think that the key is responsible and generous gifts to God's work with 10% as a guide to what our forbearers who were not under our covenant gave; and since we have a better covenant we can give more.
In addition, is it only money that God's Kingdom needs? What really is a tithe? If I give my 1992 Nissan Stanza to be used for mission work how does that factor into my tithes? Giving must become a learnt Christian trait through discipleship and God can then tell His children how best to use the goods He has entrusted to them. But don't get me wrong- tithing must be taught but in the context of what Christian charity is, not just give a lump sum.
Some people may even give their buildings to be used for church offices or their skills for church accounting. Tithing is a grey area of church doctrine because the Bible does not come out in the New Testament and say tithe. So the interpretation must be individualized and I have no doubt that God's Spirit can teach everyone of His children to give us God wants, which is why I say that the New Testament does not teach it as an irrefutable doctrine. You can debate it in a million ways and you would be right on all counts.
This is why I think that we need more mature Christians who can read and interpret things for themselves and not be told what to do by others all the time. Having said that I personally advocate tithing because it’s a good rule when un certain as to how much God wants you to give. I generally separate the 10% out before I start spending my money and wait for God to show me what to do with it.
On the same note my old church has now started posting an exhaustive list of what everyone gives every month in the front lobby of the church. I understand that there were quite a few zeros by some prominent names. So far church attendance has reportedly not dipped as stiff upper lips are prevailing amongst the “armstrong” brothers. - Gaius Texas
I agree with you entirely, G Texas. I have been saying this for a long time. I do believe, like you, that 100% of our money now belongs to God. The Old Testament law has given way to a new spiritual relationship with the Father in which we are to do as He directs. I see tithing as falling into the same category of Old Testament laws such as circumcision, eating food offered to idols etc. These were given when people did not have the Holy Spirit to guide their conscience and actions.
In some ways this is analogous to the strict clinical pathways and protocols that interns are provided with, to guide clinical decisions, until clinical judgment (the ability to appreciate the nuances in clinical medicine) is learnt. Paul appears to be saying that we now have a new and living way when it comes to laws or other general maxims for living. We are not subject to them in an absolute way; instead, we are to grow in our understanding of God's will and to be directed by Him in a dynamic and living way. The principle is love for God and His work. Tithing that does not come from a love for Him and His work probably benefits a person very little.
Paul says....as the Lord lays it upon your heart to give.....Thus, a person who decides to give a tithe is serving His master, but so is the person who gives money as the Lord directs. My own position is to give as the Lord directs; I will not raise tithing as an issue of conscience, but I will not allow myself to be judged brothers because I do not adhere to this rule. Fortunately, unlike eating food offered to idols, giving is something that I do privately, so my conduct should not cause another brother who believes in tithing to sin against his conscience. However, if that ever became an issue, I should be willing to tithe--for a season--to preserve a brother's conscience.
As a related matter, I am opposed to the public posting of tithes. It creates issues of conscience and promotes giving for the wrong reasons: to avoid public scrutiny and to promote personal standing in the eyes of man (both coercive). So needless to say, on this matter of tithing, I find myself once again to be in agreement with my brother from Texas. My only suggestion is that he gives away his 2005 Lexus instead of the 1992 Nissan ;-) God bless. - Gaius Columbus Dissentus
The Apostle Paul does give a specific command in I Corinthians 9:14. I will quote the context from verse 12-18.
“On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ. Don’t you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar?
In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.
But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me. I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of this boast. Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it".
Even though the Apostle himself in order to avoid any semblance of impropriety did not exercise this right, the implication is that, as believers, we are obligated to support those who watch over our spiritual needs. I think we must actively seek to ensure that the full time Pastor of our local congregation does not just depend on the "charity" and "goodwill" of the congregation in the sense that if someone does not feel “led” the Pastor may end up starving.
It is biblical that a system is in place to cover his needs, his pension and the needs of his family. I think that is the reason why congregations and denominations set up a system of church membership dues/tithes so that this is not neglected. The fact that this principle has been abused and continues to be abused to disproportionately enrich “Senior Pastors” does not render it invalid. - Robbo
I must say that we all seem to agree on this: It is a christian duty to support
1. The evangelism effort.
2. Full time workers who serve the church
3. Full time evangelists
I is also true that we are to support our families, pay our civil taxes, etc, but I think those are distinct from our duties to the body and work of Christ I think where we disagree is how much to give, and to whom. In my own humble opinion, and taking guidance from instructions to New Testament churches, we are to give
1. In proportion to our earnings. What that proportion is, was never stated. I think it is a matter of conscience and judgment, and one must be led by the Holy Spirit rather than adhere to a codified law.
2. We must also give cheerfully, willingly, and not "by force" A lot of people don't appreciate what it means to say GOD LOVES a cheerful giver. God loves all of us, but I think He loves a cheerful giver in a special way.
By the way, a small point of correction: the "widow's mite" is not a good example of giving a small percentage, because Jesus' point was that the widow was giving 100% of what she had. I must say, I feel very safe in the counsel that you all share, because it jives with my own interpretation of scripture, and I have the distinct sense that we all have the same goals and aspirations to obey Christ.
It is important to me, because there are so many other voices out there, some of which are very popular and regarded almost as canonical, which say things that do not jive with my own understanding of the Word of God. Thank you, brothers. I think that there are some aspects of our conversation which should be shared with other Christians who may be honestly seeking the truth about some of these issues. - Calorius of Phoenix
As always it is good to see that the brothers are in total agreement on the Word of God. With regard too the widow's mite I am in full agreement with your observations, Calorius. I did not express myself clearly though. That is probably the best paradigm in the Bible about giving. Let us analyze this piece by piece.
Firstly the widow gave 100% of what she OWNED to God. But let us put that in perspective. Was it really a hundred percent of what she owned? Obviously not. She probably had clothes on her back and maybe owned some furniture and cooking utensils that were worth something. What she therefore gave was all the money she had left on her or her savings or some other monies she had accumulated. Remember the observations here were about money- at least that is the inference.
In the same way if through bad debt or some unfortunate circumstance your total debt financing each month is $99, but your income is $100, you have only $1 or1% left to give to any other cause at the end of that month. You have not budgeted for food etc. If you went and gave that $1 to a Godly cause, you have given your widows mite- 100%- even though it may only in fact be 1%.
God is faithful and should He choose to relieve your situation is it impossible to see that person giving more as the debt burden shrinks? Of course not. I think that Christians must in general be prudent fiscal managers so that we can always have more to give to God. Some people say tithe no matter what and worry about the debt later. I think that we must teach people to get out of debt and be able to give freely to God. The bible enjoins us to owe no man anything and we should adjust our life styles to make sure that God's kingdoms needs are met first and foremost. I think that is more important than how much you give because ultimately a person like that will give generously no matter what. - Gaius Texas