Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Midweek Message for November 15: Just Give!

“What is the correct way to tithe (before withholding, extra money received)?”

 It’s a good question.  Let’s look at the scriptures. Tithing is an Old Testament commandment.  Tithing was just one of the many offerings in the Law – there were also first fruits of produce and livestock, votive gifts for vows, sin and other ritual offerings, freewill offerings and donations (Num 18:21, Deut 12:17, 26:2 are just some passages dealing with tithes and offerings, and the book of Leviticus has a whole series of ritual offerings outside the tithe)

Of course, since we are Christians and not under the Law of Moses but bound by the new covenant of Jesus Christ, we also look to the New Testament:  what did Jesus say about money?  Jesus mentions the tithe once directly.  In Matthew 23:23 (also Luke 11:24), Jesus chastises the Pharisees for bring in their tithe, but ignoring practicing justice and mercy and faith. 

But that’s not the end of what Jesus has to say about offerings.  Jesus told the rich young ruler to go and sell everything(Mark 10:71-31) and give it away.   Jesus tells us that widow who gave two small coins gave a greater offering than the large sums the Pharisees gave out of their abundance (Mark 12:41-44).  Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James and John to leave everything behind to follow (Mark 2:16-20).  He teaches that where your treasures is, your heart follows (Matthew 6:19-21) and that we can’t serve God and wealth (Matthew 6:24).   He teaches us to take up our cross, to lose our lives for the sake of the gospel Luke 9:23-25).  Jesus calls us to give everything.

So what does all that mean for us?  Well, it’s hard to make a direct application from the scriptures to our situation – unless we go with Jesus telling us to give all we have!  We no longer have ritual sacrifice offerings to make.  And we have taxes, retirement funds, investments – all sorts of things that were not in practice when the Bible was written.

We need to look at the intent of the tithe and offerings – to provide for God’s ministry in the world, to care for the poor, widows and orphans, to rejoice in the blessing that God has given us.  From that intent, we can come up with some reasons why we give.  We give, because God has first given to us.  We give as a sign of our trust that God provides for us.  We give out of gratitude for all that God has blessed us with.  We give to further God’s ministry in the world, to care for the most vulnerable among us, to remember that God has indeed blessed us. 

Knowing the purpose of giving does helps us to think about how to give.  Now, there’s a lot of advice out on how much to give and what to tithe on – before tax income, after tax income, windfalls, odd jobs, gifts.  Here’s a good starting point:  just give.  Do you tithe now?  Great! For some of us, tithing is a good starting point.   Work on increasing your giving each year.  If you tithe on your after tax income, work up to tithing on your before tax income.  If you get a raise, or a windfall of money, think about how you can thank God for that gift.  

Maybe you don’t tithe.  Maybe the tithe seems impossible given your financial situation.  That’s ok.  Start giving what you can.  Your giving is a step of faith.  God honors even the smallest gift given from a heart that trusts.  And remember that our offerings are about more than money – we offer our time and the talents God has given us too.   

The correct way to give?  Giving to God out of a heart that loves, a heart that trusts, a heart that is grateful, a heart that seeks after God. 

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