In having challenged many deeply-held notions connected to the theme of tithing, I need to make something clear: those who really WANT to give a tenth of their income to an institution are as free to do so as another is free NOT to. You see, though there is no such law that ENFORCES those born of God to give a tithe, there is no such law that FORBIDS it, either. Understand, the GIVING is not the problem, the LEGISLATION of the giving is. The tragedy of restricting giving according to a standard (either, to do or NOT to do) is that this is exactly what happens. In other words, we limit the whole meaning of giving - as well as the giving itself - in direct proportion to the standards by which we hope to understand and control it.
Many sermons have been preached on Paul's confrontation of the Corinthian church regarding its long-overdue promise of financial aid to the devastated believers in Jerusalem. How we have turned it into a totally separate issue from everything else in Paul's correspondence defies the very living connection he made to them.
So, before we go using carefully selected portions of an ongoing discussion to back up our divinely-inspired standards for giving we ought to at least consider what prompted the discussion, don't you think? Believe me, I understand how easy it is to quote a verse and declare, "Thus saith the LORD!". Now, it may help to back up my convictions, but it sure comes across as if the "It is written" failed to get imprinted upon the heart through the Spirit and has been left up to me to do so.
So, what of the giving of grace?
and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God. 2 Corinthians 8:5
There is a seemingly misplaced story in the book of Exodus about a contribution God commanded Moses to take up from among the people in order to build the tabernacle (the place where they met God). What was so unusual about it was that the stipulation was for only those...
of a willing heart Exodus 35:5
...to participate. So, here in the midst of a society operating under meticulous requirements for every single area of their everyday lives comes this totally foreign command that could be ignored.
So, how did it work?
The Israelites, all the men and women, whose heart moved them to bring material for all the work, which the Lord had commanded through Moses to be done, brought a freewill offering to the Lord. Exodus 35:29
God picked a foreman and...
filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding and in knowledge and in all craftsmanship Exodus 35:31
...and also filled the workers under him to perform their duties.
And they received from Moses all the contributions which the sons of Israel had brought to perform the work in the construction of the sanctuary. And they still continued bringing to him freewill offerings every morning ... and they said to Moses, 'The people are bringing much more than enough for the construction work which the Lord commanded us to perform. Exodus 36:3 & 5
Basically, what happened next was that Moses issued a command to stop the giving!
Thus the people were RESTRAINED from bringing any more. Exodus 36:6
Now, what can we learn from this? Well, we could either use it as a formula hoping to recreate a similar financial overflow (of course, we would never say "Stop" because we can simply open new bank accounts in which to handle such a problem) - OR - we might realize that God nestled this incredible story to hint at a totally different basis of living apart from the law.
Did you notice that the command to give was based upon the willing heart, but the command to stop giving was not? The giving from the heart was restrained by a command very much like it is restrained today in those who have had the law "written upon their hearts" (see Jerermiah 31:31-34).
Smack dab in the middle of a life based upon strict requirements covering every minute detail has come the freedom of a life that has giving embedded in its very being. Any command that violates the willing heart merely restrains the flow of that heart.
More to come ...