Friday, March 18, 2011

I Don't Think of Tithing As Fire Insurance

I believe strongly that every single person on the planet should tithe to something, somehow - and that every member who can't afford to tithe should do so anyway and then receive assistance from the communal pot. In other words, I believe in the concept of tithing and fast offerings, and I think everyone should make a conscious choice to donate to the "cause" of their conscience. My tithing recipient is the Church, and my lifetime payment of tithing and fast offerings has been a big part of my willingness to accept and not feel bad about receiving church assistance when I was unemployed for far too long and had used up all of our savings. I've been on both sides, and I really believe in it.  

I believe in the principle, but I believe in it for the earthly benefits. I don't view it as fire insurance. I don't begrudge the need to tie it to an eternal reward, but I don't like to look at it that way. I prefer to see it as a way to bless the greater community in the here and now, rather than as a way to increase my chance for an eternal reward.


Gary Arnold said...

NO ONE, absolutely NO ONE pays the Biblical tithe today.

Leviticus 27:30-33, Numbers 18: The First Tithe - a tenth of crops and animals and commanded to take the tithe to the Levites.

Deuteronomy 14:22-27: The Second Tithe aka The Festival Tithe - a tenth of crops, plus add to that the firstborn animals, and take for the yearly feast.

Deuteronomy 14:28-29: The Third Tithe aka The Three-Year Tithe aka The Poor Tithe - a tenth of crops, kept at home, and invite the Levites, widows, orphans, stranger to eat.

Now, tell me. Which of the above three tithes commanded by God does anyone follow today?

The ONLY people in the Old Testament that were commanded to tithe were those who INHERITED THE PROMISED LAND WITH EVERYTHING ON IT. They got the land, house, animals, crops, etc. ALL FREE AND CLEAR. No mortgage payment or rent to pay. And THEY were commanded to tithe on the crops and animals and take it to the Levites who INHERITED the tithe INSTEAD OF the promised land with everything on it. No one else tithed. Wage earners did not tithe. Jesus didn’t tithe. Paul didn’t tithe. Peter didn’t tithe.

The New Testament teaches generous, sacrificial giving, from the heart, according to our means. For some, $1 might be a sacrifice, while for others, even giving 50% of their income might not induce a sacrifice. In the Old Testament, ONLY the farmers tithed, and it was equal percentage (a tenth). The New Testament teaches the principle of equal sacrifice instead of equal percentage. Equal sacrifice is much harder to achieve, if not impossible, than giving ten percent.

Papa D said...

Gary, I agree that our current tithing model isn't the same as the Biblical one - and I agree with the principle of equal sacrifice - but, in essence, "equal sacrifice" was tried. Tithing AND fast offerings (and other offerings) are the approximation we have now.

One of the reasons I still believe in the concept of paying a modern tithe is that those who do pay it should be able to rely on the communal support that is supposed to be available in times of need. In a real way, that support is supposed to provide the foundation for "equal sacrifice" - even though I do understand it's only a rough, poor approximation.

Papa D said...

Oh, and Jesus didn't condemn the payment of tithes. He condemned the payment of tithes while neglecting the "weightier matters" - which is another reason I don't view tithing as fire insurance. I see it as one of the "lighter matters" of the Gospel, but I still see the principle of sharing financially as a necessary "matter" - and I'm OK with tithes AND offerings as the form used now, even though it's not the ideal.

Gary Arnold said...

I guess my problem is calling "giving" tithing. The Biblical tithe was not giving, and it was never on income. The Biblical tithe was always on assets from God's miraculous increase of crops and animals. So today's so-called tithing really has nothing in common with the Biblical tithe.

In the Old Testament, the poor received from the tithe. They didn't pay the tithe.

The principle of tithing, if there is any, would have to be taxation, not giving.

Tithe - paid by those who inherited the promised land.
Inheritance or Estate tax - paid from the estate or inheritance.

Tithe - ONLY on property owners.
Property tax - ONLY on property owners.

Tithe - used to run the theocracy.
Income tax - used to run the government.

Tithe - doesn't apply to the poor.
Luxury tax - doesn't apply to the poor.

We should all be generous givers today, but nowhere in the NT does it suggest a tenth.

Papa D said...

I understand that, Gary - and I've never said otherwise.

What we have now isn't the Biblical model, but I'm ok with that - as long as those who need to receive are able to receive.

Frankly, the difference between our current model and the Biblical model is one of the reasons I personally don't like the "fire insurance" mentality - since it changes the focus from helping those who need help to a much more selfish, reward driven motivation for the "giver".

I don't like that attitude and focus change, even as I don't mind the structual model change.