Banking on God: The Tithe, Part 2


See Acts 4:34-35Today’s post is a tough word that may anger a few people. Asking people to give is always a tricky proposition. In the Church, it’s an even more sensitive issue because we have tied giving with our spirituality. Plenty of churches still exist where one’s piety is measured by how readily one ponies up the moolah.

And that brings us to the tithe.

My belief on giving money within the church is what I call “The Quick, Dead Priest” model. And nope, you won’t be hearing anyone else labeling what follows by that name. I believe, though, that this model best represents the true New Testament model of giving.

The first truth: Christians have been crucified with Christ and are now dead to the world.

The Bible is full of legal truths, the kind lawyers love. And one universal legal truth is that a dead man can’t own anything. Whatever once belonged to the deceased must be passed on to heirs. You can’t take it with you. End of story.

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
—Colossians 3:3

As Christians, we have been united to Christ in His death. The stamp of the death certificate on your life and mine is the cross. Being in Christ means being in no one or no thing else. You, therefore, are not your own. You have been bought with the price of Christ’s death.

Outcome? You own nothing, not even yourself.

Therefore, all this talk of “what is mine” is just that, talk. Christians have no legal precedent to claim they own anything. God may indeed bless you with property and possession, but under the legal system of the Kingdom of God, you are merely stewarding what belongs to someone else. And that someone is God.

The second truth: The death and resurrection of Jesus permanently ended the temple system instituted in the Old Covenant.

This understanding is critical. We no longer perform sacrifices because Christ, the perfect sacrifice, died, satisfying the demand of blood as a covering for sin. Because Christ satisfied all conditions of the Law in Himself, if we are in Him, then we no longer must strive to fulfill the Law. (Don’t believe me? Sit down and read the entire book of Galatians in one sitting. Then read it again for good measure! Follow that up with the entirety of Hebrews.)

One of the hallmarks of the old temple system was the Aaronic priesthood. The giving of tithes in the Old Testament went to support the work of the Aaronic priesthood. The temple economy, based on the tithe of one-tenth, existed to keep the temple system running, to care for the priests (who were allowed no other forms of income under the Law), and to ensure the purity of the people before God through the sacrifices.

But Christ eliminated the old temple system. The sacrifices are gone. The flawed Aaronic priesthood and all that pertained to it, including the mandatory one-tenth tithe used to support it, was put aside, surpassed by the perfect priesthood of Christ. To prove the case even more thoroughly, the Sovereign God oversaw the destruction of the temple itself in 70 AD.

The old has passed away. The new has come.

Under that new priesthood of Christ, you and I are the priests. For all you Protestants out there, the Reformation was built, in part, on the idea of the priesthood of all believers:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
—1 Peter 2:9

But our priesthood is radically different. It’s a priesthood of equals. It’s a priesthood of community. It’s a priesthood that has God living inside each priest, not in a temple built by human hands. And that truth radically transforms how we must view giving.

The third truth: Each priest in the Kingdom of God in Christ is quickened by the Holy Spirit and that quickening informs giving.

The priests of the Old Covenant did not have the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, hence the need for a man-made temple. The priests of the New Covenant, however, do have God living inside them. We see how that plays out immediately after Pentecost:

And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.
—Acts 2:44-45

That concept is expanded two chapters later:

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common…. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
—Acts 4:32, 34-35

Upon being filled with the promised Holy Spirit, the first thing the new priests of Christ did was to ensure that no one among them lacked for anything. They sold houses, properties, whatever, to ensure that the new priests were provided for. The difference in this priesthood, though, was that everyone was a priest, so all were entitled to the largess of the community, not just a certain tribe or class. All. And the payment? Everything, to the point that no one claimed personal entitlement.

Another truth emerges. The new priesthood did not build on the ashes of the old. It was and is a new thing that God has done. It relies not on Law, but on the indwelling Holy Spirit.

God created a new economy and with that economy comes a radically transformed idea of giving:

The one-tenth tithe has been abolished. Totally. It does not persist in any way in the new Kingdom economy.

As the Bible says:

In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
—Hebrews 8:13

The new standard of giving has replaced the old. The old was for men and women who did not have God dwelling inside them. The old was for men and women who had not been crucified with Christ and therefore dead to the world. The new asks everything of us. It asks for our houses, our possessions, our jobs,our kids, our spouses…even our very lives. It’s all on the table and can be used for the purposes of the Lord any way He chooses, even if that means that we must be martyred so as to accomplish His goals for the Kingdom.

How will you know how much to bring and whether His call on you is to simply give $20 or go so far as to sacrifice your life?

