(addendum12/8/11 – the thoughts below are directed more towards those who preach that the Christian or his or her finances are cursed if they do not give their church a tithe (Robert Morris, Perry Noble, sundry IFBers, etc). While I personally do not believe that tithing is required in the new covenant, I certainly do not disparage those who disagree and tithe out of love of God)
Let me offer as a prologue to this essay a bit of text from the Epistle to the Galatians.
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
Last Sunday, I made my third visit to a local church, one where I had previously enjoyed grace-centric preaching. However, what I heard on November 13 was not far removed from what I have heard so many times at the local mega-church. What I heard was proof-texting of Biblical text. What I am struck by is the massive lack of distinction between the Law and the Gospel offered freely to those not under the jurisdiction of the Mosaic Law. When I hear tithing positively preached, I hear an attempt, ultimately doomed to failure, to mix oil and water; I see Moses dressed in a Jesus suit.
Among the oft-repeated rebuttals to grace givers, one heard in the aforementioned sermon, is that you should look to ten percent of the gross income as a starting point in ones giving. Now, when I hear silly distinctions being made between giving off the net or gross, of using the Law as a starting point of obedience, my mind immediately connects such to the well-intentioned but damning attitude of the first century religious elite of 2nd temple Judaism putting up extra-Biblical barriers around the Law so as to protect people from breaking the Law. Jesus was harsh in His rhetoric to those people.
As said in previous articles, the topic of tithing is not so much about financial stewardship or generosity, but absolutely about Romans 8:1, ‘There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” If you are in Christ, neither you nor your finances are cursed by lack of adherence to the Law of Moses. To assert such is to preach, as Paul affirms in the book of Galatians, another gospel.
If not by the tithe, then how should the redeemed give? By grace, as the Spirit leads the regenerate. To whom should we give? First, to those in the church who are in need. Second, to the true teachers and preachers for they are worthy of double honor. Third, charitably to those in the world. How much should we give? We should give sacrificially. We should also be content with what we have, not coveting the newest, latest, biggest, and best, being on guard because our hearts are idol factories. Too, sacrificial giving for one may be two percent, while another may be able to give 90 percent without sacrifice. Jesus cares more about the attitude of your heart rather than the percent of income given.
You know what? Each and every one of us in the church will fail to live up to the aforementioned standards to some degree. Left to my own devices, I will covet the next digital hand-held device though I do not need it. You will covet a newer, better automobile even though what you own is serviceable. There is grace through Christ for us as we struggle, sometimes failing, against the competing gods in our hearts, for there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. It is by grace that those idols will be torn down.
I will conclude with a short and far from exhaustive rebuttal to some common arguments regarding the tithe:
1. The tithe predates the Law. So does circumcision and animal sacrifice. Do you suggest a return to these types and shadows, also? Those who assert that the tithe is relevant for the church also mention Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek in Genesis 14:18-20. Understand this is a tithe off the spoils of war, other peoples property. It was a unique event.
2. Jesus seems to affirm tithing in Matthew 23:23. Jesus is speaking prior to His crucifixion and resurrection to those still under the Law. Too, is this text more about the lack of mercy and justice on the part of the Pharisees?
3. The first ten percent is holy to the Lord. All that you think, do, give, earn, all that you are, should be holy and Christ-honoring. You were purchased at great price; you do not belong to yourself, but you are a bond-servant to Christ. You don’t get a pass for the remaining 90 percent. Also, there were three tithes in the Old Testament, not just one, totaling 23.3 percent. (One tithe was performed every third year). Too, in a culture that had and used money, tithing was rarely money. Some might find Deuteronomy 14:22-26 interesting as to how the tithe was sometimes used, especially those who think all should abstain from alcohol.
English Standard Version (ESV)
“You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. And before the LORD your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the LORD your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the LORD your God chooses, to set his name there, then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the LORD your God chooses and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.
Recall, too, the Jerusalem council in the Book of Acts, chapter 15 in which it was determined what parts of the Old Testament law converted Gentiles would be required to obey. Tithing is not mentioned.
“I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. ” – Gal 2:21
If you give ten percent out of love for God, God bless you. If you give 10 percent because you think the Law requires it of you, think carefully about the Gospel and your understanding of it. You may be placing yourself under a curse by adding to the Gospel.
