Discovering The Liberating
Truth About Tithing Vs
New Tesament Giving
By William Handschumacher
A Special Rock of Offence Commentary
A reader asked the following question about the
controversial subject of tithing.
"Please explain Malachi 3:10, with regards to the practice
of paying tithes to the local Church today."
"Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this, Says the LORD of hosts, If I will not open for you the window of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it." (Malachi 3:10).
The question about whether believers should practice the Old Testament Mosaic Law requirement of paying tithes is an emotional debate involving right and wrong theology. When you closely examine Malachi 3:10, you can see that the tithe Malachi speaks about is not "monetary", but "agricultural". You don't store money in a "storehouse"....you store food. In Malachi, God tells us it is for the purpose of having "food in my house". Yet, the definition of "God's house" (or the temple) radically changed after the cross. The believer's body is now declared to be "the temple of the Holy Spirit". This was not the case before the cross AND IT EXPOSES THE FALSE SIDE OF THE TITHING DEBATE.
What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NKJV)
When you go back into the Old Testament Scriptures, you find that the word tithe means "one-tenth" OF YOUR AGRICULTURAL INCREASE (Duet. 14:22-23). This one tenth or "tithe" was also referred to as the "first-fruits" (notice that it's not called the "first-money") and was considered the very best portion of the entire crop. It was taken "off the top" and was presented at the temple before the family that produced the crop was allowed to sell or consume the other nine tenths. In Old Covenant times, the Levites (one of the 12 tribes of Israel) were the "ministers or priests" of the Jewish Temple (God's house under the Mosaic Law of the Old Testament). God required them to devote their entire life to this service and declared that He would be their only inheritance. Because the Levites had God as their inheritance, they were prohibited from owning their own land. For these reasons, God released them from the considerable burden of having to farm the land and grow their own food. However, they needed food like everyone else. God established the institution of the tithe so that the other Jewish tribes would provide the food for "God's House", which included its Levite priests. It is also important to note that the tithe in those days was also given to help feed the stranger, fatherless and the widow in the land of Israel. In the days of Malachi, Israel was neglecting the tithe and that is why he wrote the warnings of a curse and the promise of blessing connected to it. It's important to remember from Malachi's writings that the tithe is specifically associated with "God's house", which in Old Testament days, was a PHYSICAL BUILDING.
As we move our focus into Christ's New Covenant THAT STARTED AFTER THE CROSS, we notice that many Christian leaders take the extraordinary liberty of redefining and "spiritualizing" (allegorizing) Scripture, which is a common, yet illegal practice found especially under Reformed theology. Spiritualizing Scripture is nothing more than injecting a modified "spiritual meaning" into a Bible verse (or doctrine) that already carries a clear "literal" meaning. When a "literal definition" gets in the way of a personal ministry or church initiative (such as a church growth program financed by tithing), the best way to deal with the threat is to redefine (or spiritualize) it by removing and using other Scriptures out of context. This is a very effective tactic used by many church leaders, denominations and individual Christian believers today. You can't discuss an issue when the "literal meaning" is repeatedly changed by "spiritualizing" it into anything the opposing side wants. I usually don't engage in a rational discussion with anyone who insists on spiritualizing Scripture. I've found that it's an exercise in total frustration and always ends in bitter disagreement. The individual's mind is usually already made up and it doesn't really matter what Scripture you quote that proves their position to be wrong. The practice of tithing is only one example of how Scripture is spiritualized. God's Word consists of two vastly different "covenants" with two different gospel messages. The book of Hebrews calls them "the first covenant and the second covenant". The second one (what Hebrews calls "the better covenant") is Christ's New Covenant THAT DIDN'T BEGIN UNTIL AFTER THE CROSS.
"But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He (Jesus) is also MEDIATOR OF A BETTER COVENANT, WHICH WAS ESTABLISHED ON BETTER PROMISES. For if that FIRST COVENANT had been faultless, then no place would have been sought FOR A SECOND." (Hebrews 8:6-7 NKJV)
"IN THAT HE (JESUS CHRIST) SAYS, "A NEW COVENANT," HE HAS MADE THE FIRST OBSOLETE. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away." (Hebrews 8:13 NKJV)
Also Carefully Read The Following :
"Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic. FOR THESE ARE THE TWO COVENANTS: THE ONE FROM MOUNT SINAI WHICH GIVES BIRTH TO BONDAGE, which is Hagar -- for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children (speaking of the first covenant) -- BUT THE JERUSALEM ABOVE IS FREE, which is the mother of us all. For it is written:
"Rejoice, O barren, You who do not bear! Break forth and shout, You who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children than she who has a husband."
