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December 20, 2009

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tithing on gross or net....

do you want God's gross blessings, or net blessings? It's all His money anyway - so what's wrong with giving back (a minimum) of 10%....

Also, yeah, the Torah (the Law) is still in force, otherwise I could steal with impunity, and sleep with others wives with no probs...

rory

Keep in mind the following:

1) in other ancient cultures, farmers would give the firstfruits of their crop (10%) to the landowners. When God established the tithe, it clearly established that He owned the land, that He owned the means to the peoples' livelihood. It's sad that we so often miss out on this deep symbolism.

2) we are not tenant farmers in a nation with a God-ordained priestly government that is supported by our tithe. We should not act as though it's somehow still in effect. Jesus' statement that He did not come to "abolish" but to "fulfill" still means the Law is done. We are under grace! We are dead to the Law. We don't steal or sleep with each others wives, not because of the Law, but because in Christ we are dead to sin. That's the main point of the first several chapters of Romans.

3) Since we are under grace, of what value is the law? Much, for it is a teacher. On this topic, it shows us to be generous, and it shows us what sorts of things we should use our money/time/productivity for: to support the government, to support our spiritual leadership, and to help the poor. In our modern society, the government collects taxes (well beyond 10%) to support itself. Our giving, then, should support our spiritual leadership and help the poor. Apply wisdom to determine how much money and time should go to each, and how to get it there.

Don't get too stuck on the concept of the "tithe" or on whether you measure up to that standard. Give where you can see needs. Give more as you become more comfortable giving, and as you see more needs. And beware those who try to force your giving to follow a legalistic mandate based on tenant farming practices.

I agree with LotharBot above and with most of the points made in the post. However, it's this quote that misses the mark:

"However, the tithe is an excellent starting point for a believer beginning to honor God with his giving. Christians should tithe with a plan moving forward to increase their contributions."

Everything else in this excerpt from Dollars and Doctrine is Biblically accurate. The problem with the quote I pointed out is that it doesn't make an exclusion for poor Christians - which could result in making them guilty when starting their giving at the tithe means neglecting the needs of their family.

I'm not saying most Christians in America are so poor that they shouldn't be giving at least 10% - quite the opposite in fact. But we must be careful when interpreting Scripture that we don't inadvertently make innocent people feel guilty.

I think this excerpt would have been great if it had just made a point about giving for the poor - or what personal things should be met first before giving. Maybe they do that in a different part of the book?

What's your take on this, FMF? From what I've read in the past, you are generally supportive of the tithing concept.

(Author of Dollars and Doctrine) Great thoughts you guys. As always, it is hard to get the vision of the "whole picture" with snapshots and selections like these. The past two Sundays have been selections from my chapter on Giving. In that chapter, issues such as "should the poor give?" and "legalistic giving" are addressed. If you like what you have read so far, I encourage you to check out my book or my website. (dollarsanddoctrine.com) If you have a specific question you would like to ask me, submit it on my site and I will answer it as best I can. Thanks for your thoughts (Proverbs 12:15)

Is tithing regressive? My reading suggests it is and one whould still do it.

I must say, I've read about the extra tithes that were taken for charity amongst the poor and needy, but I haven't ever heard a raw percentage given for it. Can I get some Biblical citation for that?

Joe,

By definition a tithe means one-tenth (10%).

The poor tithe can be found in Deuteronomy 14:27-29 and Deuteronomy 26:12. If you want to read more, you can read the article I wrote about tithing in Deuteronomy.

Those texts say the poor tithe was every third year, so most people say it was equal to 3.33%/year. However, there's debate about whether this was a separate tithe from what was given specifically to the Levites or used for the festivals.

The main point I see is that God has a special concern for the poor and needy. Our love for Him should also reflect His love for the poor. All that other stuff (number of tithes, how much, etc.) doesn't really matter as much as that point.

Joe,

Here's the link to the article I wrote about tithing in Deuteronomy. It didn't work in my last post.

http://www.providentplan.com/795/tithing-in-the-bible-eating-your-tithe-deuteronomy-12-14-and-26/

Terry,

Yes, a flat 10% tithe is regressive - it puts a larger burden on the poor than it does on the wealthy.

What do you read that says we should still do it?

I would recommend 2 Corinthians 8:12-15 and 1 Timothy 6:17-19 as guidelines showing that Christian giving should be based on ability to give and not specific percentages.

