Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Monday, May 02, 2005

Malachi: God says, "Show me the money"

The book, "Your Money or Your Life" is a kind of modern classic, the Bible of the voluntary simplicity movement. Though not written from a "Christian perspective" it challenges the prevailing cultural mores about materialism, and provokes us towards simpler living.

Yesterday's teaching (avialable online by Tuesday morning on the Bethany website) on tithing always seems to raise the same questions:

1. Isn't tithing just an Old Testament principle?
2. Is 10% the real number, or is it more because of the other taxes that were rolled in during Israel's theocracy, or less, precisely because it was a theocracy?
3. Is my tithing supposed to be of gross or net?

My response to all three questions is the same: If we are beginning to pick at this doctrine in these ways, we're closer to legalism than trying to capture the spirit of giving, and it was the spirit of giving that was at the heart of Malachi's complaint. On the other hand, it's important to see that one's inward attitude is reflected in our giving patterns. This is where the testimony of so many who have 'put God to the test' comes into play. Those who have been faithful to give, have found blessings!

I have, historically, found it difficult to teach on these things, because of the scandals and greed that have so often characterized the church. But I am increasingly convinced that to be silent in these matters is to be disobedient, as God is interested in transforming every area of lives. Perhaps no area needs transforming more than our relationship with money.


At 3/5/05 12:01, Blogger David said...

Great points. I just wrapped up my read through the OT last week, and have always enjoyed Malachi. I believe that's the only place in the Bible that God actually asks man to test Him, in anything...

I've found that as I am given the grace to give even more freely, I look even less for the blessings to be poured out on me in return. Instead, I find it easier to see the goodness and mercy I'm already covered in.

At 3/5/05 22:07, Anonymous Sarah said...

I was talking with a friend today about your sermon on Sunday and she was saying she didn't know what to do about tithing because her parents are the ones supporting her. I didn't know what to tell her, it isn't really her money to give, or is it?
Her parents give quite a lot to their church, but does that mean she shouldn't give of what they have given her? Maybe she should ask her parents what to do, but what about those who don't have Christian parents?

At 10/5/05 09:16, Blogger Jim said...

The fundamental issue is stewardship of assets - not just money. When my wife and I were first married, our tithe consisted of meager cash contributions but more liberal investment of time at our church: teaching sunday school, painting, yard work, etc. Over time, we were able to increase our financial contributions. My only point: the absence of cash need not be a barrier to tithing.


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