To Tithe is To Love
By Carole Buleza
In late summer and early autumn we see the land resting after having yielded the grain and fruit of the season, if we live close enough to farmland. In our developed societies we are not as tied to the land as those in agrarian societies. We do not suffer for lack of food at the grocery store, and perhaps are not as apt to pray in thanksgiving to God for the bounty just harvested.
Our ancestors in the Bible knew that all they had came from God. What they had they held not as owners, but as stewards. Just as Adam was made steward, or caretaker, of creation, so they were merely stewards of their holdings. They also knew that God had decreed that a “tithe,” or 1/10, of all they harvested was to be returned to Him in thanksgiving and as appropriate worship.
“All tithes of the land, whether in grain from the fields or in fruit from the trees, belong to the Lord, as sacred to him. . . The tithes of the herd and the flock shall be determined by ceding to the Lord as sacred every tenth animal . . . (Leviticus: 27: 30, 32)
What were God’s people thankful for? Not only for the harvest, but primarily for the fact that God had rescued them from slavery in Egypt and was leading them to the Promised Land. They owed God their life.
Here we are a few thousand years later. Has anything changed? We are now God’s people. Jesus, our Lord, has rescued us from slavery, to sin and eternal death. He has opened to us the Gates of Heaven. We owe Him our life. Do we tithe? Did Jesus tell us to? If you answered “yes,” you have a very good memory. There is a passage in which Jesus uses the word “tithe.” In the passage He is calling the Pharisees to task. They have focused on keeping the law to the smallest detail, while missing the spirit they should be cultivating within.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done without leaving the others undone.” (Matthew 23:23)
Why did Jesus “preach tithing/” Jesus presumed that those listening to Him tithed. He told the scribes and Pharisees to open their eyes to justice, mercy, and faith, while continuing to tithe.
While there are those who say the Church should not talk about money, but rather about spiritual matters, the scriptures say, “No, worship of God, and sacrifice of material goods, has been our tradition since Abraham--a tradition that Jesus sanctioned.” The Israelites gave a tithe realizing that all they had was from God. Is our situation different? Is not all we have from God? The Israelites became God’s people, through whom salvation was to be offered to all. Salvation has come into the world, through Jesus Christ. We are the stewards of that salvation, and it is our responsibility to offer it to all people.
It is time to tithe, whether immediately, or in planned stages. Tithing will allow us to have stronger churches. Tithing will allow for the cross of Christ to be raised by mission parishes in every community. Tithing will help us meet the mandate of Christ, to “let our light shine” so others may come to know Him and be saved.
Is tithing easy? Is anything Christ asks of us easy? We tithe, like all we do for Christ, out of love. Out of love for the sacrifice He made for us, and out of love for those who are seeking the true faith.
Carole Buleza is Director of the Department Christian Education which will be introducing a tithing program, “To Tithe is To Love,” for Church School children in November 2004.