TITHING AND THE WORLD MISSION OF CHRIST
By: G. Ernest Thomas
Tithing helps to broaden Christian horizons. It is inevitable that such a development should be noted in the outlook of those who tithe. The nature of the practice, as an acknowledgment of God’s goodness, makes it necessary for followers of Jesus Christ to see the world as different from the one which they previously regarded with unconcern.
Tithers look upon the earth with its sunshine, minerals, and fertile soil as the gift of the Heavenly Father. All the world is therefore sacred, and becomes immediately a part of their stewardship. God is seen as the giver, not only of the laws of nature and of the universe, but of the essentials of daily living. He is the source of the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food which strengthens our physical bodies.
Those who tithe recognize that the daily gifts which come to them are an evidence of the providence of God as He expresses Himself, not only through acts of nature, but through the works of His people in every part of the world. Dr. Abraham Myerson describes man’s dependence upon others in these words: “As a man eats, he incorporates within himself Nebraska, China, India, and the thousand and one places from which the foodstuffs come, and, in a large sense, incorporates within himself the sun, and possibly, if Millikan is right, almost infinite sources of energy.” For the Christian it is an actuality that God as Creator is the source of the energy, both visible and invisible, who contributes to the physical and spiritual welfare of man.
When a Christian accepts such an interpretation of life, as documented in the Bible and in history, he realizes that all life is holy, and that people all over the earth are a part of the creating and continuing concern of God. It changes his attitudes toward the world, helping him to see every nation and people as a living part of God’s realm.
Dimitri Mitropoulos has gained wide recognition as one of the foremost conductors of symphony orchestras in the modern day. People were quick to recognize his genius. But Mr. Mitropoulos embarrassed officials of the Minneapolis Symphony because he roomed on the campus of the University of Minnesota, and lived on less than $3,000 a year out of his $25,000 salary. There were those who objected strenuously, feeling that such surroundings were out of keeping with the position which should be maintained by the
conductor of one of the world’s great symphony orchestras. Mr. Mitropoulos explained that he felt compelled to live simply. He told of his humble beginnings in Greece, and of the struggle which he made in his youth to secure a musical education. He declared that he had been strengthened through those days by faith in God and by the encouragement of friends. Having been so helped, he felt that he could not now receive compensation without putting aside a large portion to aid others who deserved a similar
opportunity. He was therefore using his salary as a sacred trust, aiding people who were in need.
It is that spirit which motivates the tither. He is aware that God has been good to him. The fruits of His providential care are evident on every hand. Such a steward feels a compulsion to acknowledge those mercies each day by the service which he renders to others.
Concerned About People
Tithers are concerned about the world and its people. Their interest has its origin in two principles: first, the awareness of the many treasures which God has placed in the world, and which the Christian acknowledges by setting aside a tenth of the money he earns; and, second, the idea that all the earth is a part of God’s creation, and therefore Christians feel a compulsion to use their means and their strength to help make a better world, and to give an opportunity for every person to learn of Jesus Christ.
The nature of a tither’s belief in God commits him immediately, and for all his life, to the task of helping people in every part of the earth to know Christ, and to live for Him.
“I shall not cease from earnest fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand;
“Till we have built Jerusalem
In every fair and pleasant land.”
This modification of William Blake’s militant lines describes the position of the tither as he confronts our contemporary civilization. Because it is God’s world the tither cannot remain idle until every part of the earth acknowledges God’s love as revealed in nature, in history, and in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
A tither recognizes that the Christian faith is what has made his lot different from that of others in the world. The source of his inner peace is his confidence and trust in the God who was in Christ. Out of the
assurance, the strength which his faith has given him, he begins the practice of tithing.
It is understandable that those who tithe should want to invest their tithe money in those endeavors which will allow needy people in every part of the world to gain a knowledge of God and to dedicate themselves to Christ.
Tithers recognize that food and clothing must be given to those who are hungry and cold. They gladly admit that secular organizations which labor to provide social and economic welfare for the dispossessed of the earth have an important part to play in the struggle for a better society.