Also, remember that part of the Old Testament tithe went specifically to help the poor. Generally, when tithing is taught as a requirement for Christians today we are told that it all must go to your local church. But most of the budget for local churches goes toward administrative costs and often does little to actually help the poor. That alone should prompt us to examine what the Bible says about tithing versus how it is taught today.

Thanks, I was thinking of the widow giving two small coins "out of all she had" (Luke? Mark?) and of Malachi. I've read the NT references but not recently and will revisit them.

Terry,

The account of the poor widow was not an example to tell the poor to give everything they have. It was a condemnation of a religious system that robbed widows and the poor of their property instead of protecting them as God had commanded. Do you see a similarity to today's church and those who teach tithing as a requirement for Christians? Don't read the story of the widow out of context - look at Luke 20:45-47 before reading Luke 21:1-4.

Another lesson in that story is that how much you give (number of dollars) is not as important as your attitude or motives. Those who were rich gave out of their abundance - it was a small sacrifice for them. This widow gave all she had to live on.

The poor may give generously if God leads them, but we should never make the poor feel guilty nor oppress them with our guidelines for Christian giving.

Paul,

I most certainly understand the principle of giving involved is more important than the raw numbers. This is no different than most of what Scripture teaches. Principles are always the key to true spiritual growth and knowledge, not a list of rules. I was just curious as to how the numbers themselves were derived, since this is a great conversation piece. I know I've already turned at least one head with the revelation that OT tithing wasn't just 10%.

Paul --

I'm not sure what this means:

"But we must be careful when interpreting Scripture that we don't inadvertently make innocent people feel guilty."

If we start to interpret scripture so as to not offend this group or that group, I think it leads to a very slippery slope (and inaccurate scripture interpretation.)

Regarding the book and what it is saying about the poor giving, I'll let Rob answer that.

FMF,

I didn't mean that we should interpret Scripture to make the guilty feel good. I said we should not make the innocent feel guilty. God's Word is very clear about how we should treat the poor, and we have many examples in the New Testament that should show us why we shouldn't compel the poor to give beyond their ability. If they want to because God is directing them to, that's great.

But we shouldn't be setting a minimum percentage (the tithe as a good "starting point") for Christians when that would go against God's Word and the New Covenant we have in Christ. Recommending 10% as a good minimum for all Christians has the potential to make the faithful poor feel as though they must neglect the needs of their family to meet that minimum.

From what I've read in the Bible, God would not consider a poor Christian who doesn't give 10% to be guilty of failing to honor Him in their giving. But teaching that 10% is a good place for all Christians to start their giving implies that any Christian giving less than that is falling short.

Don't worry, I'm not about to say we should change the Bible to keep from offending anyone.

FMF,

I was still wondering what your answer would be to my earlier question:

"What's your take on this, FMF? From what I've read in the past, you are generally supportive of the tithing concept."

Sorry I forgot to add that in my last comment.

Tithing should also be looked at as Time, Talent AND Treasure. Many of meger means give of themselves through community work, work within their churches, and sharing of talents, musical, teaching, even money management.

Paul --

Yes, I'm supportive of the tithing concept.

I also agree with Al (it's more than money), but you can't replace giving money simply by giving time IMO.

I'm not really following the "guilty" versus "innocent" line of thinking. The concept of tithing/giving applying to one group but not to another doesn't make sense to me. We should all pray, we should all serve, we should all worship, and we should all tithe/give.

Leave it to the people who wrote the Bible to make sure they
'got theirs'. The idea of giving 10% isn't bad, (I admit, I keep
coming up short, and am disappointed in myself) but I see 'the Church'
as being a far less worthy place to give than, say, UNICEF, the Humane
Society, Red Cross, a University scholarship fund, or Doctors Without
Borders, to give some examples. Seeing religions spend money on trying
to convert others makes me sick, frankly....

FMF,

What is your idea of the Biblical standard of giving for Christians?

I think that's where our misunderstanding is starting. I'm not saying that giving doesn't apply to the poor but does apply to the rich. My understanding of God's desire for Christian giving leads me to a standard that applies to all of His people. But my understanding of that standard means that those who are especially poor shouldn't be expected to give a specific, set amount and that there is not a set minimum or maximum giving amount for any Christian. We must all seek God's Will and study His Word about giving, and we'll all end up with a different amount that we should give.

