Nov. 10 - 16, 2008


Here is an archive column from 2006. Enjoy!

The law's tithing versus the Gospel's free generosity

Next time you're at a church social function, go up to people who seem to be having fun and start talking about tithing. Most will run for cover faster than vampires at dawn.  But the ones who remain may have an interesting story to share.

That's because a wide majority believes that giving a tenth of their gross income is utterly impossible and totally unrealistic. For instance, if a family makes $52,000, that would be a donation of $100 a week. If they're typical "2 percenters,"  they put a $20 bill in the weekly offering envelope and be satisfied. It's truly a real stretch to ask them to put in the other $80 for a tithe.

Some churchgoers criticize tithing as too rigid and legalistic -- more the province of Pharisees and scribes than of Christians, who, after all, have been freed by Jesus from the law. Yes, it's true, we are free from the law, but as Martin Luther points out, the law does serve God's purpose in the lives of faithful people.

First, the law helps keep order in our world by shaping our outward behavior. If people are giving financially to the work of God because they feel compelled to do so, they are still contributing financially to the work of God.

But the second use of the law is more to the point. The daunting requirements of the law can lead us to despair and guilt and awareness of our selfish, sinful nature. That in turn causes us to turn to the Gospel for its message of freedom and joy. And in response to God's love, we gladly give more, and more and more.

That's the story you may hear from the people still talking to you at the church function. Most people who have taken the plunge of tithing have found it surprisingly rewarding. (Read the story of one such tither.) The satisfaction they get from giving money away leads many to offer well above the 10 percent level.

It's counterintuitive to think that giving away more money will actually make you feel richer, happier and more fulfilled, but that's a very common experience of tithers. By walking on the path of the law of tithing, they have actually found themselves in a place where they can enjoy the Gospel's freedom for generosity. They have learned the truth of Jesus' observation of Matthew 6:21: "Where your treasure is, there your heart shall be also."

 --Rob Blezard, Webmaster and editor

Reprint rights gladly given to church organizations for nonprofit, local use. Just include the following note: "Copyright (c) 2006, Rev. Robert Blezard, Used by permission." All other uses, please inquire:

New This Week:

What Is Sacrificial Giving?
Saint Mary Magdalen Catholic ChurchNow here’s a congregation that’s really using the Web as a stewardship education tool. This is one of several on their stewardship page, but in addition to reading good materials you can click to watch a very professional video presentation as well. Good inspiration for your own congregation’s web efforts. Click here for “What Is Sacrificial Giving?” From St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church, Altamonte Springs, Fla.

Circuit RiderWelcoming ‘Time Share’ Christians
Just about every church has them – a growing number of folks who come to worship regularly enough to be noticed, but not regularly enough to achieve our archaic status as a “good member.” This insightful article talks about a new paradigm for thinking about them (“Time Share” Christians) and fitting them into church life. Lots of stewardship implications. Click here for “Welcoming the ‘Time Share’ Christians,” from Circuit Rider, the publication for United Methodist clergy.

Tuck AakerA Fresh Look
“As the economic turmoil crowds out all other current concerns, it’s a good time for congregations to take a fresh look at how they draw up their budgets for 2009. One of the biggest challenges for many congregations is that every year they see the same scenario.” Click here for “A Fresh look,” from Tuck Aaker, columnist for ELCA Stewardship Resources.

Stewardship SermansStewardship Sermons for This Week
This week’s Gospel reading – Jesus’ parable of the talents – offers a great chance to preach on stewardship. To help inspire your own preaching, here are some sermons on that text in 2005, the last cycle of Lectionary Year A.
Click here for “Circulating Gifts,” preached by the Rev. Kevin Smith at Almaden Valley United Church of Christ, San Jose, Calif.
Click here for “Investing God’s Way,” preached at Richmond Hill United Church, Richmond Hill, Ontario. The Rev. Allan Baker uses an environmental emphasis.
Click here for “Lifetrading,” preached by the Rev. Dr.  Jeffrey K. London at John Knox Presbyterian Church, Tulsa, Okla.
Click here for “Watch out! Talent at work!” preached by the Rev. Dr. Bryon E. Shafer at Rutgers Presbyterian Church, New York, N.Y.