I want to lay out some thoughts about the idea of tithing in modern-day christianity. I will be assuming many biblical truths that inform my writing, but I won’t explicitly mention them. For more thoughtful and detailed information look through these resources:

From The Village Church
From CARM
From Desiring God: 1, 2, 3

There are more, of course, but I think those are pretty encompassing and a good place to start.

Honestly, I don’t think there are very many people that have an issue solely with tithing aka regular giving to the local church. These problems are always rooted somewhere else, and we end up throwing the baby out with the bathwater. We either have a problem with church in general, organized religion, any governing authority, or we need justification for our own spending habits.

Are we commanded to tithe as Christians? NO
Are we commanded to serve the local church? YES

I think this is where we start. And so I want to give you a little illustration to ponder:

Let’s say there is a family that decides to start a babysitting co-op. A few families join the group. They start organizing schedules and host homes for babysitting on a rotation so that a few sets of spouses can have date nights while some others watch all the kids. Eventually they have enough kids being watched that the group decides to purchase a set of bases, gloves, balls, bats, helmets, and reversible jerseys so the kids can play baseball to pass the time, and they rent out fields to play on. The parents in the group split the cost.

Time goes by, families are added, and they keep having date nights. One set of parents offers to do all of the organizing and scheduling for the co-op. They also realize that the burden of food costs and preparation is a lot more than it used to be - as well as the water they use, the cleaning supplies they have to have for afterward, and other hidden costs involved in being the host home. The group decides to set up a fund to keep money in for all of these expenses. And they agree to give some money to that couple who organizes the schedule as payment for their service to the group.

Time passes, more families are added. Scheduling becomes more time-consuming and complex with multiple host homes and preferences from parents on food and drinks. Some of the families aren’t giving to the fund. The scheduling couple gets stressed because people drop out or forget their dates and they have to take on those hostings themselves, and also there wasn’t enough money in the fund last week to purchase all the food and pay themselves. So they make an announcement to everyone that they need to get their money in so that they can purchase the things they need for next week. Here were some responses:

  • “We don’t have any rules about how much we’re supposed to give.”
  • “I have been a host home for 9 months – I should get credit for that service.”
  • “We only have one kid who is older and doesn’t really need babysitting.”
  • “We’re leaving the co-op. We’ll just bring our kids with us on date night.”
  • “Our date nights are already expensive without paying for the babysitting.”
  • “The babysitter doesn’t even get the money. It all goes to administration and toys and food. We’ll just give straight to the babysitter.”
  • “This has moved from intimate friendships to feeling like a business.”

Overall, when everyone is actively involved, the babysitting happens and the date nights are great and everyone benefits even though some parts can get messy.

Hopefully the illustration is clear. The babysitting co-op is for the benefit and growth of the couples’ relationships. It was great and more people wanted in. Naturally, they had to devote more time to administration to keep the group going. Also, things cost money. Some people received the benefit without giving to the fund – This was ok as long as enough people gave.

Now look at the church. Tithing isn’t explicitly commanded for Christians in the bible – but giving to your local body is necessary to keep it running. A church is a family, but a large family is going to look a lot like an organization if it is going to function in a healthy way. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about a house-church movement, or an established denominational church – organization, planning, budgeting, and logistics have to happen. And someone has to take on leadership roles.

Let me ask you some questions:

Do you enjoy being able to express your worship to God through corporate singing?
Are you blessed by the work your preacher/pastor does in studying the Word for the sermon?
Are you glad to have a place to sit while you listen?
Do you notice your comfort from the AC in the summer and the warmth of the heater in the winter?
Are you glad there was running water when you used the bathroom? And toilet paper?
Does it help you that amplified speakers and lights let you hear and see during your Sunday worship gathering?

