Giving in the New Testament

The relationship between the Old Testament tithes and offerings and giving in the New Testament remains something that is very poorly taught in much of today’s church.

The potential for error starts with the way the tithes and offerings are viewed; they are both taken completely out of context in today’s church and given completely new meanings and purposes. I have looked at both the tithe and offerings in previous posts and have now decided to link both to giving in the New Testament.

There were numerous kinds of offerings required from those of the Old Testament. These offerings played a part in the redemption plans of God and were types and shadows of better things to come. The offerings were in no way inferior to the tithes and failure to bring both had consequences.

Looking at the offerings on their own and not as part of the law can lead to misleading conclusions as all aspects of the Old Testament law were intrinsically linked and had to be observed in their entirety. Hence Paul stressed that breaking one was akin to breaking all. One of the first offerings given by the Old Testament Jews was the offering of the first born while they were still in Egypt. No non-Jew was allowed to partake or observe this except they had been circumcised. Some offerings like atonement and the offering of the first born were compulsory whilst others were required based on circumstances; trespass offering, guilt offering are some examples.

The importance of both the tithe and offerings was stressed in Malachi 3: 8. God reprimanded the Jews for defrauding Him by not bringing their tithes and offerings. He did not in any way place the tithe over the offering. However, their position in the New Testament was highlighted in the book of Hebrews:

Under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins. Hebrews 10:11

The Old Testament offerings could not take away the sins of those who observed them and had to be done year in year out to be of any value. According to the book of Hebrews this unfortunately brought a constant reminder of sin and the people could not attain perfection.

The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared. Hebrews 10: 1 & 2

And it clearly highlights that the offerings served redemptive purposes. Thankfully, the sacrifice of Jesus spelt an end to all of them and giving offerings unto God is ‘no’ longer required under the new dispensation.

For the New Testament believer our giving is not looked at in terms of tithes or offerings but is considered in terms of what we have and can afford to give.

Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7

And giving to those in need is considered giving to God. Hence our giving in church should always be geared towards meeting the ‘needs’ of others and this Paul likened to the sweet smelling savour of an Old Testament offering.

‘Offering’ time in church should be relabelled ‘giving’ time and should be viewed as an opportunity to contribute towards meeting the needs of others and explained as such. Trying to explain it as the New Testament equivalent of the Old Testament tithes and offerings paints an incorrect picture.

Alas! Here is something I really didn’t understand

I haven’t written anything in about 2 years now and had resolved not to write about the tithe again but a chance encounter made me go back on that.

I have come to realise that I did not have a full understanding of the tithe and my posts did not paint the full picture. Howbeit, I now have a much better understanding.

I had often heard it mentioned that there were 3 tithes required form the Old Testament Jew but I just couldn’t follow the trail in the bible. And I must admit the bible did seem to change the remit of the tithe whenever it was mentioned. But after a careful study, I now know that what I termed as different remits were actually different tithes which had different scopes.

There were 3 different tithes required from the children of Israel; the first, the second and the third tithes.

The first tithe was to be given to the Levites by the remaining 11 tribes after a heave offering had been offered. This was their means of sustenance because they were barred from doing any form of secular work. They in turn gave a tenth of what they received from the other 11 tribes to the priests. This appeared to be practised every year for 6 years within the seven year agricultural cycle (Numbers 18:21-30, Leviticus 27:30-33).

The Second tithe was collected on the first, second, fourth and fifth year of every 7 year agricultural cycle (Deuteronomy 12:11-18, 14:22-29, 26:12). This tithe was usually taken to be consumed at Jerusalem. Those who lived faraway and could not conveniently bring the agricultural produce where allowed to convert it into money. And the only caveat with this was they had to add 25% of its monetary value. They were encouraged to spend the money on anything they liked including wine and strong drink.

The third tithe or poor tithe was collected every 3 years. So in effect it was collected on the third and sixth year of every 7 year agricultural cycle (Deuteronomy 14:28, 26:12).

The seventh year was classed as the year of the Sabbath and no agricultural activity was allowed during this year. No tithes were paid either and people were free to eat everything that grew out of the ground by itself.

Ironically, those who preach and practise the tithe today do not do anything that closely resembles this. Which begs the question, ‘where did they get it from?’ They cannot claim they follow Abraham’s example because his was completely voluntary and was not required as part of God’s covenant with him. It couldn’t have made him wealthy because he was already wealthy. It wasn’t the reason God blessed him because we understand from scripture that God’s covenant with Abraham had nothing to do with him.

