Post Number: 2052
|Posted on Tuesday, November 12, 2013 - 8:11 pm: || |
Every November, LCMS churches have sermons on stewardship leading into their giving pledges for the coming year. And too may pastors turn to tithe as their basis for the sermon. It took several years of discussions with our last pastor before the light finally clicked on for him. Now I have a new pastor, and I get to go through the process again. I'll share this last letter here.
Tithing and the Christian
I hope that you will finish reading the entire document before reaching conclusions about the teaching I am promoting. I agree with the importance of Christian stewardship and giving, but I do not believe that tithing is a Christian doctrine.
Let’s begin with the passage for the sermon, Mal 3:6-12
6 “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. 7 From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ 8 Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. 10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. 11 I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts. 12 Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.
Verse 9, which was not mentioned in the sermon, is just as important as verse 10. In fact, the reason that the window to God’s blessing wasn’t open at the time of the writing is that Israel was under a curse for their disobedience. This is an important concept that I will return to shortly. I believe that you were completely right to link the blessings of Mal 3:10-12 with Deut 28. Deut 28 also contains both blessings and curses.
I’ll highlight just a couple of the verses from Deut 28 that establish the context of the curses and blessings. Deut 28:1,15
1 “And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. ...
15 “But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.
This is the establishment of the Old Covenant. If the nation does ALL that is commanded through Moses they will be blessed, but if they fail to do ALL that is commanded they will be cursed. Gal 3:10
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by ALL things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”
We know the outcome of this; Christ had to become a curse for us. Gal 3:13
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”
If one insists on following one part of the Old Covenant, they will need to place themselves under the entire covenant. Gal 5:3
I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law.
An insistence on maintaining the curses and blessings of the Old Covenant is, in my understanding, a denial of Christ’s sacrifice. He has become the curse for all us, and in Him, we are given all of the blessings. This is why this is such an important topic to me, because it cuts to the very core of what Christ’s sacrifice means. Gal 2:21
I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
Linking tithing to the blessings (and therefore curses) of the Old Covenant appears to me to compromise the Gospel. But perhaps, one would argue that the blessings and curses don’t apply any more, but the teaching of tithing should carry forward.
In that case, I believe that we should look closely at what the Bible actually commands regarding tithing.
Lev 27 teaches that the tithe is specifically from the produce of the land (plant and animal). I frequently hear that we are commanded in Scripture to tithe our “first and our best”. Unlike what is commonly taught in churches, it is not the first of each 10 that is given to God but the tenth one under the rod. Furthermore it is not described as the best, on the contrary, it is the 10th regardless of whether it is best or worst. One result of this is that the poor would have little or no tithe; if there were only 8 lambs there would be no tenth one under the rod. Lev 27:30-33
30 'Thus all the tithe of the land, of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD'S; it is holy to the LORD. 32 'For every tenth part of herd or flock, whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the LORD. 33 'He is not to be concerned whether it is good or bad, nor shall he exchange it; or if he does exchange it, then both it and its substitute shall become holy. It shall not be redeemed.'"
This same teaching is found in Deut 14. Here there is some debate as to whether this is a second tithe or just another description of the same tithe. If it is another tithe, then the requirement of tithing is now 20% rather than 10%. I lean towards it being another description of the same tithe. Either way, tithe is once again, produce of land (plant or animal). It is also interesting that the giver consumed this alongside the Levites, the poor and the widows. It was an act of community. Deut 14:22-23
22"You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year. 23 "You shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God, at the place where He chooses to establish His name, the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and your flock, so that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always.
But this passage continues with information about money and tithe. God did not accept money as tithe. A person could convert their tithe to money, but had to buy food and drink before offering that as tithe. So if I followed the tithing guidelines as presented in Scripture, I should bring some produce from my garden and set it next to the donuts! (When I understood this teaching the comments about the Pharisees tithing their herbs finally made sense). Deut 14:24-27
24 And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the Lord your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the Lord your God chooses, to set his name there, 25 then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the Lord your God chooses 26 and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household. 27 And you shall not neglect the Levite who is within your towns, for he has no portion or inheritance with you.
I’ll set aside the argument that tithe was specifically for the descendants of the tribe of Levi and temporarily accept the change to a jot or tittle of the law concluding that pastors are the “new Levites”. However, God is clear regarding why this tithe has been given to the Levites. Leviticus 18 describes that the receipt of the tithe was intrinsically linked to not having an inheritance (of land).
23"Only the Levites shall perform the service of the tent of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity; it shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations, and among the sons of Israel they shall have no inheritance. 24 "For the tithe of the sons of Israel, which they offer as an offering to the LORD, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance; therefore I have said concerning them, 'They shall have no inheritance among the sons of Israel.'"
Let’s recap what Scripture says about tithe:
• It is part of a system of laws that requires keeping ALL of the laws to receive blessings and avoid curses;
• It is the 10th, not the first--meaning the poorest would be exempted;
• Tithe is always food and drink, never cash;
• Only products of the land were tithed, Scripture never commands a tithe of a monetary increase; and
• Tithe was provided to a group of people who were not given an inheritance of land, they received the tithe instead of the land.
Do the commands of the Old Covenant, referenced in Deut 28 still apply to us today?
Hebrews 7:12, 18-19 For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well….
18 For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.
Hebrews 8: 13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
If indeed we have been given new commands regarding giving within the New Covenant, shouldn’t we focus on these commands instead of the ones that are changed, set aside, weak, useless and obsolete? Here is a summary of the New Testament commands on giving (From http://www.cultwatch.com/tithing.html):
• Why should a Christian give? Believers should give because they have richly received (Matthew 10:8). Also, they are to give on the ground of having first given themselves and all they possess to God (2 Corinthians 8:5).
• Who should give? Under grace, every believer is privileged to be a giver, and is encouraged to use that privilege for his own blessing and the blessing of others (1 Corinthians 16:2; 2 Corinthians 9:7).
• How much to give? No specified amount or proportion is ever required by those who live by grace. God asks only that the believer recognize his abundant blessing and give as God has prospered. (1 Corinthians 16:2). Whatever the amount, it is to be "purposed in the heart" (2 Corinthians 9:7 AV).
• How to give? Motive in giving is all-important under grace. Believers should give with a willing mind (2 Corinthians 8:12), cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7), generously (2 Corinthians 9:6), and freely (Matthew 10:8).
• When to give? Though giving is not always done on a Sunday, believers are encouraged to set aside an amount "in store" each Lord's Day, that they may have a fund from which to distribute (1 Corinthians 16:2).
• To whom do we give? The NT suggests needy saints (Romans 12:13; 2 Corinthians 9:12), the sick and aged (Acts 20:35), elders in the church, which would include the present-day pastor (1 Timothy 5:17), Bible teachers (Galatians 6:6-10), widows (Acts 6:1; 1 Timothy 5:16), poor relatives (1 Timothy 5:8-16), and missionaries (3 John 5-7).
Thus the New Testament teaching about giving is full and complete. There is no reason to borrow any laws from the legal system of the Old Testament. To do so is to "fall from grace" to a lower level of duty and legal obligation.
Post Number: 1040
|Posted on Friday, November 15, 2013 - 3:50 am: || |
Tithe was principally for the Levites. The Levitical priesthood was replaced by Jesus, and ceased to function when the temple was destroyed in 70AD. Interestingly, no Jews today pay tithe, because the temple doesn't exist.
Post Number: 511
|Posted on Friday, November 15, 2013 - 12:00 pm: || |
Jews today pay membership to the synagogue.
Post Number: 338
|Posted on Saturday, November 16, 2013 - 7:31 pm: || |
The local conference treasurer one time compared tithe to club dues.....