by glen | March 15, 1994 5:00 am
<E>LECTRONIC <L>IBRARY E<X>CHANGE
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DENVER, COLORADO 80219 ROBBING GOD?
Seated in one of several adult Sunday school classes, I prepared to listen to the lesson for the day. It was the first Sunday following the new year; thus I knew, without hearing the announcements or reading the Sunday bulletin, the lesson would be on “tithing.” The morning message, of course, would likewise be on “tithing.” One of the first four Sundays of each new year always yielded messages, either in Sunday school, or during the morning preaching service, on “tithing.” Once, I recall, all four Sundays during January were on tithing. One thing was certain, at the beginning of each new year, we were taught tithing and at least once or twice in the year’s balance, depending on the financial condition of the church, we were reminded of our responsibilities.
Since I had been taught tithing from childhood,. I immediately, upon leaving home for Bible college, began tithing from my earnings. The first check my wife and I earned following our wedding, and every paycheck thereafter, we tithed. In fact, soon after marriage, we squeezed our giving to fifteen percent. Shoot! Everybody wants to be blessed; even newly weds; especially newly weds! Later we even gave twenty-five percent of our income to the church as I traveled as a Baptist evangelist holding revivals.
I do not want to mislead the reader so I will parenthetically state from the beginning that tithing is not only unscriptural but simply not found in the Bible as a New Testament doctrine. I will also state that those who teach that tithing is God’s way of financially blessing His own are being less than Scripturally honest and are doctrinally inconsistent. I even challenge those teachers of tithing to “put their money where their mouth is” and cease from teaching something they know isn’t Biblical I.E. tithing.
Have you heard any of the following: “Tithing is a command? You can’t out give God! If you don’t tithe, you’re robbing God. Tithers are blessed of God. You can’t afford not to tithe. If you fail to tithe, God will get His money out of you some way. Tithing is your God-given responsibility. If you want God to really bless you, give more than the tithe. Tithing is part of your spirituality. The spiritual man will tithe and go beyond the tithe. God will get you if you don’t give Him His tithe. We only teach this about tithing because we want you to be blessed…you can’t be blessed otherwise. You can’t afford not to tithe!” Quite a list isn’t it? I’m sure I left some out, too. None, however, are true, Biblical, or have any Scriptural bases. It makes for mighty good preaching, however, and the offerings always increase following such teaching. My greatest concern, however, is the tithing is used to control and manipulate Believers. In another words, it is a cheep way of exercising authority over others.
“Tithing” in both Old and New Testaments means (tenth). It was practiced, long before the Mosaic law was given by God to the nation of Israel, to show honor and respect, it was invoked by God to provide for the Levitical priesthood as they ministered in the tabernacle. The Biblical instruction was for the first ten percent of all one possessed and earned to be given to the Levites. Such included monies, cattle, flocks, herds, crops, and the like. Actually, the first born son of a family was given to the Lord as a “tithe”offering, but he was not, of course, sacrificed as were the animals; the first born lamb was sacrificed in the son’s place. It, the offering of the first born son, was symbolic of Christ, the Son of God, being offered for us. Abraham, you may recall, was commanded to offer his only begotten son, Isaac, as a human sacrifice. A ram, however, was substituted at the last moment; depicting Christ as the substitute Lamb of God. In short, the “tithe” was symbolic.
The Hebrews spoke in word pictures similar to many indian cultures of North America. Often a single word carried with it a complexity of definition far beyond the value of the word itself. Thus their speech was often symbolic and spoken with preciosity. Succinctly stated, when they spoke, it had meaning.
