Friday, February 26, 2010

WWAD? We Should Tithe Because Abraham Did?

Ahhhh, the old tithing question, next to universal atonement, maybe one of the most hotly debated teachings among the grace crowd. For a broader view of the no-tithing side of the debate I highly recommend Joel's series over on Grace Roots. Also Bertie Brits has some great teaching available on his website Dynamic Love Ministries.

Why do I think it's important to talk about? Well, I think if I've learned anything from the many grace preachers and teachers out there, I've learned how serious it is to mix in law with grace, even if it is only the tiniest whiff of the tiniest drop of it. Of course I don't believe any of us will live in 100% pure grace while living in this broken down world, but I do think we can avoid hanging on to bits of the law mentality in obvious teachings and practices.

In fact, I don't think anyone has a good excuse to be teaching tithing (and I think I've probably heard most of the excuses) because I know people have been questioning those teaching tithing, even bringing in applicable Scripture ect... I know this because I personally know people who have done this, including myself. I don't want any 'have to's' mixed in with my good news! This does NOT mean that I don't love and appreciate and learn loads from grace teachers who teach some form of tithing. Some of my favorite grace preachers still hang on to it as far as I know--some in a very gracious way and some in a much more blatantly Old Covenant way.

One important reason to stop preaching tithing is it is VERY confusing to people coming into the revelation of New Covenant grace. I am often questioned about why grace preachers are still talking abbout tithing. In the mind of someone coming out of legalism, they hear the good news that they've been set free from ALL law and requirements in the New Covenant and start to feel new freedom, then they hear the same preacher tell them they must still tithe and confusion sets in. How many other requirements are they still bound to? Maybe the good news is not as good as it initially seemed? Maybe there is still some bondage in some areas? As one of my fellow gracers once commented to me on the subject, "I just don't feel released from tithing yet". So is tithing the one thing Jesus didn't release us from??? Do I need to feel released or believe I'm released?!?!

Let me just say again, I do not want to disrespect anyone who still believes in tithing in grace. I'm not trying to offend and I certainly don't see this as an issue that should disrupt fellowship in any way. I love you tithers! And if you see something in my words that you think is legalistic in any way, please please tell me!

Ahem. So to Abraham. Joel touches on some of this in one of his posts but I want to talk about it a little more, mainly because it is one of the biggest arguments I've heard for New Covenant tithing. When I was first coming into grace, I was having a horrible time because financially it became impossible to tithe. Aaron never bothered much about that stuff, but I had a running tally in my head at all times of how much money we owed God and eventually it got to the point where I realized we would never be able to pay him back. Hahaha, it sounds so ridiculous now!

Anyway, as I said I was coming into grace so of course I was reading and reading Galatians and one day as I was doing this God just spoke to me: "replace circumcision with tithing and you have today's church". Wow!!! That was the end of it for me, I saw it clearly and ever since have been free from the bondage and constraint to give any particular amount of money to anyone at any time. Gone was the idea that part of my money really belonged to God, that I needed to give money to God in the first place etc., ect,... It's a crazy idea to think that giving money to a church or ministry is the same as giving money to God! All our giving is to other PEOPLE. It's more a matter of sharing if you ask me. If we see a brother in need of food or clothes, we share what we have with them. If we see the church needs money to get the good news out there, we see our pastor working hard to feed us spiritually, we share what we have!

Now, I've asked several pro-tithers who say "Abraham tithed out of faith 400 years before the law, therefore I tithe out of faith not under law"; so how is that different from circumcision? You see, in faith, Abraham was circumcised 400 years before the law. Actually, in faith, Abraham sacrificed animals, and was even going to sacrifice his own son, 400 YEARS BEFORE THE LAW. If I have faith should I also take my son up a mountain and lay him on an alter? I mean, Abraham did! So I find this line of logic extremely illogical.

Second point about Abraham: If this example of Abraham tithing was meant to be an example for new covenant believers to follow, why is it not taught ANYWHERE in the new testament??? In fact, Hebrews even refers to the story and still somehow the writer forgot the mention the very important fact that we should still be tithing! I gather that to mean that the point of Abraham tithing to Melchizedek was NOT to show us that we should tithe. In fact Hebrews tells us why that account is in Scripture, and the point of it is the opposite of the tithing idea. So what's the point???

