Sunday, November 15, 2009

Tithes and Paying for Services Rendered

Here is one thing that eats at me.
Lately we haven't been going to church.
I feel like... well, i have a lot to say about it.
And the title i guess is prodding me to finish my thought.

So here goes.

I feel like maybe it is a sin for the Western world's version of the Body of Christ to be continually building, buying real estate, making comfortable places for their entertainment, when so many of our brothers and sisters in the rest of the world - far more who are far less blessed materially - suffer for lack of clothes, food, medical attention, Bibles, clean water. They need help just to live.

And instead people like James Dobson (who i like! Whose books i have found very helpful and his shows for children are a fun and safe thing to give to my children) - but there are many people who say the same thing... Anyway, people like JD say "When you tithe, give it all to your local church, and if you have anything else, give *that* to other charities".

To me, it reminds me of the Bible verse where Jesus tells the Pharisees that their regulations are making null and void the word of God:

Mark 7

1The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and 2saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were "unclean," that is, unwashed. 3(The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.a]" style="font-size: 0.75em; line-height: 0.5em; ">[a])

5So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, "Why don't your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with 'unclean' hands?"

6He replied, "Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
" 'These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
7They worship me in vain;
their teachings are but rules taught by men.'
b]" style="font-size: 0.75em; line-height: 0.5em; ">[b] 8You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men."

9And he said to them: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observec]" style="font-size: 0.75em; line-height: 0.5em; ">[c] your own traditions! 10For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother,'d]" style="font-size: 0.75em; line-height: 0.5em; ">[d] and, 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.'e]" style="font-size: 0.75em; line-height: 0.5em; ">[e] 11But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban' (that is, a gift devoted to God), 12then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. 13Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that."

And we might say "Well, we *are* taking care of our own when we build big beautiful airtight buildings, nicely heated and comfortable!"... But are we? When Jesus said:

Mark 3

31Then Jesus' mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, "Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you."

33"Who are my mother and my brothers?" he asked.

34Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, "Here are my mother and my brothers!35Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother."

As long as there are persecuted Christians, hungry Christians, Christians without a home or clothes or citizenship, as long as our brothers and sisters are hurting and crying out for help - we should feel guilty and ashamed of not helping.

I do.

Now, here is the really bad part.

I also feel guilty for going to church and taking part of the pageant of Western religion (and trust me, it's not a fancy pageant in our little town, but it is opulent compared to most third world nations). I go there and think, "Well, this is the way we do it - someone has to pay the pastor and keep the lights on, and so long as i am *here* taking part - i should be helping with that end of things."

And so we do pay some or all of our tithe to the church for awhile, till our hearts reproach us too loudly, and then we give to places like Voice of the Martyrs, Love146, or other charities that speak too loudly for us to get them out of our minds.

And then feel guilty that if the church goes under, it will be our fault.

Basically, it feels like friendly blackmail. If you aren't flaky, you will not think about those other brothers and sisters. If you pay a steady sum every month to the church, we know you are steadfast in the faith.

I know my heart, my husband knows my heart (poor man!) and God knows my heart.

(in case you're wondering, i handle the money in our family - it's just the way it goes in our house. I would love to not have that burden, but it is one way i can bless my husband, so i do it.)

To be honest, it feels like buying friends. If you support your church, people treat you differently than if you just show up every once in awhile with your passel of children and never put anything in the plate...

James 2

kind of summarizes two points about this dichotomy that i'd like to make - can you spot what i mean?

Favoritism Forbidden
1My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism. 2Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. 3If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," 4have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

5Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?

8If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself,"a]" style="font-size: 0.75em; line-height: 0.5em; ">[a] you are doing right. 9But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.10For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11For he who said, "Do not commit adultery,"b]" style="font-size: 0.75em; line-height: 0.5em; ">[b] also said, "Do not murder."c]" style="font-size: 0.75em; line-height: 0.5em; ">[c] If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.

12Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!

Faith and Deeds
14What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds."
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

19You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

20You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is uselessd]" style="font-size: 0.75em; line-height: 0.5em; ">[d]? 21Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,"e]" style="font-size: 0.75em; line-height: 0.5em; ">[e] and he was called God's friend. 24You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

25In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

I think what's happening is in the absence of any visible way to measure the fruits of the spirit, we end up judging "faith" by "works" - and money donated is a quick shorthand for where your heart is (I agree! Jesus said it!

Matthew 6

21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Jesus talked about money a lot, and i think for good reason. He knows how much we'd like to hold on to it, make plans for it, use it for good but ultimately self serving things. And it's important that we fall into line with His thinking on money.

But is giving it to the local church necessarily the way to follow Jesus' heart for His church? I'm not convinced.



    I agree with you about that. I've attached a link to an article you might appreciate. I've seen so much waste of God's money that it makes me sick and tired. It is important to share what we have with others, and Jesus said, if you do it to the least of do it to that's an incentive to give/share/help. I also don't like the government to decided who is worthy of support...but since Leroy feels it makes sense to get a receipt and deprive the government of a little dough we have to have some kind of a compromise. There are a lot of good causes that could use a little of the Lord's money to good purpose, so I say, "Let them have some!" Today I got the newsletter from the Jelsma's in Rwanda.I'd sure rather invest there than anywhere I see happening locally.

  2. Thanks Mom!
    Jenni Kornell works for a great group,too - she is involved with Viva Networks - Love 146 is one group that is affiliated with her group - it tries to help girls get out of modern day slavery...

  3. I've been reading "Blue like Jazz". There is a little good stuff in it but I find it mostly stupid. I think the "emerging" church (if that is what he is representing and I think it is) is just the next (and more vulgar) version of institutional church...(but I digress) He tells of one of his friends who "HATES" church but wouldn't dream of defrauding God of the tithe so saves it up and then (of all things)....takes it down and gives it to "the church." ...ha...I don't get I said...dumb book...