Sunday, February 05, 2006

On Tithing: "Stand Still and See the Salvation of the Lord"

We've all seen the movie The Ten Commandments. That dramatic moment when Moses has led the newly freed Egyptian slaves out of Egypt. He leads them right to what appears to be, their deaths! The Red Sea is in front and the Egyptian army is behind them. Then Moses introduces them to a part of God they've never seen. God is going to perform a miracle and they will walk through the parted Red Sea, on dry ground. As a final footnote, God will leave the path free of water long enough to trick the Egyptians. They begin to cross the dry ground that is in the middle of The Red Sea. Once they are beyond the point of safe return, God removes the restraint, and the water returns to its natural course. The enemy of the former captives is totally and utterly destroyed before their eyes, with no effort on their part. God is still asking people for that kind of courage today.

You can't hang out with Christianity long before you are confronted with a paradox. To follow one of God's laws will lead to personal disaster and not to follow that law will lead to spiritual ship wreck! I document my current battle over tithing. I will not come out well in a lot of ways. I realize, that in spite of years of therapy, work, research and some serious effort on my part, old tapes are still driving and motivating my decisions and attitudes.

My denomination believes in tithing. Ten per cent right off the top, period. Compared to the thirty to sixty per cent Doctor Scott demanded, this should be a walk in the park. It is most certainly not. Part of the reason I walked away from all church involvement for two years, was to reclaim that tithe. Made more money happen instantly. I had no difficulty finding ways to spend this new-found ten per cent. Internally, I began to slowly come apart. Oh sure, stopping my medication dragged me through a mental health crisis, but there was another crisis. Spiritually I was adrift in a world with absolutely no structure, help, or anchor. I didn't doubt God's love, but I began to question my Christian Salvation. This is why I stand in awe of my atheist friends. I was broken by the utter loneliness and futility of a world without meaning. Life seemed to be a very bad crap shoot, where I was one of the objects in play. Without the Bible, and its plan of right and wrong, why should we not let forty-year-old men make love to ten year-olds? Due to my own experience with sexual molestation, I had an answer for that one, at least.! For me, a world without God, is a world I refuse to live in. Suicide isn't just an option, it is the only rational choice. To be alone, with just myself is more frightening to me then burning in Hell.

So, I have returned to church, and am facing the tithing-by-faith challenge. True to my usual, less-then-mature approach, as I realized my options, I stayed away from church, so I'd not have to think about it. After a week, my Pastor, one of the most authentic Christians, I've ever encountered, called to find out what was going on. I will not lie to God, or my pastor. I try not to lie to anyone, but those two, I've learned the hard way, aren't worth the price of lying. I let my Pastor have a dose of the brutal world of Dr. Scott. Living on rice and beans for months on end, searching phone booths for extra money and a hundred other things, large and small I did to feed his bottomless pit of faith-giving. Highly un-Biblical, by-the-way. When people are manipulated, and threatened into giving, none of the promises associated with giving hold. God wants honest, heart-felt joy in giving, not gut-grinding guilt. My pastor listened and stood his ground. He knows, that for himself, he must tithe. He simply told me to pray. I shot back that I had no intention of praying. I knew what was being asked of me and I'd do it, and wait to get screwed by God one more time! (I didn't say that last part, but I implied it.)

Factually, logically, if I tithe, I have no money for x, y, and z. It doesn't matter what is at steak. I consider it a very high risk to take. My guts clench up with the future-tripping imaginings of financial humiliations and personal want. Logically, I have several "light my own matches", options. When its dark, light a match, fool, at least you'll get some light! I can borrow extra money, I can not pay something or I can do nothing and lose out. There is one other option: do nothing (for real) and see what God will actually do. I spent years half-doing that last one, and since I never really let God take over, I didn't get to see if He would.

Hello bad parenting and horrid role modeling. I remember several very bitter lessons on what happened when I "trusted" the adults in my world. It was brutal and serious. I have known physical want and deprivation. The dog always had food, but I did not. I really learned, down deep inside myself, that no one can be trusted, I even screw-up. But, trusting me for me, worked out far better then trusting others. I carry that patterning right over to God. I have the sickening realization, that I have never really taken my guard down and stod still before God. To actually consider such a life-threatening move makes my mouth go dry. This is probably the way those freed slaves must have felt with The Red Sea in front and an army behind them. They had nowhere to run, like I do. I can fiddle around and find some kind of "out". I have pulled this countless times. Since I take my own course, I have to live with the consequences. I have never actually stood still to see what, if anything, God might actually accomplish. I sense a type of protection around me. The only thing I can compare it to, is when a woman is with a male friend and he feels she is under threat. Men are just wired to put out a kind of energy, something like a wall you can lean on. I've only felt it a few times, but even when you and the man are only acquaintances, if he senses thread, he would kill to protect you. There is strength in that. I believe God is showing me more of Himself. I am actually going to go for broke later today. Once I pay my tithe, I have to wait. I will deliberately hold off on doing anything out-of-the-ordinary. I sense a temptation to yield to a kind of terror. I choose not to fall pray to that.. Something is shifting inside. I believe I'm birthing a fundamental break with my past fear-based patterns. There is something clean, new and adventuresome about this. Frankly, I hope my fears are unfounded, as I'm tired of living in a world that terrifies me.

4 comments:

Stephen said...

My dear terrified cybergirl. Have I got a story to tell you. Hey, it is great you are stepping out into this exploration of faith. Spying out the good land flowing with milk and honey. That is the land you are living in right now. The land of Jesus.

Hope to resolve the fears you have on tithing. Have been a Christian myself for 30 plus years and have never, no, never calculated a so called tithe. I can count but I can read better. What verse is there in the bible that tells me to do this thing? This is a mystery that will shock and terrify you. The real meaning behind the teaching of tithing in the modern church world.

Are you game????

CyberGal said...

While I appreciate differing views on tithing, I refuse to post any comment that links to a website. I am well aware of the amazing diversity of opinion on most Christian topics.

Your identity will provide a link back to you, should others wish to pursue further investigation.

Again, I appreciate all my readers.

MacPhilly said...

Dear Stephen,

As a Christian for 30 years, I would have expected you would have read more of your Bible. Why? Because scripture is replete with references to tithing. The short list (just the books, not all the verses) includes: Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, 2nd Chronicles, Nehemiah, Malachi, Matthew, Luke, and Hebrews.

I guess if you're looking for any type of argument here it would be is tithing still required of NT believers because we no longer follow the law. My answer is this - Jesus said the Pharisees brought the tenth but neglected justice and love. Then he said they should have practiced the later without leaving the former (bringing the tenth - or tithe) undone. Seems if Jesus was in favor of it being done - we should do it - even if we don't live under OT law.

Best,
Phillip

Stephen said...

Hey, Cybergirl. We got us a bit of a disagreement here. I guess we can get into it I suppose. Forgive me for any sarcasm in advance. I love to sarcise.

Let's see. The law of the tithe says a, b, c, x, y, z. The law in Deut. 12 says to not add to His commands and to not take away from His commands. Of all the tithe laws, which one do you keep without violating this command in Deut. 12?

If you can't, one law you do keep then your rightousness is more than filthy before God. For in the keeping of the law you would still be found in need of mercy. You even fall short in that catagory, then.

Did you know that only tithe collectors can wear the mark of the beast? I'll give you a hint: the trail leads to the tithe of Abraham.