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Christians And The Tithe - Part 1

The following is the first in a series on tithing as it is taught in many churches today. Now before you get all fussy and angry with me, read the whole series and all the posts in it to understand what the Bible declares on this topic. We will look at all places in Scripture that address tithing, from the old and the new covenant.

tithe-image


INTRODUCTION

Tithing is generally defined as the practice of donating a tenth of something. The word has a long history, especially in finance. It is, however, most recognised as a religious activity. In its definition of the term "tithe," Webster's Dictionary specifically mentions that it is "particularly collected to assist churches."

Is it Biblical for churches and ministries to require their members to tithe? Is the current tithing practice Biblical? I think it is not, in light of Christ's fulfillment of the Law. At the core of the matter is one's interpretation of the Law of Moses, commonly known as Mosaic Law.

There is significant disagreement among tithing supporters over whether tithes must be paid exclusively to the local church or whether a part may also be given to other Christian agencies. They are nearly evenly divided on whether to tithe on net income or gross income. Surprisingly, clergy are considerably more in favour of tithing on gross income.

If these figures are correct, many Protestant Christians think that tithing is a Biblical obligation, yet very few numbers implement this conviction. Many would argue that the percent of Christians who do not tithe are violating Scripture. Some would even argue that they are cursed for robbing God.

In investigating this practice, we will examine ALL of the Scripture texts that reference tithing. Too often, when a case for tithing is presented, just a few select texts are selected to make the argument, and they are often not read in their appropriate context.

I also plan to answer the following pertinent questions:

  1. How many tithes were prescribed in the Bible?
  2. Who got the tithes?
  3. Do people who advocate tithing now fulfill the Mosaic Law?
  4. Why is tithing not obligatory for Christians today?

I do not aim to criticise or insult people who disagree with me by citing them. I admire their commitment and hard work as they serve the Lord and His people. Their beliefs and opinions, like mine, are constantly held up to the light of Scripture.

TITHING BEFORE THE LAW

Although Abram's tenth is the first mentioned in Scripture, others believe he tithed to obey an everlasting principle. Some pastors contend that Cain and Abel's offerings were a kind of tithing, with Cain being blamed for what he did not contribute. 

They conclude that God established a rule demanding either tithes or first fruits from the beginning, but Cain withheld what was due to God. His fault was that his gift was not large. Those who do not tithe are thought to be like Cain.

I have also heard many pastors claim that the concept of tithing is one that can be traced throughout the whole Bible. In reality, it occurred in the Garden of Eden when mankind stole something that belonged to or was intended for God.

There were two instances of voluntary tithe before the Law. The first one included Abram's tribute to Melchizedek, while the second featured his grandson, Jacob. 

These are both stories, which are the most frequent kind of writing found in the Bible, and as many point out that we are not always informed how or why characters do particular things in stories of scripture. Narratives tend to be descriptive rather than prescriptive.

Genesis 14:8-24

Genesis 14:8-24 -- Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) went out and prepared for battle. In the Valley of Siddim they met Kedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of nations, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar. Four kings fought against five. Now the Valley of Siddim was full of tar pits. When the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, they fell into them, but some survivors fled to the hills. The four victorious kings took all the possessions and food of Sodom and Gomorrah and left. They also took Abram’s nephew Lot and his possessions when they left, for Lot was living in Sodom. A fugitive came and told Abram the Hebrew. Now Abram was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, the brother of Eshcol and Aner. (All these were allied by treaty with Abram.) When Abram heard that his nephew had been taken captive, he mobilized his 318 trained men who had been born in his household, and he pursued the invaders as far as Dan. Then, during the night, Abram divided his forces against them and defeated them. He chased them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus. He retrieved all the stolen property. He also brought back his nephew Lot and his possessions, as well as the women and the rest of the people. After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet Abram in the Valley of Shaveh (known as the King’s Valley). Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (Now he was the priest of the Most High God.) He blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by the Most High God, Creator of heaven and earth. Worthy of praise is the Most High God, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of everything. Then the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and take the possessions for yourself.” But Abram replied to the king of Sodom, “I raise my hand to the LORD, the Most High God, Creator of heaven and earth, and vow that I will take nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the strap of a sandal. That way you can never say, ‘It is I who made Abram rich.’ I will take nothing except compensation for what the young men have eaten. As for the share of the men who went with me – Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre – let them take their share.”

