Monday, April 17, 2006


It’s The Attitude Not The Amount

Where do we draw the line? Who is in, and who is out? What is acceptable, what is not, and what is commanded? In this series of posts I hope, with you, to come to a better understanding of some of the pitfalls concerning certain issues we all will face as Christians sooner than later. Matters of doctrine and practice, matters of conviction, and matters of preference, perhaps.

Worship wars. Spiritual gifts. Seeker friendly. Emergent. Calvinism. Communion. I could go on and on. These and many more issues are the hot button items of debate among professing believers in Christ today. We will be exploring some and maybe many of these things. What we hopefully won’t be doing is simply looking for a reductionism, a lowest common denominator type “solution”. Balance is not an end in itself where truth is concerned.

If you are looking for a fight, or think you are somehow called to “Jude 3” your beliefs, save your breath and blog fingers. We aren’t going to, in the post itself, try and give you every verse or every reasoned argument for or against a doctrine or practice. That isn’t what we are attempting to do.

What we want to do is find the "PLACE OF GRACE", amen.

We want to explore what causes the tension with sincere people looking for answers, and how it can be relieved. Not to the satisfaction of all, but to help end the confusion of many. Stick with us in this first post, and then maybe you will see where we are aiming at.

Pray that we can get it straight.

Instead of the same old Bible ping-pong game, we want to do something different here. We aren’t necessarily trying to point out the differences of opinion, and not show everybody the similarities so that we can “just all get along”. We are aiming to show us all where we can take things and make them bad, if that makes sense. The problem is that while certain things are non-negotiable, we often, too often, turn minor things into major things, thereby giving many of us major head and heartaches. We take spiritual things and make them legal things. We take matters of grace and turn them into law.

We have probably all heard of the term “litmus test” associated with politics. Usually, it is the idea that we will or will not accept a candidate if they endorse a certain position. Today, the “litmus test” is most often used concerning abortion.

The Bible describes a “litmus test”, in Judges chapter 12. Jephthah and the Gileadites fought the Ephraimites. Some of the people of Ephraim escaped, and then attempted to come over the Jordan, pretending to be somebody else. However, the people from the tribe of Ephraim were easily identified by their dialect; they had a hard time pronouncing the "h" in shibboleth, saying sibboleth instead, and giving themselves away. The Gileadites were able to slay 42,000 this way.

The term shibboleth came into the English language as something that determines which side you are on; in modern English usage, a shibboleth is the same as a "litmus test".

In this first post, with just one word, one shibboleth, I am going to open up a can of worms about as big as any there could be in the Christian community today. Here goes…


Okay, tell the truth, what was your first reaction? You don’t have to? You do have to? Some, I’m sure, went “Uh, oh, here comes the money pitch”, or “preachers just can’t leave well enough alone, can they?” Perhaps it was, “here we go again”, or “who cares?” Or maybe you left us and we will never know!

For those who don’t use the word “tithing” like a shibboleth (see Judges 12:6), what we want to do is clear up some of the confusion and condemnation you might have received.

Even if we were to concede the argument that tithing is or isn’t supposed to be done today, which we are not, that isn’t where we really need to start. Let’s say, for sake of getting somewhere, that you want to tithe, but aren’t sure about whether to tithe off you gross or your net income. This is where the tension comes in, isn’t it?

However, the “gross or net” is not a question that needs to be asked. Don’t let some little thing like this cause you to stumble around and keep you from moving on, if you have doubts about what to give, don’t worry about it, don’t give anything. Well, you say, I want to give something, okay, start there, give something, whatever you feel comfortable with, then go from there, otherwise you are taking something spiritual, giving, and making it a legal thing.

Regarding your giving, the “net or gross” question shows you are in the wrong ballpark altogether – it is not a question of a duty to be discharged but of a devotion to be discovered (2 Corinthians 9:7). You don’t have to try and find out exactly the line where you need to start, most are doing that so as to know what they can avoid doing. Its like the parable of the Good Samaritan, the lawyer wanted to know who his neighbor was, not so he could know who to love, but so he could know who he didn’t have to.

The same happens when it comes to the matter of giving to the church. It’s not that people don’t want to give too little, it’s that they don’t want to give too much! You could give whatever it is that you feel to be your “obligation”, and discharge your “duty” and God still not have your heart. You are commanded to give, but even if you found some imaginary line where God was happy with, it is only a start, not a finish (Luke 17:10).

