Archive for the Law Category

Writing On The Earth

Posted in Bible, Christianity, Christianity, Bible, Truth, Law, Religion, Truth with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 27, 2010 by willnotbesilent

For a little change of pace, let’s back away from blasting tradition and just take a look at something fascinating in Scripture.

We’re all familiar with the story of the adulteress who was brought before Jesus in John 8:2-11:

And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them. And the scribes and the Pharisees bring a woman taken in adultery; and having set her in the midst, they say unto him, Teacher, this woman hath been taken in adultery, in the very act. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such: what then sayest thou of her? And this they said, trying him, that they might have whereof to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground. But when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground. And they, when they heard it, went out one by one, beginning from the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the midst. And Jesus lifted up himself, and said unto her, Woman, where are they? did no man condemn thee? And she said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said, Neither do I condemn thee: go thy way; from henceforth sin no more.

Now here’s the Sixty-Four Million Dollar Question: What did Jesus write on the ground that affected the surrounding Pharisees so badly that they couldn’t stick around?

The account of John doesn’t tell us, of course, but amazingly enough, the answer is in Scripture!

O Jehovah, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be put to shame. They that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken Jehovah, the fountain of living waters. — Jeremiah 17:13 [emphasis mine]

What does it mean to be written in the earth? Well, what does it mean to be written in heaven?

Nevertheless in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. — Luke 10:20

We all know that to have one’s name written in heaven is to be a partaker in salvation. Therefore, one can logically conclude that to have your name written in the earth bears the exact opposite connotation — condemnation.

JESUS WAS WRITING THE NAMES OF THE ADULTERESS’ ACCUSERS!

All the Pharisees, being intimately familiar with the writings of Jeremiah, knew exactly what Jesus was doing as He stooped and one by one wrote their names in the dirt. His words, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” only emphasized his message: The Pharisees had forsaken Jehovah, the fountain of living waters — they themselves had committed adultery against God. And here they were, seeking to kill someone guilty of a crime they themselves had committed! Once again, Jesus was pointing out their blatant hypocrisy and reminding them of the condemnation they all faced.

Imagine how disturbing it would be if you were one of the adulteress’ accusers, familiar with the writings of Jeremiah, and you watched Jesus methodically write your name in the dirt, along with the names of all your cohorts. No wonder they left as their names appeared on the ground.

And then the story ends with the ultimate display of mercy. Jesus, the only one present who had no sin, who had every right to cast the first stone, finally rose to His feet.

“Woman, where are they? Did no man condemn thee?”

The woman, perhaps stunned that she wasn’t being stoned at this very moment, could only murmur, “No man, Lord.”

To which Jesus replied in all the love of a Father to a penitent child, “Neither to I condemn thee. Go thy way. From henceforward sin no more.”

Understanding what Jesus was writing in the earth lends a whole new perspective to the story that only magnifies the amazing omniscience, wisdom, and mercy of God. This is what Christianity is all about.

Now here’s the question we should all ask ourselves: If we had been present for the event of John 8:2-11, would Jesus have been writing OUR names in the ground?

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What Is II Timothy 2:15 Really Saying?

Posted in Bible, Christianity, Christianity, Bible, Truth, Law, Religion, Salvation, Truth with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 10, 2010 by willnotbesilent

In II Timothy 2:15, the apostle Paul gives advice to a young preacher whom he has been mentoring. Among this advice, he gives a nugget of wisdom which, due to the archaic verbiage of the King James Version, is all too often misunderstood. I take the following from the KJV:

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Most folks use the opening of this verse (“study to shew thyself approved”) to emphasize that we are to study the Bible regularly. While there is no doubt that studying the Scriptures is a good thing for a Christian’s strength and growth, they are unfortunately using the wrong verse to prove their point.

The Greek word Paul used, and has since been translated into “study” is spoudazo, which, according to Strong’s Concordance, means “hasten, make haste; exert one’s self, endeavor, give diligence”.

When the King James Version was translated in 1611, the use of the word “study” was not inaccurate. At the time “study” did not refer specifically to educating one’s self or doing homework. It was more broadly intended to mean “work” or “be diligent” or “try hard”. As time progressed into our own times, “study” came to be equated with taking classes and delving into books. Its synonymous nature with “endeavor” was lost.