The conscientious Bible student will, of course, attempt to gain some understanding of Biblical numerics because of the spiritual insight it affords. The number (3) in Scripture depicts completeness or finality; the Trinity being a prime example. The figure (5) often reveals the grace of God; the number (7) perfection; the number (12) that which is chosen. The figure (10), on the other hand, often represented judgment or testing. The ten plagues on Egypt, the ten kingdoms in the book of Revelation, the ten virgins Jesus referred to in the Gospels, and the ten commandments, all demonstrated judgement and testing. The tithe, or giving of a tenth, also was symbolic of judgment or testing. It was a “judgment” or debt owed God by His people to support His house – tabernacle, and the ministers thereof – the Levites. It was a “testing” to bring conformity to His law. To violate such a commandment invoked a penalty for sin for it represented a (falling short) of God’s requirements for obedience. The law of God, by the way, was not given to prove one righteous; it was to demonstrate one was not righteous and could in no way make himself righteous even by keeping the law. This is evident because of God’s promise that a Messiah would one day come and fulfill the law; thus no need for the law to continue. Seen in this light, the tithe was a sign that one was keeping the law until the law
was fulfilled in Christ. It was one of many “laws” which afforded one rightness with God. It was literally one way of personalizing one’s responsibility for maintaining righteousness – right living before God.
Let me stop at this point and say that the practice of New Testament tithing is not unscriptural if one desires to exercise it as a principle. It is not, however, a command nor can it be taught as a Bible doctrine. Tithing is no more a doctrine than, for example, fasting. Is it wrong to fast today? No! Will fasting benefit one spiritually? Yes! I have fasted on numerous occasions and twice for twenty-one days. It isn’t commanded by God, however, nor do I have Scriptural license to teach on fasting as though it were a doctrine. I can, on the other hand, teach it as a Biblical principle which yields spiritual benefit. Likewise “prayer” is not a doctrine. It, too, is a principle by which one can, and should live, and its benefits are likewise numerous. You will not, however, be forsaken by God, barred from Heaven, chastened by sickness and disease, loose your children, be turned into a pillar of salt, ask to sacrifice your first born, be burned at the stake, loose your salvation, succumb to warts, or suffer eternal condemnation if you don’t pray, memorize Scripture, read your Bible, attend church faithfully, fast, or tithe! All such offer spiritual provision for a Christian but they cannot be substituted for Bible doctrine no matter how hard one may try. You will, on the other hand, be criticized, ridiculed, called a heretic, faithless, selfish, a God robber, sinful, crazy, foolish, dumb, stupid, back slider, unholy, unrighteous, stingy, cheep, unorthodox, and you might even be kicked out of church if you refuse to believe what some say about tithing, but that won’t come from God; just friends.
The biggest question, and the one I might add which strikes the greatest fear, in the hearts of most Christians is Malachi 3:8-10. Here, we are told by those who teach tithing is for today, that we are literally robbing God if we fail to tithe. Many over look that God said in this passage that those who were robbing God were failing to bring both tithes and offerings. Why do most tithing proponents leave the offering out? The answer is; it’s hard enough just squeezing the tithe out of people, not to mention offerings, too.
As I mentioned, there is certainly nothing wrong with the idea of tithing nor the practice of it today. It is when one teaches it as a doctrine and that God will not bless those who fail to tithe which is the problem. If one wishes to tithe, he is not unscriptural, or in anyway, barred from doing so. It just simply isn’t a New Testament requirement. Jesus fulfilled the law for us. We either walk in that freedom as New Testament Christians or we do not. If Jesus fulfilled the law, why do we try to restore the law by practicing it? Do we refrain from eating pork, do we stone adulterers, do we execute homosexuals, do we stone sabbath violators, sacrifice animals, or leave the corners of our fields for the poor to harvest? If not, why not? As New Testament Christians we know why; Jesus fulfilled the law. Then why do we insist upon tithing? The answer is fear.
Churches need money to function because they have become businesses rather than ministries. Pastors are fearful they won’t be able to pay the church expenses; water, lights, staff, radio/television programs, monthly newsletters, special guest speakers, trips to mission fields, new buildings, improvements on the old building, staff cars, gymnasiums, school buildings, fellowship halls, new carpet, commodes, air conditioning, and we mustn’t forget the pastor’s salary. Do pastors worry about such? As a pastor, I can guarantee we do.
There is fear on the Christian’s behalf as well. Let’s face it! Most of us are scared spitless that God isn’t going to bless us for some reason. And wouldn’t you know it, God always hits us in the pocketbook when He wants to punish us for something. Malachi 3:8-10 also uses the word “cursed.” God said His people were cursed for not tithing and giving offerings. Now be honest. Doesn’t that kind of spook you when some preacher is up there pounding the pulpit and telling you that you’re cursed of God if you don’t tithe? Believe me, you are going to tithe if you hear that long enough and loud enough because nobody wants to be cursed of God.
