In the final week of our “Kingdom Economics” series, Greg answers four questions that were submitted by the congregation and podrishioners. 1) Why doesn’t WHC teach tithing? 2) I’m broke! Didn’t God promise me I’d reap what I’ve sown? 3) If misfortune isn’t a “curse” from God, why think good fortune is a “blessing” from God? 4) Is America “blessed”?
We’ve gotten lots of good practical questions from our congregation in response to sermons on economics. This week Greg responded to these four:
1. Our previous church insisted that, while its good to give to the poor, our tithe had to go to “the temple” (the church). They also taught that if we don’t tithe, we’re “robbing God,” but if we did tithe, God would bless us by “increasing our harvest.” How come we never hear about this at WHC?
Greg explained that in the Old Covenant (Old Testament) Jews had 10% tithing as a part of their tax code to support the temple and the priests. This is a part of Jewish law. For Christians, we are not under the Old Covenant but under the New Covenant. Generally speaking, in the New Covenant, the spirit of the Old Covenant is preserved but the application of it is internalized and intensified. So, rather than “thou shalt not kill…” Jesus internalizes and intensifies this by saying even if we have anger in our hearts toward someone we sin.
Similarly, rather than continuing the tithing practice, Jesus teaches that we are to have no possessions but rather we are stewards of God’s possessions and we should distribute our resources as God leads us. Some of those resources are for us to consume and enjoy and some of it is to invest in those around us. We are to give cheerfully and sacrificially. Greg recommends 10% as a minimum benchmark to work with.
2. My wife and I have always lived frugally, given generously, tithed faithfully and saved wisely. Yet, due to circumstances beyond our control, we are now almost completely broke and on the verge of losing everything. I feel completely abandoned by God! Didn’t he promise us that we would “reap what we sow”?
Greg made a clear distinction between a principle and a formula/promise. A principle is generally true, but doesn’t always play out literally. A formula should always work if the proper steps are taken. The idea of “reaping what you sow” is a principle, not a formula. Much like the idea “be nice to others and they will be nice to you.” Most of the time this turns out to be true—but not always.
Since this is a principle and not a promise or a formula, it’s important not to let these unfortunate circumstances poison your view of God.
3. If people should not interpret misfortune as a “curse of God,” as you teach, why should we consider good fortune, including financial wealth, to be a “blessing” of God?
The Bible makes it clear that every good and perfect gift is from above (James 1:17). It is for this reason that we give thanks to God for the good things in our lives. However, that’s not the whole story. Many things happen that are not God’s will and those things can be attributed to human sin, our finite limitations, and spiritual opposition from demons. So, it is clear that good things come from God, but things get complicated when we try to figure out the exact source of bad things.
4. How come most American Christians assume we are a “blessed” nation because of our wealth when so much of it was acquired by genocide, slavery, exploitation of poor countries, greed and militarism?
Greg responded to this question with three main points:
a. America became powerful the way all empires become powerful. One group of people managed to conquer and exploit other groups of people. America is no more or less loved by God than any other nation. God is the God of all creation, not just one group of people. It is common for the victors of wars to assume that their nationally recognized “gods” are responsible for their victory.
b. Thinking we are blessed because we are wealthy is a bit suspect. Wealth isn’t evil, but it is dangerous. The fact that much of our wealth in America was acquired unjustly means that rather than be a blessing in some cases it functions as a curse. We’re obsessed with money as a country and that is not a “blessed” state of affairs.
c. Like all things when we use our wealth to bless others, it does become a blessing to others and to ourselves. God can use all sorts of things for good and our wealth is certainly one of those things. Consider 1 Tim. 6:17
If we use our wealth to bless others and serve God it becomes a blessing indeed. If we do not, it becomes a curse. Greg’s final question for us was: Will we who have wealth surrender it to be used by God so it can be a blessing rather than a curse?
Hide Extended Summary
2 thoughts on “Questionable Blessings”
Re. Questionable Blessings:
Just listened to this sermon for the second time, and in fact, this may be the second time I’ve posted this question (or something similar ), having gotten no response the first time…
It’s this: Re. the question “Is America blessed” – on the issue of it being wrong to accept that idea because that would require us to then conclude that God is like a tribal deity etc. etc. (Greg makes this point beginning at about 26:10) But what’s going on in the OT record? There we see a God who chose a few from a particular tribe, prospered and enlarged that tribe, entered into a covenantal relationship with them, related his character, truth and will to the rest of the world through that tribe, and thwarted, punished and/or wiped out other people groups/tribes that were not of that chosen tribe. Now, while I totally agree with the propositions that America was and is not a Christian nation, that the conquerors were not carrying out the will of God, and that there is no Biblical/New Covenant justification for believing that material wealth by itself is a sign of God’s blessing on us – while I accept all that, it seems a little ludicrous to then say that this argument must be true or else we would be saying that God is like a tribal deity. He was, and is He not the same God? Yes, I know Greg has written at least one book on the general topic of how to deal with the “God of the OT”, but I hope and pray that somebody will respond to this specific issue because I have been plagued by this for all my Christian life of 37 years!
Hey Jill — great questions you’re raising here! I think the disconnect between Jesus and the “Old Testament” God is tricky for most of us. A sermon Greg gave last summer may be helpful as you wrestle with the apparent inconsistencies we see in the Bible. In it, he talks about God’s “ideal” will and his “accommodating” will:
Hope it helps!