Gradually Becoming Obedient? Working Toward Perfection

Yesterday I posted a quote from a bulletin and asked some questions about it.

Some people who are not tithing wonder if they can “work their way up to a tithe” by increasing their giving some each year until they reach 10%. This question is not addressed in the Bible because tithing is an act of obedience, and you cannot be partially obedient or work your way into obedience. There is no other issue of obedience in which we would suggest that we would gradually become obedient.

hmkjr’s comment was that the amount of a tithe or even the term tithe as a command was not to be found in the New Testament.

Celeste’s comment agreed with Hmkjr’s but also added that since everything we have belongs to Christ, we should be willing to give what the Lord leads us to. Sometimes even to uncomfortable levels.

I had several thoughts upon reading this quote.

1) Tithing – See tithing is not something that is reiterated in the New Testament although giving is encouraged throughout the New Testament. Many times Paul encourages the churches to gather a collection for others before he comes. But there is one overriding point to the giving the heart!

2 Corinthians 9:7 Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. ESV

I love the Greek word for cheerful! Hilaros think hilarious. That is how eagerly we should be giving to the Lord and to His Ministries. Do you give hilariously?

But in this same passage are warnings to not be giving unwillingly or under compulsion.

2 Corinthians 9:5-7
5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction.
6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
7 Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver
. ESV

Look at the words used:

Willing verses exaction,

Made up his mind verses compulsion,

Cheerful verses reluctantly,

The word for exaction is ‎pleonexia which can mean fraud or extortion. Many times churches will encourage others to give almost to the point of extortion or compelling members that they must give in order to be blessed, for example, Prosperity Gospel type churches. However, the Lord is clear that He loves a cheerful giver not one that feels forced to give.

A sermon we heard Sunday and dora also pointed out Hebrews 7. Hebrews 7 mentions tithing but my understanding of Hebrews 7 is that the tithe is in relation to the Priesthood. In other words, a greater than Aaron or Levi is here, a priest in the type of Melchizedek. Then Chapter 8 of Hebrews tells us that there is a better covenant than the old covenant.

Hebrews 8:6-7
6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.
7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.
ESV

In the new Covenant, a tithe is not reiterated. But the cheerful (hilarious) giving is encouraged.

2) 10% – I find the focus on a percentage strange in this case. See it is as if 10% was the only option. Is 10% the only option? Now I’m not going to go into where the 10% figure comes from because most will have a general idea about the 10%.

But if 10% is the requirement as this implies can a person not ever be obedient without giving 10%? What if they want to give more than 20%?

hmkjr’s second comment yesterday points out an interesting dilemma many people find themselves in.

What happens when your debt has gotten out of control? Is it ever acceptable to use the money that you would have tithed to pay off debt? See debt can be a form of stealing from others and there is many verses that show that when we are in debt we are slaves to our lenders.

Proverbs 22:7 The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender. ESV

God desires of us to not be slaves to sin, the world or our debt. So can paying to get out of slavery be an acceptable use of the money that would be tithed?

3) Obedience – But here is my biggest concern. Terry noticed this issue as it applies to other areas of our lives. It is with this portion of the quote:

“… you cannot be partially obedient or work your way into obedience. There is no other issue of obedience in which we would suggest that we would gradually become obedient.”

Read that twice.

You cannot be partially obedient?

Work your way into obedience?

Gradually become obedient?

While granted this is taking about tithing and with a set amount – 10%. But it does bring up the question of other obedience. Is there really “no other issue in which we would suggest that we would gradually become obedient”?

If not we are all doomed. See I don’t know about you but I have never been perfectly obedient in my life. Although I strive daily to become more and more obedient, I haven’t achieved perfection. Will I ever? Not here on earth. While it is good to encourage obedience, even perfect obedience, dare we not at least encourage a gradual change to obedience?

What growing and maturing Christian

has not found that the closer to perfect obedience they get,

the farther away they find themselves?

