Our Church in 60 Seconds

A friend of mine, Gilbert Davis, tells about a “defining moment” he had in seminary. One day an elderly gentleman he had never met stopped Gilbert in the hallway. “Young man, are you studying to be a minister?” the man asked.When Gilbert replied that he was, the stranger asked if he might talk with him a few minutes. Although unsure of what he was getting into, Gilbert consented. (Several weeks later, he learned that Arthur A. Everetts owned what at that time was the largest jewelry store west of the Mississippi.) After leading Gilbert into an empty classroom, Everetts asked him whether he preached tithing in his student church. Before Gilbert could reply, Everetts gave him a forceful set of arguments for the value of tithing, especially for a young minister who ever hoped to amount to anything for Jesus Christ. At the end of that several-minute sermon, Everetts issued an altar call. Would Gilbert begin giving 10 percent of his income to God’s work?Finally getting a chance to speak, Gilbert drew himself up to his full theological stature at that youthful age and said, “But, sir, we are Christians now. We are New Testament people, not Old Testament. We are not under the Law; we are under Grace.”The old man replied with a question: “Young man, can you show me a verse in the New Testament that says less commitment is expected of a Christian under Grace than of a Jew under the Law? If you can, I will gladly subscribe to your position.”

Since Jesus spoke so often about the power of money to distract us from God, why do the four gospel writers report Jesus saying so little about tithing? He did not need to. Jesus spoke primarily to Jewish people who for a thousand years had assumed that they should give 10 percent of their incomes to God.However, in the one New Testament verse where Jesus mentions the tithe, he affirms its value. Upbraiding the Pharisees because they think they are “super-spiritual,” Jesus calls them hypocrites. They carefully gave God 10 percent of everything—even their garden produce like dill, mint, and cumin. Yet, they failed to give their neighbors love, justice, and mercy. “These you ought to have practiced,” Jesus says, “without neglecting the others” (Mathew 23:23), referring to the tithe.The Christian faith is an attitude of the heart, not just a keeping of regulations. We give our money as an act of worship. We give our money as a way of seeking God’s spiritual kingdom first, not because a rule requires us to give it. Yet, if Jesus assumes that giving 10 percent of your income is important, does it not seem wise for each of us to consider its value in strengthening our spiritual connection with God?(STEWARDSHIP NUGGETS by Herb Miller)