Wednesday, February 22, 2017

An Open Letter on Tithing

Every church experiences the ebb and flow of giving. Today I want to share with you the joy of tithing.

Tithing (which means “one tenth”) is the practice of dedicating 10% of one's paychecks to the Lord by way of one's local congregation. Every month I do this and, in fact, the bylaws state that every Board of Trustees member in my congregation is required to do so, too.

The concept of the tithe is ancient. Abraham tithed in Genesis:

After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley). And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything. (14:17-20 ESV)

Even the writer to the Hebrews, while speaking to another issue, mentioned it:

For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever. See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils! And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers, though these also are descended from Abraham. But this man who does not have his descent from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. In the one case tithes are received by mortal men, but in the other case, by one of whom it is testified that he lives. One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him. (7:1-10 ESV)

Abraham is a spiritual father to us in that he is a supreme example of salvation by faith:

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (Gal 3:7-9 ESV)

It seems good to me that we, spiritual children of Abraham, emulate the practice of Abraham to Melchizedek.

Why?

Because it is easy and fair. Whether you earn $10 or $10,000,000 the principle is the same. Ten percent is ten percent. Some people advocate a flat tax. Well, this is flat giving.

Let's look at it from a practical perspective. Ministry costs money, simple as that. Every utility bill must be paid. Every insurance premium must be covered. Every salary or hourly rate must be taken care of. All office supplies, VBS supplies, Sunday School supplies, church dinner supplies must be bought. Everything—down to each light bulb or toilet paper roll—must be purchased! God has not chosen to send us money by a raven's beak down by Elijah's brook Kerith so saints give to fund the mission and ministries of the church.

If every saint tithed there would be no need for fundraisers of any sort. There would be no need to downsize a budget to cut ministry events. Finances would become a non-issue overnight.

Many people tip (offerings) the Lord by throwing some money in the passing plates when they would do well to tithe to the Lord. Tips, while nice, never will meet the financial needs of the church. Never. Tithes will.

Let me be direct, as I typically am in my sermons. If a Christian refuses systematically to give in a substantial quantity he is, in essence, saying, “I won't support the mission and ministries of the church. If it were up to me the doors of this church would close because I'm not going to part with my money. I'm depending on other people sacrificially to give instead of me and, if they won't, either, then we're voting with our finances to close the church.”

Have you ever taken a vacation to Disney World or Pigeon Forge or Myrtle Beach with a tithe never offered to the Lord? Do you drive a nicer vehicle(s) because you are paying a dealership with funds that should be given to God? Do you pay on a larger mortgage for a bigger home with the money that would be better invested in the spiritual dimension of the Kingdom of God?

Some dispute tithing because they believe it is legalistic. They say, “Why only ten percent? God owns all of our money!” True enough, but I honestly wonder how many people of that persuasion actually give God anything close to 10% of their paychecks?  See what I mean?

If you tithe what can you expect? Well, obedience always brings blessing as determined by God. I can't promise you that you will get rich, get healed, get promoted or get famous. I just know God takes care of his people who obey.

And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Php 4:15-19 ESV)