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Monday, December 27, 2010

Trust God and Tell the People

I spent waaaaaaay too long perusing this guy's archives the other night (you do know that most of my posts have been in the pipeline for several days before they see publication, don't you?) and ran across several posts involving tithing.

Now, for the handful of Christians who read my blog, let me say that you will never have an inkling what I give to the church. Ever. Think what you like.

The axe I have to grind on the subject is a very simple one: there is not, plainly and simply is not, any command anywhere in Scripture for Christians to give any specific percentage or amount to the church.




Oh, I know that you believe it is. You've heard sermon after sermon on the subject, and you're convinced.

Well, not to be unkind, but I believe that you've heard sermon after sermon on the subject, and you've not had your critical thinking apparatus turned all the way up to "Max." I am not saying that you're stupid or undiscerning, but I am saying that on this subject (and a handful of others, most likely), you long ago stopped being a Berean and searching the Scriptures to see if these things are so. The situation is not unlike the way it is described here:
I've come to believe that many of the erroneous doctrines we are taught we easily believe them if they are taught "gently" and sincerely to us. Sometimes it is not until some bull-in-a-china-shop kind of preacher comes into our lives and kicks the doctrinal door down when we finally wake up and realize what we were taught all along was wrong.

Here are some excerpts from Croteau's preface that give a glimpse of how he started on his journey:
"I was driving to work in the fall of 1999 and listening to Christian talk radio. John MacArthur was in the middle of a sermon and he was explaining why the tithe was not applicable to Christians. I had never heard anyone actually challenge the applicability of the tithe before, so this took me totally by surprise."
Most of us in Baptist pews have been taught this doctrine as fact for so long, even by well-meaning and sincere preachers. We have not heard SBC preachers dare to consider that the Old Testament tithing laws do not apply to Christians under grace. Preachers at best take a hybrid approach: that yes, we are obligated to tithe, but the New Testament says we should do the forking over joyfully and not under compulsion - in fact we should give more than the tithe as proof of just how darned joyful we are. As someone who was saved in a Southern Baptist Church as a teenager in college, I know the tithe has always been an expectation. It is planted into the minds of preschoolers. The Malachi 3:8-10 application to Christian tithing was never, ever to be questioned. If you don't tithe, you're a God-robber, a cheapskate, plain and simple. No one dares question the doctrine.


Bring up this topic in your Sunday School class. Tell your Sunday School class when you next discuss money matters, something like this: "Christians are not under the Old Testament law of tithing. Malachi 3 has been misused for decades by taking it totally out of context. We are to follow the New Testament model to be generous, but there is no prescribed percentage." Try it and see what happens.
I can tell you what happens in most churches: people just assume that you aren't giving anything! Never mind that you know, since the stats on Christian giving in the United States are not difficult to look up--indeed, those very stats are frequently cited in sermons on giving--that they are not likely to be giving any more than you are. The logic is apparently: this person doesn't believe tithing is commanded for the Christian, therefore he must not be giving anything. It's very strange thinking, but I know where they're getting it. It's from all those sermons on tithing they've heard, heard without checking them out.

I love the church. I really do. That is one of the reasons I hate hearing the teachings of men preached as the doctrines of God. There are, frankly, not many things that get me more worked up than people trying to hold me--or the rest of the church--accountable to commands that God has simply never issued.

And I must close by noting this: my pastor does not teach tithing. Oh, he says he does, but when you talk to him, you find that when he says, "Tithe," what he means is what others call "grace giving." That is, he'll tell you that the believer is supposed to give as God moves him and blesses him, and there is not any specific amount or percentage. Why he uses the word "tithe" when that is not what he means, I don't know.

Habit, I guess.

At any rate, the smartest thing I ever heard about the subject of giving was out of a former pastor, who said that he tried to follow this approach when there was a need:

"Trust God, and tell the people."

Amen, an' amen...

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