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Pure Religion and undefiled March 6, 2012

Posted by Henry in Contending for the Faith.
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2 comments

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?

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Money Matters – Financial Tips February 17, 2010

Posted by Henry in Money & Finance.
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Following on from my two-part article titled “Money Matters – Even to Christians”, which can be found under the category of “Money & Finance”, I have decided to create this space where fellow Christians can share or exchange money making ideas or money saving tips. This is perhaps unprecedented on this type of Christian blog but Jesus did not just impart the word to the 5’000 but he also took cognisance of the fact that they also needed physical food and fed them using the 5 barley loaves and two fishes. I am therefore looking for legitimate ideas which may be of benefit to those who are struggling financially.  It could be ideas of how to make one’s salary stretch a bit further; an idea to generate a new income stream to supplement one’s salary; or a working from home idea that could help a stay at home mother or a mother on maternity leave after giving birth, etc. Please do share whatever ideas you have. I will start however by offering a few money savings idea of my own:

  1.  Plan your spending by budgeting your money. Keep your receipts and on a weekly or monthly basis calculate how much you are spending against how much you earn. If you find you are paying out more than you actually receive then you will have to borrow to make up the difference.
  2.  Compare the prices of goods and services that you pay for and always look for cheaper alternatives. Shop around for a bargain. Most times there is always cheaper on the market. As the saying goes here in Britain, “take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves”. So it doesn’t matter how small and insignificant the savings appear to be take advantage of it as the pennies do add up over time.  
  3. If you get discount vouchers in newspapers or magazine, take advantage of them and don’t be ashamed to use them. Take advantage of any discounts and also store loyalty cards as you can get back a bit of money here.
  4.  Avoid eating out too often as it is cheaper to prepare meals at home from supermarket bought products. For example, the price you pay for a glass of wine at a restaurant would get you a whole bottle in the supermarket (not that I am encouraging drinking mind you). Remember you might be able to get restaurant discounts online also (at least here in the UK you can). Prepare pack lunches for work. You can save a fortune this way instead of buying lunches. 
  5. Travelling to and from work can be quite costly. Look for alternative routes which can sometimes be cheaper and if you are able and the way is not too far, walk. You could also break up your journey and go some of the way by walking. This also promotes a healthier lifestyle especially if you sit at a desk for most of the day.  
  6. If you own a car use it only for essential journeys as you can be paying out a fortune on petrol. Also depending on where you are going check if it is cheaper by public transport. A car can be high maintenance therefore when you purchase a car, use the review sites online to see the fuel consumption, insurance grouping, servicing etc. Bigger engine cars usually cost more to service, consume more petrol and attract a higher insurance cost. If you are struggling financially you might need to downgrade by selling the existing car and buying a much cheaper one to run. If you cannot afford a brand new car outright, buy a used one and avoid the car financing/leasing schemes as they will cost you in the long term. 
  7. Avoid name-brand clothing if you cannot afford them. Remember the Nike shoes you pay £60 (or the equivalent) only cost the equivalent of 0.50p to make in Pakistan or India. It is a scam!! These things only give one a false perception of esteem but all we are doing is making the corporation owners and shareholders richer and making ourselves poorer. We should not be buying our identity off the shelves. Give your children what you have, your love! Don’t try to please them with the latest gadget which you cannot afford. 
  8. Don’t fall in the debt trap. Avoid using the credit cards or pay-day loans where possible. If you need to buy something and you can’t afford it right now, make small sacrifices and save up for it. You won’t die without it if you don’t have it now. Half the time people can’t wait to purchase a particular thing and after a few days the novelty wears off and they no longer want it. Remember to also exercise prudence and save for a rainy day.

This is not an exhaustive list but I am appealing to readers to feel free to share what they have. But please, no get rich quick schemes. Thank you.

Money Matters – even to Christians! – Part 2 February 16, 2010

Posted by Henry in Money & Finance.
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6 comments

In part 1 of this series I highlighted some of the financial concerns that are no doubt affecting some Christians in the world today. I put forward a “thesis” that some of these problems faced by individuals and their families may be alleviated if we the church would return to an attitude of being our brother’s keeper as this is the example shown to us in scripture. Unfortunately however the world we live in today is largely characterised by a disaffection brought about by materialism and consumerist capitalism, a state in which it is largely, “dog eat dog”, and “every man for himself”. This type of mentality has also infected the church with a false ideal of each man to pursue his own “blessings”. With this in mind therefore the following treatise will attempt to look at what individuals might do to help “ease” their financial plight.

