Saturday, 13 February 2010

Tithing??? Papa???

13 February 2010

I’ve started buying eggs (for the street ministry) in boxes full of flats. The price is a bit lower than buying by a dozen, and most of the eggs in the flats are extra-large size, rather than just large. (I’ve also discovered that it really makes a difference which store you buy eggs at… A dozen eggs can range from under $2 a dozen, up to as much as $3.75 a dozen for the identical brand!). Thank You for this wonderful provision! The guys love their boiled-egg protein on cold mornings!

I went through my personal book-keeping very carefully yesterday… and once again I am amazed at how wonderfully You supply our needs! Thank You, thank You!!! 

Father, you know that for the past year, after many, many years of “tithing faithfully” to “our church,” You moved us! It was not the move we expected – we thought we’d be moving to another community. But You moved us out of “our church” into involvement with reaching out to others in our jobs and on the streets of our community. We have learned much of what Your church is, and what it means to be part of the “church at ___ [our community/region/place where You’ve placed us].”

And in the process, we’ve also been moved out of simply setting aside 10% of our income, and putting it into the offering plate “at church.” There is a certain “comfort” in that kind of “tithing/offering” because one can confidently say, “Oh yes, I always give my 10%” (or whatever amount), and one can even get an income tax charitable deduction. Of course, sometimes I’ve been kind of concerned about how that money is being spent… and then, there have been times when we’ve actually bought necessities like food with our credit card, so we could make that full 10% (though many times You have honored us by stretching our money “impossibly” far!!). And there have been times I would have loved to have “spread the tithe around” a bit, by contributing some of it to causes You have laid on my heart… but when I did, occasionally, there was always this “guilt” hanging over, because we’ve been told so often that we must “Give our 10% to the church we attend, and if we want to give offerings above that, those can go to other causes.”

Well, I really don’t know if I gave 10% (or more, or less) in the past year. Quite possibly considerably less, I’m thinking, certainly less in actual, measurable “dollar” terms. But I wonder if this new kind of “tithing” we’ve been doing isn’t more like “biblical tithing.” And maybe, thereby, more honoring to You, too. Because, as a former pastor used to tell us, tithing isn’t just about money (“treasure”), it’s about “time” and “talents” too. And those aren’t nearly as “measurable” but in some respects they might be of even greater “value.” And of course, even in the Bible, the “tithe” (which is, of course, an Old Covenant/Testament concept, anyway), was “in kind” … the “first fruits” (which, with the various requirements actually was more like about 30% in the long run) of crops, animals… even herbs from the family garden! While the money given seems to have been mostly “offerings” for needs as they came up, or as special “thanksgiving offerings” to You. And so far as that “10% tithe” figure goes… Jesus commended the poor woman for giving “two mites” … just pennies … far more than the bucket-loads of coins the rich were proudly pouring into the offering box – for in those two mites, she gave literally every penny she had, while the rich men just gave “petty cash,” impressive as it appeared to the on-lookers.

How have we been tithing? Well, I’m not going to go into details, for obvious reasons (that’s scriptural too!). But, herewith just a few examples: baking goodies for my street family… inviting people for meals with us… giving people money as needs come up (ie medical needs, supporting families who’ve lost jobs in this economy, or whatever) … donating to poverty-stricken third world nations, and other things like that, that Father has put on my heart … sewing up people’s clothes that are falling apart … giving free hair cuts … giving away some of our own “things” to others who need them more than we do… and yes, still giving money to gatherings of Your church as You lead…

Now here’s an interesting thing… Papa, I must admit I do sometimes feel kind of “guilty” for “tithing” this way on things that actually do give me great joy and pleasure! (It seemed to me, sometimes, in the past, that this “tithing” business was more of a duty, though You so often blessed us… but I am finding this new kind of “giving” – which more like occurs as You open up opportunities and lay needs on my heart – is generally far more spontaneous and “generous” in terms of being from my heart … from Your heart!?!?) (And, okay, I know that “churches” really do “need” that steady income to maintain their salaries and building and other costs… but oh, dear, I do wonder so often how many of those “costs” are really unnecessary… kind of like the cost of the Olympic Games when there is so much poverty everywhere…)

I’ve been struggling, though, with all this. Sometimes I really am “sorry” (or maybe “apologetic” is a better word… if you get my drift…) that we went for a whole year last year without making hardly any “real tithe” donations… well, except for all the on-going time/talent/treasure stuff which I know some people think “doesn’t count” …. Certainly, we didn’t spend the “thousands” I could confidently – and, oh dear, perhaps a bit smugly – point to in the past… but I’m beginning to wonder if that “tithing tradition” isn’t, after all, maybe to “easy” a solution to “real needs” and to “truly building the kingdom of God.” As a friend said the other day, it is “easier” to sign a cheque (to “our church” or even to “a third world outreach”), but maybe a lot harder to “go out into the highways and hedges” of our own communities (and wherever else, in this world, You lay on our hearts), and “compel them to come in to the banqueting table” (like in the parable…).

Reminds me of that song we used to sing:
“He brings me to His banqueting table…
His banner over me is LOVE”

I sense that the new covenant way of giving is a whole lot more about love, compassion, generosity, kindness, and so on… than about supporting the “structure” of the old covenant laws and related temple duties and such…


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