PART 8 CHURCH TEACHINGS
PART 8 CHURCH TEACHINGS
TO LEARN ABOUT THOSE DOCTRINES THAT ARE CONSIDERED DISPUTABLE
C.IS A BELIEVER OBLIGATED TO TITHE?
This could be the most disputable doctrine of them all. As the title suggests, this has to do with the financial giving known as tithing. The perspective of such usually reflects what verse or verses were used to support it. I have been in churches where the tithes were commanded and placed in an offering bucket as it was passed around. I have been in churches where the tithes were commanded, brought up to the front of the church by the givers, and were placed in a container. I have been in churches where the tithes were commanded, put in an envelope, and collected. I have been in churches where a basket was passed around, and the believers were asked to give freely. Lastly, I have been in churches where no offering was taken, but rather containers were placed along the front entrance of the church so that after the worship service was over, the assembly could put whatever they wanted to contribute into these receptacles on their way out.
Are you ready to take a look at why tithing is supported by so many churches and what the alternate scriptural view is to this financial approach?
THE NON-DISPENSATIONAL APPROACH
A Christian is commanded to tithe financially.
Before we begin, we should know what a tithe means. The word tithe means “a tenth”; to give ten percent of what one owns or receives for one’s labors. Under the Old Testament economy, this was the tenth part of agricultural produce or the tenth animal that passed under the rod. The Hebrew word is Maa′ser, meaning the tenth or tenth part, and the Greek word is apodekatoo, meaning a payment, giving, or receiving of the tenth.
Let’s begin by going to the book of Genesis.
And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.
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 accordingly by His guidance to a particular land area that he and his descendants would receive for an inheritance. Accompanying him would be his family, along with his nephew Lot. What God also promised Abram was that He would make of him a great nation, which indicated that he would eventually have a son.
Unfortunately, as time went on, Lot and Abram’s households had to separate because the land which they were sharing was unable to support both them and their flocks. After their separation, Abram heard that four Mesopotamian kings had invaded the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah where His nephew Lot decided to live, not only stealing all of the goods of these cities but also kidnapping Lot and his family along with all that they owned.
Abram and his armed servants decided to intervene and attack these kings, thus recovering Lot and all of the bounty. When he returned from the victorious campaign, the king of Sodom came out to meet up with him along with a priest named Melchizedek. Abram decided to give a tenth of the spoils to Melchizedek and the remaining amount to the king of Sodom.
Many churches would claim that this tithe was a type of tithe that would be commanded under the institution of the Mosaic Law during the Age of Israel.
The Scripture that we’ll look at next is probably the most used verse to support tithing as the means of giving for the New Testament saint. This verse is found in the book of Malachi.
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
Upon the return of the Jews from their captivity in Babylon in approximately 516 BC, they worked on reconstructing the temple at Jerusalem until it was eventually rebuilt (second temple). Unfortunately, the people decided not to support those who were to minister in the temple, i.e., the Levites, the priests, and the high priest, by providing them with the necessary agricultural tithes and firstfruits (of the first part of the produce of the land, e.g., barley, wheat, etc.). Because of this decision, the nation was under an agricultural curse by the Lord.
The penalties for disobedience … [included] drought and insect pests, with the consequent poor harvests.76 The Lord said that because the people did not render tithes and offerings to the Levites, that He Himself suffered fraud. His ministers, constrained by hunger and penury, deserted the temple.77 In connection with this, a national degeneracy occurred. What was considered evil was thought of as good, and what was good was thought of as evil.
However, the Lord didn’t leave them hopeless. He gave them an opportunity to come out from the consequences of their poor decisions. He said that if they would bring their tithes of corn, new wine, and oil into the storehouse (a special room or rooms in the temple for keeping tithed grain78), then He would open … the windows of heaven (provide adequate rainfall) and pour … out upon them (holding back nothing) a blessing (agricultural success or prosperity; a good reputation among all the nations79).
Malachi 3:11 And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts.
He would also not cause the fruits of the ground to be destroyed (by locusts; by worms).
Likewise, it’s reasoned that if a New Testament believer tithes, then God would pour upon them a financial blessing. And vice versa, if they didn’t tithe, they would be cursed financially.
Another verse that we’ll look at next, they would say supports adherence to the commands of the Law. Included in this respect is tithing. This is found in the book of 1 Timothy.
