Sunday, June 1, 2008

Learning to Give Out in the Wild

I was thinking yesterday about giving and the giving pattern I've developed. When I was actively involved in an institution, deciding where to give and how much was easy because I didn't have to decide. The institution told me where to give and how much to give. The first 10% of my paycheck always went to the local storehouse. The "local storehouse" is christianese for the institution where I was a member.

This 10% was always figured based on my gross income, never on my net. Giving to the local storehouse was considered to be the same thing as giving to God. If we used our net income to determine how much we were going to give, that was a sin because we were actually giving the government the first fruits of our income thereby putting them before God. Of course, God is a jealous God and would get back at us by causing us to lose our job or by giving us a cut in pay until we learned our lesson, repented and began to give him all the money that he was entitled to. After all, we are just stewards of our finances so everything belongs to him and not to us. This method of giving is called paying our tithe. It's payment due to God similar to paying our electric bill.

The tithe, however, was only the beginning of our giving. Our church leaders would periodically decide that there were special opportunities for us to give to God. The most common opportunity was to give to a building program. Some churches really made it easy on us, they would even take a used car or another item of value as a donation. They could then sell this donation and use that money for their special project. We were excited because we knew that we had pleased God with our giving. The only problem is that his pleasure is short lived so we had better make sure our tithe is up to date or he may whack us.

This all sounds right until we come into this message of God's grace. Then, we begin to learn the truth about what giving to God really means. As difficult as it is to believe, we know it's true because it connects with what has been in our heart all along. The first thing Father began to reveal to me was the truth about tithing.

Tithing is an Old Testament concept and is definitely scriptural. The problem is that nowhere in the Bible are New Testament believers told that we are required to tithe. The only reference to tithing is in the letter to the Hebrews. The purpose of that letter is to prove that the New Covenant we live under is a better covenant with better promises. In it, there's a very short reference to tithing used to explain that the priesthood under the New Covenant is better than the priesthood under the Old Covenant. It was not meant to instruct us to pay our tithes. Nowhere else in all of the New Testament letters is tithing mentioned. Surely if it is as important as we are led to believe, it would be a common topic.

In these New Testament days, we have the life of God in us. That was not true before the coming of Christ. The law, which includes instructions about tithing, was put into effect to bring us to Christ. Now that we're in him, our relationship to the law is ended. That includes the law of the tithe. We're no longer required to tithe and we're not robbing God if we don't.

The biggest danger I see with this false teaching is that it robs us of relationship. When I was tithing, I just plunked the money in the offering plate and didn't even think about it. After all, the tithe belonged to God and I didn't want to rob him of what was his. The result is that this produces Christians who have no concept of what it means to give since it becomes a trained behavior.

As we venture out of the system, things change. Now, there is no storehouse where we can put our tithe. Now, we have to decide for ourselves about where to give and how much to give and we find that we don't know. Like all of the institutional practices, the tradition of tithing has robbed us of our ability to hear from God. With no one to tell us where to give and how much to give, we don't know what to do so our giving pretty much stops.

This time of transition was the most difficult for me. During this period, which by the way I'm still in, I stopped doing most of what I was doing before and that included going into my prayer closet and Bible reading as well as tithing. When a pendulum is swinging, it goes from one side to another before it finds its mid spot and stops swinging.

That's true for us too as we learn how to live this life free of the religious constraints of the tithe. Our giving will slow down considerably and may even stop. In time, however, as we re-connect with our hearts we'll learn what it means to be a cheerful giver.

In 2 Corinthians 9:7 Paul says, "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

When I was bound by the law of the tithe, my giving was far from cheerful. I gave reluctantly because I was giving under compulsion. Now, as a free believer, I'm learning to re-connect with my heart and, when I give it's with enthusiasm because I'm following what's in my heart instead of giving because this is what I'm told to do.

Malachi 3 has been used to blackmail God's people into giving. I want to encourage anyone who is struggling with guilt because of this false teaching to understand that our Father loves you and does not require you to pay him for his love. It's a free gift because you're his child. Learn to re-connect with your heart and give however your heart leads and you'll discover the joys of being a cheerful giver.

(If you would like to know more about this topic, I recommend reading "Tithing: Low-Realm, Obsolete and Defunct" by Matthew E. Narramore.)

13 comments:

Joel Brueseke said...

This is one of things that really gets under my skin. They tell people they're setting them free by putting them under the tithe, but they're only putting them under more bondage.

I've had a blog post tentatively entitled "joyful living and joyful giving" in draft mode for 2 or 3 months that gives a couple of real life examples of this bondage and I'm thinking it will go along very well with what you're saying here, so I'll try to finish it and post it soon. I've also had in mind to do a full scale article on "the tithe" that may be boring for some but gets to the nitty gritty of the OT passages on the tithe. If I write it like I'm thinking of doing, it will offend not only those who teach the tithe religiously and legalistically, but also those who teach it in any way, shape or form!

I've had that in mind for a long, long time, so we'll see what happens.

