Tithe - Reason & Destination Of Giving
In a continuation from my previous two Blog Entries (ref: Biblical Tithe - An Introduction and Kingdom Finances: The Tithe) I recently had another very interesting conversation with a good friend in which we discussed the issue of tithe in relationship to where it should be given, why it should be given, and what if you no longer go to church... should you still tithe?
That said, I have tried my best to clean up our conversation and make it presentable... it follows:
The Opening Discussion/Question:
My Friend: My question to you is should a person pay rent and electricity before tithing or after. I don't have a lot of money, actually I struggle quiet a bit. A lot of people have said I tithe to the church first and miraculously your rent will be paid and you should never be frightened of loosing your home.
John B. Abela: Uggh, that's one of those questions that I'm not really sure there is an answer too. I know people who swear that both/either are just as valid as the other one is. Personally, I've always done it based upon my total income - that being, if my paychecks total 1500 for the month, 150 is what I tithed.
My Friend: Tithing is about faith in a promise of God. Either you have faith, or you don't. If you don't have faith that God will keep his word to open the windows of Heaven, and pour out a blessing you can't contain, then don't tithe. I'd base it on gross income. If my gross is $2000 for the month, and my take home is $1500, then the tithe would be 10% of the gross, or $200.
Where The Tithe Should Be Given?
John B. Abela: In my opinion a tithe is to be given to the "storehouse"... that were you receive your "food' from... when one does not go to a church (a storehouse, if you'll allow me), than were does one tithe?
My Friend: Your "food" is your spiritual nourishment - those you instructed you in the word of God. So, if your teacher is no longer around, then to whom do you tithe?
John B. Abela: The logical answer to this question would have to be another question... if you are no longer getting your "food" from the church, than were are you getting your food from? Online churches/sermons christan tv... etc. Should they than become that to which/whom you give your tithe too?
My Friend: I don't agree with the idea of giving the tithe to something/someone who isn't a source of spiritual instruction to you. In other words, don't just pick a church or institution to whom to give a tithe just to give a tithe. But then that cuts you out of the loop for receiving the blessings that come with tithing.
John B. Abela: So if your "food source" happens to be some guy on the internet who offers sermons that you download every week I suppose one could than consider that man/church to be their "storehouse", and they should than rightfully tithe to that ministry, right?
My Friend: Yes. That would be true. Assuming that you're downloading them, and listening to them, and receiving instruction in the word from them.
What If I Do Not Go To Church Anymore, But Feel I'm Suppose To Tithe?
John B. Abela: Ok, what if I don't go to church, or have an alternative method of being feed, outside of personal Bible meditation. To what/whom do you than tithe?
My Friend: If there was someone in the past who tutored you in the Word, and they're still alive, you can continue to tithe to them. As Abraham tithed to Melchizedek, though he hadn't seen him for a long time.
John B. Abela: Hmm, that is an interesting insight.
Ok, That's An Interesting Insight, Allow Me To Expand On It
John B. Abela: Ok, what if that person in no longer in the ministry?
My Friend: Doesn't matter.
John B. Abela: So if that person has been your only mentor, and he's no longer in the ministry, yet still alive.. you just cut a check to him?
My Friend: Yup. "Hey, dude, here's my tithe."
John B. Abela: Huh, that is a new insight for me. What if he (your mentor/teacher/pastor) is no longer in the Faith? Should I still tithe to him?
My Friend: Where did you get your spiritual food? "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse..." Yes, it is about your faith and relationship with God, to give of the tithe.
John B. Abela: Sort of like the factor of a married christian women and an non-christian husband... she becomes that 'example' to him about the Faith. Except in this case... the former pastor is the person to whom you are still showing an example of faith to.
My Friend: Sending off the tithe to your spiritual mentor is your part in claiming the promise of God. What the recipient does with the money has no impact on your "contract" with God in tithing. That's between the recipient & God. That's how I understand it. You are in effect demonstrating how you value the teaching you received.
John B. Abela: Yeah, I could see how this would be the correct course of action. -- regardless of where the money itself goes and what is done with it.
My Friend: He could use it to buy drugs, pay prostitutes, etc. That has nothing to do with your act of faith. It is, in fact, none of your business what he does with it.
Do Church Members Have A Biblical Right To Know What Happens To Their Tithe Givings?
John B. Abela: So, inside of the church the members demand (and are legally entitled in most USA States) to know where their tithe goes. Financial accountability... the law demands it. Based upon what you've just said, are you thereby also saying that the members of a given church have zero biblical concern of what happens to the finances (the part that comes in via tithe) of a Church?
My Friend: Are the members paying the tithes to the church, or to the person teaching them the word of God?
John B. Abela: I believe the tithe goes to the storehouse... in this case that is considered the church itself. The church staff provides the teaching, the church building provides the place of worship, the church programs provide the exo-sermon feeding.
My Friend: That's an interesting question & point. In established denominations, you don't have individuals teaching the word of God, you have ordained pastors passing on the dogma of the denomination. Very interesting question.
John B. Abela: yeah, it's why I asked it you proposed an interesting idea above that just carried itself over into this question.
My Friend: This would be, in effect, the teachings of the organization provided by the organization. The organization (the denomination) would be the source of the teaching, rather than an individual. It's the corporate model versus the individual businessman model.