1 Timothy 1:8
But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully;
The Law, the law of Moses, is good (holy) if it’s used lawfully (as it should be used). How should it be used? It should be used as a valid guide for conduct that is morally and ethically acceptable.80 As for what is considered morally acceptable, all one has to do is read and abide by what is written in the Ten Commandments (e.g., thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not covet, etc.).
And as for conduct that is considered ethically acceptable, we need to know what the word ethically means. This word means to be in accordance with the rules or standards for right … practice.81 There were many rules for right practice given by God to Moses, such as those pertaining to civil government, those pertaining to the commemoration of certain events, and those pertaining to the spiritual code, i.e., the tabernacle, the holy days, the offerings, the tithe, etc. One of these right practices was tithing.
In this sense, a Christian should abide by the ethically acceptable practice of the Law called tithing.
THE DISPENSATIONAL APPROACH
Tithing is not the form of giving financially for the New Testament believer.
Where we’ll begin in addressing this type of support is found in the book of Galatians.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
Did you know that giving financially is one of the fruits of the Spirit called goodness? This grace, like each of the others, needs to be cultivated according to a process known as sanctification. One of the meanings of the word goodness, according to Koine Greek, is gracious giving, virtue in giving.
Another characteristic of giving graciously is found in the book of 2 Corinthians.
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.
Scripture teaches us that we, Christians, are to give as we purposeth (the consent of free choice with proper motivation) in our heart (our mind), not grudgingly (not with regret; not as if he were constrained to do a thing that was extremely painful to him82), or of necessity (not imposed by duty, or coercion; not what springs from the influence of others; giving with no strings attached), for God loveth a cheerful giver (joyful willingness).
What this is actually saying to us is that we should give with proper motivation. What is proper motivation? Is it motivation that is based on being obedient to the commands of leadership? No, proper motivation means to be under the rule of the Spirit, under His leading and guiding, or under His promptings.
Let’s take another look at the admonition some believe that the tenants of the Mosaic law are good for a Christian to obey from the book of 1 Timothy.
1 Timothy 3:8-9
8 But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully;
The Law, the law of Moses, is good (holy), if it’s used lawfully (as it should be used). How should it be used? The law indicates what constitutes sinful behavior and the related consequences. And it can reveal to us in the Church Age what actions are still considered sinful.
However, we have to be careful with this declaration because some of the prohibitions that were given to the Jews under the Old Covenant are no longer pertinent for the New Testament believer. One of such is observing the weekly Sabbath. Likewise, there were certain overt sins whose penalty was death. One of such was adultery. While this is still considered sinful behavior today, the liability for such is no longer in effect.
9 Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,
Furthermore, the law is not made for a righteous man. In other words, the Law was not made for someone who had already recognized his/her sin and turned to Christ. That person is no longer under the Law but should now walk in the Spirit [(Galatians 5:13-26)]. The Law is intended for those who remain unconvinced of their sin.83 For us, Christians, who have a right relationship with God, we’re no longer under the law (a schoolmaster).
What this is telling us is that there are no commands of the Law that can provide justification for the unbeliever or sanctification for the believer. And thus, there is no keeping or observance of any of them that will cause us to grow spiritually and please God. Therefore, the protocol for financial giving in the New Testament is not tithing but giving graciously under the rule of the Spirit.
We have one more section of Scriptures to look at. Please go to the book of 1 Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 16:1-3
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem.
The Christians in the Jerusalem assembly needed financial assistance because of intense persecution and financial distress. The Apostle Paul instructed the Corinthian believers to set aside money at home for their benefit on the first day of each week, the day of the Lord’s resurrection, the day following the seventh day Sabbath when church meetings were held in Corinth and Galatia. This suggests to me that this money, when given, would be designated for this relief.
Some commentators believe that this money might have been placed in what was called a Poor’s box or alms purse, which was the same type of container as the one the Jews used in their synagogue. It was a regular custom among the Jews to make collections for the poor. However, this was done by them on the seventh day of the week, on the weekly Sabbath.
Each member of the church was encouraged to lay aside finances at home to be given on the first day of each week as God had prospered (in keeping with one’s income; to designate a certain portion as determined by oneself) until Paul personally arrived and visited them. At which time, these free-will offerings that have already been given would be collected and brought to the Jerusalem church to help their fellow believers in this regard.
