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The Bible gives a two-sided portrayal of wealth: It is good, but it can seduce us into sin. The solution, according to New Testament scholar Craig L. Blomberg, is to freely share it. In Christians in an Age of Wealth: A Biblical Theology of Stewardship (Zondervan), Blomberg, who teaches at Denver Seminary, argues that sacrificial giving is an essential part of good stewardship. He spoke with CT editor at large Rob Moll about our spending patterns and whether Christians are required to tithe.
If, as you argue, Christians are no longer bound by the Old Testament principle of tithing, what's so bad about low rates of giving?
Over the past 40 years, self-identified evangelicals have given between 2 and 3 percent of their incomes to churches and Christian organizations. Stewardship is a crucial part of the Christian life, and according to these figures, it is sadly lacking.
Now, on any topic, we have to filter the Old Testament through the grid of Jesus' and the apostles' teaching. In Matthew 23:23, Jesus tells the Jewish leaders that they neglect the weightier things of the law, though they did tithe. This is often cited to claim that Jesus still promoted tithing. Yes, he did—for Jews still under the Mosaic Law.
This is in no way a command addressed to his followers to tithe. But the teachings in Acts, the Epistles, and Revelation offer a consistent call for generosity and sacrifice. When you look at American Christian spending patterns, it is sometimes difficult to see much sacrifice.
Why should we be ruthless about getting rid of surplus wealth? Doesn't the notion of "redistribution" clash with much thinking on stewardship and economics?
I argue that it should be done voluntarily. The Old Testament Jubilee laws dictated a periodic redistribution. In the New Testament, however, giving is voluntary, although Christian leaders could make strong appeals for more generosity.
Still, those who take a conservative view of economics ...