Friday, July 21, 2006

How much should we give?

Ant drew our attention to Andy Hickford's recent Christianity Magazine article, something which drew a lot of very strong mailbag response in the issues since Easter. Some extracts:

...When it comes to Jesus and the law, it can be a bit confusing. Matthew 5:17 says that Jesus came to fulfil the law. Romans 3:31 says that he upholds the law. In Romans 7:6 it says that Jesus released us from the law and in Ephesians 2 Paul writes that Jesus abolished the law! So, just what is the relationship between Jesus and the Old Testament’s laws?! Basically, Jesus replaces the Old Testament law. In him it is all fulfilled and upheld, because he completes it. We are released from its regulation and condemnation- that’s what meant by ‘He abolished the law.’ However, its wisdom and history is fulfilled in Christ.
How does this work with Martin Downes' observation that instruction on parenting is take straight out of the law and applied for Christians?
...most Christians I know don’t need freedom from tithing – or even freedom from the guilt of not tithing -they need freedom from consumerism. Like the Pharisees before us, it’s so easy to ‘strain the gnat’ of doing our tithing exegesis, only then to swallow the whole cultural camel of ‘Bigger, Better, Newer Faster’ – of more. The early church father Cyprian was right ‘on the money’ for today, when he said of his generation “Their property held them in chains, chains which shackled their courage and choked their faith, hampered their judgement and throttled their souls.”
Is the real issue with the way we spend rather than give? I find it very interesting that the church father's pick up on exactly the same issue... we easily blame our culture for the way that money compromises us but this pre-dates our capitalism. Could it be that we're so compromised that there is no escape? If not, where is the freedom going to come from?
I try to navigate my choices with John Stott’s great summary of the Christian’s attitude to money – ‘generosity simplicity and contentment’ as my mantra. I try to keep Petersons lovely translation of Mathew 6 foremost in my mind ‘ What I am trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so occupied with getting, so you can respond to Gods giving.’ But if I’m honest, whilst helpful these things don’t solve my dilemmas....Maybe these decisions are not supposed to be made from some rule book, but in conversation with the law giver himself - a life-long journey of changing seasons and themes.
Is giving just going to come back to subjective decisions and prayerful exercise of wisdom? Or, can we develop some guiding principles to help us along the way? The letter response to Hickford that most sticks in my memory is one that feared that if obligation to tithe was removed giving would fall meaning that pastors end up out of work, is that a valid fear?

8 comments:

  1. Not really sure where to start theologically so thought would share personal...

    In my experience I have never in a church setting heard anybody talk about giving - especially tithing. The normal is just at the AGM people saying we need more money so as to meet expenditure predictions.

    I dont know if the comment about pastors or others going out of a job if people are not told to tithe is valid, as my church dont mention it ever and we support two workers plus a bunch of other stuff. Saw some good stuff on all this on Redeemer Pres. website.

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  2. The issue indubitably encompasses both the way we spend and giving. We could be thrifty in spending but hoard what we thereby save! Generosity and contentment have a lot to do with it: they seem the themes when posessions are mentioned in the epistles. As always, things to be trained rather than mandated.

    Perhaps many have stuck with the tithe idea because then (if everyone knows they should tithe) they don't have to (horrors) talk about money in church, or (what is harder) challenge & encourage each other in generosity and contentment.

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  3. Its interesting that you both observe money isn't talked about much. It was Tim Chester's observation in Good News to the Poor that got me started on this whole money study.... he borrows someone else's anecdote that if you cut out every money reference from the Bible it would fall apart...

    I wonder if its a British/Western cultural thing that stops us talking about money, or at least about our giving... Jesus it seems is quite happy to talk about it.

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  4. I think it as least partly a godly urge to obey Jesus instructions about right and left hands.
    But I agree, it sometimes becomes like not mentioning the war.

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  5. I suppose there is a difference between whether giving is done privately or not... and talking about money and giving as an issue.... and IF giving were not to be as simple a matter as 10% then exploration of the issues is more necessary to help people make wise decisions.

    How do we develop contentment & generosity when the air we breathe is all about progressing, climbing, having more, and having more now?

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  6. One thing would be to talk about it more, challenge and encourage each other about it more. (As Brits?) we tend to be embarassed, don't want to be impolite: but I know I'd appreciate the challenges and encouragements of a friend towards contentment and generosity. Too often we copy the world: congratulating each other on new purchases, or encouraging them, without a thought.

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  7. I guess the talking more about our spiritual life applies to all areas of life - encouraging, challenging, instructing, rebuking one another from the word... helping one another grow up in Christ.

    "What is God doing in your life?"

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  8. I would concur that I would definately appreciatte more challenge on this issue as well as just about every other.

    Its something I genuinely worry about as I start my career in law. Oh to be thankful that I have much so I can give away much!

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