Monday, July 06, 2009

A Parable

By Bill Colburn

Once upon a first century time, some followers of Jesus gathered together to pursue a vexing issue. They had been in the crowd that had just been the recipients of another of Jesus’ miracles, this time consisting of vintage red wine, cheese, and manna crackers. Having been raised as meticulous Jews, they argued over whether or not to tithe this unexpected and truly unusual increase, according to the Law of Moses.

They confessed to one another their belief that Jesus truly was the Son of the Living God. They accepted his word that he was greater than the temple. So, to whom should they tithe of this bounty? Should they return God’s portion to the antagonistic priests at Herod’s temple or to Jesus himself? He hadn’t said anything about tithing. What did he expect? Were they being tested? What was right? Would Jesus be offended if they brought back to him a tenth of all he had just given them?

As they continued to challenge one another’s notions about tithing, Jesus came before them. His presence alone, at any other time, would have been supremely cherished. Yet, at this moment, their unresolved question about how to obey the Law thoroughly distracted them.

“Lord, must we and, if so, how should we tithe your blessing?”

“How do you read the scriptures?”, Jesus asked - as he often had.

“We are to return a tithe, one tenth, of all our increase to the temple storehouse“, they said, wondering if it was all still that simple.

“Yes, that is what Moses said. Hmm…but I say to you, no longer are you to return a tithe… Instead, give back to God fully half of all that he has blessed you with.” With that, Jesus departed as mysteriously as he had arrived.

In time, these words of Jesus were spread around the whole community of believers and all began - with no little grumbling and sacrifice - to return fifty percent of all their increase - some figuring net increase, some on the gross - to the temple storehouse. This became the new practice of those who called themselves Christians.

Some time later, after his resurrection, Jesus reappeared to these same disciples. They, of course, were again overjoyed at his presence and delighted to report to him how well his new tithing command had taken hold among most believers - at least in Jerusalem.

To their surprise, Jesus didn‘t commend them at all. “Why did you not listen to me more attentively,“, he said. “Let me be clearer this time. While Moses taught the people to return a tithe of all their increase to the temple, I require that you now return to the temple all that God has given to you as an increase. You are to keep none of it. To him who has an ear, let him hear.”

Many who had been following the way of Jesus, upon hearing this new teaching, claimed that Jesus had gone mad and ceased following any of his teachings.


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