(addendum 6/3/2012 – Also, remember that the poor did not tithe, that those who practiced certain occupations did not tithe, carpenters and fishermen, for example. Too, when someone desired to use money rather than bring the tithe to Jerusalem, God required a 20% penalty added. God discouraged the tithing of money (Lev. 27:30-34)
Evangelical culture warriors long for days gone by when America was a nation uniquely blessed by God. Many, especially in the Bible belt of the south, patriotically voice their pride in being a Christian American.
Beyond the oxymoronic concept of a ‘proud Christian’ and the counter-Christian synthesis of parochial nationalism and the Christian ethos of the redeemed as being citizens of another Kingdom, one not of this world, we may find, at times, a confusion of civic religion with authentic Christian faith in the rhetoric of the public square. We find at times, too, a core and deadly confusion of Law and Grace.
I believe that, to a substantial degree, the primary religion of America has always been one of moralism and patriotic hubris more than a humility-inducing love for the Gospel. Many pulpiteers and parishioners have waxed nostalgic for the days when prayers were recited in classrooms and the Ten Commandments were posted in public buildings. While I think the display of the Decalogue is a very good thing, my question would be this: What actually was the prevailing faith of those days?
I cannot help but think of the old song, The Last Kiss by Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers. Follows is an excerpt:
The Lord took her away from me
She’s gone to heaven
So I got to be good
So I can see my baby
When I leave this ol’ world”
This song, written in 1964, a vestige of waning ‘50’s sentimentality and idealized white-bread wholesomeness and innocence, encapsulates, I think, the overarching civic religion of evangelical America’s assumed golden years. Wrapping itself with Biblical language and allusions, we find a religion where ultimately we have to be good to get to heaven, obeying the Ten Commandments, so we can enjoy unending delights in the afterlife. Religion was, and most often is, defined as adherence to moralistic principles.
I believe much of the church of American history felt their call, and not entirely incorrectly, was to uphold ethical mandates and suppress the darker impulses of humanity. We were to shoulder the providential task of elevating the stature of America’s greatness on the world stage, of building a New Jerusalem, of realizing our God-ordained Manifest Destiny. I find it interesting that we could oft find, in America’s most recent evangelical Golden Age, the Ten Commands posted in court houses, but did one ever find the Gospel proclamation hung on a wall? I think that if you asked the typical man on the street in any American city, someone who probably was raised in a church, about the core of Christianity, you would receive a reply that implied Christianity was about performing good deeds and exhibiting moral behavior, essentially moral imperatives. The Gospel declarative would probably be absent. Sometimes I think the ‘pull yourself up by your own bootstraps’ religious ethos of America’s golden years has more in common with Andrew Jackson that Christ.
I find so many ironies in the religious history of America. Many colonists and clergy thought it God’s will, even in light of Roman’s 13, that they secede from England over the issues of taxation without representation, but a following generation of clergy and parishioners thought it wrong that the South secede from the Union. The South, champions of state’s rights, with much of the southern clergy proclaiming to be Biblical literalists and using such to validate the supposed civil right to keep slaves, claimed a Biblical mandate to secede, and the North laid hold of a moral mandate, based both on Biblical and Enlightenment ideals, to abolish slavery and to maintain the integrity of the Union. Using Biblical proof-texts, two bitterly and diametrically opposed factions voiced ownership of God’s favor.
When we look at the documents that give foundation to the American experience, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence for example, we find ‘God’ words, but we do not find Christian words. We find flattened allusions to a God that could be honestly approved of by a Deist, by a Unitarian, or by an orthodox Christian. In fact, one of the observations by some clergy of the Confederate States was that the American Constitution was far too secular for a nation that declared itself to be ‘Christian.’