All these questions are only regarding Sundays at a typical worship gathering. And of course, other things are always going on behind the scenes, and on other days. Some of us have this mentality that our money needs to go to the most effective/purposeful thing. We may read that XX% of our money goes to admin/personnel at our church and we are outraged! What about missions?! What about charity?! But perhaps that $200 you gave did only pay for a portion of the rent of that school building for your church’s use on Sundays. Is that bad? Or maybe your $50 bought toilet paper, and a printer cartridge. This other person’s money paid the internet bill. We all benefit from our church family functioning because of all these mundane things. God calls us to obedience. Obedience glorifies God. God does the impossible. Perhaps your money paid for a light bulb. Your pastor used the light from that bulb to write his sermon. A visitor heard that sermon and now belongs to Jesus. God uses the mundane – don’t limit Him to thinking your money has to go to something flashy.

Yes, people are sinful.
Yes, “churches” take advantage of people and “pastors” get rich.
Yes, the prosperity gospel is destructive and a false-gospel.

The fix isn’t to quit regular giving (tithing). The fix is to invest in a gospel-centered, bible-preaching local church. It is ok that your “tithe” paid for toilet paper, and the pastor’s salary, and an AC bill, and windex. You pay for a lot of those things at your own home. They aren’t a waste of money – they’re necessary for the life of a family! Your church is a family.

What we need is a paradigm shift to happen in our minds. We, as people, are the church. We have grown since the days of Acts. Our cities are bigger. In order to meet together regularly with believers as the bible instructs us, we’ve decided to organize into distinct bodies with teaching and worship styles that we see as the best fit (this is ok! as long as it doesn’t become idolatry). This translates to church buildings or rental space. A lot happens because of volunteers. But some ministry translates to a full time vocation – Shepherding a Church as an Elder/Pastor is the obvious one. Sometimes the Youth-aged kids need this, or the children. When the church is taking in money to pay for bills and staff this can mean a book-keeper/secretary is paid. And the list goes on. Churches grow! (by the grace of God) And they should multiply, too, eventually, but internal growth happens and you have to do something about it. This means organizational and logistical decisions. These are great problems for a church to have! But someone has to lead these things. And bills have to be paid for it to continue. Long story short – the purpose of your regular giving is to keep the local church functioning. That’s it! If a portion of this goes to missionaries, charities, evangelizing efforts, etc. then that’s great!

This has gotten long so I want to address one final thing – the questions that I skipped over up there:

What about missions?! What about charity?!

The church should be giving to these things. YOU ARE THE CHURCH. So give to those things, but don’t neglect your giving to the local church body that you are a part of to do it.

Give to your local church family.
Give to missionaries.
Give to charities.
Give to the homeless.
Give big tips.
Be generous.

The generosity of the Church isn’t defined by what the books say our Church Home gave to.
The generosity of the Church is defined by what we give on a daily basis that only God sees.

 

Click here for Part 1

I have a color deficiency. It’s a very slight deficiency. For example: Mary Kay cars. Those super light pink Mary Kay cars. When I look at them I only see white. They’re white to me, but I can tell you that they are pink, although I have no ability within myself to know that those cars are pink. However, I trust the people that tell me they are. I KNOW it to be truth. But it goes further than that. I trust the optometrist when I’m told that my eyes are “deficient”. I trust that those little cards with colored dots have numbers in them, and that they are trustworthy tests. I don’t intrinsically know these things about my eyes because my eyes (my brain) are flawed. I can see some of my flaws, but not this one. I would NEVER know I had this flaw without an outside source informing me. I know these things about my eyes because I trust what people tell me above what I see and experience myself.

And so it is with our sanctification. Specifically the sanctification of our minds. To love God with all of our minds begins with admitting that our minds are flawed. That even the most basic logic (or what we believe to be logic) may be tainted. The evidence that our minds are being sanctified is that we are able to believe the bible above our brains. Do you ever find yourself struggling to believe the bible because you see apparent contradictions? Believe the words of the bible – not your understanding of it.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.
Proverbs 3:5-8 ESV

Is it more loving to say yes to your child when they ask for a cookie or to say no?

