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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Tithes & Offerings

“Will a man rob God?
Yet you have robbed Me!
But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’
In tithes and offerings.
Malachi 3:8

Israel ( 'according to the flesh' ) had a problem; rather than showing mercy to their neighbor & loving justice, they were paying tithes of mint, anise & cumin, while leaving their neighbor in the dust! Instead of paying attention to things like justice, mercy & faith, they had 'neglected the weightier [ matters ] of the law' ( Matthew 23:23 ) In today's day & age, we see much the same problem; plenty of tithers & pew-sitters who leave much or most of the 'dirty work' up to the pastors, elders & deacons!

Tithing is an entirely biblical construct; it is even Scriptural, but with the Advent of the Christ & the fulfillment of 'all things' ( I Peter 4:7 ), one might begin to wonder if, as with so many other things that have passed away ( Matthew 5:18 ), the practice of tithing has not itself been done away with! This is not to say that we should not contribute our time & money to the work of Ministry, for we should most willingly do that, but as to giving an obligatory 10% of our earnings to support any certain congregation, the question remains as to whether this is a biblical or Scriptural requirement, especially with the Advent of 'God with us' ( 'Emmanuel' )!

Understanding that a certain amount of giving ( money ) is required for the up-keep of a special structure dedicated to housing the meetings of any given congregation & even for the financial support of certain members of the congregation ( widows, pastors/teachers/ ( Director of Communication ), it is right & good, even necessary, for the members of any given congregation to faithfully & willingly share their blessings! To require a certain percentage, though, of one's income, in order to support any given ministry, especially at the expense of putting food on the table or otherwise loving your neighbor, is not only wrong, it is un-biblical & unconscionable!

The Pharisees of Jesus' day, the same ones that received Ultimate Condemnation for the crime of robbing God, bear a strikingly close resemblance to many in the congregations ( Institutional Church ) today! The leaders of these congregations are even more Pharisaical, using these tithes & offerings in ways they were never meant to be employed! Many, upon parting with 10% ( or more ) of their income, are promised anything from renewed health, to a new Cadillac, to a place in 'Heaven! Then, there is the 'special offering' where the plate is passed around & one is almost made to feel lower than dirt if/when he or she does not contribute!

For a bit, let's look at how needs were taken care of in what is usually called 'the New Testament Church; of the seven times that tithing is mentioned in the Greek ( New Testament ) Scriptures, the first several references speak of it condemningly & all fit exactly into the context of Israel ( 'according to the flesh' )! In Matthew 23:23 & Luke 11:42, we read about Jesus' condemnation of the Pharisees for their failure to understand its true nature & in Luke 18:12 & Hebrews 7:5-9, we see the institution inextricably bound up with the people of Israel. This is not, however, to say that we shouldn't tithe!

For the reasons outlined above, support of the ministry of the Church, etc, it is good & right to give ( freely & willingly ) to these ministries! It is not good & right, however, to require these gift ( else they are not gifts )! In Peter's & Paul's day, when a need, financial or otherwise, was noted in the Church, then the people offered their time & money to meet that need. In fact, if I remember correctly, in the Church at Jerusalem, those who had, laid what they had at the apostles feet so that those who did not have could have! Even in this situation, though, with the relatively new formation of the Church, one must take into account the historical context & realize that these gifts were given to the apostles to bear to wherever they were needed, even though it be the other side of the 'world'!

Jesus' point & Malachi's as well, was that the Jews of the day were paying tithes into the treasury, whether to beautify the Temple ( Matthew 24 ) or what, rather than offering their time & money to help their neighbor who had need! As in the parable of 'The Good Samaritan' ( Luke 10:25-37 ), they were not willing to dirty their hands to help even one of their own, but instead, passed by on the other side, although you may be sure they 'righteously' gave their tithes in the Temple in Jerusalem!

Let us not be like the Pharisees of Jesus' or our day, but let us give willing to the ministry of the Church, and loving  mercy & justice, let us attend, with both our time & mney, to the needs of those around us, to the best of our ability, with the Wisdom which indwells us!

Charles Haddon Shank

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