Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Freed from Tithing, Free to Give - Part 7

Matthew 23 and Luke 11
In this part we'll look at the tithes as mentioned in the New Testament. We'll start with these two passages in which we see Jesus harshly rebuking the Pharisees, who, of course, fancied themselves as keepers of the law but were in reality steeped in self-righteousness and hypocrisy. Jesus brought up many different complaints against them, including their faithfulness in tithing while yet ignoring other parts of the law.
Luke 11:42 "But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.

Matt 23:23 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.
Jesus said that as people who were under the law, they most certainly should bring their tithes, as was mandated under the law. And they had actually done that. However, they had "neglected the weightier matters of the law." As Jesus saw it, they were "whitewashed tombs" who appeared clean from outward appearances but were really "full of dead men's bones and uncleanness" on the inside (Matt 23:27). From outward appearance (including the bringing of the tithes that could be seen by everybody), they looked clean. But yet their negligence in other matters proved that they were only self-righteous hypocrites.

Here's my point in all this: If we're to take Jesus' words to the Pharisees about tithing as teachings for Christians to follow, then shouldn't we follow ALL of what Jesus spoke to the Pharisees? Read Matthew 23 and Luke 11 and tell me that you think it should be taught in the Christian church! But of course, Jesus wasn't giving a "Christian" teaching here, was He! He was teaching law to those who were under the law.

Like I've previously mentioned more than once, it seems again to be the case that Christians who teach "the tithe" disregard all of the surrounding words and instructions, and zoom in solely on the tithe. I've tried not to be too strong in my language in this series, but is it not evident that all of this is a gross negligence of context and a vast straying away from the true meaning of all of these scriptures?

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector
In Luke 18, Jesus spoke this parable "to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others" (Luke 18:9). Read the full parable in Luke 18:10-14. Not much is needed to say here in regards to the purpose of this series. It simply shows that the Pharisee, who faithfully tithed, is not the one who was justified.

Hebrews 7
I briefly mentioned this passage in Part 2 when I was talking about Abram's tithe to Melchizedek, and we'll go a little bit more in depth here. We really need to start at the beginning of Hebrews to get the full gist of what the writer is saying. At the very least, go back to chapter 5 where the writer begins to write about Melchizedek or chapter 6 where the writer begins to talk about "perfection." But let's quickly look at Hebrews 7:4-10 so we can see how the writer came to his conclusion after verse 11, that perfection could not come through the Levite priesthood, but only through Jesus. I rarely ever use The Living Bible when trying to explain doctrine, but in this case I think it helps to give a better understanding of this passage.  After you read this, feel free to also read it in another version:
Heb 7:4-10 See then how great this Melchizedek is: Even Abraham, the first and most honored of all God's chosen people, gave Melchizedek a tenth of the spoils he took from the kings he had been fighting. 5 One could understand why Abraham would do this if Melchizedek had been a Jewish priest, for later on God's people were required by law to give gifts to help their priests because the priests were their relatives. 6 But Melchizedek was not a relative, and yet Abraham paid him. Melchizedek placed a blessing upon mighty Abraham, 7 and as everyone knows, a person who has the power to bless is always greater than the person he blesses. 8 The Jewish priests, though mortal, received tithes; but we are told that Melchizedek lives on. 9 One might even say that Levi himself (the ancestor of all Jewish priests, of all who receive tithes), paid tithes to Melchizedek through Abraham. 10 For although Levi wasn't born yet, the seed from which he came was in Abraham when Abraham paid the tithes to Melchizedek. (TLB)
In short, what's being said here is that the Levites, although descended from Abraham (born after him), in a sense paid tithes to the High Priest Melchizedek (who is a 'type' of Jesus) through Abraham. Now, in reality they didn't actually pay tithes to Melchizedek, nor is this passage talking about the actual paying of tithes to Melchizedek (nor to Jesus). This passage is using the example of the one-time tithe of Abraham (the lesser) to show how the priesthood of Melchizedek (the greater, who lives forever) is superior to the Levite priesthood (imperfect priests who died) - thereby showing that perfection could not be gained through the Levite priesthood, but that a NEW priesthood was necessary (that of Jesus, whose priesthood is "of the order of Melchizedek"). That's what this passage is about!

Think about it. Was the writer of Hebrews giving all this doctrine about a better covenant, a better priesthood, and so on and so forth, and then he suddenly decides, "Oh, I guess I'll drop in a little word to Christians about tithing?" That's silly! His bringing up the Levitical priesthood, and Abram's tithe, and Melchizedek, ALL had to do with his pointing out the weakness of the Old Covenant and the need for, and the superiority of, the New Covenant.

Part 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

13 comments:

  1. Russell Earl Kely, PHD9/16/2008 8:03 AM

    Hebrews 7:12-19 is the most important pasasge on tithing after Calvary.