Today, people insist that this verse strictly means that we should read the Bible in an effort to understand it. While there is no doubt that studying in our current sense of the word is healthy for the Christian walk, that is not all Paul meant. He was telling Timothy to work hard to live a pure life, to overcome his flesh, and to live righteously and charitably. If we achieve this end, we can, as Paul said, shew (show, present) ourselves approved (pleasing or acceptable) to God, workmen that need not be ashamed.

We can thus gather from this verse that we must work hard to be good followers of Christ. If we are lazy and complacent, we run the danger of not being “approved” or acceptable to God. And we know the fate of those who are not acceptable or pleasing to God.

Peter also says in 2 Peter 1:10:

Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.

These are admonishments to Christians to be alert, to be strong in godly labor and righteousness.

Notice the grounds for another if/then logic scenario:

IF we shall never fall if we give diligence,

THEN we shall fall if we do not give diligence.

When we fall, we, as workmen, will have cause to be ashamed, as Paul said to Timothy.

And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him. — 1 John 2:28-29

John says that if we do righteousness we are born of Christ — born again. If we abide, or remain in Him, we will not be ashamed when He returns and the Day of Judgment arrives.

If we are ashamed before Christ at His return, does this still mean we will spend eternity with Him?

Jesus explains in John 15:6 that if we do not abide, or remain in Him, we will be cast away.

If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

It is up to us to remain in Christ, doing His work, laboring for Him, growing in spirit, bearing good fruit. Otherwise we are cast away into eternal condemnation, because we were useless to Him.

Therefore we see that not only is this verse often misused, but it is a powerful piece of evidence against the false Calvinistic doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints, or eternal security. Once completely understood, this apparently innocuous verse becomes a weapon against falsehood.

Thank God for the power in His Word!

Tithing & The New Testament Church — Part 2

Posted in Bible, Christianity, Christianity, Bible, Truth, Law, Religion, tithing on October 15, 2010 by willnotbesilent

When someone tries to tell you that tithing is commanded of Christians today, first ask where in the Bible Jesus or the apostles ever commanded tithing in the Old Covenant sense. In fact, I challenge you to find one place in the New Testament where the apostles paid tithe or extolled someone to pay tithe.

Some will direct you to select portions of the gospels.

One favorite is Matthew 17:24-27.

Collectors of the temple tax approached Peter and asked him if Jesus paid the two-drachma temple tax. Peter, perhaps flustered at being cornered and not knowing the answer, blurted out, “Yes.” But soon afterward, he has the following conversation with Jesus.

. . . Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?” When Peter said, “From strangers,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are exempt. However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and Me.”

“See?” tithe proponents say. “Jesus paid the temple tax.”

Well, first, it was the temple tax — not the tithe. The two are not in any way related. The temple tax involved money, whereas tithing involved food. The temple tax went toward maintaining the temple. The tithe went to the Levites and the needy.

Second, those who use this to point out that Jesus paid the temple tax are missing the entire point. Jesus just made clear that, as the Son of God, he was exempt from the tax. The only reason he paid the tax in this instance was because Peter had already told the collectors that Jesus did pay. He had Peter pay the tax “so that we do not offend them.”

Third, once we are saved through Jesus’ blood and are made one with Him, we become sons of God with Jesus. Therefore, as sons of God, Christians are also exempt from paying the tax.

Therefore, Matthew 17:24-27 is not a valid argument for New Testament tithing.

Once this passage has been explained to their dissatisfaction, tithing proponents often move on to the story of the widow’s mite in Mark 12:41-44.

And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.”

Again — this isn’t the tithe. If the widow had been giving tithe, she would have given a tenth of her two coins, not all she had.

This was also at the temple treasury. This DID involve money, but the people were giving freely, as they so chose, to the treasury. Outside the treasury were large trumpet-shaped receptacles called corban, into which donors tossed whatever amount of money they saw fit. The money was used for maintaining the temple and buying supplies such as incense. This was a freewill donation, and not something commanded by God.

So we find that this passage is also useless in defending New Testament money tithing.