But the tither wants to use the larger portion of his tithe in his home church and in the mission field. He knows that the final struggle is with man’s ignorance of God and with a denial of His will. Because his own
abundant life had its source in his faith, it is understandable that he should want the Lord’s money to be applied to the task which promises to give others a similar opportunity.
The missionary cause at home and across the world is a matter of first interest. As he has a part in such endeavors the tither knows he is sharing in the task of world redemption. Through his support of churches, mission stations, schools, colleges, and hospitals, the Kingdom of God moves closer by each day of service which is rendered by the minister and the missionary, the teacher and the physician.
How Meager Are Our Gifts!
Christians must feel a sense of penitence when we consider the fact that our gifts to missions have been so meager. How great that tragedy is cannot be clearly understood unless we compare the expenditures for missions with those which are made for other purposes.
On December 8, 1941, a fleet of bombers appeared in the eastern sky beyond Singapore, Malaysia, at 11:02 A.M. The two largest British battleships – the “Prince of Wales” and the “Repulse” – were lying at anchor in the harbor. The bombers rained down their destruction. Twenty-two minutes after they had first been seen on the horizon the planes left behind a flaming waterfront from which every sign of the two great battleships had disappeared. The “Prince of Wales” and the “Repulse” were destroyed and sunk in the brief space of twenty-two minutes.
But consider this! The loss of the two battleships represented an amount of money greater than the total sum spent for missions in Japan by every Christian group from 1867, when Japan was first opened to the West, until 1941. Twenty-two minutes! A rain of bombs, and two battleships were destroyed which cost more to build than all the schools and churches, the missionaries and teachers who served in Japan from the beginning of Western influence in that land.
There are those who charge the Christian Church with the failure to face reality. Some men argue that a purely economic or military type of relationship with the nations of the world is “common sense.” Yet it is
questionable whether Christianity can be charged with failure to change, by the power of faith, the attitudes of people and governments in foreign lands when we spend such a disproportionate amount of our wealth for the material means of destruction, and so little for implanting ideas which have their foundation in a faith in Almighty God.
The Department of Commerce of the United States revealed figures indicating that in 1952 the amount spent for tobacco by the people of the United States was equal to $96.20 for every man and woman who uses it. By way of contrast, the figures for religious and charitable giving in the same year indicated that each American gave only $7.34 to support every church and religious institution in the land.
Christianity deserves an opportunity to demonstrate what it can accomplish in the hearts of men. In this generation the evidences of mounting tensions among nations show that purely secular roads to peace all come to a dead-end. The hour is at hand when civilization must again weigh the question as to whether or not it is practical to try the way of Jesus Christ.
A new birth of enthusiasm to reach every part of the world with the message of Christ must, however, have its origin in the hearts of Christians themselves. This hour calls for a host of professing followers of Jesus to
become enthusiastic with an urgent concern for people, that every person may know Christ, and that they may live by His teachings. The material resources to meet that need call for men and women who will tithe their incomes as an acknowledgment of their gratitude to God, and who will then lay those gifts upon the altar in order that men may be won to Christ in their own communities and across the world.
A generation ago there was a young man who, having been left a great fortune by his family, turned away from ease and luxury to serve as a missionary in the Near East. His name was William Borden. One day he was standing on a street corner in Cairo, Egypt, talking to a friend, when a man drove by in a Cadillac. “I wish I had a car like that,” Borden said wistfully. “Get one, then,” replied his friend, “you have plenty of money.” William Borden shook his head sadly, “No, I can’t afford it.” Not long afterward Borden died, having poured out all his strength in the endeavor to win people to Christ, and having given his entire fortune to further the Christian cause in the world.
William Borden felt a sense of compulsion to share the Christian faith. He recognized that it is a matter of life and death that men and women should come to know Jesus Christ, and that they should commit their lives to Him. Borden tithed his money, and with his wealth he gave his life to that cause.
The needs of humanity in the Twentieth Century require the full surrender of self by every professing Christian, and the acknowledgment of that surrender by putting aside at least a tithe to do God’s work in the world.
