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Radical words from my favorite Anabaptist:

Though I began to follow Christ over 14 years ago, I can still remember the first sermon I heard after I became a Christian. The text was Malachi 3:10 and the sermon was a call to tithing as an expression of radical Christian commitment. As eager converts are prone to do, I lapped up every word of it and became a fiery advocate for tithing.

A year or so later, I wrote to the pastor of the church to inform him that God was withholding blessings from our church because we had failed to continue emphasising and obeying the command of Mal. 3:9-10:

"You are under a curse - the whole nation of you - because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have enough room for it."

What I failed to notice is the explicit Jewish context of Malachi 3 and the fact that this whole passage is addressed to the 'descendants of Jacob.' God charges his people with failure to live up to their covenant obligation to care for the Temple in Jerusalem. I also missed that the rewards offered to the nation if she did tithe were a repetition of God's covenant promises to the people of Israel.[1] There is simply no getting away from the Old Covenant context of the book of Malachi.

Today, I no longer tithe, nor encourage those in our church to do so. In fact, I would echo the words of Stuart Murray in saying that tithing may be biblical, but it is not Christian.

Find out why by reading the rest of this mind bender here. Then come back here and let's talk. Is he on to something or on something? Can you do this? Can I? Why or why not?


Anonymous jwise said...

My first thought was that he was going to justify not paying tithe and then leave it at that. I was glad to see he discounted that and then went so far as to say it's just not enough for a follower of Christ.

The example we have is in Acts 4. It is NOT giving 10% of one's income, it is giving whatever is necessary to guarantee that no one in the group has any need. The believers were concerned enough with one another that they would rather go without their big screen TV if it meant Joe down the street got a meal this week.

2% of self-proclaimed believers tithe. Most give absolutely nothing. I'd love to find a community of believers with a mindset of "Anything I have is disposable -- If I meet someone with need, I'll meet that need anyway possible."

I'm paying like mad right now to get out of debt ($50K of school loans). After that, I'll have my entire income to pour into families around me. A "tithe" is an acceptable amount right now to give back to the church, but a whole lot of needs go unmet. Lord willing, I'll be meeting more needs soon.

Great thought-provoking article.

Blogger Loren said...

I was at a saddleback conference and Rick Warren gets up to speak, I was setting my self up to be very cynical of his talk, but he comes out and says how he gave every penny of income he has recieved back to the church and now tithes 90% and lives on 10%! Even though that 10% is probably more that I will ever make, it is still unbelievable...anyways I am off to buy an extravagent lunch while passing bye at least 6 people with cardboard sings...

Anonymous jwise said...

P.S. I love his list at the end. And to it I would add:

1) Those with big incomes and no debt could "adopt" an in-debt family and help them learn how to spend and budget and then help in paying off that family's debt.

2) Those with a great deal of debt and "not paid for" toys, should sell their toys as a way to help the overall situation of the community.

3) Consider carefully which possessions you could let others use... for the single mom who visits the laundromat every other day, let her stop by for dinner and laundry!

Just a few off the top of my head. I'm with Murray -- I get so psyched when I think about what the Church COULD be doing in this avenue!! Then I go back to my church and discouragement takes me by storm.

Blogger Davidge said...

This is amazing! Instead of giving to a church to support paying its pastors and such, rather BE the church and support not only the pastors but all of those in the church. When the church(as in the people that make it up) becomes a true home for people, where they can go if they need a place to stay for a night, refreshment when they are weary, hungry, thirsty, both spiritually and physically, yearning for someone to just CARE. Jesus is an Embodiment of love. We are supposed to Embody Jesus. So we LOVE people PRACTIALLY. We give ALL of ourselves to it. And if all of the church gives itself ENTIRELY to embodying Jesus, we will meet eachothers needs and find ourselves abundant and able to meet needs far away from the church, feeding kids in Africa, educating them, keeping 9 year old girls from being raped in the streets, the horrible things that go on in places where love is so rare. We start with feeding our neighbors, helping them find love and peace in their lives, through Jesus Christ, without trying to shove it down their throats. We help them look for their daughter when she runs away, we cook them meals when they are unable, and then they help their neighbors, and so on. The name of Jesus is said to be the most powerful thing in existence, Franklin Grahm wrote a book on it(which I haven't read yet, it's still on my nightstand), but I disagree. The most powerful thing is the love that is behind His name, the love that can conquer cities without violene, that can turn a group of people from all sorts of different backgrounds, bad habits and addictions, professions from lawyers to starving street musicians, that can make strippers stop their jobs, but love the people that they used to work with so much that they put themselves back in a place of temptation to show the love that got them out of it. The kind of love where a perfect man, not just a good man, who learned from his mistakes and didn't make them again, but a man who never EVER sinned, never made a mistake, to take the penalty for sinning, to take the penalty for misrepresenting God, death, when He has gloirfied God with all of His being for 33 years, the kind of love that Jesus and God have for us to DIE on a cross, the most shameful way known of, for us. To take our place. To LOVE us, with ALL His being. That's the love that belongs in the Church. and that's what's missing.