NOW WE, BRETHREN, AS ISAAC WAS, ARE CHILDREN OF PROMISE. But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? "Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman." SO THEN, BRETHREN, WE ARE NOT CHILDREN OF THE BONDWOMAN BUT OF THE FREE (SPEAKING OF THE SECOND--OR NEW COVENANT)." (Galatians 4:21-31 NKJV)
The New Covenant is also called "the new and living way of Christ"
established on His blood (Read: Matt. 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20,
1 Cor. 11:25, 2 Cor. 3:6, Heb. 8:6-13, Heb. 9:15, Heb. 10:19-23,
If the cross brought into existence "A New Covenant--also called the new and living way of Christ", then it's something entirely NEW AND DIFFERENT than the Old Testament administrataion that existed before it. When God uses the word NEW, it means a radical change has taken place. The blood of Jesus Christ changed everything. As a result--and contrary to popular church teachings, Christ's New Covenant is not a continuation of the Old Covenant program. Christ's new system of redemption makes the old system, based on the Law of Moses, obsolete (Hebrews 8:13).
Today, our responsibility as believers is to discern how each of these covenants (and their different messages) apply. The apostle Paul referred to this practice as "rightly (or correctly) dividing the Word of God"(2 Timothy 2:15). Paul warned that recognizing this division (also known as respecting the context of the Bible) was so important that God's approval (or acceptance) of the believer is directly tied to this practice. But, a majority of churches "spiritualize" God's Word by illegally mixing these two covenants together into one "unified theology" that carries the illusion of being "Biblical", yet does not come from God. It is frightening to consider the eventual eternal consequences that will result from this popular method of Bible interpretation.
Spiritualizing The Tithing
Law of Moses
Those who teach the tithing doctrine tell us that the modern day version of "God's house" or "God's storehouse" is our "church buildings". They also teach that the "new Levites" are those that do the ministry in these churches (meaning the preachers). Since many of us today don't put food on our tables by farming, these preachers insist that instead of tithing crops, God's "redefined" requirement is for us to tithe the "equivalent form of labor", which is money. Also, just like the Israelites in the Old Testament, we are to tithe on any "increase" we receive, such as a weekly paycheck or a bonus or another unexpected source of income.
God did not "literally" say this in His Word; but it sounds reasonable, doesn't it?
In an effort to further justify their teaching, we are then told that Jesus commanded the Pharisees to tithe in the New Testament (Matt. 23:23), which appears to prove that it remains a requirement for Christians today.
If these things fail to convince
us, a failure to tithe is
elevated to an even higher level.
We are reminded that Malachi warned that we are "cursed" and are "stealing from God" if we fail to tithe. By accusing Christians of stealing from God (something that obviously makes Him angry at us), these preachers are now making the payment of tithes necessary to be "righteous before God". However, using the words of Malachi in this way ignores the context of Scripture and is a form of 'fear manipulation' practiced by many churches. Lifting the doctrine of tithing under Old Testament Mosaic Law - and inserting it into the New Covenant as a requirement to be righteous before God is a dangerous form of religious error that perverts the Gospel of Christ. It's horribly wrong because the principles of Christ's New Covenant", which didn't begin until after the cross, reveals that our righteousness and justification is given as God's "free gift" (Read Romans 3:24-26, Romans 4:4-8 and Romans 5:15-19).
Righteousness is freely imputed to us because Jesus paid for it using His own blood as "Divine currency". Jesus already paid the full price (in other words it's "pre-paid) and this is why it is freely given. The New Covenant, is also called "the new and living way of Christ" established on His blood (Read: Matt. 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, 1 Cor. 11:25, 2 Cor. 3:6, Heb. 8:6-13, Heb. 9:15, Heb. 10:19-23, Heb. 12:24). This toxic teaching that makes our righteousness dependent upon tithing is very common in fundamentalist churches and various denominations. There are numerous other problems with this popular redefined and spiritualized "interpretation" of tithing in the Scriptures.
New Covenant Fact #1 : Under the New Covenant, "God's house", or God's Temple is not a physical building like it was under the Mosaic Law of the Old Testament. When the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost 50 days after Jesus Christ initiated the New Covenant by spilling His blood, He came to "indwell" (live inside) the physical body of the believer. Jesus told His disciples this would happen. This "indwelling" makes the body of the Christian the new "Temple" (or God's house). It's the new Church that Jesus promised He would build.
"...and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18 NKJV)
It is deceptive and misleading to call our modern church buildings "God's House" no matter how popular the belief. When anyone today calls a church building "God's House", it is a warning that they are trying to live for Christ under an Old Testament type of faith (a spiritually forbidden practice). Why? THE CRUCIFIXION OF CHRIST INITIATED A NEW COVENANT THAT CHANGED ALL THE PREVIOUS RULES AND ESTABLISHED A NEW CHURCH NOT MADE WITH HUMAN HANDS.
