by Paul Benson
…it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. -Paul an apostle of Christ
Faithfulness to the will of God should be paramount to each and every follower of Christ. And our desire to conform to the standards of God prompts us to look to those who expound upon his Holy Word for instruction in proper conduct.
There is much (and quite possibly overmuch) teaching on giving in the Christian community today. And of course we do see a great deal of teaching in the Scriptures on this subject. But I must confess I see a glaring disconnect between what the Bible says about giving, and what many are teaching us it says! Why is this so?
I have raised objection in times past on the unbiblical methods used by the Prosperity / Word of Faith crowd to increase their coffers by making bogus promises of great favor and reward bestowed upon those who capitulate to their demands of ‘faith giving’. Unfortunately their twisting of the Scriptures has soured a good many of us to the genuine truths they maligned; and thereby robbed us of important truths we should embrace.
God desires greatly to restore a proper understanding of the true principles of giving as outlined in his Word!
In this effort I want to deal with another aspect of deception in the area of finance. One that has gained such a stronghold of tradition in the Christian community that many would think it absolutely crazy to even question it. A claim that the believer today has an obligation, and even a God-spoken demand, to tithe of their income to the Church or organization they belong to. That they are to set aside ten percent of their dough, and dutifully turn it over to the appropriate party. But does the Bible actually teach any such thing?
Suppose someone approached you with a couple of questions:
1). How many of the Apostles presented to the Body of Christ the requirement of tithing in the Scripture they wrote?
2). How many verses in the New Testament actually teach tithing as a part of New Covenant faith?
If you are like most Christians today (steeped in traditional teachings that present tithing as obligatory) you would probably respond that the Apostles definitely gave a great deal of exhortation that we are required by God to tithe on our income. I wonder how many of you would be shocked to learn that the answer to questions #1). and #2). are ZERO and ZERO? Yes, you heard me right. And 0 plus 0 still equals Zero!
There is not ONE place in the Bible where the law of the tithe is presented as a part of the Christian faith! It is an Old Testament practice men have revived, rehashed, and deceitfully imposed upon the unsuspecting to garner support for ministers and organizations. But it is NOT the pattern of giving God has ordained for us as New Testament believers! Track with me and I will prove this to you.
Although it is a frequent practice in the modern pulpit to claim many of the N.T. verses clearly dealing with free-will giving are supposedly verses speaking of tithing, reading the verses in question in their proper context shows the true meaning to be otherwise. Those are verses on giving, NOT tithing. In truth the subject of tithing is amazingly only addressed in four N.T. passages! Let look at them.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Matthew 23:23
But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Luke 11:42
I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. Luke 18:12
For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; 2 To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; Hebrews 7:1
The way tithing is promoted you would think it would be found on every other page of the Bible! Not so. And of the amazingly low number (four) of instances of the tithe being mentioned in the N.T. only one is on this side of (after) the Cross! Let’s consider the first three. And remember these were Jesus’ words to a people living under a different covenant than us!
I have heard many teach that because Jesus said ‘these things ought you to have done’ this is instruction that we are to tithe today. But this is a deceptive use of his words. Of course Jesus would tell those people to tithe! They were living under the Old Covenant; and had an obligation to tithe according to the Law given by Moses. We do not live under the dictates of that covenant! We follow the teaching of the Apostles of Christ that they received from him to give to us. No where in their instruction to the Church will you find a commandment to follow the requirements of the Law in any fashion!
Now let’s take a look at the only Bible mention of tithing on this side of the Cross. This one passage out of the entire Apostolic instruction to the Church in no way is an admonition we are to tithe! It is just not there (or anywhere)! People try various ways to use the 7th chapter of Hebrews to promote their beloved tithing doctrine. But again we see much scripture twisting and misappropriation employed to do so. The chapter in its context presents tithing as something put away with the rest of the Law, and the changing of the Priesthood. Read it for yourself and see!
One common (and quite deceptive) claim we hear is people declaring: “I can show you tithing was not brought in by the Law; it was a common practice among God’s people. They were tithing before the Law!‘ And then as proof God’s people had a practice of tithing before the Law they will give the example of Abraham giving Melchizedek a tenth of the spoils of war from his rescue of Lot and his fellow captives. But how does this event of Abraham giving ONE TIME a tenth of his booty to the Lord, show a practice of tithing among a people who were not even born yet? Were a people who did not exist yet tithing to a priesthood that also did not exist yet? I kind of doubt it. And we have no reason to believe Abraham ever tithed again.