It is about faithfulness, but the bigger item, and the one that you never seem to hear the preachers and teachers talk about, or when they do you go temporarily deaf, is that giving is also a matter of worship. Not obligation, like, “you better give off the gross, dude, or God’s gonna be mad.” No. Giving is worship. If we love the Pittsburgh Steelers, we watch their games, we pay to see them at the stadium, we buy their souvenirs, and we wear their apparel, which we paid for. We even dress our little kids in their little Steelers clothes. We wear the shoes that the big stars are wearing, and we learn all the new buzzwords and catch phrases of those whom we worship.

Now I like sports, but follow me here, and realize that giving is a form of and a part of worship. It doesn’t mean that every thing we give to we worship, but what is put foremost in our minds, that thing we will give our utmost to. Think about sports teams that you see people love and how they defend and promote them, and don’t you just wish we would do it for Jesus? We root for them even when their season isn’t going so well. We praise them when it is, and we aren’t ashamed of it when they lose a game, we speak of how they will eventually bounce back. We give our money, our time, our energy, and our devotion. Where we give is where we worship. Jesus said that where your treasure is, that is where your heart is (Matthew 6:21). How can you say you don’t have to give and still believe that God has your heart?

I’m not asking you to give more money. Giving more doesn’t necessarily mean you are more devoted; it is not a contest, but a conquest. It isn’t the quantity but the quality. So if you are down in cash this month but have an extra amount of time, then give what you have to give. Out of the abundance of the heart them mouth speaks (Luke 6:45), what do you talk about the most, Jesus or the Steelers or your favorite movie star, or hit song? Whatever it is that has the majority of your attention, that is what has your devotion. What do you think of first thing in the morning?

Let’s get practical, then. Don’t give the church the money for your light bill, but don’t neglect the church just to buy a new light fixture. Own stuff; don’t let it own you. We do not need to debate whether or not tithing is commanded or even recognized in the New Testament, all that is doing is wrangling over a disputed idea (1 Timothy 6:4 – it is interesting that this verse comes in the context that it does).

It isn’t a matter of dogma; the truth is that the simplest way to be disciplined is by giving the first 10 percent right off the top, and that is why we see this principle used in the church today. We don’t have to argue, but if you were to look at those that would teach “against” tithing, or those who try and justify why they don’t need to give you might be surprised at what you see and the lack of discipline in their lives. If you are giving more than 10 percent but not “tithing” per se, wonderful, but make sure you are honoring God with your giving, it’s the attitude that counts.

The concept of tithing in the New Testament is not some rule we have to keep in order to keep God off our back or to curry favor with God, but so we will put first things first, and God will help us take care of the rest.

Tithing is a blessing not a burden, but please don’t give out of compulsion. You can’t give because you feel forced and expect God to understand. As long as you see it as a burden it will not have the effect you desire. God knows your heart, and you can give and give and give, but if you don’t do it out of love, it will profit you nothing (1 Corinthians 13:3).

We can give without loving but we can’t love without giving.

Galatians 6:7 / 1 Timothy 6:5-10 – sowing out of a desire for gain will get you the gain all right, but it won’t be what you expect.

Ezekiel 33:31 – don’t use tithing as a means to an end, the end being your own desire for wealth.

Isaiah 29:13 / Mark 7:6-7 – don’t turn tithing into a work and don’t use giving to the church to dismiss your obligations to the IRS or from taking care of your sick relatives or paying your bills and think that God is pleased with this, He isn’t.

Okay, let's see if we can spot the "shibboleth's".

And find the place of grace

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©


Anonymous said...

(....and think God is pleased with this, He isn't.) Maybe there is no definitive "line" but I somtimes think we're too easy on one another when it comes to this topic. Exactly what is more important than giving God our firstfruits and when is it OK to use those firstfruits for something other than giving it to God? I was ignorant and disobedient in this area of my Christian walk for a long time so maybe I've gone too far in the other direction (legalistic) but I know how we play games in our minds when it comes to money. He's given us 100% of what we Him back 10% isn't such a big deal. Maybe we should make adjustments in other areas of our lives before we use the tithe, huh? What are we afraid of? That He won't take care of us?

