27 August 2010

Question of the Week:
Does the Bible Require Tithing?

by Anne Lang Bundy

"If money be not thy servant,
it will be thy master."
~ Francis Bacon

What does the Bible say about tithing?
~ follow up to last week's question about prosperity theology

Tithing is repeatedly directed, in both Old and New Testaments.

But the follower of Jesus is given different directions.

Tithing's history begins with Abel's offering (Genesis 4:4-5), and the tithe by Abraham of one tenth of his spoils of war (Genesis 14:20). The Law of Moses required a tithe from both produce and animals (Leviticus 27:30-32). Jesus told the Pharisees that justice, mercy, and faith were more important than tithing even as He confirmed tithing as their obligation (Matthew 23:23).

Primary reasons for tithing are:
• to worshipfully honor God and express thanks for His blessings (Deuteronomy 26:9-10);
• to provide for the material needs of those who are set apart by God as His full-time ministers (Numbers 18:21; 1 Corinthians 9:11,14);
• to provide for the material needs of "the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow" (Deuteronomy 26:12-13; James 1:27).

Scripture indicates that refusal to tithe offends the Lord:

"Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, 'In what way have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings."
~ Malachi 3:8 (NKJV; also see Isaiah 43:23-24)

Those of us who belong to Jesus are not bound by the tithing directives of the Old Testament law, nor are we explicitly commanded to follow the example of the early church by selling our assets and owning everything in common (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32,34).

Nonetheless, 1) everything in the earth belongs to the Creator; and 2) Christians have been purchased by Christ. We own neither ourselves nor the material possessions given us as gifts (1 Corinthians 4:7). We are therefore held to a higher standard than simply tithing.

Jesus said the cost of following Him is this:

"So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple."
~ Luke 14:33 (NKJV)

And the reward of leaving treasures behind for Him is this:

"Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life."
~ Luke 18:29-30 (NKJV)

To forsake all we have may or may not mean saying goodbye to it. But at the very least, each of us might examine how tightly we cling to health and wealth, time and talents, even lands and loved ones. Tithing money (as well as time) is a good practice—but it represents only a starting place for stewardship of what the Lord has entrusted to us.

© 2010 Anne Lang Bundy
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20 August 2010

Question of the Week:
Name It and Claim It?

by Anne Lang Bundy

Jim Bakker,
once a prominent prosperity gospel proponent,
who fully renounced that doctrine
after reading the entire Bible for the first time
while incarcerated for fraud

“What is the prosperity gospel I keep hearing about?”
~ Nina, Daytona Beach, Florida

Please forgive me for removing the capital "g" from that question, Nina, but the message you speak of—the prosperity theology also spoken of with terms such as "health and wealth" or "name it and claim it"—is anything but The Gospel.

The Gospel of Jesus says that the children of God Almighty—those reconciled to Him through the blood of Christ, who are adopted as His heirs—receive riches exceeding their highest imagination, beginning with forgiveness of sins and eternal life. The prosperity gospel takes that truth and applies it to material wealth and financial prosperity, relying upon this Scripture in particular:

"Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,
That there may be food in My house,
And try Me now in this,"
Says the LORD of hosts,
"If I will not open for you the windows of heaven
And pour out for you such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it."
~ Malachi 3:10 (NKJV);
(also see Deuteronomy 8:18; John 10:10; 3 John 2-4; Romans 8:32)

Because of the emphasis on tithing, the people most "blessed" by prosperity theology are those collecting tithes, purportedly to further ministry in general and healing in particular. Listeners are told that if they tithe with sufficient faith, they can name a Bible verse and claim its blessing for themselves, obtaining desired health and wealth.

But the Lord always defines true riches in spiritual terms ...

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
~ Ephesians 1:3 (NKJV);
(also see Psalms 119:71-72; 1 Corinthians 2:9)

... while He speaks of the desire for money as a snare to God's people ...

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
~ 1 Timothy 6:9-10 (NKJV);
(also see Mark 10:23-24; Matthew 6:19-20;
Luke 6:24; Luke 12:33-34;
& Proverbs 30:7-9—my personal favorite)

... and He describes material wealth as simply one more of the gifts we're given as a test to see how we'll use it:

Parable of the Talents
Matthew 25:14-30

Thus it is good to prosper in health and wealth, so that we have an abundance to put to use for building up God's true kingdom. But it is dangerous to desire to be rich or love money—the fundamental doctrine of prosperity theology.

Concerning why Christians aren't always healed in response to prayer, see "Why No Healing?"

Next week: Is tithing a requirement of Christianity?

© 2010, Anne Lang Bundy
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13 August 2010

Question of the Week:
Of the World?

by Anne Lang Bundy

What is the difference between “in the world” and “of the world”?
~ Max, Ormond Beach, Florida

Unless we understand that "the world" is God's confirmed enemy, the answer won't matter.