When I think I have a small portion of my life under control and think that I’m not disobeying in this particular area, the Lord is sure to show me that I am wrong and my vision of obedience is nothing like His vision of obedience for me.

Now granted there are some areas of our lives that when we become a Believer we should immediately turn away from. Things that come to my mind are drunkenness, violence, sexual immorality, stealing and blaspheming the Lord’s name. But even though we should turn and flee these sins, thankfully our Lord is a Lord of grace and mercy and if we were to stumble He will lovingly forgive us when we repent.

Yet there are many areas of a Believer’s life that while the change maybe dramatic especially if they became a Christian while an adult, they still would not be perfectly obedient. Terry mentioned some of these areas in her comment. Others that come to my mind are patience, our speech, controlling our temper, putting others before ourselves, sharing the gospel with others and praying without ceasing. While the ideal is to do all these things perfectly, who has?

So that is my question about this portion of the quote:

“… you cannot be partially obedient or work your way into obedience. There is no other issue of obedience in which we would suggest that we would gradually become obedient.”

While it is good to encourage obedience, and perfect obedience at that, can we not also encourage a gradual move toward more and more obedience?

This is where I find the differences between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. In the Old Covenant the Jews had check lists of things they should do. There was a definite amount to tithe, there were ceremonies that must be performed and there were rules to obey. They could honestly like the rich young ruler feel that they had done it all and perfectly.

However, when Jesus walked here on Earth He spent much of His time showing that the Jewish understand of perfect obedience was flawed.

They could say I have not committed adultery, thinking they were perfect in that area, yet Jesus pointed out their imperfect obedience.

Matthew 5:27-28
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’
28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
ESV

They could say they tithed, right down to the spices in the cabinet, yet Jesus could point out they had misused their money, time and efforts.

Luke 11:42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. ESV

They could give large sums to God, yet Jesus pointed out that they were dishonoring their parents in the process.

Mark 7:10-13
10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’
11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban’ (that is, given to God) —
12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother,
13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
ESV

So my understanding with tithing and obedience is that once you put a line or point as the final goal we have misunderstood the whole point of the New Covenant. Once we say that 10% is the amount we should return to the Lord, we have gotten back to the Jewish legalistic system. There is more to cheerful giving than a 10% amount it is the heart. Once we say if I don’t raise my voice once during the day at the children, I have achieved patience, we have missed the boat because there is more to patience than just that. Now that doesn’t mean we cannot set goals for ourselves but if we are ever content with our personal, manmade goals we have failed.

It truly is matter of the heart.



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10 thoughts on “Gradually Becoming Obedient? Working Toward Perfection

  1. Great post. So much to chew on. Once again, I find myself overwhelmed by our inability to get it right, and by gratitude for the cross. Wonderful. I also found this point particularly interesting:

    “The word for exaction is ‎pleonexia which can mean fraud or extortion. Many times churches will encourage others to give almost to the point of extortion or compelling members that they must give in order to be blessed, for example, Prosperity Gospel type churches. However, the Lord is clear that He loves a cheerful giver not one that feels forced to give.”
    and
    “So my understanding with tithing and obedience is that once you put a line or point as the final goal we have misunderstood the whole point of the New Covenant.”

    Wow. I can finally understand how “compulsion” can be employed by Christians to encourage obedience in others in any area at all, and how that can quickly lead to a legalism that can rip the heart right out of one’s relationship with Christ. Thank you for that.

    As much as I recognize the fact that we are all gradually moving toward greater obedience, I don’t know about encouraging gradual movement towards greater obedience. I think that there’s a big difference between trying your darnedest and missing the mark, and consciously falling short. Now, I realize that I am still very disobedient in issues that are very clear to me. And on those issues, I ask for God’s help in overcoming the flesh. For the most part, I start my day with the intention of conquering that sin in as far as I can recognize it. Doesn’t always happen. But I think that if I were to make allowances for my spiritual disabilities, if you will, I would end up not only performing at the level that I’m aiming for, but I would also cheat myself of the guilt/conviction that helps me to identify my sin, feel the weight of it, and try harder the next time.

