Friday, November 23, 2007

The Church Staggers: Treasure and The Heart

There are only two things in life: money and love. Right now, the church is hurting on both accounts. As previously discussed, the role of women in the church and what some perceive as the feminist neuterization of male and female roles which results in socialist jargon passing for sermons, empties seats.

It's all love, all the time in churches but what does love mean? Are there any expectations to demonstrate that love?

That brings us to the other immutable issue: money. Tithing has become an issue in the modern church. People are reading their bibles and rejecting the commonly accepted notion that tithing is required. The Wall Street Journal reports this phenomenon (worth reading the whole article):

The anti-tithing movement has found support in some unlikely places: theologically conservative divinity schools and church pulpits. At Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., professor Andreas Kostenberger challenges tithing in classes on the New Testament. He teaches that if you add up all taxes paid by the ancient Israelites, they exceed 10%, and that in the New Testament there's no percentage rule. He says pastors perpetuate the 10% figure out of "pragmatism, tradition and ignorance, quite frankly."
Matthew 6:21 says it all regarding giving:

Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

People don't have their heart or treasure in the church these days. And they are suspicious of the way their churches are spending money. And in many cases, churches spend selfishly.

For six years, while avoiding any churches because the ones I had contact with seemed filled to the brim with hypocrisy and anything but love, we gave charitably other places. Many charities were still ministries--charities with Christian foundations--but they offered concrete, tangible ministry.

But I can't help but wonder if the church isn't just a reflection of the people attending there. Consumed with their own busy lives, many church-goers don't take time for church, or more importantly, God. Going to church is a way of giving time (these days, a much more precious commodity) to worship and learn and to be filled up spiritually. People are doing this less than they used to, too.

So while some church goers complain about the church's priorities and selfishness, the same could be said for the members themselves.

If a person has adequate funds, 10% giving back doesn't seem too much. It seems like a basic contribution not unlike the minimum set aside for retirement.

Ultimately, churches reap what they sow. The Catholic Church has hurt herself, I'm guessing for a generation at least, in the United States because of their scandals. Church pastors are as prone to sin like porn as the rest of the populace. And then there are the church leaders who live secret lives. All these scandals HAVE made a difference in how people, men especially, view the church.

Distrust in authority makes it seem almost unbelievable that a pastor or church board would do this when a member wonders about tithing:

When he objected to his church's instructions to tithe, Kirk Cesaretti took it up with the church leaders. In response, he received a letter from the pastor and elders of Hydesville Community Church in Hydesville, Calif. "At this time, we believe your concerns do not warrant any change in our church policy or positions," the letter read.

The letter closed with a verse from Hebrews 13:17: "Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls; as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you."

When the leaders are corrupt or lazy or sinful, or people may fear them to be, no amount of scriptural brow-beating will get them to give to the church.

The pastors and church leadership would do well to read Malachi 2. Tithing is a secondary problem.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

A tithe is by definition 10%. Tithing is about giving a portion of God's money back to Him out of obedience and trust in His continued provision. It isn't our responsibility what happens to the money after we've given it. When we pay somebody money that we owe, is it our business what they do with that money? I think part of the problem is that we think the money is ours and we are doing God a favor by giving it to Him. A really good book on this subject is Money, Possessions and Eternity by Randy Alcorn. Those people who are stealing from God, whether by not giving or by being bad stewards of what is given, have God to answer to.

HKH

Melissa Clouthier said...

I agree, in part. I have tithed to organizations when I knew that they were using the money for ungodly reasons. While I put that into a category that they'll have to answer for, I also feel that it was my responsibility once I knew.

And yes, the tithe isn't doing God a favor, and yes, it's the bare minimum, but that's with a quite literal Bible interpretation. Actually, those who are even more literal, don't believe in tithing--unless there is a Levitical priesthood, which there is not. Paul and Peter refer to a worker earning his dues but they don't specifically refer to tithing.

I don't think the topic is nearly so cut and dried as I had previously thought. And church corruption has caused many people to reevaluate their beliefs for both selfish and exegetical reasons.

