Sunday, 22 October 2017

Caesar's recompense - the obligations of tithing

We all complain about the taxes that we are required to pay.  We all complain about the amount of money that the local council demands from us in rates.  After all even Christ suggests that we should give to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar (Mtt. 22.17-22).  We all give generously to the needs of our clubs and societies to which we belong whether it be the Embroider's Guild, the Art Appreciation Society, Rotary or some other group such as the Golf Club, etc.  The difference being the fact that we want to do those things that we belong to and we moan about anything imposed on us by "authority".  Let us just think about this in a different manner.  What would happen if we did not pay our taxes as a collective, our rates and our club dues?  What difference would it make to anything if we did not give?

In looking at the situation from this viewpoint we automatically see that things would start to become significantly problematical for us.  Let's us the council rates as an example.  If I was the Council and did not receive what was asked what would happen.  Well perhaps, one could start by withdrawing services, no rubbish collection for that household.  Any repairs to roadways outside the house be put off.  Perhaps spend a little less on the upkeep of the local park, the local services (library, sport venue, etc).  We soon see that there is an inconvenience placed on the householder that begins to affect the neighbour and then ultimately the community as resources keep on being diverted away from the area in which the house is situated.  We can obviously take the implications of this on to the larger problematic of taxes to the Federal government with the resultant consequences.  I am sure that Christ was equally aware of these same consequences in his era and the time.  Our society and our community does not depend purely and simply on goodwill.  At some point in the complexity of society there has to be a means of ensuring that essential works are undertaken,  By choice we make this an issue of financial return.

Is our tithe barn empty?

It can be seen that we would also be breaking the commandment of love of neighbour should we be so neglectful in our duties.  The same applies at the lower level of clubs and social societies as these would inevitably fold should there be a lack of income to pay for their modest upkeep and continuance.  This situation equally applies to the Church as without income there is a challenge in terms of material continuance in a specific place.  In the absence of such income there would necessarily be a downgrading of services and structure in any locality.  However, for the Christian church there is a further obligation (Mtt. 22.21b).  Here, Christ is referencing the tithe that goes back to Abram's interaction with Melchizedek (Gen. 14.20) that amounts to 10 percent.  A tithe that was to be made for the making of wholeness (Holy) in ones life (Deut. 12.5-6).  This tithe was used for doing God's will making justice, righteousness and peace something that in times past was undertaken by the Church not the government.  So what is our response.  Usually towards those structures that move towards justice and relief of poverty which is not always the Church.  It is towards making life holy and in conformance with God's love.

So we have two obligations as members of the faith community to which we belong the tithe that must go towards making our lives and the lives of our community.  Restoring justice, alleviating poverty, care for the aged and the vulnerable and creating communities of peace.  This can be through our faith community or through our actions.  This is our obligation to God.  Our second responsibility is towards our structures, our services and our faith home; this is the obligation to Caesar.  We forget either and we forget that we are a community.  We either forget our holiness or we forget our need to build community.

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