On the Matter of Tithing

“Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

I fear Uncle Sam, and I also fear God, which is why I pay my taxes and tithe faithfully. However, I imagine that many godly Christians and even more not-so-godly Christians can’t say the same. Everybody pays his or her taxes. After all, as the old saying goes, taxes are one of two things that we can be sure of in life. Yet how come people hardly ever say that Christians are known for their generosity? Shouldn’t our generosity be a fact as certain as death considering that God commanded us to be charitable? Honestly, a lot of the Christians I know, myself included, are known for being tight-fisted jerks, not loving, generous, or kind.

(Sidebar: I’m not trying to piously preach to the choir. I need to be reminded to obey God’s commands as much as anyone else, so please hear me out.)

You know who are known for their giving? Mormons. Every member of the LDS Church has to give at least 10% of their income to their church if they want to be good Mormons. For instance, when presidential candidate Mitt Romney released his tax records to the public, it was a big deal that 10% of his income went to the LDS Church because he would have been disqualified from his religion and inevitably the presidential race if he had given anything less. But if Mitt Romney were a Christian, most people wouldn’t have even bothered to check.

Now I’m not suggesting we go to the extremes of the Mormons and audit our members’ financial records. After all, Mormonism is a works-based new religious movement that has nothing to do with the grace, truth, and love of Christianity. Yet why isn’t it a big deal when we find out that someone we go to church with isn’t tithing? Why are we afraid to confront people about holding back from God when we easily confront them about other sins in their lives? If I had to make a guess, it’s probably because we don’t want them to push back and ask us how we are being faithful stewards.

You see, I think we fail to give because of seven different reasons: Pride, Envy, Wrath, Sloth, Greed, Gluttony,  and Lust. Maybe you won’t give because you are prideful and think you deserve it more than God or others.  Maybe you won’t give because you are envious of your friend’s wealth and want to have more money than he does. Maybe you won’t give because you are angry that God would command you to give away your hard earned money. Maybe you won’t give because you are lazy and life is easier if you have more money. Maybe you are just simply greedy and always want more. Maybe you are gluttonous and you’re secretly hoping that your money will satisfy you, or maybe you are lustful and love your money more than you love God. I don’t know your heart, but I know mine. Those are all excuses that I have used at various times in my life.

But ultimately, here’s one reason why you should tithe. God held nothing back when he gave creation, life, and eternity to you through his Son, Jesus Christ. So why should you hold back from God? Isn’t that more compelling than any petty reason not to give?

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The Hunger Games

We all have our guilty pleasures, and one of my favorite ways to spend my time is reading fantasy fiction. In fact, if I happen to find a series that I particularly enjoy, I’ll reread it multiply times. Case in point, I’ve read Lord of the Rings 4 times, Harry Potter 6 times, and The Chronicles of Narnia over a dozen times. If you do the math, then you’ll see that I’ve read Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows on average once every 9 months since the day it was published. So yeah, I’m a nerd.

However, for the first time, I’ve come across a fantasy fiction series that I can honestly say I’ll never read again, and this is coming from the guy who read Twilight twice. I can honestly say that I’ll never read The Hunger Games again.

For those who do not know, The Hunger Games, is a series written by Suzanne Collins, which has recently picked up a lot of fame due to the impending release of the theatrical version of the first book. As far as premises go, it’s pretty brilliant. Mankind has almost annihilated itself with war, and all that’s left is the nation of Panem, whose ancestors were once the citizens of the United States. Yet in this fantastical world, instead of learning from their mistakes, humanity has become even more depraved, and the children of the poor are forced to fight to the death in an arena for the amusement of the rich.

If you’re familiar with the fantasy genre, then it’s pretty easy to fill in the blanks on key points in any given series. Essentially, a young hero rises up and faces the evil in the land in order to bring redemption and justice. Collins, however, veers away from this theme in an attempt to convey the vanity of violence and the depravity of man. So while Collins’ heroine does indeed rise up to face evil, there is a complete lack of redemption and barely any justice.

If you look back at the previous series I mentioned, excluding Twilight of course, then you’ll notice that they all have one thing in common. The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and the Chronicles of Narnia each have a Christ figure as the hero of the story. The heroine of The Hunger Games, on the other hand, is an ordinary human girl; its hero is a man instead of a God-man.