So, whether leadership believes in tithing or not, as long as they are continuing to provide unmovable, informative, and transformational teachings, the assembly of believers, will be equipped to grow to spiritual maturity. Over time, this subject, like many of the other disputable teachings, will be unveiled to leadership and/or each believer by the Holy Spirit, and hopefully, when it is, it will either reaffirm the belief about this subject conveyed by church leadership or it will bring about a different way to look at it.
Before we take a look at the final disputable doctrine, I would like to leave you with an informative article from the internet on the subject of tithing and giving cheerfully.
DO CHRISTIANS HAVE TO TITHE?
No one wants to give up hard-earned money. Do we have to tithe?
With the price of everything else going up these days, aren’t you glad the Lord hasn’t increased the tithe to [fifteen] percent? -- Unknown
Tithing is a controversial subject; some even consider it a debate.84 You may wonder why this debate exists—even among those who consider the Bible to be the source of and guide to God’s truth.
The issue gets more confusing within Christianity specifically. For some Christians, giving [ten] percent to God is a [non-negotiable] duty. For [others,] it was a rule only for the Israelites; though recommended, [it’s] not required.
To tithe or not to tithe? That is the question.
TITHING IN THE BIBLE
Tithing is discussed in both testaments of the Bible. There’s no question that [it’s] a biblical directive in the Hebrew Bible—what Christians refer to as the Old Testament (OT). Israelites tithed in part to provide for their priests, but did this command carry over to the New Testament churches?
There may always be opposing answers to this question due to different views on how to read the Bible. But perhaps it will help to think about relevant verses in light of their historical contexts and spiritual or theological implications.
While traditional translations use the word “tithe,” many current versions prefer the word “tenth” (that a tithe is [ten] percent is usually unquestioned).85 Since three different tithes may be observed in the OT, this system of giving may have come to 23.3 percent or more.86 However, this has not been proven to the satisfaction of most.
OLD TESTAMENT TEXTS ABOUT TITHING
[So,] where exactly does the Bible mention tithing? The word occurs just over thirty times in the Old Testament but only eight times in the New Testament.87 With a few exceptions, the OT verses deal with tithing as a religious regulation for the Hebrew nation. Tithes and offerings of animals, possessions, and produce were sacrificed to God’s service and used to provide for those ministering in the [temple].
[The text indicates] that, whatever the details of the tithe amount, God thought it wise to supply the needs of the religious establishment through regular and regulated giving.
The OT passages most used to teach tithing as a Christian duty are 1) Genesis 14, which describes Abram paying a tithe to King Melchizedek,88 and 2) the comments made by the prophet Malachi in chapter 3 of his book.89
Abram’s Tithe [to] Melchizedek
The fact that Abram’s tithe took place before the Law of Moses was given has led some to conclude that tithing is not just for Jews.90 That is, the Jewish religion did not exist (as a religion) until its regulations were later revealed to and through Moses, as recorded in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. As such, some believe that Abram’s action is an example to all who believe in the Bible, not just those of [the] Jewish faith.
However, the tithe Abram paid was of the spoils of war to Melchizedek, the king of Salem (who actually tried to return some of the gifts), not to God. One might conclude, therefore, that this incident in Abram’s life is not directly applicable to the question of tithing as a religious duty.
The prophet Malachi told disobedient Hebrews that they could repent and return to God’s favor by restoring the practice of giving tithes and offerings. God promised that if they did, he would make them productive agriculturally and protect them from pests that could destroy their crops. Malachi required tithes (plural) plus offerings—indicating that perhaps the [ten] percent was not enough.
NEW TESTAMENT TEXTS ON GIVING
The tithing debate exists in part due to differences in beliefs about how applicable these Old Covenant admonitions are to the Christian church.
Tithing is, seemingly, neither strictly enforced nor forbidden in the New Testament (NT). The NT, however, does have some other directives about how Christians should use their wealth and possessions in regard to church and society.
