Posted by: minnow | April 14, 2008

Tithe Talk Conclusion

In the last post I addressed most of what Building-based Christianity has to say about the tithe. One argument remains–the idea that it is all God’s to begin with so we somehow owe it to God to give back something. Again, duty and obligation are not words Jesus ever really used. In fact, He revealed a little bit about how He felt about duty when after a man He just instructed to follow Him wanted to bury his father Jesus replied, “Let the dead bury their own dead.” (Luke 9:60). In order to put the question of owing to rest let us look at Matthew 17:24-27. In this passage Peter is questioned about the temple tax, a poll tax established with Moses as atonement money which was to be used for the service of the Tent of Meetings. Each male, twenty years old or older was expected to pay and it was the same for the rich and the poor (Exodus 30:11-16). After his encounter with the tax collector Jesus asks Simon Peter,

“From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes–from their own sons or from others?

“From others,” Peter answered.

“Then the sons are exempt,” Jesus said to him. “But so that we don’t offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”

Christ’s lack of urgency or even seriousness is telling. Get the tax from the mouth of the first fish you catch. Come on! What is that? Is Jesus making fun of Peter? Hardly. Jesus uses the one thing Peter knows–fishing–to remind Peter Who it all comes from to begin with. Judging from Peter’s response to the tax collector Jesus obviously paid the temple tax in the past. This time however, Christ has something more He wants Peter to understand. His first question and subsequent response to Peter’s answer reveals that Jesus himself felt no compulsion to pay the tax. Yet He also seems to be saying that Peter was under no obligation to pay the tax either (except to avoid offense). In other words, the sons of God, which include Peter (and you and me) do not need to pay duty to their Father. Might they bring Him gifts? Might they invest in the Kingdom? Might they share their wealth with others? Absolutely! But they, we, do not owe God, our Father, a tithe, a tenth, a tax, or a duty.

I could probably speculate on why Building-Based Christianity is so focused on the tithe. And, most of what I would have to say would be true for some parts of the Church. Of greater importance however, and a more appropriate question to address, is: If Building-Based Christianity has missed the mark regarding the tithe what should its money message be?

The simple answer to the above question is we should hear and proclaim the same messages the first century Church heard and proclaimed, like 2 Corinthians 9:7-8, 10-11:

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. Now He who supplies the seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made right in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

And, 1 Corinthians 9:13-14:

Don’t you know those who work in the temple get their food from the temple and those who serve at the alter share in what is offered on the alter? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.

Or similarly, I Timothy 5:18, “The scripture says, ‘Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,’ and ‘The worker deserves his wage.’” Clearly Paul makes an argument for supporting various ministries as well as those who minister. Even though most of our fellowships look considerable different from the first century fellowships the support need still exists.

This is an important point: If we call a specific fellowship our church home, participate in its services, and take advantage of its programs then it is indeed reasonable we should also be willing to support it with our time, our talent, our prayer, and our finances. One reality of Building-Based Christianity is the building and staff needed to support it.

Obviously other elements of Biblical giving must also be considered. Some of those will be looked into in my next post.

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