But anyway, you've hit the nail on the head. We should give what we've decided in our hearts to give. Plain and simple.

A while back I joined a Yahoo group that is reading Pagan Christianity, and someone asked a question about the tithe. No one has answered it, and I've been meaning to get back with an answer, but instead I'm going to link to your post! It really hits the nature of the question that was asked.

Aida said...

I can't wait to read your blog and article on tithing. I think tithing is a teaching that needs to be exposed for what it is - a lie which results in bondage of the worst kind. I think a full scale article on tithing is necessary. The way it's taught today doesn't even correspond with the way it was done under the Old Covenant. It's nothing but lies from start to finish.

Oh well, I guess that last paragraph will definitely offend any religious folk who visit my blog but it's true.

I appreciate you giving your Yahoo group the link to this post. We'll see if it generates any more comments.

Tracy Simmons said...

Just "found" your blog through Joel. Yahooo is all I can say when I see people exposing the lie of the tithe! Very well done!

Aida said...

The tithe is a lie that keeps people bound up and it needs to be exposed.

Thanks for stopping by.

tithe said...

I liked what you had to say about tithing. I have also read, "tithing, low realm, obsolete and defunct". it was a very good buck, and i think matthew Narramore is one of the few authors that gets past the theological arguments and starts talking about the spiritual practicality of Spirit-led giving. I have a blog that i have been publishing tithing articles since 2006. Take a look, and give me your thoughts.

-jared b
http://churchtithesandofferings.com/blog/

Aida said...

Tithe, thanks for your comments. I'll take a look at your blog and try to give you some feedback.

Aida

amy said...

Aida, thanks for sharing your thoughts here, very well expressed! I want to add a Scripture verse here that I've heard pastors use, in addition to the one in Malachi. Early in the gospels Jesus was talking to the Pharisees about how they tithed down to the last mint leaf in their garden, "and this you should do." I've heard this used as proof we should tithe too. After all, Jesus said them and that was in the New Testament. But they overlook that he said all these things BEFORE his death and ressurection. They were actually still under law before He died and rose again! The omission of this one fact confuses a whole bunch of teachings about Jesus.

Joel Brueseke said...

Amy,

That's a passage that I've heard quite a lot too. In Matt. 23:23, Jesus says, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone."

It was totally a rebuke to them for not keeping the Old Covenant! It had nothing to do with the New Covenant.

Aida said...

Amy and Joel, I've heard that scripture used to manipulate believers into tithing. As Amy explained, Jesus was talking to the Pharisees and not to New Testament believers. The gospels are really transition letters and a large part of them are really addressed to those under the Old Covenant.

Joel, is right. The Pharisees were meticulous about following the letter of the law regarding tithing but ignored the heart of the law which was love. That passage of scripture is really a rebuke and not a teaching on tithing.

Aida

Free Spirit said...

Wow, Aida! I'm so very new to this religious detoxing that I had not even yet considered (or questioned) this aspect of it. What you say, makes total sense, and yet I find that my first reaction is fear. Can it really be true?? I have had arguments in the past, with my husband, trying to convince him of the profound importance and impact of tithing. I guess I have to see how this, too, figures into the whole old, legalistic, system of religion.

Can I just tell you that I'm actually fighting fear, as I'm thinking about it (which, I know should tell me something : perfect love casts out fear - so yet another area of my life in which I am not yet experiencing perfect love)
I am feeling a little undone right now. Like, now what do I do?

I suppose I've always thought of my tithing as my safety net. When things go bad, I could always wave that reminder in His face that my tithing proved my love and trust, and therefore I could hold Him accountable for keeping calamity far from me. I mean, hey, I was doing my part, after all. WOW! How twisted is that??

Thank you for addressing this topic. I am so not finished with it! This may take me a while to wrap my brain around.

Aida said...

Free spirit, at one time, I believed in tithing and practiced it wholeheartedly. I even taught my children the importance of tithing.

As Father began to loosen my mind from religious thinking, he began to teach me about New Testament joyful giving. What a contrast! What freedom and joy to be able to follow my heart and to give as much as I wanted to give and to be abe to choose where I would give.

I can relate to your confusion. When Father first started showing me how much of what I believed was false, I was very disoriented. It seemed like there was nothing I could grab onto for safety. The way I've described it is that I felt like I was walking and the ground was shaking under my feet.

We've been taught that our security is in what we do. We're safe if we follow a specific set of laws but that's not true. Our security is in our position as sons and daughters of a Father who loves us and can be trusted. The journey to freedom is a bumpy ride at times but it's well worth the trip.

BTW, I posted a new blog this morning with some information about additional resources that are available. You might want to check it out.

I subscribed to your blog so I look forward to reading more about your journey to freedom.

Tim Kiser said...

Aida, fantastic post. There is a powerful grassroots movement of freedom and you have just added to it.

Thank you!

Aida said...

Thanks, Tim. I appreciate you taking time to stop by and to post a comment.