Saturday, October 13, 2012

Get Your Glasses On

We have a new family coming to our house fellowship and the subject of tithing came up. They said they knew they needed to be tithing and it was something "on the list" they really wanted to get checked out. Their sincere hearts to obey God in every aspect of their lives led them to believe the common misguided application of an Old Testament Law practice. Tithing 10% of your income. We explained that according to Acts and the Apostles letters that giving was an altogether different thing in the early church. They gave according to specific needs, not an Old Testament code.

Now before you get yourself all riled up, hear me out. If you are in an institutional church, you are obligated by virtue of using that building to pay some form of support. It's got to be paid for somehow, right? Just as institutional church models the Old Testament model (paid priest, maintained building, caring for the poor through various programs) money should be part of what you contribute to a church in a building.

Ten percent? No. "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." 1 Cor. 9:7 As I said...not under compulsion or threats that you will be cursed. Not under promises of 100 fold return. According to what God has laid upon your heart...could be less or more than 10%. Just obey God.

First century church didn't have that 10% mandate ever. They didn't have paid ministers or buildings because Christianity was illegal. So there was no need for a rigid tithe. However, tithing is also not a new testament practice not just because there were no real buildings but because this was Old Testament law, along with ceremonial washing, observing Saturday Sabbath, etc. It's intention was to pay the priest (who could not work to support himself and his family) and also to care for the poor in a similar way that our taxation system pays for welfare (this research is clearly laid out in "Pagan Christianity: Exploring Our Roots" by George Barna & Frank Viola). The tithe was reintroduced by the Catholic Church in Rome, who even went so far as to demand everyone pay that regardless whether they subscribed to the faith or not. It's been in place ever since.

There is not ONE mention of tithing in the Apostle's letters. Not one.

Now that we have THAT aside, I will assert that New Testament giving was an "over and beyond" what a mere 10% was. In Acts we see them selling their precious possessions to give to the needs of each other and the poor. "And they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved." Acts. 2:45-47 (See also Acts 4:32-37)

We explained that we take up need specific offerings and cited an example of a church member whose glasses were literally being held together by tooth picks (in place of tiny screws). The frames, which where the only ones he could afford when he broke his glasses a few months ago, were too small for the man's face, rubbing against his eyelashes, and eye sockets. Sweat, dirt and tears were chafing this elder all the time he was working and he works hard.

As this new couple was leaving the house, they came back inside with a $100 bill and insisted they pay for the glasses. This week, on his birthday, he got himself a new pair! This kind of giving fosters a sense of family bonding and sense of unity through demonstrated love. It blesses both the giver and the receiver. It's a sacrifice you're offering before God on a saint's behalf and THAT is giving with generosity, from the heart, for the right reasons.

It's important for all of us to have our glasses on when it comes to what we're taught. Examine the Scriptures for yourself, devote yourself to studying God's word carefully. You might be surprised on what you're missing out on, whether you're blessing your church or someone on the pew...or your couch. Give as God leads you, not the Old Testament and not a man!