This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means "king of righteousness"; then also, "king of Salem" means "king of peace." Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.
Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people—that is, their brothers—even though their brothers are descended from Abraham. This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. And without doubt the lesser person is blessed by the greater. In the one case, the tenth is collected by men who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living. One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor. Hebrews 7:1-10

The point, as we can see is the whole point of Hebrews as well, is that the new covenant with the new Great High Priest is completely superior to the old system. I think it is safe to say that in the context of Hebrews the point of recounting this story is NOT to teach us that there is still one little rule we should keep from the old covenant, that is, tithing.

So, what do I think is the real reason most people still preach tithing? Well, I do think many people honestly just believe this Abraham thing, but part of it is definately connected to unbelief. It would be very difficult for a leader of a church or ministry to switch gears part way through and start telling people they don't need to tithe. Why? Because they rely and trust in the people's tithe for financial provision, not in God himself. Oh, they think God has given them the tithing teaching for their provision, but I say God is able to put in people a true desire and joy to give without any kind of rule or regulation about how they should give! It's the same argument that legalists use against those preaching grace all the time! If we just tell them they don't have to they won't! It's a panic issue, a fear that is based in unbelief in the power of God to produce sons in the image of Jesus. Sons who will naturally be generous, really!

And as many of these preachers have noted, sometimes when we kick out the props of law from under people they will wobble and even fall around for a time. But then they will learn to stand on their new grace legs and will infinitely healthier and stronger for it in the end. So couldn't we believe God to carry us through that time financially?

So those are some of my main thoughts on it all...What do you think?


SLW said...

Just a few thoughts... ;-)

I think you're right about Abraham. He can be an example, but his example can't be made into law. Not because law is terrible in itself (Romans 7:14), God hates lawlessness (2 Thess 2:8ff; 1 John 3:4), but because law can never be the basis of a relationship with God. We are not, in ourselves, capable of standing at arms length from God to pull off such a thing, as if we could stand toe to toe with him on the basis of our records. God didn't make us for such distance from himself anyhow-- we need to be in God to live, to function, to know good, to love.

The tithing teaching throughout the evangelical church is mercenary--preachers self-servingly promote tithing to preserve their own living and to underwrite their "vision". Back in the day when clergy trusted folks' generosity or contrivances like pew taxes or assessments, clergy were poor and organized church "ministry" stifled. Clergy won't let go of this golden goose soon, if ever! I can understand their motivation when so many folk balk at them making a reasonable living from preaching and church leading (1 Tim 5:17-18; 1 Corinth 9:13-14) and complain about the cost of church ministry. I once heard an older minister excuse his callous pressuring tactics by saying that folk walk out with more in their pocket than they've left in the plate. Surely, two wrongs don't make a right!

As far as affordability, I don't think many can afford to tithe, or even to give generously. Generosity (2 Corinth 9:6; Luke 21:4) doesn't start with what one can give without thought, but what one gives and notices. For someone wanting to give in faith, and needing some direction, I think the biblical pattern of tithing can be of some help in determining what and how to give. It's not in that respect an issue of "must" but one of "want to".

jul said...

SLW, exellent thoughts. I do think that teaching people about giving is good, but teaching it in the context of the new covenant. Of oourse, maybe I'm being idealistic but I'm pretty sure if we're preaching the gospel and teaching people how to live in the Spirit, one of the fruits will be unselfish giving and sharing, even when it is as you say, more noticeable.

I have no problem at all if someone decides they would like to give 10% regularly, but that is their free choice, not a requirement on God's part.

I also have no patience for those who don't believe in paying and taking good care of the people who pastor them and work hard to feed and care for souls. If a pastor chooses to have another paying job and work for the church for little or no money, then fine, and it may be required especially if ministering to primarily poorer people. And I've also seen pastors who did very little work and therefore were worth very little wages! But in general, I would never begrudge a preacher living as comfortably as any other person in the church.

But as you say, the way tithing is often taught it can't really be viewed as anything but self-seeking, a problem which I wasn't really addressing here since I choose to think better of most of the grace preachers I listen to, especially the ones I actually know.

Chris Welch - 07000INTUNE said...

The entire present church model is suspect and based largely on unbelief.

What on earth do I mean by that?Before answering, may I commend once again Jack Fortenberry's book "Corinthian Elders" which is only small but packs two or three main punches that will leave you reeling for a while...until you get as gripped with them as I am.

Church exists for only one main reason. To broadcast "the gospel of salvation and growth into Jesus according to the three growth stages of 1 John2". Local churches may have commissions, unique characteristics...but really their sole function is to get Jesus into folk and take back soul territory that the devil has nicked.

Traditional churches and charismatic churches seem to have dubious extras which maintain "it" for its own sake rather than for Jesus sake.And tithing can as Julie has stated just be one of these self-preservation mechanisms.

