This post is part 2 of a 3-part series on tithing and giving:
- Why the Apostles Didn’t Teach Tithing (And Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty About It)
- Why Your Church Does Teach Tithing (Any Why You Sometimes Feel Guilty About It)
- What Jesus & His Apostles Taught About Giving (And How You Can Find Joy in It)
In the first post of this series, I wrote that Jesus only incidentally mentions tithing once, and His Apostles never mention it at all. But, since tithing was such a clear obligation in God’s old covenant with Israel, I asked how we can account for the lack of New Testament teaching on tithing.
My conclusion was that tithing, which had a specific purpose in the religious life of Israel, was not renewed as an obligation of the New Covenant which Christ established with His followers. The New Covenant is for all people, not just Jews. And when the Apostles wrestled with whether Gentiles had to keep the Jewish Law of Moses (including circumcision, tithing, dietary laws, etc.) as a condition of participation in the New Covenant (i.e. to be Christians), their conclusion was absolutely, “NO”. In their letters, Paul, Peter, John, James, and Jude addressed every conceivable issue of Christian living including work, money, charity and giving, but they never laid the obligation to tithe upon the churches they founded and nurtured. They never even mentioned it.
Umm…Those Guys Never Went to My Church
But at many churches today you’d think tithing was the 11th Commandment! Heck, at some churches you might never even hear the first ten (that’s Sunday School stuff, anyway), but they sure tell you about that 11th one. “Good Christians” tithe, right? I remember one well-meaning Christian brother who described tithing to me as, “basic, square-one stuff.” He was convinced that non-tithers could never grow spiritually. In his mind there are people who call themselves “Christians”, and then there’s real “tithing Christians.”
What a disconnect!
Why Your Church Makes You Feel Guilty About Tithing
Is it because your church believes in the paramount importance of financing the local and worldwide mission of the gospel? Maybe…
Is it because your church misunderstands the relationship between the Old and New Covenants? Maybe…
Is it because your church wants you to be blessed? Maybe…
Is it because your church genuinely believes Christians should tithe? Probably…
It’s About Checking the Box
Regardless of your church’s motives (which may be more or less noble), I think the real root of the problem is that human nature always looks for some way to self-justify itself. We want a little box to check that says, “I’m okay with God because I… [fill in the blank].” We don’t want to depend solely on the unmerited grace of God. We’re uncomfortable with casting ourselves upon His mercy. We’re all tempted to feel that somehow the cross of Christ needs just a little help from us if God is really going to love us and accept us.
(Sound like you? Yeah, me too.)
I’m like the Pharisees Jesus rebuked. They added rule upon rule to define God’s Laws in such a way that could know that they know that they had checked all the boxes, and had therefore earned God’s acceptance. But isn’t that just a nice way of saying, “God, you owe me?”
I’m like the Christians in Galatia Paul rebuked. They wanted to add Law-keeping as a condition of being a Christian. But Paul wrote to them angrily, telling them that if they did so, they were abandoning the gospel and forfeiting the grace of God (Galatians 1:6-7).
How Your Church Got This Way
But, tithing seems like a pretty worthy check box, doesn’t it? After all, it takes money to support the mission of the gospel, right? So, at some point in America’s history well before your great-grandfather’s time, a few preachers added tithing (and a bunch of other stuff, too) to the spiritual check-list. Then after months and years and generations of checking the box, tithing came to seem, in many of our churches, part of the gospel itself, even though it actually veils the gospel and robs you of the spiritual freedom Jesus died to secure.
Don’t get me wrong. Many Christians tithe and know that tithing doesn’t boost their standing before God. But many Christians and Churches don’t.
Even if you attend a church that teaches stewardship (not tithing), if you asked how to know when you’re giving enough, your leaders will probably hold up the tithe as an example, or a “minimum standard,” saying that in the New Testament everything is elevated. (Not true, by the way. Jesus’ teaching represents a return to God’s true intent in the moral laws of the Old Covenant. Anyway…)
So, What Do You Do?
All this leaves you in a rough spot, doesn’t it? You love Jesus. You’re thrilled to be redeemed and loved by God. You want to give. You want to please God with your giving. You just feel like you need a standard, and the only one your Church tells you about is the tithe – “Just do it.”
There Is A Biblical Standard
But, there is a Biblical standard in the New Covenant, a standard that Jesus and His Apostles taught. And that’s what I’ll talk about in my next post on this subject.
Until then, let me leave you with this thought:
If you are in Christ, God doesn’t love you because of anything you have done or will do. He doesn’t accept you because you checked a box. He doesn’t love you more because you put a tithe in the offering this week. He doesn’t love you less because you didn’t. If you are in Christ, He loves you always and only because of what Christ has done for you.
That’s because God is great; even if your church is average.