And it is certainly a little sketchy to use Jacob’s promise (Genesis 28:22) to give as an offering to God a tenth of all he would accumulate as proof, because we have no record he ever carried through with his vow. There is nothing in the Word of God to indicate there was general practice of tithing among God’s people before the Law. Let’s engage a little critical reasoning here. There was NO Jewish nation until the descendants of Jacob multiplied in Egypt! Who was doing this tithing? And who were they tithing to: the priests of Ra?
The ordinance of tithing was without question not existent until it was brought forth as a part of the Mosaic Law. Period! Tithing is strictly an element of the Law. And any other claim is deceptive!
Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Malachi 3:8
This verse from Malachi (speaking to those under the Law) is one of the most frequently used verses employed to whip the rebellious non-tither into a submissive state (of condemnation). Who has not heard this verse preached as if it were applicable to the New Covenant believer? But let’s place the verse in its context, and see what’s up here.
Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return? 8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. 9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Malachi 3:7-9
Something I have noticed, and I think is quite pertinent to this discussion, is that these legal-eagles using this passage from Malachi to push tithing upon us give much attention to verse 8 (You lousy thief!), but very little attention to verse 7. Notice the word ‘ordinances’. God was exhorting them to return to obedience of the ordinance of the Law which commanded them to tithe. Tithing was an ordinance of the Law! What do the teachings of the Apostles tell us about the ordinances of the Law?
Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. Hebrews 9:1
Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; Ephesians 2:15
Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; Colossians 2:14
Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, Colossians 2:20
If you have any doubts that the Old Covenant was set aside, and replaced by the New Covenant, I would suggest a thorough study of the book of Hebrews. The writer clearly and plainly shows, not only the weakness and temporary status of the Law, but that without a doubt a new covenant replaced the old. We are not under some kind of an upgrade or continuance of the Mosaic Law. It has passed away!
For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. 19 For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. Hebrews 7:18-19
Let’s get this right! A law that has been annulled is no longer in effect! Though condemnation and guilt work so well to accomplish manipulation of the flock (to control where their giving goes), God is in no way in approval of these tactic! Those who are preaching we have obligation to follow the requirements of the Mosaic Law are preaching falsehood. And those who understand this, and still use elements of the Law to promote their deceptions, and to coerce and manipulate people into supporting their ministries and organizations, are outright liars and condemned of God as such. The mouth of Hell gapes wide open to welcome ALL liars! Let’s make sure that is not us!
SIDENOTE: We are talking about ordinances (requirements) of the Mosaic Law here, and not general spiritual principles. There is a difference; and it is important to recognize that difference. Although the legal requirements of a tithe were set aside, the spiritual principles involved in sacrificial giving, and honoring God with said giving, are still very much in play!
Proverb 3:9-10 Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: 10 So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.
This exhortation from Proverbs is Wisdom speaking, not a legal requirement of the Law. This wisdom is timeless, as are all aspects of God’s wisdom. Just as true today as when they were penned. And just as full of promise. We ARE called to honor God by our giving!
New Covenant Giving
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. Romans 8:14
Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. 2Corinthians 9:7
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Philippians 2:13
These three verses are at the heart of the standard of New Covenant giving; a free-will offering from a heart of compassion, as the Lord leads. Not the Law of Moses; but the law of love. What motivates your giving? Duty or compassion? An issue well worth a little meditation.
We need to realize people are using these rigid Scriptural admonitions, written to those who were under the O.T. Law, as a basis to wrongly impose that requirement upon the Church today. And we need to realize this is not only a false teaching, but also a dangerous one! Really Paul? Dangerous to tithe to the church or organization you are a part of? Yes, quite dangerous; and could actually send a person to Perdition! Let me briefly explain that statement with some exhortation from the Apostle Paul.
Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. Galatians 5:4
We could go into great detail about the danger of self-righteousness here, but space will not permit. Suffice to say we would be foolish to deny the evident tenancies toward a self-righteous spirit fostered by legalistic preaching in the areas of tithing. Sabbath keeping, and so on. It is so evident it is undeniable. You know it as well as I do! But do we really comprehend the danger of losing our esteem for the free gift of Christ’s Righteousness, and placing confidence instead in our own righteousness? God’s kingdom is the home of the righteous, not the self-righteous!
