Wednesday, May 16, 2007
The Ten Percent Solution?
Have I said how much I enjoy being out of the Bible Belt? Sorry family and friends in the Buckle, but it's nice to be in a part of the country where when you say you're the preacher for the Florissant Church of Christ, people say, "Church of Christ? What is that?" Wow - am I glad you asked! And they do, regularly! And not only that (hold on to your hats BB people), but they actually walk into our building to check us out - every Sunday! Real "unchurched" guests, who didn't come from the C of C down the street! Okay, so I have some new Christians who occasionally call me "Pastor Mike" and I hear other you-weren't-raised-in-the-church comments, but I appreciate the respect and the openness I see in so many.
That having been said, I hear folks talk (and I am often asked) about the subject of tithing. Frankly, when I look at our congregational budget and our income - I've wished for tithing, because most Christians have certainly freed themselves from any obligation to it. Which would be wonderful if we were truly "cheerful givers" and truly believed it's "more blessed to give than it is to receive." But make no mistake - to bind tithing is dangerous. How can any of us read Romans and Galatians and continue to live by laws - whether man made or from the abuse of scripture? "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." (Gal.5:1) Paul was even clearer just three verses later, "You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen from grace." He summed up our lives, our actions, and our giving patterns in vs.6, "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love."
Anything that moves our giving from love to law is ungodly, un-spiritual, and un-Christian. Use tithing as a personal goal, but don't turn your love offering into a law or a burden to place on others. Anything we create for the purpose of feeling good about ourselves or to compare ourselves to others is self-righteousness. It's the pull to self-righteousness that makes us love laws, rules, and regulations. It's why we still define "faithfulness" by attendance, which is why we "freak-out" when someone suggests we change times, styles, or even (forgive me Lord) cancel the assembly! It must all be about our love for God and His family. He adopted us, gave us His Spirit to help us and guide us, and He made us heirs and co-heirs with Jesus! That's some awesome love/grace on His part! Giving must always be about learning to love like He loves. That's why even if I give all I possess to the poor and give my body to burned but don't do it out of love - it's worthless. Becoming a "living sacrifice" took giving right out of the percentage business. Sometimes it's not about tithing but about teething. It's time to move from baby food faith to the real meat of a mature walk with our wonderful-always-giving-Father.