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A Tither's Meditation on the Psalms: Were the Psalmists Tithers?

A Tither's Meditation on the Psalms: Were the Psalmists Tithers? By Paul V. Berggren. Chicago: The Tithing Foundation, 1998. $5.00.

The author, Paul V. Berggren, is a Lutheran pastor who has served several

congregations in the Chicago area. More recently he has served as the executive director of The Tithing Foundation. The title of this short devotional work is more descriptive than the subtitle. Rather than looking to the Psalms for an answer to the question, "Did the psalmists practice tithing?" Berggren assumes that, for the most part, they did. Their songs of praise, supplication, and even the laments reflect the generous, sacrificial, righteous heart of the tither. For Berggren, tithing is not so much a matter of mathematics or accounting as it is a posture of the heart. The Psalms model this posture for us in striking fashion.

Divided into three short booklets, Berggren's work takes the reader on a tour of the Psalms from the perspective of a committed tither. He gives page-length reflections on each and every psalm, selecting one or two key verses which serve as springboards for his meditations. The preface identifies what the author takes as a "central theme" of the Psalms, namely a deep "concern for justice." "Hands have a language of their own. The Lord's hands are open wide to all his creatures. As tithers, we sense that our Lord is calling us to have 'open hands' to all who are hungry, cold, weak, and suffering from the many injustices that surround us" (Book 3, p. 45). He shows how the psalmists articulate this concern in various ways, committing themselves to respond by "act[ing] on behalf ... of the oppressed." Such a commitment, Berggren emphasizes again and again, requires sacrifice, a practice that our culture does not encourage. We typically think of the Psalms as songs, for instance, of praise. Berggren contends that to hear the Psalms rightly is to hear a call to translate these songs of praise into lives of praise, lives characterized by righteous acts, including setting aside a tenth of our time, talent, and possessions for the building of God's kingdom.

Pastors will appreciate how basic stewardship themes in the Psalms can be further developed in sermons. Stewardship leaders and congregational members will discover in this book a devotional resource that nicely connects the financial practice of giving one-tenth of one's possessions with the spiritual practices of generosity, selflessness, and sacrifice. Berggren demonstrates how these practices are essentially linked to biblical themes of righteousness and justice.

Joseph N. Ballan

Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
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Author:Ballan, Joseph N.
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Article Type:Book review
Date:Oct 1, 2009
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