The Bible tells us:

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth….”
—John 16:13a


For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
—Romans 8:14

The mark of our acceptance into the new economy of God, into His new Kingdom, is that we are led by the Spirit of God. The truth revealed by the Spirit will show us exactly what we should be doing with the money He’s given us to steward.

So how is it that far too many of us cling to patterns of given obsoleted by God’s new economy? Why do so many continue to endorse a ten percent tithe?

Because it’s easy.

It’s easy because it requires so little of us.

It’s easy because it asks nothing of going before God to inquire of Him by the Spirit to know what we should be giving in any and all situations

It’s easy because it doesn’t require us to live by “Give us this day our daily bread.”

It’s easy because it doesn’t ask us to give until it hurts, to take up our cross daily and follow Christ.

And that’s the problem in a nutshell. The old economy asked very little. The new economy in which dead men and women made alive in Christ are priests in a new Kingdom…that economy looks messy, fuzzy, and difficult compared with the old economy. However, the new is one thing the old is not: perfect.

If we want to see the Church be what She is intended to be by Her Bridegroom, then we MUST start living under the new economy of His Kingdom. Not the old economy, but the new.

Now if only more of our churches in America understood this.


Banking On God: Series Compendium

Banking on God: The Tithe, Part 1


What Would George Do?Here comes the offering plate. Is it panic time?

Last week, I ran a series of polls soliciting reader votes on topics pertaining to the Church and money. This week, and part of next, I’ll be unpacking those results and commenting.

The first poll dealt with the tithe, and I’ve got say that the results surprised me. See, I’ve talked to a wide range of people, and my experience has been that you get people talking about tithing and inevitably the conversation turns negative. I’m not sure I’ve ever talked with peers or younger who were completely happy with their church’s position on tithing, the amount of money they themselves gave, or the way in which tithe money was spent (which will be covered in the Church Finances commentary following later this week).

But Cerulean Sanctum readers appear to be largely satisfied with all those factors.

Let’s take a look at the final results and I’ll offer some commentary


Right off, I botched the wording on this question since the one answer that garnered no votes was supposed to be “free will offering” option, but the words obligated and anything made it sound too restrictive. I should have said, “…no one is obligated to give a specific amount or percentage of income.” Oh well. Plenty of readers wrote to tell me that their Other vote meant to encompass that position.

I was shocked at the outcome that got the most votes since I can honestly say that despite being a part of seventeen churches in the course of my lifetime, not a single one formally taught that position. And those churches ran the gamut of denominations, too. So color me surprised.

This surprising result is a good thing, though, in that perhaps more people are willing to go the second mile on helping others no matter how much it might inconvenience the giver. If more of us held that position, I suspect our churches would function more like the early Church in our largess.

I thought that the 10 percent tithe position would run away with this one.

As for my position (and the one I think is biblical), tune into my next post as I unpack it for you. Needless to say, I’m sure I’ll cheese off a few people.

But we’ll have to wait and see!


With nearly 70 percent of people saying they at least mostly agree with their church’s position on tithing, I’d venture to say this supposedly contentious issue of giving must not be that contentious after all. In fact, I’d suspect that we’d all be hard pressed to find a topic within Christianity that has 70 percent buy-in.

I guess few are writing letters to their church’s leadership on this issue. Knowing also that Cerulean Sanctum attracts a large number of people who are looking for a deeper church experience, I must contend that tithing is not the issue that has them wondering or searching for something deeper.



Given that a majority said they believed that their church gave more money than most other churches, yet a similar percentage said that their church leaders only talked about giving once or twice a year…well, those must be highly persuasive messages, even if rarely given!

I’d love to see the denominational and income factors behind this answer, too. When I was a member of a prosperous Presbyterian church, I never once heard a message on tithing or giving. Never. That church always had great gobs of money, too. On the other hand, I was part of an enormous Third Wave charismatic church that appealed to the same demographic as the Presbyterian church (and was, in fact, made up of a large number of folks who left that Presbyterian church). That Third Wave church didn’t appeal for money much either, yet it also struggled at times due to poor giving response.

My current church is definitely not as wealthy as either of those previous churches, yet it gives very generously. Major difference? I get an elder-delivered message each week on giving 10 percent. My experience has been the more blue collar the church, the more likely it is to have a regular message on giving, and if the church also happens to be Assemblies of God, Pentecostal, or another Azusa Street revival offspring, the likelihood goes up even more. Of course, YMMV.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this.


Though most people seem satisfied with the frequency of messages on giving they receive, I’d like to hear from the people who feel they don’t hear this message enough. Why do you feel that way? What is the financial health of your church?

As for people who hear the message too often, I understand, especially if that message is not as biblical as it should be.


