So, yesterday I was treated to what I like to call the Basic Evangelical Tithing Sermon, or BETS. You’ve probably heard it yourself a few times, if you’ve moved in evangelical circles. Many churches will trot it out once a year or so. It tends to annoy me, because it tends to conflate a quite reasonable review of the church’s financial situation with a bundle of guilt and some really bad hermeneutics.
I was going to write an angry point-by-point refutation of the BETS, but a cooler head than mine suggested otherwise.
So instead, a brief thought on the subject of tithes.
If we’re going to talk about tithing, then we can’t really avoid Deutronomy Chapter 14, where the Israelites are instructed by their God that it was their sacred duty to have the mother of all barbecues every year.
I’m serious. Go read it.
It’s a fascinating chapter. The first third is all about the importance of finding a good Kosher supermarket in your neighbourhood. The last paragraph is about how it’s a good idea to take care of those on the edge of society: the immigrant, the orphan, the single parent. And in the middle section of the chapter the Israelites are explicitly commanded to to spend one tenth of their yearly incoming on “cattle, sheep, wine or beer” or anything else that they liked, and eating together in one big annual party.
A tenth of your household income. Maybe 5 or 6 thousand dollars for a typical Canadian family. On a barbecue. That’s a lot of steak and Molsons! And this isn’t just a backyard get-together, the entire country was supposed to get in on this. It makes Burning Man sound kinda tame.
Apparently, when God talks about tithing, he talks about barbecues.