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February 24, 2008

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer argues in "the Cost of Discipleship" that to have true discipleship with Christ we must turn everything over to him. I can't say what Bonhoeffer would have said about giving %100 of your money. He would have advocated complete service to Christ and The Church saying "A community which allows unemployed (those not serving in the church) members to exist within it will perish."

I'm not sure what connection should be drawn between employment / service and giving. Clearly it can be said that not giving amounts to unemployment. But can we say that giving %5 is only partial employment. In Bonhoeffer's case employment meant living long portions of his life in jail and eventual martyrdom. Can we be giving everything up to God and only give him %5?

Tithing is a form of worship so we must also to what extent do we want to worship? Would you take only 1 communion element? Or would you sing every other word in the song or read half a verse of scripture? I would hope not. If the OT is used as a history book it shows or for fathers used to do; they gave 10%. We can look back and see that they gave bread and wine for communion in the early church. The carpenter would have built the altar and the mason the baptistery. We can see the ascetics gave up the comforts of society. We live in nice houses and give a few percent of our money and a few minutes of our time. This is not what has happened in the history of the Church and it is not what true discipleship is. We must use money generously for the kingdom of God.

To tithe or not to tithe, hmmm.
I personally think we should give to God until it hurts! Having said that, do I? No.
Paul said Christians have to believe in Christ and what he did (death and resurrection). He then said everything else is debatable.
I know this blog is about finance and tithing fits right in here, but in general I think we Christians spend way too much time worrying, fighting, arguing and debating about this kind of thing and not what is truly important.
Sorry about the Sunday morning preaching ;.>
Keep up the good work!

I truly believe that tithing is a must for Christian. It is how your faith is being tested.

Upon tithing lot's of blessing flows..

God Bless

Can see both sides of the argument. I think what's important is that we don't get hung up on the Law but instead look to our hearts and relationship with God as to what we should be giving.

The "giving 100% to God" I think doesn't suggest that all our money be given away — well, not in most people's cases, because God blesses us with money and, in most societies, we need it to live (but not necessarily to drive fast, expensive cars and fit our homes out with luxury items!)

The 100% is that "all of what we have was given by God" (yes, sure, via employment, and so on) so we should offer it all to God and ask how we should use it. This is not limited to pure finance, it also means our time, our homes, our hospitality, how we treat people, etc.

It's very easy to either embrace or dismiss the tithe as a mere "oh that's 10% that is (or isn't) for me", but it's the principle.

I will say that having a basic set amount encourages discipline, in the same way that setting aside 10 minutes, or 20, or 30, each day, to pray, or to read the Bible, also encourages discipline, where otherwise it might be overlooked in the busy-ness of life.

That doesn't mean it ends there. I personally believe God has called me to give a certain proportion of what I earn to serve the local church. If you want to call that a tithe, fair enough. I also believe that I should give smaller amounts to other ministries, and then I believe, when I have the means (or even sometimes when I don't) that I should bless people/situations/organisations with one-off gifts, be that money, or time, or whatever.

Everyone has to come before God and honestly, openly determine what it is He wants them to do with the resources they have. And it should be done joyfully and without begrudging what you've given.

Just my thoughts on the matter.

Eh, I don't think the 2-3% figure is too accurate. Social Security, while not exactly Biblical giving, is far over 10%.

Dog --

Taxes and giving are not the same in my book -- not even close.

Do you decide whether or not to "give" your taxes? I don't think so.

Okay, first of all: standard disclaimer...I don't like talking about religion; I consider myself spiritual, and I believe in God, but I am not religious. However, I did want to post another viewpoint on this issue.

I think being generous is extremely important. I save a portion of my money every month (a few hundred dollars) and give it regularly to causes that I believe in. My last big donation was for blood tests for a friend who has a significant health problem, but that his health insurance company is refusing to acknowledge or do tests on. This health problem affects his life in a negative way. The blood work I paid for shows irrefutable proof that he has this condition, which means he will be able to get treatment for it. This was not a small amount of money -- it cost several thousand dollars -- and he could not afford it. What I did will help him drastically improve the quality of his life. He has been there for me as a brother when I have needed someone, and giving this to him while expecting nothing in return was the least I could do for a friend.

