Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Tithe

Introduction
Let’s start off with a few trivia questions:
  • Which of the following topics did Jesus teach about more often?  Was it:  Heaven, Hell, Money, or Prayer?  The answer is Money!
  • How many of Jesus parables talked about money?  Is it:  1, 4, 7, or 11?  The answer is 11!
  • How many verses in the Gospel of Luke refer to money?  Is it 1 out of 7, 1 out of 10, 1 out of 20, or 1 out of 30?  The answer is 1 out of 7! 
Jesus talked about money a lot.  Apparently, Jesus knew money was a very important aspect of our spiritual lives.  Just like your blood pressure is a symptom of your physical health, the way you manage your money is a symptom of your spiritual health.  The subject of this message is what Jesus said about tithing.

Luke 11:42
What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.

Explain the Passage
In Luke 11:42, Jesus scolds the Pharisees for ignoring justice and the love of God, but he affirms their practice of tithing.  The obvious point of the passage is the most important thing in life is to love God and live the right way.  The Pharisees were famous for acting all righteous and following all the rules, but they didn’t really love God or people.  Jesus reminds them (and us) that doing all the right things doesn’t matter if you ignore justice and don’t love God.  We should do good because we love God.
At the same time, Jesus affirmed the Biblical standard of giving.  A person should give a tithe, which is the first 10% of their income (see Gen. 28:22; Lev. 27:30, 32).  In fact, if a person truly loves God and wants to do the right thing, he or she will tithe.  Notice what Jesus said, “You should tithe…” 
Now, I want to take a moment to clear up some misunderstandings in the church.  A concerned member of our church asked me a few weeks ago, “Pastor, I don’t think people in the church really understand the word tithe.  I hear them calling their offerings their tithe, but it’s not their tithe unless it is 10% of their income.”  That is correct.
Some people say they tithe (meaning they give money to the church), but they don’t really give 10% of their income.  They are giving an offering not a tithe.  If you are calling your offerings your “tithe,” you are using the wrong word—unless it is 10% if your income.  So let’s look at some examples, because I want everyone to understand this and use the right word.
The way you calculate a tithe is by taking your income and multiplying it times 0.10.  The answer is your tithe (or how much you should give according to the biblical standard).  See the picture below:

Now, let’s look at a few more real life examples.  The median household income in America is a little over $50,000 a year.  In other words, the average household (combing together what the husband, wife, and anyone else that lives in the house make) is about $50,000 per year.  How much would the tithe be?  $50,000 X 0.10 = $5,000.  So in order to tithe, the average household would need to give about $5,000 a year to the church (or about $100 per week).  Most people in the U.S. do not; therefore, they do not tithe.  They give an offering, but not a tithe.  

Let’s do another example:  My son, Gavin, just got a job as a lifeguard.  He’s only 18 so he doesn’t get paid much—only $10/hour.  Suppose he works 20 hours a week.  That means he will only make about $200/week.  How much would Gavin need to give in order to honestly call it a tithe?  $200 X 0.10 = $20/week (or $1,040 per year).

One more example:  Suppose you are retired and living on social security payments.  I looked up the typical social security payment.  I don’t know if this is accurate, but it’s what Google said so we’ll use it as an example.  Your social security income is $733/month.  How much should you give in order to call it a tithe?  $733 X 0.10 = $73.30 (or about $880 per year).

So, let’s be clear and let’s use the right word.  If you do not give 10% of your income in your offerings, you are not giving a tithe.  You are giving an offering.  Call it an offering or call it a tithe (if it’s 10%), but call it what it is.  Don’t call an apple an orange.

People commonly ask the question, “Do you calculate the tithe before or after taxes?”  In other words, should I use my gross income to calculate my tithe (which would be more) or should I calculate the tithe after they take out taxes (which would be less)?  I say—it’s up to you.  If you are not currently tithing, my advice would be to start tithing your income after the government takes out their taxes.  Then, over time, perhaps you can grow to tithing your full income before taxes are taken out.  I can tell you this:  I have never known a faithful Christian to regret the practice of tithing.  It is hard to start, but once the practice is established, people find joy in it, are glad to give, and often wish to give even more.
Today, the sad truth is that 9 out of 10 people that go to church in America do not tithe at all (on either their before or after tax income).  The average Christian in America only gives about 2% of their income.  It is no wonder that the church struggles to do the ministry God calls us to do.  We don’t have the resources we need.  I am thankful for everything my church has, but the truth is, we could double our ministry budget and do so much more if all our church members tithed.
The saddest truth of all is what this lack of tithing tells us about the spiritual health of Christians in America.  Remember, how you handle your money (and how you give to the church) is a symptom of your spiritual health just like your blood pressure or temperature is a symptom of your physical health.  Therefore, we see that 9 out of 10 Christians in this country are spiritually sick.  It is no wonder our communities are slipping morally.  Church goers are more committed to worldly values than Christian values.  Why should we be surprised to find those outside the Church do not exhibit Christian values.  We need a revival of true Christian commitment.  Otherwise our churches, our communities, and even our nation are going to continue to suffer the symptoms of spiritual illness and apathy.