I think, too, of the first settlers from the new world, the Pilgrims, who, by virtue of being both early settlers from the Old World and being Christian, are used as rhetorical fodder by culture war pundits to bolster the claim, correct or not, that America was founded as a Christian nation. Persecuted Puritans from England, their practice of Christianity, their ethos, would probably not be recognized by the average church goer of today. While I do not infer that all their practices and attitudes were correct and all contemporary practices and attitudes are inferior, their focus, I think, on eternal things were a bit sharper than ours. One need only peruse the literature produced by the Puritans and compare it to what we find on the shelf of the typical American bookstore to discern their focus was far more Christ-centric than the human-centric ‘best-life-now’ fodder typically found on contemporary bookshelves. I think the Pilgrims, in their austere practices, understood more clearly than we that the human heart was an idol factory. For example, they did not celebrate Christmas or Easter, holidays not appointed in Scripture. Pilgrim pastor John Robinson taught that “It seems too much for any mortal man to appoint, or make an anniversary memorial” for Christ. Perhaps with some irony, only certain cults think in such terms, now.
Ultimately, it does not matter to me if America is or is not a self-identified ‘Christian’ nation. My only skin in this game is that history is being revised by both the secular and the religious to bolster sectarian arguments.
Sometimes I think the idealized America of many moralistic religious pundits is probably more dangerous for authentic Christianity than some alternatives. An America where the streets are safe from crime, where there is no poverty and prosperity is achieved by all, where America is the sole super-power, where the American churches are full every Sunday with people basking in the light of moral imperatives achieved, and there is, of course, a Christ of sorts there to help us, an America satisfied with herself would be a place Satan would approve just as easily he would a pagan nation. Perhaps persecuted Christians in hostile lands understand the need for a Savior more dearly and are more satisfied with Christ alone, with faith alone, with Grace alone. They have no need for nationalistic hubris.
The primary inspiration for this post is this: On the way home from work a few days ago, I was listening to the radio, listening to a Christian culture warrior, a talk show host. After bemoaning all the social ills du jour, as he always seems to do, and rallying the listeners to take America back by judicial means, he shilled for something called The Patriots Study Bible (available in a camo addition!)
Sometimes the church loves to engage errant syncretism and idolatry when she wraps the Cross with a flag. As an aside, in the few times I have listened to the aforementioned Christian talk show, I have never heard the Gospel proclaimed.
Being a bit curmudgeonly at times, I allow some things to really get under my skin, one of which is trite expressions of faith and errant ‘Gospels’. Here is one example of an errant Gospel of which I have previously written:
Listened to a podcast a few weeks ago wherein a megachurch pastor named Robert Morris, guest speaker at the local multi-site gigachurch, make an absolute mess of the topic of tithing. The ‘sermon’ delivered was, quite frankly, a train wreak of epic proportions. He ends his confusion of Law and Gospel with a somewhat inverted invitation to salvation. Given that he just put Christians under the bondage and curse of the Law (the apostle Paul would have told Morris to emasculate himself) with his take on tithing, he then asks the non-Christians in the audience to give to God an even more epic and extravagant gift than the tithe to God, their hearts.
Now, we have some profound problems here. First, who does the giving in the true transaction of the Gospel, the Christ or the unregenerate? Second, biblically, how is the unregenerate heart described? Well, I can tell you extravagant is not one of the adjectives. Deceitful is perhaps a better description. Below is an excerpt from the aforementioned NewSpring podcast.
I found the following quote from Harold Senkbeil embedded in a blog post titled We Are Seasoned Do-It-Yourselfers by Tullian Tchividjian (pronounced cha-vi-jin) and thought it noteworthy.
Our Heavenly Father attaches no strings to His love. His love for us doesn’t depend on our love for others. Our relationship with the Father was established long ago, in the body and blood of His Son. Jesus Christ erased all our sins and shouldered all our sorrows. Already now we have a solid relationship with our heavenly Father; there’s no need to fret about it. That relationship doesn’t depend on our love for Him, but on His love for us. It hinges on the Gospel of God, not the Law of God…Again, the Old Adam betrays us. Our sinful nature would much rather hear Law than Gospel. The sinful nature is a seasoned do-it-yourselfer. We’d rather know what we should do, yet God insists on telling us who we are. The best way to tell you what to do as a Christian is to tell you who you are in Christ. The sinful nature likes to think it can earn (and keep) God’s favor. Our Old Adam prefers to base security with God the Father on His Law rather than His Gospel.
