Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.
In October the PCC passed a very significant resolution. We agreed to tithe the income of the church from 1 January 2018 and donate that tithe to mission.
In some ways this is quite a risky decision. We have major financial obligations as a church. We need to find nearly £20000 a year as our share of ministry costs payable to the diocese. We need to invest more in our children and young people’s work. We need sooner or later to redecorate the building. Paying a tithe will be quite a challenge.
So why make the decision? Let me give you three reasons:
First of all, our tithe is a response to the grace of God. In 2 Corinthians 8:9 we read: For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. As a church we owe everything to Jesus Christ. He is the one who called us into existence, to be His living presence here on earth. Our giving is first and foremost an expression of thanksgiving and praise to the one who gave up everything so that through Him we might receive our identity as children of the living God.
Secondly, when we tithe we are recognising who really controls the finances of the church. When gifts were brought for laying the foundation of the temple back in the Old Testament, David used some words which we use even now most Sundays, in 1 Chronicles 29:11: Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendour, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Tithing acknowledges the reality of these words. The name on the bank account may be St Michael’s and St Barnabas, but actually the funds are the Lord’s, to be used in His service.
And thirdly, our tithe is an expression of our faith. Again, in ancient Israel the people were commanded in Exodus 23:19 to Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God. In a farming society, giving your firstfruits to the Lord involved a risk. You didn’t at that point know if you would have any more crops to feed yourself and your family. But you gave the best of your firstfruits in the expectation that the Lord would provide and would bless your sacrifice.
In 2018 we are celebrating our 175th anniversary. There seems to me no better way of celebrating our faith, than putting into practice all the Lord commands. Of course paying our tithe as a church will be a challenge. But then the PCC decision asks all of us to consider just what our faith in Jesus Christ means, whether He is in fact as much Lord of our money as of any other part of our life. Surely our anniversary has to be a year of Jubilee, marked by genuine Spirit-filled generosity and a new commitment to His mission in the world.