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.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.
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.
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.
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.
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