There is one thing about the church, that I hear Sunday after Sunday that bugs me. And now that I am on break from being a pastor, I can say it freely :-) It is regarding the "Tithes & Offerings".
Acts 4:32, "All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had."
Here is my controversial point, then I will explain- Tithing is not required in the Church.
1. Tithe means 10%.
2. Tithe in the Old Testament was approx. a 30% tax.
3. A tithe is not taught for the church today, though the early Jewish Christians did pay the tithe, toward the Temple and for the Levites. However, the Temple is not around today, so there is no tithe to give.
What bugs me is that this is taught as a spiritual discipline or principle. I believe this is taught out of fear. Fear that if people weren't pressured to tithe, that they would stop giving & the pastor wouldn't get paid. The building would be lost. And the missionaries wouldn't be supported.
Formal Objection #1: But Jeff, in order for the church to have pastors & secretaries & support missionaries & have a building, it needs money.
Response: I fully agree.
1. 1 Corinthians 16. But consider the church & the weekly collection for the church in Jerusalem (1 Cor. 16). These believers collected money, not for their own church, but for the believers in Jerusalem who had severe need. The Corinthians were meeting the needs of others. Sending it to the capital of Israel, to the Christians there, so they could live.
2. 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, God loves a cheerful giver. Will a believer gladly give to help the Kingdom advance? I certainly hope so. I like to do this. This is what we see in Acts 4:32.
3. Acts 4:32, the believers sold their houses to help others, and met any need they would see. They completely cared for one another...which is greater than the tithe, because it is motivated by compassion/love. Greed only existed in Ananias & his wife...look what happened to them.
4. Bottom line is, hey, if you want a pastor to shepherd the flock, a building to meet together in, a secretary to help the pastor so he can focus on shepherding, praying and preaching. If you want a youth pastor to support you as you raise your kids to know the Lord. If you want missionaries to give their life and advance the kingdom. If you want a music director to focus on discipling musicians, to pray & develop our celebration time...then you need to give. They just can't serve you and not eat, or live in a house, or drive a car. It takes money...so give if you think these things are noble and worthy.
Bad Jeff- I was recently at a church who had plenty of money and a fat savings account. I didn't give to that church because it had no need. Instead I gave to other Christians, like my friend Dan, who is planting a church in Wisconsin to save Packers fans. Or like my buddy Jon, who is in Indonesia, bringing Jesus to the gentiles there. Or Tama/Sarah, who are adopting children. And will no doubt tell these children about Jesus.
If the church ever got to the point of struggling, I would gladly give to support it. I would even downsize my house to help.
So the next time the plate is passed in celebration, consider this. That you are giving to help the Kingdom advance, and you are generous to help other believers thrive, not because you HAVE to.