The unbelief mentioned above is a belief system that restricts "take back soul territory" to claiming scalps for the Kingdom, then keep them entertained in church until they die."
"take back soul territory" actually means everything below the scalp as well. That Christ become the all in all in us. And to quote Ern Baxter,"the gospel is THE power unto salvation. There is no THE-ER power." Jesus salvation is ultimate to our extremes.

And having a correct faith view means we have faith that a FULL Jesus gets to grow in each member of the church and therefore cannot remain as a static object...because now half its members have moved off to raise up other churches all over the globe...who again don't stop at the scalp stage....but see others through to the Father stage in 1 John 2.

In amongst this will be fulltime leaders, part time leaders,leaders in full employment, leaders tentmaking......all adopting the faith that Mueller pioneered...believing for the money to come in....any which way...because our God is sufficient.

Anyone reading my blog will know I have spent the best part of the month on Pyramids in churches...and one of the main maintenance techniques employed by pyramids is tithing.

Craig Glenn said...

Take a listen...very Good...John Crowder on Giving (At Jubilee Church - Fini de Gersigny)

オテモヤン said...
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Craig Glenn said...

This side of the cross, we should give more than Abraham did!! Abraham didn't have the Holy Spirit inside of him!

jul said...

Hi Craig, the great thing about this side of the Cross is there are no more 'shoulds'! The Holy Spirit does not operate in us by 'shoulds', by any rules, guidelines, obligations, or regulations, that includes tithing.

I will try to check out the message you linked to, but to be honest it's difficult for me to listen, just got most of the way through the mansbridge on city church the other day. My mind comes up with more scriptural counter arguments in 30 seconds of listening than I can write down fast enough. The logic is weak at best, and then we don't base our doctrine on logic anyway, but on Scripture, and it must be Scripture in context. Therein lies the problems for me.

I've been asking about tithing for a few years now and so far not one person has reasonably answered my questions and concerns satisfactorily.

As I said before, I do not have a problem with someone who chooses to give 10 % but it is wrong to make a rule of it in any way, even if you qualify it by saying you won't be cursed. You can't get around the fact that those who teach tithing at least teach there is some blessing for those who DO it. We are NOT blessed by what we DO any longer, thank God! It also does not fall into the sowing/reaping thing, if I want to sow money and reap more, I'll find a good place to invest it. Money sown into God's kingdom will not make me financially rich, it will reap spiritual harvest (assuming it is invested in those who are preaching the true gospel).

Oops! Craig, I didn't mean to direct all that at you, just got rambling on there! Sorry!

Craig Glenn said...

Hey Julie

If i am good at singing and i pick up a microphone i "should" sing in key...If i practice holding my breath i should hold it longer than others...When someone gives their lives to Jesus they should change...

using the word "should" doesnt always mean we are putting rules, regulations and the law on means ( in this context)that thats what bound to happen...

hence when we come into a revelation of grace we should be way more generous than Abraham...

Grace guys can argue all they want about tithing, that its not in the NC so we shouldnt be doing it...question is...what is their motive?

To be stingy with our money is sin, is it not? Its not trusting in God as our provider...we tell people the grace message is not one of "you can sin and not "worry" about it becuse there is no condemnation for those in we say that is not what we are saying we are saying the opposite, we are saying under grace we "should" sin less than we did under law...(Paul actually said it first - sin will not be our master becasue we are under law but under grace)

But what about giving? seems us under grace have gone backwards when it comes to giving (check out Berties poll results - 70% of grace people have stopped giving all together - 25% give sporadically - 5% give the same as when they were under law)...or something very similar...something is wrong there...I am not saying preaching tithing is the answer (actually i dont believe it is)...

I believe lots of grace guys, unfortunalty, are using the "anti-tithing" arguement to be stingy...thay dont want to part with their money.

Here's a personnal question...are you giving more now, under grace, than you did under dont have to answer that, just to provoke some thought...

thing is, if not, why not...why would the holy spirit lead us to give less now...not only is it illogical, its antichrist...

We are now set free from the tithe, the 10%...not so we can give 2% and feel free...its so we can give 90% and laugh while we doing it!!!

Well, someone might say, we dont have to give it to the church...mmmm, thats onother thread, now isnt it?

jul said...

Hi Craig, thanks for interacting over this. I think I explained why I am against teaching tithing, that I believe it's mixing in law and confusing to people coming into grace. Anyone who truly understands grace will be giving, because we understand that God is giving and generous with us.

