Q. I appreciate this editorial [in a recent e-mail Meditation] on “Giving” and the way you went on to explain how it is supposed to be done, biblically. Does tithing have anything to do with what you described, or is it simply money and or items giving to organizations as offering?
A. You pressed the sensitive button here. Almost 20 years or so ago, I decided to pull out all the scriptures on tithing that I could. What I found surprised me. Most people in NT churches preach on tithing, say it’s required and include ample exposition on Malachi that we are cursed with a curse because we are robbing God in our tithes and offerings.
That never really set well with me, especially after the study on tithing I did myself. (Did you know that occasionally one of the types of tithes was eaten in a fellowship meal atmosphere? If you did know it, I doubt you heard it preached that way.)
Things came to a head for me when I was leading what turned into about a 1.5 year study on the book of Hebrews for a Sunday School class. That study, coupled with the scripture in Galatians 3, points to the fact that IN CHRIST we are blessed by God. In fact, Galatians 3 says that Christ became a curse for us, and in so doing liberated us from the curse of the law. I don’t see how we can be blessed and cursed by the same God at the same time.
That being said, my family tithes. Why? I learned it as a habit from my parents (and my wife from hers). In studying scripture for myself, I see it as a great principle which we should follow. Old or New Testament, God is worthy of the first and the best. That’s a principle which predates the Mosaic law and permeates Pauline thought.
But I don’t do it out of fear or out of guilt. I -would- teach others to do it as a tangible way of putting God first in the area of finances. But I would also couch it in the terms of learning to trust God and rejoice in giving.
One scripture which has stuck in my mind through the years is found in Exodus 23:15 and 34:40: “None shall appear before me empty-handed.” When I read that, I don’t see that as a Law. It comes across to me more as a guiding principle for NT believers as well. We should make it a point to bring a gift to the Deity we worship, especially in light of all that Jesus Christ has accomplished in our behalf. But the command is simultaneously a promise. If God tells me not to come empty-handed, then He must supply my lack. Even the widow had two mites. Do we really think our God let her needs go unmet after personally noting her as an example for the generations?
I hope that makes sense. I would encourage you to study the OT scriptures on tithing yourself rather than simply buying someone else’s book on the topic in general.