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Archive for the ‘Tithes’ Category

Who Has the Right?


The following passage from the Bible caught my attention this weekend.  You see, a few years ago, a friend named Bill told me that I didn’t need to tithe on a certain amount of money I received.  Up until that time, I was a tither so having someone tell me that I didn’t need to caused me a problem.  The question I was left with was this:  If tithing is a command from God that still applies to Christians, who on this earth has the authority to tell me that I don’t need to do it?  Well, not Bill, that’s for sure.  No-one has the authority to negate God’s commands.

That begs the question then as to whether tithing IS a command from God for us today.  If you’ve read my other posts on the topic, you know that I do not accept this to be so.  Tithing has nothing to do with money and even if it did, does not apply to Believers today.

So on to the verse.  If tithing is related to money, and If non-Levitical ministers are entitled to receive it, and If tithing is a command that applies to members of a church—then those to whom Paul ministered were under an obligation to provide for his financial needs through their tithes.  Paul would not be in a position to negate that obligation—only to accept this tribute graciously and do his work. However, we find that Paul not only worked as a tent maker to make his own way, but he also willingly chose to go without financial support.  He chose to minister for free rather than to be a burden on his congregation.

If tithing is obligatory and if it applies to money, how could Paul let the Corinthian church off the hook?  I contend that (1) the tithe didn’t apply to money, (2) Paul wasn’t a Levite and would not have been entitled to it anyway, and (3) that the tithe law does not apply to those who are under Grace.  Paul knew this and while he was entitled to pay for his work as any of us is, “pay” and “tithe” are two different concepts.

Paul references the Law here to give the concept, not to claim rights to the tithe.  But even as the tithe applies to food provisions, Paul is clear here about that point as well.

Paul’s Rights as an Apostle

1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? 2Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

3 This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. 4 Don’t we have the right to food and drink? 5 Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas[a]? 6Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?

7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? 8 Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.”[b] Is it about oxen that God is concerned? 10 Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. 11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 12If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?

   But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.

13 Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? 14In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.

15 But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me, for I would rather die than allow anyone to deprive me of this boast. 16 For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. 18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel.

Imagine, if you can, a preacher today choosing to minister not for what he will earn on earth, but rather for what he will earn in eternity!

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Why do they receive a paycheck out of what is given by the congregation? Can the leadership not make a living any other way?  Do they really serve in such a capacity as they cannot sustain themselves or their families any other way?

Perhaps it’s because of the number of hours a day they make themselves available to minister to those in need within the community.  Of course, if others around them were given work to do as Jethro advised Moses to divide the work, there would be more trained workers and less need for one central figure to do the work on payroll.  Of course, to divide the work would necessitate either paying those workers too, or not paying the one.  And the leadership would never go for that.  So the “trained” and educated central figures live off of the backs of those who are willing to give, and the central figures work and serve for profit rather than out of the love for the Gospel and a desire to reach the lost.

OK, to be fair, yes, some serve for noble reasons and it is unfair to lump all church leaders together.  However, the laity serves out of love and devotion too and is unpaid.  Why the disparity?

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Khapra beetle

Khapra beetle

Supporters of a monetary tithe almost invariably point to how the US is no longer an agrarian society.  They contend that we as a society no longer produce from the ground and therefore are to tithe on our income.  Some take it further and say it should be on our “increase”, whether that be income, found money, or money won in gambling ventures (even if the denomination itself is against gambling).

Back to farming.  Imagine my pleasure on reading an article about an invasive beetle species called the Khapra beetle that was recently found in a shipment from China!  (http://www.clickondetroit.com/news/19768048/detail.html)    The article quotes a customs expert as saying “One-third of our gross domestic product is from agriculture…” and so of course I had to go find out what that works out to.  According to Wikipedia, our 2008 GDP was $14,264,600 million, which would make one third of that $4,754,866 million.  That’s a pretty penny for a non-agrarian society! (Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(nominal

So what’s the point?

  1. A Biblical or Spiritual truth is not to be interpreted or applied based on the temporal nature of a society.  (One cannot arbitrarily take what God said to a people thousands of years ago and say “We don’t do that, but let’s apply it here instead“—especially when there ARE Christians living in other countries who subsist on agriculture.  There is no industrial dispensation for Western society!)
  2. The US is more agrarian than many people realize.  A whole 1/3 of our GDP!!!
  3. You cannot say that the tithe law applies to money simply because you deny #2 above.
  4. You cannot say that the tithe law applies to money simply because you say people don’t farm.  But even if you they did farm, they are no longer under the Law as Believers anyway.

All this from a tiny beetle.

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My wife and I were discussing tithing again yesterday and we counted off the various categories we could think of:

  • Those who don’t give anything to a church
  • Those who give something from time to time as an “offering”
  • Those who “tithe” but don’t adhere to a 10%-definition for it’
  • Those who “tithe” 10% on their net income
  • Those who “tithe” 10% on their gross income

The interesting thing to me is that these are not just individual views—some are church views on the issue as well.  Not all churches push tithing as a 10% monetary matter, and only the more legalistic ones seem to quibble over net and gross.  (Of course they’ll tell you that if you have to ask, you have a heart issue about giving.)  But I digress.  As we talked on for a bit, I pointed out something to her that I find extremely interesting.