Anonymous keith said...

Yes he can, and yes we can. He gave some great suggestions. I like the idea of choosing a particular project to support as a church and his suggestion to discuss openly financial needs. We often give to missions, and our money is sent off somewhere. This is good, but putting our money into local projects where we could also get our hands involved and experience first hand would also be good. We also need to find ways to share needs without guilt trusting that true needs will be met more often than our generosity will be squandered. These needs could range from school supplies to unexpected car repairs, from medical expenses to living expenses for a family who has just lost a father.

Blogger Seth Ward said...

does this "giving" blog have anything to do with your "thermometer" to the left there? hmmmm.

Natural born preacher.

Blogger Kathryn said...

it was an interesting blog entry. I don't know how i feel about it. Sometimes i wonder how to even approach the Bible when it comes to what applies to whom. . I guess the only around that is to read, read read and ask God by His Spirit to interpret to us what we're reading. Sometimes its hard for me to understand why God had 'chosen people'. .but He did, i know. I know they had so many customs and festivals and rules and so on. . boggles the mind.When I've read about the Jubilee i've been struck by how amazing it sounded!!!

Anonymous euphrony said...

This, actually, is how I have felt about "tithing" for a long time. We in the Christian community have used the tithe both as a justification to say we meet the check-list requirements and to brow-beat others to further our vision for the kingdom. Neither of these is demonstrative of a Christ-like heart. The best example of giving monetarily to God is the widow that Jesus commended for giving everything she had. We cannot give till it hurts, we must give even when it hurts. We do not trust in money to sustain us, but in the same God that sustained Elijah for 40 days on a single meal.

The congregation I worship with has envelopes in the pews that are for our "people-helping" fund. We ask that, beyond planned giving, we give what we have in our pockets for this. This is a main source of our ability to help people make rent, car repairs, and other emergency needs. Considering the wealth evident in many churches, it is shameful to consider that some in the body have to go into debt just to surmount these unexpected obsticles.

Blogger Lucas Parry said...

Interesting article, it will take some time for me to digest. It is quite revolutionary thinking, challenging if we were to actually live it out. I'll be honest, I find the 10% tithe convenient and easy, I've been doing it for 10 years now, and I've always given in other ways above the "tithe" (mission trips, sponsoring children, opening our home to guests, lending equipment, volunteering at church, building homes with 'Habitat for Humanity', and much more). There is great joy to be found in giving. However, in the past few months I have been restless with the tithe, not with the amount or why I give, but because of a comment from a friend of mine who happens to work in the sales department of a prominent christian company here in Nashville. She commented at the staggering amount of churches (her customers) who 'waste' thousands of dollars without even blinking an eyelid or caring. I'm not just talking about buying excessive merchandise, but on frivolous things like unnecessarily overnighting a huge order rather than sending regular 3 day mail, costing hundreds, not taking advantage of coupons or savings programs saving literally thousands. This blew me away!! If they have no problem wasting this sort of cash on merchandise and sheet music, it leads me to believe it occurs in other areas of church spending??

Now, that said, I know there are probably many churches who are good stewards of the money God had entrusted to them. But I wonder about the poor lady in that frivolous church who has faithfully given her 10% of a social security check of $1000. It may be a small $100 in the grand scheme of the church 'budget', but for her it means waiting another two months, saving extra hard, so she can visit her grandchildren in VA. Her $100 wasted! I ask the question, Is this right? Is this what God had intended for the tithe?

I have attended churches where the 'tithe' is worshiped, it gets its own 10 minute talk every service and its importance is placed high on a pedestal....... way above Jesus' mandate that we "look after orphans and widows". Is this right? Is this what God had intended? I think not!

Giving is an attitude of the heart. I give to my church because I love my church, I enjoy their programs, and I can help fund the churches outreach ventures..... and there are many. I don't give because I want a 100 fold blessing in return! If it comes, hallelujah, But I am not motivated by what I get in return. I also have no problem with sending money to a friend, a college student who is planning a mission trip to Sudan, and if need be, cutting into my church tithe for that week, depending on where my family is in our finances. The bottom line is this, God doesn't need our money, he wants our hearts, and often the way to our hearts in through our checkbook. True?

Blogger Amy said...

I have really enjoyed reading the comments here. I, too, wonder about how the church is spending it's money, and in fact, left a church recently because the pastor said if I wasn't 100 percent on board with his vision, I shouldn't be there. (it was in a sermon, not directly to me) I agreed. So I left. Now, I am part of a small cell church plant that meets in homes and isn't building a big building, and I'm a lot more comfortable with that.
Beth Moore always talks about how God loves hilarious givers. I love thinking like that...that when we give, it's our absolute joy to do so. We shouldn't be made to feel guilty. I think giving is perhaps part of maturing as a Christian.

