Friday, July 26, 2002
I realize that this is not a popular topic but I feel that I must address this issue before things get out of hand in the Christian community today. There are a lot of people talking about “Giving” when what we really need is a serious look at the subject of “Tithing.” I believer over-zealousness on the part of a few enthusiasts could lead to irresponsible squandering of financial resources by Christians at large.
Tithing comes from a word which means “tenth.” It is one tenth of all our worldly possessions that we give to God. This tradition harkens all the way back to the time of Abraham and represents the service that God expects of us. A tenth (tithe) is all that God requires of us as his servants. Anything more than that is a failure to faithfully discharge the bounty that God has placed in our hands. And keep in mind, when dropping that check into the offering plate make sure of several things:
Make sure you do it ostentatiously so others will see that you tithe weekly and learn to emulate your good example.
- Place the check face up so everyone can see the amount and be inspired to give just as generously.
- Mention often in conversation that you are a regular contributor to God’s service and that you expect them to do the same.
This leads to the question, “Should I tithe on my gross or my net pay?” This was answered by our Lord with the phrase, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and render unto the Lord the things that are the Lord’s.” Clearly, the portion of our income that is withheld for taxes belongs neither to us, nor God but is rendered to our Caesar, the government. God surely does not expect us to tithe on our gross pay since it doesn’t even belong to us. And while we’re at it, other expenses like annuities, 401K contributions, insurance payments, union dues and the like don’t belong to us either so we cannot be expected to tithe on them. Our tithe needs to be calculated on our “increase” or the amount that we actually take home.
But lest you think I am being too easy on you, remember that God wants us to tithe on EVERYTHING including our time and talents. If you were to calculate the number of minutes in every day, you would find that a tithe of your time comes out to one day per week of your waking hours. We discharge this tithe by church attendance on Sundays. Anything more than this would be excessive and make us so spiritually minded we would be no earthly good.
The same is true of our talents. If we dedicate one day of talented performance a week to God, we can live the rest of the week to ourselves. If we put our skills to work one day a week for the Lord, the rest of the week belongs to us. Keep in mind that God doesn’t want our obligations to be burdensome. If he did, then he would ask for much more from our lives than merely a tenth. No, a tenth is all that God requires and that is all I am prepared to give.
Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
Matthew 6:1 (NIV)
Friday, July 19, 2002
A sincere student asked how he could be assured of being a Spiritual Christian. This column is too short to list all of the characteristics that contribute to the spirituality of the devout Pharisee but we can summarize it in a single phrase. The Spiritual Christian is the one who walks day by day in the Center of God’s Will.
There is no room for compromise here. The Carnal Christian is one who may aim at following God’s will for his life but doesn’t quite hit it dead center. They may have good intentions but can’t quite make it to the high standards of achieving God’s Perfect Will. They lack the level of dedication and discernment that we possess as Spiritual Christians. They are people who deviate from God’s Plan for their lives. It is as if God gave them a road map for their lives and they chose to stray along the byways instead of staying on the Path.
Christians who don’t live every day in the Center of God’s Will make up the bulk of Christianity in America today. These carnal Christians don’t know the benefits of living on a higher spiritual plateau. These are people who have made Jesus their Savior but they have not made him their Lord. He is not sitting on the throne of their hearts, as it were. They make up the lower class of Christians, the Carnal Christians we hear so much about and see so much in evidence today. These are the shallow, self-centered, unlearned mass of professing Christians.
Some would argue that all of us have aspects of carnality in our lives and we are all Carnal Christians to one degree or another. While this may be true for most Christians, those of us who are Spiritual have graduated to a higher plane of Christianity. Our lives are not dominated, controlled or even influenced by carnal desires. We “give no place to the flesh” and submit to its lusts. We have achieved victory over sin in our lives and are “walking in the light.” I would admit that early on in my Christian experience I may have been a Carnal Christian but I have now matured into a Spiritual Christian.
