The Problem with Tithing

3 Problems with tithing and how to overcome them

Reading Time: 6 minutes

No one wants to talk about their money. For some reason, we’ve bought into the lie that our money is personal and God only speaks to us personally about our wealth. It’s funny how the Bible doesn’t share that view.  There are over 2000 verses in the Bible that talk about our money, and Jesus either talked about money or used our wealth as an example in about 40% of His parables. Why? Because our wealth is a big part of our lives, and how we view our money will have a big impact on how we view the Kingdom.

The Problem With Tithing

We recently worked through a series with Bethel called “Money Matters.”  In the chaotic world we live in, we have to figure out how we can spend less, to give more, and to save more!  The Kingdom is too valuable to allow the power of money to overcome us.  Giving more and saving enough for the future will help us to be effective as possible for the Kingdom.

I understand the tension we face — I naturally enjoy having control over my finances.  This obviously causes problems when it comes to giving.  One thing I can honestly say though, is that God has graciously led me through the journey of letting go.

When I first starting to give to the local church, I had a separate “tithing account.”  Yes, that’s where I would put aside my giving each week and then, when I knew I didn’t “need” it at the end of the month, I gave it to the church.  The problem was — I always “needed” it.  Let me come back to that story later.

Tithing today…

There’s been much debate over whether or not tithing is something Christians have to do today. It was certainly practiced under Old Testament law (Malachi 3), and sacrificial giving was certainly promoted under New Testament grace.  It’s also certain that giving has nothing to do with attaining salvation, but yet an inseparable activity of someone who has experienced salvation.  Tithing becomes one of our responses to God’s grace — its one of the ways we show how much we love Jesus.

Perhaps, we can say: tithing is a voluntary act of discipline that’s driven by our value of grace and salvation. We don’t give 10% of our income to gain salvation, favor, or status; rather, tithing is a call to believers who value the expansion and funding of the Kingdom.#Tithing is a voluntary act of #discipline that’s driven by our value of grace and #salvation. Click To Tweet

But here’s the issue — even if we do practice tithing, it can be problematic if we don’t allow ourselves to be truly transformed first.  There are some pitfalls of tithing that can really hinder us.  Let me share three of them with you, and how we can overcome them.

1. Tithing avoids “sacrificial giving.”

Tithing can imply that 10% is enough and less than 10% isn’t good enough. The point of giving isn’t found in a percent, but in the sacrifice.  The early Church sold their possessions to give the poor (Acts 2:45).  They willingly and cheerfully gave something up to help the Kingdom.  That means, for some, 10% is only a start, and, for others, 8% could mean significant sacrifice.

2.Tithing makes us think “legalistically.”

Sometimes we have the tendency to think, “I pay my 10%, so I deserve… or I want…” You can fill in the blank. The problem, however, is that our giving doesn’t increase our “rights”. It’s our responsibility to selflessly give to the Kingdom and we can’t allow a number to increase or decrease our voice or impact.  The early Church collected and handed their money to the Church Leaders for disbursement.  Paul clearly stated that money collected was not a way to receive reward or power, rather an investment into the Kingdom (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).

3. Tithing doesn’t help us “surrender” our money.

#Giving is..realizing that God owns everything..& He expects us to be good stewards.. Click To TweetThe story of giving is all about realizing that God owns everything we have and He expects us to be good stewards of those resources.  If we’re not careful, we can view “tithing,” as another expense in the budget and not a complete surrender of our money.  Just because we give 10%, doesn’t mean the other 90% is ours for the taking.  That mentality will easily give way to our world of consumerism — a world Jesus is not calling us to pursue (Luke 18:18f).

So how do we overcome these problems?  We need to view our generosity as an act of daily discipleship, and start thinking of tithing this way:

Think: How much more can I give?

Even though we’re living in grace and tithing is now a voluntary act, our underlying question can’t be: “How can I get away with giving less?”  If we ask that, we’ve missed the point all together.  We have to ask: “How much more can I give?”  The final answer to that question may not monetarily change much, but the mentality behind the question changes everything.  Our desire should be to give as much as we can!

Think: How can I support God’s activity?

#Giving is a selfless act out of our grateful response for what God has already done for us! #disciple Click To TweetWe give to enable God’s activity in God’s Kingdom.  Giving is a selfless act out of our grateful response for what God has already done for us (2 Corinthians 9:12f).  As a result, we have to think selflessly and not selfishly as we give.  Even though church politics and hidden agendas often exist, there’s no room for them in the Kingdom!  We must support God’s activity, not our own.

Think: How does God want me to structure my budget?

Just because our culture wants us to think we own our money because we earn our money, it’s not a biblical way of understanding our financial blessings.  God owns everything and is responsible for enabling us to work in the first place.  We are simply his faithful stewards, who ask: “God, how should we use these resources effectively?”

Final thought…

Back to my story…Along my gracious journey with God, I slowly learned that my giving was my grateful response to what God has given me (the gift of grace), and not what I give to God. My journey went from struggling with tithing (why I had to give 10%) to wanting to give as much as I could!

Our giving shouldn’t be out of any compulsion, rather freely given out of a cheerful heart (2 Corinthians 9:7).  But that doesn’t mean we avoid the discipline of tithing.  We have no reason to believe that Jesus didn’t practice tithing himself.  It does, however, mean we avoid the potential pitfalls.