    The law, or commandment, to take tithes from 7:5 saw a "necessary" change in 7:P12 gbecasue Melchizedek was not even a Hebrew. And taht "necessary change" was its "abolishment" in 7:18 becasuke fo the "better new covenant" of 7:19.

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  2. Joel Bro!
    I am blown away at your blog! Nice work, dude!

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  3. Russell,

    I think I agree with what you're saying, if I follow you correctly. My main purpose here was to show how this little section of Hebrews 7 was not about Christians tithing to Jesus, but that it's a set up for vs. 11, a need for another priesthood. You're right. If you continue to follow the progression up to and beyond vs. 18, the whole section (in fact several chapters) has to do with the annulling, or abolishment, of the former law.

    Bino talked about this as well in the comments of Part 5, that Jesus came out of the line of Judah, not out of the lawful line of the Levites. It's a completely different order - "according to the order of Melchizedek."

    To all... this is one reason why I've been saying, either in the posts or in the comments, that it's good to read all of Hebrews to get the full context of what's being said here. The writer of Hebrews quotes 2 or 3 times from Psalm 110:4, in which David, speaking of the Messiah, says, "You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek." It would be great to spend more time on that in this series, but it was getting too long. :) Mainly I simply wanted to highlight that Hebrews mention of the tithe wasn't about Christians tithing.

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  4. Dave, my friend! Thanks so much!

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  5. Joel,

    Excellent!

    I just posted a new post The Mixture which deals with the mixing of law and grace.

    When we teach 'tithe', we are mixing law and grace which is a 'foolishness' according to Apostle Paul. He even cursed those who do that!

    People do not realize that we have a brand new level of intimacy possible with God now.

    What if I give 10% of my income to my wife to put it in her account and I keep the 90% in my account? That shows us that we have a troubled marriage. As a husband and wife, we share same account. What ever is mine is hers, and what ever is hers is mine.

    That's the level of intimacy we have with God. Everything He has is mine and everything I have is His. Why are acting silly by separating a mere '10%' and thinking that we are 'giving back to God'?

    People but still live in an unmarried mentality (as I talked in the post) today. It's sad.

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  6. Joel,
    Great points here! As I was reading, a few things came to mind...
    Regarding the Pharisee's "acting" externally like humble and generous givers: "Don't judge a book by it's cover.
    When looking at scripture, know "to whom" Jesus was specifically targeting his messages to. If one doesn't, then significant mistakes are bound to be made by placing Old Testament laws over New Testament living.
    Only God (Jesus Christ/Father) has been, is or will be Perfect. No human being will ever be. Nothing we "do" ever is either. Striving for Perfection is wasteful. However, seeking to be true to ourselves, as God's redeemed child, and loving Him and others is how we are meant to live.
    As well, we should NEVER place any human man in a position (physically, spiritually, mentally) that is as high as God. God (Christ Jesus) is our ONLY High Priest. All other believers belong to a priesthood, but none of us should ever be lifted up in a position "higher" than another.

    Well written blog, Joel!

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

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  7. Joel,
    Great Posts!!
    I very much agree, I read some of the comments in eariler posts and was really not suprised. Coming so recently from a church enviroment that made the tithe a "demand" (actually you could not become a member unless you gave 10% every week) I can see what you are saying clearly. It is still a bit hard and because of that I understand where some of the others are coming from. In my perspective, I do not think the "church" trusts us to give what it needs to survive, ergo they preach the tithe (my view of it anyway). Admittidly I do not attend a church at the moment, and in many eyes makes me look like I am falling away and its no wonder I am thinking like I do. However, I cannot believe the things I had been taught in my old church, like, "if I do not tithe God will take away what I do have and not return it until I do, or that if I pay the tithe God will shower me with monetary opportunities, good job with more pay than what someone else doing the same thing makes because I am favored. (I know thats blunt, but but its the jist of how it makes me feel, it is just preached in a more palitable manner, after all would anyone stay in a church that told it straight up like that?) The main thing is I just do not think we are trusted, I could be wrong but that is the feeling I get. I along with the rest of the church body was constantly told to give in our tithes till it hurts and God will repay with interests, but, if by chance things did not go well for us financially we are told that we held back on some of our tithes or some other line or another. I know this sounds like a rant, pardon me please, but its just still pretty fresh and still annoys me a bit. I love to give, love to share, which is why it hurt me so bad to see those things slowing down under the demand to give more than what I could afford, after all I preceived that giving was more than material giving. I do not think some appreciate that when you are struggling hard, a 10% demand can be the difference between eating and not eating, but hey, isn't that a great time to excersize church mandated fasting? :)
    Ron

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  8. Bino,

    Yep, I agree with everything you said. As you've previously mentioned, and as I'll also make mention of as this series wraps up, we are wholly God's and He is wholly ours. We are in Him and He is in us. He is our very life. It's 100% all the way, not 10% or any other % in any other way. God has come to us, and has brought us to Himself, fully. It's a brand new covenant of life, not based upon the old, dead one. Indeed, it's a marriage, as marriage is meant to be.

