My sister and her husband have been attending an evangelical church and they attend what's called a home team meeting. It sort of reminds me of bookstudy but without the books. Anyway, she had sent me a couple of letters that her husband had sent and the replies and I wanted to get some feedback from ya'll. I do appreciate it.
It's a bit long but my brother in law was deeply depressed after their recent home team meetings: Here is his letter to the group:
After Biblical study and prayer, I still do not believe in the principle of tithing. The verse that is often used as a proponent of tithing is found in Malachi 3:8-12 and says, "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse – the whole nation of you – because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit, says the Lord Almighty. Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land, says the Lord Almighty."
First of all, this passage refers to the Old Covenant practice of agrarian tithing, or bringing of the first ten percent of the harvest. This principle did not apply to monetary giving, nor did it apply to tradesmen. There is a specific reference to not robbing God and this refers to dishonest priests who were keeping the best of the sacrifices for their own and not bringing it before God. Those that wield this verse in a condemning fashion to non-tithers are judging others against a part of the Old Covenant. The Bible specifically tells us to "Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand." Romans 14:1-4
Tithing is a disputable matter. Jesus did not specifically speak of tithing, rather he talked about selling everything that you own, giving up your worldly possessions and following Him. Why is it that the Church does not use this as a reference for giving, or why do people not apply this to their financial lives. Jesus spoke of love, loving Him and loving others. He boiled the entire ten commandments, the entire Old Covenant down to those two principles. I could understand if I had a drug problem, an alcohol problem, an abusive problem, these are things that specifically violate Biblical principles. But this is a hotly debated Biblical principles and the majority of information I found on the internet seems to support my line of thinking. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 8:10-11 "And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of, according to your means ." Notice Paul didn't set out a minimum of 10%, his suggestion was to give according you your means. Paul goes on in 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver . And God is able to make all grace about to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will about in every good work." Paul continues to say in verse 12, "This service that you perform (assuming he's talking about giving to those that visit the Corinthian church in God's name) is not only supplying the needs of God's people…"
This sounds like a perfect description of what giving to the local church should be about, not about beating people over the head with giving 10% of their gross or net, gifts, and any other money that they should happen to come into. When I sat at that table last night and listened to you guys, I trusted that you were speaking the truth in love. But when I got in the car and drove home, I was deeply disturbed by what I had heard. I am in the financial situation that I am in, not because I am cursed and not blessed, but because of decisions that I have made. I can look back at the last couple of years and see the decisions that I have made; the decisions to pursue a means to an end. A decision to pursue what I feel like God has called me to do; make a daily impact on the lives of countless numbers of young people.
_____ asked me about blessings and the more I thought about those questions, the more condescending they sounded. "In what ways do you feel blessed? Do you feel confident in your abilities in the classroom and on the football field?" Do you think I'm banking on my abilities or my God-given abilities to fulfill the calling that God has placed on my life? And what about the, "I can tell the Holy Spirit is here because as soon as he shared that we didn't all reach for our wallets and ask how much did you need, we [asked the tough questions]." _____, thanks for making me feel like a drug addict whose come before you begging for another hit or another drink; like if you guys helped me you would be enablers or something. I didn't come there to ask for anything other than encouragement. I told you guys I was discouraged with the way things were going and instead of getting encouragement, instead of lifting a brother up, I get judged as being cursed because I am not tithing. Take the advice that Paul gave in my earlier reference in Romans and don't pass judgment on disputable matters. After all, I don't judge you guys because you choose to follow part of a law of the Old Covenant. I do feel compelled to give to the Church according to my means. I feel compelled to be a better steward of all that Christ has given me, not just ten percent.
I felt compelled last night to talk to my wife about what I had brought before you guys. I didn't tell her about anything else that any of you brought up, so I don't appreciate it when my wife talks to one of your wives that she gets asked, "so how is ____'s heart on tithing?" We agreed that we weren't going to share what goes on in our group. I don't feel like me sharing with my wife what I shared, or you guys sharing with your wives what you shared is in violation of this agreement. But when you go home and tell your wives what other guys shared, I have a problem with that. If any of you feels compelled to point out aspects of the Bible that support your philosophy on tithing, then I would be happy to hear it out as long as it's in a respectful, non-judgmental way. Otherwise, I think we need to agree to disagree.
|This is the first response he got from one of the group's members|
I speak for myself and not anyone else. First, I am concerned you belong to a church in which you fundamentally disagree with one of its biggest tenets. But further, almost any passage of the bible or doctrine of the church can be disputed. After all, contextually, a theologian can make a strong case that Jesus was not the Son of God or God incarnate in which case Christianity would be a heretical faith. But I, myself, and the church we belong to live according to the whole bible, Old and New Testament, and according to an evangelical faith.
