« The House and Senate Abortion Provisions | Main | Obama's Populist Turn--Skeel »

Tithes and Offerings--Skeel

At the end of each year I wonder whether I and my family’s giving for the year fully reflects the Bible’s teachings. It isn’t so much the question of how much to give that I puzzle over. While the New Testament doesn’t specify the amount we should give, it strongly suggests we should give at least as much as the ten percent tithe (before-tax, not after-tax, income) called for in the Old Testament.

More puzzling for me is which giving should count. Our principal giving should be to our church, of course. But should we think of giving to other Christian organizations—say a crisis pregnancy center or a Christian magazine or a soup kitchen-- as part of our giving or not? I tend to finesse this a little by directing a substantial majority of my giving to the church, while also giving to these other Christian organizations. It seems to me that the work they are doing is also a crucial part of the church’s mission, even if the particular organization is not directly involved in worship. 

But perhaps I’m wrong about this. I can imagine that some might take the view that Biblical giving only includes giving to the church, since this is the center of worship. It seems to me that this narrower view has at least one surprising implication: if outside Biblical giving does not include giving for charities that operate outside of the church, this implies that the role of these charities is likely to be limited and that much of the funding for social services will need to come from elsewhere. The government is the most likely source. Those who hold to a narrow view of Biblical giving should therefore also favor a generous, government-funded social safety net. I wonder if most do.
 

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
https://apps.law.upenn.edu/weblog/mt-tb.cgi/1305

Comments ( 4 )

W.r.t. your third-to-last sentence, in your view how likely is the local church as the source? Your gift to the local pregnancy center could instead go to your church and find its way to the pregnancy center, either via your specific direction at the time of giving (if heeded) or via your (and others') participation in setting the church's budget. This seems edifying both as it encourages you to share more of who you are with your community (cf., Acts 2) and it encourages a stronger, more stable relationship (partnership?) between the institutions themselves.

This case seems strongest for local organizations. It seems less strong for organizations whose ministry is not as geographically focused (e.g., periodicals). I wouldn't apply it to giving to individuals (e.g., missionaries) with whom you have relationships that predate your involvement in your current local church.

Or perhaps they favor more generous Christians, who give 10% to a local church and give beyond that to other charities.

I don't pretend that it's easy nor that it's even Biblical. But it is perhaps another possible interpretation.

I don't think God is interested in our money. It's all His sooner or later anyway. I think He's interested in giving for what this act does inside each of us. So I would guess that He's much happier with a gift to a secular women's shelter (or to a stranger in need) than to a TV evangelist.

Regarding the social safety net: Being in favor of using everyone else's money to do 'good' (even if a tiny bit of it is mine) hasn't the slightest thing to do with the Christian purpose of sacrificial giving.

While the New Testament doesn’t specify the amount we should give, it strongly suggests we should give at least as much as the ten percent tithe (before-tax, not after-tax, income) called for in the Old Testament.

Your above statement is quite untrue, there is simply no New Testament scripture that says we should give at least 10%. Look at the following scriptural reference -

Now you should finish what you started. Let the eagerness you showed in the beginning be matched now by your giving. Give in proportion to what you have. Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have. 2 Cor 8: 11 - 12 (NLT)

The New Testament allows us to give anything we want to give be it 1%, 5%, 10% or 100%.