Tithing was a commandment of the Old Law, the Law of Moses, which was fulfilled when Christ died on Calvary (Matthew 5:17, Galatians 3:13-14, Hebrews 8:6-13). After that, the laws of Mosaic worship were no longer needed. Jesus fulfilled them with his perfect sacrifice. Burnt offerings, a Levitical priesthood, a temple, incense, and blood were all fulfilled. Now, lovers of God and followers of His Son Jesus Christ were required to serve in spirit, and not by the letter (Romans 2:29, Romans 7:6, I Corinthians 3:6). God requires obedience over the following of rites and rituals (I Samuel  15:22), and God does not change. It is the same today.

TITHING TODAY

So what does this mean for us in regards to tithing? Has tithing been done away?

Not necessarily. Remember, Jesus said he came to fulfill the law, not destroy it. He did not destroy the practice of animal sacrifices, but rather fulfilled it. He did not destroy the practice of sprinkling blood, but fulfilled it. He did not destroy the Levitical priesthood, but rather fulfilled it. He did not destroy the need for a temple, but rather fulfilled it.

In same way, the practice of tithing was not abolished. It was fulfilled.

The question is: How?

The word “tithe” means “ten percent”, or “one tenth”. So when God told the Hebrews to tithe, they were to give ten percent of their produce — no more and no less. Everyone who raised grain or fruit or animals had to give exactly ten percent. They had to take it to specific places, and there do specific things with their tithe. They had to do it whether they wanted to or not. It was the Law.

Now, reading God’s commandments regarding tithing, we see that tithing had one purpose: To provide for the Levites (God’s ministers), and to provide for the widow, the orphan, and the stranger. Its purpose was for those who had food to provide for those who did not. All who tithed had to give exactly ten percent to this purpose.

We catch a glimpse of God’s love in this practice — His love for those who are in need, and His desire for those with plenty to give of what they have.

So how is the tithing practice fulfilled?

Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. —Romans 13:8

Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. — Romans 13:10

For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” — Galatians 5:14

If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.” — James 2:8

Tithing was God’s way of MAKING people take care of each other through LAW. They had to do it whether they wanted to or not.

Paul says to the Christians in Rome, “You are not under law but under grace.” (Romans 6:14). Christians are not in need of law, because they do the work of God gladly — in spirit, and not by letter. Remember Jesus’ condemnation of the hypocritical Pharisees? “For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.” God never cared about tithing nearly as much as He does about love. He hated the meticulous tithing of the Pharisees because they were more concerned about the letter of the law than they were about the spirit of the law. Paul says in Romans 3:20:

. . . by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

He goes on to say in verse 28,

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law.

The Pharisees sought justification through the works of the law. Jesus only called them “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew 23:27) — clean on the outside, but dead and filthy on the inside. In Galatians 5:4, Paul says,

You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

We of today are no different. If we seek to be deemed righteous by following the acts of the law, according to the letter of the law rather than the spirit, we only condemn ourselves. We have rejected, and thus fallen from, God’s grace through Christ. Also consider the following passage:

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. — James 2:10

In other words, if someone observes tithing in the Old Testament sense then they should not only do it God’s way for starters (giving food rather than money, giving it to the Levites, taking it to Jerusalem), but also observe the feasts, the sacrifices, the Passover, the Sabbath, and other points of the Law, else God will hold them accountable for failing to observe any of it. Think about this!  The avid churchgoer who declares that all should observe the tithe and give ten percent is condemning himself by not observing the rest of the law! Why would a person do such a thing, when the grace of Christ is sufficient?

Remember what we uncovered above — that tithing was God’s way of MAKING people share from what they had with others who did not. Now, however, Christians having been brought to grace apart from the law, follow in the spirit. We give of what we have to God by giving to those in need as we can. Jesus summed it up in Matthew 25:34-46, where he speaks of the final Judgment:

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ ”

God also does not want us to give anything because we must — because if we do according to the spirit of the law, we will desire to. Paul wrote to the Corinthians thanking them for a freewill gift they donated to his ministry:

Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; as it is written, “He scattered abroad, He gave to the poor, His righteousness endures forever.” Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply you seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God — II Corinthians 9:6-7

Notice now, that the Corinthians had not given to their “church”, but donated to Paul’s ministry so that he could bring the gospel to other places and minister to them. Notice also that this donation did not go into Paul’s pocketbook as income. He used it only to bring the gospel and “fully supply the needs of the saints”.