Faith and theology are not the same. Study of the bible (or internet) and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit guiding us in reading the bible are not the same. When we read the bible, pray, make decisions, or take action we have to ask God to search our hearts to show us what is there and see the truth in what motivates us. Is it God's Word or is it our own fears and desires?
If you truly believe that God does not want our obedience by offering Him our first fruits, then you're right... we have to agree to disagree on this matter. I do believe what I believe. And I have no judgmental or selfish motivation in expressing that I believe that tithing is essential to an obedient faith. I don't want your money and God doesn't need your money. But I believe that YOU need to give for your own benefit as well as others... bottom line. What I say is out of my faith, and what I said last night was exactly what I felt needed to be said. If you continue to search for relief by your own means, then I don't think your situation will change. Maybe financially it will, but it will carry over into other areas of your life.
As for the tithe itself, I believe a man who earns $10M a year should return to God $1M. And I believe a man that earns $10 a year should return to God $1. That obedience shows GOD is the LORD of a man's life, not the man, not the man's circumstances. And it is out of faith, that a man sacrifices what he feels he cannot afford. It says to God, "I put my trust in you to take care of me and my family."
John, from the bottom of my heart... I want the best in this world and in heaven for you and Tuesday. If you consider what I believe as judgment upon another man, then so be it. I believe we must be compassionate according to Christ's teachings, but the truth cannot be compromised. Thanks to you and Tuesday for the meal tonight. It was delicious and very thoughtful. I love you both, brother.
|And now is my brother in law's response|
I realize that I am disagreeing with a deep tradition of the church and I would be hard pressed to find a sound church that doesn't teach the doctrine of tithing. I fail to see how tithing is or should be a big tenet of any church; I do understand, however that giving is an obligation of church members and that is something I plan to do regularly from now on.
Based on things that were said the other night, not necessarily by you, I feel like the consesus is that I am living in sin. Please believe me when I say that I have prayed about this, I have asked God to search my heart on this issue, and I feel more strongly than ever that tithing is not a fundamentally sound doctrine in the modern church, the living, breathing body of Christ. Paul speaks of God blessing us to be abundant in all things while speaking of taking an offering for needy Christians. Paul never suggested these Christians became needy because of improper giving, lack of faith or bad conduct. I don't believe blessing are for sale, we shouldn't give to get.
I believe in the infallible Word of God, both old and new testament, but the differences in belief between the two is what separated the pharisees from the disciples and later the apostles. Fear and desire are not what motivated me in my reading and study of this. In fact, the more I read Christ's very warnings to the pharisees for living under only part of the old covenant, the more peace I felt from God that this is the right thing for me and my family.
I certainly do not belive that I am searching for relief by my own means. The very nature of my endeavor to be a teacher is in pursuit of the calling that I feel like God has placed on my life. He has already blessed me in so many ways on this journey that I can hardly believe it. He has blessed me with opportunities, He has blessed me with favor with the right people, and He has blessed me with sound mind for studies that I know I am not capable of on my own. I know these things are not my own doing, but those of the mighty God that I serve.
As for giving (not to be confused with tithing), I believe that God requires 100% of everything that we have. I honestly believe that if God calls someone to it, then they should give everything they have. I don't believe I serve a God of amounts and percentages, I serve a God of all or nothing. And I accept that all that I have is God's, whether it's $10 or $10 million, and what he calls me to give is between Him and I/my wife; not the church and not anybody else.
I appreciate your compassion and concern. You are welcome for the meal. We love you guys too.
|Here is another response my BIL received:|
I wanted to start off by apologizing for the things that I had said the other night. The truth is, sometimes I feel a burning in my heart to speak up. And often I let that burning pass out of fear of being misunderstood. I know the words that I want to express and ponder over them more than once to make sure that they come out in the correct order. I guess that I mixed a few words around because what was meant out of love was interpreted as condescending.
