Monday, September 15, 2008

Freed from Tithing, Free to Give - Part 5

This series on "The Tithe" is, from one perspective, fairly long and in-depth, but from another perspective is not nearly in-depth enough to cover every last aspect of the tithe and tithing. On the one hand I could make it a lot shorter - perhaps even boil it down to one blog post - but on the other hand I really did want to take at least a little bit of extra time to peel through some of the layers of scripture to take a closer look at the tithes than you normally see in churches that teach tithing as a Christian principle. My main goal here is to highlight what the tithes actually were and how the tithes were actually put to use. To recap what we've already seen in this series, the tithing system was set up because God had set apart a specific tribe of Israel, the Levites, to perform specific functions that were required under a specific covenant (the Old Covenant), and He specifically provided for them via the tithes from the other eleven tribes.

Deuteronomy 14
A few times we see some odd instructions about the tithes. But it's odd only from the perspective that this stuff is never taught in churches who seem so gung ho on the tithe! Hmmm... why is that? :) This passage from Deuteronomy is one of those interesting ones. Read it, and tell me if this will really preach in churches. In all my life, I had never heard this passage until I saw it for myself.
Deut 14:24-29 "But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the Lord your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the Lord your God has blessed you, 25 then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the Lord your God chooses. 26 And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household. 27 You shall not forsake the Levite who is within your gates, for he has no part nor inheritance with you.

28 "At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. 29 And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.
Wow! Where has the church been hiding this one! The people were to take the tithe and eat it! (And drink it). And not only that, but if the place the Lord had set up was too far for them, they were to take the tithe and exchange it for money, and spend the money on whatever their hearts desired! And they were to eat and to rejoice before the Lord. This passage also highlights again the very important fact that the Levites had no inheritance, and so the people were to not forsake them with their tithes, and they were also to store up their tithes every third year for the sake of "the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless and the widow." Again, all of this was directly relational to the Old Covenant system in which they lived.

And what about all the other instructions?
Right along with all of the passages that have to do with tithing instructions are many other instructions for the people of Israel. I think it's very interesting that the people of the Christian church will dig into these Old Covenant scriptures, totally ignoring all the other Old Covenant practices (rightfully so), and yet pulling out "the tithe" as something they teach and practice as a New Covenant principle! Again, all of these tithing passages, along with their surrounding verses and chapters, give many more rules and instructions that were a part of that system.

So if you're going to stick with the Old Covenant practice of tithing (which you'll by necessity have to take out of context if you're going to use it in the church), then please tell me that you keep the other instructions too! There are instructions about cutting and shaving, rules about what animals, birds and water creatures could be eaten and not eaten, and there were even rules about boiling a young goat in its mother's milk! And please tell me you don't eat bacon, ham, lobster or other "unclean" creatures!

Also, what about the instructions to stone people (Deut 13), and the instructions to go into other cities which serve other gods, and kill the people with swords, utterly destroying the city and all its livestock, plundering the city and burning it in the middle of the street? Sounds like a fun "outreach!" What about every seven years, all creditors being required to release the debts of their debtors? The point is... All of these instructions were given to the same people and in the same context as the instructions on tithing, so why do we preach "the tithe," but leave out all the rest?

So many unnecessary questions come up in the Christian church because of how all these scriptures are manipulated! "Do I tithe off of my gross or net income?" "What is meant by "firstfruits?" "What is meant by tithing off of the 'increase?'" The truth is, we need not be concerned with any of that because all of those passages have to do with the children Israel functioning under the Old Covenant. None of it, including the tithes, has anything to do with Christians living in the New Covenant!

Part 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

16 comments:

  1. Hebrews 7:5-7 deals with the ministry of Melchizedek and that Jesus is the priest forever according to Melchizedek.

    Under grace, Hebrews states that Jesus is the Lord, not just of the past, not just of the present, but forever. He is the Lord of the tithe, forever.

    Do you believe Jesus is the Lord of the tithe? If He is, there should be no question that we tithe unto Him.

    Hebrews 7:8 states "that men (subject to death) receive tithes on this side; but on the other side, Jesus Himself receives them." Why should we look for ways to excuse us from what we know we should be doing?

    The tithe was, and is and shall ever be HOLY unto the Lord. :)

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  2. "Jesus is Lord of the tithe?" Where do you see that in Hebrews 7?

    As I mentioned in Part 2, this passage from Hebrews 7 tells about the true meaning behind Abram's tithe. Let's follow it through.

    1. Melchizedek is great - even Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils to him (vs. 4).

    2. The Levites (who have the priesthood), receive tithes from their brethren "according to the law." They receive tithes even though they have descended from Abraham (vs. 5-6).

    3. Melchizedek, who was not descended from them, received tithes through Abraham, and since the Levites were still in Abraham's loins at the time, then in that sense Melchizedek received tithes from them (through the one-time tithe of Abraham) (vs. 7-10).

