This is an excerpt from a recent response relating to another’s experience regarding how the teaching of tithing changed because of financial circumstances.
I always did the teaching every Sunday morning during the “offering”. I always taught based on what Jesus has already accomplished for us and who we have already been made to be. I have always taught on giving freely, and up until recently, the pastor has also been in agreement with the teachings. When we moved into our new facility, the pastor asked me if I would teach tithing. (Motive, huh?) I told him I could not teach tithing as a mandatory thing, and if I did teach on tithing I would teach it from the perspective of the tithe being fullfilled thru Jesus, and even greater than that was that we were the fullfillment of the tithe. I was told that even though tithing was not mandatory, it was still something we should do. (I didn’t understand that one either!!) “D”
…Oh yeah, I was going to tell you about how the tithing thing became the turning point in this group. Wow … what a tangent I took, huh? But you fully understand that, don’t you? Hahaha!
The group was meeting in a rented store-front which was rather costly to maintain. One of the elders, having a thriving business, had been one of the major contributors, but as his business slowed down for numerous months his giving did as well since he practiced tithing. Now, as this group had grown much because of its addiction support-groups it didn’t really have a whole lot of people with much money … nor with the usual giving habits of the better contributors found in some groups.
Though I hadn’t focused any studies around the issue of tithing, my thoughts on it were not hidden. The main pastor of the group (who really loved the Wednesday evening group though he only showed up some of the time) approached me about it from the standpoint of what he had written in the Church Statement on tithing. The truth was that he had some excellent points that revealed tithing as something under the old covenant, but went on to contradict the beginning premise. I challenged him to reconsider some of what he had written, and he actually did so. He made some changes and couldn’t wait to show me. They were some very good changes … on paper. Unfortunately, he often ended up contradicting himself as he tried to often balance law and grace.
But when one of the three board members — the tithing one — is unable to carry the load he used to, putting their ability to continue their current financial load in jeopardy, then his opinions became a little more important. I was called into a private session with the tither and the pastor so that the tithers could try to set me straight. After all, I had been enough of an influence upon the guy who did most of the teaching so that his own position on tithing had been made clearer.
Now, I was often up front as well because I would be asked to play some music, both in the sing-along sessions and in performing a song or two of my own (often accompanied by my wife and other musicians). So, I was pretty much being denounced as some kind of a free-loader by the tither who suggested that unless I started tithing I shouldn’t be allowed up front because it would only promote my lack of giving to others. Interestingly, at the same time there was a need to make a change in the Wednesday evening set up so that I would no longer have my class. What a surprise.
I think the pastor found himself caught between a rock and a hard place since he might lose his place of meeting unless more giving ensued so that it partially made sense to him. Though he attempted to defend me against the tither’s accusations (and he did make the distinction that giving should not only be measured by dollars) he didn’t want to say too much other than to repeat an over-used phrase about going back to meeting in homes if necessary … as I think it was the last thing he really wanted to happen.
Anyhow, when the teaching of grace becomes dependent upon an expected standard of giving, those who have the most say are those who contribute a goodly portion. It will always work that way. And you know what? The principle of giving a set amount — the Biblical percentage — seems to validate itself since those who practice it appear to be the responsible ones who have to make up for those grace freeloaders.
But you know the real irony behind this? Many of those who supposedly fail because of their grace-beliefs are actually failing because they are caught in the balances between law and grace. Some are so caught up under the guilt and shame of their lack of performance (according to legal standards) that they continue to live in defiance of the law that held them in bondage, which means that they are still living according to that standard of law, only in reverse, as if it will somehow prove they are not under it! What a confusing trap. We can call it what we want but it’s still the same thing.
Anyhow, I am rambling and will stop now.