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Over the years I have gotten (and had myself) questions about whether or not the tithe (giving the first 10% of our income back to God as prescribed by the law) was biblical. Let me give you brief answer to some of those questions that demonstrate how I have learned to approach them.

1. Isn’t tithing Old Testament law? Aren’t we free of that? Yes and No.

A. Tithing is a part of the law, and Jesus has definitely fulfilled it all in our place so that we are free from it’s bondage. However, the purposes of the law were (generally speaking) 3-fold:

1. To show us what God was like;

2. To reveal how far short we fall of God’s character;

3. To show us how to thrive in the creation God has placed us in.

None of those 3 purposes faded with the death of Jesus. If anything, Jesus’ coming intensified them. We saw more of what God was like, what holiness was like, and what a man acting in perfect harmony with creation was like. As it relates to the tithe, the law reveals the unchanging character of God and how He expects us to view the money HE provided for us. A minimum of 10% that he has given to us, whether we are rich or poor, is to go back into His work. This is how He set up the world order. This is why the “tithe” principle (the first 10% of income going into God’s work) is taught pre-law (Abraham); law (Moses); post-exile (Malachi); and even affirmed under Jesus (Matthew 23:23). God’s purposes for creation haven’t changed. We are no longer under the theocratic nation state of Israel, but how God has set up his economy for His people has not changed. God doesn’t lay the financial weight of the entire world on any of our shoulders, but He has given His people a plan whereby they do their part. The law was given to help people live in the shalom of God. That’s what gives the law (principles like taking a Sabbath and the tithe) an enduring effect. Thus, the idea that 10% of all that God gives to you is given for you to give back to Him remains, I believe, as a good guide to our giving.

Now, let me be clear — Jesus left us under NO PART of the law, not the tithe or any thing else! But the law, in that it reflects God’s character and his ordering of creation, is still good, and still functions as a guide to how we are to live under God in this world. Men and women of God throughout the Bible, including Abraham and Jesus, seemed to recognize that. See John Piper for more on this.

B. If anything, the Gospel raises the level of our response to God’s laws. True obedience, Jesus says, goes much deeper than the behavior standards the law require. For example, the law said “Don’t murder;” yet, Jesus said the Gospel demanded we love our brother always and not hate him, not even our enemies. The law said “Don’t commit adultery;” yet, Jesus said that the Gospel demanded people not even “look on another woman with lust in our heart.” So, if the law says “Give 10%,” what kind of generosity does the Gospel call for? Would it not be GREATER generosity than 10%, just as the other commands were also intensified in Christ? In other words, if the people who saw God’s generosity in the Exodus responded with giving 10%, how much more should people who have seen the cross? This is why you see the early church giving FAR beyond 10%. So overwhelmed by the generosity of Christ, they wanted to pour out their possessions for those in need (2 Cor 8:9).

For Gospel-touched people, tithing should never be the ceiling of their giving, but it should be the floor.

Tithing, in and of itself, is not a iron-clad rule for Christians as it was for Israelites under the law. That said, “giving our firstfruits to God” most definitely IS a biblical principle, true of God’s people in all places and at all times. And 10% is a great place to start with that.

2. Should I give the tithe “pre-tax”, or post-tax? In the OT, God called the tithe a “firstfruit” (cf. 1 Cor 16:2). This meant their giving to God came first before anything else. That teaches pretty clearly that our giving to God comes before Uncle Sam takes his share. God gets the firstfruits, not the second ones.

3. When during the month should I give? The principle of “firstfruits” also show you, in my opinion, that the tithe check should be written first, and not at the end of the month when you see how much left over you have. If you do the latter, you will inevitably never have enough to give God 10%. You’re giving him your scraps. But if you do the former, you will inevitably adjust your lifestyle around what you have left. And, God also will find a way to multiply His blessings to you. I’ve seen that happen in my own life multiple times. It’s pretty exciting.