What a fragrant balm to the soul, what sweet rest one finds in the Gospel. I compare the aforementioned quote to what I listened to yesterday, a podcast from Fighting for the Faith that featured a guest pastor from a megachurch in Texas named Robert Morris who spoke at NewSpring Church on May 15 in Anderson, SC, my hometown. If you listen to this ‘sermon‘, you find soon after 1:07, Morris stating that by your tithing, the curse on your finances is removed. What a confusion of Law and Gospel. My heart grieves for those swayed by such manipulative messages.
I know I am probably beating this subject to death and will be a bit repetitive with this post, but I am absolutely infuriated by the often errant implications and the scripture twisting that are fellow travelers with this doctrine. It is not an issue of money for me. It is not an issue of obedience for me. It is not an issue of stewardship. It is, ultimately, an issue of Law and Gospel, or more specifically, a confusion of the two. I am, again, talking about tithing.
Here is, verbatim, part of a sermon on money, on tithing, I recently watched. The sermon by Perry Noble is found here and the quoted section starts at approximately one hour and two minutes into the sermon.
In exodus 13, God says the firstborn is mine, and then the passover took place, and the people that did not put the blood over the door frame and said I’m not going to consecrate my son to you, what happened to the son in that house? He got killed. Your either gonna give your 10 percent to God or He’s gonna take it. The Bible says God will not be mocked. For some of you, there’s a reason your car keeps breaking down. There’s a reason you cant keep your kid out of the doctors office. There’s a reason you cant keep a job. You’re trying to mock god.
Such is, unfortunately, not a unique approach to the subject. I have heard similar sentiments from other pastors, and I spoke on it just recently here. My first and overarching thought on the above quote is thus: The pastor portrays a grievous and confused understanding of Law and Gospel.
Let me say it one more time just so that I am not misunderstood: He Does Not Really Understand Grace. And it’s not just him. Again, I have heard the same sentiment from other stages and pulpits, and I would say the same thing about others who infer that God acts like a mobster running a protecting racket on His own children. What we find in this sermon is essentially a quid pro quo Gospel. Christ did this, so you gotta do that.
What I see from the aforementioned sermon are verses ripped out of context and used as proof-text to prop up an errant pretext. But, as this pastor graciously and humbly mentions at one hour into the video, you must be stupid and Biblically illiterate if you disagree with him on this subject. Be that as it may…
Going off a bit tangentially, I think the overarching issues is one of methodology. Some preachers are topical teachers, speaking often to the felt needs of the audience. Others are expositional teachers. Topical preachers tend to hover over the Scripture and pick verses, often out of context, to communicate some point, often a favorite subject of the pastor. They, by their methodology, become lord over the text. Expositional preaching, where the pastor goes through a book of the Bible verse by verse, is bound to the Word and it forces the preacher to open the word, in context, to the congregation. The text is lord over the pastor.
I want to be clear that I am not so much anti-tithe, but more anti-how the tithe is often taught. I know of Christians who give their ten percent as a holy act of worship. Personally, I do not think the percentage is as important as the condition of one’s hearts.
Speaking of how the tithe is taught, here is a video that might be of interest:
Christian, you do not have to tithe to ‘earn’ God’s favor. There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. You are not blessed because of your obedience to the Law, you are justified by grace alone, by faith alone, by Christ alone.
This is not healthy truth:
Radical Grace is Life!
Just uploaded the section of the sermon to which I refer to YouTube. So much error and mishandling of scripture. I honestly fear for Perry. Here is the video:
I Timothy 1:7 – “They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:10-14 ESV)
Addendum of 6-25-2012: More thoughts on tithing - Don’t Place Yourself Under A Curse
It truly and honestly grieves me the way some pastors approach giving. It breaks my heart to see Malachi 3 twisted, perverted, and used, out of context, by pastors to manipulate and beat the sheep of their flock into forking over 10 percent of their income to avoid being cursed by God.
I have heard pastors say that the reason your car breaks down, the reason your health is failing, the reason your marriage is suffering is because you have not tithed. God, they say, will get His ten percent one way or another.
Let me ask you this – if your adopted son or daughter whom you love very much and paid a great price to go through the adoption process, gets a job but does not pay you a certain percent of their paycheck, will you curse them?