Some might praise Collins for her attempt to forsake the forms of genre, but I am outraged by it. At the end of any great fantasy story all things are well and all manner of things are well because the hero was predestined to set things right and makes things new. Sure the story of the Christ figure has been told and retold thousands of times, but that’s because it’s the only story worth being a part of. The Hunger Games, however, merely states in a nihilistic way that all has happened before, and all will happen again, and the only joy that can be found in reading such a story is the knowledge that it is indeed a fantasy.

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Missio Dei v. American Dream

Nothing is more generally known than our duties which belong to Christianity; and yet, how amazing is it, nothing is less practiced?” –George Whitefield

George Whitefield died on September 30, 1770, yet his statement about the Cardinal Virtues of the Christian life is still apt hundreds of years later. Christians are indeed called to be charitable, humble, compassionate, and forgiving, yet these virtues are ominously absent in modern Christianity in America, which I believe is due to Christians forsaking their conviction for comfort. To put it in other words, we’ve exchanged the Missio Dei for the American Dream and have essentially created a bastardized version of Christian life.

If we reduced the Doctrine of Salvation to its lowest common denominator, then we would see that every Christian has come to saving faith in exactly the same way, through hearing of the word, through the “Mission of God.” Thus, missions is something that every single Christian has encountered, and, yet, far too many Christians are not practicing it.

Now when I say missions, I am not referring to the short-term trips, humanitarian efforts, or other things of that nature. Those are indeed aspects of missions, but they are not missions in and of themselves. Essentially, missions is the presence and proclamation of the gospel. It is the evidence of your changed life. It is the way you speak biblical truth to someone who clearly needs Jesus. Missions is the desire to take the gospel to the ends of the earth in order that God’s glory might be fully revealed.

That is why I say that missions is rarely practiced in the modern church, and that is why I say that missions has been bastardized with the American Dream. You see, missions is an action that has been delegated in a typical American fashion. We have our appointed representatives (missionaries) who do the work while we sit back and pay the taxes (tithe). We build ourselves bigger and bigger claiming that if people would only look to us, then their lives could be changed. And in all of our supposed glory, I am able to describe both our evangelistic efforts and our political philosophy in one fail swoop. We are called to be in the world, not of the world. There is more to the Christian life than letting others sacrifice on your behalf. Why point to yourself and say, “See? You can change.” When you can say with humility and love, “Look to Christ and he can and will change you.”

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A Christian President?

In my sometimes-controversial opinion, Mr. Obama will not be remembered as a great president. He will probably be remembered as one of the most attractive presidents in American history, but definitely not a great one. That being said, it is probably not all that surprising that I voted for McCain in 2008, and, come November 2012, I will vote for anyone, except for Sarah Palin, who runs against Mr. Obama.

Usually, I wait until after a Republican Candidate secured his place on the Presidential ballot before I dive into the foray of political debates and discussions. However, the other day I came across an interesting article on CNN discussing the uproar the SBC caused among Evangelical Christians when it demanded Mr. Gringrich to formally and sincerely repent of his past marital failures. As I was reading this article discussing different factions of Christianity arguing over the validity of Mr. Gringrich’s relationship with Christ, I could not help asking myself, “Does this really matter?” Is it really all that important for the President to be a Christian? Personally, I believe the answer is no. Admittedly, I have not been alive for all that long, but I cannot recall one instance in my lifetime when the religious belief of a president, whether Republican or Democrat, has significantly changed or affected in any way, shape, or form his administration or the United States of America.

Every four years, our nation takes a step back and examines where we have been and where we believe we are heading. We examine a multitude of issues; we bicker and argue for months, and then on one eventful day we vote according to our beliefs and values. Ultimately, what we seek during every single presidential election is a champion of the people; someone who can deliver us from the turmoil that afflicts us, whether it’s economical struggles, war, or famine. Ultimately, what we seek during every single presidential election is a savior. However, a normal sinful man cannot solve the problems of our nation. Only the God-Man Jesus Christ can save us; Only Jesus Christ can save us from our afflictions. That is why I believe that it is inconsequential whether the President of the United States is a Christian. Whether or not the president is a Christian does not affect his ability to be a leader of our nation, and more importantly whether or not he’s a Christian does not change the fact that he cannot offer redemption of sins.

God appointed every earthly ruler who has ever lived, and every earthly ruler who will rule in the future to their throne, and Jesus Christ will crush their thrones beneath his feet when he returns to rule over his Kingdom. Hence, when it come times to vote for a new president, seek a leader, not a savior. If you’re a Christian, your identity does not rest on the moral strength of your president, your identity is firmly established in the moral perfection of Jesus Christ.

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