Cars aren’t chariots
“Your chariot awaits, my lady.”
As awkward as I was in High School, I never uttered those words. Of course, the reason it was easy for me to avoid such cheesy lines probably had more to do with the lack of dates than with actually thinking about not saying cheesy lines had I been on a date.
No one would want to go on a date in a chariot in my home town anyway. Pacifica is cold and foggy most of the year, and riding around in an open chariot would be no one’s idea of comfort.
Chariots are biblical, though, so maybe kids in a youth group could get away with the whole “Your chariot awaits” shtick.What could be wrong with calling a car a chariot if chariots are mentioned 154 times in Scripture?
Nothing, actually. Unless the youth group kids start insisting that cars have to be called chariots because that’s the word the Bible uses for vehicles that carry people from one place to another.
Gifts aren’t tithes
Like chariots, tithing is discussed in the Bible. And like chariots, it is mentioned mostly in the Old Testament writings. The tithe was a requirement for the Israelites to bring 10% of their agricultural produce – crops or herds – to the temple. (Leviticus 27:30-32.) It didn’t matter if there was a bumper crop or a near famine. The tithe was required every single harvest, every single birthing season.
Some churches today call the weekly gathering of gifts to the church their tithes. It’s an odd way to label the weekly offering of gifts since no church is recorded in the New Testament as collecting tithes at all. How could they? The local congregations knew they were not the temple in Jerusalem, and to collect tithes on a local level would have been arrogant, perhaps even blasphemous.
What type of giving did Christians participate in? Joyful and extravagant giving, under no requirements or compulsion.
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7.)
This is markedly different from Old Testament tithing. If an Israelite felt reluctant to tithe, they still had to tithe. Tithing was not optional or subject to one’s own feelings. They were compelled to bring 10% to the temple even if they thought they wouldn’t have enough left for themselves or their family. Tithing was the law for all Israelites far and near.
Some pastors today tell their churches’ members that tithing is still mandatory, and if a member fails to tithe 10% of their income they are in violation of God’s law. Don’t listen to those pastors. Giving under God’s New Covenant has nothing to do with percentages or compulsion.
This doesn’t mean there should be no giving to the church or the work of God’s people at all. Rather, it’s that giving should come from a cheerful heart and love of others, gifts such as support those who are working to bring the gospel of Christ to others (Philippians 4:18) and to help those in need (Acts 11:27-30). Notice what Paul calls such giving:
They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. (Philippians 4:18.)
Paul calls them”offerings”, reminiscent of the voluntary giving found in the freewill offerings of ancient Israel.
I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you;
I will praise your name, Lord, for it is good. (Psalm 54:6.)
Giving your money to support God’s work and to help those in need is to come from a cheerful heart that recognizes how good God is. Nothing in the New Testament writings ever suggests it is to be compulsory like the tithe.
This doesn’t mean. though, that you should try to get away with giving a pittance. You should give what you have decided in your heart to give, and do it cheerfully, but if you find yourself holding back money so you can have more while you see others in need you might have to rethink how you give and how much you give.
And, in rethinking this, it might mean you find yourself giving away a lot more than 10% of your income. As Jesus told his friends:
Freely you have received; freely give. (Matthew 10:8.)
- Freely giving means giving without counting percentages, without stopping when you hit ten.You might give away 15%, 20%, 50%. Or you might give 1%, 2% or 5%. No one is keeping track.
- Freely giving means giving more than your money. It means giving of your time and talents and belongings as you decide in your heart to give.
- Freely giving means recognizing all God has done for you and desiring to love others and give to them in the same way, even if it means you are sacrificing what you would otherwise be keeping to satisfy your own wants and desires.
The type of free and cheerful giving found in the New Testament, you see, is far different from tithing. So don’t let any pastor try to coerce you into turning over 10% of your income to the pastor’s church as if it were the replacement of the temple in Jerusalem.
Instead of tithing, give. Freely and cheerfully, give.
Afterword: I once attended a conference where a speaker was telling church leaders how to teach tithing to their members. He said he’d met a lot of grace givers (meaning people who give as I’ve described in this post) and for all their talk of generous giving not one had ever given 10%. I introduced myself to him later and told him my wife and I practice grace giving and regularly give over 10% of our income. I smiled and said, “You can’t say now that you’ve never met a grace giver whose giving doesn’t reach 10%.” He looked at me as if he didn’t know what to do with what I’d just told him. I hope he stopped implying in his talks that grace givers are stingy.