PART 1 HAVE TO? WANT TO?
PART 1 HAVE TO? WANT TO?
What should be the basis for financial giving?
The purpose in writing about the topic of tithing or any other topic is to allow the reader to look at this subject from Genesis to Revelation, see the related verses that pertain to it, and be able to make up his/her own mind concerning whether tithing should still be a current practice or not.
Some will say that tithing is still current because this is the teaching that their church promotes, so therefore it must be true. Others might say that their church does not promote tithing, but free-will giving. Still, others might say, who cares whether you give a tithe of 10% or whether you make a free-will offering whose amount is close to that of the tithe? My opinion is that if the church we are attending advocates tithing, then we should know what the scriptural basis is for supporting this belief, and conversely, if the church we are attending advocates free-will giving, then we should also know what the scriptural basis is for supporting that belief. Shouldn’t we know the “why” behind the “what” that is taught from the pulpit?
In Acts 17:10-12, Paul and Silas have left Thessalonica and arrived in the city of Berea. They entered the synagogue there and preached the gospel. What they found out was that the Bereans were willing to listen and examine as to whether the promises and types (of the Old Testament) corresponded with the alleged fulfillment in the person, works, and sufferings of Jesus Christ. The Bereans made a careful and exact research against the Scriptures in order to see if what Paul had said agreed with what the Scriptures said1"
And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Beroea: who when they were come thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of the mind, examining the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so. Many of them therefore believed; also of the Greek women of honorable estate, and of men, not a few.
Shouldn’t we have this same mindset?
Like the Bereans, we should be attentive and respectful concerning the doctrinal teaching from the pastor, however, we should also examine what was said by means of comparing Scripture with Scripture in accordance with the leading and guiding into all truth by means of the Holy Spirit. Don’t be afraid. Examine the scriptures concerning both of the views concerning tithing that are presented in this book. If you initially believed that tithing should be a current practice, and you still believe this, then fine. If you initially believed that tithing should be a current practice, and you changed your mind, then fine. If you change your mind, hopefully, this will not result in an attack on your pastor-teacher, who has a different view. I would hope that there would be an opportunity for you to share your changed view with the pastor and other believers in kindness with the result that a dialogue takes place which fosters an exchange of scriptural ideas in the hope of further clarifying this topic according to a scriptural foundation.
Why are there opposite views concerning many biblical topics? I’m sure there are a few reasons. But there is probably one which has gone largely unnoticed, which we will look at next.
THERE ARE TWO WAYS TO FORMULATE A VIEW ON ANY DOCTRINAL TOPIC
Before we attempt to read about these two views, we are going to take a look at a very important concept, that of dispensations. Let’s define it and take a look at where it is found in Scripture.
Dispensations: A dispensation is a period of human history defined in terms of divine revelation.2 The doctrine of dispensations is the vehicle by which believers living at a specific time can orient to God’s will, plan, and purpose for their lives.3 We’ll draw attention to two important words from Acts 1:6-7.
When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.
The background of these verses is that just before Christ ascended into heaven His disciples asked Him about when He would restore the kingdom of Israel. Jesus responded by saying it was not for them to know the times or the seasons. The word times is from the Koine Greek chronous and it refers to time as a succession of events, one following the other in chronological order.4 The other word is seasons which is from the Greek word kairous, which denotes an era, a system, or order of chronology.5 This noun is frequently used for the organization of historical events in their dispensational categories.6 So there you have it. The word dispensation comes from the word seasons.
This idea states that time is divided into eras or dispensations. A dispensation is a period of time in which God relates to human beings in different ways under different biblical covenants.
A dispensationalist believes that human history is divided into seven dispensations.
- The Age of the Gentiles: A period of time from Adam and Eve to the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt under Moses.
- The Age of Israel: From the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt under Moses to the birth of Jesus Christ.
- The Age of the Hypostatic Union: From the birth of Christ to the day of Pentecost.
- The Church Age: From the day of Pentecost to the rapture of the church.
- The Age of Tribulation: From the rapture of the church to Christ’s Second Coming (return to earth).
- The Millennial Age: From Christ’s return to earth to the end of his 1000-year reign.
- The Eternal State: Eternity.
According to the dispensationalist, the view on any biblical topic is to be derived from the Scriptures that relate to that particular period of time.
Some examples of a dispensational view on various biblical topics are:
Example 1: Tithing (a mandate to give a tenth of; a way to give of one’s sustenance).