    4. The conclusion of all this (the reason the writer of Hebrews brought all this up) is found in vs. 11 - "Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizdek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron?"

    Remember, Melchizedek descended from no one (vs 3), but the Levites descended from Aaron.

    The whole point here has NOTHING to do with Christians tithing. :) The writer brings all of this out to show how the system of the Levites, which included people tithing to them, was not what was needed, but something superior was needed. Since the Levites, through their ancestor Abraham, paid tithes to Melchizedek (figuratively speaking, because they still hadn't been born yet, but were "still in the loins of Abraham," then this show that the Priest who would come through the order of Melchizedek - Jesus - is the priesthood that was needed.

    Read it again, and note what the writer is really saying! Perhaps start at the beginning of Hebrews, or at least at chapter 6, and read through at least chapter 10, to get the full picture of what he's saying. It's not that he's writing about the two covenants, and then he suddenly, out of the blue, drops in instructions for Christians to tithe. :)

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  3. Joel,

    What you said (about Melchizedek) makes perfect sense.

    I think may be the only reason the tithe is mentioned in Hebrews is to show us the superiority of Jesus over the priests from the tribe of Levi (Aaron's kids). Jesus came from the tribe of Judha, who were not supposed to be priests according to God's law. Jesus broke that law. Why? because He is superior to any law.

    Being born in the tribe of Judha, he is NOT like the Levitical priests. The author is showing us this truth through how Melchizedek (who was also not a Levi) received tithe from Abraham.

    The key verse in that chapter is this:

    For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law.

    And..

    The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.

    The whole point of the chapter is to establish the truth that Jesus is a priest for ever. It wasn't intended to establish that the 'tithe' was forever.

    Everything in OT is a shadow of the reality which are being revealed in NT.

    For example, circumcision in OT was of flesh made by hands, which was just a shadow of the actual circumcision of HEART which is done NOT by hands. If you see tithe in the same light, tithe (Giving 10% of grains and fruits) was a shadow of the reality of giving our hearts to God. Paul said, we are His procession! God owns US.

    Under New Covenant, everything is about our heart, where as everything in OT was just about externals.

    who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory. - Ephesians 1:14

    If we, ourselves are God's possession, what a futility it is to think that we should give our mere 10% money TO God?

    Apostle Paul once said:

    Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. - 2 Corinthians 12:14

    How much more clear can he get? This is what today's pastors/ministers should say - what I want is not your possessions but you.

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  4. The truth is:
    Melchizedek is the type of Christ. :) Do you know why Abraham brought tithe to Melchizedek?

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  5. Cyberanger,

    Hebrews 7 tells exactly what Abram's tithe to Melchizedek was all about, as I just wrote about in my last comment. Something keeps making me think that you're not even reading the things I've written, either in the actual blog posts or in my comments. :)

    Bino,

    Yep indeed, the key point in all of this is that the Levitical priesthood served a given purpose for a given time, but the Priesthood of Jesus is far superior to all of that, because the entire system never brought perfection, but Jesus did. As the scriptures say, of necessity, in order for this better Priesthood to be established, the old system had to end.

    In Part 7 I'll be bringing up some of the same verses you brought up here, about Paul, and about giving, and such. Also, about how we are fully His, and there is nothing that we can give Him, as if He needed anything! We're a spiritual house, not a physical one, as was the case in the Old Covenant system, and we're offering up "spiritual sacrifices" (not physical sacrifices) "acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:5). So many times, verses are not taken in their full context, and all are used to support all kinds of doctrines that they were never meant to support!

    I'll also address how giving is truly something that we do as Christians, but it has absolutely nothing to do with tithing.

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  6. Yes, I have read your post and comments.. and I have decided to bring the tithe to our High Priest, Christ Jesus. :)

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  7. i do not see that the "church" hides anything. for i think it is a "system" that has been using the name of the "church".... that we, as part of the body, allows ourself to be missled by.

    one must be very careful and be led by the Spirit of God, and the Word of God. these things are not going to get any better nearing the end times.

    we must be very careful not to let it distract us from the main goal.

    your sister in Christ Jesus.

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  8. Hi Nancy,

    I'm not sure what you're saying (my fault for not understanding your words), but just to clarify, I was being sarcastic when I said, "where has the church been hiding this one." :) If the church is going to (wrongfully) teach tithing as a legitimate Christian practice, then why are they "hiding" certain scriptures. In other words, why are they teaching a few select verses, but not teaching all of them? My point was really that it's incredulous to me that the tithe is even taught in the first place, and then when it's taught, the church "conveniently" misses some verses. :)

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  9. Joel,
    Great post. :)

    Excellent for pointing out the fact that giving tithes to the Levites was all done in the spirit of relationship! God wanted the people to understand the importance of taking care of others who are in need of it.

    Yet, it's beautiful, that Father ALSO wanted people to enjoy the fruits of their labor, as well. I think what He created, periods of every so-many years of forgiving debts, bringing out tithes of one's harvest, or money, then allowing those in need, widows, orphans, Levites, poor to have it -- as a beautiful act of love.