ABRAHAM AND JACOB
One of the biggest arguments for New Testament tithing is the Old Testament reference to Abraham and Jacob. It is stated that since these two patriarch tithed, and they lived long before the Mosaic law, tithing is not, therefore, Old Testament law but God’s law for all time. May I point out that if you indeed are going to practice tithing as these two great men of God did, you will only need to tithe once in your life time of everything you have in your possession at that moment. Abraham did exactly that when he gave a tenth to Melchizedek. Jacob, who promised to give a tenth to God, apparently did so when he was faced with his angry brother. No other reference to tithing is recorded in Scripture by these two men. By today’s standards, therefore, they would not be good tithers. One may assume, however, that these men often gave to others of their prosperity and it perhaps could even be assumed they gave to those in God’s service. There was, however, no levitical priesthood and no prophets of God as during the Mosaic law. It would be Scripturally unwise, therefore, to consider them as Biblical examples of New Testament tithers.
I really began examining tithing a few years ago when I recognized that what I had been taught was not working. I was taught, and I preached it, too, that if one tithed, financial blessings would always dog me. It never happened! I was told if you didn’t tithe, you would be chastened by God and He would get His money out of you somehow. It never happened! I was taught that if your finances were in disarray and you were not tithing, that was the reason. Of course, if that one was true, then those whose finances were regular and consistent had to be tithers. I knew unsaved people who had better financial stability than I ever had as a Christian and I knew they weren’t tithers.
On my knees in my most desperate hour, I cried out to God and begged Him not to take away my desire for giving. I knew it my heart it was the one last thing I had which obligated God to bless me. I gave when my family went without food. I tithed when my house payments and rent were past due. I tithed when the utilities were two months behind, I tithed even when I lost my home and nothing I had been taught on tithing proved true. I went for a four year period hardly giving a thing to the Lord. I was not tithing, I was not giving, I did not give an offering; except occasionally, and the truth was, I did not have any money to give. Was I afraid. You bet! I knew God was going to kill me if I didn’t start that tithing bit up again and, bless God, I tried for four years to start tithing over and over and over and over again. Every single time I tried, things got worse instead of better. Every single time I went to my knees and prayed over my dilemma. “Why wasn’t God’s Word working?” God continually, for that period of time, told me He didn’t need or want my money. Right in the middle of the whole thing, God gave me a house; providing both the down payment and a way of keeping my monthly payment to a level I was able to afford. How could the Lord bless me when I wasn’t tithing. On my knees, therefore, I sought the Lord and beg for understanding.
NEW TESTAMENT TITHING
The Greek word for “tithe” and it’s related forms; (tithes and tithing). appears seven times in the New Testament. Likewise “tenth” appears twice in reference to the “tithe.” In not one of these cases, as we will see, does the Bible teach tithing is for today. The practice of tithing is conspicuously absent from the New Testament epistles; the letters to the churches. If tithing were to be taught to God’s people, why would He forget to include such instructions in the letters He sent to the churches? He didn’t forget…it simply doesn’t exist. Something I notice about those who constantly affirm that healing and the gift of tongues isn’t for today always make a point to say that such doctrine isn’t taught in the New Testament epistles so why believe in it? Funny how many of those same unbelievers of the ministry of the Holy Spirit fail to tell us that tithing isn’t once mentioned in the epistles but they are determined to make it a doctrine.
In Matthew 23 and Luke 11, Jesus taught His disciples and the multitudes concerning hypocrisy. He accused the pharisees and scribes of being exactly that. One will have to read the account to gain the full impact of His statements. Our Lord mentions, however, that these hypocrites are tithers (Matt. 23:23). He says, however, they tithed even the most insignificant of herbs to the Lord but totally ignore the rest of the law. Some “tithe” promoters use this verse, along with Luke 11:42, to suggest Jesus was confirming we should be tithers today. “This also ought ye to do,” refers to the part of the law they were forsaking. Read the account! They were keeping God’s law in many areas but failed to keep the whole law. In fact, these Gospel passages, when examined carefully, are rebukes to the tithers not blessings. If Jesus were preaching to tithers today, he would rebuke them as hypocrites because they keep only part, rather than the whole, law.