Others will ask, “How can I know God’s Perfect Will for my life?” This is a rather simple and easy to follow process, but of course it is one that is too long to explain in a single column. Just be warned that the difference between a fruitful productive Spiritual existence and a carnal worldly one is as slight as the difference between following God’s will perfectly and following His will imperfectly. Fortunately for Carnal Christians who don’t want to remain such, there are Spiritual Christians like me who will show them the Path to true spirituality.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
Philippians 2:3 (NIV)
Friday, July 12, 2002
One of my erring students asked what the requirements for a successful ministry are. My reply is “God didn’t call me to be successful - He called me to be faithful.” I fear that this deluded young man has been seduced by the “Church Growth Movement” and fallen prey to the idea that congregations with large crowds are, by definition, successful churches.
The scriptures give us a different meaning of success altogether. In the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:24-25) the wisest of the stewards says, “Lord, I know that thou art an hard man reaping where thou hast not sown and gathering where thou has not strawed. And I was afraid and hid thy talent in the earth: lo there thou hast that is thine.” Clearly success is not in our hands but is strictly in the hands of God. It is our job to hide the talent and keep it safe until our Lord’s return. God doesn’t want us to be successful; He wants us to be faithful in protecting the sanctity of the gospel.
In spite of what this young man thinks, numerical success is actually a sign of compromise with the world. “Narrow is the way and few there be that find it,” is proof that the gospel has a limited appeal and if we are preaching the truth we won’t see big crowds. We are the faithful remnant, the few, the proud, the Pharisees. A sanctified church is a small church precisely because we don’t appeal to the lost of this world.
Rest assured that big crowds and a popular message are proof of a lack of holiness and a sure sign of appealing to the flesh. The gospel is not popular with the world. Truth is not popular. After all, they crucified Jesus, did they not? Therefore if you are experiencing popularity or you are part of a large congregation, then it is a clear sign that you are not practicing the Truth.
Our primary job is not to appeal to the masses and run the risk of casting pearls before swine or giving that which is holy to dogs. Our job is to safeguard the gospel, to keep it pure and untainted from any corruption that is in the world, to protect it from error and not to put it at risk before an undiscerning crowd of heathen. I expect when our Lord returns that I will be rewarded for keeping the pure, undiluted truth of his word in safekeeping instead of appealing to the crowd.
“You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has ten talents . . . And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Matthew 25:26-30 (NIV)
Friday, July 05, 2002
Waging the Culture War
I am concerned about the Culture War currently raging in America. Radio commentators Chuck Colson, Janet Parshall, James Dobson and Cal Thomas are all talking about the Culture War in America and how to wage it. I maintain that Pharisees are the original Culture Warriors and that these “Johnny-Come-Lately” upstarts have co-opted and diluted our cause.
First of all, I must renounce these people because they define Christianity so loosely that they believe anyone who claims to accept Jesus Christ as personal savior is a Christian in good standing. They lack the rigid demands of a holy lifestyle that characterize the truly spiritual Christian. They even feel that these wild “Contemporary Christian” bands that play rock & roll music might actually be Christians. Such abysmally low standards can only hurt the cause of the Culture War.
Another fault with some of today’s Culture Warriors is their insistence that individuals need to experience saving faith in Jesus Christ before we can begin to bring them into a Christian worldview. What utter nonsense! This sort of “easy believism” will only lead to shallow professions of faith without a profound change in lifestyle. After all, isn’t conformity to our standard of holy living the real goal here? Isn’t that what the Culture War is all about? If anything, we need to bring them into conformity with our Pharisee culture before we can ever hope to reach them with the gospel.
Finally, we should take a look at past Culture War successes and failures and learn from them. Oliver Cromwell and the Resotration in England, the success of Prohibition in our own country and long standing Sunday Blue Laws to name a few. Each one of these causes began well but was ultimately lost because Christians did not stay the course. They allowed compromise to creep in and destroy the cause from the inside out. So even if we win the Culture War, the struggle is not over. We must fight every day against compromising Christians who would seek to lower our standards of holy living by allowing the Pharisee Culture to be infected with worldliness.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)