It is evident that the Church could accomplish miracles in this generation if it had sufficient money available to answer the challenge. On every hand the outreach of the missionary program is weakened by lack of funds. Churches could be erected in which men and women of every race and nation would learn of God. Schools could be built which would mold new attitudes by changing minds and hearts. Hospitals could be provided in which men and women would come to know God through the healing ministry of His Church. Evangelists and teachers could go into every remote place on the planet to proclaim the good news of the Gospel. The mission of Christ to a needy world awaits the surrender of the money which is necessary to accomplish His tasks.
This moment in history demands sacrifice; but even more it needs, on the part of all His people, a widespread acknowledgment of God’s mercies. A new awareness of our dependence upon God for all life’s blessings would change sacrifice into a glad surrender. It would help us to see that tithing is a privilege for every follower of Christ. Acknowledgment of God’s mercy would transform attitudes toward money until Christians would endeavor to administer every dollar which they possess as a sacred trust.
A missionary in England was recently presenting the cause of Christ to a congregation. He mentioned the numerous opportunities for service which make this a day of thrilling adventure for the Church. A businessman was deeply impressed by the message, and gave the missionary a substantial check at the close of the service. A few days later the man wrote apologetically to say that he had suffered unexpected financial reverses, and wondered if it would be possible to recall his gift. The missionary, though disappointed, returned the check to the man in the following mail. But a few days afterward there was another letter from the businessman. This time he enclosed an even larger check than the one which he had asked to have returned. “I was mistaken,” he wrote, “God has been telling me that I ought to give my tithe while I can.”
The daily unfolding of crucial events in all parts of the world emphasizes the importance of the Christian Gospel for a needy humanity. The tithe is part of God’s bountiful gifts as entrusted to His children. It is the
privilege of every follower of Jesus Christ to give his money while he can, trusting that it may be the means by which a new world will be born.
If All Would Tithe!
It is impossible to estimate what the results would be if a majority of all professing Christians were to tithe their income, and were to use that great treasure to support the Church at home and throughout the world.
One thing is certain: such a dedication of money would make it unnecessary for Christians to spend as much time raising funds for the church by suppers and sales. Such activities add money to the treasury, but they tend to take the focus of attention away from the more important responsibilities of the Christian life. One pastor, who was troubled by the absorption of his people in numerous money-making endeavors, said: “I believe there ought to be a better way to finance a church.”
Many churches have found that the better way to pay to the budget is through the practice of tithing. By such an approach to matters of finance the strain of money-raising has been lifted, and members of the church have come to experience spiritual victory in their personal lives and in their homes.
A pastor in Berkeley, California, described what happened in his church when the members learned to tithe. He said: “Our current expense budget was about $30,000 ahead of our missionary budget. It had been necessary to make certain advances in that budget to keep pace with the rising cost of living. One of our men said: ‘This next year let us set as our goal, not a theoretical goal but one we will write into our budget and try to raise, a 50-50 budget, giving as much to others as for the work of Christ at home.’
This meant an increase of $30,000 in one year for missions. The men at the meeting agreed: ‘Whether or not we can do it this year we are going to begin this year and face it openly as a congregation. This is God’s will! at least as much for others as for ourselves.’
“At the close of the year we found to our joy that we had gone over our mission budget, making an advance of about $33,000 over the previous year. I do not know exactly how it happened. It is not so much because we have been emphasizing the principle of stewardship, which we seek to do, but because we have connected tithing with our great mission in Christ.”
The miracle which happened in that California congregation can happen in many others. A new hope for Christianity in the generation ahead awaits the willingness of members of the Church to set aside their tithe as a minimum measure of Christian giving.
Tithing is practical because it has a definite relationship to the task of the Christian Church. It recognizes God as the giver of every blessing. It interprets all the world and its people as part of the creation and plan of God. In the reality of such a faith the earnest Christian is committed to the duty of using the material goods which the Lord has entrusted to him in order that all the rest of mankind may be brought to know Him, and that the world may be saved from destruction and death.
Every follower of Jesus Christ is privileged, as part of his commitment, to tithe his income, and to dedicate that tithe to the mission of Christ at home and across the far reaches of the earth.
(The above material was taken from the book Spiritual Life Through Tithing.)
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