WE STINK AT PICKING NUMBERS,
LET’S JUST USE JESUS’ NUMBER.
That’s how the guest speaker began his presentation at the fall pastor’s conference.
Most churches and schools run like bankruptcies. (He said) Last I checked, the avg. giving by LCMS members was about 2.7%. So when we pick numbers we pick 2.7% and nothing works. When Jesus picks numbers he picks 10% as a starting point, and everything works! What does this mean? We are no good at picking numbers.
During the month of November we will focus on stewardship; our response to God’s rich blessings and our raising the bar of support for the Lord’s work here at home and beyond. Included in this conversation will be tithing. The question raised in this article: Do we as Christians living in the New Testament church have to tithe? What is tithing? Tithing, giving 10% of our income to God’s work in the Church is an Old Testament law. Given that we live under Christ in the New Testament does the law still apply to us?
We might approach the question by asking whether or not we have to keep the Third Commandment, ‘Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.’ Exodus 20.8 Should we cease from all labor on Saturday as they did in the Old Testament? Of course not! Since Christ has fulfilled the Sabbath rest by resting in the tomb we are free from the Sabbath regulation. Just as Paul writes in Colossians 2,
the Sabbath (as Old Testament law) is a shadow of the things to come, the substance belongs to Christ. And yet . . .
What’s going on here? The question is answered by the explanation: ‘We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word but gladly hear and learn it.’ While the form of command, the letter of the law has passed away as a shadow, the spirit remains. We are to honor God by our worship, by gladly receiving His Word and Sacraments in Church, not because we have to but because we ‘love’ to.
So it is with tithing. The Old Testament regulation about giving the tithe served to point to Christ; who represents the fullness of humanity though He is one Man. Thus we are in no way bound to the law of tithing. Instead we are free to ‘lovingly’ participate, as God gives for us to participate in faithful financial stewardship. The New Testament is full of admonitions on this point:
- ‘On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as each one of you may prosper.’ 1 Corinthians 16.2
- ‘But just as you excel in everything, in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us, see that you also excel in this grace of giving.’ 2 Corinthians 8.7
- ‘The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work.’ 2 Corinthians 9.6-8
My point is this:
As the Old Testament Sabbath became the benchmark for worship in the New Testament, so also the Old Testament tithe becomes the benchmark for New Testament stewardship. Not in the way of inflexible, minute regulation - but in the way of pattern and fulfillment. Given the New Testament language of ‘give in proportion to what you receive’ and ‘give weekly’ and ‘give generously’ . . . a tithe (10%) is the floor level of Christian giving . . . not the ceiling. - Pastor Heath Curtis, Steward Under Cross
You may have heard the saying,
Jesus never lowers the bar - but always raises the bar of righteousness. This article began with a quote:
We stink at picking numbers, so let’s use Jesus’ number. While New Testament giving is always between 10% and 100% there is no argument given that 2.7 or 1.5 or 1 is faithful, let alone 0%!! During November join us in prayer and focus on stewardship: our response to God’s rich blessings and our raising the bar of support for the Lord’s work here at home and beyond.
And let me invite you to just do what Jesus did. It’s genius! And it works!!
~ Pastor Kelly Mitteis
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