During the Age of Israel tithing and free will offerings were the protocol for giving under the institution of the Mosaic Law.
However, during the Church Age, the age in which we currently live, tithing is no longer the protocol for giving. Giving is based on one’s free will while operating under the leading, guiding, and prompting of the Holy Spirit.
2 Corinthians 9:7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
Example 2: Addressing sin which is committed by those in leadership.
During the Age of Israel, King David committed adultery with Bathsheba, and had her husband, Uriah, killed. God dealt with David personally, by sending the prophet Nathan to disclose to him the consequences for his sins. Under the Mosaic Law, the penalty was the same for committing adultery or murder, which was death. David was responsible to God alone concerning the addressing of and the consequences for his sins.
Psalms 51:4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest
During the Church Age, if a person in leadership (e.g., apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor-teacher) commits adultery, then Matthew18:15-17 is to be followed.
Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
The witness (eye or ear) to the sin of someone in leadership should approach them alone in order to address the matter. If an admission of guilt is made, the issue is resolved. If the person in leadership refuses to admit guilt, then the person, who originally met with him/her, should go back and meet with him/her again, this time bringing another eye or ear witness with them. If an admission of guilt is made, the issue is resolved. If the person in leadership still refuses to admit guilt again, then the issue is to be brought before those of the church who have been assigned to handle these kinds of issues. If it’s determined that the person in leadership has committed such sin and still refuses to admit guilt, then he/she is to be removed from the assembly indefinitely. If he/she does admit guilt, then a church censure could be imposed, which would set forth the amount of time that he/she is to be removed from participating in any aspect of the assembly.
1 Timothy 5:19 Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses
Principles, policies, traditions, or particular emphasis continue to be promulgated or promoted throughout history. In other words, under this approach, those in leadership can use any verse of Scripture as the basis to formulate a view on any topic. Whatever view is derived should serve as the basis for interpreting any other verses which pertain to the same topic.
Some examples of a non-dispensational view on various topics are:
Example 1: Tithing as instituted during the Age of Israel.
The non-dispensationalist would say that this type of giving is still operative today. After the tithe is given, the believer may follow this up by giving a free-will offering. Any verse which relates to giving in the New Testament will be interpreted as referring to tithing unless it’s specified otherwise.
Example 2: Addressing sin which is committed by those in leadership.
Addressing someone in leadership, who has committed an egregious sin, is to be looked at in light of how God dealt with David, the king of Israel. David said unto the Lord,“Against thee and thee only have I sinned…” in Psalms 51:4. Any of the verses, which are contained in the New Testament epistles that relate to the issue of addressing the sin of someone in leadership, are to be interpreted according to how God dealt with those, who were in the leadership positions of the Old Testament. When someone in leadership (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastor-teachers) commits a sin, such as adultery, he/she is accountable only to God and God alone.
The verses that follow in this study will be looked at from both a dispensational and non-dispensational perspective. However, the Scriptures will be grouped in a dispensational manner.
There are four dispensations from which we will examine the scriptures concerning this topic:
- The Age of the Gentiles.
- The Age of Israel.
- The Age of the Hypostatic Union.
- The Church Age.
For a non-dispensationalist, the sections that are grouped dispensationally should not interfere in his/her approach in finding a scriptural basis for their convictions. At the end of each dispensational section, I will provide a summary. Along with this will be included a brief outlook of the topic at hand from the perspective of a dispensationalist and a non-dispensationalist as to how each of them would view the subject based on the Scriptures pertaining to the topic.
THE AGE OF THE GENTILES
FROM THE CREATION OF ADAM AND EVE TO THE EXODUS
This period of time encompasses the creation of man and the fall of man. Evil ran rampant after the fall. God decided to destroy all of the inhabitants of the human race by means of a flood, except for a God-fearing man named Noah and his family. Following the flood, the human race repopulated and was of one language. God confused mankind’s language at the Tower of Babel, effectively separating the human race into groups.
God called a man named Abram, a Gentile, to be the father of the Jewish race. He had a son named Isaac, who had a son named Jacob. Jacob had 12 sons, who were the founders of the 12 tribes of Israel. At some point in time, Jacob and his family lived in the land of Canaan when a great famine arose. One of Jacob’s sons named Joseph, who Jacob thought had died years earlier, became food commissioner of Pharaoh in Egypt. When Jacob and his sons came before him for food sustenance Joseph recognized them and made himself known to them.