The Temple Tax
24(A) When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of(B) the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” 25He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, (C) “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or(D) tax? From their sons or from others?” 26And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. 27However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel.[a] Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”
Galatians 4:7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
So many things are wrong with the idea that God will curse His redeemed for not following an Old Testament prescriptive that relates specifically to the Levites. So many things are wrong with the idea that your misfortunes are due to the fact that you do not tithe. Many non-Christians enjoy great health, great financial security, and have wonderful marriages and have never gave a dime to a church or charity. Many faithful Christians who dearly love the triune God and give sacrificially of their money, time, and talents to those in need, to the local church, to charities, suffer from illness, joblessness, and failed relationships. Even so, those who give out of a cheerful heart will be blessed in ways sometimes tangible and financial and sometimes in ways not so immediate and tangible.
To say, though, that the reason a Christian suffers in this world is because they do not tithe runs the risk of making God seem like a mobster who runs a protection racket, a monster. Further, the way tithing is often taught turns the theology of giving into an act that borders on the heretical, that turns the act of joyful giving into a ‘health, wealth, and prosperity‘ scheme that encourages giving to increase oneself.
What I do not want to do is encourage Christians not to give. For some, to give ten percent, be it from the gross or the net, would be an insurmountable difficulty and would be unwise. God expects you to take care of your family. For others, ten percent would not be a difficult commitment at all, and perhaps one could give even more.
Though I could give many valid reasons why I think the tithe is not for the church, and perhaps I may do so later, the bottom is line is this: Jesus is not so much into percentages as He is into the state of our heart. What we do with our money, much like the words that come out of our mouth or end up on our blogs, reveal the state of our heart, and if you and I are honest, we all need more than a bit of grace in that area.
2 Corinthians 9:7
English Standard Version (©2001)
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Cutting to the chase, when someone beats you up with Malachi 3, go to Romans 8:1 and then read the book of Galatians with tithing in mind. As I have said before, if redeemed by the Law, give by the Law. If redeemed by Grace, then give by grace.
Remember, too, that there were three tithes in the Old Testament that equaled 23.3 percent, so if you insist on being bound to the Law, do it right. Also, since money, personal income was rarely tithed by Israel, would not bringing your livestock and produce to church as an offering be an interesting spectacle?
As I was looking for some media to ‘spice up’ this post, I found the following video. While I did not have this man in mind, he is only turning the volume to 11 where your typical mega-church pastor may only leave the volume at 6, metaphorically speaking. Watch and weep over this video by the appropriately named Creflo Dollar:
I have not had much time for writing recently, so I have primarily been posting the content of others to share with you. Following is an interesting quote from an article at Reformation Theology:
Prof. Doriani writes:
“Class-one legalists are auto-soterists; they declare what one must do in order to obtain God’s favor or salvation. The rich young ruler was a class-one legalist.
Class-two legalists declare what good deeds or spiritual disciplines one must perform to retain God’s favor and salvation.
Class-three legalists love the law so much they create new laws, laws not found in Scripture, and require submission to them. The Pharisees, who build fences around the law, were class-three legalists.
Class-four legalists avoid these gross errors, but they so accentuate obedience to the law of God that other ideas shrivel up. They reason, ‘God has redeemed us at the cost of his Son’s life. Now he demands our service in return. He has given us his Spirit and a new nature and has stated his will. With these resources, we obey his law in gratitude for our redemption. This is our duty to God.’ In an important way this is true, but class-four legalists dwell on the law of God until they forget the love of God. Worshiping, delighting in, communing with, and conforming to God are forgotten.
Class-four legalists can preach sermons in which every sentence is true, while the whole is oppressive. It is oppressive to proclaim Christ as the Lawgiver to whom we owe a vast debt, as if we must somehow repay him- – repay God! — for his gifts to us.
On The New Tetzels
First and foremost, in no way do I intend to encourage faithful givers to discontinue tithing to their church. Secondly, I in no way disparage those who, out of graceful conviction, feel the tithe is worshipful and holy giving to God. I have reached my conclusions on tithing based on careful study. Others have, also after careful study, reached different conclusions. That is quite fine in this mostly tertiary issue, one to be disagreed upon graciously.