Those who do this instead of tithing...would you say we are "selfish"? That's where I have a hard time understanding your viewpoint.

To me, the gift that God gave us was freedom. We have free will to love, to be compassionate, and to help others. We choose how best to live the life that Jesus and other thought leaders such as Gandhi and Mother Teresa led -- a life of devotion to the greater good; of love for others and a belief that we can help make the world a better place.

The Bible verse you quoted above ("...not rich toward God") represents keeping everything you've earned for yourself and not being giving/compassionate to others, especially those in need. I struggle to relate this to tithing per se, and I think you relating this to tithing is a stretch. I don't consider the Church to be equivalent to God.

I would hope that people would take out of that passage that if the world is generous to them, that their duty is to pass on that generosity to others...but in the best way they see fit, and not necessarily toward the Church.

Churches are a human institution. Unless you are a pastor or otherwise employed by the church, the Church did not give you your riches. In a lot of cases, the Church helped enable you to become the person who received those riches -- that I would agree with, and that's why I don't oppose giving to the Church in general. But equating that to giving to God and calling those who do not tithe "selfish" goes too far.

-Erica

I don't believe in tithing. You should take that 10% and put it in a retirement fund, because the church isn't going to provide for your retirement. Also, God doesn't need your money. It's god; he already has everything. Money is a man-made invention that has no relevance to god.

It's unwise to take Old Testament principles and connect them to New Testament living without fully understanding them. We should not naively assume any OT principle is a "minimum" or "baseline" without taking the time to understand exactly what it accomplished and why it was important to God. (Consider the danger of taking "an eye for an eye" as a minimum, rather than a maximum!) When it comes to tithing, we need to understand what it was about, not simply declare that it should carry over or be treated as a baseline.

Here's what we know about the Old Testament tithe (probably not exhaustive; if you have more, share it):

- tenant farmers were expected to give a tenth of their crop to the landowner. The tithe paralleled that, establishing that each person's livelihood depended directly on God.
- the government of Israel was run by priests. The tithe allowed the justice system to run, much like our modern taxes.
- God required the priests in the temple to make certain sacrifices for the people of Israel. The tithe provided funding for those sacrifices.
- God required the priests to serve the people in many other ways. The tithe provided for some of those services; others were funded through love offerings and such.
- Providence for the poor came from other sources, such as not harvesting all the way to the edge of your field so that widows could harvest enough to live on.

Here's how each of those matters for the New Testament:

- Our livelihood still depends directly on God, but we are now expected to serve him with 100% of what we have, not merely 10%. Giving a particular amount (such as 10%) to the church may serve as a reminder of our dependence on God, but it's entirely worthless if we're not giving 100% of our lives.
- our government taxes us separately. Giving to the church no longer accomplishes these functions.
- Jesus made the final sacrifice for us. There is no longer any need to provide funding specifically for "sin offerings" and the like.
- We must still minister to others, both corporately and individually. Giving to the church is a part of that process.
- We must still care for the poor. Again, giving to the church is a part of that, but so is paying our taxes, giving to charities which aren't necessarily church-related, etc.

Personally, I don't see any reason to treat 10% of our money as a "baseline" or "minimum" from the Old Testament. Most of us are not tenant farmers, the churches we're giving to don't fulfill all of the functions of the OT priesthood, and there are no NT statements about continuing the tithe. But do not use this as an excuse to short-change God! Our "minimum" is 100% of our lives; He will accept nothing less. For most of us, serving Him completely with our lives (and therefore our finances) will result in at least 10% of our income going directly to ministry, though not necessarily by putting it in the plate on Sunday morning. For some, a large chunk of income will go directly into a ministry like a food bank or homeless shelter. For some, our core ministry is to take care of our own children, elderly relatives, etc. For some, it's most important to pay off debts (tithing with money you owe to someone else is a form of stealing from them!)

Give generously of both your money and time in service of God. Give in the best way you know to fund the ministries God has called you to fund, whether through a church or not. If you happen to conclude that giving 10% of your money to the church is the right way for you to serve God, go for it.

