Tithing – Through a Different Lens (Part 3)

Tue, Jul 8, 2014

Featured, Tithing


Notwithstanding everything just written in Part 1 and 2, I think tithing may actually be a pretty good idea.

If we look at tithing through the lens of relationship, then there are two relationships that we should probably consider: our relationship with God, and our relationship with each other.  These two relationships run all through Christianity, and are reflected in the two commandments that Jesus proclaimed as the greatest.

“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all year soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  (Mt 22:37-40, NIV)

Looking back at the story of Jesus and the temple tax (Mt 17:24-27), Jesus made the point that, as a son, he was exempt from paying the tax.  Despite this, he still tells Peter to go to the sea, miraculously retrieve the necessary coin from the first fish he catches, and to use that to pay the temple tax for the two of them.

The reason Jesus gives Peter for making the payment was “so that we may not offend] them [or ‘stumble them’, in other translations],” probably referring to the people in charge of collecting the temple tax.  Jesus often offended people in his ministry, and his crucifixion was a ‘stumbling block’ to Jews (1 Cor 1:23).  But clearly Jesus did not offend or stumble people unnecessarily – and in this instance he went out of his way to avoid it.

That, for me, is a pretty good reason for giving tithes.  Some Christians are very firm in their view of tithing even under the new covenant, and it wouldn’t be unreasonable for them to think that someone advocating a different approach to giving is simply promoting an excuse to give less.  If we can avoid giving a brother or sister in Christ that impression, then it’s probably for the better.  As Paul writes in relation to the eating of foods sacrificed to idols (another controversial issue, at least in his time):

“Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.”  (1 Cor 8:9, NIV)  [not that people who tithe are weak…!]

And on both sides of the debate about tithing, people tend to believe that church ministers should be financially supported by the people to whom they minister.  Paul writes as much in 1 Cor 9:3-14.  This doesn’t necessarily have to be through a congregation’s tithing, but a steady stream of funds does help.  It comes back to our relationship with, and love for, others — in this case, our ministers.  Perhaps giving a tenth is not quite the right amount for you; perhaps it is.  And perhaps God will provide miraculously if you decide to err on the generous side of things.  But as Paul wrote, only one thing matters:

 “…The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”  (Gal 5:6, NIV)




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    A Question of Law

    Fri, Apr 12, 2013


    In a dispensation of grace, what kind of law – including penalties and punishments – should Christians apply among themselves?

    And with the separation of Church and State, what kind of law should Christians promote for their country, that would govern both Christians and non-Christians?


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