Eventually, his family left Canaan and dwelt in Egypt. As the years passed a new Pharaoh ruled over the land and the Jews became his slaves. This captivity lasted for 430 years. God determined that it was time to free his people from this bondage, so he raised up a man named Moses to bring them out from their captivity.
A non-dispensationalist will look at the instances, in which tithing was mentioned, and will choose those ideas that support the perpetuation of this practice.
A dispensationalist will look at the instances, in which tithing was mentioned, and confine the conditions of this practice to the dispensation or dispensations in which it implemented.
Definition of the word Tithe.
Tithe means “a tenth”; to give ten percent of what one owns or receives for one’s labors. The tenth part of agricultural produce or the tenth animal that passes under the rod is the idea for the tithe. The Hebrew word is Maa′ser meaning the tenth or tenth part, and the Greek is apodekatoo meaning a payment, giving, or receiving of the tenth.
Definition of the words Free Will Offering
Free will offering means not obligated to give; to give something freely.
Let’s take a look at where the word tithe is mentioned in this dispensation and try to understand more about it.
Some say that the idea of a tithe originated in the Garden of Eden.
- THE TREES IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN
Genesis 2:15-17 And the Lord God took the man, and put him in the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. …Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die
Some believe that tithing first occurred in the Garden of Eden, involving the first man and woman, Adam and Eve. Some interpret these verses as saying, it has been speculated that there were 10 trees in the Garden of Eden, nine of which Eve could touch and one of which she was not to touch. The tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil, however, was set apart by God for Himself.7
We’ll begin in the book of Genesis.
Does a tithe always precede an offering?
- THE FIRSTLINGS OF THE FLOCK
Genesis 4:3-7 And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him
Adam’s two sons, Cain and Abel, are each making an offering to the Lord. Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel brought an offering of the firstlings of the flock. God rejected Cain’s offering because it was not what God accepted.
Some say that the tithe always precedes a free-will offering. It does appear that the offering made here was a gift or present to the Lord. However, there is no scriptural evidence, that a tithe preceded it unless you consider the tithe as originating in the Garden of Eden, as stated above. By the way, this is the first place where the word firstlings occurred in the Bible. It’s in the plural and could mean that Abel offered to God more than one of the firstborn lambs of the flock (the sheep).
Please go forward in the same book.
This is the first mention of the word “tithe” in the Bible.
- ABRAM’S TITHE
Suggested Reading: Genesis 14:1-24; Hebrews 7:1-2
Genesis 14:19-23…Abram…And he gave him tithes of all… king of Sodom…take the goods to thyself…Abram said …I have lifted up mine hand unto the Lord…I will not take anything that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich:
This is the first biblical mention of tithing in the Old Testament. Abram, a Jew, was called by God to leave Chaldea and go forth according to His guidance. Accompanying him would be his family and his nephew Lot. God promised him that he would make of him a great nation, which indicated that Abram would eventually have a son. As time went on Lot and Abram separated because the land which they were sharing was unable to support both of their households.
After their separation, four Mesopotamian kings took Lot captive, along with all of the goods of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abram and his armed servants went forth and attacked these kings, recovering Lot and all of the booty. The king of Sodom came out with him, along with a priest named Melchizedek. Abram decided to give a tenth of the spoil to Melchizedek, and the remaining spoil to the king of Sodom. This tithe was from the spoils of battle. There is no indication that this tithe was a mandate from God. This could simply have been a cultural practice.
Keil and Delitzsch in their commentaries, both on the book of Genesis and Deuteronomy, refer to the fact that in the ancient world it was well established that a land-owner could collect a 10% fee, i.e., a tithe, from those who used the land for making their livelihood. Also, it was generally accepted that if one king, for instance, assisted another in battle and made possible the winning of the battle, then he was entitled to the spoil, that is, he became owner of the spoil.8
We’ll stay in the book of Genesis.
Why did Jacob promise to tithe to God?
- JACOB’S PROMISE TO TITHE
Suggested Reading: Genesis 28:5-22
Genesis 28:6, 20-22 “… Isaac had blessed Jacob, and sent him away to Padanaram, to take him a wife from thence;…” And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father’s house in peace…I will surely give the tenth unto thee.
Jacob was sent by his father, Isaac, Abraham’s son, to go to Padanaram, unto Laban, his mother’s brother, to seek out a wife. Jacob volunteered to tithe to God, based on whether God would allow him to return home safely at some future date.