Anonymous said...

We distribute our money to where we feel it should go. We have a problem, a big problem, giving our money to "church" alone when so many of them now are becoming mega churches, more worried about entertaining their congregation, etc...and also wanting to appeal to outward beauty. I shutter to know how much money goes into some of those buildings and the staff it takes to run some of these places. It's a business for sure...very little of that has to do with "God."

Also, it is interesting to continually observe how those who give large sums of money are elevated and revered no matter what they do and those who don't are basically ignored.

Giving is a great principle and you can't ever go wrong doing it. But I have to agree with Melissa here, when you realize it is used for other reasons than initially intended, the responsibility then also goes back to the giver. Throwing pearls before swine does not make much sense.

God is also not a mean God just waiting for an opportunity to catch someone doing something wrong so He can "punish" them. "Answering to God" encompasses a life long journey and has much more to do with growth and development than anything else.

Anonymous said...

It definitely isn't a cut & dried issue, and I agree that we have a responsibility to try to be good stewards in regard to our giving/tithing. It helps to be very involved in your church and charities: go to budget meetings, at least skim annual reports, etc.

hkh

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am Rob Fox, moderator of an internet forum called Tithing Study. I set up the forum “Tithing Study” for the sole purpose of discussing this topic. If you want to join, send an e-mail to:

Tithing-Study-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Among it's members includes Dr. Russell Kelly, author of the book "Should the Church Teach Tithing". Dr. David Croteau, who wrote his doctor's thesis on Tithing, Kevin Rohr, pastor who was mentioned in the article because he lost his job over his views, and Richard Wayne Garganta, local television anchor in Rhode Island.

Douglas said...

Tithing is not for the New Testament Church, it is not for Christians. The sooner we see the end of tithing in the 21st century church the better. The LORD Jesus Christ said you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. The Christian lives in the law of love/agape, the law of liberty.

Tithing MP3 (duration 00:26:00)
Presented by Bob DeWaay and Dick Kuffel Broadcast Monday, July 17, 2006 This program shows that the New Testament does not teach a mandatory tithe after the manner of the Old Testament. Those who command tithing are not following the teachings of the New Testament.

"Will a Man Rob God?" (Malachi 3:8): A Study of Tithing in the Old and New Testaments pdf
Andreas J. Kostenberger and David A. Croteau
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
“Is tithing, that is, giving ten percent of one’s income, obligatory for Christians? This first in a series of two articles investigates this question by studying all references to tithing in Scripture. The discussion commences with Old Testament references to tithing prior to the giving of the Mosaic Law, the Mosaic Law, and the historical and prophetic books. This is followed by a study of the three major New Testament passages on tithing. The article concludes that none of the Old or New Testament passages can legitimately be used to argue for the continuation of tithing in the new covenant period.”

Reconstructing a Biblical Model for Giving: A Discussion of Relevant Systematic Issues and New Testament Principles pdf
Andreas J. Kostenberger and David A. Croteau
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
“In a previous article the authors discussed all relevant references to tithing in Scripture and concluded that the continuation of a tithing requirement can not be adequately supported by the exegesis of individual texts. In the present essay they assess the applicability of tithing in light of pertinent systematic issues. Following a discussion of the relationship between the Mosaic Law and the new covenant, larger systematic issues that have been used to argue for the continuation of tithing are analyzed and critiqued. The article concludes with a survey of New Testament principles for giving.”

TITHING WITHIN THE CHURCH
A discussion paper on the subject of Christian giving.
(Scroll down)

Anonymous said...

I think the idea of tithing is a good one and 10% is a good rule of thumb. That being said, my problem is that it is not God demanding the full tithe, but the church. Many people support God's people through other charities and even support social services through the state and federal taxes they pay. Many of these services were not available or were provided by the church back in Biblical times. Therefore, though God should receive the whole tithe, it does not have to be received entirely by the church. This, of course, is not what many churches want.

sandy said...

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