You shouldn't tithe!

I'm going to say something that might shock you...
You shouldn't tithe!
Do I have your attention?  
No, this is not click bate - saying something just to get you to click on a link, only to say something totally different after you click.  I'm serious - tithing is an Old Testament
concept.  As pastor and author Steven J. Cole puts it, "Tithing emphasizes your obligation to God; New Testament giving emphasizes your willing, loving response to God’s grace."
He makes a good point.  Tithing is adherence to a law, a rule, a directive that says you must give God 10% of what you have.  One of the problems with that is it presupposes that the other 90% is all yours, as if God only gets the smallest portion.  Yes, I know it’s supposed to be our first fruits – the best of what we have to offer.  However, if we truly look at giving as a response to God’s grace, we wouldn’t stop at the first 10%.  Cole alludes to this as well, saying, “Tithing limits giving by making a person feel that he has paid his dues (so to speak) and thus nothing more is required, when, in fact, much more could be done”.
Now I can already feel eyes rolling, resistance rising in hearts, and perhaps even a few of you saying. “Why does the church always talk about money?”  Well, let’s talk about that. Stewardship is a Bible subject, so it is covered when it comes up in studying the Bible. It is a part of worship, so it is included in a sermon series on worship. Yet on any given Sunday one would much more likely hear a sermon on Jesus, grace, salvation, love, the church, family, obedience, joy, practical Christian living, forgiveness, hope, or heaven than a sermon on money.
Still, I get it. Jesus talked a lot about money, but not everyone responded favorably. Jesus made it clear there's a close tie between people's pocketbooks and their hearts. He didn't say, "If a person's heart is right, they will give." He said, "When you invest your money in something, your heart will follow." When we talk about giving based on a willing, loving response to God’s grace, it helps to put our hearts in the right place.  Anthony de Mello, author of Contact with God states: "Those who expect God to be generous with them must be generous with their fellows. ‘Give,' says Jesus, 'and gifts will be given you.” I might add to his statement by saying “Those who expect God to be generous and those to whom God has been generous with must be generous with their fellow man.”
Mother Teresa is quoted as saying, “Give till it hurts”.  Unfortunately, this has been taken out of context by many a pastor trying to get people to give more.  The truth is, she was talking about giving love to one another, not sacrificial giving.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand radically sacrificial giving but I think using this cliché to guide giving is misplaced. In the church’s desire to give clarity to people’s giving, it mostly has the effect of motivating people in the wrong way. Rather than thinking of generosity in terms of it “hurting”, generosity should actually make us more joyful.
Jesus never shames us; instead he earnestly tells us not to be ashamed of the Gospel.  Therefore, we should not shame others for what they give.  We must acknowledge that many give what they can.  They are on fixed incomes, have heavy financial burdens, or simply do not have great resources.  Add to that out of control inflation and rising consumer prices, and we can understand why giving is challenging to some.  Still, the beautiful thing about the way God set up giving is that the rich have no advantage, and the poor have equal opportunity. When a poor widow gave only two pennies, Jesus excitedly told His disciples that she had given more than the rich.  How? Because God counts giving by the love and trust we show by our offering. The poor thus have the opportunity to be the best givers in every church, without being burdened.
But it boils down to love and trust and a willing and loving response to God’s grace.  The elephant in the room is that you are giving your money to the church and not directly to God, but remember that the church is the God ordained mechanism for doing His work here on Earth.  Not giving because you don’t agree with a decision made by the church is not an example of trust.  Not giving because you want to spend your money on something else is not a willing and loving response to God’s grace.   May I suggest that if you are not happy with decisions made by the church, that you become involved in leadership and help steward the resources, rather than not give. And may I suggest that you have a prayerful conversation with God about how He wishes you to allocate your money, rather than allowing the world to dictate how you should spend it.
Now for another twist.  I am not writing this because we are in desperate need of more giving.  We are just past the halfway point of the year and our giving is at almost 45% of projected.  That’s something to celebrate!  Instead, I’m writing this to urge you to examine why and under what conditions you are giving.  Is it because you feel that giving is part of your responsibility, and you want to respond to God’s grace with trust and love?  Is it because you feel especially blessed and you want to share that blessing with others?  Maybe you’re don’t have a vast amount of resources but you feel God has blessed you in other ways and you want to be a blessing in return.  
Whatever it is, giving is not something we should do just because we were told to.  We should do it as a response to what God has done for us, as a way to share God’s grace with others.  Giving is part of the makeup of all Christians, and should be part of our spiritual journey.  The church is the place God ordained to carry out his missions and ministries, and the resources we share with it are used to fulfill the Great Commission: Go and Make Disciples for the Transformation of the World.

1 Comment

Gene Guertin - August 23rd, 2022 at 5:19am

Great message!