Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. (1 Tim. 6:17-18)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Freedom In Christ, Not Freedom From Giving

Photo by Cribb10
Let Freedom Ring

At a time when we are celebrating our national freedom here in the United States, I am reminded of the freedom that we as believers enjoy in our Lord Jesus Christ. Consider the following New Testament passages on Christian freedom.

In 2 Corinthians 3:16-17, the Apostle Paul writes,
But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
In Galatians 2:4-5, we read,
This matter [circumcision] arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.
Then, Paul states in Galatians 5:1,
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
The freedom that Paul writes about in these various passages is freedom from the rules and regulations of Jewish Law in the Old Testament. At this point in early church history, there was a group of Jewish believers who were teaching that in order to be a believer in Christ that you needed to follow specific requirements in Old Testament Law as well. The early church leaders argued regularly that this was a heretical teaching.

Old Testament Tithe vs New Testament Giving

I have blogged extensively on tithing in the Old Testament and giving in the New Testament in the following posts:
I won't spend a lot of time rehashing old material here, but regardless of which testament you look at, there is a mandate for tithing (and above) for the Jew under Old Testament Law and an appeal for extravagant, generous giving for the Christian in the New Testament. If you truly love God the Father and have been transformed by the saving power of Jesus Christ, then the natural result should be an attitude of generosity.

Freedom Means Give More

Some Christians would have us believe that the freedom we have in Christ cancels out our need to give at the tithing level. These believers put the Old Testament requirement for tithing and let's say circumcision at the same level. These two requirements of the Law have been done away along with a host of others.

I would contend that our freedom in Christ actually means we should give more than the tithe, and here's why: Christ stated that He came to fulfill the Old Testament Law. Read Jesus' own words in the Sermon On the Mount in Matthew 5:17,
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them…”
After the Lord makes this statement, He gives some specific examples from the Law - murder and adultery. Check out these verses:
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell (Matthew 5:21-22).
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:27-28).
In these passages, notice that Christ's stated fulfillment of the Law goes beyond an outward action to an inward heart attitude. What if we were to apply that same logic to the tithe requirement of the Law? I believe that one could make a strong argument that Christian giving goes way beyond the Old Testament tithe.

Also consider what the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:23-24,
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.
Within our freedom through Christ, we have the "right" not to give, but I would argue that not giving is not very beneficial to the Kingdom of God, the local church, or the believer. Through the act of giving, we invest into God's Kingdom here on earth as well as in heaven. We help fund the ministries of the local church that we attend on a regular basis. Finally, as we grow in our generosity, we are shaped into the image of God the Father and His Son who gave everything for us at Calvary.

So, during this time of celebrating our freedom as Americans, also remember the freedom we have in Christ. Don't abuse this freedom in exercising your "rights" not to give back to God, His church, and others. Allow your freedom in Christ to shape your generosity after His example - He gave EVERYTHING for you. Surely, you can give back much more to Him.

Also, check out these related posts:

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