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  9. Amy,

    Yep indeed, when reading scripture we always need to be careful to see whom is being spoken to and what the point of the message is. All to often preachers preach "topical" sermons, which aren't always "bad" but yet often miss the context of the various scriptures that they use in their teachings.

    And indeed as well, no human should ever be placed in a position such as that of God, nor should they be placed in positions that are higher than one another. We're one body of spiritual priests who all serve one another.

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  10. Ron,

    I can very much relate to your "rant." :)

    I am also not "going to church" at the moment - haven't for over a year (although my wife and kids still go) - and it's amazing how people are so concerned that I've 'backslidden' or am having a poor time 'spiritually!'

    I think it's true what you're saying about the church preaching the tithe because they don't trust people to "give" what they need to survive. I think a lot of the church system is built upon the foundation of having to have people give money in order for it to keep on going. As I'm going to share in one of the last posts here, it's almost as if the church has become a financial institution, with everything revolving around money.

    It's interesting, isn't it, how so many lies are taught (they really are lies) about "if you don't tithe... God won't bless you" and stuff like that, or if you do tithe God will open up various monetary opportunities, etc. Depending upon your financial circumstances in life, people will judge you, as if it all has to do with whether you give ten percent of your income to a local church or not. These are simply made-up fables that never even had any scriptural basis under the old covenant, never mind under the new covenant!

    I remember hearing the "give until it hurts" teaching. Man, it's just so out of whack!

    I'd bet a LOT of people have been down to no money at all, and little or no food to eat, just because they thought they had to give ten percent of their money to a church. It's sad.

    All of this (and more) is why I decided to write this series. I really hope people will be freed from the notion that tithing is required, and is even a new covenant principle, and I hope as well that many people will find the liberty in Christ to be able to give freely and generously, as they are able - and not always in financial ways.

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  11. I am amazed at how are people will go to keep their money in their pockets .
    Jesus in the order of Melchizedek.
    Correct not a Levite.
    all of this is BEFORE the law .
    the law came with Moses.
    obedience will always be better than sacrifice .
    You can tithe or not tithe.
    If you do not tithe, the least, you never made it to an offering.
    first fruits go back to adam . If you do not understand firstfruits, then you do not understand why Jesus had to go to the cross and we are blessed for it.
    twist it anyway you like, I suggest you test God like He (Mal 3) said,
    and see if you can out give Him . you and God are being robbed .

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  12. Hello Jeff,

    Thanks for your comments here. I'll take a little time and walk through them.

    First of all, let it be noted that this series encourages generous giving, as people are able to do so, and not to "keep their money in their pockets." :) The series is called "Freed from Tithing, Free to GIVE."

    Jesus is in the order of Melchizedek. Indeed. Hebrews 7 gives a wonderful account of what this is all about. In fact if we go back just a little bit in Hebrews, we can see that the writer mentions that 4 or 5 times. It's quite significant. The point he is making has nothing to do with tithing, but rather it has to do with why Jesus is superior to the Levite priesthood, and therefore can be our High Priest.

    He is not of the order of Aaron, which is where the Levites descended from. So according to the LAW, He cannot be a priest. So it had to be proven that He is superior to the Levites.

    The Levites were in Abraham's loins when he gave his tithe to Melchizedek. As the writer of Hebrews says, this shows that Melchizedek is greater than Abraham, and therefore is greater than the Levites, since they were in Abraham's loins. Therefore, Jesus is greater than the Levites, since He is of the order of Melchizedek. That's the whole point. Again, it has nothing to do with tithing. Abraham's tithe to Melchizedek is brought up only to show that Jesus is superior to the Levites, and therefore is our High Priest - and it also shows that the Levite priesthood and Old Covenant is done away with.

    You say that firstfruits go back to Adam. Well then, since all of mankind comes from Adam, then all of mankind should be giving firstfruits to God. I hereby commission you to tell all the world (not just the church) that since they come from Adam, they must give firstfruits. You can direct them to give to your church if you wish. ;)

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  13. As to Malachi, he was addressed in Part 6 of this series. In summary, Malachi was a Jewish prophet. He was sent by God to the Jews because they had neglected the tithing laws that God had given the Jews (Israel). And not only that, but the Jews had also forsaken many other laws that God had given Jews, and so Malachi was sent to the Jews to set the Jews straight.

    Read all of Malachi, not just a section of Chapter 3, and tell me if you follow all of it. Of course you don't, because you are not a Jew (or at least I assume you're not) and you are not under the Old Covenant, under which those laws and ordinances were given.

    God told Malachi to tell the Jews to test Him in the tithing laws that He had given the Jews. God also told Malachi to tell the Jews everything else that was written in Malachi. It's an Old Covenant writing, meant for people who were under the Old Covenant.

    Again, if you want to keep part of Chapter 3, you must keep all of Malachi, and I sincerely believe that you probably don't do that.

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