ON RECONSIDERING TITHING
Dr. Kluane Spake
Can we question principles that have been firmly established in the church?
Rather than daring to go against the establishment, most Christians back away in retreat, thinking it's just not right to even think about not agreeing with what has always been taught. This of course, is exactly what religion wants them to do. Just keep quiet. Conform. In other words, don't rock the boat. Ah, but here's where we must ask again
Is it okay to question?
Yes, with the right ATTITUDE, we can challenge the practices of the church -- even though these standards have resisted change for centuries. Scripture gives us several examples of eager questioners. Jeremiah wondered and then asked why the wicked prospered? What about Habakkuk, who dared to ask God how long the violence would continue in Judah without God intervening? Mary asked, "How can it be?" Jesus didn't object to straightforward inquires -- such as, "Should we pay taxes?" or "What must I do to be saved?" Actually, believers are encouraged to earnestly examine the Scriptures and dig deeply into God's magnificent truths. Questions don't compromise or negate our acceptance of Biblical inerrancy. Rather, our passionate need to find TRUTH reveals wondrous discoveries that God alone can disclose.
And so, I question the current practice of tithing and giving because it seems that the church has suspended herself -- as if in resistance to impending hour of transition, hanging there immobilized before she's fully enabled -- caught up in tradition and need-oriented conformity.
Please let me make it clear that I'm not trying to be contentious, divisive, or disrespectful about this topic, nor to negate the sincere intentions of giving that have already been accomplished over the centuries. I was a pastor for 14 years and our church depended totally upon tithes to survive. Although we never coerced anyone to give, we taught the standard of tithing and I personally lived by that principle all my Christian life. Sooooo, I've been there too! But, I'm being transformed by the increased understanding of present truth.
What is being questioned here is not meant to be flippant disregard for sacrificial giving. We're not questioning the integrity of God's Word. But, we are examining man's motives and heresies. We're trying to expose today's unscriptural methodologies frequently used to obtain funds oops, another sacred cow! Now, I'm not asking that you agree with me, but will you consider these thoughts? If you disagree it's simple -- just keep on doing what your doing! As you read this article, for goodness sake, please continue to support your local church. Surely, we can all agree that the church requires substantial financial support for building payments, crucially needed staff income, missions, etc. What we want to accomplish with his study, is to learn how to get out "from under" legalistic and manipulative demand.
Disheartened believers tell me things like, "We have gone into deepest debt giving to the church in Tithes and Offerings and we just don't understand ... We're totally discouraged. It seems that there must be more to this gospel than money." Let's ask again, "Could our current APPROACH to obtaining tithes and offerings be erroneous?"
All too often we hear leaders accuse their members of not obeying the Bible when they don't give tithes and offerings. I'm sure you've heard these accusations and you've felt the pressure about "Robbing God of His tithe." Perhaps you've even been told that you'll "inherit a curse" for not tithing! Like, you'd better not die owing back tithes or it's the grim reaper. "Well," they shout, "Is He the God of your pocketbook?"
Then, a couple weeks ago, there was that guy who called himself an 'apostle" who said... well yes, he really did say that if we believed what he preached, then we were to come down and throw money on the carpet in front of him -- so that we could purchase that particular promise for ourselves. And, as the people continually ran forward with great excitement I turned my head and wept...Time after time after time, I hear well-intentioned ministries say things like, "If you want to know what your talents are (if you want your prophecy to come true, if you want your healing to happen, or if you want to be rich like me" etc.), just give. And according to the proportion of your faith (meaning the amount of money that you give) shall be your reward of an answer." Now, that's preposterous! We can't "buy" an answer from God with money any more than we can "buy" Indulgences (forgiveness) for our past sins.
· Beloved, we can release our faith without buying something! Jesus recognized the faith of many who did not have to pay money to receive (Matt. 9:22, 29, 15:28, etc.). However, sometimes there were accompanying actions (i.e. take up your bed and walk).
For many these days, giving has become a technique or routine procedure used TO GET PERSONALLY BLESSED -- rather than a foundational principle of life. Can we, like Simon the Sorcerer, even dare to think that we can buy God's favor? His gifts? Or His blessings? Surely Lord, You must be hiding Your face while we strike the rock a second time... a third and a fourth.
BEFORE THE LAW: Giving to God has existed since the Garden of Eden. Cain and Abel knew what God expected as an offering. They both worshipped the same God at the same time. But Cain chose to give out of his predetermined self-will. Cain refused correction in the METHOD of his giving and consequently, "sin crouched at his door" (Gen. 4:5-6). So often, we're like Cain "It's my way, or else I'll pout." His ATTITUDE was wrong. Cain didn't want to cooperate with what God expected, he wanted to give in the "religious" way he'd already decided was right (like we often do Cain was tryin' to do his own thing and give in his own way). Cain's self-rule superceded God's will (Heb 11:4; 1Jn 3:12; Jude 11). The inspiration to worship "in spirit and in truth" was outside his grasp (Jn 4:24).