"And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, AND SHALL BE IN YOU." (Words of Jesus before the Holy Spirit arrived on Pentecost from John 14:16-17)
"Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, WHICH TEMPLE YE ARE." (Words of Paul after the Holy Spirit arrived on Pentecost from 1 Cor. 3:16-17)
"What? KNOW YE NOT THAT YOUR BODY IS THE TEMPLE OF THE HOLY GHOST WHICH IS IN YOU, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." (Words of Paul after the Holy Spirit arrived on Pentecost from 1 Cor. 6:19-20)
New Covenant Fact #2 : Preachers and ministers in today's churches do not meet the strict qualifications to be Old Covenant Levitical priests and are, therefore, not qualified to receive tithes as described by Malachi and the Mosaic Law. Actually, the Levitical priesthood "ceased to exist" when the Jewish temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70. According to Old Testament Mosaic law, the tithe was only valid when the Levitical priesthood and the physical temple existed to receive it. If the temple disappears, the priesthood disappears with it and the "tithe of the Mosaic Law" becomes invalid. Spiritualizing Scripture by equating modern-day preachers to Old Testament Levitical priests seriously violates the context of the Bible.
New Covenant Fact #3 : In Matthew 23:23 of our New Testament Scriptures, Jesus told the Pharisees that it was proper to tithe mint and anise and cummin (Note: all of these are agricultural products). This Scripture is a favorite among those who support the Mosaic Law of tithing today. However, notice that Jesus said this BEFORE the New Covenant (initiated by his blood at the crucifixion) had started to govern. When Jesus made this statement, the previous Old Testament program continued to operate (was still in authority) and had not yet ended--even though Christ's statement is found in the "New Testament" part of our Bible. Also remember that the Temple in Jerusalem was also still in existence at the time.
A lot of wrong teaching in the church becomes clearly visible if we give proper respect to Biblical context--such as when the Old Covenant administration ended and the new one began. Tithing under the Mosaic Law is not a commandment under Christ's New Covenant (mainly found in the epistles of Paul to the Church). A different type of giving takes the place of the "tithing law" as we will see later on in this study.
New Covenant Fact #4 : It is impossible for a Christian believer to steal from God, when the New Covenant started to govern after the cross. Yet, "stealing from God" was possible under the Old Covenant (or Old Testament administration of the Law). Without revealing the details, Jesus gave His disciples a glimpse of the New Covenant shortly before His death. He told them that His sacrifice was going to allow the Father, the Son and "the believer" to become ONE (read John 17:20). This "oneness" could never exist under the previous Old Testament administration. It was something that could only happen AFTER THE CROSS. If anyone wants to know some primary differences between the people living under the Old Covenant and believers living under the New Covenant, here are just a few:
FIRST : The New Covenant believer enjoys oneness with God (John 17:20) as members of the Church that Jesus promised to build. Those living under the previous Old Covenant administration did not have access to this benefit.
SECOND : God reckons the New Covenant believer crucified (put to death) with Christ (Gal. 2:20, Col. 3:3). This means his/her sins (past, present and future) are eternally removed at the sacrifice of "The Lamb of God" (John 1:29). Those living under the previous Old Covenant administration did not have access to this kind of security.
THIRD : The New Covenant believer enjoys eternal life, righteousness and justification as the gift of God (Romans 6:23, Romans 3:24-26, Romans 4:4-8, Romans 5:18-21 and Titus 3:5-7). Those living under the Old Covenant obtained eternal life by keeping the Law's commandments ... according to the words of Christ from Matthew 19:16-17.
The New Covenant (Hebrews 8:6-13), established upon God's unmerited and undeserved favor (Grace), joins Christ and the believer together in a way that was never possible under the Old Covenant religious system. This blessed state of existence is called living "in Christ". Paul called the principles that describe this union "The Mystery of Christ". Few Christians know about this mystery (the revelation of the New Covenant) today. Reformed theology and its countless variants cheats a vast majority of Christians out of this knowledge. Under the New Covenant, the believer and Christ share all things in common. The Bible refers to this relationship as being "joint-heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:17). Being a "joint-heir" with Christ is similar to having a joint checking account with a wealthy friend, who allows you to freely use their resources as your own. Everything Christ owns also belongs to you and vice-versa. This is what "Oneness with Christ" means. You don't deserve this incredible blessing. Christ's blood bought it for you as part of His great salvation. It comes to you as a result of being "one with Him". This also means that the New Covenant makes it impossible to "steal from God", since you jointly own everything that He does. This liberating truth is almost never taught. Yet, it's one of the many "unsearchable riches of Christ". This is why many throughout church history refers to it as; "Amazing Grace".