What is said connects most closely to the last note we made about Malachi’s comments: Be generous. Go the extra mile. In fact, the first churches willingly sold their possessions to make sure everyone’s needs were met.91
Some of the NT exhortations regarding giving may even seem a little extreme to us. Jesus said to give to anyone who asks, at no charge—give freely.92 He instructed his followers, “Do to others as you would have them to do for you.”93 He told a rich person to sell everything he owned and give it to the poor in order to gain heavenly riches.94
Interestingly—perhaps tellingly—the New Testament hardly mentions actual tithing. Two of the [times,] it does are contained within the same account. Jesus commends the Pharisees (members of a Jewish sect known for strict observance of the [Law]) for [tithing] but condemns them for neglecting more important matters like mercy and justice.95
As Jews who adhered closely to the letter of the OT law, tithing would naturally be required of the Pharisees. Such texts, therefore, [don’t] necessarily help Christians with the question of tithing.96
The Book of Hebrews
Now let’s take a look at the book of Hebrews. Hebrews mentions Melchizedek in three chapters. The character of Melchizedek has intrigued theologians and Bible scholars for centuries. The exact details about who he was [remained] uncertain. However, in [Hebrews, we’re] told that Melchizedek was not only the king of Salem but also a “priest of God Most High.”97
The author of Hebrews uses Melchizedek to illustrate Jesus’ priesthood as distinct from that of the Levite priests.98 Melchizedek’s name (meaning “my king is righteous”) and title point to Jesus as a king of peace and righteousness.99 Melchizedek is viewed as a picture of the future Son of God. (King David was connected to Melchizedek’s perpetual priesthood in [Psalm 110:4,100] and [it’s] accepted that the messiah is a descendant of David.101)
Hebrews focuses on Jesus being the source of forgiveness for disobedience, the perfection of the priesthood, and the hope of nearness to God.102 In chapter [7,] the paying of the tithe is mentioned several times.103 Hebrews 7:4 says, “Just think how great [Melchizedek] was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder!” Some consider Jesus’ comparison to—and elevation above—Melchizedek a basis for giving at least one-tenth. If Abraham gave Melchizedek [ten] percent, how much more does Jesus—the Son of God—deserve?
This view is based on Melchizedek being a type of Christ—“type” meaning an earlier individual or event that mirrors a characteristic or some conduct of the promised Christ or his [church]. But others disagree, saying that Abram’s interaction with Melchizedek is not about tithing in terms of ministry support by the confessing community.
THE BIBLICAL BOTTOM LINE ON TITHING
All that has been said above suggests Christians are expected never to give begrudgingly or mechanically. The “tenth” in both the Old Testament and the New Testament is a minimal foundation for giving, all things being equal. Giving tithes and [free-will] offerings fits both the OT and NT commands and comments.
Some who resist a rigid rule for tithing do so out of fear that it will lead to an attitude that [ninety] percent of our money and possessions [belong] to us, not God.104 While technically this is true, theologically, it’s not.
Both Old and New Testaments recognize God as the actual [owner] of the entire material world; people are his stewards and managers.105 This explains why the Old Testament mentions both tithes and additional offerings and the New Testament emphasizes sacrificial generosity.106
The tenth is the least in principle, while more is expected in practice. The percentage (and the attitude) is more important than the amount.107 This has led many to conclude that the Bible teaches us to give in proportion to God’s blessing.108
There is no allowance anywhere in the Bible for someone to use his or her remaining possessions in a greedy, wasteful, or materialistic manner. Whatever amount is given to the church, it should be done with joy and generosity.
All Christians are in agreement on one main point found within 2 Corinthians. Paul instructs Christians to give no more than can be given cheerfully—and never out of a sense of obligation. “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”109
The New Testament teaching seems to raise the bar in many ways. A specified minimal percentage for every person was not established. Rather, as persecuted, poor, and powerless people, early believers were called to follow Jesus’ example and exhortations—just as we now are called to do.
We’re to give freely, generously, and gladly according to needs. A right attitude, not a rigid amount, is the barometer to correct giving to God. If this proper perspective is in place, the proportion will take care of itself. 110
There we have it. As we can clearly see, these topics are disputable from church to church. We have one more disputable doctrine to look at. After thinking about it, I would suggest that this one is probably the most misunderstood. Do you have any guesses as to what this subject is all about? Let’s proceed to the next chapter and be surprised.
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76UBS Old Testament Handbook Series Pc Study Bible version 5, 2005, 18 March 2020
78Bible Knowledge Commentary/Old Testament, 2000, 19 March 2020
79Bible Knowledge Commentary/Old Testament.
80UBS New Testament.
83Bible Knowledge Commentary/Old Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries; Bible Knowledge Commentary/New Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries. All rights reserved.