Is it more graceful when you accept someone as they are, or when you rebuke them and hold them to a higher standard?

Is there more joy in comfort or in suffering?

Is love a feeling or an action?

The words of the bible read through the power of the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to see beyond the surface. We can understand deeper truth. We know that a parent is loving when they restrain their screaming child. From the point of view of the child it seems unfair. The grasp hurts as they try to pull away. Why does mom keep saying no when she knows they want to run? But the mom sees from a higher point of view. The mom sees the car coming.

We have a Father who sees all things. We can’t fully see what He sees or know what He knows, but we CAN trust that He does see, and that He does know. That’s what is asked of us in loving Him with all our minds – not that we know everything, but that we submit our flawed understanding to His perfect word.

However, the bible is truth. God has made truth accessible through His written word.

Is it humble to say we can never really know anything? Is it humble to say everything is a mystery? To say that nothing is black and white? Is it arrogant to be confident in our theology? Is it arrogant to denounce something as false?

I want to discuss those questions in Part 3.

2 Corinthians 3:18:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

This is sanctification. This is the life of a Christ follower. As we live in the Spirit facets are cut, scales fall, veils are removed, and we begin to look more and more like Jesus. We produce gospel fruit. We read the word. We pray. We preach the word. We love people. We serve people. We love the church and its mission. We make disciples. We pursue holiness. We despise our sin. We forgive. We repent. “…we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people…” (1Timothy 4:10)

When I think of sanctification all of those things above flood through my head. And all of those things are actions and postures of the heart. The discipline to live this way flows from the Spirit’s work in us. These are the embodiment of the command in chapter 6 of Deuteronomy – loving God with all our heart, soul, and might.

That passage in Deuteronomy is the shema v’ahavta, the daily prayer of the jews, their foremost commandment. Those words were the foundation of their lives. They were the foundation of Jesus’ life and were on his lips from birth.

The synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) all record a scene where a scribe asks Jesus what the most important commandment is, and Jesus responds predictably with the shema, but with his signature gospel flare. Jesus says to love God with all of our heart, soul, MIND, and strength. Obviously, the words of Jesus should never be overlooked – but maybe especially here. This verse is the jew’s John 3:16, and Jesus doesn’t just add this word on to the end as an afterthought, he places it in the middle. For anyone but God himself this is outrageous (but, of course, Jesus is God). And this is the type of thing that put Jesus on the cross.

I want to expand on the implications of the word “mind” in a series of posts throughout the Lenten season. I hope to cover  topics such as sanctification, knowledge, wisdom, logic, legalism, obedience, holiness, and love. Part 2 coming soon.

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.
Hebrews 13:7

There is a difference between idolatry and honor. Idolatry seeks something to be in place of God. Honor acknowledges someone seeking to keep God in His rightful place. I believe there is a stigma in the church between these two words. Christians are falsely accused of idolizing Christian leaders. In our day of streaming sermons and conferences, blogs and books, and social media it has become easy for leaders in the Church to influence many people around the globe. I also believe that satan will use whatever he’s got to put obstacles between you and God, and Christians also mistake idolizing these leaders as honoring them. As Christians we are commanded to show honor. The bible tells us to outdo each other in showing honor. The bible also tells us the dangers of the idols in our lives. Those people we honor most are the ones that satan seeks to twist us into idolizing.

Notice the word choice above: imitate. Jesus told the disciples to love people as He had loved them; to be like Him, to do as He did, to imitate Him. Paul told the Corinthians to imitate him as he imitated Christ. We honor Jesus by obeying his words, and His words tell us to be like Him. If we see leaders in the faith honoring Christ well wouldn’t we want to learn from them how to better honor Christ ourselves? And therefore, we imitate our leaders as they are imitating Jesus. Jesus equips us in the Holy Spirit, through the Word, and by other Christians to show others what it means to follow Him. Imitation is built into discipleship – it’s the way God designed His church to expand. When we acknowledge that our leaders in the faith have led us well by following their example, then we are showing them honor.