The book of Malachi speaks of tithe in the plural and this refers to the 3 different tithes required from the children of Israel. This clearly belonged to the law and is definitely not binding on the New Testament church.

The tithe was not solitary but was part and parcel of the Old Testament law. It had to be practised in conjunction with all the other laws for it to be accepted. Trying to impose tithing today revives the law and brings condemnation. And one then tends to repeat the same mistake of the Galatian church, starting off in the spirit and then trying to achieve perfection by observing part of the law.

My Christian experience – Pt 2

One thing I have discovered in all of this is people’s view on the tithe actually reflects their views on Christianity. Those who promote the tithe doctrine usually have a works approach to Christianity. They usually take a performance based approach to Christianity and often teach things like stewardship, “touch not the Lord’s anointed”, set-man, your pastor is your covering, God has put them over you, if you disagree with them you are disagreeing with God, seed faith, sow money and reap money and so on. I also discovered that their teachings lack depth as all they do is entertain the gullible. The best part of their messages is always “if you want to release your faith and take advantage of God’s word in your life, sow a seed” and people actually believe this and oblige. Well I did too though.

My heart bleeds anytime I encounter people who are currently where I used to be. They exhibit the same ignorance I once did. They argue blindly and are more willing to defend their pastor than God’s word. I feel even worse when I listen to preachers push their personal agenda and preach man-made doctrines instead of God’s word. When will believers wake up? Why do you attribute God-like attributes to your pastor? God alone is infallible and the best of men are still men at their best; no man is infallible.

I still struggle with the relics of my past teachings quite like an ex-junkie would at the sight and thought of drugs and it is really standing in my way of true worship to God. I know that there is no mediator between God and me besides Jesus and I know His sacrifice has paved the way for me to gain access to God’s throne; I still sometimes seek the intervention of a pastor. I know I can pray to God on my own and He’ll hear me, I still find myself seeking prayers from pastors sometimes.

I only share my experience because I wouldn’t want others to go through what I’ve been through and trust me it can be difficult. There are scores of Christians who’ve gone through similar experiences and have ended up agnostics; I struggled with that at a time.

The truth is quite scarce these days and one has to search real hard to find the undiluted word of God. I know it is out there because God will never leave Himself without a witness.

My Christian experience – Pt 1

The current state of today’s church leaves me truly saddened. And I almost regretted ever becoming part of it.

Looking back, I can actually attribute this to the constant diet of falsehood I was fed when I first became a Christian. And as the old saying goes “you are what you eat”, that does ring so true in my case; the falsehood I was taught has really taken root in me has helped shaped my mindset. This makes me so sad.

I become a Christian as a teenager at a time when my peers where into girls, parties and alcohol. And loved God and the things of God and believed everything I was taught from the pulpit. I got the impression that striving for accomplishments was a carnal pursuit and showed that one trusted in one’s own abilities and not in God. Maybe I misunderstood what I was taught but that has in no way lessened the damage it has done to me; I was so laidback and completely lacked any ambition because I believed I was trusting God and exhibiting faith. I ended up losing precious years I will never, ever get back!

Every parent knows that in order to for children to develop properly they need to have a proper foundation and this was what I lacked as a young Christian; the proper spiritual foundation. This unfortunately governed the way I read the bible and interacted with the rest of the world.

When I started writing this blog, I never envisaged I would write so much on tithing. This blog was simply an outlet to vent the growing resentment I was beginning to harbour towards today’s church. But the fact of the matter is this doctrine forms the bedrock of the belief system of many in Christianity. A vast majority of preachers usually tie everything in Christianity to tithing. They tell you of God’s promises then encourage you to tithe in order to receive it. They tell you of God’s provisions then encourage you tithe to in order to receive them. They tell you of heaven and encourage you to tithe in order to get there. For them, the tithe brings everything God together.

I was told from my early days in Christianity that tithing faithfully, giving sacrificially and sowing seeds were guaranteed to bring you financial prosperity. I listened regularly to messages from Kenneth Hagin, K. C. Price and their ilk and lapped up all their testimonies on how these things had worked for them. It never worked for me!

But here is what happened to me instead, I completely ignored common sense and kept on practising these so called teachings because I was told one had to persevere and to give up at the last minute showed fear instead of faith. I wasted my years on stupid doctrines and practises instead of spending time building myself. I should have invested more in my studies, I should have learnt how to invest money and time in “real” investments that would have yielded “real” money. In fact, these teachings made me lazy and I was taken advantage of by many preachers.

