“. . .when it became mandatory I started to really resent the tithe because then it was no longer a gift to God. . .”
Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. Acts 4:32
If you have ever heard me preach on the tithe, (which I very rarely do), you have heard me say; “Jesus doesn’t want ten percent of your cash, he wants everything.” We see the Acts church taking that quite literally. But how you and Jesus work that notion out is between you and him. I am not Jesus, our church is not Jesus; we are a part of his body, yes, but there are many parts. I, as a pastor, am not an apostle to have money laid at my feet either. So you need to ask Him “Lord, what do I do with the resources you have entrusted to me?”
And don’t tell me that the Bible commands us to take our tithes to the church, what the Bible tells us, in the Old Testament, is to take the tithe to the storehouses of the Temple. Well, last I checked the Temple was still gone and the New Testament church is never asked to give ten percent, like I said, they are asked to give all, to give joyfully and willingly whatever you have determined in your heart to give to any particular place the Lord prompts you to give.
I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given.
. . . give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. I Cor 9
I do think the principle of the tithe, of giving ten percent to your house of worship, is a sound one. And a God honoring church will be faithful to use that money for Kingdom business just as the Temple Priests did, but like all Old Covenant laws, the law of the tithe is no longer compulsory and binding. Yet, the law, when adhered to, is still God honoring and will bring a blessing. As long as you are not doing it to try to earn your grace and favor with God—Jesus’ work on the cross is complete, you cannot add to it. Grace is a gift, not a stipend.
I remember when I first started going to church regularly after I got delivered from my addictions by the Lord and overwhelmed by the Spirit of the Lord, reminiscent of some of those Acts church days descriptions.
31 And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness. Acts 4
My house was shaken and I felt filled from head to toe with the Spirit and I was ready to do anything for the Lord—sell all I own and run off to a foreign land to spread the Gospel, go to Seminary and spend years preparing for ministry, give all my time to ministering to kids, druggies, inmates, whatever—but what I didn’t know was how much to give when the offering bag was passed in front of me at church.
Thinking I was being more than generous I would throw in a ten or a twenty. The one day I heard a sermon about the tithe—ten percent? God wants me to give ten percent to the church? I was so excited to finally know what God desired of me in the way of giving, to just have some more direction period in what I was supposed to be doing for the Lord that I couldn’t wait to go to church again after I got paid so that I could give my check for my tithe. But I was disappointed because it was a Christmas eve and they didn’t even take an offering.
I caught one of the staff pastors in the foyer after service and asked; Is there some way I can give my offering, he pointed to a box bolted to the wall that said Alms over it and said; “you can put it in there, I think they check that once in a while.” So I did. I didn’t even know what alms meant but I didn’t care, I wanted to give my money to the Lord.
I continued to tithe every week, I was doing something for the Kingdom and it was my choice (At least it was until later when the church decided I needed to sign a tithe pledge as a condition of membership) and I could look around at all the wonderful things the church was doing and feel good about it. I didn’t usually give any more money, but I didn’t give any less either. Just a side note, when it became mandatory I started to really resent the tithe because then it was no longer a gift to God, in my mind it became a thing I had to do to please the man.
But either way, I was a giver, a provider. I loved being able to give, and not just money, I gave a lot of my time to different things as well and that made me feel pretty good also. Then one day, three weeks after Donna and I got married, the house I had bought a year earlier, a house that was a huge blessing to me and my new bride, our honeymoon cottage burned down, on a Thursday night. We lost pretty much everything but the clothes on our backs and the handful of things we could grab on our way out the door.
I’m sure I was quite the sight in my Tony Lamas’, my old felt cowboy hat, and a bath robe carrying my 270 Winchester and a guitar out the door of a burning house. “How d’ya like me now honey?” I met several of my neighbors for the first time in that outfit that night as well. Oh well, we were safe and so was our marriage vow—Donna had had grabbed our marriage license on her way out, it had just come in the mail.
Fortunately, by sheer coincidence I’m sure, Donna’s sister and her family had just moved out of a trailer house across the road that her dad owned so we moved over there and paid rent until we could get a new house built. But I will never forget how the church family took care of us in the aftermath of that fire. The church administrator came out to see how we were doing as we were looking at the ash pile the next day and handed us a hundred dollars out of his own pocket.
The next morning at church the pastor announced that they were taking a special offering for us and we received about $1500. The next day another staff member met us at Target with a credit card and said that the senior’s Bible study had given him $200 to buy whatever we needed. For the next couple of weeks we would come home from work to find furniture, dishes, food or clothes sitting in our porch—and we lived way out of town!
I could go on, but you get the idea, we were feeling pretty loved and humbled. But for me it was really hard, it was a huge lesson—but it was hard.
Suddenly the shoe was on the other foot, the giver, had to learn to be the recipient. This was a radical departure from my self-sufficient I am the man, I am the provider, redneck mindset.
I never took anything, I worked hard, I saved and scraped, I got by, I helped other people. I don’t take handouts! The Lord caused me to really check my heart because you know what? If the body of Christ wants to help you, or anyone wants to help you in his name, who are you to say no? We always think of being Jesus to other people but we have a hard time sometimes letting other people be Jesus to us.
It is imperative though that we do take care of one another and also that we understand that everything we have ultimately belongs to the Lord who blessed us with it in the first place. Which is why Paul was so adamant about the gentile churches helping out the Judean church in Jerusalem. Reminds me of when we first started our church here, money was very tight but we never got into s real bind, largely because the church in Laurel, New Life, helped us out if there was a shortfall.
I remember Pastor Steve saying to me as I was thanking him profusely for their help when those who seemed more able or responsible to do so declined. He said: “It’s kingdom money, it’s not ours.” That simple statement changed my whole perspective on church resources—they are not church resources as in Hope Chapel, Dodge City Community Church, Saint John’s Old Time Church, The Church of the Happy Shepherd, or whatever, they are Kingdom resources. Everything God entrusts to us, whether it’s in my pocket or in the church bank account here in Red Lodge, belongs to Jesus.
Kingdom resources are for Kingdom work. Trust him with them.