jump to navigation

Pure Religion and undefiled March 6, 2012

Posted by Henry in Contending for the Faith.
Tags: , , , , , ,
trackback

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (Jam 1:27) KJV

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (NIV)

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. (NLT)

Recently I have written a series of posts addressing “tithing” (amongst other things) and this started with the post “Unravelling the tithing dilemma”. Some reading this blog may think that my sole focus has simply been on “tithing” and may even think I sound like a broken record repeating myself but there is a central theme and purpose to each post and in this post I aim to tie up all that I previously stated. Hopefully the point of all these posts may therefore come to the fore through reading this post.

I opened this post with a quote from James 1:27 as this sits at the heart of the tithing equation today and which sits at the very heart of our Gospel. The two other translations I gave, more fully expresses what the KJV version intended to say. What sits at the heart of the tithing equation therefore is the question of what is acceptable religion before God?

 Under the Old Covenant Israel was called to give a tithe of the produce of the Promised Land to the Levites, the poor, the fatherless, the widows who were all in NEED that they may eat and be satisfied (Deut 14:29). Today the church seeks to recapture the practice of collecting a tithe but what does the church do with it? In contrast to ancient Israel where the tithe went to meet immediate and pressing needs, today we use the tithe to maintain lofty and expensive church buildings and pay a salary to the priests or pastors (and perhaps the organist). Today we talk about giving to God, and equate our giving to maintaining these structures as giving to God (this is seen as furthering the Gospel). Yet in the early church giving to God was tantamount to meeting the needs of the poor, the fatherless and the widows. If the tithe is God’s then let us start giving it to God via the poor and stop talking about it. In Matt 25:35-46 we see Jesus saying that if we feed the hungry, visit the sick, clothe the naked etc we have done it to Him but if we did none of those things we did not do it to Him. There are those who will argue of course that when we give money to church that the church will in turn use some of this money to send missionaries abroad and to give to the poor and other charitable causes. In my experiences, some churches remit a portion of the takings to the umbrella body and this may help to support missionaries in the field. However, for others the main church takings (tithes and offerings) are normally treated as sacrosanct – by this I mean that most of it is used up on the administrative overheads (including salaries) and the rest kept in a bank account but very little or none of it goes to meet the needs of the poor. Instead, after the main tithes and offerings are collected we are then asked to “dig deep” into our pockets for extra funds or “love offerings” that will go to missions and fund charitable works. This was not so in the early church however. Do we for a minute think that God is pleased with great and grand buildings we have elevated in His name, and maintain with vast sums of money year by year, whilst millions of people throughout the world go hungry each day? Perhaps the church cannot solve the poverty problem across the world but we can certainly do more even in our immediate communities.

In the early church all of the church takings were redistributed to meeting the needs of the whole church, including the elders who ministered over the church. This is aptly demonstrated in Acts 2:42-47 and Acts 4:32-35. What a contrast to today’s church where the poor and the needy who come in go home empty-handed with the promise that God will bless them if they tithe faithfully even if they have to borrow to pay that tithe (as in the example of some churches)? The early church did not consider their possessions as their own but had all things in common – and they laid what they had to give at the apostles’ feet who in turn redistributed so that no one lacked. Other examples of this practice are evidenced in 2 Cor 8:12-15 and 2 Cor 9:1-8 where Paul collected gifts from other churches to give to the poor Christians in Jerusalem. The early church was acting out the very commands/teachings that Jesus Christ imparted to us such as in Matt 19:21 where He instructed the rich young ruler to sell his possessions and give it to the poor. We also see another example in Luke 16:9 where Christ says we should make to ourselves friends with the mammon (worldly wealth) of unrighteousness. In meeting the needs of the general poor we are also encouraged to give to the elders, especially those who minister in the word and doctrine (1 Tim 5:17).

 Today we have reassigned the purpose of the tithe (not that we are under the Law), as the principle of it as demonstrated under the Law is not borne out in how we utilise it in the church today. In contrast to the early church also, faithful stewardship is now exemplified by our giving of tithes and offerings to God to maintain lavish buildings and large administrative budgets in the place of directly redistributing the funds to meet the needs of the poor. Is our religion as practiced in this way by the church today acceptable to God when pure religion and undefiled, which God accepts is defined in scripture as caring for the fatherless and the widows and keeping oneself spotless from the world?

Related Posts:

Embezzlement: The Corporate Sin of Contemporary Christianity

 

 

 

Advertisements

Comments»

1. glasseyedave - March 11, 2012

What concerns me most is the sheep and goat thing. We need to put our money where our mouth is concerning taking care of those of the flock who are in need. Think of this in context of I Cor 13. If we have all tithes, big buildings, big hair, latte stands, book stores, etc and do not take care of those in the church who are in need, what keeps us from being goats?

2. Henry - March 12, 2012

glasseyedave,

Indeed, we are no more than goats if we do not fulfill the law of Christ in our charity towards those amongst us (or in the world for that matter) who are in need. Today there are people teaching that the tithe is for the benefit of the tither in that it is through this mechanism that one is blessed. So they have turned Christ’s word on head by saying give (to the church) in order to be blessed as opposed to give to those in need for the sake of giving.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s