My comments on a FB thread based on Robert Morris' sermon on Sunday at Southeast on "The Principle of First"...
Chris, thanks for your comment. At first, I
thought you were asking a question. Looking a second time, now I’m thinking you
meant it rhetorically. Both ways, it’s an excellent comment! If rhetorical, it
speaks for itself and builds on what RM said. If a straight-up question, it
brings other thoughts to mind, so let me run with that angle.
I thought RM was a little too tight/clean in
some areas. At the time, the only thing that bothered me: his claim that
the tithe must be given to the local church. (He asserted this and did not
support it. I think one can make a decent case for that—indirectly through the implicit
and explicit commands to be involved in Christian community. But I don’t see
where it’s airtight.) But your question brings up another important point: the relationship between “all”
and the tithe. The NT emphasizes/extends the OT view of stewardship: God
owns all (“the cattle on a thousand (figurative) hills”) and we are blessed to
be managers of what He’s given. This parallels what Christ did with the Law elsewhere
(most famously in Matthew 5 with murder and lust).
Along the same lines, my sense of the
matter has been that the tithe is "gone" but extended, superseded by a
greater “law”. If the tithe is “gone”, what do we do with our freedom? In
general, there are temptations to either re-implement the law or to abuse our
freedom. I’d guess that there’s more of the latter with money (given the
seductions of Mammon as an idol) In any case, the question is what we do with
our freedom in all areas—and it clearly
should be to love God and serve others (Gal 5:1,13).
In this way, I’m guessing that the tithe is
similar to the Sabbath—that it is made for man, not
man for the Sabbath/tithe. And that takes me to Chad’s questions/points.
Chad, I did not hear anything like that. My direct
data with him are quite limited—one sermon. (And I can only consider chucking
rocks to the extent that I’ve seen big sin, especially from a public figure. See
also: Joel Osteen.) If you have clips or quotes, I’d be happy to take a look.
Anyway, I can't say I'd be shocked if he had said something like that. But I would be quite surprised, given the
inferences I’d draw from SE having him in the pulpit and how careful he was. (To note, he did talk about "curse" in
the Saturday PM sermon, but not in the manner you described. That discussion did
not make it into the Sunday AM sermon that is on-line. He was clear on the
important point that God does not curse, but says that we are “under a curse”. Read
Genesis 3 carefully for the important distinctions in that pivotal story.) And
I can imagine how-- if he was not careful elsewhere-- or more likely, if he was
read/heard out of context-- that one could sloppily infer something like that.
Part of his argument is that this is "the nature of things"--
who God is, how life is built, etc. And in a Proverbs-like manner, if you do X,
then Z tends to happen. For example, if you smoke, you're likely to die
earlier. Beyond the material considerations, he would say that you cannot be
spiritually blessed to the extent that you live contrary to God’s will and the
way that the world is set up. In this context, if I don’t give the firstfruits
to the Lord, then the nature of things is that I cannot be blessed in that
realm by God, life, etc.
RM’s approach reminds me of a similar argument I've made from James 1:5-8 and
the analogy of parent/child : God/us. If we ask God for wisdom, while baldly
doing our own thing-- especially in the area of our request for
wisdom/counsel-- it makes no sense for God to answer that prayer. For example,
when I was a single, I had a handful of single friends in the church who sought
counsel from me and said they wanted wisdom from God on their future with
respect to marriage-- while clearly disobeying what God had already revealed
about that area of life. That's incoherent (and insulting). I'm not really
asking God's wisdom in that case, but His “opinion”—and that doesn’t make any
sense with a reasonable view of God’s character and knowledge. If my kids blow
their money and then come ask me for money in the next breath, it ain't gonna
happen unless I’m a putz or I decide to extend some hard-core grace.
I'm also quite
interested in a more-secular version of the same sort of argument. If my
approach to life is marked by stinginess toward others, God gets the residual,
etc., it seems likely/obvious that I'm more likely to get divorced, not be
blessed in all sorts of ways, etc. Extending it to spiritual disciplines, C.S. Lewis
said that whatever prayer does with respect to God, we know that it changes us.
If I’m the sort of person who prays for enemies—or even just my friends—surely this
changes the sort of person we are. Or again extending it to something more
secular, to what extent are diets effective because they directly change us or
because they indirectly change us by getting us to be intentional in an area
where we’ve been slobs?