For the Sake of Argument...
Some argue that they don’t have to give money because they give their time instead.  That’s twisting what the Bible says, but I’ll play along to make a point.  If you want to give 10% of your time, you would need to volunteer at the church for 16 hours and 48 minutes every week.  If you’d like to do that, I can put you to work! 
Others argue, "Tithing was in the Old Testament.  Jesus did away with tithing."  Well, no, as we see in Luke 11:42, Jesus affirmed tithing.  And if you want to follow that line of reasoning, then you will find that Jesus actually goes much further than the tithe.  Jesus taught we should go the extra mile--which means giving more than the minimum tithe.  Ultimate, Jesus requires that you give everything--just as he gave everything for you.  That means giving 100%, not just 10%.
            There are other arguments people make to excuse not giving as much as the Bible instructs, because we want to cling to our money.  Oh how we love our money (or we love the lifestyle that requires so much of our money so we can't afford to tithe)!
            All this misses the larger issue.  Jesus doesn’t want what you have.  Jesus wants you!  Jesus doesn’t want just 10% of your income or your time.  Jesus wants your whole heart.  And if you surrender your heart to Him, you will surrender everything else.  You will stop asking questions like, “How much time, money, obedience, do I have to give?”  You will have an attitude that honors justice and the love of God.  You will ask, “How much can I give?  How much can I justify keeping for myself?”  For where your heart is, there your treasure will be also. (Matthew 6:21) 
People who are wholeheartedly committed to Jesus, who are His true disciples—the way He calls every one of us to be—say, “Lord, all I have is yours.  Here, take my house.  Take my car.  Take my family.  Take my career.  Take it all, Lord.  It’s all yours anyway.”  True Christians sing the great hymn of the church, making the words their sincere prayer to God:

Take my life and let it be
consecrated, Lord, to thee.
Take my moments and my days;
let them flow in endless praise.

Take my hands and let them move
at the impulse of thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
swift and beautiful for thee.

Take my voice and let me sing
always, only, for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
filled with messages from thee.

Take my silver and my gold;
not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use
every power as thou shalt choose.

Take my will and make it thine;
it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart it is thine own;
it shall be thy royal throne.

Take my love; my Lord, I pour
at thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be
ever, only, all for thee.

Conclusion
            People who join as members of Pleasant Grove UMC make a promise to support the church with their prayers, their presence, their gifts, their service, and their witnesses.  It is not one or the other.  It’s all of the above.  Think how much good the church could do if every Christian started tithing?  Think of the wonderful children and youth programs we would have.  Think of the amazing music and worship we could provide.  Think of how many needy people we could serve and how many lives we could change.  Think of the difference we could make if we all simply stepped up and gave a full tithe.
            However, there is much more at stake than what tithing does for the church.  The fact is, we are spiritually sick.  We need healing in our soul.  Jesus forgives our sin, and he offers healing.  Healing.  Forgiveness comes with a word, but healing comes through treatment.  As when a doctor gives you medicine to take and says, “Stop smoking” and “you must do these exercises three times a week in order to rebuild your strength after a surgery,” healing for your soul comes through the daily practice of obedience to Jesus.  One of the treatments Jesus give us is to be generous.  He says, "You should tithe..."
            Our selfish attitudes (about sin, money, gratitude, giving, etc.) only change through practice.  Giving a tithe is like spiritual push ups.  It builds your faith muscles.  Why don’t you start building yours today?

Reflection

Take some time to:
  1. Calculate the tithe for your weekly, monthly, or annual income
  2. Reflect on how God might want you to begin the practice of tithing,
  3. Consider that Jesus deserves more than just your money.  He deserve your all.