Also notice the similarities between Paul’s statement here and the one in Malachi 3: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.” Hebrews 3:6 identifies Christians as God’s house. If we see to it that there is food (spiritual and physical) in God’s house (in other words, take care of one another) that same blessing applies to Christians today that God mentioned in Malachi 3.

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. — James 1:27

We must also give willingly and freely, through true love, else our gift counts as nothing.

And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor . . . but do not have love, it profits me nothing. — I Corinthians 13:3

So in a word, New Testament tithing is not a mandated tithing, a perfect ten percent of food. New Testament tithing consists of giving freely of whatever one has to the poor and needy and supporting the ministries of preachers spreading the gospel to others.

Do you remember the old Communist saying, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need”? Under Communism, the government takes from those who have and give what they take to those who do not. In essence, Old Testament tithing was Communistic — you gave ten percent, by law, whether you wanted to or not, to those who needed it.

The New Testament is not Communism, but rather, Commonism. Under Commonism, everyone is willing to share what they have with those who do not. There is no law dictating that they do so, or that they give a specified amount. Rather than saying, “What is yours is mine”, as Communists do, Commonists say, “What is mine is yours.” This is living according to the spirit of the Law, rather than the letter. There are no Pharisees who follow Commonism.

This — gladhearted freewill giving to the needy and to ministries — is New Testament tithing. One can give 1% or even 100%, however much he wishes. And God has no desire for it if it is not given with a willing spirit. We are under grace, not law. While Moses brought the Law, Jesus set us free from it by bringing grace (John 1:17).

SO WHY DOES MY PREACHER INSIST SO STRONGLY THAT I TITHE?

Ah, now we come to one of the biggest pieces of the puzzle: Why do so many preachers insist that their church members tithe? Why do they hold the threat of a curse over their heads? And why do they insist on tithing in the Old Testament sense but change the rules so drastically by saying that tithing is of money and that it goes to the church treasury?

Perhaps one of the first steps in finding out why is to find out if that preacher is salaried. If he is, he is paid to preach. It is his means of making money. But nowhere in Scripture are we told to pay our preachers. In fact, the Word of God was never intended to be a means of financial gain to anyone. When Jesus sent his apostles out to work miracles throughout Israel, He told them, “Freely you received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8) He specifically forbade them from making money doing His work. Paul warned his friend Timothy in I Timothy 6:3-5:

If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.

Where does a salaried preacher get his paycheck? From contributions to the church treasury. From where do those contributions come? Church members who “tithe” money to the treasury. And the preacher wants a steady income for what he does, so he makes sure the collection plate is passed, urges his flock to give generously and often (promising them God’s blessings if they do and threatening them with God’s curses if they don’t), insists that everyone come to church on Sundays AND Wednesdays (which is when the collection plate is passed), and encourages them to recruit new church members. After all, the more regularly everyone attends, and the more attendees there are, the better the income.

But Jesus said in Matthew 6:24,

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted on one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

Preachers are to be shepherds over God’s flock. But Jesus also says Himself that he does not trust His flock to those who do their job for pay.

“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand [hireling], and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” — John 10:11-15

A preacher-for-hire is more worried about his paycheck and ensuring a steady income than he is about administering to the needs of his flock. Remember the story of Jesus and the moneychangers? Jesus drove them out with whips, telling them, “Stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” Now God’s house is the Christian body (Hebrews 3:6), and He feels the same way about turning this house into a place of business.

Peter gives advice to church elders in I Peter 5:1-2 about how to do their job:

Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness . . .

In short, elders (leaders within the church) are to do their job for the sake of the job itself — cheerfully and willingly, without monetary compensation. In other words, the shepherds of Christ’s flock are SPECIFICALLY FORBIDDEN to take pay for doing their job.

Paul makes an interesting statement in II Corinthians 2:17, in which he speaks of himself and his fellow apostles:

For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.

The word “peddling” in the Greek is kapeleuo, which means “to sell or retail” but can also mean “corrupt or adulterate”.

Think about this.