 1 Taking Care of Your Own

Each of us has a responsibility to take care of our own families in spite of the fact that assistance should be given if a brother is in need and unable to sustain himself. However, scripture says in 1 Tim 5:8 (NIV):

 If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

 The man (or woman) of the house therefore is responsible for going out and getting a job (even two jobs if necessary) so he can earn enough money to supply the needs of his immediate family and even his extended family. This does not mean however that we should pursue the world as the Gentiles do but as we have seen from Paul’s example in Acts 20:33-35, he worked to support himself so that he does not become a burden to others. Perhaps many able pastors should “take a leaf out of Paul’s book” here instead of relying on the church but that is an aside. Earning money will require prudence also in managing it because scripture doth say that a fool and his money will soon depart. Imagine a man who spends his weekly pay packet on drinking and socialising with friends or going gambling instead of using it judiciously to provide for his family. This is not being wise or prudent and in so doing such a man is regarded as worse than an unbeliever.

 2 To tithe or not to tithe: Church Giving

 Many will have heard the phrase that we have to be “responsible stewards” for what the Lord has given us and it is suggested that an example of responsible stewardship is to “tithe faithfully”, especially to the church. Tithing faithfully usually means giving 10% of your gross weekly or monthly earnings to the church as this is set as the standard. Some ministers will even go as far to say that when you take care of the “Lords house” then He will take care of your own. The dilemma faced by many people who are struggling financially however is whether they can or should continue to “tithe faithfully” to the church or whether they should reduce their “tithe”. Many are therefore in bondage to their conscience as they struggle with this issue and this is heightened by the guilt and fear they feel as a result of the threat of curses for “robbing God” based on Mal 3.

 For those of you who have been tithing faithfully for years however, let me ask you this, have you received the promised “windows of heaven blessings”? I already know the answer to that question because if you had you would not be still struggling today. Let me assure you that you will never receive the “windows of heaven blessings” of Mal 3 because this promise is not for you. This promise was made under a covenant to the Israelites, at a particular place and at a particular time. That covenant has never been transferred over to the church as Jesus abolished it when He fulfilled the Law and gave us a new covenant. To claim something for yourself that wasn’t given to you therefore is futile. The tithe is not for the New Testament believer and the curse mentioned in Mal 3 is the said curse of the Law which Jesus redeemed us from (see my post on the tithe here). Why then do you put a yoke on your neck to try and practise a Law that Jesus abolished? Eat your tithes or use it to take care of your family if you are struggling and give what you are able to give to the church. Did he really say to eat the tithe but..? Yes I did! Read Deut 14:23-26, it says so right there. I would like to see people being freed from this bondage of conscience concerning the tithe especially if they are struggling financially, and be giving more “freely” according to what they purpose in their hearts (2 Cor 9:7).

 3 Being wary of Covetousness

In the book of 1 John 2:15 we read:

 15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

 It is strange to think however that in spite of this warning from scripture, church people today are buying into this same lust of the world and the pride of life and as a result many people find themselves in financial troubles. We want to get things which we see advertised on TV or things that we see our neighbours have instead of trying to live within our means. Many people are unable to resist the temptation to purchase something being advertise especially when it is offering a zero percent finance, “buy now, pay later” deal. The truth however is that it is never zero percent finance as you will pay the interest when you start to repay the loan amount later. This can therefore impact on one’s finance and contribute to mounting debts as the interest accumulates and this is all because of covetousness. We could save ourselves a lot of trouble by using our money sensibly to buy what we need and looking for cheaper alternatives where possible, rather than to use debt to accumulate a bunch of stuff that we don’t need, just because we are trying to “look good” and impress others.

 4 Avoid the “get rich quick” schemes

Today there are so many get rich quick schemes (or scams) in the world and there are tonnes of books, some even written by pastors, on how to create or maximise wealth. Some of these schemes are even being marketed in church and many people have suffered financial loss as a result of investing in these schemes, as many of them do not work. Scripture tells us in Proverb 23:4-5 however that we should not labour to be rich:

4 Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. 5 Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.

Herein lies sound wisdom concerning the pursuit of riches. Scripture also warns us in 1 Peter 2 about being made merchandise of by those with feigned words. The problem with this world however is that it has become so engulfed in materialism that even Christians are not immune from it. We live in a world in which success is defined by how high we can climbed and how much things we can accumulate and that if we have fallen short of the mark we are a failure. It is natural therefore to gravitate towards a scheme that promises untold riches. Jesus pointed out however in Luke 12:15 that a man’s life does not consist of the abundance of the things he possesses. The scripture also tells us in 1 Tim 6:5-8 to be content with what we have instead of trying to pursue wealth.

 The list I have outlined above is not an exhaustive one but I believe that they can act as a useful starting point of what a believer’s attitude towards earning and handling money should be.

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