Fast forward to present day America. Building-Based Christianity has much more to say about tithing than either Jesus or the apostles. Among its messages are these: Your tithe is an act of worship. Your tithe is an act of obedience. Your tithe is an act of faith. Your tithe should be calculated on your gross income (before taxes). After all, it is not God’s fault the government takes out a chunk of your pay check before you ever see it. Your tithe should also come from interest, dividends, stocks, bonds, property sales, and insurance, in other words all capital gains. Your tithe check should be the first one you write when you pay your bills. If you tithe you will be blessed a hundred fold. You can give to other ministries if you feel lead but your tithe belongs to your local church. And, the most popular message of all–you owe your tithe to God because it is His to begin with and you are really just giving back a thank you. So, if you need an envelop for cash we will be happy to send you an end of the year statement of your tax deductible contributions to this ministry. That way you can tithe on the tax deduction your tithe allows you to take. Or, is that going too far?
The truth is the tithe doctrine itself has gone too far. Despite what Building-Based Christianity says to the contrary the New Testament not only ignores for the most part the tithe message of the Old Testament, it offers no support for the tithe message preached today. Out of 47 references to worship in the New International version of the New Testament and 254 references to faith and 12 references to obedience not one is connected to monetary giving. The expected ten percent of your gross income obviously originates from the word tithe which means a tenth. However, the tithe of the old testament was never money. The only monies given were voluntary offerings or the temple tax which was a set amount–the same for rich or poor. As for being the first check you write–that probably comes from the idea of first fruits. But the first fruits were actually part of the harvest celebration, not the tithe. The concept of receiving back one hundred times what you give most likely comes from Matthew 19:29, “And, everyone who has left house or brother or sister or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” The implication of this verse is obviously not tithing but rather letting go of everything in devotional service to the Lord. All of this brings us to what the New Testament actually talks about. While it has almost nothing to say about the tithe, it contains a very clear message about giving.
To begin with, the gospels provide both wonderful examples and valuable lessons about charity, with the primary (although not only) motive for giving being someone else’s need. Twice Jesus fed over 4000 people who had gathered to hear him preach but had no food. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells his disciples they should give to the needy in such a way as to not let their left hand know what their right hand is doing (Matthew 6:3). He also encourages them to, “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (6:20). Along similar lines, while dining at the house of a prominent Pharisee Jesus outrageously tells him he should not invite his family or wealthy friends to his banquets because they might be able to repay him. Instead, Jesus instructs, “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed” (Luke 14:12-14). In Mark 10:17-21 Jesus is equally bold when He tells the rich young man, “One thing you lack. Go sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Finally in the parallel passages of Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4, Jesus directs his disciples’ attention to the offering box where they might see the widow’s gift. “She,” He tells them, “out of her poverty, put in everything.”
What Jesus modeled to and taught the disciples they in turn modeled for and taught the early believers. Throughout the first chapters of Acts the early Christians are described as “having everything in common” (2:44), selling their possessions and giving to others (2:45), sharing everything they had (4:32), selling property and putting the proceeds “at the apostles’ feet (4:35, 37), having “no needy person among them” (4:34), and distributing food to widows (6:1-6). 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 speaks of taking a collection to be sent to Jerusalem. And in 2 Corinthians 8:1-15 Paul brags about the generous Macedonians who “gave as much as they were able and even beyond their ability”. He wanted to encourage the believers in Corinth to “finish the work [you started], so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.” Both of these passages fly in the face of the teaching that our financial obligation is first to the local church. In the very next chapter Paul penned one of the clearest statements on giving found in the New Testament. Verses 7 and 8 teach that, “each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” The rest of the chapter describes how God’s grace provides us with what we need so that we will become lavish givers. The end result is thanksgiving to God “for His indescribable gift” (9:10-15) which ultimately is, Jesus Christ. Thus, rather than giving out of a sense of duty, our offerings are to be a joyous response to a loving God and His amazing grace. If you have money then give money. If you have time then give time. If you have talent then give your talent. If you have prayer then give prayer. And, if you have poverty then give your poverty so that someone else might have the blessing of giving to you.
Another long post–sorry.