So if you could tell me specifically what you believe about Christian giving (what are the guidelines), we can figure out exactly where we differ and why.

I hope you don't think I'm feeling attacked or attacking you. It's so easy to read the wrong emotions into the written word. My goal is to discuss this topic and learn more.

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

(Author of Dollars and Doctrine) Wow! Excellent discussion going. I agree with Paul, it is hard to explain things via "text" and yet, the discussion is still sharpening. Here are my best clarifications. (forgive me as I "shoot from the hip.")

First, I think a brief explanation of why I believe we are to give/OT versus New Testament: In the flesh, in sin, we are TAKERS. We want to get whatever we can for ourselves. Christ's life in us reverses that. We become GIVERS. Not just of money, but like some of you said: time, talent, treasure, etc. In the flesh, we are like a sponge--soaking up all we can for ourselves. In Christ (as we are transformed by His Spirit!) we begin to see that trend reverse. We actually begin to see our heart and soul believe "it is better to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). Instead of a sponge: "He who believes in Me...From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'" (John 7:38) The old testament was a physical sign of what our heart should be in Christ: committed to the work of the Lord and the needs of those less fortunate than us. Our spending should represent this paradigm "for where your treasure is there your heart will be also." Don't get caught up on numbers. That is legalism, not faith. God cares about your heart not the amount (though at times the amount can say something about your heart.) The selection from my book posted was from the end of my giving chapter to explain what the tithe was. God's call for us to give is a whole lot larger than the tithe. In the context of the whole chapter, a lot of your questions would have been answered. You should check out my book to get the whole picture (shameless plug, I know!)

Second, by saying: "the tithe is an excellent starting point for a believer beginning to honor God with his giving." What I mean, is that those who have the desire/ability to begin making giving a part of their walk with Christ and have no idea where to begin, the tithe is a simple option to start on the journey of generosity. (Not a requirement of all believers) But for those of you reading, there is nothing wrong with tithing. Sometimes us financial guys make it look "primitive." If your heart desires to give 10% to God that is a great thing that many Christians neglect.

Next, the issue of whether or not the poor should give is a sticky one. There are respectable and mature Christians on both sides of the camp. Fundamentally, giving is to be a source of blessing for the poor not a tool to oppress it. And yes, the poor have a VERY special place in the heart of God. I wrote a whole chapter on it (shameless plug, number 2) Anyway, there is scripture to challenge the poor to give in all circumstances, such as the poor widow who gave all she had to live on. On the other hand, Paul explains in Corinthians that it is not acceptable to give what you do not have. This whole question is one of the areas that theologians call a "holy tension." There is freedom to live on both sides of the fence, as long as your position has been sought with time in God's presence, God's Word, and prayer. So, those without the means to give (not those who refuse to alter their standard of living) have freedom in Christ. I would say, however, that the choice to not give at all must be a short term one. A life of no generosity probably says more about someone's heart than income.

Hope that helps.
Rob

One more thing: Sorry, I got commissioned for a diaper change and bedtime story.

Anyway, What would I say is the "New Testament standard of giving"?

I would say this: Spend time in God's Word and God's presence and ask the question, "Is my life and faith (not just my finances) about getting what I can for myself, or giving what I can to bless others for the glory of the One who has been immeasurably generous to me?" Then, listen.


This is the "fulfilment of the Law." Praise God who did not spare His own Son to save sinners.

So back in the day when the bible was written what was the percentage of revenues or income that had to be given to the kings? Was it 40 - 50% as it is today or was it more token? This should have some revelance to the receivers of the tithe as the gov't is playing a partial role in supporting the needy.

-Mike

Amen, Rob.

This is my understanding of New Covenant giving guidelines for Christians. Family needs (needs, not wants) should be met first (1 Timothy 5:8). Then we must pay whatever we owe (debts, tax payments, etc.) (Romans 13:7-8). After we follow those two guidelines, we are called to give generously, sacrificially, willingly, cheerfully, and out of love for God and others. We should be careful that our giving is not done impress men (Matthew 6:1-4).

As you can see, this would make an exception for those who are very poor (cannot meet their family's needs and cover any payments they owe). But because the small amount needed to cover our survival needs in America (compared to our income), these guidelines should lead American Christians to be giving much more than 10% by choosing to deny our wants. Those wants can include "necessities" that far exceed our true needs, things which are generally accepted by our culture as necessities but are not in reality (TV subscriptions), and things anyone would define as "wants" and not needs.