The following information is taken from the 2008-2009 rate chart for the Beth Israel synagogue’s web site.  The synagoge is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan.   Something should jump out at you as you look at this:

 Your Household Income       Suggested Dues Pledge          Required
                                             for Beth Israel Congregation   United Synnagogue 
                                             (2%)                                        Dues
     
<$10,000 – $20,000               as able and up to $225            *
 
$21,000 – $30,000                  $420-$600                               **
 
$31,000-$40,000                    $620 – $800                             + $69.50
 
$41,000-$50,000                    $820 – $1,000                         + $69.50
 
$51,000-$60,000                    $1,020 – $1,200                      + $69.50
 
$61,000-$80,000                    $1,220 – $1,600                      + $69.50
 
$81,000-$100,000                 $1,620 – $2,000                       + $69.50
 
$101,000-$125,000               $2,020 – $2,500                      + $69.50
 
$126,000-$150,000               $2,520 – $3,000                      + $69.50
 
$151,000-$175,000               $3,020 – $3,500                      + $69.50
 
$176,000-$200,000             $3,520 – $4,000                        + $69.50
 
$201,000-$225,000              $4,020 – $4,500                       + $69.50
 
$226,000-$250,000              $4,520 – $5,000                       + $69.50
 
$251,000-$275,000              $5,020 – $5,500                       + $69.50
 
$276,000-$300,000+          $5,520 – $6,000+                      + $69.50
 
* No United Synagogue dues are assessed for BIC dues pledges up to $190.
 
** $34.75 United Synagogue dues are assessed for BIC dues pledges from $190-$499; Deducted from first payment.
$69.50 United Synagogue dues are assessed for BIC dues pledges of $500+. Deducted from first payment.

Interesting!  Tithing is part of the Law given to Jews, yet they (1) do not tithe, (2) are not required to give 10% of their income, and (3) still manage to handle the affairs of their synagogues and retain staff.  It’s simple:  If you want to be a member, you pay dues.  There is a required amount and a suggested amount. 

Still another synagogues (Beth Jacob, Montpelier, Vermont) has these rates:

Donations and Membership Dues
The synagogue needs financial support to ensure the continued existence of an organized Jewish community in central Vermont. Membership annual dues depend on the income of the individual or family member:

If your income is                                                        Suggested annual dues are
Less than $25,000                                                   $18 to $300
$25,000-$50,000                                                   $300 to $1000
$50,000-$100,000                                                $1000 to $2000
Over $100,000                                                          $2000

Inability to pay cash fees will not affect your standing as a member of the synagogue. Please call or e-mail the treasurer (bjtreas (at) sover (dot) net) or the membership chair (bjmemb (at) sover (dot) net) to discuss in confidence an appropriate amount for your household. (see list of officers for names of officeholders).

So if the tithe was given to Jews, why do they not tithe?  Because tithing (again) has nothing to do with money.  So why would they give 10% of their income?  IDK!!!

MORE:

http://www.hvcn.org/info/bethisrael/membership.php?page=dues

http://www.faqs.org/faqs/judaism/FAQ/05-Worship/section-10.html

http://www.bethjacobvt.org/membership.html

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A Question


I spoke with a brother—a fellow Believer and friend—yesterday and out of the discussion comes one question that must be answered.  That question, although not a quote, sums up at least part of the discussion.  So without betraying any confidences or disclosing that which ought not be disclosed, here is that question:

Which is the more harmful/hurtful?  To allow a potential untruth to be taught amongst all the other truths, or to make such an issue over the potential untruth so as to distract and detract from all the other truths? 

41051_mCreg touched on this with a comment to an earlier post in pointing out that the issue in question has gone back and forth for more years than all of our lives put together—so why think my blog will change anything now?

I blog because I have something to say.  I blog as an outlet.  What surprised me last week is that there are those who read this that I probably didn’t even know were readers.  All the more reason to consider the broader audience that you comprise for there are readers of this blog from nearly 80 countries around the world!

That considered, I should point out that the issue, while significant for me at this point in my life, is NOT an issue that should divide Believers or take away from all the other truths that we share in love with a lost and dying world.  It is NOT an issue that should push aside nearly a decade of friendship and joint ministry.

As I had said in an earlier post, shame on us when we cannot agree to disagree and still get along with one another.  That, my friends, includes me! Shame on me for falling into that trap!

Well, it proves I am human and fallible.  Which also means I may be totally wrong on the issue.  OK, I doubt that I am wrong about the issue, but there can be no doubt that I was wrong in the handling of the issue.  I think a Christian life is in part about how we handle the difficulties and challenges we face in life for they will surely come.

Let’s see how the future goes.

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Author’s Note:  These posts were written out of frustration with something I feel very strongly about—to the point of being bitter.  This is not the right way to handle a disagreement of this sort.  That’s not to say that as some would suggest, that we as Christians should all sing Kum Ba Ya and get along on everything, but that is to say that in disagreeing, there are good and productive ways to voice a difference.  On the other side, there are negative, hurtful, and destructive ways to disagree.

