Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sproul Asks the Wrong Question

R. C. Sproul is one of my favorite authors and theologians. Nevertheless, I think he asks the wrong question in a blog post entitled "Is Tithing Wrong?" It is short; I encourage you to read it.

A better question for followers of Jesus Christ to ask is, "What principle should govern my giving of the money/resources God has entrusted me with?" (I realize that question ends with a preposition, which is a grammatical no-no. Sorry. I couldn't think of a better way to word it.)

What does the bible say about the issue of giving? In the passage Sproul mentions Jesus does not condemn tithing, rather He condemns the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. Interestingly, however, Jesus does not tell us anywhere to tithe. In fact, nowhere in the New Testament do we see the church tithing. So what should we do?

Paul addresses giving very clearly in II Corinthians 9:6-7, saying. "The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

We see the early church practice this in Acts 11:27-30, "Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). So the disciples determined, everyone according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul."

The early Christians understood that giving was a heart issue. II Cor. 9:6-7 makes it very clear that we must each decide what to give at any point in time. This is not to be done reluctantly or under compulsion, but out of joy.

If we want to be biblical people, we will give freely and joyfully. When we do this, we may not even know exactly how much we have given. We need to be "money in - money out" people (in terms of giving to those in need).

Why tithe when A) it is not a New Testament church practice, and B) it is not a joy-filled practice?

Sproul gets it wrong here. Let's give as Paul describes in II Cor. 9.

14 comments:

Arthur Sido said...

I have a hard time taking Sproul seriously when it comes to giving when I get an appeal for money on a daily basis from Ligonier.

Eric said...

Arthur,

I get the same mailings. Sigh.

I really like Sproul's writings as long as he stays away from discussing the church. His views on church are, how shall I say it, typical.

Aussie John said...

Eric,

How can we even dare to tithe what is already belonging to God?

Surely the N.T. teaches that everything followers of Christ are, and have, belongs to God. If that is so, it is a matter of good stewardship of that with which we have been entrusted, sharing as the need arises.

100% is the minimum, not 10%!

Eric said...

John,

Sproul, like so many, seems to be trying to justify the tithe. I don't understand why other than to try get get more people to give toward programs, salaries, and buildings. I like Sproul, but in this area he just plain gets it wrong.

Scripture Zealot said...

"That doesn’t mean God won’t be upset if we rob Him by failing to tithe."

This is typical pastor-speak. Same with using Hebrews 10:24 as (local) church attendance.

I like Sproul but pastors are very traditional in a bad way when it comes to some of these things.
Jeff

Eric said...

Jeff,

I suppose we can learn from this how tradition and pragmatics influences our scripture interpretation. What a danger those things can be!

bowdenblog said...

I have honestly been wrestling through the issue of tithing lately, I'm glad you mentioned this in your post. Here is what I'm struggling with: If I continue tithing to my church then that money is going towards (1) the pastor's salary (2) maintenance of the building (3) whatever is left over is put towards "ministry." The money given to ministry is spent on buying new computers, a new drum set, on renovating the landscaping, and on a big church-service in the public park. The loose change is given towards overseas missions. Now, I believe that pastors should be self-supporting, that buildings usually drain resources, and that the church exists to reach the nations. So by tithing to my local church, I am actually supporting a structure that I don't agree with. Money that would have otherwise been given more directly towards the great commission is now tied down supporting church "the way it's always been done." So what should I do? Based on my understanding of the NT, I don't think I'm obligated to tithe. Should I begin giving my resources elsewhere to the detriment of both my local church and the income of my pastor? I'd appreciate your input as I wrestle through this issue.

Alan Knox said...

Andy,

I know you asked your question to Eric, and I'm sure he'll offer a very thoughtful answer. But, if you don't mind, I'd like to respond as well.

First, refusing to put money in an offering plate in order to support an organizational structure is not the same as supporting the church. In the same way, refusing to put money in an offering plate in order to support an organizational structure is not the same as failing to support the church. In fact, if you see the organizational structure as detrimental to the church, then perhaps it is better NOT to support that organization.

Just my 2 cents...

-Alan

Eric said...

Andy,

Thanks for commenting.

I can understand your struggles. The difficulty we face is that our churches in this country have so many unbiblical practices. We want to support our churches, but struggle because we see the difference between the biblical model and what is happening today.

Have you talked this over with your pastor? I think it would be helpful for you to do so. I wonder what he would say.

What does Dr. Black do? I respect him a great deal. I'd be interested to know.

Something else you could do is continue to give some money to the regular church offering, while at the same time give to help the needy in your community and to support international missions.

In the end, you may find that you cannot in good conscience any longer give toward salaries, programs, and buildings. This may lead to other uncomfortable conclusions on your part.

God bless you brother as you work through these things. I know it is difficult. I'll pray for you about it.

Eric

bowdenblog said...

Thanks, Eric and Alan, for your feedback. I've been mulling these issues over for a while and appreciate the guidance. I like what you said about the difference between giving to the church vs. the organizational structure. I also will consider the idea of giving a portion to the local assembly. Perhaps I could even designate these funds to the areas of ministry within the assembly that seem most important

Arthur Sido said...

Eric,

I really like Sproul's writings as long as he stays away from discussing the church. His views on church are, how shall I say it, typical.

That is where I am as well. There a lot of men that I love to study from and who have a lot of helpful stuff to say (Sproul, MacArthur, DeYoung, etc.) but whenever they teach on the church, it seems they quickly stray from exegesis to tradition defending.

James said...

Logic says,

Tithing brings in money, money pays bills
Preaching the tithe brings in money
Money pays bills

Still looking for the verse that says we pay bills for building maintenance and salaries...

Eric said...

James,

Pragmatism so often make decisions for us. We often forget to actually search the scriptures.

craigbenno1 said...

Part of the problem with the current teaching on the tithe is it ignore the fact that the OT people only paid a 10% tithe of one year, every 3 years.

And that tithe was supposed to be used to support refugee's, widows, orphans and poor.

However, there were times when God called people to support the building of the temple, synagogues etc... therefore I see nothing wrong as such for a church to have a vision of building a community etc.. with the expectation of the community paying for it..

However lets be real about it and call it what it is... I know a pastor in Australia... he built up a multi million dollar building.. it was paid for.. he walked away from that denomination. He lives on faith, tells the congregation that they will take up an offering which goes into programs for the community and what ever they want to give.. they are to give..