Preachers who rely on “tithes” corrupt the word of God in relation to tithing (among other topics) to ensure that church members continue to pay their salary. And, because they are paid preachers, they are peddling (selling) the Word — or at least a corrupted version of it. They are guilty of the very thing Peter and the apostles disdained, in BOTH SENSES OF THE WORD!

These hirelings are nothing more than imposters who twist the Word for their own pecuniary gain. They are plundering the Lord’s house, leading the flock astray and fleecing it. While striking fear into the hearts of the congregation by telling them not to rob God by neglecting to tithe, are robbing God’s people even as they speak!

“Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and you wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance.” — Isaiah 55:1-2

SO IF I GIVE, TO WHOM DO I GIVE?

Live the Christian life. Give of your time, your talents, your possessions, your money, your food, of anything you have. Give to those in need, to missions that spread the true gospel to the world, to ministers who teach the truth and need the support. Give freely, give gladly, give willingly. Don’t give in order to win the approval of men, like the Pharisees. Give to God through love.

Remember, your earthly possessions are nothing in comparison to your eternal reward. But do not give them up to false causes, to preachers who would fleece you of what would be better spent helping the needy and giving to the causes of Christ.

Loving God and loving your neighbor is the fulfillment of the Law. Loving God and loving your neighbor is fulfillment of the law of tithing. It is only that simple. Don’t let hirelings and peddlers of the Word confuse you and lead you astray.

Tithing & The New Testament Church — Part 1

Posted in Bible, Christianity, Christianity, Bible, Truth, Law, Religion, tithing with tags , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2010 by willnotbesilent

In nearly every church, the members hear their preacher (or minister, or pastor, or whatever they call him in that particular denomination) remind them frequently and adamantly that they must tithe.

Tithing, of course, being the practice of donating ten percent of one’s income to the church. At a designated time during the service, a church member or two will pass a collection plate. The congregation fills the plate with their tithes. Or the church has a locked and secured collection box near the entry where the members slip in their tithes.

From this money the building is maintained and — most importantly of all — their preacher is paid his yearly salary. And so the preacher consistently reminds them, often in a thundering voice, to pay their tithe. He usually sites verses such as Malachi 3:8-10

“Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In tithes and offerings, you are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.”

He emphasizes that to fail to pay tithe is to rob God, and will bring down curses — and if they pay faithfully, God will shower them with blessings. And so, fearful of being cursed, not wanting to rob God, and desiring blessings in abundance, the church members throw ten percent of their money into the plate or box without fail.

But is tithing applicable to Christianity and New Testament law? Is the practice of tithing money Scriptural? Let’s find out.

ABRAM AND MELCHIZEDEK

Tithing advocates reference the story of Abram and Melchizedek in Genesis 14, when Abram rescued Lot from four invading kings. Abram was victorious and brought back spoils of war.

Then after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. He blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered you enemies into your hand.” He gave him a tenth of all. The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself.” Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have sworn to the Lord God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’ I will take nothing except what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their share.”

We know from the book of Hebrews that Melchizedek, king of Salem (later to be known as Jerusalem) was a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ, which is what preachers will often be quick to point out. “Abram gave a tenth to Melchizedek, just as we should give a tenth of all to Christ,” they might say. However, notice several points:

  • Abram did not give Melchizedek a tenth of his spoils until Melchizedek brought him food and drink and blessed him. It was a gesture of appreciation for Melchizedek’s aid and support — a friendly gift — not something done for religious reasons.
  • Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth voluntarily, and not because God commanded him to. Giving to Melchizedek was all Abram’s idea, and Abram’s alone.
  • Abram did not lay claim to the rest, but gave it all (ninety percent of the spoils) to the king of Sodom. So while Abram gave only a tenth to Melchizedek, priest of God, he gave nine tenths to the king of Sodom. If Abram’s actions are to be emulated by Christians today, would we not, after tithing to God, give the rest away? Remember, Sodom was a notoriously corrupt and wicked city. Should we give ninety percent of our increase to homosexual programs?
  • Abram was pre-Christianity, even pre-Mosaic law. His example is not like that of Jesus or one of the apostles, to be held up as something to be mimicked to be a good Christian. Abram burned sacrifices. Should Christians do that? After all, if we are to follow his single gesture of giving ten percent to a priest of God, then we should also follow his example of burning animal sacrifices. Would that not be reasonable logic?