On the other hand, Abel's offering represented acknowledgement and recognition of the sacrificial intention of giving. His acceptable ATTITUDE in giving pointed to the cross.
We find that the extremely wealthy Job did not tithe, although he often gave to the widows, poor, and orphans. Then there was the "very rich" Abraham (Gen. 13:2), who gave to Melchezdic a tenth of the spoils of war ("plunder" -- not a tenth of all his possessions). The book of Hebrews says that Abraham voluntarily "gave" (not under obligation) a tenth; not "paid" (under obligation) a tenth (Heb. 7:4). Further, Abraham didn't keep these remaining spoils for himself. We see that Abraham, the "father of the faithful," gave willingly and not under the law. Then there was Jacob, who promised a tenth conditionally -- ONLY IF God blessed and prospered him (Gen. 28:20-22).
DURING THE LAW: It's clear that we can't adequately cover the Old Testament practice of tithing. For now, let's just mention a few observations. Tithing did not initiate, nor was it unique to the Hebrews. Tithing was practiced among many of the earliest peoples groups. The Old Testament first mentions Moses giving the law of tithing in Leviticus 27:30-34 and Numbers 18:26-32. Tithes and offerings were primarily used to provide for the Levitical priests and their associated duties such as temple upkeep and the Feast observations.
Also interesting, is that the Scripture does not say that the tithe had to be given in a form of MONEY it could have been given in cattle, cumin, barley, etc. In addition to money, I've actually had people give me fish-head soup (with all the bones and eyeballsummmm. yummy!), old jagged rocks, broken watches, and a jalopy that barely ran! All the gifts were sincere, precious, and holy to the Lord. And where did the Israelites give? Where was their storehouse? In the "Place which Yahweh will choose in one of your tribes" (Deut. 12:14).
It's interesting to notice that for some reason, Nehemiah later REDUCED the AMOUNT of the temple tax from the half-shekel (which Moses required in Ex 30:12-16, in order to "atone for their lives") to one-third of a shekel (Neh 10:32,33). Nehemiah CHANGED the amount required by Moses, but he maintained the necessary standard of giving.
TYPES: Many theologians use these and many other Old Testament examples as "types" and shadows of things to come (Col. 2:17). There are countless superb understandings to be obtained from typology. However, our understanding of the imagery of "types" (the assigning of a secondary meaning to an initial principle, ie. seas = nations, trees = people, brass = judgment, etc.) HAS CHANGED greatly over the years as our perception has increased. And, perhaps we have not accurately defined all the Old Testament types perchance types are not always consistent -- therefore, we should never make rigid doctrines out of "types." Maybe 1 Chronicles 29 gives us a better "type" for New Testament giving, "The people rejoiced at the willing response OF THEIR LEADERS, for THEY had GIVEN FREELY and wholeheartedly to the LORD!!" This indicates that the people obtained joy as a "consequence" of seeing their leaders give.
AFTER THE LAW: If we, as New Testament believers, use Old Testament "types" to define the methodology of our giving, then many unanswered questions remain. Let's start by asking, what happened in the New Testament? Did the cross accomplish our full redemption? Is it a finished work? Or can we, by our actions obtain or earn further blessings? Do we have to DO something more to receive anything from God? Are we the inheritors of "all things"(2 Pet. 1:3) or not? To think, "If we don't tithe, we've lost God's favor," negates the very reason that Jesus died. Christianity is a living faith, a belief in the Incarnation. Let's agree together JESUS DID IT ALL! He paid the price.
We need a revelation of Christ's finished work! Otherwise, all we have is religion. Religion is the counterfeit to revelation knowledge. Religion kills; it puts God in box. Religion contains rules of behavior that stagnate the mind. It arrests individuality and maturity. It keeps us divided and unable to find unity. It always dies a hard death. And eventually, someone always screams, "heresy" before it dies. Church, believe me, all of our favorite doctrines will be shaken and refined.
As New Testament believers, we should consider the following:
· That redeemed/ransomed believers are not constrained by the rules and regulations of the law.
· That Christians should not tithe out of the FEAR of being "cursed" (Mal. 3). Redemption frees us from being cursed - forever. Fear is never the correct incentive for giving.
· That believers should not give because of being provoked, manipulated, controlled, or made to feel guilty.