4. Should we give to the church, or other things? In the OT system, the tithe went to the work of God’s institution, the Temple. Caring for the poor beyond what the Temple did, or funding an itinerant rabbi, etc, all came out beyond the tithe. I believe the implication is that tithing should go to God’s new institution, the local church. Hopefully you have a church that you feel good about how they spend their money (not all on buildings, entitlement perks for members and pastors, etc) and you see them working in the streets and unreached parts of the world. Give some grace here, of course… it’s always easy to play armchair quarterback and talk about how you’d do it differently. I’d say if you trust your pastors, however, you honor God by giving to the institution He ordained. Then, give like a Gospel-touched fool beyond that to all the things God has put in your heart.

I hope this helps. I know some of you might think this is self-serving… as in when people tithe, my own means as a pastor are provided. I guess there’s no way around that for me, but I can tell you that my passion in this area has little to do with that. We have enough people who believe in our church that I’m not worried right now about where my next paycheck will come from. In other words, if this bothers you, we don’t need your money. Give it somewhere else, but I want you to experience the joy of obedience and faith in this area. I’d rather you obey the principle and give somewhere else (even if you come to our church) than I would miss out on this principle of trust and obedience because you think I’m being manipulative. God will take care of us. You focus on obeying Him, and if this feels manipulative, give to someone else besides the Summit Church.

5. How does this work out for your family, J.D.? When Veronica and I first got married, we had to stretch ourselves unbelievably thin to tithe. As God has increased our income over the years, we have yearly increased the percentage of what we give. We now give way above the tithe to our church, and then beyond that to ministries blessing the poor, carrying the Gospel to the world, and some to our church’s expansion project, Believe. We love it. Veronica last night said, “This is so fun… giving.” It really is more blessed to give than to receive. God really has multiplied what we have given to him and given it back to us “in every way,” –financially, in joy, in perspective, etc (2 Cor 8-9). We love it.

Here’s a recent message you might listen to, if it helps.It’s called “A Life Responding to the Gospel: 2 Chronicles 29:2-21″ preached on 2/21/11.

Here’s a tool for those of you who do want to give to our church.

Here’s info our church’e expansion project, Believe.

Always open to your comments! Do you have a great story about God’s faithfulness to you in the midst of your giving? I’d love to hear it. Post it below!

Exciting Days Ahead!

Posted by Pastor J.D. on May 3, 2010
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Believe Recap from The Summit Church on Vimeo.

The Believe Project has helped us take some necessary and exciting steps to expand our facilities for the next year of ministry. Summit, we’ve had the most evangelistically fruitful year ever, and grown by nearly 30%. Yesterday an Asian girl with a Communist background who has been visiting for a while trusted Christ in the Bay. I keep having conversations with complete skeptics who come weekly to our West Club Campus. The momentum and excitement over at the Cole Mill Campus is palpable. When I hear the Summit en Espanol band warming up each Saturday night (they are really good!) I can’t believe we actually have that going on at our church. The North Raleigh campus launch has gobs and gobs people ready to roll!

As always, I remind you that buildings are not the point, reaching people with Jesus and sending them out as His witnesses is the point. Buildings are only tools for us to get the job done. So we build minimally and efficiently, not grandly and luxuriously. We’ll build an aircraft carrier to empower Christians to do the work of the ministry in the community, not a luxury liner to “minister” to the whims and preferences of believers… and we trust that God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply!

Sunday Night Download

Posted by Pastor J.D. on April 4, 2010
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Addendum: (talked to our staff today–Tuesday, 4/6/2010, so I added a few stories in the
below from them)… Note to you… Summit, this was the most evangelistically fruitful weekend
we’ve ever had–not just in terms of numbers, but in terms of the
significance of the decisions. I don’t get as excited about the
“numbers,” because you never know what they mean, i.e. how many are
simply Christians from other churches, how many people are making a
decision they really don’t understand, etc. But the stories coming out
of this weekend are truly overwhelming. So much real, genuine fruit…
the majority of baptisms seemed to me to be people who have come to
Jesus in the last few months from pretty incredible backgrounds and
experienced God’s grace in a powerful way….