So we see how flimsy this example is in supporting the concept of New Testament tithing.

JACOB’S TENTH

Another story used in an attempt to support New Testament tithing is the tale of Jacob. We are all familiar with the account of Genesis 28, in which Jacob dreams of the ladder ascending to heaven and God extends the same promise he gave to Abraham and Isaac.

Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” So Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on its top. He called the name of that place Bethel; however, previously the name of the city had been Luz. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear, and I return to my father’s house in safety, then the Lord will be my God. This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to you.”

Again, we have points that must not go unnoticed in this passage.

  • The giving of the ten percent was not commanded of Jacob by God at any point. This was something done voluntarily, a token of thankfulness for God’s provision and protection as Jacob traveled.
  • This promise was given prior to the laying down of the Mosaic law, in which God does specifically command tithing. But as we will notice, since there was no Levitical priesthood in Jacob’s day, Jacob could not tithe in the manner described by God to Moses.
  • Again, if we are to hold up Jacob’s tithing as an example of what a godly person does, then should we not also build altars as God commanded him to do later at Bethel in Genesis 35? Why is tithing applicable to the Christian life, and not altars and burnt sacrifices?

“But,” some argue, “the fact remains that giving to God was something done by righteous men throughout Biblical history. Nothing says we are exempt.” True. I do not deny this. However, our concept of tithing has become skewed, as we shall see as we continue through this study. Shall we give our way, or God’s way? Which do you think God would prefer?

GOD COMMANDS ISRAEL TO TITHE

Finally we come to God’s commandments to Israel concerning tithing. The first time in Scripture that God commands tithing is in Leviticus 27:30-34.

Thus all the tithe of the land, of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord. If, therefore, a man wishes to redeem part of his tithe, he shall add to it one fifth of it. For every tenth part of herd or flock, whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the Lord. He is not to be concerned whether it is good or bad, nor shall he exchange it; or if he does exchange it, then both it and its substitute shall become holy. It shall not be redeemed.

Let’s continue this system of taking these passages point by point.

  • Nothing in this commandment says anything about tithing money. Tithing, as far as we have read, has concerned “seed of the land”, “fruit of the tree”, and “every tenth part of herd or flock”. Tithing in this passage is strictly in reference to produce and meat.
  • A tithe could be redeemed (bought back) for the worth of the items tithed plus a fifth of its worth. If tithing involved money, how could a person buy back their tithe in this fashion?
  • Tithes were a tenth of everything produced, whether good or bad, regardless of its condition.

God goes into more detail about tithing in succeeding passages. Let’s read Numbers 18:21-32.

“To the sons of Levi, behold, I have given all the tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service which they perform, the service of the tent of meeting. The sons of Israel shall not come near the tent of meeting again, or they will bear sin and die. Only the Levites shall perform the service of the tent of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity; it shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations, and among the sons of Israel they shall have no inheritance. For the tithe of the sons of Israel, which they offer as an offering to the Lord, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance; therefore I have said concerning them, ‘They shall have no inheritance among the sons of Israel.’ ” Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Moreover, you shall speak to the Levites and say to them, ‘When you take from the sons of Israel the tithe which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall present an offering from it to the Lord, a tithe of the tithe. Your offering shall be reckoned to you as the grain from the threshing floor of the full produce from the wine vat. So you shall also present an offering to the Lord from your tithes, which you receive from the sons of Israel; and from it you shall give the Lord’s offering to Aaron the priest. Out of all your gifts you shall present every offering due to the Lord, from all the best of them, the sacred part from them.’ You shall say to them, ‘When you have offered from it the best of it, then the rest shall be reckoned to the Levites as the product of the threshing floor, and as the product of the wine vat. You may eat it anywhere, you and your households, for it is your compensation in return for your service in the tent of meeting. You will bear no sin by reason of it when you have offered the best of it. But you shall not profane the sacred gifts of the sons of Israel, or you will die.’ ”

Remember while reading this that the children of Levi did not receive a portion of the land of Canaan. They resided in cities. They did not farm or raise flocks. Their job was solely to be God’s ministers to the rest of the children of Israel. Now, notice the following:

  • Again, God says nothing about money. He is speaking strictly of food and drink.
  • The children of Israel supported the Levites through their tithes, since the Levites did not have land with which to raise their own food.
  • The Levites were required to tithe from what they received through the tithes of the rest of Israel.
  • Unlike the rest of Israel, the sons of Levi had to offer to God the very best of what they received through Israel’s tithes.
  • The tithes the Levites received were compensation for their ministry. They were supported in matters of food by the rest of the Hebrews.