· That we do not give to "get" a blessing. The blessings are already ours. The cross did it all.
· Giving images the character of God.
Next, we must clarify, "Do obsolete rules ever apply to our life or our giving?" The answer is clear Beloved, we are not under the law. Matthew 5:17-18 tells us the very words of Jesus, "Do not think that I have come to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy, BUT TO FULFILL" (Strongs "pleroo" to make replete, i.e. (literally) to cram, level up (a hollow), or imbue, diffuse, influence, satisfy, execute, finish, verify, etc.). (See also Rom. 8:4, 10:4, Gal. 3:17-24, 4:4-5, Col. 2:16-17.)
Because the law was FULFILLED after the cross, we find that the need for animal sacrifices was abolished, circumcision was no longer obligatory, and the detailed rituals of the Feast Days didn't have to be literally observed. Christ's sacrifice also did away with food laws, the Levitical priesthood, and the actual tabernacle/ temple was no longer the only place for worship! Jesus fulfilled and completed the law. He became our High Priest, our Sabbath, our Feasts, and our Sacrifice. He is The Tithe.
Still, the principle of believers giving sacrificial offering is eternal (1Pet 1:18-20; Rom 12:1). The circumcision of our heart, ears, eyes, mouth, and our entire life still applies (Acts 7:51; Col 2:11). The sacrificial offering of the fruit of our lips is still acceptable. The intentional giving of our lives and of our possessions is at the crux of servanthood.
NEW TESTAMENT GIVING:
· Tithing is NOT mentioned as part of the New Covenant lifestyle. Even though the Pharisees observed the Law, Jesus said they were of their father, the Devil (Jn 8:44). Jesus commented that their tithing lacked the "more weightier matters." They were particularly legalistic in their ATTITUDE about tithing, as well as their other religious ideas (Matt 12:1-10; Matt. 23:23, Lk. 13:10-17, Lk. 18:12).
· Jesus did not receive tithes. Jesus was supported by "gifts" (Lk. 8:3, 9:1-6 10:3-16, Matt 10:1-10; Mk 6:7-11).
· Jesus did not teach the apostles, the disciples, or His followers about tithing. Though He spoke a lot about money and giving, Jesus did not mention the tithe as being obligatory for believers who followed Him.
· Did the apostles teach tithing? No record.
· Did the apostles tithe? No record.
· Did the early church tithe? No record.
· Did any New Testament believer tithe or give money to "get" something from God? No.
· Being empowered to give out of the love for God (and without minimum expectation), our giving will usually result in a much greater amount than 10%.
· All our actions should be motivated by an ATTITUDE of spiritual faith. Because we have been freed from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2), we are released into the law of the spirit of LIFE! Voluntary liberal giving is listed as a "spiritual gift" in Romans 12:8. Now, EVERYTHING WE ARE AND EVERYTHING WE HAVE BELONGS TO GOD. He deserves more than we could possibly give.
· The Lord desires a love relationship with us, not just a legal obligation from us.
After much fervent and extended research, I still have found no mention from the historical writings of the church fathers, that the early Church endorsed any form of tithing. Tithing was first adopted at the Synod of Macon in 585 AD, where compulsory payment of tithes (to the Catholic church) was demanded under the warning of excommunication. However, the Catholic Church no longer demands tithes.
We need to also look at the way the early Christians lived in the early church. After the death of Jesus, PROVISION CAME IN A DIFFERENT WAY. Their giving exceeded that of a tithe. The eternal principles of sacrificial offerings remained. The book of Acts shows that even though people DID NOT TITHE, the ministers needs were met, the members needs were met, and abundant resources were dispersed to the disadvantaged. Only some examples concerning the "living" church are as follows:
Please read Acts 2:42-46 and observe how the Church grew and flourished. "Selling their possessions and goods, THEY GAVE TO ANYONE AS HE HAD NEED" (NIV see also 4:32-35). Now, this practice of "having everything in common" seemed to be a localized practice not mentioned in other places. But, the point is that the Spirit of God moved mightily among them and they gave unselfishly, generously, and without pressure.
Acts 11:28-30 tells how "Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world The disciples, each ACCORDING to HIS ABILITY, DECIDED to provide help for the brothers living in Judea" (NIV see also 20:34-37, 24:17, Rom. 15:25-26).
Hebrews 7:12 clarifies it all by saying, "The priesthood being changed (the Levitical priesthood determined by physical birth changed into the priesthood of Jesus Christ and the priesthood of the believer), OF NECESSITY THERE IS A CHANGE OF THE LAW (a change into a new understanding and application of the OT principles such as circumcision, sacrifices, tithing, etc). A NEW PRIESTHOOD has come, not according to the Law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless LIFE" (eternal God-like LIFE).
