Saturday, January 24, 2009

What do you think about tithing?

What do you think about tithing? I take this quote from Scot McKnight's book "The Blue Parakeet"; a book on how to read the bible (you can see my review on this post). The quote below is not an exhaustive study on tithing in the bible by McKnight. They we just conversation points that made up a chapter of the book.

I'd like to use it as a conversation starter for us in this post.

"The bible I read taught about tithing, but the Bible does not insist that all of the tithe must go to a local church. Truth be told, the New Testament doesn't even bring up the tithe. In the bible the tithe is a combination of spiritual support (for the temple) and social service (for the poor). Moses says tithes are to be given not only to the Levites (roughly the temple servants) but also to the alien, to the fatherless, and to the widow (Deuteronomy 26:12). The churches I was attending had nothing to do with immigrants, did little to help orphans, and so far as I knew did little to strengthen widows." (14)

McKnight continues...

"What was more, the tithe we were hearing about was something we were to give to our local church for buildings, maintenance, pastoral salaries, missionaries, and the like. But the bible said that I-as a tither- was to give some of my tithe to the Levite and also to those who were marginalized and suffering. This was something neither I nor anyone knew was doing. I was learning that we sometimes live out the Bible, rightly or wrongly, by morphing one thing into another, that is, by taking a tithe for temple assistants and also for the poor and turning it into a tithe for the local church. It might be fine to read the Bible like this, but we should at least admit what we are doing: in a word, we are morphing." (14-15)

The quotations above are not McKnight's position on tithing just to make things clear. I am simply using this quotation from the book as a discussion starter.

These are some of the questions I would like to ask, feel free to answer any one of them:

1. If the New Testament doesn't have anything to say about tithing is it still applicable now?
2. Has the church , in following the directive of collecting the tithe, ascribe to one part of what the bible tells us about tithing and neglect what the tithe is for?
3. Your thought about the quotation.


5 comments:

Ted M. Gossard said...

A difficult one. I've heard good Christians give different positions on this. Of course their theological understanding of Scripture will impact how they see it, as for example the relation of the old covenant to the new covenant, or is there only one covenant- essentially? etc.

Yes, I think Scot has an excellent point (from that provocative book). I'm not sure where to land on the tithing issue. I do have a number of thoughts on it. I really think variables in Scripture need to be considered, and then variables in present life situations for Christians today.

I'm not even sure God gives a directive on this, I mean one set in stone. So that we know we are commanded to tithe to the church, and then giving is anything beyond that.

I think more likely, God gives us enough for a faith journey with him, which includes faithfulness in our giving to God's work of the kingdom in Jesus. And how that falls out for you, and how that falls out for me will be different. According to variables such as the times we find ourselves in, God's faithful working in our hearts and lives, as well as our response to God's grace to us in Jesus.

Tremonti said...

Ted,

I have heard some teach that we as Christians have to tithe because it is found in the bible, God commands it, that there is a distinction between tithing and an offering, and the thing about the benefits of tithing-explained using Malachi:that would open the flood gates of heaven. But i'm not really convinced that what is explained above to be the issue of saying it is a command that we are to follow.

Like what you said "I'm not even sure God gives a directive on this, I mean one set in stone. So that we know we are commanded to tithe to the church, and then giving is anything beyond that." I agree with what you said. Tithing is not strictly a command.

I'm not as clear cut with a definitive position on this but I'm wondering how the church in my context would be without practicing the giving of tithes.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Tremonti,
Great question.

I do believe there's given to us teaching so that we should give regularly, sacrificially and cheerfully or with joy. I think of the situation addressed in 1 Corinthians and Philippians on giving by the church to help another church in need.

I really do think it's an interesting question in comparing where giving actually did go- I mean in the Bible. And comparing that to where it goes at times in much of our giving today. Of course I'm thinking from my context here in the U.S.

I'm open to seeing the whole thing better. I do think Scot's "The Blue Parakeet" is quite helpful. I need to get my own new copy. I loaned out my advance reader copy, and now have given it away. So I haven't had that in my hands for some time. But I need to reread it soon.

Kurt said...

First of all, what a GREAT read this was! I remember reading the section that you mention, and thinking to myself; "huh...that seems like something i have thought about for a while now, but it contradicts my pesonal source of income..." I believe that it is good for Christians to tithe, but that the church is not very good at using the funds the way the Apostles and first century believers seem to have. The 10 percent idea does seem to lack some credibility although this seems to be the continuation of some form of the OT Law. However, I do recall a passage that says, "each person should give what they have decided in their heart...not under compulsion...for God loves a cheerful giver." So, obviously giving is there in the NT, but not in the way the modern church has things set up.

Often i feel that the church is better at building empires that cost millions of dollars to build and thousands of dollars just to keep the Electric bill paid each month. Yet, on the other side of the tracks are people who are struggling just to pay their monthly electric bill so that they can have warm water, heat, ability to cook food, etc. Scot McKnight provokes some good thoughts on this one! (PS -- I commented earlier on this but it didn't show up, so if it eventually seems that i have repeated myself; that is why :-)

Troy Hamby said...

Wow, you read my mind. I was literally just typing a blog on this same exact subject. The reason I was thinking about it was because in the church service that I went to today, the pastor said that the OT laws were not negated when Jesus came...we are pretty much still bound. Malachi said to bring "all the tithe into the storehouse" and the storehouse is so obviously the church and if you don't do it, you will be cursed even though Jesus came and we live in grace.

I wanted to puke! If I were coming in off the street, I would have thought that this was the biggest scam in the history of scams. For someone to use religion and the threat of a curse to get people to give money is comptemptable, even evil!

I believe in tithing...simply for the fact that I have done it for 10 years and God has richly blessed us. But, my view on "where" that tithe is to go has changed radically. I no longer think that if Jesus were a pastor today that he would want the tithes going to salaries, mortgages, electric bills, 401 K's and other ridiculous crap that's not Biblical. I think he would want it going to help the poor, hungry, hopeless and desperate...you know, those people in Matthew 25.

Anyway, sorry for the rant, this is fresh on my mind:)

Hopeful Theo

My photo
OIL TOWN, SWK, Malaysia
I'm a student of Theology (currently and will always be one). I'm a student of culture and a student of music as well. I guess you could say life is a never ending journey of learning. Because of that we never stop being students. Just a little something about this blog: Deconstructing The Monkey is all about being a safe space for emerging conversations