We still have a couple more passages to examine, but keep all the above in mind as we continue.

Let’s jump ahead to the next book and read Deuteronomy 12:17-19.

“You are not allowed to eat within your gates the tithe of your grain or new wine or oil, or the firstborn of your herd of flock, or any of your votive offerings which you vow, or your freewill offerings, or the contribution of your hand. But you shall eat them before the Lord you God in the place which the Lord your God will choose, you and your son and daughter, and your male and female servants, and the Levite who is within your gates; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God in all your undertakings. Be careful that you do not forsake the Levite as long as you live in your land.”

This is where things start to get interesting.

  • The tithe again consists solely of food, not money.
  • The tither and his family were to eat of the tithe in a meal of rejoicing.
  • They were to eat of the tithe at a place of God’s choosing (to be later identified as Jerusalem).
  • They were to share the tithe with their local Levite as with their own family.

Remember, these are the laws God laid down concerning tithing. If we are to practice tithing in the New Testament church, should we not follow the rules God gave regarding the practice? Show of hands: Who has attended a tithing church where the tithes consisted of food, and those giving the tithes partook of the tithes in a meal of thanksgiving?

No one? Hmmm. Strange.

Let’s move on, still keeping the above points in mind.

Deuteronomy 14:22-29 wraps up the details on the tithing practice.

“You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year. You shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God, at the place where He chooses to establish His name, the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the first born of your herd and your flock, so that you may learn to fear the Lord you god always. If the distance is so great for you that you are not able to bring the tithe, since the place where the Lord you God chooses to set his name is too far away from you when the Lord your God blesses you, then you shall exchange it for money, and bind the money in your hand and go to the place which the Lord you god chooses. You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household. Also you shall not neglect the Levite who is in your town, for he has no portion or inheritance among you. At the end of every third year you shall bring out all the tithe or your produce in that year, and shall deposit it in your town. The Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the Lord you god may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.”

Talk about wrapping it up with a bang! If you have been paying attention, you’ll notice none of this sounds like the tithing practiced by churches today.

  • Tithing was a yearly, not weekly practice. It was a tenth of what came from the field and flock or herd — again, not money.
  • The tithe was to be eaten in the presence of God, at a place of God’s choosing (later to be Jerusalem).
  • If Jerusalem was too far to carry the tithe, the tither was allowed to sell the tithe, take the far more portable money to Jerusalem, and there buy whatever he wanted to replace the sold goods. This is the only instance in which tithing ever involved money — and the money was to be used to buy food for tithing, not given to the temple.
  • Tithers are again reminded to remember to give to the Levites.
  • Every third year, the Hebrews did not have to bring their tithe to Jerusalem. They simply brought it to the nearest town and left the tithe there, where not only the Levites but strangers, orphans, and widows could come and eat.

Again, this sounds nothing like the tithing we see in churches today! In fact, the above passage makes tithing sound a lot more like the American tradition of Thanksgiving Day! And notice the part about every third year. Do tithing churchgoers contribute a tenth of their earnings to charity every third year? Think about it.

TITHING AS GOD ORDERED IT

So, based on the above information, here is how the system of tithing really worked:

The Hebrews set aside a tenth of their flocks and herds for tithe every year at harvest. They then took the tithe to Jerusalem. If the tithe was too much to carry such a distance, they could sell the tithe, take the money to Jerusalem, and buy food and drink to replace what they sold. Then they gathered at the temple to participate in a feast of thanksgiving to God. Now, obviously they couldn’t eat the entire tenth of their produce at one sitting — therefore, once they had finished their feast, the rest went to the Levites so they would have sustenance.

The Levites, in turn, had to select the best tenth of what they received, and offer it to God. This was in the form of the food offering, which consisted of wave offerings and the like, which God laid down in His laws regarding food offerings. The rest they were free to do with what they desired.