I could go into a discourse, but being new here, I'll refrain. Dan Barker is right in that neither Paul nor Jesus commanded us to give 10%. Jesus commanded several people to "give away ALL they have and follow Him." Paul said that the early church gave *everything* to the common good, and gave as each other had need. While I don't espouse that we do *this* today, either, tithing is very important in our lives. If one is tithing because you think it will give you some special favor or salvation in God's eyes, that is wrong, and God doesn't *need* his/her money. We are not under the law. Giving is an act of obedience, out of love for Jesus and the body(church), and that's the way I see it in a nutshell.

In response to Adam: Actually, Jesus taught a lot about money in the gospels. How we manage our money speaks a lot about what is in our heart, and that's ultimately what God cares about.

"Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Luke 12:33-34

Reading this discussion I was also wondering how we are defining 'tithing' The OT definition is clearly giving 10% to the temple (e.g. the institutional church) but in my preaching I would definitely include all giving as part of the invitation to 'tithe.' Erica, who helped with her friend's bloodwork, for example seems to be fulfilling the spirit of tithing, which comes down to a recognition that our wealth is God's and God has called us to use it for the building of the kingdom. I would be sad if my congregants gave 10% of their income to my salary to the detriment of the poor in my community.

As LotharBot pointed out, back in the old testament, when Tithing was the law, many functions that are now handled by the government and paid for w/tax dollars were handled by the priests and church. Therefore, I do not believe that the 10% tithe is truly applicable in this time, as we are already "giving" (I know it's not giving, but it's still a law...just a man-made law, and not a God made law) more than that to the government to run these social programs.

However, that being said, the church does have a need for money. It can't operate without it. It needs money to build a sanctuary, hire a priest, get involved in the community w/outreach programs, and help the less fortunate. So while I don't believe in "tithing", I do believe in offerings. I give money to my church, but I'll also give to charities that are working on issues I support. Could I give more, probably, and in fact, I'm working on doing just that, but I don't know if I'll ever give a "full tithe" to my church. They do a lot of good, but there are other organizations that need money to do that sort of work that I will support as well. I give my offering to my church and charities, but I do not tithe, since as I've stated, I don't think it is relevant anymore.

The Old Testament teaches us to give 10% of our increase, not our income. Our increase is defined as our income minus expenses. Do you think the farmers of the OT gave 10% of thier harvest or gave 10% of the harvest plus 10% of thier expenses. If thier profit margin was only 5%, giving 10% of thier gross revenue would result in a net -5%, which would cause debt every harvest, something else the Bible says that we shouldn't have.

Ryan --

I've addressed this issue of what the tithe is for a business (like a farm) before:

http://www.freemoneyfinance.com/2006/01/questions_about.html

The cost of discipleship is a 100% commitment to Jesus. It's obvious that he never commanded tithing in the new testament, because it is understood that EVERYTHING we have is the Lord's. That means being a good steward of His money and using it to further the kingdom.

Does that mean giving more than 10%? Yes.

Does it mean that everything you give must be to a local church of which you are a member? No.

You must use your time, talents and money to the greatest advantage you know how rather than just "blindly" giving some fixed percentage to one particular organized church. Of course, if God reveals to you that you *should* support a particular church, then, by all means, do it.

I have to go with Erica on this one. The church is a man-made institution that is run much like a business. So if I give 10% of my money to my local church it goes to pay for the building, the pastor's salary, the admin staff salary, etc. However, if I take 10% of my money and give it to the local soup kitchen for example, nearly all of it is going to directly help people.

I struggle with faith but consider myself to be a Christian, and I have attempted to attend a few different "Christian" churches and it was all the same. "Please listen to God in your heart as he leads you to give MORE to the church so we can build a fancier new church." This is exactly what turns me away from being a Christian at times. I am not sure how my $100 is going to help anyone if it goes toward a new, bigger church when I could give that $100 directly to someone who needs it.

I have a VERY committed Christian friend who does not attend a church at all. He just has a few friends over to read the bible a few times a week and gives more than 10% of his money to local charities or families in need. He is doing more to help people than most of the churches I have seen. He has helped me with my struggles with faith.

