Posts Tagged ‘tithe’

MARK 12:38-44

38 As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! 40 They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

41 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

We must be careful not to read a condemnation against the rich into Jesus’ observations by the temple treasury. Nowhere does he condemn wealth or prosperity, not does he anywhere say that rich people cannot enter the kingdom of God. What he does say is that it is very difficult, next to impossible, for a wealthy person to sufficiently detach from the comforts, habits, and values that cohere and soak into his or her sense of identity.

Just as it was impossible for a loaded camel to enter the city of Jerusalem by a gate known as “The Eye of the Needle,” it is likewise impossible for a rich person who has deeply identified with their wealth, along with the lifestyle and worldview it affords, to enter the kingdom of universal compassion and cross-bearing social justice.

What did Jesus see, as he watched the line filing past the treasury box? He saw wealthy people dropping in their offerings, giving to God a percentage of their incomes. The practice was the same back then as it is still today: middle-class church members bringing to God what is left, after the bills have been paid, some spending money set aside, and the pantry stocked for the month. It may not amount to ten percent of their net income (the requested tithe), but what can you expect? You’ve got to live, right? All these things are necessities, don’t you know, and there is just no possible way to put more in the box than what you have in hand at the end of the month. There isn’t (necessarily) any deception going on here; just simple mathematics.