I’m encouraged that people felt that they gave a satisfactory amount. I know that I never feel perfectly comfortable on this issue. I commiserate with Liam Neeson as Oskar Schindler near the end of Schindler’s List as he laments his inability to do even more than he had.

A couple in our church had their house burn down this week. That’s about as critical as it gets. A young man who was recently baptized in our church had his house burn down about three months earlier. You hear that kind of need and no dollar amount seems large enough on that check you write.

For the 1 out of 4 of you who share my feeling, what’s going on in your head on this issue? I’d like to know. Thanks in advance for being willing to comment.


Again, the positive or neutral feelings outweighed any negative ones. I think that’s great. For those in the positive column, would anyone be willing to share what approach the leadership of your church employs when talking about giving? I’m sure any pastors reading this who struggle when speaking to their church about giving would like to know how others are communicating that message effectively.


Another positive response. Almost 70 percent of you feel you are giving as much or more than the average person at your church.

I’m not surprised at this, though. I think the people who read Christian blogs are more highly attuned to issues facing the church and are probably a cut above average on income and intelligence. I suspect readership is mostly white collar, and thus higher-earning.

I also know that people come here because they share some of the concerns I raise on this blog, and I talk about financial issues more than most other Godbloggers, so readers are more attuned to that need than average—at least I would guess that would be the case.


I don’t know too many churches north of the Mason-Dixon Line that still publish personal giving numbers for public consumption. I’m aware that a few true fundamentalist churches still make this a practice, but I’ve got to believe in this age of seeker sensitivity that having a church publish the amount a person gives would be akin to being coerced into giving the morning’s message on the spot, and in the buff, too. Not something too many of us would be willing to endure.

That said, most of you have clear consciences.

On the other hand, I feel for the folks who said they didn’t feel like they gave enough. It’s a guilty feeling, though no guilt should ever be associated with giving what one can. The widow had two mites, but she outshone the rest of the temple. When we consider that the outer temple was capable of holding 200,000 people, she did some seriously outshining. Enough for Jesus to notice and praise her. For those who feel they don’t give enough, I pray you can know the Lord’s praise on this issue. Every little bit counts. And if we can’t give money, God knows that some of the best gifts are either free or a big investment in time.


That magical almost-70-percent showed up again here as that number felt their church gave as much or more than most churches. Again, that’s a comforting number.

And yet, when I think of the homeless, the unadopted, and the vast need out there, I have to wonder if we’re really as generous as we say we are.

No doubt, Americans are more generous than most of the world’s people. A few years ago, Americans gave $280,000,000,000 in charitable contributions. That’s close to a thousand dollars for every American. That’s not bad. Of course, it can always be better.

I don’t know how Christians figure into that number. I certainly hope we are more generous than the general public, but the stats on this can be conflicting. Last time I talked about this with some servers, they universally hated the lousy tips they got from church people who visited their restaurants right after church.

I certainly hope we can do better, especially considering the majority answer on that first poll question.

As I promised, this issue of tithing will be a two-part commentary. So come back for the follow-up post as I talk about what I see as the Bible’s standard for giving.

Thank you for all who voted. I’m grateful.

Got your own commentary on these poll results? The comments are open. Fire away!


Banking On God: Series Compendium

Banking on God: The Crisis Poll


Today’s poll is the last one for this series! If you haven’t already, please vote on previous polls. Each one is vital for the commentary I’ll be providing next week! You’ll find a list of polls at the end of this post.


This week at Cerulean Sanctum, I’ve been gathering polling info for a look at how American Christians view money issues, both personal and in the Church. Most polls will run for about six days. So please vote. After the polls close, I’ll offer the results and my commentary on the issues and answers related to the poll questions and results.

Thanks for participating!

(Note to those reading by RSS: to participate in this week’s polls, you’ll need to come to the site to vote. Thanks!)

Crises will come, the Bible says. We all endure the little ones, though it’s sometimes hard to tell if the one we’re in is the beginning of the Final Crisis or not. Even now, the United States is facing some turbulent economic times if the news media are to be believed.

How set are we Christians to manage through crises? And how does our view of crises influence how we live?

To vote on the nine questions below, simply log your responses. This poll runs through 6:00 PM, Wednesday, March 5, 2008. A day or so after, I’ll tally the votes and post them with my commentary.










Thank you for your answers!


If you’ve not voted already, please vote on the following polls:

The Tithing Poll – Open until 6:00 PM, Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Church Finances Poll – Open until 6:00 PM, Monday, March 3, 2008

The Theology Poll – Open until 6:00 PM, Tuesday, March 4, 2008