Tuesday, 27 November 2012

New Testament giving

To those who would think that tithing is ‘only’ an Old Testament view and would want to move on to talk about Jesus and his attitude to giving, well – that Old Testament practice of tithing was the foundation of the grace of the law. When we come to look at Jesus we have to remember that he was a Jew. He would have tithed as a matter of course. In his conversations with the Pharisees on this topic, not once did they challenge him on it. In fact, he challenged them and commends tithing. Matt 23:23 says this,
‘Woe to you teachers of the Law and Pharisees. You hypocrites! You give a tithe of your spices, mint, dill, cumin, but you have neglected the more important matters of justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter without neglecting the former.’
This comment is repeated in Luke 11:42. Jesus is interested in the heart and so challenges them but does not say that tithing doesn’t matter.

From the New Testament church we can learn further lessons. These people were very, very generous. Even a surface reading of the Book of Acts shows that this was a giving community, selling possessions so that no-one was in need and bringing the proceeds to the apostles and laying it at their feet - conveying that they were giving it freely for them to distribute.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The More Monster

The More Monster is in us all and in the end it’s an issue of the heart. Perhaps there are other demands on our money - ‘I can’t afford to tithe because of the cost of education’. Or, ‘We have two cars to run’, or ‘I go on a number of holidays each year’, or ‘I have a number of houses to maintain’. These things are not wrong – I have a mortgage on our house; I own a car too. Deb and I have made some choices concerning our priorities – we don’t have a second car and our boys go to the local secondary school but we go on some nice holidays. We could forgo the holidays and put the money into private education but we have made choices – God gives us choice - but the principle of firstfruits is one I believe in.

My firm belief is that a tithe is 10% before tax... I have known people who have tried to engage me on this topic as though we are in some sort of negotiation. My response to that is that you make your decision before God. It might help you to know my history in this. In my twenties I was established in a very well-paid job and drove an expensive car. Then I became a youth pastor and saw my salary reduced to a fifth of what I was earning before! Through all of that I knew that where and how you put your money says a great deal about your heart and your priorities.

Scripture clearly sees giving as part of worship – which is why at King’s we take up the offering during worship. We are saying to God, ‘I trust You!’ Our giving springs from an understanding that before everything, all that we have belongs to Him anyway! So when some people give and say, ‘You don’t know how hard I have worked to get this. It’s mine and I’m giving this bit to God...’ actually, biblically it is all His. Whether it is a great deal or a little, it belongs to Him. Leviticus 27:30 indicates that we should live off 90% of what we receive.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Firstfruits or lastfruits...

Then there is the biblical principle of ‘first fruits’. Proverbs 3:9 says ‘Honour the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops’ - the principles of tithing and firstfruits overlap. The best book I have ever read on Christian giving is Money, Possessions & Eternity by Randy Alcorn, if you are interested in following up this topic – it’s a good book to read.

‘The firstfruits and tithes certainly overlapped, and it seems that generally they were the same thing. The term ‘tithe’ stressed the exact amount while ‘firstfruits’ emphasized the nature and quality of the offering.’
That is why in Old Testament sacrifice, it wasn’t a blemished lamb that was offered – it was the best! It displayed that, as a follower of God, God deserved the best. He is first in our lives. So the tithe was 10%, while the firstfruit was about motive and what was in one’s heart.

Sadly, many Christians practice the principle of ‘lastfruits’, giving what is left after everything else has been covered. If we are honest, this is true – in a congregation the size of King’s, we know it.

It’s an issue of priorities – ‘I have my list of priorities, once I have budgeted for them whatever is left I give to God...’ That is not what Scripture teaches we should do! But people probably know this already as they read the Bible – there is a big tug going on in hearts because many want to follow God... but there is also a big tug from the More Monster!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

The tussle of tithing...

An overview of what the Bible says about money is powerful stuff. Some of the verses we read are quite scary so we need to remember that we are looking at what God says in His word about this subject!

When some people in our churches talk about tithing, it’s not giving 10% before tax that they mean – it’s just their way of talking about their giving, like a catch-phrase. When we read Malachi 3:8, we face a different point of view.
‘Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. Yet you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ In tithes and offerings – 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 floodgate of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.’
This passage is quite clear – it says if you aren’t tithing then you are robbing God. It also says that if you do tithe then God will open the floodgates of heaven and pour out blessing so that there will be no room – that would be our testimony at King’s. Over the last fifteen plus years at King's we have taught proportional giving, that is giving from what you have, not what you haven't! We have also recognised that as we move from the Old to the New Testaments there is even more in the grace of God to us to be grateful for! Our giving arises from that recognition and a response of grateful love to the God who has done so much for us.

Some people say, ‘If I give my money then God will give me more money back.’ This attitude comes out of a view called ‘prosperity theology’ – we do not teach that at King’s; we think it is in error. God is not a slot machine where I put my money in and get more back - that sort of thinking is more about greed than sacrificial giving. The truth is that God might bless you financially... but He might not.