Long ago, I remember the periodic Sunday night “testimony time” at the local church I attended. Perhaps once a quarter, the congregation of about five-hundred would gather, and after the singing of a few songs together, the pastor would hand the microphone to various people who had their hand raised… who wanted to share their testimony.
Invariably, “testimony time” seemed to always include someone who wanted to share a financial blessing. It usually went something like this:
“Hi, my name is Bob, and I’ve been attending this church for 10 years. I recently heard pastor Joe’s sermon on how tithing to the local church in obedience to Malachi 3 is vital if we expect God to bless our finances and keep the enemy from devouring our money. Well, six months ago I started tithing, and out of nowhere I just received a promotion at work with a 5% pay raise! I praise God that I listened to pastor Joe and started tithing in obedience to God’s Word (as he proudly pouts his chest for being such a faithful tither, unlike the non-tithing slackards in the congregation).”
May we all sing the praises of Bob for doing such a wonderful job of apparently earning God’s blessing which can never be earned (financial or otherwise), and for validating Pastor Joe’s Old Covenant, performance-based theology which has no legitimate place among a New Covenant people!
Of course, never mind the slew of “faithful tithers” who have been tithing for years yet are grossly in debt, many behind on their house or car payments, and who have credit card balances up the wazoo. No, these people aren’t raising their hands during testimony time; neither does the leadership want to hear from them. They just want to prop up guys like Bob, whose testimony validates them and their obligatory tithe doctrine.
“Tithing as a mandate” permeates modern-day Christianity. The levitical law of tithing which was nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14) is continually resurrected by the professional clergy; some do it because of a lack of understanding of the implications of the New Covenant upon the life of the believer, and others do it primarily because it is the means by which to have their salaries paid, the staff salaries paid, the building costs and operating expenses paid, and to support the at-large institution they serve. To show them that their tithe doctrine can in no way be supported through a New Covenant interpretive perspective will, with rare exception, be met with the strongest of resistance. It was Upton Sinclair who rightfully said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”
But there’s another testimony I want to share that you’ll never hear in church… a testimony that is much more representative of New Covenant reality, revealing the preeminence of Jesus and His grace in a believer’s life. For the sake of privacy, I will call her “Wendy.” The details I’m about to share as to what has been transpiring in her life are 100% accurate and true. In fact, if you live in Raleigh, I’ll gladly introduce you to her! If Wendy was given the microphone during “testimony night” at a local church, you would hear something like this:
“Hi, I’m Wendy! I used to attend church, but I don’t go anymore. And I used to be a meticulous tither, but I ditched that many moons ago. Back in February, my car engine went bad. I was about to take out a loan to purchase another, when out of the blue, someone close to me said that God laid it on his heart to buy me a brand new 2016 car…. no strings attached! I love my new car! Two months ago, I was looking for a job in Raleigh, the town I’ll be moving to. I went to my first job fair with over a thousand other “job hunters” and landed a wonderful position in my chosen field, with a 10% pay raise to boot! Over the last few weeks, I’ve been looking for a new place to live and have been astonished at how high rent prices are. Then, out of nowhere, through no effort or influence of my own, a married couple informed me that they would allow me to live in their beautiful 3000 square foot second home in Raleigh, RENT FREE!! All I have to pay is the utilities, and it’s 10 minutes from my new place of employment! I’m so grateful to God and His grace extended to me in Christ!”
Oh, by the way…. Wendy is 100% debt free.
Someone may say, “But she doesn’t even attend church, so she’s probably one of those independent lone ranger types! And since she doesn’t tithe, she must not be very generous. Perhaps she’s not even a Christian!”
Nothing could be further from the truth. No, she doesn’t attend “church,” but she is experiencing authentic community with other believers to a greater degree than most who do attend church. It’s just not within the institutional church structure. She doesn’t embrace “tithing” as the way to order her giving; rather, she’s sensitive to her surroundings and the needs of those within her relational and social spheres, being generous with both her money and time as the Spirit leads. Best of all, Wendy knows who she is in Christ. You’ll never hear her say, “Because I gave some money to my needy co-worker, God did this or that for me…” No no… she understands New Covenant grace; that she is the object of her heavenly Father’s love, and that even in the midst of her fears, flaws, failures and life’s difficulties, His grace is extended to her in countless ways as a free gift, aside from any contributing factor on her part. Her obedience is simply the fruit of her relationship with God and the by-product of living loved. And His blessing on her life is the result of her spiritual union with Christ; nothing more, nothing less.
Bob and Pastor Joe can learn a lot from Wendy. So can all of us.
It’s beyond the scope of this post to get into a comprehensive discourse on tithing. For those who want to go deeper on this issue, refer to my four part series on this blog, entitled “Tithe Doctrine: Challenging What’s Preached From The Pulpit”