September 29, 2012

Tithes: an Old, Thorny Question

Malachi 3:6-12

“Test me in this … and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
—Malachi 3:10


When a country grows prosperous, people tend to think their prosperity will last forever —and that it makes them superior. They lose their heads and spend lavishly on themselves.

God said to his people in a situation like that, “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while [my] house remains a ruin?” (Haggai 1:4). Self-centeredness leads to short-changing God and others in many ways, including the use of our income.

And, mysteriously, the bubble can burst. The center of prosperity can shift—from England, to America, to Japan, to China. Wealth slips out of our hands; “good jobs” dry up; hard times come. We “earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it” (Haggai 1:6).

Christians have often debated the question of tithes. Since Christ came and fulfilled the Old Testament law, must we still give 10 percent of our income to God? Some give a smaller percentage, since 5 percent of a large income is greater than 10 percent of a small income. But Jesus was more impressed by a poor woman’s gift of all she had than by the large gifts of wealthy people (Luke 21:1-4). “God loves a cheerful giver … and is able to bless you abundantly” (2 Corinthians 9:7-8). Ul-timately, all that we have belongs to him (Psalm 24:1). So … what amount of giving restrains your selfishness and stimulates your faith?

Lord, open the purse strings of our hearts, that we may be blessed givers. In your name, Amen.

About the author — George Young

George Young, a native New Yorker, worked as a taxi driver in New York City before studying to become a pastor. Then he, his wife Ruth, and their children were missionaries for many years in northeastern Japan. They worked with ministers and believers from the Reformed Church in Japan to spread the good news of salvation in Christ and ­establish new churches. Now George and Ruth are retired and live in the northeastern United States, nearer to their children and grandchildren.

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