Blogger Hale-Yeah! said...

i appreciate his challenge to change what the church is and to make it better. he is basically stating biblical principles like many people have done for years, but gets you all flustered because he says he doesn't "tithe", meaning give his 10% to the church. well, i don't tithe either i guess. we definitely give more than 10%, but it doesn't all go to the "local storehouse". the problem with this article is that people who don't give, will read what they want to, and justify their selfish behavior. and i don't care if you only make 10,000, you should still learn to give. our church has a benevolence fund that we take an offering for once a month to help people in our church with groceries, pg&e, or other needs. like others have said before, i just wish more of the church actually gave.

when talking about the subject of money, you have to consider your audience. yes, you need to speak the truth, but the way you say it matters. you have to consider the motive of the person asking the question. we don't want to justify wrong behavior.
like others have said, we all need to use our "gifts" to serve the whole. I am a financial advisor by profession, so i love to sit down and help people with their finances, investments, and help them to plan for the future. and i need the doctor in our church and i need the pastor to teach me, etc...

Blogger Pat Callahan said...

It seems like the thought patterns are running either/or - either you tithe, or you are instead a "general giver." I tend to think of it as a both/and.

I think the line from the article that conserned me was, "Tithing is unjust: 10% is not enough for the rich and too much for the poor." As a "proof" why we should not tithe as Christians it is ridiculous. Didn't God set up the tithe? Being a trinitarian, that leads me to believe that Jesus was there for the meeting. If it was "just" in the OT, when exactly did it become "unjust" in the NT.

The citation from Donald Kraybill sound more to me like socialism than Christianity. How utterly judgemental to say "...another family self-righteously spends $90,000 lavishly because, after all, 'they have tithed.'" Self-righteously? How does he determine that? Because if he had $90,000 that's how he would be?

I think we begin to get to the heart of the article with this statement: "...tithing actually privileges the rich by calling for less of a sacrifice from them." Sounds like someone has a problem, in general, with the "rich." Folks, a percentage is a percentage - why does someone arbitrarily get to decide when my remainder is too big?

It is very easy to point the finger. I have actually been in a conversation with people who believe that Rick Warren still isn't doing enough by giving away 90% and living on 10%. The million(s) of dollars that are represented by that 10% are still "too much" for a Christian to have.

Hmmm... who gets to make these decisions?

At the risk of getting flamed, I'll also say this: why should I be responsible for your bad choices? If someone is deeply in debt because of poor choices, I don't necessarily always feel the need to bail them out. Sure, if they need food to eay or clothes for their kids, I'm in. But I also encourage them to sell their SUV and buy a beater, to move to a smaller place, to stop going to Starbucks. Jesus says that we should take care of the widows and the orphans, but he doesn't encourage us to be enablers.

I drive a vehicle that I paid cash for - cash that I scrimped and saved and worked hard for because I didn't want to be in debt. I enjoy a Starbucks now and again - but usually only if someone gives me a gift card: why pay $5 for a $1 cup of coffee (or $0.25 if I make it at home)? I don't have any school debts, because I chose to go to a school that I could afford. If we can't afford something, we don't put it on our credit card, we save out money until we can afford it - or we don't get it.

Choices folks, it's all about choices.

OK - enough of my rant.

I personally believe in (and practice) tithing as a Christian. I also believe that all that I have (not just the money) is God's and should be used for Him and his people.

I don't believe in debt and our family is nearly out of debt The only debt we have is our home and we hope to have it paid off next year. I don't believe that debt should be used as an excuse for not giving. Most debt is a choice.

I believe that we live in a culture that feeds the "more toys" mentality and confess struggling with that in a big way. I am thankful for a wife that is level headed and a saver and invester.

I believe that we should give joyfully and hilariously, but that if I can't do it joyfully, then I need to fix me, not stop giving.

I don't know if any of this makes sense or not - I'm still a little groggy. I just don't see tithing and "giving to those as they have need" as mutually exclusive. I also take issue with the idea that somehow, if I have more than you and I don't give it to you, I'm bad.

That my $0.02.


Blogger Dave Haupert said...

I thought this was a great thought-provoking article. One of the main struggles I've had with tithing is that I have been taught by the local church that since the tithe specifically references bringing 10% to the storehouse for the temple, it means we don't tithe to Compassion Int, Blood:Water mission, or even to help a friend in need, those are all over and above the 10% we are obligated to give to our home church.

I'm trying to sell my house, and the sale should generate a profit of which I'd like to tithe. But I felt pulled towards using it for some specific help outside my local church and was actually feeling guilty about that.