FMF,

In a way, aren't we all a "business" in a sense. We are providing a service for a certain amount of compensation. In order to provide that service, we have expenses related to that service, such as clothing for work, transportation to get to work, a place to rest so that we are able to provide that service, etc - the same way the farmer had the expense of the farmhouse in the OT. Some people at my work are on the books as independent contractor's, but doing similar types of work. I disagree that only business owners are allowed the luxury of deducting these types of expenses from the amount they are tithing from.

Hi all, I hope you dont mind if I add my opinion. I came here via problogger. In Judaism there are different opinions if we are obligated by Jewish law to tithe or not. The most accepted position is that tithing of produce (fruits, vegetables) in the land of Israel is a biblical requirement whereas tithing on money is customary and one is not required to do so but praiseworthy if he does. That being the case giving 10% of your earnings is a widely accepted custom in Judaism.

The thing is that 10% is the absolute minimum. If one could one should donate 12 - 15% of their earnings to charity. Along the same lines one would be prohibited from donating more than %20 (1/5) to charity. Because there are so many factors involved and issues with doing it right, a book was published recently that addresses such issues as taxes, tuition, depreciation, gifts, building funds, and so on. Also how to tithe properly i.e. keeping a separate bank account, keeping records, tithing on capital gains, and more.

One problem with this whole argument is that it is made to be too complicated. I thought Christianity was meant to be simple? I was led to understand that belief is the only requirement. Is someone going to hell if they believe in Jesue, but give 10% of their post-tax earnings instead of pre-tax?

It's fairly easy to debunk the Barker argument.

"Jesus didn't command 10%." Very true! Jesus came to fulfill the Law, not reinforce it. He didn't command anything, at least not anything new. In his own words, he came to "save, not condemn." When people looked to Jesus for instructions about living, he was always careful to find out their motives before responding to their inquiries. If people were looking for an easy answer and a pat on the back, he encouraged them to take up their cross. If people were looking to justify themselves by their righteous living, he became indignant with them. We have to STOP looking to Jesus as the ultimate LAW GIVER; He was and is the ultimate SAVIOR. These are two VERY different things!

"Paul didn't command it either" A similar argument here could be in play here. In as much as Paul gave instructions for practices of First Century churches, Paul's mission was to preach "Christ and Him Crucified." But note, he did ask Christians to set aside "a portion at the beginning of each week." In any event, an apparent lack of evidence (of Paul's instruction on this topic) is not evidence of lacking. Paul understood that Christian Discipleship was a calling and carried out in view of God’s mercy, not to earn God’s mercy.

Hebrews noted that tithes were collected by Levites. True indeed, but the writer of Hebrews and the writer of I and II Peter would also note that the Levites were the Priests. If you weren't a Levite (that is a descendent of Levi), you were not likely to be anointed as a Priest. I Peter 2:9 shows that today ALL baptized believers are priests. So, using this argument, Christians are now supposed to collect the offerings of fellow Christians.

A few other thoughts…

I know why we post-moderns are leery of the "human institution" called the church, but there is also an invisible - Godly - institution of the Church. If post-moderns are truly going to learn from and avoid the mistakes that came in the past, we simply can not throw out the good, Godly stuff while we are shaving off the human, sin filled stuff. We have to know the difference.

Don't fool yourself, if you are counting taxes and FICA as helping the poor, you have misunderstood the concept of "first fruits" and you are missing the point of Romans 13.

Her are the points of confusion that contribute to this debate:

Sin is a human problem, one which God seeks to resolve. Goodness and righteousness are God's hallmark, one which he imputes on believers. Keep the two clear.

"Christ Jesus" means "the anointed one who saves." God gave those names for a reason. Jesus is savior, not law giver. If we remember this, we will be on much firmer ground.

Governments are appointed by God and, according to his choosing, they come and go. His Church., on the other hand, continues "until the end of the age." Again, understanding how these two differ, and how GOD WORKS differently in both of them is vitally important.

It's not our money anyway... all of it is a blessing from God. So giving a little of His money back to your church home in hopes to further the the message of Jesus, should be our humble response to the grace that He freely gives.

blessings.

To the Mark who posted above,

"I was led to understand that belief is the only requirement."

You were led astray - somewhat. I suppose that is might be safe to say that belief is a "requirement," but the statement can not end there. God NEVER "requires" that which he does not provide. Hebrews tells us that Christ is both the "author and perfecter of our faith." Christ not only accomplished our salvation, he authors, or provides, our faith in that wonderful work as well.

