This an extended a theological essay that was written for my church last year. It is actually a substantially abridged version of an original (4k vs. 11k words) that was used as a conversation partner among LPC’s elders. The longer version had more exegetical and historical work, as well as engagement with the EPC’s Book of Worship (which I’ll probably post separately at a later date) and deeper analysis of the missional dimension of tithes and offertories.
How should the church think about money, especially when it comes to acts of giving in worship and honoring God with our resources? These are two inter-related questions: How should the church collect money? and What is God’s expectation for giving? What follows is a sketch of the biblical summary on these topics along with historical considerations. It concludes with principles for Langhorne Presbyterian Church’s practice.
Tithes and Offerings in the Old Testament
In the Mosaic law there were broadly three categories of tithes: the tithes to support the Levitical priesthood (Numbers 18:21, Deuteronomy 14:22-29, 2 Chronicles 31:3-5); the tithes for the celebrations at Israel’s festivals (Deuteronomy 12:6ff, 16:13-17; and tithes for the poor (Deuteronomy 14:28-29, 26:12-13). Each of these kinds of tithes had a variation in the frequency in their collection. Notably the tithe to the Levites was explicitly premised on Israel living in the promised land (Deuteronomy 12:19, 26:1-4).
A common misconception is that tithing equated to 10% of an Israelite’s income. However, “Some [scholars] think the Israelites gave 14 tithes over seven years; others believe they gave 12. Regardless, when we add the required tithes together, the amount certainly exceeded 10 percent. In fact, the number was probably somewhere around 20 percent per year….
Every now and then I write a more extended theological essay for our church. The goal is to help people in the church think through biblical topics theologically and to see “under the hood” and how conclusions are reached. I’ll start posting them on the blog here from time to time. This is the most recent post.
How should the church think about the liturgical calendar?
As history reveals, the influence of tradition and culture establishes the necessity of discernment for Christians seeking to worship in spirit and truth. For churches in the Reformed Protestant tradition like Langhorne Presbyterian Church, the answer to that must always begin by asking first another question: What does the Bible have to say about this? What does God think about how we use our time and leverage it for worship and spirituality?
God’s Concern for Our Time
God demonstrates his concern about time from the get-go of creation. He created the sun, moon, and stars on day four of creation to rule the day and night and to be for “signs and for season, and for days and for years.” God established a natural rhythm of day and night, of the passing and return of seasons, into creation itself. The sun and moon, the rotation and orbit of the earth, are given by God for us to mark out the passing of time (signs and seasons) to commemorate and observe milestones. Things like New Year’s Day, birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays at different points in the year are all gifts that God has given us flowing from day four of creation. The natural rhythm of creation is a gift to practice creativity and cultivation of the earth in our organization and practice of time. The way we practice time orients our lives and shapes the story we believe we are inhabiting. This is called the liturgy of life…