Friday, September 21, 2007

what preachers aren't preaching #003


Jesus never preached on nor promoted tithing. Yeah, you know...tithing: giving away 10% of one’s income or resources to a church.

Tithing is not a new testament teaching or concept. It’s an old testament teaching and practice.

So I’m told, tithing in the old testament did not stop at 10%. It was closer to 35% once temple taxes were included. But please don’t hold me to this as I don’t have scripture references or bible history knowledge to back this up. I heard this in a lesson a few times.

At best, according to evidence such as Matt 6:19-21, Matt 19:21, Matt 23:23, and Mark 12:41-44, Jesus preached on giving everything you got, not hanging on to wealth, and instead spending yourself on the poor, justice and mercy.

10% vs 100%.

Give some to a church vs give everything to those without, etc.

I do not entirely know what it means to “give all”. Give away my house? My only car? Raise my kids in the dirt or on the streets?

As reported here, I think my neighbors The Sanfords are on to something with this “give all” lifestyle. They don’t hang on to things for very long. If the Sanfords aren’t selling stuff to make ends meet, they are giving things to people who have none.

Preachers preach on tithing as a means of guilting the sheep into supporting the entire social club operation known as the church. And it’s easy to do:

1) 10% is a doable amount of money for everyone.

2) Tithing is mentioned in the bible (Malachi 3:6-12 for example), giving this act some sort of authoritative backing. So it’s an easy sell to the church members.

3) And most followers of Jesus in the US and other westernized nations are active participants in their culture’s teachings of hoarding and gathering wealth for one’s self. So tithing to a local church helps ease the guilt of abundance.

And before you know it, the money meant to be used for “the least of these” is now purchasing land, buildings, office equipment, toner ink, and support salaries of the ones who oversee this social club which operate publicly one to three times a week.

And maybe somewhere in all of that, some fun little programs and cute operations will be created to pitch the leftover crumbs to the least of these.


miller said...

preach on bro!

don't really know what i could add to that.

i did a little research the other day as i was contemplating the "god's front porch" 6 million dollar thing. i got to thinking about how that money could be spent in a way that would benefit the city in a long term way and came up with this.

you can buy, fresh of the factory floor and the paint barely dry, 12 (TWELVE) new buses. and i'm talking about the most expensive hybrid fuel buses i could find. you could get 20 regular diesels for that same money...

but i guess then we'd have to paint "god's coaches" on the side real big...

i'm a little cynical here...

but i think this situation calls for it.


Agent B said...

Yeah. I think the only way a church in this town would buy the city a bus would be if the church's name was emblazoned all over it.

And it would be kind of a shitty used bus. No hybrid stuff.

Beth said...

I don't know anything about churches in your town, but when I used to have a congregation, I told them that 10% was the minimum they should allow themselves to give away -- but I didn't much care whether they gave one red cent of that proportion to our church. I don't like at all what you describe, but I do just want to raise my hand and say it's not the only way tithing is taught.

Given the nauseating fact that the vast majority of Americans are giving something like 1-2% away, I think the tithe is useful in getting people to at least evaluate how much of God's money they hoard for themselves and their own concerns. If there's no benchmark at all for where you barely begin to enter the realm of appropriate economic discipleship, what people actually DO is decide "Jesus is all forgiving and everything so I can keep that $5000 and use it as a downpayment on a new SUV."

Also, you mention Mt 23:23, but in it Jesus explicitly endorses the tithe: "You give to God a tenth of herbs, like mint, dill, and cumin, but the important duties of the Law -- judgement, mercy, honesty -- you have neglected. Yet these you ought to have performed, without neglecting the others."?

Now obviously what Jesus is getting at overall is total giving, which is way beyond me, but pragmatically I think 10% is better than 1%.

Still.... Should all that be handled by churches in the way you've posted about? Hell, no.

Anonymous said...

food for thought: what happens when God gives you a million dollars. do you buy a new car? buy your wife something beautiful? celebrate with family and friends? or do you give away %100!
love jt

Leanne said...

You gotta leave Texas, man. That place is eating you alive.

Wish you could see the tithe from my state. It's a beautiful thing of obedience and acknowledgment of who really owns and is in control of our money and our lives.

Leanne said...

This is where I learned about tithing and where I lived God's offer to "test me and see" in Malachi.

It's true, B. It's as true as anything I've ever had from Him, and that's no "prosperity gospel" I'm preaching, either.

Agent B said...

Mother Beth -

Thanks for your input. We need this discussion with an actual ordained priest of sorts. I have nothing to say or to refute your words.

But I've seen churches operate like a social club too much to not write what this report states. Tithes are really like club dues, if you think about it in that sense.

Thanks for weighing in.

Agent B said...

Chef -

A million bucks? Bring it on. And hell yeah, I'd buy a new(er) vehicle. Probably a low mileage minivan. Because the Millenium Falcon w/ 243K mi won't be around forever.

But the 100% give-a-way I propose...what does that mean? Literally have nothing? Ever? Or let go of things when the CEO says give? with a vehicle, use it for those friends without transportation (and yes, we have too many friends like that). Just questions. I have no answers. But I think The Sanfords are on the right track since they don't hang on to stuff.

...and the beautiful things my wife likes only costs a couple of bucks. Like flowers or hair clip thingys. She'd shoot me if I spent a crazy amount of money on some trinket for her.

And she's a canadian and doesn't believe in guns...

Agent B said...

Leanne -

I don't see how tithing in Oregon can be different than tithing in TX. But, oh well.

And yes, I like that Malachi passage. I use to quote it often. And still do, sort of.

Like...what IS the storehouse? Your local church?!? - who spends its money on paving paradise and putting up parking lots? and "oh yeah, we don't have the money to help with people's medical bills this month because we're building a new education wing that'll be used twice a week?

Is the storehouse a kin to what Jesus says about storing "treasures in heaven"?!?

I think it is. And I think that storehouse and treasures have something to do with spending it on those who have no voice to speak for themselves (Prov 31:8-9) and "the least of these" (Matt 25:40).

At least, that's what I'm betting on for now.

Not all churches operate like social clubs. But for the 99% out there that do...

I can't see supporting them ever again.

Agent B said...

And oh yeah...Mother Beth -

You said, "...but I didn't much care whether they gave one red cent of that proportion to our church."

Man. That's pretty brave, trusting, and rare. I'm impressed.

I don't know any local pastors that have enough trust in the CEO to provide if they taught their sheep to just GIVE somewhere, as opposed to GIVE HERE to our church...

Beth said...

Thanks, B. IMHO think this is where region of the country and denomination really *do* come in.

In contexts where there is a history of "make some token annual club dues type donation to the church" but nearly NO history of ANY teaching about tithing, I think it's much easier to introduce the tithe as purely a benchmark for our own economic discipleship -- and in fact as a DIRECT FRONTAL SPIRITUAL ATTACK ON the insular club dues mentality.

I can testify that this works. But I can also tell from what you write that this would not be at all possible in your context.

Also, I was working in a poor church in a poor neighborhood, so that made it a lot easier to laugh in the face of money.