Ephesians 2:8,9 says the same thing. "This [grace-through-faith gift] is not our doing." It's ALL his work - the grace and the faith.

That’s why we praise Him. That’s why we sing, because He gave His everything!

Why does God need money anyway? Establishing heaven INC?

Wooter,

God doesn't need our offerings, but our neighbors do.

Mark

What's with all this "10% minimum" mess? The actual amount required from the OT law was closer to 23% to 25%. If you really believe that the "tithe is for today" or that it's a minimum baseline then you should be giving closer to this amount rather than the smaller 10%.

FMF - "Taxes and giving are not the same in my book -- not even close.
Do you decide whether or not to "give" your taxes? I don't think so."

Actually, the tithe was a tax and required under the OT system. Of course, since we are no longer under that system then we are free from it's requirements as well.

I look at it this way. I just finished a study of Ecclesiastes. This book is Solomon's written journal. The first thing he tells us in that, "Vapor, vapor..we are all vapor. In other words, in light of eternity our time on this earth is but a puff.

This whole conversation seems to be man's vain desire to keep what he doesn't own. Four hundred years from now, you will likely have been completely forgotten. Not even your family, four hundred years from now, will give you the slightest thought. So...why do we fight so hard for things that really don't matter.

It seems to me that since I am a "puff" then perhaps I should look at my possessions differently. Solomon was the world's wealthiest man...ever! In the end, he concluded.."love God with all your heart.

Folks, the money isn't yours. You can't take it with you to eternity, where ever that may be for you. Therefore, as stewards, let's not get hung up on this issue. Ten percent is perhaps best described as tradition.

I say, give 10%, and more if you can. Give all that you can, but more importantly, give yourself. The greatest commandment is to love God, and secondly love your neighbor as yourself.

Let's argue about how to best do that!

i think it's all about trust and faith. You do not tith to your church but to God through the church.You give it to him, and trust he will give it to those in need, you help him continue his work on earth. Charity to the needy and helping the poor are very noble acts indeed but they and the tith are not the same thing. The giving to the needy or a charity is secondary to the tith. God asks for your first 10% of your increase as your proof to him first that you thank him for all you have and second to trust him more then your money, to see if you worship money above him or not .He asks that you set him first above and beyond all things. God doesn't need your money. but he does want to see if you will set him above your money.The Tith Is about putting God first. And The ancients were told by him to bring him the first of their increase.He also said he does not change, therefore what was the law set by him then still is his law to this very day.Jesus never said he had come to change the laws of God that he set in motion but to make the promise and the word of God flesh.God had promised a savior and thats what Christ is. tithing is a test. an ultimate test set by him to see which master you will follow. Can You do it? can you trust God with the first 10% of your money? Can you give it to him openly and cheerfully? never complaining about it? And never claiming it as a tax deduction? If you can't then you have made onto you a graven image. an idol to worship instead of God. really amazing how many people who read the bible and claim to love and deeply trust God yet they don't trust him with their money. As Jesus said " you can not follow two masters" God Himself For the only time in the entire bible said " test me on this" with regards to the tith and offerings. And His promise regarding it is just as valid now as it was then..If you truly love him and really do put him above and beyond your money then try trusting him with it and see what incredible things he does with it...

food for thought. Why do we keep the ten commandments from the OT as the laws of God in Cristianity And not the law that we are to make offerings onto him or put him first above our money and trust him with it? What makes this ancient Law and word Of God any different Then his laws regarding the commandments? both are ancient from the OT and both are his very own words regarding his unchangeable will to be done. I guess the commandments are an easier pill to swallow since they do not require us to let go of our purse strings.

We are just the stewards of God's creation, it is but proper to tithe a portion of our wealth to Him because He is the source of all our abundance and wealth in life!

I hear a lot of people speaking of the OT Law verses what was required in the New Testament.

Truth be told... it doesn't even matter, because even if you went by the OT Law, you still would not be required to tithe (in nearly the same way we are taught today).

I'm not against giving to a church any percentage, but... we have been DUPED with regard to tithing.

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