A Practice for Me?

Is giving of your resources a joy for you? In this week’s scriptures and reflections on tithing, material that appears in quotes is from John Ortberg’s article, Tithing: Law or a Grace?

Monday – Matthew 23.23-24. In the gospels, Jesus seldom referenced tithing. Was that because he assumed that people were practicing giving a tenth of their resources? There was a larger issue that Jesus was addressing here: the character of God’s people. What does giving a tenth do in us? “Tithing was never intended as a way to ‘pay our debt to God.’ It has always been a training exercise to cultivate a generous and God-centered heart.”

Tuesday – Exodus 20.9-11. “Tithing is to our possessions what the Sabbath is to our time—a concrete guideline that points beyond itself to the truth that every moment and inch and scrap of our lives comes from the hand of God, and will be returned to God.” Reflect today on this question: “How am I doing at seeing all that I have been given as being a gift from God?”

Wednesday – Malachi 3.8-12. “The prophet Malachi famously spoke of failure to tithe as a kind of robbery of the divine. ‘You are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty. God invites human beings into an experiment. He challenges people to test it. At the same time, failure to tithe is called robbery. Tithing is not the last word in generosity; it's the first word. But it's a word that God takes with deep seriousness; perhaps because when human beings get vague around finances, they grow deeply evasive.” Is your attitude toward tithing more evasive or embracing of God’s call?

Thursday – Leviticus 27.30. “Some people argue that since tithing is found in the Old Testament we can discard the whole concept. Jesus, however, was quite clear that he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5.17-18). In the early church, no one's attitude was ‘Thank goodness grace takes us out from under the Law—now we don't have to tithe anymore! We can give far less than 10 percent!’ The early church was so overwhelmed by God's grace and generosity, it went far beyond the tithe.”

Friday – Deuteronomy 14.22-25. Research indicates that, when it comes to money, we compare ourselves with people above us, those who have more than we do. “Upward financial comparisons generate increasing amounts of greed and decreasing amounts of compassion. But ancient financial practices in Israel discouraged upward financial comparisons. Tithing was a reminder that all human beings were created with a need to give. If there were two ways Israel was most obviously distinct in its ancient Mediterranean world, one would be monotheism. They worshiped one God. The other is they put voluntary limits on their wealth. They lived in deliberate generosity.” Being generous in giving of resources has always been counter-cultural.

Saturday – 2 Corinthians 8.1-9. For Paul, excelling in the grace of giving springs from a clear realization of what we’ve been given by Jesus. He had it all. He is God. He left it all for us. Because of his downward mobility, we have been blessed beyond belief. Spend time today, asking God to transform you into an increasingly generous person, generous in every way.