Heb 7:18 "The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (The Levitical system was not perfect. Note that verse 5 was talking about tithing) 19 "(For the law made nothing perfect), and a BETTER HOPE is introduced, by which we draw near to God" NIV.
We need to emphasize 1 Corinthians 9:14 "Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should LIVE FROM the gospel." Yes, we should support all those that feed us. That means the pastor, traveling minister, teacher, prophet, evangelist, and apostle. The rightful church and all her ministers have the right to expect provision (see Matt 8:22, 10:10, Gal. 6:6 an elder is worth double honor and we don't muzzle the ox).
1 Cor. 16:1-2 "Now about the collection for God's people On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come NO COLLECTIONS will have to be made" (NIV).
Here we notice that Paul advised believers of need, and then they prepared (in proportion to their ability) IN ADVANCE to help meet that need of helping people. Note that they didn't have to sign a pledge card concerning their future intentions! Their word was their bond. And, money wasn't always collected for a building fund.
Paul said that in spite of the Macedonian's extreme poverty, they gave in "rich generosity" that was beyond their ability. That giving was, "ENTIRELY ON THEIR OWN!" These particular believers thought it to be a privilege to share with the saints in need. They excelled in what was called the "GRACE OF GIVING." Giving was considered a test of their love. (2 Cor. 8:2-11). Notice particularly verse twelve, "For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable" Paul was gravely concerned that there be a WILLING offering to provide for the "equality" of necessities for those in need.
2 Corinthians 9:7 "Each man should give what HE HAS DECIDED IN HIS HEART (in other words, giving with "no strings") to give, not reluctantly OR UNDER COMPULSION ('anagke' under constraint, coercion, or distress) for God loves a cheerful (hilarious, prompt, and willing) giver."
Gal 2:9-10 "James, Peter and John agreed that we (Paul and Barnabas) should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews. ALL THEY ASKED was that we should continue to REMEMBER THE POOR, the very thing I was eager to do" NIV.
Galatians 5:22-23 makes it clear that the fruit of the Spirit cannot be regulated (even by an amount or percentage), because against such there is no law.
Notice the context of following scripture generally used to prompt monetary contributions. Luke 6:37-38 "Do not JUDGE, and you will not be judged. Do not CONDEMN, and you will not be condemned. FORGIVE, and you will be forgiven. GIVE (give what? Judgment, condemnation, or forgiveness), and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it (it what? Judgment, condemnation, forgiveness) will be measured to you."
So, if we don't give according to tradition (Matt. 15:3, Mk 7:13), what kind of giving does the Lord desire? Heb 13:16 "But to DO GOOD AND TO SHARE forget not: for with SUCH SACRIFICES God is well pleased" (see also 2Tim 4:6, 1 Pet. 2:5). John also tells us how to give, "This is HOW WE KNOW WHAT LOVE IS: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to LAY DOWN OUR LIVES for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Let us not love with words or tongue but with ACTIONS and in TRUTH" (1 Jn. 3:16-18 NIV).
This is our New Testament model of responsible giving -- where we GENUINELY love our neighbor (Mk 12:31, Gal. 5:14, Gal. 6:2). Supporting those who hurt (are in prison, hungry, or poor) actually demonstrates our love for Jesus Himself (Matt. 25:25).
Most of the principles of present-day tithing are usually based on Old Testament types and the present day superstition and hope of obtaining personal materialism. I believe that tithing is the "LEAST we can do." However, we, as ransomed believers, are neither under the LAW, nor under the pressure of giving to "get." It is my opinion that tithing is superceded by the Greater principle of total giving. Redeemed believers are RELEASED to give freely and abundantly -- far beyond ten percent! We should be more that generous givers, both to the house of God and the people of need. Love your pastors and give to them liberally. Support ALL the five-fold that bring "meat to your house" and feed you -- it's their only provision! Help those in need. Feed the fatherless. Surprise someone. Be a blessing!
To sum it up: We should give because it is the RIGHT THING to do. Spirit-filled giving must become the expression of godly love WITHOUT being motivated by constant expectation of personal return (Luke 14:12-14; 5:28).
GIVING: Under law Under grace
WHO: Everyone must tithe Those who worship God give.
WHAT: Giving first 10% of income. Give liberally as Spirit directs.
WHEN: Whenever you receive income. Give whenever the Spirit directs.
WHERE: To the Levites Give where the Spirit directs.
WHY: To RECEIVE His blessings. Give TO BE a blessing.
HOW: By expectation, duty By faith, promptly, cheerfully.
By Dr. Kluane Spake