Planet Earth and creation belong to the Creator. The world is the system, standards and society of Earth, which all oppose the Creator with rebellion, disregard, and open hostility. Numerous Scripture passages about the world include statements such as:

We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.
~ 1 John 5:19

Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
~ James 4:4

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
~ 1 John 2:15

People of the world and people of God's kingdom may be identified by what they value:
• this life and its physical, temporal pleasures—or eternal life and its spiritual rewards which begin now and endure into eternity;
• darkness with its ignorance and immorality—or light with its knowledge of God and His holy righteousness;
• receiving praise—or giving God praise

For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.
~ 1 John 2:16 (NKJV)

To answer the original question, few metaphors are as vivid as a ship in the sea likened to a Christian in the world.

God places His people throughout the world to make Jesus known. A Christian who is isolated from the world is like a ship which has been dry-docked—it may be a safer ship, but it has become useless. On the other hand, a ship put to good use spends plenty of time in the sea, and cannot help but get the sea on it and even in it.

How much sea in the ship is too much? A little salt water may corrode metal and eat sails. Some water in the hold may ruin cargo. A lot of water makes the ship less seaworthy, and may even sink the ship in a storm.

The sea must be kept out of the ship which is in the sea.

How much world in the Christian is too much? The world on us may corrupt our understanding of God's Word and ways. Some world in our heart compromises what we value. Lots of the world in us means we'll experience anxiety rather than peace, despair rather than joy, apathy rather than love. When one of life's storms hits, we'll go down quickly. (Matthew 7:24-27)

The world must be kept out of the Christian who is in the world—who is there to bring God's light and salvation to those drowning in the darkness.

© 2010 Anne Lang Bundy
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07 August 2010

Lonely is healing if you let it.

Two of my friends. Two people that I love very much say they are getting divorced. Although I love them, maybe because I love them, I am angry at Mike and Becky for giving up.

My heart wishes they would hang on a little longer. It also wishes that they would not give up and fight to save their marriage a little harder.

Both are loving people. They do so much to help and love others. That two loving people cannot relearn to love each other does not make sense to me.

But, it is not about me. If I have learned anything, it is impossible to truly know the hearts and minds of even the closest family members and friends.

For legal and ethical reasons I cannot explicitly tell my clients not to divorce, but Mike and Becky are not my clients, they are my friends. I want to scream and tell Mike and Becky that divorce will not help. I want to tell them that their problems are bigger than their marriage and will follow them should their marriage end. Turn and face your problems together, maybe truly for the first time ever.

I'll never stop loving Mike and Becky. My prayer is that they try one more time.

Here is a resent post from Mike's blog, Mike in Progess:
I've been feeling alone and lonely lately. It just got worse. I just found out where Becky and my son will be living after they leave Florida and move to Washington state in a few months. It hurts a little bit more when I found out that she'll be living with the couple that introduced us to each other almost 14 years ago. I'm going to need to get use to being alone. I know what you Christ followers are saying, "Mike, you're never alone. God is always with you!" I know. I know. But tonight I feel alone. This is one of those moments where I can easily do something stupid because it hurts too much to deal with reality. Please God help me deal with being alone and heal my heart. Don't worry. I won't do anything stupid tonight.

Funny how God works. Just moments ago he led me to a video at the
Flower Dust blog. It's another way that God reaches out to me and tells me it's going to be okay. See the video below from a really cool chick named Jamie. The video below is about learning to be alone.

06 August 2010

Question of the Week:
What Kind of Sin is It?

by Anne Lang Bundy

What are the different kinds of sin? How are they overcome?

Last week's question addressed generational sin and the sources of temptation to sin: the devil, the world, our own desire.

The study of sin is as unpleasant as sin itself. After hours of studying dozens of words related to sin, I'm plenty sick of it. The types of sin might be narrowed down to the following categories:

Iniquity – general worthlessness and moral corruption within us
Ignorance – carelessly sinning or backsliding
Perversion – distorting God's ways
Betrayal / Transgression – knowingly crossing over to evil
Wickedness – deliberate, premeditated evil in rebellion against God
Miss the Mark – doing wrong simply because we fail to do right

One last word summed up everything: GUILTY.

For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.
~ James 2:10 (NKJV)

How many crimes must a person commit to become a criminal? Only one.

How many sins makes us guilty of being a sinner unfit for Heaven? Only one.

Sin needn't be exhaustively analyzed to understand that we're sinners without hope of overcoming apart from the power of God. We don't defeat sin by studying sin, but by fixing our eyes on God and understanding His righteousness.

To overcome the eternal death penalty of sin:

• acknowledge that God is allowed to make the rules for His creation, and it is wrong to violate His rules regardless of any explanation we'd offer;
• admit to being a sinner and ask God for His forgiveness through Jesus Christ;
• resolve to turn away from sin (repent of sin).

Among the many ways to overcome the power of sin are these:

• acknowledge that God is wise and knows what's good, that He loves us and wants us to have true joy, that goodness and joy cannot be obtained apart from Him—and resolve to do God's will;
• faithfully read the Bible without ever believing that you know God well enough;
• cultivate dependence on God by continually praying to Him;
• when you sense God's Holy Spirit prompting you to action, yield immediately to increase His power;
• develop spiritual discipline by saying "no" to self-indulgence (fasting helps!);
• spend time with people who follow Jesus to strengthen a bond with Him;
• use caution to avoid being conformed to worldly influences.

I plan to address this last point next week in response to a question about the difference between being in the world and of the world.

© 2010 Anne Lang Bundy
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