Muslim-Christian Dialogue – Giving

We held our regular, monthly Muslim-Christian Dialogue this past Friday. This time we looked at the topic of giving and charity. Below is what I presented on the Christian view of giving.

Giving in the OT

Under Old Testament law there were three main tithes (giving of 10%):

  • General tithe – paid to the Levites to fund national government and to compensate   them for their work in the tabernacle.
  • Feast tithe – paid for the celebration of convocations and worship at the   sanctuary
  • Welfare tithe – stored up in the individual cities to feed the Levites, the orphan, the   widow, and the stranger who lived with the Israelites

Two of these tithes were taken every year while the third was taken every third year. The combination of tithes meant giving, on average, 23% of your income each year.

On top of the various tithes there were other offerings:

  • Burnt offering (voluntary)
  • Grain offering (voluntary)
  • Peace offering (voluntary)
  • Sin offering (mandatory)
  • Trespass offering (mandatory)

Fulfilment of OT law

Christians are no longer under OT law since it was fulfilled in the coming of Jesus:

  • ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.’ (Matthew 5:17-18)
  • ‘You are not under law but under grace’ (Romans 6:14)
  • ‘God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us’ (Romans 8:3-4)
  • ‘For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes’ (Romans 10:4)

The fulfilment of the law and passing away of the old covenant leads to a new law:

  • ‘not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ’ (1 Cor 9:21)
  • ‘Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ’ (Gal 6:2)

The law of Christ (or, law of love) contains these elements:

  • “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt 22:36-40)
  • ‘The one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet”, and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.’ (Rom 13:8-10)

The law of Christ

Whilst freeing us from the demands of the OT law – we are no longer judged by law – the law of Christ expands the demands of the OT law:

  • ‘“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgement.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgement; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.’ (Matthew 5:21-22)
  • ‘“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’ (Matthew 5:27-28)

The ground of our giving

We are ultimately to give in response to what Jesus has done for us:

  • ‘For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich’ (2 Cor 8:9)
  • ‘In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!’ (Philippians 2:5-8)
  • ‘Be imitators of God’ (Ephesians 5:1)

Giving & the law of Christ

What are the principles of giving in Christ:

  • Give knowing our money comes from God (‘Every good and perfect gift comes from above’ Jam 1:17)
  • Give without looking for praise (‘do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret’ Matt 6:4)
  • Give generously (‘whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully’ 2 Cor 9:6)
  • Give freely (‘Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.’ 2 Cor 9:7)
  • Give sacrificially (cf. Widow’s mite in Mark 12:41-44)
  • Give proportionately (‘each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper’ 1 Cor 16:2)

Example of the Early Church

When people have been changed by Jesus this is what we should see:

  • ‘By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?’
  • ‘Those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.’