Our final Scripture section is found in the same book we have been looking at.
Was the fifth part which was given to Pharaoh considered as being a tithe?
- GIVE THE FIFTH PART UNTO PHARAOH
Suggested Reading: Genesis 37:12-36; Chapters 39-47
Genesis 47:24 And it shall come to pass in the increase, that ye shall give the fifth part unto Pharaoh, and four parts shall be your own, for seed of the field, and for your food, and for them of your households, and for food for your little ones.
Joseph is the eldest son of Jacob and Rachel. He was born in about 1910 BC. Joseph had 11 brothers, most of whom were stepbrothers.
He was hated by his brothers because:
His father Jacob made for him a coat of many colors, which indicated to them that he was favored by their father.
Genesis 37:3…a coat of many colours
He dreamed a dream, which indicated to his brothers, that at some future point in time, they would be subservient to him.
Genesis 37:5, 7 And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more. For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf.
Jacob sent Joseph to inquire of his other sons, who had originally gone to Shechem with their flocks and decided to proceed onward to Dothan. When his brethren saw him coming, they plotted against him and subsequently sold him to Ishmaelite merchants, who were on their way to the Egyptian market. They, in turn, sold him to Potiphar, who was chief of the state police of Pharaoh. Joseph became his servant.
While performing his duties as a slave, Potiphar’s wife made sexual advances toward him. Spurning her advance time after time, she decided on a particular occasion to have all of the servants leave the house, thus leaving her and Joseph alone. She then made another sexual advance toward him. This time, she grabbed his garment and took it from him. He fled. Being upset that Joseph spurned her advance once again, she made up a story to her husband Potiphar, telling him that Joseph tried to rape her. Joseph was subsequently put in prison.
During his prison stay, two of Pharaoh’s workmen were also cast into prison. One was a baker and the other was a butler. Both had dreamed of a dream and sought an interpreter. Joseph interpreted their dreams. Subsequently, only the butler was reinstated to his position with Pharaoh. When Pharaoh also dreamed dreams, he sought out an interpreter but found none. The butler mentioned Joseph as a possible interpreter of this dream. Joseph was brought before Pharaoh and correctly interpreted his dreams. Pharaoh then set Joseph as food commissioner over all of the land of Egypt.
The interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream indicated that there would be 7 years of plenty, followed by 7 years of famine. During the plentiful years, Joseph stored up a great abundance of corn in the granaries. After 7 years of plenty, the land of Egypt and Canaan were now starving for hunger, because of the famine. After all of the money that the people had was gone, which they had used to purchase corn from Pharaoh, they brought their cattle and herds to him, for which they received bread. When their bread was gone, they gave of themselves and their land to Pharaoh. The people, as the property of Pharaoh, were given seeds to plant crops. The agreement was that they would give “the fifth part” or 20% to him and would keep the remaining 80% for themselves. This 20% was not a tithe.
- Some believe that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was the first tithe because God had set it aside for himself. Genesis 2:15-17
- Abel brought an offering of the firstlings of the flock to God, which was accepted by Him. He rejected Cain’s offering because it was not what he accepted. Some say that the tithe always precedes an offering. The tithe is suggested by some to have already been given as evidenced by the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Some would also suggest that there was another method of giving which was to give that which is first as indicated by Abel’s offering to God of the firstlings (some firstborn lambs) of the flock (sheep). Genesis 4:3-7
- Abram recovers his nephew Lot along with his booty and the booty of the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, which was taken by four Mesopotamian kings. Abram gave a tenth of the spoil to Melchizedek and the remaining spoil to the king of Sodom. This tithe was from the spoils of battle. There is no indication that this tithe was a mandate from God. This could have been simply a cultural practice. Genesis.14:20-24
- Jacob was sent by his father, Isaac, Abraham’s son, to go to Padanaram, to Laban, his mother’s brother, to seek out a wife. Jacob volunteered to tithe to God, based on God allowing him to return home safely at some point in time in the future. Genesis 28:5-22
- The people of Egypt are in the midst of 7 years of famine. Over time, everything they owned, including themselves would be given to Pharaoh in exchange for seeds to plant crops. The agreement was that they would give “the fifth part” or 20% to Pharaoh, and would keep the remaining 80% for themselves. This 20% was not a tithe, but a form of payment. Genesis 37:12-36; Chapters 39-47
So, what do you think about this idea of tithing according to the scriptural sections that are mentioned above?