    Of course, sometimes I disobey due to ignorance of God’s will for me, which is why I know that I need to study God’s word, pray, and actively seek out His will for my life. That certainly is a process. But I think that if we are neglectful of bible study and church attendance, we are not trying hard enough to find out what He wants from us, and that’s when it becomes just outright willful disobedience.

    This has been a really enjoyable discussion, by the way. Just want to thank and say hi to everyone.

    God bless you all,
    Celeste

    Berean Wife Reply:

    Celeste,

    Glad that I could provide something to ponder and chew on. 🙂

    I don’t mean by gradually becoming obedient that we accept just choosing to do very little or the minimal. But look at it this way, I have perfectionistic tendencies which are often portrayed by procrastinating. See if I cannot or don’t think I can do something right or perfectly often I will not even attempt it. This can be in everything from cooking a new dish to witnessing to another person. That is where part of my concern is.

    Often people will think well I can’t do _________ perfectly so why bother trying. You can fill in the blank with anything. Instead of discouraging another from attempting obedience, even if only partial, we should we not encourage others to actually strive to be obedient. Even knowing we all fail daily and without the Lord’s Mercy and Grace, our feeble attempts at obedience are worthless. Not that our obedience is going to save us or that it will bring us up a few notches in the Lord’s eyes but that our feeble attempts are out of the love for what the Lord has done for us. (Does that make sense?)

    So even with our gradual obedience it is really dependant on the motives of the heart.

    Berean Wife

  2. Isn’t God’s word continually transforming us…even until the day we die? If we were immediatley obedient in every aspect, that would negate that particular need for God’s word.

    The term “progressive sanctification” comes to mind.

    As for tithing, I agree that the scripture clearly state giving is a matter of the heart and that we only limit our blessing when we give less, but we are not commanded as to what level to give. Obviously we are to give – the scripture talk about when we give, not if we give.

    I too have enjoyed this discussion.

    God Bless to All!

    Berean Wife Reply:

    Hmkjr,

    Why didn’t I think of those verses???

    Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. ESV

    2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. ESV

    transformed – ‎metamorphoo – metamorphosis

    In Romans 12:2 and 2 Corinthians 3:18, the idea of transformation refers to an invisible process in Christians which takes place or begins to take place during their life in this age.

    (from The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament © 1992 by AMG International, Inc. Revised Edition, 1993)

    I will have to check with my husband, my better-brained partner, but I think these are in the form that they denote a continuing process verses a one-time change.

    I agree about limiting your giving will limit your blessings from the Lord. You cannot out give the Lord.

    Berean Wife

  3. Good stuff! No pouting when giving, no temper-tantrums! We are certainly to be led of the Lord in this matter, which means to be led by scripture. The things which the Lords commends should not be a burden for us (I John 5) but we should be compelled/constrained by the love of God to aim to please Him (2 Cor 5). It appears to me, that as we grow deeper in out theology we begin to see how many false motives we may have had at first (especially if we were bound by legalism) then comes the great hurdle to not over-react by doing nothing (like witnessing).
    Sometimes the argument over ‘tithes’ (that I’ve come across often) is by people who simply want a reason to NOT give anything, that’s of course not the right attitude. The NT not only calls for cheerful giving (which also means learning through study to grow in our delight of what the Lord calls us to) but calls for us to do good ESPECIALLY to the household of God (I would suppose that’s first within our local churches–yet this also includes missions) and to seek to really BLESS those who watch over our souls, the Apostle Paul by personal choice was a tentmaker (1 Cor 9:6-14)but some would want to require such over all ministers and this isn’t in keeping with scripture, yet Paul did receive help from other churches.
    As to the debt? I know George Mueller was offered a donation by a man he knew was in debt and he told the man to keep his money and pay his debts (how many ministries would do that?)! However I wonder if there is someone out there saying ‘yeah see I can’t give till I get out of debt’ while they continue to charge and enjoy the ‘good life’ (we’re certainly not speaking about struggling to give AFTER all the extras -eating out, cable, manicures, perms, golf, hunting trips, garden makeovers, etc.).

