Monday, August 27, 2007

The Tithe Blessing

The discussion in the post below continues, but it's time to move along to something else. I think we can manage two discussions at once.

    "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."
The passage from Malachi chapter three is an interesting example of the "Tithe-and-Be-Blessed" mentality, and it's a fascinating one. You can't argue that God is telling his chosen people, "Stop robbing me. Give back to me a full 10% of your crops and food, and I will bless you abundantly."

That's not the only verse in which God tells us that we will be blessed through our giving. And we do hear stories from numerous people about God blessing those who give sacrificially.

Yet, I sometimes hear an argument against this mentality. "That's not what it's about," some say. "It's not about GETTING SOMETHING. It's about giving. You can't just tell people to give because your life will be blessed."

The thing is, I often agree with that critical sentiment. Even though it's fairly Biblical, it seems a bit strange. How is it giving sacrificially if we're going to be so hugely blessed by God as a result?

And, as Biblical as that is, is it true?

I sometimes wonder if there are stories about a family giving a tithe and then not being able to pay the rent. I wonder if there are stories about a person giving sacrificially, but then having the electricity turned off because he couldn't afford the electrical bill.

The simple answer is that we should be good stewards of our money, right? We can live off 90%. And he'll provide.

    As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. "I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on." [Luke 21]
Hmm. Well, okay. We all know that passage. It's about giving sacrificially, of course! But look at it for an extra moment... Do you wonder what happened to the widow after she gave? She's broke! Did she starve? Did she die in obscurity? Did a non-profit charity feed her a meal and give her a cot to sleep on?

Quite honestly, I don't think giving your last dollar to the church would count as being a good steward of your money. I think God would want your family fed first.

Everyone says that giving is a heart-issue. It's about intent, it's about how we feel about it. "If you don't do it joyfully, don't do it at all!", we'll say.

I'm not even sure about that. I'm not very joyful to pay my student loan bills every month. But I do it, because it's required of me. I suppose one could say I'm blessed as a result of the education I received.

Are we to give because we'll be blessed financially? Or just because God requires it?

Once again, I'm full of questions and very few answers.

But hey, isn't that what blog comments are for? Answers?


Joe B said...

Wow, this one is going to be fun. Good work, Scott!

Anonymous said...

giving to get wouldnt exactly be giving if you ask me - it would be investment

Joe B said...

Give and it shall be given to you. It's God's design. Givers prosper, hoarders flounder.

But, I like something John MacArthur's view of this "promise": This is not a technical promise, this is a proverbial statement. It is not the same as a contract that God has to honor in sme way that you may specify by "believeing for it."

I've seen both doctors and diggers swept away into a weird greedy frenzy over these prosperity verses.

Joe B said...

About the linked article, I think it is a little off base. They infer much that is not implied in the text. She is not poor because she gave too much, she simply gave the last of what she had. She had faith that God would sustain her, and that whether she went broke today or tomorrow was not the most important thing.

Like the sparrows. Like the lillies.

Remember, it does not say she gave away her home or quit her job. She gave the last of her cash. Her stored-up excess. It was a tiny amount, but she recognized that it was indeed extra, and she was happy to give it.

She had faith.

The question is, was she BAPTIZED?

scott said...

Oh, that's right... Baptism... We've moved on to our next occasionally-controversial subject. Shall we tackle women in ministry as well? :-)

I didn't agree with everything written in that article, but I did think it was an interesting take on things. If I had time, I'd dig into that whole website some more.

Was I wrong in stating that there are other verses that talk about God blessing us if we give tithes? People on Monday night seemed to indicate that the Malachi reference was the only one, and that it doesn't necessarily apply to us.

Joe B said...

Of course the Malachi passage applies to us. And of course there are other verses. "Give and it shall be given to you." "With the measure you use it shall be measured to you." "Cast your bread upon the water and after many days it shall returned to you." "Pressed down, shaken together, and running over."

People are just scared that (a) people might get silly or greedy, and (b) that they might not have an explanation why they give faithfully and still wind up po'. BUT! Shying away from this truth of God will not keep people from being silly or greedy, and it will not make it any easier to deal with scarcity.

Should we give just to receive? We shoud give so the recipient will have the thing we gave! Simple as that! Just like that prodigal widow and the two coins she squandered in riotous giving.

Talk about over-thinking!

(Sorry guys, I still 'spec you)

Joe B said...

Oh, yeah, and Luke 18:29-30.

"No one who has left home or wife or parents or brothers or children for the sake of the gospel will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and inthe age to come, eternal life."


Robotface Shumway (Big Doofus) said...

I don't think there is a "tithe" in the New Testament, fellers. What do you think about that?

scott said...

Eh, I'm all about the O.T. anyways. I'm pretty sure I'm 1/8 Jewish.

Joe B said...

No tithe and no sabbath and no law. No nothing, just a sinner's prayer and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, my personal savior.

Thanks to Jesus I can chase my tail seven days a week, proving I am the source of my wealth. And now I can consume it ALL!

Whew! What a relief! No more tithes!!! (And there was much rejoicing...)

Robotface Shumway (Big Doofus) said...

I'm serious. How is the tithe carried over to the NT? The teaching on giving is different in the NT.

And one other thing, if you're joking Joe, I'll forgive you this time. But if you're not, I don't understand why folks have such a hard time understanding grace and mercy. Take it for what it is. It's grace. You don't earn it and you don't have to do anything to keep it. Now, we all know that Paul deals with this specifically (Romans 6). There is nothing cheap about this grace. Christ paid the ultimate price for it. We paid nothing. I don't wake up and say to myself, "W'hoo! I can do anything I want because I'm forgiven." The Holy Spirit (God) inside me doesn't work that way.

The beautiful thing about grace is that sin no longer has mastery over us.

scott said...

How'd we get back on the grace/works/whathaveyou discussion? I thought we were tithing here.

I think the NT church ideal is, for the most part, a social commune, which I'm all for. "All things in common," and all that. But the reality is that the institutional church is not even close. We build big buildings, and we need money to pay staff and electric bills and mortgages. And occasionally, if we're lucky, missionaries.

So we teach people to give. What's the right amount to give? As much as you can. Is that 10%? For some it's more, for some it's less.

But I'm not sure we can throw that 10% number out the window just because it's not mentioned in the NT.

Joe B said...

We gotta bring it in to the storehouse so that the alien, the widow, and the fatherless will be filled. God hasn't forgotten them.

If you don't "bring it in", and if there's no storehouse for the peeps, it doesn't matter if you give 50%.

I'm afraid our church has no storehouse at all, unless there's a secret one.

Joe B said...

I am not fixed on 10%, but the principal is so fundamental to God's self-revelation that I don't see anything in the NT to suggest it needs revision.

The tithe and the Sabbath are both about grace and faith. Jesus carped about the Pharisees turning them into legalistic stumbling blocks, and we agree wid da Lawd.

The principles of Sabbath-keeping and of tithing are integral to faith. Faith/worship should reflect WHO we believe/serve and he has revealed his unchanging Self in tithing and sabbath-keeping.

Is the sabbath just about sunday, or is it integral in the life of faith? Is tithing always given to support the ambitions of a church? Or is it given to the satisfy the need of the one God wants to bless?

I'm content to leave those as questions.