They harped on so much on being led by the spirit without even taking the time to teach us what it meant (the probably didn’t know themselves) and left us to interpret its meaning for ourselves. I would be faced with situations where common sense would have been adequate to tackle it; I would instead want to appear spiritual and decide to take a “spiritual” approach by waiting on the “Lord”. This sometimes led me into very difficult situations where I was saved by the grace of God alone.

My world fell apart when I learnt what went on behind closed doors. I couldn’t believe that preachers I held in high esteem where actually weaving deceitful tales in order to take advantage of simple folks like me. It was even worse when I chanced upon teachings by a brother who show me from scripture how most of what I had been taught was so at variance with what was in the bible.

I felt hurt, I felt betrayed, I was confused because this truth had completely shattered my world. Even though the signs were always there that most of what I was taught was false, I was kept in check by the spiritual gagging order “touch not the Lord’s anointed” even though he is wrong. I never received any blessings or financial windfall from tithing and sowing seeds. It was all a waste of money. Had I been more informed, I should have invested the money in something more realistic like real estate, gold, stocks, gas and oil etc. I agree that we are not of this world but while we are still in it we need to be fed, clothed, housed etc. money is required to make it all happen.

For the first time, I learnt to question everything I heard and to go back to check scriptures to see if it was so stated. And I promised myself never to be anyone’s b**ch (please excuse my French) ever again.

Treading a fine line!

9 Then the Devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! 10 For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect and guard you. 11 And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’ 12 Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’ Luke 4

It can be a bit of a challenge to distinguish between exercising faith and testing God. And quite commonplace to hear some mind-blowing testimonies of people who found themselves in situations where they had to exercise very strong faith in the face of severe adversity and came out victorious. But when does it stop being an act of faith and start becoming a test of our dear God?

When Jesus was tempted by the Devil to test God by proving He was the Son of God, His response was to quote Deuteronomy 6: 16. And the context of this verse was Exodus 17 where the children of Israel complained against God because they had no water. In this case, they had already seen the hand of God in their lives but wanted further proof that God was with them and this constituted testing God.

For many believers, there are times when it seems God is no longer with us and we tend to seek some sort of reassurance that we are still God’s. Jesus found Himself in a similar situation in the above verse as He had previously been called the Son of God but here He was suffering from hunger. This, the Devil tried to play to his advantage by asking “are you really sure you are God’s Son?” The temptation would have been present to reassure Himself that God was still with Him by trying to turn the stone to bread or by throwing Himself off the pinnacle. But He knew His relationship with God was not works related and had nothing to do with Him but everything to do with God. He was the only begotten of the Father and this made Him God’s son and God was extremely proud of Him.

We constantly put the Lord to test with many of our actions without actually knowing it. It is not uncommon to see some Christians refuse medication when they have been diagnosed with some kind of treatable illness because they believe taking medicine is denying the faith. They are simply trying to prove God when it is completely unnecessary. God requires no reassurance from us that He is God.

Others still, take some unnecessary risks in the mistaken belief that God is pleased with such recklessness. A good example is the popular word of faith doctrine of releasing your faith through sacrificial giving or tithing to prove God aka Malachi 3: 8.

It is only an unbeliever who requires proof of the existence of God and God is always upset with believers who try to prove His existence in their lives. Our salvation experience is proof enough of God’s abilities.  And the call to prove God through tithing in Malachi 3 was aimed at unbelieving Jews and it truly begins to border on stupidity giving money in the belief it will attract God’s attention. A child does not need to earn his needs from his father as a good father is always attentive to the needs of his son.

In conclusion, Hebrews 11: 6 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God and no mention was made of works or attempts to prove God. And the word translated faith is gotten from the Greek word “Pistis” which means conviction of the truth of anything or conviction that God exists. This is purely a heart thing that does not require any so called acts of faith to bolster it.

Yet another tithe entry

In previous articles, I have addressed different aspects of the biblical tithe. From scripture we understand that the tithe was always THE TENTH (not 10%) of agricultural produce alone. And this still seems to garner a lot of controversy as many still believe that the tenth and 10% mean the same thing.

This confusion stems from the mistaken notion that the tenth means the same thing as one tenth. Although one tenth really does mean 10%. If for example we have 150 people standing in a queue and the tenth person in the queue happens to be African American, are we correct if we say that since he is the tenth he represents 10% of the group? Of course not! He is the tenth because he has 9 people before him and that in no way means he represents 10% of the group. Does the African American also represent one tenth of the group because he is the tenth? Definitely not!

Another aspect of tithing that has been hotly debated is the tithing of money. Many pro-tithers believe the bible commands a tithe of money while others believe money was absent because Israel was an agrarian society so agricultural produce was used as the unit of exchange in a barter system hence a tithe on agricultural produce. The main problem with this reasoning is it is simply not based on scripture. Those who promote this are trying to bend the bible to suit their beliefs.