    Berean Wife Reply:

    Julius,

    Lots of food for thought in your comment.

    I agree that the argument against tithing is often given by those who desire not to give anything. However, sometimes even those who give abundantly above and beyond will also argue that the “tithe” is not valid for NT believers.

    Your comment about George Mueller is so applicable and you are right so few churches and ministries would even question taking the money from a person in debt.

    I do know that both Paul Washer’s HeartCry and Jeff Noblit’s Anchored in Truth ask for you to not send them money unless it is money you have above and beyond the support to your local church. That is very good and atypical for church ministries, but it also seems to assumes a tithing concept.

    Every church I have ever been a part of has always encouraged a tithing. But then most have also encouraged debt for building new buildings. 🙁

    Berean Wife

  4. Well said! God gave man the Law to show us that our hearts are incapable of being 100% given over to the Lords complete will. I have to say I get very irritated when I hear good intentioned Pastors emphisis 10% giving when they need to emphisis 100% committed to the Lords leading. For some christians to give 10% is a drop in the bucket and for others it would put them in danger of not paying other bills. Lets teach what the bible says not what we want it to say!!

    FER

    Berean Wife Reply:

    FER,

    “… Pastors emphisis 10% giving when they need to emphisis 100% committed to the Lords leading.”

    So true.

    You are right that 10% of $20,000 is a different matter than 10% of $200,000 in real life living.

    Berean Wife

  5. To add another story, Iain Murray tells of a time when Lloyd-Jones went to preach at a place where it was reported to him how poorly the pastor was taken care of by the deacons, and when he arrived he asked how much do I get? They gave a number and he said ‘I won’t preach for that’ and they went back and forth at this until the Dr. agreed then he took the money and handed it over to the Pastor!
    Believe me I have been in the churces that have several offering times, I had a girl from work just ask me about something her new church did, how they have ‘special’ offering days in which they set a dollar amt to give for each child you have (sounds like admission prices) and for each adult. Well the ‘pastor’ on Sun morning put up a list of names of those who are being financially faithful and chastised the rest (obviously this made her uncomfortable and she wanted my ‘opinion’) well being that’s she not truly converted I pointed out how she was baptised and accepted as a member (although she lives with a guy, who I also work with)and yet they are more concerned about her money than her soul (I said more but you get the point). So yeah there is plenty of falsehood out there and I’ve seen my share of it, yet I think there should also be caution into what we hear (or how we hear), for instance no red flags go up for me because some says the word ‘tithe’ until they expalin what they mean (some simply commend it as a helpful but not commanded model).
    What makes this a difficult subject is our American culture, in that we call luxuries ‘needs’ (i need this, i have to get this…) Yet allow me this observation, the last church we went to (for several yrs) was pretty well-off (the people) yet before that the churches I’ve attended were filled with predominately poor people and honestly I saw more sacrificial giving done by those who didn’t have much, and instead of hearing people complain or even speak about how hard it was to ‘tithe’, they would give countless testimonies to how they’ve made it a practice in their lives and that God has always met their needs. While among those who are well off I’ve heard many complaints concerning money and how if only they had MORE money THEN they could give more in fact these are the same people that are saying things like ‘well we can’t have more children because we can’t afford it’ and yet when a promotion comes they only look for a new car or a bigger house.

    Berean Wife Reply:

    Julius,

    Hopefully, the girl at work will think about what you have shared with her. Have you shared Charo Washer’s testimony with her? It seems helpful for women who think they are believer’s but aren’t.

    Oh, I agree with you about the term “tithe”, it means much different things to different people. The difference is in whether you feel it is a legal requirement that others must follow or just a wise practice that can be a tremendous blessing.

    The American Culture that many think is a blessing is probably our biggest curse. We have everything so mixed and tangled up it will take some serious difficulties to straighten us out. 🙁

    Berean Wife

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