    God took into consideration everyone's needs, both for enjoyment AND need of others.

    As well, all the other Laws of the Old Testament times, just points out so much how difficult it was to follow all of them (what to eat, drink, dress like, rituals to carry-out) and points us all the more to the fact of how much we NEED Jesus Christ's atonement and His fulfillment for us of all the OT Laws!

    Blessings,
    ~Amy :)
    http://amyiswalkinginthespirit.blogspot.com

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  10. Good one Joel...i like the way you think.

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  11. Hi Amy,

    In a sense I have sort of a different view than the tithes being done out of a spirit of relationship. I've had to cut and trim a lot of what I wanted to write, because this is already a long enough series... LOL... but one of the things I was going to mention either in Part 5 or Part 6 (and that I may end up adding to Part 8, although I'm not sure yet) is that the tithes were brought because the people were mandated to bring them. I do think it's possible, and probably very true, that some Jews brought their tithes out of hearts of joy and thankfulness. However, when Nehemiah came to Jerusalem (and Malachi as well), he saw that the people had not been bringing their tithes for the Levites. To me, this says that they were not doing this out of hearts of love... because they weren't even doing it!

    But this goes along well with your other point, that all of this goes to show how we can't keep the law, and we need the better Priesthood, the Priesthood of Jesus who fulfilled all of the law for us, on our behalf.

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  12. Glenn,

    Thanks for your encouragement. What I'm really doing here is trying to take a look at what the scriptures actually say, as opposed to what we've read into them in the Christian church. I think that when we start at the beginning and work our way through all of it, sort of in the way that actually happened with the Jews in real life, we see how our modern day "interpretations" are off by a long mile.

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  13. Correction: Bino, I said Part 7, I meant Part 8.

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  14. Gary Sparrow9/15/2008 2:45 PM

    Joel,

    As you know from John's blog I have a differing opinion on this subject. I understand the Old Testement teachings different. There were different tithes, there were different measures of wealth. Not many weekly paychecks but crops & flocks that they tithed off of. My whole point was the principle of tithing as a way to finance the work of God.

    In 1 Cor 16 the collection Paul mentioned was scheduled " the forst day of the week" and proportional "as God has prospered"
    He didn't use the word tithe but the principle is there. I still think on both sides of this issue people are hung up on the word and missing the principle. I know there are churches that have abused this teaching but I don't think that is reason for discarding the principle.

    As I said in the other blog if people will let the Holy Spirit lead them they will most likely give more than 10%. Sould your giving go to the Church? That is entirely between you and God. I come accross many people with needs and do give outside the Church, but the biggest need people have is Jesus. Therefore the majority of my giving goes where I know it will be used to spread the Gospel.

    And by the way I don't "pay" anything to the Church I "give back" to God as he has prospered me.

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  15. Hi Gary,

    Thanks for sharing your views.

    I respectfully disagree, and I'll share my reasons. As you can see here, in my first six parts, I have laid out the various scriptures that talk about the tithes. To say that they were a "principle... as a way of financing the work of God" is to miss the point. As I've mentioned several times now, there were many more rules and instructions that had to do with "the work of God" in that covenant, so why do we pick "the tithe" as a principle out of all of that, and ignore all the rest?

    We are in a New Covenant, which is a completely different system, and is not based upon the Old system. It's a "new and living way," and the "members" of this system are ALL ministers and priests. I'll get into that in Part 8.

    As for Paul's collection in 1 Cor. 16, he is referring to an upcoming visit that he's going to make to Corinth and Galatia, and he's having them take up a collection that will be sent to Jerusalem. This collection is not a principle that he is setting up for them to always follow, but is a one time collection for Jerusalem!

    Giving... YES! We are to give by grace, just as we live by grace in the rest of our lives. I don't think there really is any given "principle" by which we give, except that we give cheerfully as our hearts have decided to give.

    I will also address the whole idea of "giving back" to God in a future post. In short, as has already been said in this comment thread, we are wholly God's. Everything we have is His, because we are wholly His. Everything we have has been given to us by Him. He can't take anything from us! As if we really have something to offer Him! We are simply HIS, and just as we've been freely given to, we freely give to others. Not as an act of "giving back to God," but as a free will act of giving as God has given to us.

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  16. Great post and comments...
    one thought in love: Jesus did not break the law during His earth walk. He only entered the Most Holy Place once by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.
    He did not set Himself up as a priest while on earth, other than as Melchizedek: King and Priest. (Some will say as a type.)
    To state that Jesus broke the law is to deny His perfect walk and His unblemished sacrifice. He kept the law in thought and deed; He just did not uphold the Pharisees' interpretation of certain laws. Was healing on the Sabbath work? No. Was eating grain from the field labor? No. Jesus is the Sabbath and He was living out the fulfillment of the law, regardless of men's interpretation, not breaking it.

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