-by Andrew Strom.
How ironic that most preachers today preach almost nothing but "grace, grace, grace" except when they preach on Giving - when suddenly they feel free to load people with condemnation and guilt. For some reason this seems to be the one subject where they "lay down the law". I wonder why? The fact is, in many places the church machinery relies on this law to force people to give and keep the whole 'machine' churning along.
But is Tithing a New Testament practice at all? Is it really for Christians, or is it part of the Old Covenant? Is there really a law in force stating that all Christians must give ten percent? Or are we supposed to be "cheerful givers" - simply giving whatever God has placed on our hearts?
You may be surprised to learn how little the word 'Tithing' is even mentioned in the New Testament. In fact, there is no actual Scripture telling CHRISTIANS to tithe at all. There is one NT Scripture telling PHARISEES to tithe. But in all the letters of the apostles to the church, they never say that this was for Christians. And in the entire book of Acts (-a history of the first 30 years of the Early Church) there is NOT EVEN ONE mention of tithing. There are plenty of examples of people giving money "from the heart", but NO MENTION of tithing. Isn't that interesting?
Yet people will often quote the words of Jesus to the Pharisees as though this tells CHRISTIANS to keep tithing. But it doesn't. Here is what Jesus said: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices - mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law - justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter without neglecting the former." (Matt 23:23, NIV).
Notice that Jesus refers to these things as "matters of the law". That is what they are. They are matters of the Old Testament Law - not part of the New Covenant for Christians. Jesus Himself referred to them that way. And notice who he was talking to in the above passage. He was talking to LAW-KEEPING JEWS who were still under the OLD COVENANT. (-The New Covenant would not begin until Jesus died and rose again). So what Jesus was saying was right - FOR THEM. But not for us - and not for now.
Yet the Tithing proponents seize on the phrase: "You should have practiced the latter without neglecting the former." The reason they seize on this is because it is the ONLY Scripture they have in the whole New Testament that even vaguely pushes Tithing! And yet it is talking to Pharisees!
Let me be clear here. This is their BEST New Testament Scripture on the subject. They have almost nothing else. And it is talking to PHARISEES. And it clearly states that Tithing is a "matter of the law". How dare these people apply this Scripture to today's Christians? We are not under Law. The Bible tells us that. What a gall these people have - making people feel guilty about an Old Testament Law, just so they can get more money out of us. How disgraceful.
"You are not under law, but under grace" (Rom 6:14). "But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under law." (Gal 5:18).
In fact, the only other passage that really focuses on Tithing in the New Testament underlines this very point. At the start of Hebrews 7 there is a passage referring to tithing in the Old Testament. It clearly states that tithing is part of the Old Law (v 5). And then it goes on to say: "The former regulation is set aside because it is weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God." (Heb 7:18-19).
The point that is being made here is that the Old Covenant was a covenant of "regulations" (like HAVING to give one tenth) but the New Covenant is a covenant of the HEART. And we are to give out of a heart overflowing with the love of God. -NOT because we are "forced" to give one tenth! The Old Law is gone. We live under a New Covenant today.
Now another major argument that the Tithing people use is that "Tithing came before the Law". They use the example of Abraham and Melchizedek (Gen 14:18-20). Therefore, they say, it still applies to us today.
Well, I have one simple question for these people: Isn't it true that CIRCUMCISION came before the Law also? (See Gen 17). And everyone knows that Circumcision is treated as part of the Old Law that has been done away with. It is the same with Tithing. No difference at all.
As we have seen, in every New Testament Scripture tithing is clearly spoken of as being part of the "OLD LAW". It is not part of the New Covenant at all. How shameful that it is being used today to manipulate Christians into giving ten percent to church institutions. How sad and totally unscriptural.
As former pastor Bruce Lengeman states in his article
'The Raping of the Tithe': "The title sounds harsh, but I
believe it is fairly accurate due to the damage done by the
erroneous teaching of the doctrine of tithing... Plain and
simple, the doctrine of tithing as it is commonly taught in
the contemporary evangelical, or Bible-believing church is
SO HOW THEN SHOULD WE GIVE?
Today when it comes to 'Giving' we are often preached-to out of Malachi 3 in the Old Testament, which tells the Jewish people to "bring the full tithes into the storehouse" and says that they were "robbing God" and they were "cursed" if they did not do so. (Mal 3:8-10).
Modern preachers love to equate the 'storehouse' with their own church(!!), so that they can apply this Scripture to themselves. But the reality is very different. As Bruce Lengeman states: "The 'storehouse' of Malachi has no likeness to the church structure of today. The storehouse was neither a place of assembly, nor a place of worship. It was merely a storehouse for tithed goods to be distributed to Levites, who had no inheritance, and also to widows, strangers, and orphans."
How very different to the guilt-trip that we are hearing today!
And when we get to the Book of Acts we find that indeed MOST OF THE MONEY that came in actually went to feed and clothe the poor and the widows. In fact, it was a common practice for the Christians to sell any spare possessions and lay the money at the apostles' feet, for distribution to the poor. (See Acts 4:32-37). What love these people demonstrated! And this was true giving "from the HEART", not from some "LAW" that told them how much to give.
There is also plenty of support in the New Testament for giving to those who minister the gospel. (See 1 Cor 9:13-14, 1 Tim 5:17, etc.) But there is a far greater emphasis on giving to the widows and orphans.
What I believe God would have us do today is be led by the Holy Spirit in our giving. Find ways to give to the poor and the widows in an effective way. (-For instance, some Christian charities like 'Open Doors' support persecuted Christian widows in Islamic countries, etc). Also find effective Christian ministries to give to.
In many ways the 'local church storehouse' concept is a deceptive fallacy. The fact is, there was no such thing as "church buildings" in the New Testament anyway, so how could that be the 'storehouse'? We need to give where God leads us - with a truly cheerful heart.
As one of my readers wrote to me recently:
"You sent an email about 2 months ago that convicted me that giving was to be based on the New Testament model - giving cheerfully as we purpose - instead of being under the law. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law. I have found that since I give cheerfully whenever Father shows me to give that I have had my socks blessed off. I was always giving 10% to my local church and never seeing any great results. I became convicted that my worship leader needed the money so out of a strong conviction to give it to him I did so. I found that suddenly at work my sales went through the roof. Before I was doing so poorly I was close to losing my job. I know the only difference is following the Holy Spirit and doing what He tells me with my money based on the New Testament example."
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