Another ostentatious reference to tithing is the story Jesus told concerning the prayer of the publican and pharisee. The pharisee was a super Christian. Not only did he tithe but he fasted twice a week. Jesus said, on the other hand, that the publican was more honored by God because of his humility; the publican wasn’t a tither. Since he wasn’t a tither, we cannot use him as an example of such.
The only other New Testament passage available to us on the subject of tithing again has absolutely nothing to do with the practice of “tenth” giving. I will not take the time to quote the passage but suggest the reader stop and read Hebrews chapters (7) and 8). If one fails to read both chapters together, it may seem as though tithing is being taught. In fact, such is not the case.
The writer of Hebrews is illustrating how Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek and that this act included the levites as those who paid tithes being yet unborn. Likewise, the passage confirms that the levites indeed received tithes from the children of Israel as they ministered in the duties of the tabernacle. If the reader is careful to interpret Scripture properly, it will be discovered that the entire point of the complete passage is revealed in Hebrews 8:6: (we have a Mediator of a better covenant with better promises). This Mediator, of course, is Christ the Lord.
Now think back to the covenant under which the children of Israel lived. For their covenant to function, they were required to offer sacrifices, tithe, abstain from certain foods, refrain from Sabbath activity, and a wide variety of other such laws given by God. Their firstborn was likewise required but a lamb was vicariously offered instead. Today the Lamb of God – Christ Jesus – is our substitutionary sacrifice. Literally, Jesus is our “tithe.”
The writer of Hebrews teaches that as the levites paid tithes, because their father Abraham did so; they being yet unborn, paid tithes. We likewise have sin’s debt paid in Christ; we being yet unborn – unborn again I.E. lost in sin. Jesus Christ was, and is, that fulfillment of the law in our behalf. In another words, Jesus paid the debt – tithe – for sin. One may choose to tithe today as a token of ones gratitude, but he cannot teach it as doctrine.
NEW TESTAMENT GIVING
II CORINTHIANS 9:6-9 #6 He which sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he which sows bountifully shall reap also bountifully. #7 Every man according as he purposes in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: For God loves a cheerful giver. #8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: #9 As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad, He hath given to the poor: His righteousness remains for ever. Tithing teachers agree that this passage is not in reference to the
tithe. They must, because the word (tithe) never appears in the passage. They will and do say, however, that Paul was trying to teach us that to “give” to God is over and above your tithe. Funny, Paul, nor any other New Testament writer, said any such thing. Any time we refuse to interpret Scripture in its context, we must substitute conjecture, personal opinion, and hearsay for the truth of God’s eternal Word.
If one will read chapters 8 and 9 of II Corinthians, it can be clearly seen that Paul was instructing the Corinthian believers how they should take offerings. In fact, in these two chapters, as well as I Corinthians 16:1- 4, Paul makes no references to offerings being taken for the support of the local church but the “collections” to which he refers is that which is collected for those who today would be considered evangelists and missionaries. I think it is perfectly within Scriptural boundaries, however, to assume such teaching is applicable to the needs of the local body of believers as well. If not, these offerings to which Paul referred in this passage cannot even be applied to teaching giving to support one’s own local church.
Let’s consider some of the key words Paul used in this passage. The word “sow” or “soweth” means (to scatter). “Sparingly” is a word which means (stingy). “Reap” means (to harvest). “Bountiful” is a rather unusual word used by Paul. It means (elegance in word or speech). The Greek word he used is where we get our word “Eulogy.” “Purpose,” or as it is translated in the King James; “purposeth,” means (to choose for oneself) or (to intend). “Grudgingly” means (sadness), or in this case “”not grudgingly” meaning (without,) or (no sadness). “Necessity” is (constraint), “cheerful” is (merry) or (favorable), and “sufficiency” means (self satisfied).
Verse (6) is our promise: If we sow “sparingly” – with a stingy attitude – we will reap such a return. Of course Paul is using farming as an illustration. planting few seeds will yield a small harvest but plentiful or an abundant planting will reap [harvest] a greater return. So far so good.
