I’ve been thinking quite a bit about material possessions recently. In the Bible there’s a spectrum of wealth that ranges from the destitute (think the prophet out in the wilderness) to the opulent (think the kings). Both find favor in God, yet they live in vastly different economic conditions.
There do seem to be certain guidelines for giving that we have in our churches. But beyond that, what are we to do with our money? Should we give everything beyond our basic necessities to the church or charity? Or is there room in a Biblical view of money for buying something outside of what we need to survive?
There are a lot of different, related questions lurking beneath the simple “Is tithing mandatory for Christians?” The Bible clearly and repeatedly stresses the importance of generosity—but what does that mean in practical terms? Here are a few questions to mull over as you consider the issue of tithing:
Do you think the 10%-of-your-income tithing ratio is mandated by Scripture? If not, is there another formula mandated?
Should we consider outside-of-church giving to be separate from our tithe to church, or are they all part of the Biblical tithe?
Have you ever been torn between tithing to church and giving to other worthy, but non-church, causes?
How seriously does your church take tithing? If you went a month without giving anything to church, would your church take notice? Would they leave that entirely to your own discretion, treat it as a matter of church discipline, or something in between?
What formula or style of giving feels most appropriate and Biblical to you?
That’s a lot of questions, and I’d like to unpack some of them in future posts. But for now, watch the CNN video above and stop by Out of Ur to follow the discussion there.
The pastor at my church has been carving out a few minutes at the end of his sermons for the past few weeks in order to walk us through meditating on a specific parable from the Bible. He slowly reads and rereads the passage out loud and walks us through a process of deeply reflecting on the individual components of the story. It’s a new practice for much of the congregation, and one that many are finding extremely spiritually enriching.
Have you ever purposefully meditated on a part of scripture? If so, what verses or passages have you found to be good for meditation?
Over at The Gospel Coalition, Ben Stevens has written a thoroughly practical guide on getting to know your neighbors. His point—and it’s a good one—is that you must get to know your neighbors before you can love them as Jesus has called us to do:
You cannot love your neighbor if you do not know that neighbor. Time spent with neighbors that does not result in conversions, does not result in spiritual conversation, or does not result in any greater appreciation of the work of Christ, is not a net loss. Let us be resolved to undertake this kind of work confident that it is a legitimate end unto itself, that our culture deserves our attention, and that God will call us to account for the time spent serving neighbors.
I would like to make a radical suggestion. The suggestion is not that knowing the neighbors should be important to Christians. The radical thesis I would like to present is: actually get it on your calendar for next month, and make that a habit.
It’s not that other charities are necessarily frauds or that your money won’t do any good. But as the blog post lays out, the specific needs of post-tsunami Japan are quite different than those of (for example) post-earthquake Haiti. In Japan, for instance, money may be a less pressing need than specialized relief teams.
The Givewell blog recommends Doctors Without Borders and the Japanese Red Cross as worthwhile causes. You might agree or disagree with those recommendations; but their reasoning seems pretty compelling. Perhaps you know of (and may have donated to) other organizations working in Japan. What charities would you recommend for somebody looking to help? When disaster strikes and you want to donate, do you give to the same organization each time, or do you tailor your donations specifically to the immediate need?
Up here in Michigan, the sun is finally starting to appear with a modicum of regularity. We’re sure to get hit with another snowfall—three years of living here has tempered my weather-based optimism—but until then, I plan to enjoy seeing all the friendly, happy faces out on the streets.
With Spring on people’s minds, I think it’s a good time to ask a simple question: what’s your favorite part of God’s Creation? Is it trees? Mountains? Lakes? Or something else?
Over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about the baggage that we bring with us when we approach Scripture. Anytime we open the Bible, a host of competing voices from our past and present jockey to offer an interpretation of what we’re reading. I often find it hard to silence those voices and just listen to what God has for me.
If YHWH God seems angry and vindictive, they assume that Scripture is wrong. If there are passages that use language that makes us feel a bit of uneasy in our modern, scientific world-view, they assume Scripture is wrong. If there are passages that present eschatological statements that seem confusing and/or cryptic, they assume Scripture is wrong. If we read passages where Jesus is seen as cosmic judge, they assume Scripture is wrong.
If Jesus says love your neighbor, Scripture is obviously right then. If it condemns those who do not take care of the orphan and the widow, then the ethics of Scripture make sense as do threats of judgment. If it says God is love, well, we like that so it must be right.
Not every Christian tradition celebrates Lent, but many do. While my denomination doesn’t require its members to participate in Lent, it does encourage us to use the time to “invest in practices that heighten our awareness of God.” In keeping with that, I’ve decided to set aside an hour of every day during Lent for private devotions. I’ve done this off and on before, but never consistently or for an extended season. After all, who has an hour every single day to spend doing “nothing”?
Some of you are thinking to yourselves: “One hour? I don’t have time for that!” Me neither—it’s going to be difficult for me to make the time, but that’s the point. And my hat is off to those of you who are thinking, “One hour? That seems so short!”
What about you? Are you fasting from anything, or doing anything special for Lent this year?