Also, like you said Rob, this requires much prayer and discernment through the Spirit and the Word. It requires a close, personal relationship with God. This is just a short summary of an article I'll be posting on January 5th.

What do you all think? (Rob, FMF, and anyone else) Have I misinterpreted Scripture on these things?

Sounds great. Very insightful. The only thing I would add to your list-

"called to give generously, sacrificially, willingly, cheerfully, and out of love for God and others."

is "Proportionally" The bible does call for giving to be in "accordance with means." (Acts 11:29, 2 Cor. 8:12-15 for example) You clarify this principle in your explanation but it is not on your list. I guess it is just the word I would use to sum up what you are saying about how the amount a person gives can be dependent on the means available to them.

Paul/Rob --

Just to round out my thoughts here:

1. I think God looks at the heart more than anything else. If someone wants to honor Him in all they do, including their finances, and yet they can't, I'm sure that's fine with Him.

2. That said, I believe that every Christian should be giving something at all times (time and talent if nothing else). I also believe that they should be striving to give money -- getting their finances in order over time so they can do so.

3. I believe that the tithe serves as the minimum guideline for all Christians to strive towards.

4. On top of the tithe, Christians should give offerings.

5. The vast majority of people in America who "can't give" are simply selfish. They spend money on big screen TVs, nice vacations, etc. and then don't have anything left over, so they "can't" give/tithe. (This is in contrast to the truly poor -- which is a small percentage of the population -- that don't have enough to even feed and clothe themselves.)

6. Those that do not give and thus lack financial resources are in a downward spiral. There are many promises in the Bible that if you give/help others, you will be blessed yourself (yes, part of this blessing is financial IMO.) Give and it will be given to you, you reap what you sow, and so on. Those that refuse to give or make excuses for it (like those in #5 above), don't get the blessings as well. And thus many (most?) of them are doomed to live in financial difficulty most of their lives.

I could say more but I've rambled long enough, already written on many of these topics (see my past posts for more specifics), and have now left a comment longer than most of my posts. ;-)

Looks good. All of it rides on your answer statement #1. A heart where Christ dwells will cultivate a lifestyle of generosity. That is why we give. In a sense, it becomes part of our nature as we begin to reflect His nature. If you think about it, Christ did not withhold His own life! that he might give grace and salvation, and all this for undeserving sinners. And yet, we so often have trouble parting with some surplus money to benefit very worthy causes. Pretty humbling when you think about it. Generosity is so important because it is a part of God's nature. As we truly become like Him, our lives should reflect this character trait. And yes, sadly, the reality is that majority of Americans do not give for lack of means, but rather because they would rather spend the money on themselves.

Rob, I agree with your addition. I did make it clear in my explanation. I tend to favor explaining it that way rather than just saying "proportionally". Too many people take that to mean a specific percentage (like 10%) rather than something that increases exponentially as your income exceeds your needs.

FMF, I agree with all your points except 3 & 4. I agree with them in principle but not as guidelines. We have much better and higher standards in the New Covenant - so I don't see the need to use Old Testament Law as our guideline today. But that's mostly just semantics. We agree on the other points, especially #5.

Thanks for the discussion on this guys. I'm so glad we can look at the Word together and freely discuss it. I pray God keeps us all close to Him as we walk in the Spirit. Have a wonderful Christmas!

1. Carpenters, bankers, lawyers, tax collectors, blacksmiths . . .etc, did not tithe on their occupational income. Only the agriculture and animals were tithed on.
2. When God said a tithe of all, He didn't mean 19-23% of all. Besides that, 10% was sufficient for the levites and the poor to live on. Anything above 10%, would have been such a great surplus that it would have spoiled in the storehouses.

Congress cannot receive their power from one source and then receive their financial support from another source. The constitution grants them their power, and therefore the constitution has laws to financially support them.

The Old Testament laws ordained it's ministers, and so the OT provided laws within it to financially support them as well. In contrast, the Holy Spirit in the New Testament ordains it's ministers, and therefore the Holy Spirit should finance them.

It's ludicrous to think that the Holy Spirit has the power of calling missionaries to the darkest parts of an African jungle, but does not have the power to call others to financially support them. We rely on a tithing law to administer financial support because we lack faith.

Whether we are on the receiving or the giving end of financial support, both sides lack the amount of faith it requires to let the Holy Spirit control the finances.

- Jared

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