Some pastors, however, cynically use their exhortations to tithe as a graceless, wicked, sledgehammer to either callously manipulate people to giving out of guilt or, even worse, to manipulate people into a quid pro quo mode of giving, a type of pseudo-karmic ‘prosperity lite’ theology where God only meets your financial desires and meets your felt needs based on the percentage of your financial input.
I honestly do not want to sound my own horn; I do not care for anyone to know how much I give to a church or to charitable causes. I do not want the left hand to know what the right hand is doing. That being said, not so long ago, I had been attending a church for a while, though not a member, when I was introduced to the church secretary. She recognized my name from the checks I wrote to the church and complemented me on my giving with an aside that she wished others did the same. Her comment, though innocuous and complementary in intent, bothered me a bit. I later learned this church that had rather recently went through a painful split and was now, due to a decrease in attendance, overstaffed and experiencing a budget deficit. This is by no means a church that constantly harped on money as so many contemporary churches, mega or otherwise, often do. I only heard one sermon on giving/tithing while I was there. It is a wonderful reformed church that values expository preaching and seeks to give glory to Christ.
During that one sermon on tithing, it was mentioned, as a sermon illustration, that there was a church that put up visuals, charts essentially, that exalted those who were the big givers in the church in order to encourage other to give more. That illustration concerned me.
Later, I listened to a sermon by Ed Young, Jr, one of the bigger stars in the constellation of megachurch pastors. In the course of the sermon, he mentioned that if one did not tithe to his church, you could not be a member of his church.
In my previous post, I noted that Perry Noble, another megachurch CEO/pastor from the same mold as Ed Young, Jr, stated that his staff was going to go through ‘the records’ to see who had or had not been tithing, an act problematic in and of itself, and remove those who had not been tithing and volunteering from the church roles. He said God told him to do so.
What has happened with this distorted focus on and understanding of tithing is that something seems to have been added to the Gospel of grace and faith in Christ. Beyond being regenerated and baptized, now you have to submit to what I believe to be an erroneous understanding of the Old Testament tithe to be a member of the New Testament church. Essentially, an errant and distorted requirement of the tithe augments baptism and belief as a standard of membership in the church. It becomes the equivalent of the Mosaic circumcision required to be part of covenant community. Sadly, grace and faith in Christ are not enough to be in the family of those redeemed by the atoning work of the Messiah.
As an addendum, I sat on this post for weeks before posting it. After viewing the following video, I felt compelled to publish.
One might recall the recent controversy surrounding Ed Young, Jr’s church in its leasing of a private jet used to shuttle Mr. Young to the various conferences that he attends, an expenditure that was not revealed to his church until the story reached the media. One might also remind Ed that the Levitical priests who received the tithe, in part the Old Testament tax for Israel, were not allowed to own property.
24When they came to Capernaum, those who collected the two-drachma tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?” 25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?”
26 When Peter said, “From strangers,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are exempt
2 Corinthians 9:7
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
We have all seen the yard signs portraying the list of commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai by Yahweh. They are ubiquitous in my neck of the woods.
I recall seeing a bumper sticker that declared the driver of the car keeps those 10 commandments. If true, it could only have been Jesus driving the car.
The Law, distilled down to its essence, is one must love God with all your heart, mind, and soul…and your neighbor as yourself. Good luck with that.
The problem I have with all those signs in front yards, on tee shirts, and on bumper stickers is that, when honestly evaluated in light of the whole council of Scripture, they are a prescription for death. They only tell the really, really bad news if one does an honest appraisal of oneself in light of the Law. Sadly, self-delusion is perhaps more common that honest self-appraisal, though. Pelagianism is the natural bent of humanity
What is missing from these exhortations to keep the Ten Commandments is the news that, while we cannot obey perfectly and are condemned by our inability to keep the Law, there is One who did keep the Law perfectly and took upon Himself our sin, our grave punishment falling short of the Law. If you display the cause of death, the Law, please let it point to the cause of life, the Gospel of Christ. Tell the whole story. The Law is good, but use it correctly.
Here, in summation, is John Piper on the Law:
“I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”