Your turn…

How have you viewed tithing/giving?  Has it helped or hindered your view of generosity?

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Selflessness: What the Easter Bunny Can’t Do

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Easter marks the celebration of something big.  For some, that “big” celebration is receiving and eating chocolate from a rather unique bunny.  For others, it’s a time for family to share in the extended weekend of a meal or two – Good Friday fish and Sunday turkey, to be precise. But for Christians, Easter changed everything.  The bunny might be able to lay chocolate, and family and friends might bring everyone closer for a few days, but Jesus undeservingly embraced our sin, died for us on a cross, and overcame death.  Jesus gave us a second chance.

Easter selflessness

We all know we’re not perfect – I don’t have to convince you of that.  We may, however, need to look closer at what Jesus taught, how Jesus led by example, and why a bunny doesn’t come close to giving us what Jesus can.

Jesus’ message of selflessness

At Bethel, we are working through a sermon series based on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew’s gospel.  As John Stott pointed out, Jesus didn’t simply preach this one sermon; rather, this is a summary of what Jesus taught over and over again.1 One of Jesus’ main messages is a message of selflessness.  Decreasing our personal power over our own lives, and increasing God’s leadership over us by serving and loving others.

In a culture where everyone has the “right” to live for themselves, this message of selflessness is often lost in the noise.  In fact, I’ve heard Christians and pastors speak of “putting ourselves first”, and “loving ourselves first”.  While this may be a true psychological and sociological idea, it couldn’t be a more false Christological one.  According to Jesus, His followers are to grow close to Him, by acting selflessly (as outlined in the Beatitudes) so that the world may see Jesus through their lives.2  This doesn’t equate to being a pushover, but it does equate to engaging in counter-cultural norms.

How Jesus led by example

In Matthew 5, Jesus gives special mention to how we are to respond to those who take away our “rights” and treat us poorly or with disrespect.  It’s clear that everyone deserves to be treated well, but for the sake of the gospel, we should be willing to lay aside our “rights” so the kingdom can grow.  Jesus said:

39…if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”3

Among these cultural examples, we have to ask, “what is the principle Jesus is trying to teach us?” D. A. Carson penned this well:

“What Jesus is saying in these verses, more than anything else, is that his followers have no rights.  They do not have the right to retaliate and wreck their vengeance (5:39), they do not have the right to their possessions (5:40), nor to their time and money (5:41f).  Even their legal rights may sometimes be abandoned (5:40)…personal self-sacrifice displaces personal retaliation; for this is the way [Jesus] himself went, the way of the cross.”4

Jesus calls his disciples to be selfless by himself living out the most selfless act possible – giving up his own life for everyone else.  Jesus was wrongfully accused (27:187f), insulted and struck (27:30), striped of his clothes (27:35), and paid the ultimate price for humanity’s freedom (27:45f).

So when Jesus told us to “…deny [ourselves] and take up [our] cross and follow [Him].  For whoever would save [their] life will lose it, but whoever loses [their] life for my sake will find it,” (16:24f) Jesus is clearly defining the significance of Easter and the impact of selflessness on those who follow Him.

What the Easter bunny can’t do

I love eating chocolate.  In fact, it was just the other day when my wife called me a chocoholic.  It’s not my fault I believe every meal should end in chocolate.  But I digress… 🙂

The problem with the Easter bunny isn’t so much that chocolate is involved, as it is about how Easter is being commercialized and marketed just like every other event in our calendar.  Easter should be about Jesus’ selfless action and our selfless response.  

The most the Easter bunny can offer is chocolate, and the chocolate isn’t even free.  Americans spend about $2.1 billion on Easter candy, and all American Easter-related spending (including gifts, clothes, and flowers) equal about $14.6 billion every year.5  That’s a lot of consumerism for an event based on selflessness.  While it’s not even close to the 2015 Christmas retail sales of $630.5 billion,6 the fact that it only costs $30 billion to globally provide clean drinking water, to those in need, should get us thinking.7  Where is our focus?

Easter is about witnessing the selflessness of Jesus and responding to that free gift of grace – something the Easter bunny can’t offer.

Our response can be displayed in many ways.  For example, we can:

  1. Refocus our spending habits;
  2. Help a local organization (like a Church) reach those in need;
  3. Willingly give something up to help others;
  4. Care for those who have wronged us or persecuted us; and most importantly,
  5. Take a moment to be thankful for a God who selflessly loves us so much and accept His grace.

We may question God’s existence or God’s love because 10 percent of the world still doesn’t have clean water.  But the fact is, God doesn’t owe us a better world; because of the cross, we owe it to God to selflessly serve.

God doesn’t owe us a better world; because of the cross, we owe it to God to selflessly serve. Click To Tweet

In a world where our “religious rights” are under attack, we need to live out the meaning of Easter like never before.  Jesus isn’t calling us to “retaliate,” rather to serve selflessly – that’s the way of the gospel.

Your turn…

The Easter bunny can’t help us.  Those things can be fun and I’m not purposing we do away with them entirely, but they shouldn’t trump our desire to serve Jesus and others.  The ball is in our court.  We can’t point fingers.  The only person we can change, is ourselves. So…

How will we celebrate Easter?

Will we choose to embrace selflessness or commercialization?

What will we convey to our kids as most important?

Feel free to share how you have focused on the selflessness of Easter.

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