what is the Protestant spiritual, theological, or soterieological explanation as to the seemingly mandatory status of financial giving and tithing in the Protestant churches?
Why give? Who are they giving to? For what and what pretext and under whose authority? What is the purpose, sola scripture interpretations aside. I have always felt uncomfortable when the basket goes around, when the preachers mention financial giving in their sermons and even worse equate such tithing as being part of God's Grace and Blessings, like planting a seed.
I don't remember tithing being taught or even mentioned in my Methodist days, back in the 1960s, but it is common in Baptist, Pentecostal and Brethren churches. Let's separate tithing (i.e. giving a tenth of one's income) from financial giving, for I assume all Christians believe they should give something
financially to support their church and its work.
Tithing is giving a tenth. Some churches talk about "tithes and offerings", meaning you should give 10% anyway, and that doesn't count as an "offering". What you give above the mandatory tenth is deemed a freewill "offering". I am not saying this is correct: I am merely trying to define the meaning of the phrase.
There are, I think, three approaches:
1. Some churches teach that, as Jews under the Old Covenant were required to tithe, so are Christians. That is the minimum.
2. Some teach that there is no mandatory amount laid upon Christians, but if you want to have some idea where to start in working out what you personally will give, the tithe is a good place to start your thinking and perhaps your practice.
3. Whilst teaching the duty to give something
, other churches mention no amount, even as voluntarily accepted guidelines such as a tithe.
Then there is the question of where to give. Some churches teach that the entire tithe should be given to the local church, on the basis (I think) of the text which says bring all the tithes into the storehouse
. Others would see more liberty in this, and would deem it proper to include giving from the tithe to other organisations, such as missionary societies or Christian philanthropic works - though they would expect it to be given to specifically Christian work of some sort, because it is giving to the Lord
Another common practice is for a church as a body to give a tithe of its income to other Christian work, again such as missionary or Christian philanthropic ministry: that is, if a church gets £100,000 one year into its bank accounts, it will give away £10,000 that year.
It is commonly believed that God blesses an individual or a church which gives in this way, not (of course) because the blessing is in any way earned, for that would go entirely against the Protestant belief in sola gratia
, but because it pleases him. As it is written, God loves a cheerful giver. The text which says bring all the tithes into the storehouse
is immediately followed by a promise of overflowing blessing. Without checking, I believe it is in Malachi.
There is no soteriological aspect to giving or tithing. It makes no contribution to whether or not a person is ultimately saved, though one's developing or sustained practice would be part of one's progress in sanctification and devotion.
One's giving should, as far as possible and practical, be kept secret, as in the Sermon on the Mount - which is why, of course, I have not said which of the various views I myself take.