By Chuck Griffin
The wisdom in Amos, much of which is about justice, has helped me to better understand tithing and other offerings, including our offerings of time.
Amos is famous for one verse in particular. The prophet says in chapter 5 that God no longer wants what the Jews would have considered “traditional worship,” music and animal sacrifices. Instead, he says, “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).
In other words, the mark of a people truly in love with God is that justice is done in mighty and wonderful ways in their community. From that, we are left to ask, “What is justice?”
Scripture gives us a rich, clear answer. In fact, the answer is at the very core of Jesus’ message in the New Testament.
Just as Amos talks about a coming time of judgment, Jesus talks about judgment, too, and he tells us in Matthew 25 that our fate at the judgment will depend on whether we’ve brought justice into the world.
For Jesus, justice is a straightforward thing. It happens when those who have resources help those who aren’t so fortunate. The hungry need food, the thirsty need drink, strangers need welcoming, the poor need clothing, the sick need care, and the prisoners need visiting.
Help them, he says, and it is as if you did it for Jesus.
That brings me to tithes and offerings. Too often, we’re so caught up in operating budgets and building needs that we forget the primary reason we exist as a church. We are to inject God’s justice into a broken world.
Buildings are important and lights are important, but they’re just the basics, functioning as tools the church can use. Here’s a tough question every church needs to face: Have we failed to bring justice to those who need it simply because we lack resources?
To do a noteworthy job in bringing real justice to the world, it takes more money and time than most American Christians seem willing to give. Yes, the coming of Christ did away with legalism in giving. But frankly, the coming of Christ—the coming of “Kingdom of God” justice—calls us to do even more than our tithing Jewish forebears were ever required to do.
The next time the offering plate goes by, or a call for ministry volunteers goes out, remember that you’re being given the opportunity to participate in the greatest event in history, the remaking of the world by God.
Lord, reveal to us the best way to spend our time and money on behalf of your kingdom and in thanks for eternal life. Amen.