Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Is that what tithing really means?

(Originally written Sept 10, 2010 - I just found this in draft/unpublished form. These considerations are still very much on my mind, even as Paul is now an associate pastor of a church)

When you grow up in church, as I did, you learn that tithing means giving 10% of your income "back to God." And, if you are in a "normal" church (as I was) then that means giving to the general offering - which funds the pastor's paycheck, janitor, electricity/gas, telephone, etc. I do not remember EVER questioning that this form of tithing is truly giving back to God. But, lately I have been doing some thinking (always a dangerous proposition...), and I am a little frustrated with what I see.

Please know, before I continue, that I am writing this from my limited experience. I am NOT writing this to bash the churches I have been in. Nor is this a post about paid clergy. My main goal in writing this post is to make you stop and think. This post is not intended to make you stop "tithing," but rather to help you make sure that your money is going where you want it to go.

Lately Paul and I have been frustrated with how little of the money given in tithes actually goes to win the lost, feed the poor, help widows and orphans, etc. Now, most people will jump all over me for this, because most people would say something to the effect of "we are paying to run the church, and that reaches people." I see what you're saying, truly I do. But, I also see the flip side of the coin. The money given to the church in this manner usually stays in the church to support the building (and perhaps the bureaucracy of the church). I realize that every church is different, and I am speaking in generalities. But, overall, most of the money given to institutional churches is used to keep the institution going.

Not only that, but most people give money to the church instead of missions, the poor, the helpless, the orphans, etc. These would be considered as "offerings" above and beyond your 10% tithe (at least in the churches I have spent most of my time in). But, when you look at Scripture, the emphasis is put on these latter considerations.

"Pure religion" is not how good you maintain your building, or that you have a paved parking lot and a central air conditioning. I am not suggesting that you abandon all of these comforts, so much as I am saying "let's take a step back and re-evaluate."
Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. James 1:27 NASB

I will admit that I am not the best at this either. I am still learning about how to care for widows and orphans, and I acknowledge that I should be doing much more.

It just seems like if your "church" is a home fellowship, where you do not have to collect an offering to pay the bills (or the pastor) then you could use your money to bless people for the sake of Christ.

I am just putting these thoughts out there to make you stop and think. I do NOT want you to stop tithing to your local church. But, maybe we need to do more...


Arthur Sido said...

I DO want you to stop tithing to your local church if those offerings go to maintaining buildings and paying clergy.

Bethany in mid-MO said...

I thought I might get a rise from you on this post. Thanks for stopping by to leave your two cents.


Annie said...

Hey Beth,
I trust and pray that you are all well - and we all praise God for what He continues to do in and through you guys! :O)

Tried to leave a comment before, but blogger didn't let me. :(

There are two 'philosophies' (as it were) of tithing that hubby agree with: the first is from the point of view "asking"... George Mueller's belief that 'our God provides all our needs...', so he placed a box out the could 'receive from those who felt compelled. He NEVER asked for a penny, but the stories of how God met his needs and the needs of the orphanage in which he served are note-worthy.
The second is from a "givers" point of view: a family we have only heard of (never met) felt compelled (again I speak of this as an urging from the Holy Spirit - not man) to tithe, but were not attending church at the time. They began by faith to just put money aside. After some time it increased to the point where a place to store it was needed so they opened a savings "tithe" account. At the time that I heard this story, God had placed them back into a church, but they maintained their unusual way of tithing and did not give into the 'basket'. They are known as some of the most generous givers to all that know them.

Well thems my thoughts...

wish I had more time to keep in touch - you guys sound like you're doing great! :O) Praise God!
praying for our Lord's best for you all,
p.s. - still hoping I get to hear Paul preach sometime... :)

Bethany in mid-MO said...

Annie - It will take me a while to get used to the name change...

I have also read about men/women who did not tell men their needs, but relied totally upon God. And, I have read of missionaries like Aylward and Charmichael who though they might have written letters to tell people their monetary needs, were still completely dependent on God. I am amazed and sharpened by all such stories!

Thanks for your comment, Annie.

Bethany in mid-MO said...

PS, Annie,
Where is the handsome pic of the kiddoes you used to have as your "icon"?

You should put up a pic of yourself ; )


Bethany in mid-MO said...

I was thinking about your comment all night, and if I wanted to respond more.

You said that you did not want people to be maintaining a building. How do you feel about renting a building to meet in (like someone else's empty church)? Or, what if the church building is paid for years and years ago? Or, does the church have to meet in a house? And, what if someone in your home church wants to bless a teaching elder by giving him a side of beef? Does he have to refuse it? (No, I am not being silly. Nor am I trying to pick a fight. I really want to know what you think. I was not reading your blog regularly because the smart phone made me crazy. And, I do not have the time now to go back and re-read everything. But, if you care to leave links that's ok.)

When I wrote this post, I knew that you and I would be in disagreement. But, we both have the same end goal in mind! We both want to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And, we both want to see the lost saved. Would you agree with that?


NYLass said...

I gave my blogger blog, but for some reason it no longer recognizes my 'icon', so no pictures... :(
Both Gladys A. and Amy C. are great inspirations here, too :O)
peace and would love to hear a health update! :O)
Yeah! was able to reattach!! :O)
You can see my - wow very OLD picture of my kids...

Gary Arnold said...

An in-depth study of the Biblical tithe reveals that the tithe was never on anyone's income but rather on God's increase of food, only, from His miraculous increase of crops and animals. Never money, even though the Temple Tax had to be paid with money.

I have studied this topic for well over a thousand hours and came to the conclusion that my money would be best given directly to those in need.

I do believe that those who attend church services need to financially do their part to pay the bills.

Tithing, as taught in most churches today, is not Biblical. According to Hebrews 7:5,12,18, tithing was actually disannulled at the cross along with the Levitical priesthood.

We are called to be generous, sacrificial givers, and should seek the Spirit for guidance in our giving.

Bethany in mid-MO said...

I appreciate your comments and your hours of study behind them. I did re-read the text in Hebrews and I am glad that you mentioned it. I also want to remind all the readers of this post that tithing has its roots before the giving of the Law. Abraham was not commanded to give to Melchizedek. Likewise, we are not obligated to give now, we love to. But, I agree with you - we should be "generous, sacrificial givers."
Thank you for sharing your comments.


Arthur Sido said...

Hey Bethany

My blog is NOT smart phone friendly, I don't think I have the mobile setting turned on.

I am all for the church sharing with anyone who is need. Giving a side of beef to someone, "teaching elder" or just a regular old person, in love is wonderful! We have been blessed all week with friends bringing over meals while my wife is laid up with her broken ankle (even though I do most of the cooking!). So blessing and sharing in love is absolutely Biblical. Likewise a reasonable rent on a meeting place or even modest expenses for a small, paid for building are fine. I don't think that any meeting of the church outside of a home is unscriptural. If, as in most traditional churches, the vast majority of the budget goes to clergy and maintenance, that is a different story.

Now. When it becomes an obligation, i.e. using the Old Covenant language of "tithing" to demand that believers fund the operations of a local church including permanent salaries for clergy, that is something I cannot support. Those who "preach" on tithing in the New Covenant assembly who are also depending on offerings for their own finances are inherently in a conflict of interest. Able bodied men in the church should work and not be a burden on the church, living off the offerings of widows and families. New Testament giving was always for meeting the needs of people in distress, never for paying holy men to do holy work in holy buildings. No Christian is above working as he or she is able nor is any Christian so important to the local church that they cannot be bothered with working a job nor is any Christian more or less deserving of loving assistance when needed.