Abram and his men not only rescued Lot, but also all of the property and people taken from Sodom and Gomorrah. Melchizedek, King of Salem, blessed Abram, and Abram gave him a tenth of all battle gains. 

The king of Sodom then ordered Abram to retain the remainder of the treasures but surrender the people to him. Abram, on the other hand, gave him everything except what his soldiers had eaten and a little bit for three of his men.

Abram tithed on the spoils of battle rather than his salary/income. Any notion that Abram performed tithing on a regular basis must be assumed since it is not mentioned in the scripture.

He was also not required to offer this tithe, according to the scripture. Abram handed nearly the whole remaining 90% of the riches to the ruler of Sodom, whose land would shortly be devastated by fire and brimstone.

According to the Wikipedia Encyclopedia, “a one-tenth tax was very prevalent in ancient Babylonian culture,” as well as in the ancient Near East, Lydia, Arabia, and Carthage, and “would have been well known to Abraham.” 

OPINIONS OF PREACHERS

But some are of the opinion that this is not the case. Many claim that Abram could not have been following an eternal principle by tithing on war gains. In Numbers 31, God gave Israel quite different instructions about the spoils of their battle with the Midianites. 

There was no tithing involved. They claim that if Abram had followed a universal principle, God would have demanded the same from His people in Numbers 31. He goes on to say that Abram did not tithe of his own property. In reality, he tithed on something he had promised to give away, so he paid nothing.

Some think that Abram's motivation was to acquire a consistent flow of riches,

"The first of two things that he did to 'begin and sustain' the flow of wealth to himself was he donated a tithe." According to faith and prosperity preachers, Abram understood and used the "Law of Sowing and Reaping." They claim that in order to become wealthy like Abram, we must follow in his footsteps and tithe.

Genesis 28:20-22

Genesis 28:20-22 -- Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God is with me and protects me on this journey I am taking and gives me food to eat and clothing to wear, and I return safely to my father’s home, then the LORD will become my God. Then this stone that I have set up as a sacred stone will be the house of God, and I will surely give you back a tenth of everything you give me.”

Jacob made a conditional promise, implying that unless he came home safely and got shelter, companionship, food, and clothes from the Lord, he may not even call the Lord His God. 

There is no evidence that Jacob really completed his promise by returning a tenth to the Lord, but we cannot presume he did not. We do not see in Abram's situation that the Lord ordered him to tithe.

Going back a few lines (Genesis 28:13-15), we find that God had previously promised Jacob that He would be with him, never abandon him, protect him, and return him to his country. 

God had also revealed Himself as the God of Abraham and Isaac, and He had reaffirmed the promise He had given to his grandfather and father. 

PROMISE AND VOW

Here are some observations regarding God's promise and Jacob's vow,

It was God's promise to him, and it was based only on faith. It was not dependent on any conditional obligations like tithes, offerings, or sacrifices. All God asked of Jacob was that he believes him. 

God desired to fulfill the promise to Jacob in the same way that he did to Abraham, who became the father of faith. Jacob did not react to God's promise in the same manner his father and grandfather did.

Faith takes God at his word, while Jacob does not. Jacob's response to God's promise was to make a pledge, demonstrating his unbelief. ‘If You would accomplish all of this, You will be my God, and I will give you a tenth of whatever you give me,' he declared. 

God had just vowed to bless, protect, and fulfill Abraham's initial pledge. He did not request a tithe or anything else. Jacob refused to even acknowledge the Lord as his God. God did not request a tithe. He desired faith. God did not applaud Jacob's promise to give him a tenth.

Just because a narrative is in the Bible does not imply it represents God's intention for the individuals involved. It definitely does not imply that this is God's desire for us in the New Covenant today. Many acts that people did that were contrary to God's will are also recorded in the Bible.

We will continue with this interesting topic in the upcoming posts.

Stay tuned.

Blessings,

Godwin.


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