Some would be quick to say unity. Others would probably say, doing the work. Others would probably say, reaching out to others, whatever shape or form that would take.
However, there is another need that I feel has been overlooked and neglected, now for a long time. And the fruits of this neglect are becoming more and more apparent. More and more brethren are leaving the church out of disillusionment, boredom or any number of reasons. In some cases, going back to customs they religiously abandoned many years ago. Many have followed various mentors into many different splits, branches and groups.
I believe much of what we see occurring is the direct result of the neglect of this one basic need in the church.
The cause of this phenomenon of course, has been generated within the Church for a long time now, and is tragically still going today. This was forcefully brought to my attention recently as I sat through a church service in a local assembly of brethren associated with one of the larger church of God organizations.
Tithing As An Example
A video-taped sermon was played. The subject was tithing.
The presentation was started by reading a scripture about all speaking the same thing. The speaker then said everything belongs to God and went on to create an atmosphere of sacredness about anything of value we might have. It all belongs to God. Were not really entitled to anything. It apparently does not matter how much some might have struggled to put food on the table or buy shoes for the kids, or to save a few dollars. Regardless of your involvement, it all belongs to God.
I guess it never occurred to this man that we belong to God too, which makes his point quite moot. But then I suspect the reason for bringing this up was to neutralize any resistance that might be forthcoming in response to his presentation which was to follow.
He then went on to present a series of facts from the Bible, generously interspersed with his opinion as to the meaning of these and then inserting some outright falsehoods as concerns tithing. This went on for the better part of two hours.
Among the things he stated was this: the work of God has always been sponsored by the tithe. Is this true or false? It was implied this was the case at all times. Before you answer, please hear me out.
The question here needs to be asked, did the apostles do the work of God? Did Jesus do the work of God? Did Paul do the work of God? Did any of these collect tithes? Is there any record of anyone in Christs time receiving tithe other than the Levites and the Levitical Priesthood? The answer is a resounding no!
There are two things proving that Jesus did not receive tithes:
1. Jesus could not by law receive tithe. He was not a Levite or a priest, therefore He did not. As a human, He was of the tribe of Judah and therefore could not be a priest. "For if he were on earth he would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law" (Heb 8:4). No room here for receiving tithe.
2. Jesus was never accused of receiving tithe in competition with the priesthood. His enemies were constantly testing Him and had to make up charges at His trial. He could not have received tithe.
Now did the Apostles, when Jesus sent them out to do the work of God, go out and collect tithe? (Mat 10:8-10) Does the statement, "the worker is worthy of his food" equate to "go out and collect tithe"?
Neither were these accused of collecting tithe. Therefore, they did not.
Did Paul receive tithe at any time? Even though he claimed he had the right to be reimbursed for his work in 1Cor 9:7-14, based not on the tithe law, but on the principle of the laborer is worthy of his hire, he made it very clear he did not take anything from anyone. No tithe here. He again made his position known in 2Cor 11:7-9 and again in 2Cor 12:14. No tithe here either.
Paul never appealed to the tithe law to support the ministry. His teaching to the elders concerning support was based on the principle as given in 1Tim 5:18 and remained constant, as quoted here, "For the scripture says, You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain, and, The laborer is worthy of his wages". No tithe here.
Another scripture concerning Paul:
2Thess. 3:8-9: ..."nor did we eat anyones bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us".
The reason I detail some of this regarding Paul is because it goes back to what happened at the very beginning of the services. At the very beginning, Paul was quoted from 1Cor 1:10:
Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
The speaker was quoting Paul to command people agree with him. If he wanted everyone to "speak the same thing" as Paul, shouldnt he at least speak what Paul spoke in regard to tithing? Shouldnt the speaker be held to the same standard that he is holding his audience to? If Paul clearly states that he did not take anything from some of the churches he labored for, did he teach them to tithe? If he didnt teach them to tithe, was he derelict in his teaching? Was he not doing exactly what he thought was legitimate and appropriate? Wasnt he taught by Jesus Christ himself? Didnt Pauls position matter? Was it only important that the audience agree with the speaker, or should the speaker agree with Paul, too?
This speaker also quoted Mal 3:8-10 to promote the obligation to tithe today on ones money, but then was quick to point out that people shouldnt hold God to the promise to "open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it". He said this promise was for the whole nation and therefore impractical for an individual basis. Isnt that curious?
Think For Ourselves
All of us in the congregation sat through this lengthy sermon feeling that there must be questions to be asked here and differences of opinion to be expressed. To my amazement, after the service was dismissed, there was total silence, muteness. Why? Was everyone so in sync with the speaker that absolutely no questions needed to be asked? Wasnt there one person there who had a different opinion? Or was it, as I suggest it was, that the brethren have been conditioned to not form any other opinions than that of their mentorin this case, the hierarchy of the organization? Is it possible that asking questions or voicing opinions contrary to what the speaker says is like an offense to God? Do we have a fear of men or a fear of God?
Is this what God wants of us? Does God want brethren to remain dependent on a mentor, a man, or an organization? Is it Gods pleasure to have people check their judgement and discernment abilities at the door when they come in?
What would Jesus say about this kind of conduct?
"Yes, and why, even of yourselves, do you not judge what is right?" (Luke 12:57).
Paul writes in Phil. 1:9-10:
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ.
You cannot approve what is excellent if you have farmed out your discernment to an outside source. You cannot maintain sincerity to God when your allegiance to God is substituted with a fear to disagree with your mentor.
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2Tim 2:15).
Why study the Bible for yourself if your prime objective is to be in sync with a single voice within the organization?
Does God want us to remain dependent on a mentor, to be spoon fed?
"For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Heb 5: 12-14).
I see brethren who have been in the church 10, 15, and as much as 35 years still dependent upon a mentor to tell them what is true and what is not. I see brethren who came into the church when I did 36 years ago, going off in every direction. Some have become disillusioned or bored. Some have followed various mentors, some went back to their former church affiliation. Why is this?
Isnt it because the Church has refused to teach brethren to fend for themselves? Isnt it because the church organizations have stifled personal growth by zealously promoting control from the top down and not allowing independent discernment or opinion? I believe brethren have been conditioned to believe that they must not think for themselves, and in many cases I believe their allegiance to God hinges on their loyalty to their mentor.
Learn To Evaluate
It is my belief that many go into a sort of spiritual numbness or possibly even spiritual death. To me, this is a mournful situation. The spiritual well being of the brethren is being sacrificed on the altar of organizational unity and control.
The greatest need of the church, I believe, now is and has been for a long time the need to teach brethren how to fend for themselves.
I call therefore on church leaders to consider gravely what impact your actions impose upon Gods people.
I call upon brethren to put your faith in God and not allow yourselves to be muted or stifled. Exercise your discernment, your judgment. If you pursue Gods ways, and His truth honestly, God will do His part. As Paul stated in Rom 14:4, end part:
"Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand".
Iron sharpens iron and diversity of opinion stimulates discussion which in turn opens up opportunity of discernment and judgment which in turn should promote a lot of Bible study.
God is not going to judge us by how closely we follow a mentor, but by what we have done with what we have been given.
"But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load." (Gal 6:4-5)
For those of you who still lean heavily on a mentor, liken your situation to that of one learning to ride a bike. The time comes to take control of that bike and ride on your own. The time may be coming when you have no choice but to be your own, as has happened to many of us already.
Will you end up in the ditch or will you be able to take control and safely ride on? &