Monday, January 25, 2010

Why I don't teach Tithing...

Yes, I do not teach tithing as represented by most churches at Jacob's Well.

As you know, if you attend here regularly or heard yesterday's message. But since I am sure that message shocked some, upset others and probably set a lot of guilt laden believers free...I thought I would take some time to expound here.

I teach principles of giving rooted in the Old Testament texts concerning Israel's system of economics represented in the Manna, Tithe, Gleaning, Debt forgiveness, Jubilee and the Sabbath texts (Ex 16:16- 26, Lev 25, Dt 15); taught and modeled by Jesus and the early church and expounded on by the Apostles in both word and deed.

Israel followed the Old Covenant law and that law contained commands that fell under three general categories:
-Moral
-Ceremonial
-Civil

As New Covenant followers of God, we must discern which of the commands pass through the cross and resurrection of Jesus. I believe the NT teaches that much of the moral law passes through, but the ceremonial and civil law do not in the letter of the law; but do in the spirit of the law. Most of the commands of the law were fulfilled by Jesus and now are embodied in spirit in the believer's life both personal and communally as the church.

I believe the "righteousness" of the Christian church exceeds and goes beyond that of the OT believer. Kingdom economic's surpass Israel's economics. The ending of the civil based kingdom focus of the OT necessitates a Kingdom ethic that embraces OT ethics in relationship to money, giving and the poor but allows for the expansion of the gospel into all the world via a spiritual kingdom.

Laws have become principles for the community of faith to wrestle with and walk out for the good of the community and in honor and worship of God; who has blessed us and made us stewards of His resources.

You can search high and low in the epistles and letters and you will find no clear cut teaching on anything that reflects a literal command to Tithe. But you do find a sacrificial giving community that embodies a corporate ethos that clearly resembles all the commands and practices of the OT community of faith.

The NT focuses on the inner life of the heart and soul; uprooting the love of money and all its abuses and idolatry. This focus goes beyond and below the ideas of blessings, the pursuit of wealth or percentages.

The main NT text's that speak directly to the issue of care for the poor and giving are below.

Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.
-2 Corinthians 9:6-8

Now regarding your question about the money being collected for God’s people in Jerusalem. You should follow the same procedure I gave to the churches in Galatia. On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once.
-1 Corinthians 16:1-2

Give in proportion to what you have. Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have. Of course, I don’t mean your giving should make life easy for others and hard for yourselves. I only mean that there should be some equality. Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it. In this way, things will be equal. As the Scriptures say,
“Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough."
-2 Corinthians 8:11-15

...I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving. I am not commanding you to do this. But I am testing how genuine your love is by comparing it with the eagerness of the other churches." -2 Cor 8:7-8

The New Testament's basic giving principles:

1. Give All You Can
Key phrase in 1 Cor 16:2: "as he may prosper" (nas version)

2. Give voluntarily
Key phrases: You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure (2 Cor 9:7

3. Give with Equality in mind
Key phrase: There should be some equality (2 Cor 8:13)

The New Testament's giving ethos examined:
-Acts 2:43-47
-Acts 4:32-35,
-Acts 6:1
-John 12:6

In the OT the land apportioning and giving texts provided basically two realities:
-An opportunity for everyone to work and provide for ones family.
-A safety net for those who couldn't care for themselves.

These two principles pass on to the NT community. NT economics maintain the ethos that if you can work, you should. If you can't we will take care of you. Giving isn't meant to enable sinful lifestyles, immaturity, greediness or laziness. Giving is a gracious example of generosity that cares for the poor and suffering and exhibits a community that is free from the love of money and is motivated by love and not fear or greed.

There is much more on the subject that expands on the beautiful way in which NT communities went above and beyond in the care of the poor, one another and for the mission of God to the world; but for brevity sake...these are the main guiding principles we at Jacob's Well use to express our value of Partnering together for Mission.
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