Some of the most popular posts on Average Us are my posts about tithing and giving. If you’ve read any of them, you know I take the position that there is a very good reason why Jesus and the Apostles never taught tithing. Keep reading and you’ll see why.
The reason is that tithing supported the old covenant sacrificial system. Therefore, the command to give 10% to support a priesthood and priestly sacrifices, is as obsolete as that priesthood and those sacrifices. Jesus is our high priest and God’s final, once for all, sacrifice. In place of the tithe, Jesus and the Apostles taught generous giving according to one’s private conscience motivated by two things:
1. Compassion for those in need (i.e. “Love your neighbor as yourself…”).
2. Commitment to the worldwide spread of the gospel (i.e. “Go and make disciples of all nations…”).
Though he and I have never discussed this subject, I find that my pastor, Charles Garland, of Ivy Creek Church, talks about money and giving from the pulpit in a way that I find to be both biblical and incredibly motivating. Here are a few of the themes I’ve picked up from Charles over the last several months:
Charles connects our giving with our citizenship in God’s kingdom. This citizenship is a free gift of God’s grace which we receive by faith in Jesus Christ. As Charles puts it, the good news that we have received a kingdom overflows in joyful gratitude so that we intentionally give our money away to set the kingdom on display. We want to make the hope we have in the gospel of the kingdom known to the world.
Charles is completely transparent about the fact that giving generously means voluntarily lowering one’s personal standard of living. He is honest about the fact that more money given means less money in the budget for other things. Contrast this with the prosperity gospel preachers (which is a false gospel from false Christians) who manipulate you by telling you that if you give, God will always give you more.
When contrasting the gospel’s free gift of God’s favor with our vain human attempts to earn God’s favor, Charles says, “You can’t give your way to a clear conscience; you don’t have that much money.” I find this a healthy reminder, both of the depth of my sin, and the vastness of God’s mercy.
When preparing the congregation to give an offering during each worship service, Charles always ties giving to the mission the church has been given. He always describes the work of a local or worldwide ministry which the church supports to remind us of the proper motive for giving.
When praying before the offering, Charles often asks God to use the gifts “…to spread the gospel in Gwinnett County and around the world.” This reminder reinforces the new covenant motive for giving in the hearts and minds of the congregation.
When preaching on giving, I have never heard Charles mention Malachi 3:8ff, where the prophet rebuked Israel for robbing God of tithes. There is no need. The people of God are under a different covenant and a different command. Ours is a positive commission to spread the joy of the good news through every means possible, including the generous giving that flows from grateful hearts.
Nor does Charles tie giving to duty or obedience, but to the positive motives of glad generosity, compassion and mission.
When reminding the congregation that we in Gwinnett County live in a bubble of wealth and trouble free living, he challenges the ever-present temptation to believe that God has blessed us so we can live the good life in gated homes and communities. He reminds us that God has called us to move out into the world to embrace its pain and brokenness in order to show that God’s Kingdom is indeed here.
I find my pastor’s teaching on giving to be incredibly motivating. It challenges me each week in three ways:
1. To remember that I had no hope of earning God’s favor before I heard of His free gift of grace in Christ. I have received a kingdom merely because it pleased Him to love me this way. This refreshes my gratitude and joy.
2. To examine my living to reconsider how I could “move out into the world to put the kingdom on display” by serving and making disciples.
3. To examine my giving to reconsider how I could joyfully, voluntarily reduce my standard of living to invest more in making the kingdom known.
If you’ve been subjected to the typical guilt and greed preaching on money American churches are known for, I hope you’ll forgive the errors, and not harden your heart toward your local church. I hope, instead, that you will embrace Jesus with joy, and let that joy overflow in gospel compassion and commitment that effects your budget and lifestyle. Here’s some practical ideas on when, how, where, and how much to give: