FROM THE PREACHER"S LENSES
|Wednesday, May 19, 2021|
Does tithing not predate the Law?
ithing in recent times has become a subject of debate. But the debate is never necessary because the truth about it is not concealed in the Scripture.
Jesus nor any of the Apostles preach, taught or encourage tithing and preachers do not argue it. The only difficulty they have is when it is said that tithing is a Mosaic Law, they frequently argue that it predates the Law because Abraham paid it to Melchizedek, who was the Priest of the Most High God, with no genealogy (Gen. 14:18-20; Heb.7:2, 5) and this was 430 years before God gave the laws to Moses and before the ordinance of tithing was institutionalized (Gal.3:17). It happened in the wilderness after the Israelites exited their slavery in Egypt on their way to the promised land.
If tithing had occurred before Moses institutionalized it, why then do we refer to it as a Mosaic law?
Everything, which Abraham did was perfectly in line with what is obtainable today under the New Covenant of Salvation by grace even though he lived 1,700 years before the new covenant is generally put into effect and had died.
Paul wrote in Gal.3:7 "Know ye therefore that they which are of faith i.e. those who trust in Jesus other than their efforts for salvation, the same are the children of Abraham" "Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness" (Rom.4:4) So Abraham is regarded and referred to as the 'Father of Faith').
Just as Moses was the courier of the law covenant, so is Abraham the courier of the Covenant of salvation by Grace through Faith, even though it was sealed up for hundreds of years (1700) "Until the coming of Christ, the child to whom God's promise was made" (Gal.3:19).
Abraham's payment of a tenth of the spoil from the war of kings was not dictated to him by anyone. It was not a levy. It was what he purposed in his mind in consonance with the New Covenant teaching on 'Giving'. Abraham could have given more or less depending on the dictate of his mind or as his spirit directed him.
The same applies to Jacob, Abraham's grandson, who vowed to give back to God a tenth of all that God would give him, if God would bring him back to his father's house (Gen.28: 20-22). This was after he ran away from home, having deceived Isaac his father (a plan hacked by their mother Rebecca) and got the blessing meant for his twin brother Esau.
I hear someone say "Could God not have ministered the tenth to Abraham? Yes He could have? Could it then be an indication of what He (God) wants us to adapt?" No. God does not deal with His children same way every time.
Supposing God ministers to any our respected esteemed father in the Lord, to give 20% of his earnings, should we then generalize it and take it as a Biblical law for all Christians?
And in any way, God has done away with legalistic pattern of worship in this dispensation. "God is Spirit and they that worship Him must do in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). This is now the system after Christ has replaced all forms of ceremonial laws and sacrifices with His blood.
Paul explained in the book of Galatians chapter 3: 17 that 17 -----: The agreement God made with Abraham could not be canceled 430 years later when God gave the law to Moses. God would be breaking his promise.
I must say however, that if anyone today under Grace (New Covenant) purposes in his mind to imitate Father Abraham to give to God's work, a tenth of his earnings, it will be in order and if a mistake is made in his calculation, there will be no curse of God on him as it would have been under the law system. But let such a person not teach what he does as the standard or Biblical requirement for every Christian because that will amount to 'levying' and will be inconsistent with the new system of salvation by grace.
Also he has no justification to restrict anyone's blessings to that of a tenth giver because there will be those who will have faith to give more than a tenth and receive in return a blessing, which is proportionate and no preacher has the right to limit the blessings of such people.
Let me expand the above that it is my belief that it is within the constitutional right of any group, fellowship, Church or denomination, if they come to a consensus of what percentage of their earnings, which each member should pay, whether weekly or monthly. For instance, they may agree that each member should give 10% or 20% etc of his/her earnings. It will be in order, I believe. We have the liberty but it will be unscriptural for such a denomination or Church or fellowship to set their practice as a yardstick for others or teach it as the Biblical requirement.
If God does no longer stipulate how much we should give Him but gives us a free will to decide what we want to, which in turn will determine our reward, then no preacher, however famous he may be, has the right to decide the blessings of the worshipper.
I find it confusing when certain Churches or preachers today, while they have scripturally dealt away with the Levitical offerings to still retain and demand for tithes. If they want to return to the Levitical ordinance, then let them start all over, the animal sacrifices of the morning, evening, weekly, monthly and those of all yearly festivals etc
The Scripture is clear enough about our obligations towards what we give to God. In the Old Testament it was by Levitical Ordinance and in the New Testament it is "As purposed"
In the Old Testament time, the obligations were two types; Offerings and Tithes. Both were mandatory (compulsory) and none attracted greater importance than the other.
Unfortunately, Preachers today have placed 'tithing' above 'offerings' and even over-emphasized it. These preachers argue that tithing is mandatory (compulsory) and primary while offering is voluntary (free will).
They explain 'offering' as money put inside the offertory plates, during Church services while tithe is one tenth of one's income, which must compulsorily be paid into one's primary place of worship.
They extend offering to money given to other ministries or missions other than their primary place of worship.
While the money put inside the offertory plate during Church service and money given to other ministries and other charity works are offerings, they are not the offering which Malachi wrote about.
The obligations in the Old Testament are summarized by Prophet Malachi in his book chapter 3 vs 8 "Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
The obligation of offerings under the Law and which Malachi wrote about were instituted by God to maintain the Priests, Aaron and his children while the obligation of tithes were instituted to maintain the brothers of Aaron and their descendants who are called "Levites"
Actually, Aaron himself is a Levite, being a descendant of Levi. Levi was the 3rd born of Jacob among the twelve men. But to distinguish them, Aaron and his descendants were called Priests while Aaron's brothers and their descendants were called Levites or Assistant Priests. The two groups have their significant different assigned roles.
God asked that this tribe, the Levites, were not to be given any landed properties and they should not engage in any secular job but to minister in the Temple alone. So they were to be maintained i.e. paid for their services by the other eleven tribes of the children of Israel who shared the land with their offerings AND a tenth of their income (tithes) (Num.18:20).
Offerings were the meat of animal sacrifices, which the people made in the morning, evening, Sabbath days, at the sighting of the moon and at other annual feasts or celebrations. These were used to maintain the Priests. Those were part of their salaries.
Tithes were a tenth of the produce of the land; grain, fruits, wine, herds, flocks and other domestic animals as they pass for counting (Lev.27: 30-33). These were used to support the other Levites, Aaron's brothers and their descendants who were called 'Assistant Priests'
Details of the ordinance of tithing can be read in these other passages: Num.18:25-32; Deu.12:17-23; Deu.14: 22-27; Deu.14: 28-29; Deu.26:12-15
The summary of the ordinance of offerings and Tithes are as follows starting with offering:
i. In Ex.13:2,11-13; 22:29-30, the Lord instructed that all the first-born sons of Israel and every first-born male animal be dedicated to Him. But He would not have human beings sacrificed (Lev.18.21; Deu.12:31) therefore a ransom of two and half dollars, equivalent was payable on every first-born sons of Israel at age 1 month (Num.18:15-16).
(ii) Offerings of every first-born male animal. The animals classified as 'clean' were not redeemable while those, which were unacceptable for sacrifice; the owner shall redeem them and pay the priest's estimate of its worth plus an extra 20%. If the owner wouldn't redeem them, the priest may sell them to someone else (Numb:18:8-21,24).
(iii) Offerings of first harvest (fruit) i.e produce of the land; grains, grapes, ripe fruits and liquors (Ex.22:29 KJV).
(iv) All the gifts which were brought to the Lord, grain (meat) offerings, sin offerings, guilt (trespass) offerings, burnt offerings, peace offerings and all the various daily, weekly, monthly and annual sacrifices and feasts (festivals). (Ex.28,29; Numb 3,4,18). The meat of these animals belonged to the priests, Aaron and his direct descendants (Numb 18:17-19).
Now, ordinance of Tithing:
The Assistant Priests i.e. other Levites other than the direct descendants of Aaron were to be maintained by the tithes because both groups, all Levites were not to have any inheritance or property in the land, which they were going to occupy (Num.18:20).
There was a time when the people reneged on these obligations to their brothers, the Levites, and the prophet, Malachi had to reprimand them in strong terms, accusing them of, 'robbing God' (Malachi 3:8).
The children of Israel exited Egypt about 1,450 BC. It was on their way to the promised land that God gave Moses, their leader a set of laws and rules to guide their lives. The laws are scattered in the first five books of the Bible; Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
They have been carefully grouped into three; Ceremonial, Moral and Civil.
The Civil laws have today formed the foundation, bedrock or basis for administering justice in all the countries of the world. Of course some nations still hold on to the draconian parts of the system of the law, which they name 'Sharia'
The offerings involving sacrifices of animals, day in day out described above and the tithes belong to the class of Ceremonial Laws. Tithing under the law was a big ceremony, a big feast, not just putting money inside envelope and dropping it in the offertory plate, marked "Tithe". (Deut. 14: 22-29; Numbers 18: 21,24), Deut. 12:17-18) Those sacrifices were shadows of things to come. They were mimicries, imitations of what Christ would represent i.e. what Christ was coming to do for mankind (Heb.10:1). The sacrifices were made to appease God, to atone for the sins of the people. But they couldn't and they did not.
The writer of the book of Hebrews explained it in Chapter 10 as follows:
2 If they could have, one offering would have been enough; the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all and their feeling of guilt would be gone.
3 But just the opposite happened: those yearly sacrifices reminded them of their disobedience and guilt instead of relieving their minds. 4 For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats really to take away sins.[a]
These offerings have become irrelevant today after Christ had come and made Himself a onetime offering, with His shed blood. The purpose for which those offerings were done have been met by the death and resurrection of Christ.
Hear Christ Himself: "For verily I say unto you: Every law in the Book will continue until its purpose is achieved. (till all be fulfilled (KJV)). The purpose was achieved by His death. While on the cross shortly before He gave up the ghost, it was recorded that: "Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished,….. said: "It is finished" (John 19:28-30) and the "thick veil hanging in the Temple split apart" (Lk 23:45) thus bringing an end to all the ceremonial and legalistic rules of worship, which had been in place for 1,400years and henceforth Christ became: "the end of the Law" (Rom 10:4).
With the coming of Christ who made Himself a one time perfect offering for our sins and became our High Priest, the institution of the Levitical Priesthood was dismantled. Thus the offerings and tithes that supported it became irrelevant. The offering, which Malachi called for in the Old Testament, Jesus paid it with His life afterwards and should not be misinterpreted as donations or money put into the offertory plates.
It is obvious that those denominations and preachers who use Malachi 3:8-10 to argue in favour of tithes under the New Covenant, do not fully grasp the genesis of the institution of tithing and the numerous offerings which were demanded under the Old Covenant.
The Lord Himself mentioned tithing only once during His ministration and He had nothing strong or positive to say about it because He knew the time was almost up for the practice. It was actually a derogative remarks to the Pharisees who prided themselves with the practice (Matt.23:23;Lk.11:42). His (Jesus) comment can best be described as 'passive' knowing that the practice was going to cease anyway, only in a matter of short time.
What then is our obligation in the New Testament?
It is not by 'levy' as it was in the Old Testament. It is 'as purposed' by the individual. Paul wrote the Corinthian Church as follows:
"Upon the first day of the week let everyone of you lay by him in store, as God has prospered him…" (ICor. 16:2).
In his second letter to the same Church, he wrote: "Every man according as he purposes in his heart, so let him give, not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loves a cheerful giver". Written in the LB as: "Every one must make up his own mind as to how much he should give. Don't force anyone to give more than he really wants to, for cheerful givers are the ones God prizes". (2Cor 9:7)
In the early Church, members who had properties (land and housing) sold them and brought the proceeds in full before the apostles' feet (Act 4:34-37). A member, Ananias brought only part of the proceeds of the sales of his possession, claiming it was the full price. His wife was privy to the deception. The Spirit revealed this deception to Peter who told Ananias, "The property was yours to sell or not, as you wished. And after selling it, it was yours to decide how much to give" (Acts 5:4). This is a perfect summary of what is obtainable about giving under the new system and it came from the mouth of not less a person than Peter, who was with the Master of the New Covenant right from the beginning. Ananias and Saphira died of deception and hypocrisy and not because they did not give to the Church all the proceeds of the sales of their property.
This is the principle of giving under the New Covenant. Peter's argument is most informative. This is the free will, which we have today under the New Covenant.
I hear someone says "Church and Mission work will suffer should we leave people to give only what it pleases them. I beg to disagree.
Many also argue that it is useless teaching people who find it difficult to part with only a tenth of their earnings, something otherwise. I hold a contrary view to this line of thought as well. Preachers should restrain themselves from teaching anything because of some gains, which they hope to derive either to themselves or to the Church, but which could be to the detriment of a true, balanced teaching and blessings of the congregation. The congregation must be taught exactly what is found in the Scripture without any amendments.
In fact, it is my belief that, if we afford the congregation the true, balanced knowledge and the blessings in giving, the congregation will give generously and the Church herself will have a surplus budget and we have examples in the New Testament era of Churches who gave abundantly and joyfully even in their poverty. The apostle Paul testified to certain Churches in Macedonia in this regard (2Cor. 8:1-5) It has pleased them verily;------" (Rom.15:6-27).
Let me confess, I am yet to meet anyone who gives generously to God's work and do not smile because accrued reward is great. I am a testimony.
Under the Law system, both the offerings and tithes were levied and compulsory. It did not have to please them. This is why 'giving' under the New Covenant is more superior to the 'offerings and tithing' of the Old System and equally more rewarding because it comes from a willing heart. The Macedonia Churches are really our good examples of giving.
My personal opinion however is patterned on the resolve of king David "-----for I will not offer to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing." (2Samuel 24:24)
Do we have a reward of our giving?
Of course there are rewards, in abundance when we give. The Lord said: "For if you give, you will get! Your gift will return to you in full and overflowing measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use to give - large or small - will be used to measure what is given back to you" (Lk. 6:38).
Apostle Paul also wrote the Corinthian Church in 2 Cor. 9:6 "6 Remember this-a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop" So is our giving to Church work
However, we do not interpret a verse of the Scripture in isolation. We must bring similar statements together in order to get the true meaning.
So if we join the above statement of the Lord with this other, which He taught in His Sermon on the Mount "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt and where thieves break through and steal. But store them in heaven where they will never lose their value, and are safe from thieves. If your profits are in heaven your heart will be there too" (Matt 6:19-21), it becomes clear that the 'yield' or 'reward' of our 'giving' may not necessarily be drawn on earth but saved for us in the bank of heaven where they will never lose their value, and are safe from thieves".
Unfortunately, preachers today dwell on the earthly reward of giving more than the heavenly in order to encourage the congregation to give largely. They seem to be using the teachings on giving as playing pool.
Above is only a brief summary of my teaching on Tithes
For further studies, you may
In conclusion, I am quite aware that I have incurred the wrath, if not become an enemy of many famous, big and not so big men of God with my exposition on this subject but I cannot hide the truth, which God inspires me. I will rather obey God than men.
Many people do not know where I am coming from. I am an unapologetic Christian of Baptist persuasion, which take tithing seriously. I am not sure of any other denomination, which does, more than the Baptist except the new waves of Churches and Ministries.
In 1981, I was ordained an elder in a certain Church, other than the Baptist. The Church did not practice tithing before then. I was the one who introduced it to the Church. I have no regret to have done it because that was all I knew then.
Actually, many men of God after they have carefully read my exposition have gotten back to me to agree.
And let me say one thing without boasting in the presence of God that 10% of my earnings have never been sufficient for my evangelical work and I am grateful to my family for their cooperation.
I always thank God for the men of God who brought up my generation of Christians. They remain truthful to the truth of the Word in their old age and to those who had been recalled, to their end. They are not widely known and they did not seek popularity.
I was full of praises to God when I read the small book on the subject of tithing written by one of such fellows, Pa. Emmanuel Oladipo, one time Secretary General, worldwide of the Scripture Union (SU) based in London. It was as if we sat down together in a joint Bible study and each went to do his write up. Yet I have not set my eyes on him since 1973, almost 50 years ago except that we correspond occasionally.