For example: Personally, I have been greatly influenced by the ministry of John Piper. His writings, sermons, and videos have shown me a bigger, more beautiful picture of who God is. I want to be like him. I want to write like him and preach like him – meaning true to the bible, true to who God is, and making much of Jesus. John Piper has more experience than me and more knowledge of the bible. He has been a Christian longer than me and I believe I would do good to imitate him as he seeks to imitate Jesus. However, I can see thoughts creep into my brain that stray from honor to idolatry that satan wants to use against me; thoughts like “I want people to know my name like they know his, or I wish I could sell that many books – I wouldn’t have to worry about money anymore.” John Piper doesn’t preach and write to make his name known, but to make God’s name known, and he doesn’t write for money – his books sales go to his ministry and many are free to download. So essentially, if I replace honor with idolatry, I also stop imitating him.

As Christians we should honor our leaders by imitating them. Our leaders should only be our leaders if they are teaching us how to be better Christ followers, and thus, by imitating our leaders, we will also be imitating Christ. But we should be careful to realize how honor and imitation can turn to idolatry and selfishness.

Screen Shot 2013-04-03 at 11.55.32 AM

I like tattoos. My wife, Jessica, likes them, too. We love seeing the different styles, hearing their stories, and imagining them on our own skin. It’s no secret that our culture has made it easier and easier to see them as normal. They’re no longer taboo and reserved for the more extreme population. My mom has a tattoo, and not one that she got as a misguided youth, but one she got later in life to honor her Mom (my Granny) and her 3 sons. Some people like them and some people don’t. Whatever my opinion on tattoos, as a Christian, I must first seek God before my own simple desires.

Where do tattoos fit in my life as a Christ follower?
Does the bible condemn them?
Does the bible condone them?
Are they a non-issue?

Joe Thorn, a pastor and writer that I follow online, has just written a series of blog posts on the topic. They were very helpful for me to read, especially as someone who wants tattoos. But I think they are helpful for anyone to read since everyone has an opinion on tattoos because they permeate our society. Here they are, in order:

1. Tattoos: Introduction

2. Tattoos & The Bible 1

3. Tattoos & The Bible 2

4. Tattoos: Don’t Do It

5. Tattoos: Advice

Hell is a tough subject. I have fought with the idea of hell for as long as I can remember. I have caught myself in eisegesis searching the scriptures for proof of annihilationism. Hell shouldn’t be easy for us to understand and accept – at least on this side of eternity. I can only hope that my fight, prayer, reading, and thinking have formed a theology of hell that can help others see it for what it is.

I’m writing on the foundation that hell is a real place, separated from the goodness and glory of God, that is an eternal punishment for those that did not accept Jesus as their payment for sin. (Matthew 3:12, 18:18, 25:41, 25:46, 2 Thessalonians 1:9, Jude 7, Revelation 14:11)

I will try to answer 3 “why’s” of hell: Why does anyone deserve that punishment? Why is hell eternal? Why is it ok for a good God to eternally exist parallel to eternal suffering?

Why does anyone deserve that punishment?

Because God is God. Punishment becomes more severe as the person you sin against becomes more important. Example: You try to break into my house. vs You try to break into the President’s house. You will undoubtedly receive a harsher punishment for the latter. God is perfectly holy, infinite, and unlimited in power. When you sin against him, what punishment can there be that fully pays for your debt? When you sin against an infinite God there is no equal payment other than infinite punishment. Here is another way to explain it: Everything has value attached to it. If you attempt to steal that item, you must pay according to it’s value. You steal a $2 candy bar? Pay $2. You steal an iPod? Pay $200. You steal a car? Pay $20,000. You steal glory from God? Pay… See the problem? There is nothing that can ever define the value of the glory of God. It is infinitely valuable. You can’t choose a finite value to pay for something infinitely valuable, therefore, because God is perfectly just, sin against God deserves eternal punishment.

Why is hell eternal?

