This article from 1964 obviously wasn’t the last word on the appropriate level of Christian giving, but it did contain interesting information and the writer effectively applied Scripture to make her points.
Before diving in, here’s some context that should help with the section of the article titled “Sacrificial?”
The writer says her family’s “take-home pay” in 1964 was $600 per month, or approximately $7,200 for the year. A U.S. Census Bureau online document says, “The median income [not take-home income] of all families in 1964 was about $6,600.” From this we can conclude that the writer’s family was earning significantly more than the average American family.
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Is There a Plan for Christian Stewardship that Will Provide Harmony in Giving?
By Jeanne Allen
Oct. 24, 1964; p. 5
The head of our household is superintendent of a unit school [a school district]. Superintendents and teachers, like preachers, move from time to time in the course of making a living.
Our occasional moving has resulted in our being active in several Christian churches. Unexpected problems and developments have attended our moves. For instance, we have been taught three different plans for Christian giving by three Bible-college trained men in three churches. One preached giving a tithe plus an offering, another preached giving as prospered, and still another preached sacrificial giving. We now had only to take our choice of the three types of giving. On what should we base our choice? On the preacher’s personality? Or his dedication or sincerity? On the Bible college where he was trained? Our final decision rested on weighing each doctrine by the accuracy of the Word.
Let us consider “sacrificial giving” first. Our family consists of seven members. A typical budget for such a family living in a rural community and having $600 monthly in take-home pay might well read something like this: rent, $80; life insurance, $30; haircuts, $8 up, depending on majority sex; medical expense, $40; utilities, $60; groceries, $180; automobile—payments, upkeep, insurance, $125; clothing, $30; furniture, $20; sundries, $10. Total basic expenses, $583.
This leaves a margin of $17 monthly to cover such things as children’s allowances, postage, gifts, recreation, offerings, and savings. One can easily see that hidden monthly expenses might leave anything “from a dime to a dollar”—or less. Giving a dollar, then, might seem like a real sacrifice. But is this what the Lord’s expects from a man to whom He has given $600 per month?
Now, let’s have a look at giving as you prosper. Is it an argument for us against the tithe? It is commonly used as an alternative to the tithe, and proposed by those who see no need to tithe. Webster says that to “prosper” is to be successful or to render successful! Good! Then if slack times bring low income or hard times brings unusual expenses, we may readily conclude that we have not been prospered and we need not give. Yet our most meager status would appear prosperous indeed to most of the world. How much is prosperity?
The preacher who proposed the “as prospered” doctrine told us that we didn’t have to tithe, for Jesus (in commending the tithe to the Pharisees according to Matthew 23:23) lived under the law and the Jews were given the law which included the tithe. Therefore, we Christian Gentiles need not tithe! But is the gospel to depend for its conveyance on my feeling prosperous?
Finally let’s consider the doctrine that God expects from His people the tithe plus an offering. The preacher of that doctrine explained that such giving is fair to all concerned; it is proportionate giving.
Sounds logical to us! Why should folk who make half as much as we do be expected to equal our giving? Or why should wealthy and generous Christians bear the burden of our obligation to God? In tithing, we act in harmony with the reminder of 2 Corinthians 8:15: “He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.”
Tithing seems to be in harmony with the entire Word. In Genesis 14:18-20 we see that Melchizedek, who was a type of Christ, received of Abraham, the first in the faith, tithes of all he possessed. Therefore, the tithe was given in faith long before it was required by law.
We see in Matthew 23:23 that Jesus commended the tithe: “These ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” These examples are in the Old Testament or under the old covenant, but they are a part of the Scriptures referred to in 2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”
Two instructions seem to harmonize this doctrine with the New Testament. The first is in 2 Corinthians 9:6, 7: “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” Certainly the tithe is more bountiful giving than the aforementioned “sacrificial” dollar. It can be given as cheerfully, for the grudge doesn’t generally accompany the amount, but the motive.
The next New Testament reference is in 1 Corinthians 16:2. It concerns giving as God has prospered. The tither asks, and gains the Lord’s help in all phases of his budget. We can live just as happily in a house that rents for somewhat less, we can decrease our insurance on earth for insurance in heaven, we can haul our own garbage, control our phone calls, re-cover furniture, make clothing, and be wiser food shoppers. It is possible! We should head our budget with the tithe and offering and then figure our personal expenses from the balance.
Is that prosperity? Don’t take my word for it—take God’s. If you will pardon a New Testament Christian’s peeking a page and a half back into the Old Testament, we may see what God says there (Malachi 3:8-10):
Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
If any teaching harmonizes with all the Bible says on the subject, this seems to be it!
Mrs. (Robert M.) Allen, a frequent correspondent of Christian Standard, lives in Harden, Illinois.
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For the reader’s convenience, here’s the New International Version translation of Malachi 3:8-10, the verses at the end of this article:
[The Lord Almighty talking]
“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. . . .”
—Jim Nieman, managing editor, Christian Standard