The word “bountiful” is something which, at first, seems unrelated. As I mentioned, we get our word (eulogy) from this Greek term. If you have ever been to a funeral, you can gain insight to Paul’s usage of this word. Literally Paul is saying if one speaks many good words, favorable words, kind words, pleasant words, he will reap [harvest] the same.
We live next door to an elderly lady who is often gruff and harsh when speaking with others. I, on the other hand, have always spoken to her with respect and dignity; never talking back when she fussed, never rebuking her rudeness, and never arguing. Why do I hold to such an attitude? First she is in her early seventies; making her more than twice my age, hence, she is my elder. Secondly, I was talk to respect my elders. Thirdly, it is Scriptural, and fourth, I learn very young in life that if you speak kindly to others, they will speak kindly to you. This is exactly what Paul is teaching us concerning our attitude of giving to those in full time service of God. You reap [harvest] what you so – you receive in kind what you say. It is God’s promise to those who give with the right attitude.
The principle of giving is clearly stated in verse (7): “Every man according as he purposes in his heart, so let him give;” literally, according as he (chooses in his heart). What if he chooses not to give? No harvest! Need I point out that it is stated “as he,” the giver, “purposes,” not according to God’s purpose/choosing. Hence, it is voluntary.
This form of giving is furthermore done with a proper attitude; (not grudgingly), or of (necessity), because God loves a (cheerful) giver. When one chooses to give, therefore, he should do so without (sadness) or out of (necessity – constraint. In another words, he should never be forced to give unless it is an act of his own will. Boy, we’ve missed the boat on that one, haven’t we? The principle concludes with making reference to one who gives (cheerfully). If you are constrained to give, if you are threatened to give, if you are shamed into giving because others are, or if you give out of fear of reprisal, you cannot give with cheerfulness – a merry heart. you instead would be giving (grudgingly) – with sadness of heart. God never intending our giving to become a millstone about our neck to weigh us down; He gave it in order that we might reap a harvest blessing which would lift us up.
We indeed shall reap a harvest blessing if we give in light of what has already been said: “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.” The product – that which is produced by giving – is “sufficiency” – self satisfaction. It is the awareness that you have done what you determined [intended] to do for the glory of God. In which case, God is “able” to make all grace abound toward you. The Greek word for “able” contains the root word which is interpreted often in Scripture as (miracle). In another words, the miracle working power of God comes into play in your behalf when giving is natural to your relationship with God.
THE POWER “As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad, He hath given to the poor: His righteousness remains for ever.”
Giving is an intimate part of our relationship with the Heavenly Father. We have the “power” of such spiritual intimacy because we possess His righteousness. This enables us to share personally in His nature by giving to support those who minister in our behalf to others.
The promise is one of harvest: we reap what we sow. If we sow a little, we reap the same. If we sow much, likewise the return will be in kind. I might add, if we so nothing, so shall be our return. Thus the promise is our (reward).
Our attitude of giving is a principle, or rule, we should follow faithfully and consistently in order to maintain continuity in our relationship with God. Since we already have favor with God through Christ, we should never practice giving to obtain favor or attention. Our giving should be as natural as our love for Him.
The product, or result, of such a natural form of giving is self satisfaction. We have given because we are secure in Him and His grace is applicable to every thing we do in His name.
Finally, it is our right – power – to give with such freedom and intimacy because we possess the righteousness of God as His children. Since He has therefore liberally given of His nature, we in turn have the power to manifest that nature as we give of our money in His name.
A marriage IS not confirmed by the number of times one confesses love for another. It is how they live which confirms and completes their relationship. As love, therefore is common to marriage, so giving is in our fellowship with God. If it isn’t natural, it isn’t Scriptural. Does that make it wrong to give because you wish to be blessed? We should only give because we are blessed! We are blessed because of Christ. If we are blessed of God, then giving will be natural.
Paul makes it plane: Our giving should be done as an act of our own will. We need to decide what we will give and it should be given when the Christians gather as a body weekly. There should be no set amount except by the one doing the giving. It should be a reflection of our thankfulness to God for His blessings to us. We should expect a harvest and do so by faith. We should expect to experience God’s grace in all that we do in His name and our giving should be natural and not forced. Our giving is not a mathematical equation by which we calculate our spirituality but rather an expression of our love for the one who gave Himself for us that we might be made rich.
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