I think to answer your question about how much we give now, I have no idea how much we give now. Why should I keep track of it? If I had to guess, I'd say we give less because we're not part of a church but the money we give goes to individuals generally these days, we can be generous with people. Or because we don't feel obligated to tithe to a huge church machine, we can afford to have a large family over for dinner. I imagine that when we're part of a church again, hopefully soon, are giving will be closer to what we used to give or more, but I don't plan on keeping track, just as I no longer keep track of my Bible reading or prayer.

This contest people have in their minds between law and grace doesn't pan out for me. I don't see the need for grace people to out perform the law people. It proves nothing to me. It's way too much pressure to put on people as well, and it's no different than being under law. I know you probably didn't intend it, but there were undertones of condemnation in your last comment. That was the feel I got from it personally.

To be stingy with money is sin? Who says? What sin actually is in the new covenant is another idea I've been mulling over for a while so I'll probably be writing about it soon (we'll see). If you mean stinginess that is caused by unbelief, than it's the same sin that causes many to preach tithing. I think I'd rather be realistic and understand that it's normal and healthy for us to give less during this season of raising 4 children on one income. At the same time, I enjoy sharing what I have with others, be it money, a freshly baked batch of cookies, a book or two, or fresh eggs! I explain that to help you see where I'm coming from.

I guess I just refuse to enter a performance race and prove that I'm more useful under grace than I was under law....and I don't want anyone else to go off down that sidetrack either.

jul said...

oh, one more thing: it is for freedom Christ has set us free! Not to GIVE anything at all! Giving is a joy, a privelege only available to those who have been blessed with something they can give. It is a sign of blessing, not a response to the gospel, our only response to the gospel is to believe it and receive it. As I am very fond of saying, it is better to receive than to give! Not to say that giving istn't fun of course.

Craig Glenn said...

What is "normal and healthy" when it comes to faith?...

Hebrews 11 is packed with people that would by any standards be anything BUT normal and healthy...

God keeps track of how much faith we excersize...and for some reason, money in the church hits the biggest crunch when it comes to faith...

Paul said it best...if we sow a little seed, we will reap a little harvest...

anyway, i guess we agree to far as giving finances are concerned...

PS...tithing? who cares about tithing, we will be giving 90% and laughing while we do it..Praise God!!!

Joel Brueseke said...

Haha... I have a thought or two. LOL =D

First off, AMEN to the entire post. :)

There is no one who has any clue whatsoever how much Abraham gave out of his own possessions. In the biblical example in which he "gave a tithe," he didn't even give his own stuff! The goods of Sodom and Gomorrah had been taken in battle, as well as the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. As we remember, this is what Lot had chosen, and Abraham had gone another way. Lot was among those people who had been taken. Anyway, it's said in the account in Gen 14 that Abraham, along with 318 of his trained servants from his own household went and fought and brought back the goods and people of Sodom and Gommorah. Again, it wasn't even his own stuff. It was from this plunder that Abraham gave Melchizedek a tenth. It's pretty easy to give other people's stuff away! LOL, ok, that was just a joke. :)

But the point remains. It's not that Abraham was being generous with his own stuff. We don't have a clue how much of his own stuff Abraham gave. Even this example was a one-time event.

And indeed, going along with the title and theme of this post, just because Abraham did something, even if it was hundreds of years before the law, does not make it an example of what the church is to do. In addition to what you've said here, Jul, married couples should also wait till they're 100 and 90 years old before having their firstborn. In fact, we should read everything Abraham did, and do it too!

As for the subject of giving and generosity, we are all in different places in life with different circumstances, callings, giftings, incomes, expenses, etc, etc. To say that there is a certain percentage that each person should give is ludicrous. Many people who are giving 10% are actually those who need to stop doing that and are the ones who need to be given to! They are struggling to get by, and they desperately need help, rather than someone telling them that if they only give, God will give back to them.

And again, not all situations are equal. Let's take two families of four. The first family makes $50,000 per year and the second family makes $30,000. The first family should give more, right? Not necessarily! The first family's daughter has Celiac disease, and therefore food expenses are greater for that reason alone (I know this from experience). Their son is in his second year of college, and has no scholarships, so it the cost is a stress on the family. Both the mom and dad work to provide the extra income, and therefore the daughter, who is 9 years old, needs daycare. The dad has to commute 45 minutes each way every day to get to and from work. That's costly. The family also owes $10,000 in medical expenses from a major surgery three years ago.

