In this week’s sermon Greg continued his series on stewardship by preaching about tithing (the practice of giving 10% of one’s income). Is this a law that Christians must follow?
Greg traced out his understanding of the present-day significance of tithing by giving a biblical overview of the relevant texts. The first two mentions of tithing in the Bible occur in Genesis 14:17-20 and Genesis 28:15-22. In both instances, the former involving Abram and the latter concerning Jacob, the tithe is described as a response to the gracious provision of God and not as a law. It is in the books of Leviticus and Numbers where the tithe is introduced as a means of supporting Israelite functions, in particular the work of the Levites. Later in the Old Testament, in Malachi 3:8-10, are the verses that are often used to support an understanding of the tithe as “law” where the lack of giving one is described as “robbing God.” Thus, the question under consideration is whether this law is still binding on Christians today. Greg responded that in principle the idea behind the tithe is still valid, but not the specific percentage.
Greg explained that the Holy Spirit transforms a believer’s motivation for giving to God. Holding up an external law is no longer an incentive for a Christian indwelled with the Holy Spirit.
Instead of a specific percentage to govern giving, Greg shared seven principles that can guide one’s offering to the Church:
Follow Christ’s example who sacrificially gave Himself for all (2 Cor. 8:9).
Give voluntarily with joy (2 Cor. 9:7).
Be disciplined (1 Cor. 16:2). Giving spontaneously and haphazardly is often viewed as normative for being “led by the Spirit.” However, in 1 Cor. 16:2 the instruction is “on the first day of every week” (i.e. pay day in biblical times) a person is to set aside what will be given.
Give according to your means (2 Cor. 8:12). This verse does not speak of a “one-size-fits-all” mentality. A sacrificial attitude is important, not the amount (e.g. the offering of the poor widow in Mark 12:41-44).
See giving as a privilege (2 Cor. 8:3-4).
Give with a concern for justice (2 Cor. 8:13-14, Acts 2:44-45). The Church should be responsible for coming alongside the poor, and in so doing Jesus Christ will receive the glory.
Give with expectation (2 Cor. 9:6, 8, 11). As Greg has stated in previous sermons, God’s blessing on those that give should not be understood as a magical formula for obtaining our wants, but instead a principle of God’s economy.
Greg closed by saying that a specific giving of ten percent of one’s income (tithe) should not be viewed as a binding law on Christians. As we saw in the passages in Genesis, there was a pattern of giving even before it became a specific law for the Israelites. However, the tithe can provide a benchmark to help Christians today stand against the selfish tendencies of the culture. Instead of a rigid ten-percent, Christians should follow the Spirit in their giving. If believers rightly understand that all they have is God’s, then God could easily ask them to give more than ten percent. Greg encouraged the audience to ask God regarding how much to give. A commitment to listen sensitively and obey faithfully must then follow.
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