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Every word of God is pure;
He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.
One area of preaching that will get me extremely hot under the collar is the inaccurate quoting of the tithing requirement of the Old Testament, and that in a New Testament church. In every other area, New Testament churches preach the doctrine of Grace. Ask any New Testament preacher if we are under the Law or Grace and they’ll certainly tell you Grace, as it should be. However, these same men will eventually preach on the subject of tithing - an issue with no reference in the New Testament after the crucifixion except for instruction about Old Testament matters. The other times it’s mentioned in the New Testament is when Jesus spoke in a negative context to the Pharisees of His day about their attitude for giving. Remember that our Lord’s entire earthly ministry was under the Old Testament economy until the New Covenant was established the night before His crucifixion. Other than these references by Jesus, tithing is only mentioned in the book of Hebrews, and merely to explain the Old Testament system. Despite this fact, every preacher I’ve ever heard preach on the subject reverts from Grace to the Law.
From the Bible, direction concerning the Law versus Grace:
For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17
Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more. Romans 5:20
For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:14
I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain. Galatians 2:21
You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. Galatians 5:4
Just as it should be, we are to preach salvation by the grace of our Lord and His mercy through faith, not deeds of the law. This is what brings us salvation. And yet when it comes to money, all that is thrown to the wind and the law invariably gets reintroduced.
One of the most common Bible quotes that you will hear on the subject of giving is:
Will a man rob God?
Yet you have robbed Me!
But you say,
‘In what way have we robbed You?’
In tithes and offerings.
After this reading, you’ll be given an hour sermon on how you’re stealing from God if you don’t give ten percent just as the Bible says. But does it? Let’s quote the pertinent passages from the Old Testament concerning tithing. Read carefully, but underlining will be helpful here and is added by me. Remember, I didn’t write these words – they’re right in your Bible:
But when you cross over the Jordan and dwell in the land which the LORD your God is giving you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all your enemies round about, so that you dwell in safety, then there will be the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide. There you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, and all your choice offerings which you vow to the LORD. And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your sons and your daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levite who is within your gates, since he has no portion nor inheritance with you. Deuteronomy 12:10-12
Only the holy things which you have, and your vowed offerings, you shall take and go to the place which the LORD chooses. And you shall offer your burnt offerings, the meat and the blood, on the altar of the LORD your God; and the blood of your sacrifices shall be poured out on the altar of the LORD your God, and you shall eat the meat. Deuteronomy 12:26, 27
“You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. And you shall eat before the LORD your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the LORD your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the LORD your God has blessed you, then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the LORD your God chooses. And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household. You shall not forsake the Levite who is within your gates, for he has no part nor inheritance with you.
“At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do. Deuteronomy 14:22-29
“When you have finished laying aside all the tithe of your increase in the third year—the year of tithing—and have given it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be filled, then you shall say before the LORD your God: ‘I have removed the holy tithe from my house, and also have given them to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed Your commandments, nor have I forgotten them. Deuteronomy 26:12, 13
Come to Bethel, and transgress; at Gilgal multiply transgression; and bring your sacrifices every morning, and your tithes after three years. Amos 4:4 (KJV)
In Deuteronomy, and for the rest of the Old Testament, tithing is mandatory, but for the first two years it is to be spent by the one tithing and his family in the presence of the LORD – for food, for drink, for rejoicing. Only in the third year is the tithe to be entirely given away. The only additional requirement besides spending the entire tithe on a party in the presence of the LORD for the first two years is the sentence, “You shall not forsake the Levite who is within your gates, for he has no part nor inheritance with you.” I’ve always said that if God repeats Himself in the Bible, it’s for the reason of clarity. In this case, it mentions the “third year” tithe not once, not twice, but three times. There can be no mistaking this.
I’ve read that because of the variation between Deuteronomy and the earlier tithing requirements (such as in Leviticus), some Jewish and Christian exegetes say the Bible actually stipulates a second or even a third tithe. I’ll bet. These “exegetes” are most certainly dual-hatted synagogue rabbis or church pastors who would have to face losing approximately 67 percent of their income if they simply accepted the Bible for it’s black and white lettering! Their view disregards the fact that Deuteronomy was written in the form of an ancient suzerainty treaty. It is the treaty by which the people of Israel would guide their lives. Anything in it that differs from the first four books of the Bible is either a replacement of that thought or a further defining of it. In other words, what is written in Deuteronomy concerning tithing is the standard and only further defines tithing where it is previously mentioned. Here’s an example of what I mean from the Ten Commandments:
The 10th Commandment in Deuteronomy differs from its initial reception at Sinai:
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” Exodus 20:17
‘You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife; and you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, his male servant, his female servant, his ox, his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.’ Deuteronomy 5:21
Here a “field” is added into the commandment in Deuteronomy. During the wilderness wanderings, there was no ownership of property, but at the renewal of the covenant in Deuteronomy the change is made in anticipation of this occurrence. Likewise, regulations concerning tithing in Deuteronomy were the standard for Israel.
I heard one pastor on TV indicate that the “third year is a special, extra year of tithing in addition to the regular annual 10%.” Never mind the fact that it NEVER says such a thing in the Bible. This is in line with the other incorrect analysis above and has absolutely no ground in the truth of what is clearly written. I’ve also heard it said that with the tithing and all the other required sacrifices, almost thirty percent of what an Israelite made would have been required. Again, this is simply not correct. Many of the required sacrifices were eaten by the one who brought them after the removal of the sacred portion by the priests. These arguments simply have no basis in the truth. The passages above clearly indicate that the third year tithe alone was given away in its entirety and the other two years’ tithes were enjoyed by the giver in the presence of the LORD.
None of this really matters though because ALL of this train of thought comes from the law – the Old Testament. And, as cited in verses above, we are not under the law. The closest we can come to a general rule of thumb for giving in the New Testament is this:
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2
There you have the only real direction given to any New Testament saint – lay something aside, storing up as you may prosper. The next time your pastor tells you that you’re stealing from God if you don’t tithe, ask him to show you the standard for tithing in the Bible. If he can find it at all, then ask him if you’re under law or grace. Finally, if he still insists on an Old Testament tithe, ask why he’s not instructing you to give in the Biblical fashion – every third year. In any case, he’s trying to have his cake and eat it too.
I do suppose that if pastors spent more time preaching the glories of the Cross, and how Christ gave His all for us, people would appreciate more where their money was going and be willing to give out of a grateful heart and not a sense of obligation – which is exactly what the law demanded. Personally, I’d say 10% is a good starting point, but that we should give based on how we are reflecting appreciation to God for the immeasurable gift He gave us in the person of Jesus Christ. This attitude is clearly proclaimed in Scripture as well:
But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7
A final point on tithing, this can be a hindrance as much as a benefit. I’ve heard of people starting out in business and giving 10%, but actually becoming so blessed that they now give 90% of their income. Counting beans so that every person gives exactly 10 percent can actually hinder giving when dealing with wealthier or more generous people. Giving in Christianity must be a matter of the heart or there is no appreciation of grace.
This is where the rubber hits the road. If a pastor or teacher reads these passages in the Bible, understands them, and continues to instruct incorrectly, they have put their personal desire for financial gain above what the Bible instructs. Error in doctrine is sin – how much worse if it is intentional!
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Who to give to – why to give?
Now that we know that there is NO mandated tithe in the New Testament, and the tithe we’ve been misled to believe in doesn’t even exist as described, let’s consider who and why we should give.
If you’ve ever watched a televangelist, you’ve certainly heard the words, “sow a seed.” This appeals to the greedy side of the giver.
If you give, you’ll be blessed.
Give and expect.
Give in faith and reap a harvest.
This mindset almost makes me nauseous. If you’re giving in order to get, you have an entirely different concept of the Christian message than the one presented in the Bible. This is not to say that God doesn’t faithfully bless those who are obedient to him, but the intent of the heart concerning your gift says a lot about your ultimate relationship with your Savior. You might as well put your money in a slot machine as the result you’re looking for is no different.
During the writing of this book, one of the sharks that daily appears on every Christian channel has been asking for his viewers to give for his new jet plane. If you give $10,000, he promises to put your name on a plaque at the front and back of his plane. If you give $1000 he’ll put your name on a plaque in the back only. Then he promises to pray for you each time he passes the plaque. Put your money in the slot and wait for the payoff. If you gave to this guy you’ve been suckered. Why would such a person need a $6,000,000 aircraft? If he were to fly first class everyday for the rest of his life, he’d never spend that much. Adding in the costs of fuel, a personal pilot, etc., you can see how absolutely absurd his request is and what a dishonest heart he must truly have.
For the most part, televangelists are the last people I’d be willing to give to – especially if they ever promise a blessing in return; that they will pray for you; that you can expect to reap a harvest; or for any other reason. If you give, do it because the Lord of all creation hung on a tree to redeem you. He bought you back at the greatest cost of all and in gratitude you should give for the furtherance of the Gospel.
Don’t you have a local church to give to? One that supports Bible-believing missionaries? Think! If you give to the Episcopal Church, you’re giving to a body that promotes anti-biblical teachings, homosexuality among them. The same God who calls homosexuality an abomination in the Old Testament treats the matter in like fashion in the New. Before you proudly state you’re a Methodist, Baptist, Catholic – or whatever – remember first your duty to Christ. If you’re in a larger denomination, go on line and read their annual meeting minutes. If you have any moral compass, you may be appalled at some of the programs they’re throwing at with the money God has trusted YOU to handle. Remember, when you give to an organization, you are showing an active support for their policies. How do you think the Lord feels when you donate to an organization that condones the murder of unborn children, homosexuality, idol worship, or a host of other abominable issues? Think! Think! Stop and think what you are ultimately accountable to your Creator for.
Because of the negative vibes you must have received from this short page, I thought that just for fun I’d add in a bonus for you. The Hebrew word for “donut” is pronounced “soofganyah” and is a combination of three words, “end,” “garden,” and “God.” Therefore, the word for donut has the basic meaning, “The end of the garden of God.” Maybe it’s because they’re so tasty and delicious that someone thought, “Oy, we lost paradise, but this is the next best thing!”
When giving, rejoice in His goodness and give more than you can afford in gratitude for His unlimited mercy!
In giving, the mark of a Christian is to understand that all we have came from the open hand of the Creator. We are the recipients of His grace and love. Further, He sent His Son to pay our sin-debt. When you give to your church or other Christian charity, the percent of what you make is far less important than knowing that it’s not enough. If so moved, give up a luxury and donate that amount along with your weekly giving. Finally, it is the mark of a Christian to ensure his money is being spent to further the Gospel of Jesus Christ and not on an immoral or greedy organization.
God thunders marvelously with His voice;
He does great things which we cannot comprehend.