The second family, making less money, has none of those issues. The mom stays home, so there are no daycare costs. The son and daughter are healthy, and the son got a full ride sports scholarship at college, so the expenses are far less. The dad walks half a block to work each day.

You see how I could go on and on, but the point is that all is not equal in life. There is no way to gauge what "generous" is and what it isn't.

Does a person give more or less after having been tied to the tithe for years and has now come into grace? Who's to say?? How many families were putting themselves deeper into debt because they were giving 10% of their income away, that they couldn't really afford to do? They were formerly taught in a seminar, "Get out of debt by tithing," but they have found that in reality, the only way to get out of debt is to stop tithing! There are sooo many more examples of why "grace giving" has absolutely nothing to do with how much a person was giving under law.

Joel Brueseke said...

I didn't realize I'd practically written my own blog post in the comments here until re-reading them just now. Sorry, didn't mean to do that! Just passionate about it, I guess.

Anyway, thought you might be interested in Paul Anderson-Walsh's perspective on it. He provides a snippet (albeit a bit of a lengthy one) from his book The Bonsai Conspiracy, on the subject of tithing, here.

jul said...

Joel! No guilt here haha. You must know you're welcome to share all your thoughts here , always love your input. I came across that post on tithing earlier today actually and thought it was really good. Probably because I agreed with it!

Thanks for stopping by, you have my unqualified encouragement to be as lengthy as you like anytime!

Christopher LaPierre said...

hi jul. i am new to this blog and WOW!!! i thought i was a radical grace about tithing, i do believe in it , but agree it is not a law thing. i give , because iam blessed. when i started me and my wife could not afford to tithe, but we did, and saw many,many times God came through. i cant write all the times, but i have been a grace man (alone here in NY state) and do not believe it is a law, but do believe God honors it, only by my seeing it. i know when we didnt tithe we were going no w i am prospering HUGE. do i believe its just because of tithing NO! , but ne ways i encourage it. i do it because im blessed. and how does God pay the bills in church? ne ways look forward to many grace teachings. i got introduced to grace by "grace awakening" book back in 1990 and just recently started to see grace take over....thnk god for rufus and prince!!!!

jul said...

Hi Christopher, thanks for commenting! Great to hear you're into grace, yes, thank God for people like Rob and JP preaching the good news! Have you ever checked out Bertie Brits? You'd probably really like him. I think if anyone really wants to tithe they are free to, I just don't see it taught in the New Covenant at all, though giving is taught and should be encouraged which is how the church will carry on financially (though I'm not sure church should be so expensive, but that's another story). Great to hear your views though, hope to hear from you again, and hopefully I'll write on this blog again sometime soon!

April said...

While I am not a legalistic person (and am typically annoyed by those who are) I once researched this myself. I thought we were free from having to tithe b/c Jesus never said we had to...UNTIL I saw Matthew 23:23. Jesus is getting on the Pharisees b/c they're so caught up in tithing that they neglect more important things like mercy, and He says you should tithe, but you should also be merciful etc. But you know, Jesus sums up all the laws with LOVE. Though sometimes it's hard to tithe, I try to do it because it's God's money anyway and it's by His love He gives it to me so I should reciprocate. Having said this, if it's done with the wrong heart it's no better than Cain's offering. It's all about love. While many preachers preach on tithes so they can get more money, there are 2 other reasons I feel more pastors have for preaching on tithes.
1) tithes go to paying for the church costs that otherwise could not be paid for. we're broken people who need a place to go sometimes, and without the faithful support of tithers, the meeting place (church building) could not continue to function. Also tithes go to helping community needs such as food pantries, homeless shelters, and needy families. Very important job of the church. Afterall, pure religion in God's eyes is to help out those in need (James 1:27).
2) Often, by giving the tithe, you will be blessed in return. I can say wholeheartedly that every time I tithe God supplies the needs I have. As much as I sometimes waiver in that faith and am afraid to give, He always proves that He's got it taken care of FOR me, so that builds faith in believers. I know it sounds cliche, but TIME and TIME again He's come through for me in amazing ways--sometimes at the very last minute and almost to the penny of what was needed, which is really cool to see Him do.

My point is, I don't think we should say we're just doing it because Abraham did it. Abraham did it for a good reason, and God will bless you if you do. Now, do I think God will condemn you for not doing it? No (as if I can judge that anyway). But I do KNOW that He blesses you for giving. And your gift is not in vain. It does go to a good cause. Just make sure you're in a church that is transparent about their spending and is doing things to really benefit other people and the Kingdom. :)