Pastor Keith Throop has written a helpful article on the subject of tithing entitled “Tithing – a Good Place to Start” here.
Firstly, please allow me to define our terms. The word ‘tithe’ simply means “a tenth part” or “one tenth.” The tithe is distinguished from an offering. A tithe is the tenth part or 10% of our income. An offering constitutes everything over and above the tithe.
Tithing involves returning to God the first fruits of one’s prosperity – a requirement to give ten percent of our gross annual income or gain. If a shepherd’s flock produced ten new lambs, one of those lambs was required to be offered to God. This was from the top. It was not given after other expenses are met or after other taxes have been paid. The tithe was given to God before all other transactions took place.
As a biblical principle tithing was in place long before the Law, during the Law and is nowhere rescinded in the New Testament. In saying this, I want to be quick to also say that our giving does not end with tithing. The New Testament Christian, in light of the grace found in Christ, and because of the overflow of a grateful heart of generosity, should actually seek to do more than tithe. Tithing is merely the starting point.
I would agree with Dr. Ligon Duncan when he writes:
“Many Christians argue about whether the tithe (10% of our income) is still the standard for our giving to the Church (disputants usually want to show that less than 10% is fine). Paul scuttles the whole debate in one verse. He says: ‘For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich’ (2 Corinthians 8:9). Christ’s self-giving is now the standard for our giving! We begin from the base of the tithe and aim for emulation of His self-sacrifice. Our giving is to be inspired and instructed by Christ’s inexpressible gift. In light of such a challenge, who could possibly satisfy himself with asking ‘how little a percentage is acceptable for me to give?’ Do you try to get by with giving as little as possible to the Lord, or do you give in view of the Lord’s costly sacrifice?” (emphasis mine) Continue reading
It was likely the most surreal thing I’ve ever witnessed at a worship service. Not surprisingly it happened Sunday morning at the Orlando Convention Center. My esteemed father was scheduled to preach at this service in conjunction with the annual Christian Booksellers Association convention. Back in those days CBA was a huge deal, with more than 5,000 souls in attendance representing book and music publishers, authors and artists and Christian bookstore owners. I don’t remember what big name sang the offertory, but it was a big name. Just before my father got up to speak, however, a gentleman in a nice suit went up the microphone to let us all know, “This worship service is being brought to you by the W@#R Music Group.” (I honestly don’t remember which music company it was and if I did I’d likely leave it out to protect the guilty.) A corporate sponsor for a worship service? What?
What are Tithes & Offerings?
My concern, however, is less with what happened 20 years ago and more with the perspective I fear may be behind it. Too often we look at the presentation of our tithes and offerings as some sort of commercial time out — that portion of the service where we tend to the necessary business of financing the work of the church. It’s sort of like a smoking break — necessary for some, a bit of an intrusion, and not a little unseemly.
I have these suspicions in part because of how I hear some churches explain their reasoning for removing the giving of tithes and offerings from their liturgy. We’re told they don’t want the unbelievers in the meeting to feel uncomfortable or pressured, and they don’t want them believing we care too much about money. But, they reason, the necessary chore of meeting the financial needs of the church can be met by a collection box near the narthex, or even direct deposit from members’ checking accounts.
Tithes & Worship
I honestly have no strong quarrel with differing views of how tithes and offerings are collected. Nor am I particularly concerned with the practical side, wanting to make sure the church has the money it needs. Instead I fear what we lose when we remove this aspect of worship from our liturgies.
That is, the giving of tithes and offerings isn’t a business transaction, but an act of worship. We are responding, in God’s presence, to God. We are handing these tokens back to Him as a way of acknowledging not that the bills must be paid, but that all that we are and all that we have are His. In the same way that we set aside the Lord’s Day not to say to God, “We love you so much we’re willing to give you a whole day” but instead to say, “We give you this day to remember that all our days are Yours” so we do not say, “One tenth of our income is Yours, but instead, “I have been bought with a price. All that I have received is from Your hand, and You have made me but Your steward. I, and all I have, belong to You alone.”
Might this make unbelievers uncomfortable? Perhaps. So ought the preaching of the gospel. Might it make them feel pressured to give? Perhaps. So ought the preaching of the gospel make them feel pressured to repent. Might it make them not want to come back? Perhaps. So might the preaching of the gospel make them not want to come back. We are there, remember, not for W@#R Music Group, not for the lost, not for ourselves, but for Him. Our liturgies ought to reflect such.
This post was first published on rcsprouljr.com.
Related: Ask RC: Why do some churches take an offering, and others do not? Continue reading