And as far as "doing my duty". That's exactly how I started out. And it took a while but there came a time when God gave me the "heart" to replace the "duty". Guess you could say that He changed my "have to" to a
"want to".......He grew me up in that on to the next hurdle. :)

Even So... said...

That is what I am trying to discuss here, the ignorance, about the thing itself, and the ignorance as to what constitutes disobedience.

First, in that when we see it as merely a duty, we are missing out.

Second, if we think of not tithing as disobedience, then also we might believe that just giving our ten percent rectifies the situation, when the heart may still not be in it.

Of course people can and do and will make excuses for not giving much at all, and I agree that is lame, or whatever other words fit here.

My point is to see the matter from a possibly new perspective. Don't make excuses for not giving, and that probably at least ten percent. And also don't just give your tithe and think you are done with your duty.

This is all about the heart, and if I understand you correctly, you're right. Many aren't examining themselves, especially those who give ten percent and feel like they are okay abut giving.

I realize as I write in the comments section that I don't always express myself in ways that mean what I mean, if you understand that. I might write something, and then someone picks it apart, but not for what I meant, but for what they thought it meant.

The reason I just wrote that is that I want to give you a chance to explain a little further what you mean by, "now, on to the next hurdle". I don't know your idea there, and I don't want to comment until I do.

Thanks for the comments, btw.

Anonymous said...

First let me clarify that I give my tithe to the "storehouse" (church) and I know God's idea of giving goes way beyond that!

I liken my initial obedience to that of a child who does what his father says because he knows he'll get a "whoopin" if he doesn't. As I matured and understood more I obeyed out of love instead of fear or duty. I don't think it's such a bad idea to do what God tells you to do....even when your heart isn't (initially) in it. Ya' gotta start somewhere and sometimes you just do it because God said to...and hopefully you grow up and your heart matches your act. What if I had waited for my deceitful heart to have the "want to" to tithe? I don't know if I would have, especially now that I'm living on a third of the income I use to make.

As far as the "next hurdle". About the time I'm feeling pretty good about being obedient in a particular area, God has me examining another area that needs refining or changing or eliminating. And I'll admit...I'm one stubborn child. I usually have to ask a thousand questions and "how-comes" before He can get a word in edge-wise....I think that's why I decided (for me) that I would just "do my duty" and ask questions later and trust that He will help my "will (heart)" to match His will.

Have I answered your question or just gone on and on about everything but? I think if we can "get real" about this topic, some of the other things in our lives won't seem so hard. It was easy for me to say I trusted the Lord when I had more money and then He put me to the test. I will tell you that losing my job was one of the best things that happened to me...I started having "eyes that could see" and ears "that could hear"!

Even So... said...

First off, thank you, thank you, thank you for coming back to comment. It seems to me that you will be a valuable asset to the ongoing discussions here.

You answered the questions, nicely, I might add. I agree, obedience is a key to everything. And many times, we need to "just do it", and then we get the "want to" and the understanding later. Kind of like praising, we have to "enter in".

The next post won't have all the build up, so hopefully we will see more replies if the posts are shorter.

Okay, everybody, where ya at?

Dan said...

I agree with your comments as a whole, however one has to be careful. Obedience alone doesn't always lead to wanting to. It can become ritualistic and have no meaning. This really isn't a money issue. It's a heart issue. If our hearts are not in the giving is it really accepted by God?

Anonymous said...

Not arguing with you Dan but has there ever been a time when you submitted to the LORD (obeyed)and it took time for your "feelings" to catch up to your submission. Mind you I know this isn't scriptual/biblical kind of reasoning but it's life experience stuff. Let's say an unmarried couple is living together and one of them comes to the knowledge that God doesn't approve of that so they separate because the other party doesn't want to get married. The submission to God's Word is there but don't you think that person is going to experience hurt and lonliness and regret, etc. for a time? I'll admit that I resisted the whole tithing thing for a long time. And even when I did submit there were times that my attitude definitely needed adjusting but now (most of the time) it's just an automatic response. I guess I have a rebellious nature 'cause there haven't been too many things in my life where I've initially submiitted was a process. Of course my ultimate goal is that I will have a Christ-like nature....He just has a lot of work to do with me!

Did any of that make sense?

Even So... said...

Please check out the new post "why we obey" over at Doulogos. I know it will be a blessing to all who read it. Leave a comment while you are at it. God bless.