Does this help us in making a determination as to whether tithing is still for today or not?
Your answer will probably be determined by which Scriptures you use to support your view. Is the foundation of your view taken from verses found in the Old Testament? Is the foundation of your view influenced by verses taken from the age in which you currently live?
What would be the perspective of a dispensationalist with respect to whether the information found in this dispensation could be used to determine whether a Christian should tithe?
If you are a dispensationalist, then you would not use any of the ideas concerning tithing as mentioned above as a basis for instituting or supporting tithing as a practice to be instituted in the Church Age because the idea for giving is determined distinctly in each dispensation. The dispensationalist would also argue that God’s will, plan, and purpose is different for each dispensation. How something was addressed, whether it be sin, or the protocol plan for a believer’s walk with God is not necessarily the same in each dispensation.
What would be the perspective of a dispensationalist in respect to whether the information found in this dispensation could be used to determine whether a Christian should tithe?
If you are a non-dispensationalist, then you would indicate that according to the verses mentioned above, tithing began way back in the book of Genesis with Abram giving a tithe to Melchizedek and is the prelude for the practice of tithing that will be instituted in the future by the Jews during the institution of the Mosaic Law. They will also mention that this practice even occurred during the time when Christ lived on the earth during which time He didn’t object to its practice. Therefore, their conclusion is that tithing should continue to be observed during the Age of the Church.
Some would also suggest that there was another method of giving which was to give that which is first as indicated by Abel’s offering to God the firstlings (some firstborn lambs) of the flock (sheep).
One of the first recollections that I have about the topic of tithing was when I attended church with my parents in my younger years. Every Sunday the priest would pass out envelopes, which were to be used to place money in. The church members were reminded to put their name and address on the front of the envelope. They were not only encouraged to tithe but were told that if they didn’t certain church benefits would not be available to them. As a little kid, I didn’t think much about this, as I wasn’t the one putting the money in the envelope.
Years later, when I was in my twenties, following my conversion to Christ, I began attending a different denomination that advocated tithing. In this case, there was no envelope given to put the money in. Each member was on their honor to tithe their gross income. So I did what was asked and hoped that the money would be used to bless others.
I can honestly say that I didn’t think about the giving of money in this manner as to whether it was biblically founded or not. However, something happened that brought me to an awareness as to what the leadership of the church thought about those members who were considered financially well off. As I attended Sunday service on a consistent basis, I began to meet different members of the church. On one occasion, I was asked if I was interested in attending a social gathering that was going to be held at a couple’s house, who were faithful members of the church.
When I arrived, the place was buzzing with many church regulars. I immediately noticed the area where food was placed for everyone’s enjoyment. I went over to the table and began to fill up my plate with what I would call good quality expensive food. As I was eating a woman came over to me and introduced herself as the owner of the house and was kind enough to take me on a tour of the rooms. As we went from room to room, I was impressed by how beautiful everything was. Time flew by quickly and before I knew it, it was time to leave.
I sought out the owner of the house and thanked her for her hospitality. She responded by saying that all had not gone as planned. I asked her what she meant by this. She said that some of those in leadership were not happy that she and her husband were living in such financial prosperity and that they were asked to consider working less and not making as much money. When I heard this I was shocked. Here were two church members that tithed their income and were faithful in church attendance being reprimanded for making too much money. It was almost as if some of those in leadership were saying that as they had given up material possessions by being in ministry so should the members of the church.
This opened my eyes as to the perception or view held by those in leadership toward money. Maybe I could have understood this mindset better if this couple’s lifestyle was keeping them from attending church service and other related events. But this was not the case. I brought this incident up because it was one of many that I would come in contact with in regard to the requirements of some churches relating to financial giving and a member’s financial status.
1UBS New Testament Handbook Series Pc Study Bible version 5, 2005, 16 September 2003 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
2R.B. Thieme Jr., The Divine Outline of History (Houston, Texas: Berachah Tapes and Publications, 1989).
3R.B. Thieme Jr.
4R.B. Thieme Jr.
5R.B. Thieme Jr.
6R.B. Thieme Jr.
7Carl H. Stevens Jr., Is Tithing For Today? (Baltimore, Md.: Grace Publications, 1999) 7.
8Paul Winslow, Tithing, August 1984, 26 September 2003 ˂http://www.pbc.org/leadership/tithing.html>.
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