Technorati Tags: ,

Friday, September 21, 2007

Keith on Tithing

Keith is responding to an article written by a certain 'Pastor Eddie', who argues from the Gospel of Matthew that the Old Testament practice of tithing 10% of your income continues to be a Biblical mandate.

As is often the case with people who seem to want you to give them money, Pastor Eddie is quite selective in the verses that he picks to bolster his argument.

To use Matthew and say that we have to give 10% because the OT Law says so is really weird. The big argument in the New Testament seems to have been over whether non-Jewish Christians have to keep the Jewish Law. Paul concludes, very strongly, that they don't. James maintained that they did. Acts 15 shows the compromise that was reached. So to say that because the OT Law says we should tithe, and Matthew says that the Law is still valid, is a very selective argument. Paul would not agree with him.

Similarly with Pastor Eddie's use of the OT. The bits about giving 10% to the priests is quite correct, but he left out my favourite, Deuteronomy 14:

Deuteronomy 14:22-29

22 Set apart a tithe of all the yield of your seed that is brought in yearly from the field. 23 In the presence of the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose as a dwelling for his name, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, your wine, and your oil, as well as the firstlings of your herd and flock, so that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. 24 But if, when the Lord your God has blessed you, the distance is so great that you are unable to transport it, because the place where the Lord your God will choose to set his name is too far away from you, 25 then you may turn it into money. With the money secure in hand, go to the place that the Lord your God will choose; 26 spend the money for whatever you wish�oxen, sheep, wine, strong drink, or whatever you desire. And you shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your household rejoicing together. 27 As for the Levites resident in your towns, do not neglect them, because they have no allotment or inheritance with you. 28 Every third year you shall bring out the full tithe of your produce for that year, and store it within your towns; 29 the Levites, because they have no allotment or inheritance with you, as well as the resident aliens, the orphans, and the widows in your towns, may come and eat their fill so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work that you undertake.

So it actually is a bit complicated. In this passage you only give to the poor every third year and eat the rest yourself! (Me being me, I love the bit about God ordering them to buy strong drink. Funnily enough, I've never heard that passage preached on.....(Off you go Dave....))

Paul is very clear on his point of view. He's talking about the collection for the church at Jerusalem (which, it would appear, they refused to accept because it would have indicated that they agreed with Paul's views on the Jewish Law. See James G Dunn's Unity and diversity in the New Testament.) Paul says:

1 Corinthians 16:1-4

1 Now concerning the collection for the saints: you should follow the directions I gave to the churches of Galatia. 2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put aside and save whatever extra you earn, so that collections need not be taken when I come.

So he wants a system, but he also concerned that their giving is not a burden to them:

2 Corinthians 8:

13 I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between 14 your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. 15 As it is written, "The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little."

Paul also points out that the fulltime workers should also be supported.(There wouldn't have been many at this stage. Most leaders would have been part time and had a job.)

So, to answer your two questions, I would say No and No because we are no longer under the Old Testament Law.

But this does not mean that we shouldn't be giving money away. On the contrary, we should be giving as much as we can. In my view (and it is my personal view) some should go to the church to maintain the clergy. Some should go on Evangelism of some sort or another. But at least half should be going to agencies, church, parachurch or otherwise, that support the poor and who work for justice and equity in the world.

My wife and I have always tried to give away 10% gross of our income. 10% is the OT figure, of course, and I've just said we don't need to follow it, but it is as good as guide as any for us. We manage to maintain that level by deliberately limiting our life style and by driving cheap cars. We recently bought a "new" car. It was the first car we had bought in ten years. We find that cars are where the most significant savings can be made and, personally, I would rather be saving lives in Africa and India etc than driving a Volvo.

I would not, however, hesitate to reduce the 10% figure if it was necessary. Paul's idea that you give what you can without making life too difficult for yourselves is a very freeing one. The trick is to be honest with yourself about what sort of lifestyle you actually need to maintain. Toys are great, and I love them (I have equipment for about ten outdoor activities and a very expensive acoustic guitar) but you acquire them within the context of a broader budget.


Post a Comment

<< Home