The practice of tithing was instituted to support the Levitical Priesthood. These were one tribe out of twelve who handled all the ministry to God and his people. Today the ministry to God and his people is according to a different priesthood (from the line of Judah). Jesus himself being the high priest, and ALL saved followers of his being made kings and priests through his indwelling presence. (PRAISE GOD!)
As members of the Body of Christ we are ALL members of the priesthood; there is not just one ‘tribe’ of ministers today. The concept of a clergy ruling over a laity (and bearing all responsibility of ministry) is a man-made concept that took root early in the wayward structure of Catholicism. It is not a biblical concept, and lends to a lack of function (and therefor stagnation) of much of the Body! We all have a role in the ministry of Christ; we all have a function as members of his Body. And moreover we have a responsibility to give our money where HE wants it to go; instead of to whoever is the cleverest about manipulating us into filling their coffers!
Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do. Galatians 2:10
When the Apostles sent out Paul and Barnabas what kind of instruction did they impart to them? How to take up the biggest offering? How to get a big name and a big building? Not exactly. They told them to keep a strong focus upon the poor! But where has that focus gone?
FOOD 4 THOUGHT: Are you bothered by bald tires? I am! (maybe because I have owned a few?) How many times have we pulled into a church parking lot, and parked next to a struggling family with bald tires on their car. And then went inside a service where offerings were collected to build a bigger church, or buy nice new padded seats, or send some clergy on vacation, or pay the hefty fee for some ‘special speaker’ who preached a word any seasoned elder in the Church could have for free; and then later you watched that struggling family drive off on those well prayed over bald tires?
Oh brother Paul, we can’t be expected to buy new tires for everyone! We couldn’t meet our obligations if we did! Obligations to WHO? What about our obligation to focus on the poor? Are we more obligated to build fancy palaces to house our religious hierarchies, than to honor God by giving to those desparately in need of support? Next time you are in a meetting and the plate is being passed, take a moment and wonder how many bald tires are out in the parking lot. Take a moment and ask yourself if you are truly giving according to the will of God.
Another neglected area of giving is to those in the Church who might not be part of the ‘paid ministry’ but devote themselves diligently to blessing and edifying the Body of Christ. I’ve met many who fit this description:
Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. 18 For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward. 1Timothy 5:17-18
Is there someone you know who labors much in word and doctrine in your church (or in your circle of fellowship) but is not ‘salaried’? Someone truly dedicated to feeding the flock that God might have you encourage with support? Why not go the extra mile and honor them with Double Honor? The Scripture says they are worthy of it! Are you muzzling the mouth of an ox that is working to feed the flock you are a part of, and giving his portion elsewhere? Why not pray for a leading in that matter?
QUESTION: Can’t I just give ten percent, not as a legal observance of the Law, but by my own free-will choice? I would have to say no, this would NOT be God’s will. That practice would just lend credence to the teachings on tithing! Where is the concern for those who are out of sync with God, through either condemnation (for not tithing when they think they should, but don’t) or all the self-righteousness brought about, by the errant concept of tithing being preached to them. God would have us working to counter falsehood, not doing things in a manner that seems to support it. Don’t let your liberty contribute to someone else stumbling!
Stop tithing! And start giving according to the burden God lays upon your heart. Spirit led giving glorifies the Lord, and also shows your obedience to his leading. It is giving in response to a living relationship with the Lord; instead of the lifeless duty of the letter of the Law. Choose life!
Stop supporting hierarchies and organization that are mainly focused on the growth of themselves, and not the needs of the poor. (But Paul, we need a bigger building so we can fit more people with bald tires in here to hear our ‘message’. That way we can raise even more money to get an even bigger building so we can get even more folks with bald tires in here!) Sorry if that sounds a little brass; but that seems like the game-plan (and fruits) of most organizations I’ve ever been around!
If people would be a little more discerning, and give only to those who truly edify the Body, and those who truly speak the uncompromised truth of God’s Word in love, many of today’s false prophets and deceivers would fold up shop, and go find something else to do! They are in it for the money and prestige!
Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. -Jesus Christ
One last thought here. God is not asking Christians today for ten percent – he wants it ALL!
All your money; and all of you.
He wants you, your spending, and your giving, submitted to his will and governed by his leading. Give it all to him! And you will find a grace and a peace the self-righteous tither will never know!
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