Monday, September 15, 2008

Freed from Tithing, Free to Give - Part 6

To list out all of the rest of the Old Testament tithing scriptures would involve a lot of repetition and echoing of previous scriptures, so as we wrap up our look at them we'll skim by a few and we'll highlight a few others. And we'll finally get to the famous Malachi passage!

Deuteronomy 26:12-13 and 2 Chronicles 31:5-12 list out some tithing instructions, and you will also see the tithes in actual practice in the latter passage. Then we get to Nehemiah, where we see many of the same things, and mention is made of a special tithe that the Levites themselves gave. Out of the tithes they received from the other people, the Levites were to "bring a tenth of the tithes to the house of our God, to the rooms of the storehouse" for the sake of "the priests who minister and the gatekeepers and the singers." We'll get into the issue of "priests" in Part 8, but for now I just wanted to highlight this passage as yet another one that doesn't fit into the format of how "church" is set up today and so it gets ignored.

There is a little more about the tithes and the storehouse in Nehemiah 12:44-45 and 13:4-5. What was the storehouse? It was simply the place where the tithes and offerings were stored before they were eaten! My goodness, how we've taken that way out of context by teaching that a local church is the modern day equivalency to the "storehouse!"

Finally in Nehemiah we have a passage that will lead us into Malachi. First a brief background: To make a long story short, Nehemiah was allowed to go to Jerusalem and act as a governor of Judea. He arrived there and secretly surveyed the city, and he saw that many, many things were out of line (too many things to mention), and he worked to fix it all. One of the wrongs (of many) that he fixed had to do with the tithes:
Neh 13:10-13 I also realized that the portions for the Levites had not been given them; for each of the Levites and the singers who did the work had gone back to his field. 11 So I contended with the rulers, and said, "Why is the house of God forsaken?" And I gathered them together and set them in their place. 12 Then all Judah brought the tithe of the grain and the new wine and the oil to the storehouse.
As we see, among the many ways in which Nehemiah saw that the people were transgressing, they had not been bringing their tithes for the Levites. Well, a contemporary of Nehemiah was the prophet Malachi, and if you read the book of Malachi from start to finish, you will see that he prophesied against many, many ways in which the Jews were transgressing. For some reason the church likes to zero in solely on the following passage - which leads me to ask again, why only this passage? Why not the rest of the book as well?
Mal 3:8-11 "Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me!

But you say, 'In what way have we robbed You?'

In tithes and offerings. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation. 10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try 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 such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. 11 "And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field," says the Lord of hosts.
Just as with Nehemiah, Malachi saw a host of things that were wrong, which happened to include the neglect of the tithes and offerings, and he prophesied God's word to the people of Israel.

Do you see why I spent so much time leading up to this? As I said at the beginning of this series, the church seems to start with this scripture, or at least put heavy emphasis on it, and declare that Christians are to bring ten percent - a "tithe" - of their income to the local church. But this passage - along with all the other ones - has absolutely nothing to do with the New Covenant church, nor with "income!" Even Christians who preach that we are no longer under the curse if we don't "tithe" still wrongfully bring up this passage as Christian doctrine! Why do they do that???

In Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, 2 Chronicles, Nehemiah, Amos (a short passage that I haven't mentioned) and Malachi, the tithes that are being spoken of are tithes that were mandated by God for the sake of the Levite tribe that He had set apart for special service under the Old Covenant. There is nothing that is "New Covenant" about the tithes.

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