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Wednesday, February 03, 2010


I write this blog, and maintain two other blogs. One of them is just an advice column, where people write in with questions. ( Most of the questions are long-winded, and I boil them down to a sentence or two so that we can be concise.

Occasionally I get questions that seem to have a theme. Or the frequency with which they're asked seems to represent a theme. And so it is with tithing. I guess we can't blame folks for thinking that tithing is controversial, or for being confused about it. It seems there is a whole herd of preachers who use Scripture to manipulate people with their money.

One approach is called "prosperity theology," and people get sold this insane idea that if they give me God will bless them more. So they're encouraged to give their way out of poverty, for example. What nonsense! These people talk about money so often and so strongly that often they turn people off. It doesn't result in anything that God would have wanted.

Of course there is the other end of that spectrum. Here, preachers are afraid to talk about money. And so they leave their people in ignorance of the truth. Again, it doesn't result in anything that god would have wanted.

I think what the world needs is some straight talk with Christians about what it means to be a Christian. I mean there are certain responsibilities that we have when we become Christians. (That in itself might come as a surprise to many people!)

So what is the truth about money? The truth is that God established tithing as an obligation of His people in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 14:22-29 & Malachi 3:8-12). In the New Testament, Jesus changed a lot of things - but He never changed the obligation of tithes and offerings.

Tithing is still very much an obligation of God's people. Money belongs to God. Everything we have belongs to Him and all of our provision comes from Him. He asks us to dedicate the first fruits (measured as 10%) to Him. Beyond that, we are to be generous with the rest of our money, quick to help others in need.

Now you may ask why God would hold on to such an old-fashioned proposition as tithing? There are several good reasons. Let's look at some key ones:

1. It teaches us to fear the Lord and put Him first in our lives.
2. It reminds us who our provision is and who all of our money really belongs to.
3. It provides support for the church workers and facilities.
4. It empowers the church to care for the poor in the community.
5. It empowers the church to send missionaries into the world.
6. It is part of our obedience and submission to God and His authority in our lives.

So here's the thing, there really shouldn't be an argument (about tithing) among anyone professing to be a Christian. In fact, we should view it as a tax, dues, or any other sort of obligation.

Now in addition to tithing, the Bible instructs God's people to be generous, giving to others in need whenever we become aware of their need and have the resources to help them. This is not considered part of our tithing. This is over and above our obedience in tithing.

We sat in church one day a few years ago. The woman next to us wrote a check for $1,000 in front of us. She leaned over and whispered something like, "I'll bet their eyes will pop when they see the amount of this check!" Clearly she was proud of her giving to the church that day. I'm sure she crawled into her Mercedes and drove home to her million home after the service - satisfied that she had "given to the Lord." But did she? Was $1,000 the first fruits of her household income? (I doubt it.)

The thing is that Christians, or anyone who professes to be one, need to get a serious paradigm shift about money. And I'm not talking about getting you more money. I'm talking about you getting obedient with the money you have. Tithing is a 10% obligation. It comes off the top, without any discussion whatsoever. Offerings are the generous giving that we're commanded to do over and above our glad tithing.

So how about it? Do you need to re-arrange some priorities to be obediently tithing this year?

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