I keep coming back to the verse that says we should give freely and not under compulsion. If that verse is true, than why would God stipulate to us also an amount and person to write the check to?

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is worth the read a along the lines of what you have here.


Anonymous jwise said...

Wow, Pat...

I agree with a lot of what you say. But I have a serious issue with this statement:

"If someone is deeply in debt because of poor choices, I don't necessarily always feel the need to bail them out."

Um, isn't that the glory of the Gospel? Aren't we ALL deeply indebted for making horribly poor choices? Didn't Jesus come to earth for the SOLE PURPOSE of bailing us out?? And what's more, didn't he then command his people to go and do likewise?

America as a whole is HUGELY in debt. I drive around a paid for car, too. Congratulations. I have some school debt I'm working through because I made a poor decision and went to a Christian school that cost more than I had. But what am I to do? I send $2,000/mo to the loan companies, but even at that rate, I'm years away from paying everything off.

I'm the one who suggested the Church pick up the debt of its members. Because of that, much of your comment is toward me. But did you read the other suggestions I made? That those with big toys that aren't paid for should sell them to destroy the debt and find their needs met in the Body as well?

If we bring a new member into our flock, if he repents and turns from his sin, the fact that he's an American pretty much guarantees that he brings in a ton of credit card debt, a couple vehicles that aren't paid for, and a couple mortgages. Do we tell him, "Burn in hell because we're not about to bail you out of your stupid decisions?" Or instead, do we welcome him in, train him in finances, heal his debt, and enable him to become a thriving member of our Church?

We're not talking about enabling people to continue in selfishness and greed. We're talking about the Church FINALLY getting to the point where we're SETTING PEOPLE FREE from the most binding chains our culture has to offer -- debt. We're talking about giving OUR money to the Kingdom, where our King may use it to set another captive free.

What an INCREDIBLE opportunity, Pat. I thank God that there are people like you who haven't succumbed to our culture's spending. But please be careful that you use that wisdom and discipline to honor the Lord and free other slaves instead of using it as a bat to beat the snot out of people who HAVE made foolish decisions. Like me.

Blogger Shaun Groves said...

I don't see Pat as beating anyone. But I can't speak for him...

Good conversation, everybody. I have some new thoughts but time won't permit tonight. I just have time for a question: If Jesus had your bank account and salary and time and talent and His knowledge of every need in the world would He write the checks you write, spend His time as you spend it, and invest His talents as you do today? That is the question that is reshaping my life.


Blogger Shaun Groves said...

And the discussion stops.

What about "jubilee"? The Anabaptist talked a lot about it. Any thoughts on that whole idea, which really was the bulk of his point as understand it?


Anonymous euphrony said...

Yeah, no one really wants to talk about money and the church for very long. Especially when someone asks how would Jesus spend my money.

An interesting side note: after looking through this discussion, I was randomly asked to lead our congregations thoughts before the offering this past Sunday. I had a lot to think on. I referenced giving as a partial fulfillment of Paul’s admonishment to “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another” (Romans 13:8, NIV).

It seems the Anabaptist is discarding the word "tithe" with the baggage it carries and inserting a new/old buzz word "jubilee" with the definition of giving as we have been given to, a la "forgive as we have been forgiven". The jubilee has always been challenging because it, at its base, requires that we consider everything as on loan and does not allow one to make long-term investments (especially land) because it will go back to the original family in a few years. Could you imagine a bank today following jubilee? You certainly never saw slave owners in the Americas and Europe freeing their slaves, though they professed Christian values.

And yet, this (Anabaptist's definition of jubilee) is what we are called to do. We may have a huge house, but we had better expect to fill the rooms with people needing a place to stay instead of more possessions. We can go out and buy the newest electronic gadgets, but how do we plan on using it for the kingdom? The excuse of I need it for retreat/relaxation/recharge my batteries is not enough - a mere justification without merit. Should we help people out of debt they have incurred, even if it was through foolishness? Yes, we should. But that is not the end; just as Christ did not go around and randomly tell people your sins are forgiven, but told them how to seek righteousness, we cannot practice "hit and run" aid. We should help people with all of our gifts – from money to housing, furniture, and clothes to knowledge in financial matters, job placement skills, and education and training. This invests our lives in people, not things or ideas or missions but in real people as they need to be touched. This, of course, is what Christ did.

In short, when we give, we give what we have been given – all of it, all the time. The tithe and jubilee were like an allowance to a child, training them in how they should act. We are not children anymore, and Christ has told us to move beyond childhood and act as mature followers of Him. There is no distinction between lust and adultery, there is no distinction between tithing to be done with it and not giving at all; these are all sin as we put ourselves above our Creator.

Blogger euphrony said...

By the way, this is me.


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