John B. Abela: Correct, it's like the church my father goes too - they have almost 30 pastors on staff there, and often one family might be mentored by two or three different pastors. So in this type of a situation, unlike the smaller churches that are so common, the whole idea of "one man" being your provider of "spiritual food" is being dispersed across numerous men of God.
My Friend: I suppose then, that one could easily argue that the tithes go to the organization, since it is the organization providing the teaching.
John B. Abela: So, back to the question here than... do the members of the church have "zero biblical concern of what happens to the finances of the church" ?
My Friend: If we take the view that the organization is the storehouse, and the organization is set up so that the local members necessarily have a say in how monies are spent, I think the question answers itself.
Going Back To The Topic Of Giving Your Tithe To Your Last Mentor/Teacher:
John B. Abela: If I no longer am being mentored/feed, yet the mentor is still alive, why should I have to tithe to some guy that is no longer in the ministry and I am no longer being feed at all, including by him.
My Friend: Did this mentor provide the spiritual instruction that put you on the path to understanding God's word? And does his instruction continue to serve as the basis for your understanding, and your faith in God?
John B. Abela: Sure, but it could be said "he failed". If you are no longer being mentored/feed, than it's a pretty good chance that you are no longer truly serving the Lord Jesus Christ.. because He instructs us to always be in a situation of being mentored/feed/in-fellowship/whatever-you-call-it. So, why tithe at all if you aren't going to church or being feed via tv/internet/whatever.
My Friend: First, I'm not saying that you have to tithe. Tithing is something you do to claim a conditional promise of God. If you don't care to claim those promises, then don't perform the act. If you want to claim the promises, then you have to contribute to what you consider to be the "storehouse." Was it the church to whom he belonged when he mentored you that was the source of the teachings, or was it the man himself, who just happened to be a member of the church? Perhaps a tough question, and maybe not the right one.
John B. Abela: So, are you saying we are not Biblically required to tithe at all?
My Friend: To quote Jesus talking about the tithe, "this ye ought to have done." Jesus was still alive when He said that - which means that the Old Testament Law was still in effect when He said that, so He had no other choice. His death ushered in the New Covenant, which doesn't (necessarily) require tithing, but still offers its promises if the conditions are met. The question, if you want to claim that promise, is do you consider the man to be the source of the teaching, or the organization of which he was a part to be the source, and he was just the mouthpiece?
John B. Abela: I would have to say most people would answer that question based upon how close of a relationship they had with the pastor himself. If they were really close friends, they might consider the man himself to be the source of the feeding. If he was someone to whom was "just their pastor"... chances are they would tend to see the church/org itself as the source of their feeding.
My Friend: This might make things easier or harder: If he told you, "here's what the church teaches...blah blah blah...but here's what I think..blah blah blah..." and you got insight from what he taught rather than what the church taught, then it's the man. If he only taught what the church taught, then it's a judgement call for you. And probably rests with the organization.
John B. Abela: True. But I would tend to think that what the pastors says, for the majority of the time it will be the same as what the church teaches. Of course, nearly every denomination allows their pastors to have a few things that they disagree on.. but not a lot, or they are outta there. Therefore, the "majority of the time" one would have to consider what a man teaches is what the church teaches, and just default to that. As you said... tricky call/judgement on this one.
My Friend: If that's how you see it, then he was just the human face of the organization, and the organization is what provided your spiritual food.
What If I Do Not Go To Church Anymore, And My Mentor Is Dead?
John B. Abela: Ok, so what happens when the person that was your mentor is no longer in the ministry, and in fact is now dead? Do you continue to tithe, and if so, to whom/where? (coming at this from the point-of-view that you no longer actively attend a church)
My Friend: In my case, I had only one mentor, and he is dead. There was nobody else whom I consider to have provided meaningful instruction to me in the word of God. And it doesn't seem right to me to just pick someone or some organization to send a tithe, since they don't meet the criteria.
John B. Abela: So, do you think people should put aside the 10% each period for a time when they are once again instructed by someone, and than give it all to him? Or, do you just not consider it a Biblical necessity to store up the tithe when you are being feed/taught?
My Friend: If, at some point, another teacher comes along to whom it seems appropriate to give a tithe, simply give 10% of assets at that time forward.
End of conversation.
My Personal Thoughts:
Now that I have had some time to think about what my friend and I discussed, I can see some pretty interesting ideas and thoughts about the "destination" of your tithe if you are not going to church.
I especially found interesting my friends suggestion that if you are not going to church but feel you should still tithe, and your mentor/pastor is no longer in the ministry, that you should send your tithe to him that is just... wow... when my friend first suggested this in our conversation, I just had to lean back in my chair for a few moments and let that sink-in. Never had I encountered that insight into Scripture - for as he presented, Abraham tithed to Melchizedek, though he hadn't seen him for a long time. That's something to really sit back and think about... time to open the Word of God and dig into this idea some more.
I know soooo many Christians that have left the church but not left the faith (folks who call themselves the "churchless faithful", cf: Worshiping Outside the Traditional Church Walls) and a large number of them have emailed me asking my thoughts about tithe while they are outside of the church. This conversation with my good friend will hopefully provide them some "food" for thought!
John B. Abela