I don't throw a lot of bones to those hardcore 5-Pointers over at Fide-O, but they bring up another issue that troubles me: whether or not we receive payback for tithing.
If you've been around here long enough, you know that I don't support a ten percent New Testament tithe. I believe the Lord asks us to put everything we have and are into a real NT tithe. Ten percent is easy. Dying to self is another thing altogether, and that "all in" kind of tithe better represents the truth that we've been bought with a price and are not even our own.
So when I read the Fide-O article about a church that's promising blessings out of tithing "or your money back," I squirm a little. (The snarky comments at Fide-O, don't help, either.)
Last week, I wrote what's turned out to be an incredibly popular post, "We Need a Gospel That Speaks to Failure." In that post, I discussed the widow Jesus lauded for giving God her last two coins.
While I wrote that the Bible gives us no assurance that the widow went home and on the way somehow got more in return than what she put in, I really want to believe she did. I REALLY want to believe that because it speaks to the character of God to give out of His abundance to those who hold on loosely to the things of this world. Shouldn't generosity be rewarded?
The two schools of thought on this starkly contrast, and the Bible isn't definitively in one corner or the other:
Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.
—Ecclesiastes 11:1 ESV
Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.
—Malachi 3:10 ESV
"Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you."
—Luke 6:38 ESV
"But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry."
—Luke 6:24-25a ESV
To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.
—1 Corinthians 4:11-13 ESV
But as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.
—2 Corinthians 6:4-10 ESV
Back in March, I asked readers to respond to a set of employment and tithing survey questions. One of those questions was…
Have you personally seen that giving more money in tithing resulted in more coming back?
No question I asked got a more negative response than that one. Probably 9:1 against.
What then to make of those people who do give away ridiculous amounts of money, yet see even more ridiculous amounts coming back? Going to a Pentecostal church, as I do, it's practically carved into stone that the more you give the more you'll receive in return. And I'll be the first to admit that for some people, it sure appears that's true.
But what explains the many readers who don't see that work in their lives, even when they're being more than generous in their giving?
Some good Christians give and receive even more in return. Some good Christians give and give and give, but don't see that return–at least not this side of heaven.
So, readers, which is God's way? And what explains the disparity?