The question, in simple/house church circles, is often “What about money?” meaning, is there a “right way” for money to be given, collected, or made use of? Is tithing a valid scriptural principle or is it an Old Testament principle that has been mis-appropriated by the church in an attempt to keep the organizational systems and buildings supported?
I would like to suggest that tithing, in so many ways, misses the mark. First of all, it often fosters a legalistic (even superstitious) way of thinking: “If I give God this specific amount, I will have His blessing; if I don’t, then I won’t.”
On the other hand (this is important), I also think that tithing puts a limit on giving because it misses the real principle we find in Scripture: generosity. In other words, theoretically, if we followed the principles of Scripture and listened to Jesus (i.e Luke 14:33) most of us would give more than a tithe as a regular part of our Jesus-following life.
Now, let’s take this out of the theoretical for a moment. My friend, Brian Hogan, in his missionary work in Mongolia (recounted in his wonderful book, “There’s a Sheep in My Bathtub), describes how the new Christians in this movement were taught generosity rather than tithing. The result was a net giving that far exceeded the typical tithe and a tremendous missionary impact on other regions as a result of their giving!
So, here is where I see an explosive possibility!
First, suppose “simple-church folk” began moving out of the limitations of tithing and into the dynamic realm of generosity. Imagine the release of finances this would bring.
Second, imagine all of these resources being channeled into workers (missionaries, regional facilitators of movements) and to meet the needs of the poor. I happen to believe that both of these areas are important and scriptural, but will not debate this at the moment. My point is this: In the USA alone, over 72 billion dollars goes to religious institutions mostly for clergy salaries and buildings.
I am not going to condemn this preferring, instead, to focus on getting the log out of my own eye and determining what I can do. I simply want to suggest that if we can sustain a movement without buildings and unnecessary staff, and add a new level of generosity, we have tremendous potential to use finances in a way that can change our world spiritually (deploying missionaries and workers where they are most needed) and physically (alleviating a good percentage of the world’s greatest poverty).
One final note. When I speak of “poverty,” I want to remind us that there is “true” poverty in the world. By that I mean (for example) that there are 27,000 children who die unnecessarily every day from causes related directly to poverty (i.e. no safe drinking water, no sanitation, malnutrition, or parents unable to afford medical treatment). We often think that poverty is an issue too big to tackle, but there is actually a great deal that we can do to alleviate the most deadly faces of need.
I am wondering if simple, Jesus-followers might be able to have a significant impact on some of these critical issues of our time!