_____, I understand that you felt as if we were passing judgment on you, or "judging you against apart of the old covenant" as you put it. I can assure you that love was the soul intent of every word spoken by your brothers that night. I want you to know what I meant when I brought up the Holy Spirit being present. See when you started talking about your situation, your face and your demeanor expressed true heartache. It really caught me off guard and grabbed my attention. Then you mentioned finances.... (This is an issue that I have certainly dealt with in the past and it completely controlled every aspect of my life.) At that moment I wanted to jump up and tell you all about the wonderful, merciful, graceful God that I serve until I realized that you too serve the same God....... Then it hit me. "How is he doing in his tithing?" I asked myself.... I didn't want to come out and say it because I hardly know you... And this is where I refer to your email where you quoted, "Accept those whose faith is weak." To tell you the truth man, I thought you were a rock in your faith. Because I am new to the group, I don't know your story on when you came to know the Lord, and I don't know where you are in your walk.... Anyway, what was on my mind came to be the same thing that was on Matt's mind, and Jon's mind. And I said that the Holy Spirit was present because I felt like He brought to the forefront an issue that was deeper than you not being able to find work. You see to each of us, we have wonderful testimony of how God has blessed our lives and we all happen to contribute those blessings to our faithfulness in our tithing. Know that we do not judge you in your weakness. Lord knows that we all fall captive to our personal weaknesses daily. Where we are weak, He is strong.
The scriptures that you quoted in your email were all great scriptures. It is awesome that you went home and did your research. The internet is a powerful tool, and we should all search hard for those questions we have about our faith and what we really believe.
Lets look at the Tithing issue really quick.
Instead of taking someone's word for it, or taking bits and pieces of what is written, read the whole thing. Read Paul's letters to the Corinthians and discern for yourselves what Paul is writing. He echoes what he wrote to the Galatians if you chose to read that as well. Chapter 8 of Corinthians. (True Saints impart on their substance to the poor. Christ out of His poverty brought eternal riches.) In my "abundance" means to me... all that I have over the first fruits. The subject of giving is more so related to giving to the needy, feeding the hungry. Paul is explaining to us who the first giver was, what He gave, and where our gratitude should stand towards that gift. If each of you has the time, I would challenge you to read both letters from Paul to the Corinthians, and really try to track with him on what is being taught.
In Matthew 5 Jesus said, "I did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it." Neither Jesus nor any of the new testament authors refuted the old testament commandment of tithing. Yes the word, "Tithe" came from the old testament, but it was Abraham's covenant and Abraham's covenant is eternal. It comes down to faith. It's just another step in our faith. I believe that when we take that step, we are blessed for expressing our faith. For me, tithing is personal conviction. I cannot ask God to help me in time of need when I lack faith in His answer.
Dictionary Definition of Tithes: The tenth part of agricultural produce or personal income set apart as an offering to God or for works of mercy, or the same amount regarded as an obligation or tax for the support of the church, priesthood, or the like.
Malachi 3 was quoted, glance over it again real quick....
In Malachi 3, the Lord instructs the Israelites to bring their tithe into the "storehouse." The Old Testament storehouse fed the tribe of Levi and the priests of Aaron, the prophets, the Hebrew widows and orphans living within the city, and the Gentile widows and orphans living in and around the city.
The New Testament and modern day equivalent to the storehouse is the local church. The local church provides for the needs of the pastors and staff, missionaries, widows, orphans and single parents living in the community, and the non-believers in the local community. We are "encouraged" as members to give to the local church, as a corporate body of Christ, in order to support the saints.
"The earth is the Lord's, and all it contains." Psalms 24:1
"And what do you have that you did not receive?" I Corinthians 4:7
If it is true that we should give according to our means, then let me tell you a few of my means.... I am healthy, I can walk, talk, work, drive. I have the ability discern right from wrong, I have the ability to share life, I have a roof over my head, I have a family and a beautiful wife. I have talents, an income, I have friends. I live in a place where I am free to speak and to worship the Lord who saved me from death and who blessed me with all of these things. I can Love........ For that, I freely give it all back.
As for me and my family we will go in the way of Able.
I love you guys,
and _____; I pray that there be no hard feelings between us. When I was 6 years old, my mom was pregnant. I asked her if I could have a little brother. She told me to pray and ask Jesus. I did. When my little sister was born I became somewhat depressed, all I wanted was a little brother and I felt that (as a child) God had betrayed me. My mom told me again, "all you can do is keep praying."..... After 23 years, God answered my prayer. I am surrounded by brothers man. God is good!
Thanks for any help or supporting, encouraging words you want to provide.