Tithing - Part 5
Post by Jonathan Fox
Blessings of the Tithe and the Prosperity Gospel
Some of the unhealthiest teachings in the church are based on the Prosperity Gospel. These teachings lean heavily on the misinterpretation and misuse of texts that speak on giving and, in particular, the tithe. The Bible is clear that if we obey God, he blesses us. Every commandment was given so that our lives would be blessed. God doesn’t command us so we can be miserable. His ways are the best. But for many, giving, especially the tithe, has been taught as a BLESSING EXTRACTOR. They say, “If you give to the church, then nothing bad will happen to you and that you will be wealthy and rich. You will be prosperous financially and nothing will harm you in your finances. God definitely blesses those who are generous and those who tithe. However, you cannot determine those blessings. Just as one would expect to be blessed by making the decision to follow Jesus but would also find moments in life where blessing did not mean that life was easy or without adversity - tithing does not get you out of experiencing life.
Before I get into the meat of this part of our series, I would like to take a moment to express my history with the Prosperity Gospel. I sincerely understand why so many people do not give or tithe regularly or give to the church. For years, I heard teachings that told me the more I gave the more blessed I would be. So I gave, and I gave, and I gave. But through the years it became glaringly apparent that God and the scriptures he gave us have been taken advantage of by many church leaders so that the church, and more specifically the pastor, could be well off.
I think there were many well intentioned pastors out there teaching these ideas, but the teachings were not that great. What is bad about those teachings? I believe these teachings undermine the teachings of grace all together. These teachings promote that the more you give the more you have God’s attention, favor and blessing. I was taught to tithe so God could “take care of me.” That giving put a special protection on me and a favor on my life. I remember hearing people tell stories of how they gave and then God did something miraculous. This made me think that if I needed something from God, I better give. The same ideas were used with the practice of fasting and prayer. I was taught that if I wanted to move the hand of God then I could fast and God would hear me. Both of these teachings put God under my effort. This is key to understanding the Prosperity Gospel and how the teachings of Grace are different. Grace is a gift from God that He gives out of his generous nature. The Prosperity Gospel promises results, if you work hard enough and put in enough effort.
The Word of Faith movement also keyed into this by saying, “If you have enough faith, anything is possible.” While I believe God loves to see us place our faith in Him, and believe for the miraculous, He does not always do what we desire. So, just because I prayed, fasted, had faith and gave money, doesn’t ensure God will rubber stamp my requests. I say all that to remind us that just because a movement was created or a teaching was taught that was unhealthy doesn’t mean we throw the baby out with the bath water.
Now, for the meat of this post, as I said, God most certainly blesses those who are generous. The question is, “Will I get to determine how I am blessed?” And the answer is no, I don’t. Blessings must be given a fuller designation than just more money. Blessing is not just material, it is immaterial. Blessings like: peace of mind, joy in difficulty, love that is unconditional. God blesses us all the time. If we are giving to get something we are missing the whole point of the blessing. The blessing is always a road sign pointing us to the Blesser. Another way of wording it would be that we are to love the gift but not more that the Giver. This runs full circle to the point of God owning everything. He blesses us because it’s His joy. He loves us, saves us, transforms us, only because He wants to, not because we have fulfilled a quota or done enough to satisfy Him.
So, when we give, it’s a cheerful endeavor. We give because God gives. God is not sitting with His arms folded waiting to get His money and then He will act on your behalf. That’s not grace. He has already acted on your behalf before you did anything. The parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) is a perfect example of God’s nature toward us. We mess stuff up and God welcomes us home when we come back. He hasn’t locked the door asking for an entry fee. He welcomes us and blesses us because we are His. Our giving is simply a response to this amazing God who loves and blesses us. God invites us to give because we are already blessed not because we need another blessing. It’s not a transaction, it’s worship. Don’t ever get it twisted.
Hopefully, you can see your giving in a new light. Whether it be the tithe or generous giving, it is an act of thanks, honor and worship toward God. God is so good to us, and has done so much for us and I pray that our money reflects our belief of that, even when it’s difficult. The heart of God is generosity, and it’s my hope that, as you have read, you have caught the overall theme of this blog series: God is generous and that fuels our generosity. It is and will always be that God invites us to reflect his heart through invitation, not pressure or condemnation. Let giving be a pleasure and find joy in each opportunity you have to show God’s generous nature.