In Deuteronomy 14, the Lord lists items that can be tithed and money was not mentioned. Titheable items were grains, wine, olive oil and livestock.  If we say money was not included because it was not present, how then do we explain this verse?

11 The Lord said to Moses, 12 When you take a census of the people of Israel, each man is to pay me a price for his life, so that no disaster will come on him while the census is being taken.13 Everyone included in the census must pay the required amount of money, weighed according to the official standard. Everyone must pay this as an offering to me.14 Everyone being counted in the census, that is, every man twenty years old or older, is to pay me this amount.15 The rich man is not to pay more, nor the poor man less, when they pay this amount for their lives.16 Collect this money from the people of Israel and spend it for the upkeep of the Tent of my presence. This tax will be the payment for their lives, and I will remember to protect them. Exodus 30

This command would have been impossible to obey in a barter society. This verse makes it clear that money was widely available and played a vital part in the lives of the Israelites. Here are more references to money in the law

If someone’s bull kills someone else’s bull, the two of them shall sell the live bull and divide the money; they shall also divide up the meat from the dead animal. Exo 21: 35

If you lend money to any of my people who are poor, do not act like a moneylender and require him to pay interest. Exo 22: 25

17 No Israelite, man or woman, is to become a temple prostitute.18 Also, no money earned in this way may be brought into the house of the Lord your God in fulfillment of a vow. The Lord hates temple prostitutes. 19 When you lend money or food or anything else to Israelites, do not charge them interest. Deu 23

The above verses and many more scriptural verses show that money was available and was part of the everyday lives of the Israelites but it clearly was not included as something to tithe.

The command to tithe money is obviously man-made and does not exist in the pages of the bible. Those who have repurposed the biblical tithes to suit their purposes are no different from thieves who take people’s possessions by force. Thieves use dangerous weapons to frighten people into parting with their valuables, a similar tactic employed by these preachers but instead of a knife or gun, scripture taken completely out of context is used to the same effect.

Demanding a tithe could well be illegal!

Came across this post today and it gave me something to think about though.  Enjoy!

Citizens of any given country are bound by the laws of that country and each country has got a system of taxation in place which all its citizens have to abide by. When Israel left Egypt, they left as a nation. And God proceeded to give them the constitution for this new nation in the form of the law. Since there was no separation between church and state, religion played a very important part in their everyday life and it governed how they lived.

Their constitution forbade them from intermarrying with certain tribes, prohibited them from working on the Sabbath day and also governed the way slaves and fellow citizens were treated. Since Israel was a theocracy, God was their king and it is the right of every ruler to establish the constitution of the country he governs.

http://fullyliberated.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/demanding-tithe-could-well-be-illegal.html

Why do you tithe?

It’s funny how believers today have become divided on extremely trivial issues. We do not seem to learn from history and keep repeating the same mistakes of the past.

Doctrinal differences led to the reformation which unfortunately has not solved any of these issues as those who belong to these reformed churches are still as divided as ever. Some believe this and others believe that with both parties not being able to see eye to eye.

I have always been forthright on my views on the tithe and believe strongly that nowhere in the bible is the New Testament church given the command to tithe. But my views are completely irrelevant as it is God’s views that are all important.

Salvation is a personal thing and at the end of the day, we all are going to stand as individuals before God’s throne and be judged. It wouldn’t matter then if you were led astray by some preacher or deceived by your church leader because the Lord expects you to have a personal relationship with Him and be able to discern and know His voice.

If as a believer you are constantly being deceived and never realising until it is quite late, I believe you should check your relationship with God. Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice and the voice of a stranger, they will not hear. Not being able to discern God’s voice and being easily taken in by “cunningly devised fables” are definitely signs of extreme immaturity. And the heir who is still a child is no different from a servant and the problem with being a servant is you cannot partake of the inheritance of the sons, as a servant cannot abide continuously in the house of his master.

You are responsible for your own salvation and the bible enjoins us to work it out with fear and trembling. If your decision to tithe or not as the case may be is as a result of external influence,   you are yet to grow into maturity and would definitely be swayed by every wind of doctrine.

Check yourself; is your decision to tithe based on the message of fear from your pastor? Or is it based on the promise of unimaginable wealth? If given the chance to stop tithing, would you consider it a huge relief? Do you feel burdened by the practise but keep trying to justify it to yourself?