 

In some of my posts, I went about the disagreement in a way that may be topically correct but strategically wrong.  The result is that the point is correct and scripturally sound, but the correction is harsh and makes it difficult for some to embrace the correction or to change.  Because of that, I’ve considered pulling these posts from the blog.  However, there are some good points here in both the main text and the comments that are worth keeping.  Add to that my purist view of blogging—once written, it stays.  And other than censorship for spelling or blatantly offensive language, comments are left “as is”.  So please read on, but with these comments in mind.

 

doc_1501Let’s cut through all the back and forth comments and get to the point:

  • Tithing is a principal first performed by Abraham before the Law was given
  • Circumcision is a principal first performed by Abraham before the Law was given
  • Both were incorporated into the Mosaic Law—the Law passed down to the Jews by God through Moses
  • In Galatians, Paul argues that the Believer is no longer under the Law.  The Law at issue is circumcision.  Paul is so angry that the Jews are trying to push this requirement that he says he wishes they would go all the way on themselves and cut EVERYTHING off!
  • Putting a Christian under even one Law, whether tithing or circumcision—or any other Law you choose, including the Ten Commandments, is wrong.

Galatians Chapter 3: (NIV)

 10All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”[c] 11Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.”[d] 12The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, “The man who does these things will live by them.”[e] 13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”[f] 14He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

And in Galatians 5:  (Also NIV)

 1It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

 2Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. 6For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

AND

11Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. 12As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!

So how should we live as Believers?

Paul goes on to say:

 16So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

True!  There is no need for the Law if we live this way.

Decide for yourself whether we are to follow the Mosaic Law which requires a tithe of all the produce from the land, but has been interpreted by some to include money, or under the freedom of the Believer to:

“… give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

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Author’s Note:  These posts were written out of frustration with something I feel very strongly about—to the point of being bitter.  This is not the right way to handle a disagreement of this sort.  That’s not to say that as some would suggest, that we as Christians should all sing Kum Ba Ya and get along on everything, but that is to say that in disagreeing, there are good and productive ways to voice a difference.  On the other side, there are negative, hurtful, and destructive ways to disagree.

 

In some of my posts, I went about the disagreement in a way that may be topically correct but strategically wrong.  The result is that the point is correct and scripturally sound, but the correction is harsh and makes it difficult for some to embrace the correction or to change.  Because of that, I’ve considered pulling these posts from the blog.  However, there are some good points here in both the main text and the comments that are worth keeping.  Add to that my purist view of blogging—once written, it stays.  And other than censorship for spelling or blatantly offensive language, comments are left “as is”.  So please read on, but with these comments in mind.

 

I reminded a person who commented that I do not advocate NOT giving to a church or ministry.  On the contrary, we need to support the work that is being done and in a very practical way, sometimes that means providing for the electric bill to be paid, or providing for the gas to keep us warm in the colder times.  Here’s the reminder:

Does this mean we should not give to the church? Heavens no!

However:

2 Corinthians 9:7
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

That “under compulsion” would include the so-called tithe!

What I do not advocate is the broad interpretation and misapplication of a Mosaic Law that deals with crops and livestock to the modern day Believer—as if money didn’t exist in the days of Moses, and as if farming does not exist today.

If people believe in what you are doing, they will give to support the work.  If the mission is clear and they can see results, they will give.  And people ARE generous in giving to what they believe in.  To exploit that and to make giving a matter of “religious duty” is NOT ACCEPTABLE.

Here are some examples of where people give (gave) without COMPULSION because they support the message or the mission:

  • Barack Obama’s campaign (Sadly!)  ($750 million!)
  • Hillary Clinton’s campaign  (Money down a rat hole as well!)
  • John McCain’s campaignfocus
  • The American Red Cross
  • National Public Radio (NPR)
  • Public Broadcasting (PBS)
  • Focus on the Family
  • K-Love

identity-overAnd the list could go on and on.  But I wanted to stop and point out the last two.  The reach of these two organizations is huge!  Yet neither one collects a “tithe”.  They are supported, largely or in part, by those who have come alongside them in seeing the need for the work to get done.

There are local churches and/or fellowships that do not practice “tithing”, but do collect offerings.  So how is it that they do it and get by, and the church that practices tithing is struggling?

Ask the leadership of the struggling church and the answer would be “that people are not being obedient in their giving”.  At the next business meeting, out comes the slide showing how many families gave less than $100, more than $100 but less than $500, over $500 but less than $1,000, and so on.  And if you add up the number of families, it doesn’t total the number of families on the roll.

Are we counting the right things here?

Are we counting the number of people saved this week?  Helped?  Served?  Fed?  Baptized?

If we really believe the message given on that hillside so many centuries ago, even the church needs to first seek the Kingdom of God and the needs will be met.  That may mean not having the fanciest building, the nicest carpet, the snazziest A/V system—but last I read my Bible, those things don’t last anyway.  Where is the Church putting its treasure?

MORE:

http://www.generousgiving.org/page.asp?sec=4&page=161

http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/summary.php?id=N00009638

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