We can't end this discussion without covering Abraham's tithe to Melchizedek. I won't go into great detail about this mysterious visitor who the Bible calls "the king of Salem" and the "priest of God Most High". There's not much information about him. Some Bible scholars believe Melchizedek (also mentioned in the book of Hebrews) is Jesus before the incarnation (before He became human in Mary's womb). All we know is that Abraham reverenced him--and gave him "a tithe of all" (Read Gen. 14:17-10). It's important to remember something. At this point in Scripture, there was no "Old Covenant" (or Mosaic Law). It didn't officially start until the scene in Exodus with Moses (the giver of the Law and commandments) and the children of Israel at Mount Sinai hundreds of years later. Therefore, the Old Covenant "law of tithing" that Malachi spoke of didn't exist when Abraham met Melchizadek. As we said earlier, the word "tithe" means one-tenth or ten percent. In this case, Genesis is not referring to the Mosaic Law form of tithing, which didn't exist--but is simply saying that Abraham gave Melchizadek "one-tenth" of all he had.
Notice two important things in this section of Scripture. First, there was no commandment that coerced Abraham to give this tithe. He gave it as a "voluntary act of worship" directed at Melchizedek, who represented God. Secondly, ABRAHAM ONLY GAVE THIS TITHE ONCE. He didn't continually give a tenth of his "increase" as demanded by Old Testament Mosaic Law.
Today, if anyone wants to voluntarily give a ten percent offering of everything they have (like Abraham) as a one time "tithe of worship" to Jesus Christ, there is really no problem. However, there is a problem if they claim that this free "act of worship" is God's requirement--or, if they attempt to redefine their "act of worship" into a requirement placed upon all believers to avoid "stealing from God". Once again, stealing from God by withholding the tithe was possible under the previous Old Testament administration. Yet, under Christ's New Covenant believers can't commit this sin because, after the cross they are "One with Christ". If someone coerces you to pay this tithe, then it's not voluntary and it's probably not true worship. God, who sees the heart, will be the final judge.
If you want more information about
how the New Covenant, which started
after the cross, made all believers
"one with Christ", click on the
The Believer's Position In Christ
Giving Under Christ's New Covenant
Where does this leave us? Do we ignore all the needs of our church organization along with the poor and needy because it's wrong to impose the Old Covenant tithe on New Covenant believers? Absolutely not.
God's solution under the New Covenant is "freewill giving". Under the New Covenant, Paul teaches that we are "freely justified" by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom 3:24). Eternal life is given to us as "the gift of God". Romans chapter 5 tells us that because of our position "in Christ" - we have received the "free gift of righteousness". Earlier we read where Paul opposed "false believers" from coming in and putting New Covenant believers living in Christ's liberty--under spritual bondage (Galatians 2:4). Do you see a pattern here? Freedom and liberty in Christ is the pattern. Under the New Covenant of Christ, there is no law that commands a believer to tithe or condemns them for "stealing from God". However, the believer is encouraged to give. How much do we give? God doesn't say. HE LEAVES THE DECISION STRICTLY UP TO YOU..."as you purpose in your heart". Yet, God does warn us in 2 Cor. 9:6-7...
"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 (as in being coerced); for God loves a cheerful giver."
God's Word to the New Covenant Church is that they should voluntarily (without guilt or coercion) give "as they purpose in their heart". This could be 1%, 3%, 5%, 10%, 90%, 100%--or anything in between. Yet, if you decide your giving should be 10% (the definition of "a tithe"), understand that this is a personal decision of the heart and is not binding on anyone else but you. More importantly, God does not "love you more" or assign a "higher righteousness" to you because of your decision give 10% (or the tithe). I've listened to various "successful Christian living" courses from popular ministries ... where the tithe of Malachi (ten percent) is said to be God's minimum standard of giving for believers today. This common and popular belief, often expressed with the best of intentions, is a total distortion of New Covenant principles. Even worse, it's claiming that God said something that He did not say. We are warned that "giving or sowing sparingly" will cause us to "reap sparingly". But, God does not condemn anyone for sowing sparingly, nor does he accuse the one who gives sparingly of "stealing from Him". There is no condemnation to believers under the New Covenant "Law of the Spirit of life in Christ" (Read Romans 8:1)--and this includes our giving. After the cross, our Heavenly Father never accuses a New Covenant believer of "stealing" from Him. God wants a totally free and cheerful giver.
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