@SummitRDU, we have a lot to be thankful for… 19 services… somewhere near 5300 in attendance. 182 baptisms. Praise God.

Some of my favorite moments from today:

  • The father and mother of 1 of our college students who said in the baptismal, “Our kids invited us to come to church with them… we thought we were just coming to spend some time with them this weekend… I had no idea this was what God had planned for us.”
  • Didn’t get the exact count, but sure looked to me like the dominant demographic in the people we baptized today was adult males.
  • Someone holding a sign in the crowd that said, “Our small group baptized more people than your small group,” and then going berserk whenever one of their small group got baptized.Baptisms small group
  • Watching one of our pastors baptize his neighbors. I’m glad to serve with a pastoral team who not only preaches the mission, but lives it.
  • Being told I looked like an older, dingier version of Ethan Welch.
  • One of our pastors saying, as he prepared to baptize the umpteenth Carolina student, “Duke may be in the Final Four, but UNC is schooling Duke in number of people baptized today.” In fairness to them, a lot of them were in Indianapolis, where Carolina students would love to have been…
  • The guy with what I am almost positive was a 20 oz. beer can in his hand who walked right past me as he came forward to be baptized.
  • Seeing a guy who trusted Christ and got baptized this time last year counseling someone who had trusted Christ on Sunday and wanted to be baptized.
  • Baptizing 2 of the wait staff at a Brier Creek restaurant that some of our members frequent after a weekly ministry meeting on Wednesday night. They call it “dinna afta.” One of the wait staff has started to deliberately schedule himself to work up until they get off and then joins them for a late dinner.
  • Seeing one of our pastors finally get to baptize his brother, who for 6 years has been a resistant skeptic.
  • Seeing the brother and sister of a teenager who 3 months ago was cutting herself baptized. She was saved and baptized last month. She also has brought her parents to church and her very skeptical aunt with her.
  • Seeing a guy I led to Christ last year waiting outside the service for his dad (who was coming for the 1st time), and also seeing that guy’s brother-in-law get baptized today.
  • Seeing one of our church planter-to-be’s roommate, who has been an agnostic and resisted repeated attempts to engage him with the message, come today, believe and be baptized.
  • The Muslim girl in full burka who came AGAIN and sat on the 2nd row. She watched all of the baptisms after the 2nd BCAM service, and told me that I was her “Christian teacher,” and asked me to sign her copy of Breaking the Islam Code. The Southeast Asian lady who was with her who asked me to come to their house to teach her Muslim teenagers about Jesus.
  • The fact that SO MANY of the people who got baptized gave such clear stories of how someone else in our church brought them to Christ. People rarely become disciples of Jesus just by hearing someone preach. Usually, it is because someone invested in them personally. One of my dreams for our church has been that the vast majority of people who get baptized I have no personal part of–meaning that someone else, and not me or one of the pastors, brought them to Christ. Today that dream came true.Ethan
  • The UNC girl who said (in response to the question, “Why do you come to be baptized?”), “Because I have been bad; a child of wrath, but God has saved me and reconciled me to himself.” I thought, “Surely, using language like this, this is just a seminary student who has never been baptized.” However, she found me afterward and said something that floored me: “The 1st time I came to this church was when we were studying Ephesians 2. You opened showing us how Ephesians 2 says we are bad, ‘children of wrath’… as you talked, I thought “This is all my parents (who weren’t Christians) ever told me… how bad and how worthless I was. And now, this is what the Bible says, too? But then you got to 2:4 which says, ‘But God… (and here she got a little emotional)… and I’d never heard that before. God loved and cherished me anyway. That changed my life and I got baptized tonight showing that my life has been completely changed.
  • The nearly comatose nap I slipped into when I got home. When I woke up, at first I wasn’t sure who I was or who the 4 midgets were running around my house.
  • This video. Are you kidding me? Wow, God has been good to this guy…

Clayton Welch Testimony from Josh Sliffe on Vimeo.

OK, I’m tired. Off to bed… but with a grateful heart. And grateful for so many of you that worked so hard and believed so much to make today possible.