Read the answer above: Because God is God. But another thing to think about is this: What if hell had an end? Let’s say it ends after 5 million sets of a billion years (5 quadrillion years). That would mean that God the Just is satisfied with the payment of 5 quadrillion years of punishment. Which in turn means that the souls in hell can completely pay for their sin. Which in turn means that they can now have communion with God. And then to go one step further this means that Jesus is not the only way to the Father. This is blasphemy.

Why is it ok for a good God to eternally exist parallel to eternal suffering?

This has always been the hardest question for me to ponder. The easy answers are the ones above. Because God is God. Because God is perfectly Just. The problem resides in the already/not yet of our existence on earth. We are commanded to love sinners here. We are commanded to preach the gospel to the world in order to save people from the clutches of hell. Because God loves us and we have found salvation, peace, comfort in suffering, life, and worth in Him we want other people to experience that with us now, and also to be with God eternally. Because God loves us, we love people, and ultimately love for people means wanting them to be reconciled to their creator. We DO NOT want people to go to hell. It is torture to picture people we love, that do not know God, in eternal fire and punishment. God has given us to compassion for this purpose. The Holy Spirit moves in us to have compassion and love people even as they sin and rebel against God because we know that that rebellion will send them to hell. Our compassion for them is what moves us to lead them to Jesus. Jesus is the ultimate example. He loved those on earth who sinned against him. He called Judas a “friend” all the way through his betrayal. (Matthew 26:50)

However, though Jesus had perfect compassion and was a friend to sinners during his time on earth, while he proclaimed the coming of the Kingdom, this is how he will return:

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

Revelation 19:11-16

God is patient. But there will come a time when the fullness of His wrath and the fullness of His grace will be revealed. Jesus will no longer show compassion to sinners. And neither will we. I think that this is an abstract idea that can only be believed, but not fully realized. Not yet. But when that day comes, we will see the glory of God shining. We will see Him in His perfection and we will fully realize His Holiness. At that time our compassion will be replaced with the full understanding of His justice, and we will know that Hell is what sin deserves. We will no longer have a problem with our good God letting hell exist eternally, but we will know that because of our good God hell has to exist eternally. We will see sin in the light of God’s glory. We will see sinners (that persevere to the end and never accept Jesus’ blood as their payment) as rebels who are against God. We will see them as people who hate God. And we will want them to be punished for it. We will delight in God getting glory through the outpouring of His wrath.

HOWEVER, we are not there yet. I believe that this knowledge of what is to come, and this theological understanding of why hell has to be hell is important. We need to see God higher and higher everyday. We need to know that hell is real and deserved because of who God is. BUT if we bring this into the now instead of leaving it in its rightful place in eternity we will become judgemental instead of compassionate. (Westboro, anyone?) The Holy Spirit leads us to love and compassion, not condemnation and judgement. On earth we are to love God and love people. All people. For, here on earth, God gives the saved and the unsaved the same air to breathe.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Matthew 5:43-45

It only makes sense that I would post this on Holy Saturday. The waiting period between “It is finished!” and the glory of the resurrection of Jesus. We reside in the Holy Saturday of eternity. We will see Jesus in His glory, but not until this day has ended. Choose to know Jesus as Lord now.

I have a very picky ear when it comes to listening to Christian worship music as my background noise for work or when driving in the car, but lately there have been a few albums that are worthy (Citizens, Young Oceans). Don’t get me wrong, corporate singing at a church gathering is my favorite thing in the world – it’s what these types of songs are made for, it’s their purpose. I just like to leave them there. So when I’m listening to a worship album at full blast in my car…something’s up.

Daniel Bashta has grown on me. I’ve had his first album for a while because I got it free on noisetrade. But I didn’t start listening to it and really appreciating it until just recently. He has 2 albums out now, and I like them both. They’re the first 2 listed here.

So watch these two videos. Listen to the song below and then click here watch Daniel Bashta tell the song’s story. So amazing. Go buy his music and blare it.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.