84Unfortunately the most popular books on tithing are more sentimental than academic. Many books treat tithing more as a miracle or a method of getting a guaranteed payback from God rather than a measured discipline. See, for example, Mark Victor Hansen, The Miracle of Tithing: A Little Book of Answers to Questions about Tithing (Newport Beach, CA: Mark Victor Hansen & Associates, 1983). A good, balanced counterpoint study is David A. Croteau, ed., Perspectives on Tithing: Four Views, (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2011).
85Compare, for example, the King James Version and the New International Version.
86See C. G. Tuland, “The Three Tithes of the Old Testament,” Ministry International Journal for Pastors (September 1958), available at https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/1958/09/the-three-tithes-of-the-old-testament. See also Brian Anderson, “Old Testament Tithing vs. New Testament Giving,” Milpitas Bible Fellowship, http://www.solidrock.net/library/anderson/sermons/ot.tithing.vs.nt.giving.php.
See also William H. Hohmann, “Tithing: What Scripture Reveals,” Life Assurance Ministries, http://www.lifeassuranceministries.com/pdf%20files/TITHING--%20WHAT%20SCRIPTURE%20REVEALS.pdf.
87Statistics based on a word search in Accordance Bible Software for Macintosh, version 10.4.2 © OakTree Software, 2014.
88The Holy Bible, New International Version © 2011, Genesis 14:20. The verse reads, “‘And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.’ Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.”
89See The Holy Bible, Malachi 3:8, 10. Some commentators also mention The Holy Bible, Amos 4:4. However, Amos’s statement was sarcastic. Amos said this to those who were performing religious duties with only a mechanical sense of ritual rather than a proper attitude of sacrificial love and gratitude.
90The Mosaic Law encompasses the moral, civil, and ceremonial laws given by God to Moses in order to govern the Jewish people as a spiritual and physical nation.
91See The Holy Bible, Acts 2:45.
92Ibid., Matthew 5:42, Matthew 10:8.
93Ibid., Luke 6:31. Luke 6:31 reads, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Compare this to Leviticus 19:18: “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.”
94See The Holy Bible, Matthew 19:21.
95The same can be said about the verse recording the prideful prayer of a Pharisee, in which he publicly boasts of his consistent commitment to fasting and tithing. See The Holy Bible, Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42.
96See The Holy Bible, Luke 18:12.
97The Holy Bible, Hebrews 7:1.
98See The Holy Bible, Hebrews 5:6, 10; 6:20; and 7:1, 10, 11, 15, 17. These passages in part also cite Psalm 110:4, where David speaks of his Lord (whom many see as pointing to the Messianic or Christ King) as a priest in the order of Melchizedek.
99Ibid., Hebrews 7:2b.
100The Holy Bible, Psalm 110:4 reads, “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.’”
101See The Holy Bible, Romans 1:3.
102Ibid., Hebrews 5:7–10; 6:9–20; and 7:11–28.
103Ibid., Hebrews 7:2, 4–6, 8–9.
104See, for example, John Piper’s concerns over tithing as biblical yet not just 10 percent. John Piper, “Toward the Tithe and Beyond: How God Funds His Work,” Desiring God, September 10, 1995, http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/toward-the-tithe-and-beyond. Compare to the related audio session Tony Reinke and John Piper, “Is Tithing Commanded for Christians?” Desiring God, September 27, 2013, http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/is-tithing-commanded-for-christians.
105See, for example, The Holy Bible, Genesis 1:26–28; Job 41:11; Psalm 24:1, 115:16; Luke 14:33; 1 Corinthians 10:26; Galatians 5:24; and 1 Peter 2:9.
106See, for example, The Holy Bible, Deuteronomy 12:6, 11; 14:28 (some would note the plurality of tithes); Malachi 3:8; Matthew 5:42; 19:21 (but Jesus did not approve of what was said in Matthew 26:9); Luke 6:30; 11:41; 12:33, 48; Acts 10:2; Romans 15:26; and 2 Corinthians 8:1–10 (but compare 1 Corinthians 13:3).
107Jesus told a story about a poor widow who gave all she had, which amounted to less than a penny. She was commended above the rich people, who gave much more but without a mind-set of sacrifice. See The Holy Bible, Luke 21:1–4.
108Moreover, Christians are obligated to give both the government and God their due. When some Jewish religious leaders asked Jesus about taxes, he told them to “give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” The Holy Bible, Luke 20:25. See also Romans 13:6.
109The Holy Bible, 2 Corinthians 9:7.
110Creig Marlowe. “DO CHRISTIANS HAVE TO TITHE?” explore God 21 April 2020