Every third year, the Hebrews did not take their tithes to Jerusalem, but rather piled them in their towns so the needy, as well as the Levites, could eat and be satisfied.

Remember, doing something God commands requires doing it the way God requires — otherwise, we are not doing God’s will, but our own. In order to tithe properly, according to the way God laid down in the Mosaic Law, we would need to observe the following:

  • We would tithe with food, not money.
  • We would be sure the tithe went to the Levites.
  • We would take the food to Jerusalem every year.
  • Every third year we would pile the food in our local town for the needy.

Do you see the problem with this?

  • Most of us aren’t farmers anymore. We buy our food at the supermarket more often than not. This presents a problem to the average non-farming individual who wishes to tithe.
  • Nobody knows who is of the tribe of Levi anymore. Bloodlines within the Jewish circle have, for the most part, been mingled, muddled, or lost. This also poses a dilemma for the person who wishes to tithe.
  • Jerusalem is halfway around the globe for many of us. If we were to tithe properly, we would have to fly to Jerusalem every year — the cost of which would be prohibitive for most of us.
  • Again, since so many of us do not farm, how could we pile our tithes in the local food pantry? We would have nothing to contribute unless we went to the store, bought a bunch of groceries, and delivered them to the soup kitchen downtown.

But have you ever seen any hardcore, Bible-thumping, diehard tither of today do any of the above? I highly doubt it. Their tithe is always a wad of bills or a check that they drop into the collection plate every Sunday — and that money goes toward the building, their minister’s salary, and/or church projects.

This “tithing” is not, by any stretch of the imagination, the tithing God commanded of the children of Israel. And yet that is what they call it. Tithing.

TITHING UP TO THE NEW COVENANT

A cursory reading of Scripture will show that the way tithing was practiced throughout the Old Testament never changed.

In II Chronicles 31:4-7, we read about King Hezekiah restoring the observance of the Law in Israel after a long period of godlessness.

Also he commanded the people who lived in Jerusalem to five the portion due to the preists and the Levites, that they might devote themselves to the law of the Lord. As soon as the order spread, the sons of Israel provided in abundance the first fruits of grain, new wine, oil, honey and of all the produce of the field; and they brought in abundantly the tithe of all. The sons of Israel and Judah who lived in the cities of Judah also brought in the tithe of oxen and sheep, and the tithe of sacred gifts which were consecrated to the Lord their God, and placed them in heaps. In the third month they began to make the heaps, and finished them by the seventh month.

No money involved here. Food was brought and laid up in heaps, exactly the way God commanded it be done in Moses’ day. Hezekiah and the people of Israel are in this passage adhering to tithing as it was originally intended.

When Israel returned from captivity in Babylon, the prophet Nehemiah was in charge of reestablishing the practices of the Mosaic Law. Throughout Nehemiah 10-13, he restores temple practices, the observance of the Sabbath, and tithing. You will notice that again, tithing always consisted of food, and never money.

In Malachi 3:8-10, we find the passage that ministers and preachers of today pound into their congregations’ heads on a regular basis.

“Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In tithes and offerings, you are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.”

Read this passage again, slowly, keeping in mind everything we learned from the passages above. Do you notice something that emphasizes that tithes consist of FOOD and not money?

That’s right. “Bring the whole tithe into the STOREHOUSE, so that there may be FOOD in my house.”

God doesn’t say, “Bring the whole tithe into the treasury (or bank, or collection plate) so that there may be money in my house.” He is talking about food! He is talking about the same tithing practice he commanded of the children of Israel so long ago! The practice of tithing, of giving thanks for the year’s produce, of contributing to the Levite’s welfare, of giving to the needy NEVER CHANGED!

The Old Law was still in effect while Jesus walked the earth. During this time, tithing remained in practice. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for their hypocrisy in following the rite of tithing to the letter but neglecting to lead a truly godly life in Matthew 23:23

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.”

So we see that tithing — with food — was still in force at that time.

But Jesus was about to be crucified and rise again to sit at the right hand of God. The Law of Moses was about to be fulfilled.

Things were about to change.

 

The next post will wrap up this exploration of tithing and reveal some of the greatest misconceptions regarding tithing today. Watch for “Tithing & The New Testament Church — Part 2”!

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