On the other hand are you overjoyed at being told you do not have to tithe anymore? Are you basing your decision to stop tithing on a rather convincing argument? If so, you will definitely find yourself tithing again when someone else presents a seemingly stronger argument in support of the doctrine. And that hardly shows maturity.

The onus is not on any preacher or any one for that matter to convince you to tithe or not rather it is on you to search scriptures to know God’s mind on the matter.

Generosity is not relative to 10%!

There was an old system in chemistry that was used to determine the weight of atoms. The weights of atoms were basically calculated relative to hydrogen, the lightest atom with a weight of 1.00. Thus nitrogen which was six times the weight of hydrogen had the weight of 6.00. This system has since been replaced though.

Generosity on the other hand cannot be determined through relativity to a standard measurement of 10% as no such standard exists anywhere even in the bible! Generosity is an individual thing!

Some misguided overzealous individuals propagate the so-called 10% as a standard for generosity and claim that this has been set by God. So as far as they are concerned, anyone who fails to give up to 10% of what they earn is not being generous. These people fail to consider the dynamic nature of human beings and the world we live in.

The Old Testament tithes cannot be used to measure generosity as this was a system of taxation which was compulsory. And as with every system of taxation, there were guidelines. I will use the system of taxation in the UK as an example.

In the UK, there is a certain percentage of one’s earnings that is tax free, anything beyond this is taxed. This same system was evident in the tithe-tax system of the Old Testament – agricultural produce had to be up to ten before one could tithe. So 9 sheep, no tithe but 10 sheep, the tenth was the tithe. This was not 10% neither was it held up as some sort of generosity standard for both the Old and New Testament.

Generosity is determined in relation to what one has and not what one does not have. In effect, giving just 10% of what I earn when I can give much more does not show generosity on my part. And on the other hand if all I can afford comes to less than 10% of what I earn but is a huge sacrifice on my part, I can be called generous. I don’t have to give to the extent of being destitute in order to please God and be called generous!

A legalistic approach Christianity is to blame for this mess. Man-made standards for determining those who are good Christians have been set up. Some introduce dress codes, others use commitment to the local church and yet others have added a 10% rule which is completely absent in the bible as a standard of generosity, setting the tone for legalism. Those who genuine cannot afford to give up to 10% are left feeling guilty while those who give 10% feel superior and self-righteous, a bit like the Pharisee in the book of Luke.

Generosity is not relative to 10% as there will always be people who can give way more than that and people who can give way less. At the end of the day though man is not the judge, God is and He alone knows the hearts of people and rewards everyone accordingly.

Update
I only just realised I missed out the most important part of generosity – its definition.

I quickly did a search on Google and came up with this definition on Wikipedia – “Generosity is the habit of giving freely without expecting anything in return. It can involve offering time, assets or talents to aid someone in need. Often equated with charity as a virtue, generosity is widely accepted in society as a desirable trait.”

In the light of this definition, it will appear that many Christians who give including those who tithe religiously are not at all generous! This is because of their give to receive mindset.

That hardly qualifies as generosity!

Does God truly require the New Testament church to give beyond the Old Testament tithe?

There is the general belief in some Christian quarters that Jesus raised the bar or increased the standard for the New Testament believer. This belief is fuelled by Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5

27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. Matthew 5

This is quite commonly used as proof that God instituted the “tithe” as the starting point of giving because Jesus’ above statement seems to raise the game a little bit. But the problem is, this statement was made before the church came into existence. His audience was always the Jews. Anytime He spoke to the gentiles, He always reminded them that their time had not yet come even though He did some miracles in their midst. This was simply because the law still existed and it alienated the gentiles from the commonwealth of God as Jesus had not yet gone to the cross.

The shedding of His blood promptly made way for the gentiles to be partakers of salvation and thus the church was born. All of this was in line with Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5

17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

Therefore the standard of the New Testament believer is not the Old Testament law. Whatever was required from those of the Old Testament is of no relevance to the New Testament because Jesus fulfilled every requirement of the Old Testament on behalf of the New Testament church. We are no longer required to observe all 613 laws of the Old Testament because they were all fulfilled on our behalf by Jesus Christ.

The standard of the New Testament church is the Holy Spirit and scripture makes it crystal clear that those who are sons of God are led by His Spirit. The Holy Spirit helps us live right, He helps us know and obey God’s will. When it comes to giving, God has not instituted the Old Testament tithe as the guide or “training wheels” for the New Testament church; He gave us the Holy Spirit in its stead.

Those who proclaim that God requires the New Testament church to give beyond the Old Testament tithe are definitely not speaking for God. As this is not taught anywhere in scripture.

Previous Older Entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.