“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable….that the man of God may be complete” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Those who demand a Scripture verse for everything they do place an intolerable burden on the Christian life never intended by the Heavenly Father.
Some among us have all the answers about the Christian life and have solved all the mysteries of doctrine and theology.
Is there a verse of Scripture on that?
These “super-apostles” write me, taking issue with many of the positions we hold in these articles. They have it all worked out and find it incredulous that we do not see matters their way. The only explanation, they conclude, is that I must be a) unsaved or b) willfully blind.
I wrote something about tithing for this website.
One of several online preachers’ magazines picked it up and sent it out to their 75,000 subscribers. The tithe-haters came alive.
In the article, I took the position that we’re simply talking about generous giving, whether it comes out exactly to a tithe or not. I emphasized that this is not about legalism. No church to my knowledge ever checked up to see what I was giving, if it was a tenth or anywhere close to it. No Nazi henchmen invaded our church offices to ride herd on the giving of the staff or the membership.
I thought that was a reasonable statement. We give generously because Scripture commands it, the work of the Lord requires it, and doing so blesses the giver. What’s not to like about that?
From the enraged comments of some readers, you would have thought I was a legalist of the worst sort calling for the strictest kind of tithe and urging that the Gestapo check up to make sure Christians were giving.
More than one person attacked the article without reading it. Had they done so, they would have seen that I wasn’t actually preaching that the tithe is New Testament (only that one can make a case that it is), was not setting the tithe up as the standard, and was not slamming anyone who disagreed.
I was for generous and sacrificial giving, as every believer ought to be.
It would appear that the word “tithe” triggers the reflex mechanisms of some Christians in the way Pavlov’s dogs’ drooled at the sound of the bell.
What about “storehouse giving?” Should my tithes be given only to my church?
Our Lord Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourself treasures on earth…. but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
Did Jesus say our contributions must or should always be given to the local church? Nope, not in so many words. One can make a case–as many have–for the “storehouse” of Malachi 3:10 being the church, but we need to be careful in pushing these things too far. What about the only church in an area being apostate and and the giver sees a family of believers in great need? I might say, “Give it to the needy family.” I have no verse saying to do this. Or, what if one’s church has all the money it needs and more, yet the little church back at home is struggling to stay afloat? As someone asked this week, could our tithes be sent there? Where’s the scripture verse okaying this?
At the moment our Lord honored the widow (Mark 12:41-44) for giving sacrificially into the temple treasury, the place was being run by a bunch of crooks. One chapter earlier (Mark 11:17), Jesus called them “a den of thieves.”
To give or not to give when you disagree with how things are being run down at the church, that is the question. And it’s not a simply “yes or no” affair.
We “see through a glass darkly” (I Corinthians 13:12) on numerous things, and thus must seek God’s will on our knees with our Bibles open before us.
The Bible does not speak to parachurch organizations like Campus Crusade, Intervarsity, and various evangelistic associations, all of which require finances from God’s people. Global Maritime Ministries or Baptist Friendship House simply are not found in Scripture anywhere. And yet the work they do in the name of Jesus is thoroughly biblical.
Is there a verse that tells us what to do? Does Scripture give us the freedom to decide where to put the Lord’s tithe?
(We pause here while a hundred readers suggest a hundred different verses. Help us, Lord.)
I have a Scripture that works for me….
“Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:5-6).
The letter kills; the Spirit gives life.
(When I quoted that in some article, one horrified reader wanted to know where I found such a heretical statement. When we pointed out it was right there in Second Corinthians 3, he was strangely silent.)
When someone wrote asking if I could give them a verse of Scripture telling when they should move their membership to another church, I said, “There ain’t one. Ask the Lord.”
God’s people must be wary of proof-texting our actions, of justifying what we decide to do by a verse of Scripture, and of the need to find one before acting.
It would have been literally impossible for the Lord to give us a Bible big enough to include verses that cover every conceivable situation. And so, He did a huge thing….
He decided to indwell believers.
The Holy Spirit, author of our Bible (see 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:21), lives inside believers to guide us in decision-making.
How blessed we are. How wonderful He is.
“He leadeth me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3).
The Holy Spirit, Jesus said, “will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26). He will “guide you into all truth,” He said in John 16:13.
In my experience, the Spirit loves to use the written Word to speak to us and direct our actions. But that does not mean He is limited to this. “He does whatever He pleases,” says Psalm 115:3, no doubt meaning He uses whatever methods are to His liking at the moment. Even a jackass, as is often pointed out.
Read the Word. Obey it.
At this point, many readers are eager to add that “We find principles in God’s word and apply them to the thousands of situations where He has not spoken.” True enough. But the primary principle, one that covers every situation, and has been tested ten thousand times in every generation is this:
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and he will direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
The legalists among us despise this because it removes Scripture from being a rule-book and puts the onus on believers to stay close to the Lord in heart and in life. And that is a much more difficult proposition. But it’s how the Christian life works.