Study to show thyself – tithes and the brazen serpent

5And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.

6And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.

7Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people.

8And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.

9And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived. (Num 21: 5 – 9)

I am sure you may be wondering what relationship exists between the brazen serpent and tithes, well we will soon find out.

In the above portion of scripture, the children of Israel murmured against God and Moses prompting God to send serpents into their midst. When they repented God asked Moses to make the brazen serpent and lift it up onto a pole so anyone who looks at it shall live and it was so.

The children of Israel must have found it truly amazing and may have begun to think to themselves that the brazen serpent might hold a lot of power. So much so that their descendants began to worship it and burn incense to it.

He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan. 2 Kings 18: 4 .

They may have tried to justify their actions, twisting bits of scriptures to support this abhorrent practice. To the uninformed, they may have produced a good argument –”looking at the serpent saved our ancestors! The serpent definitely possesses divine powers!” That may have been their thinking.

Anytime scriptures are taken completely out of context we would always have occurrences like this. Rather than look to understanding God’s mind for today, we tend build shrines out of past moves of God. Before long, we slip into idolatry holding these past moves above God Himself.

Tithing has become a modern day brazen serpent! No doubt that at the time God commanded it tremendous blessings came to those who obeyed. But today something bigger than that is present – The sacrifice of Jesus! This sacrifice has replaced the need to perform different ceremonial acts to gain God’s favour. You are protected because of the blood, your needs are met because of the blood, you are part of God’s family because of the blood, you receive favour because of the blood and it is something you obtain by grace and not by observing a so called “eternal principle”.

This so called principle has completely taken the place of God in the hearts of many. Those that demand it as a requirement for church membership are in grave error, others that claim that God only prospers you, heal you or meet your needs only when you tithe are guilty of distorting scriptures.

If God made no such assertions in scripture, then am afraid we are burning incense to the brazen serpent if we promote this so called doctrine.

Advertisements

Study to show thyself – Do firstfruits refer to tithes?

There seem to be a bit of confusion as to what firstfruits are. Quite a number of people actually believe it means tithes. This error has given rise to a lot of false teachings surrounding tithes.

What are firstfruits? Some say it is the best and choicest part of what you earn. Others, say it is any increase you have experienced e.g. if you were unemployed and you suddenly got a job that pays you £2000, then the £2000 is said to be your firstfruits.

Can all be the above definitions of firstfruits be found in the bible? The Smith’s bible dictionary gives us the following references:

  1. The law ordered in general that the first of all ripe fruits and of liquors, or, as it is twice expressed, the first of first-fruits, should be offered in God’s house. (Exodus 22:29; 23:19; 34:27) It was an act of allegiance to God as the giver of all. No exact quantity was commanded, but it was left to the spiritual and moral sense of each individual.
  2. On the morrow after the passover sabbath, i.e. on the 16th of Nisan, a sheaf of new corn was to be brought to the priest and waved before the altar, in acknowledgment of the gift of fruitfulness. (Leviticus 2:12; 23:5,6,10,12)
  3. At the expiration of seven weeks from this time, i.e. at the feast of pentecost, an oblation was to be made from the new flour, which were to be waved in like manner with the passover sheaf. (Exodus 34:22; Leviticus 23:15,17; Numbers 28:26)
  4. The feast of ingathering, i.e. the feast of tabernacles, in the seventh month, was itself an acknowledgment of the fruits of the harvest. (Exodus 23:16; 34:22; Leviticus 23:39) These four sorts of offerings were national. Besides them, the two following were of an individual kind.
  5. A cake of the first dough that was baked was to be offered as a heave-offering. (Numbers 15:19,21)
  6. The first-fruits of the land were to be brought in a basket to the holy place of God’s choice, and there presented to the priest, who was to set the basket down before the altar. (26:2-11) The offerings were the perquisite of the priests. (Numbers 18:11; 18:4) Nehemiah, at the return from captivity, took pains to reorganize the offerings of first-fruits of both kinds, and to appoint places to receive them. (Nehemiah 10:35,37; 12:44) An offering of first-fruits is mentioned as an acceptable one to the prophet Elisha. (2 Kings 4:42)

Does any of the above six descriptions of firstfruits marry up with the general belief of many? Definitely not! The firstfruit was not 10%. Firstfruits, like tithe referred only to food items and agricultural produce and never to money. Can any of the six points raised above be applied to money? Hardly! Can we conveniently apply the commonly held belief of it being the choicest and best to money? How can you determine the choicest part of £2000? Are you going to break it down into all the denominations of the British pound and offer the highest? Where would you even begin?

The misconception occurs from the misapplication of Proverbs 3: 9 and we would look at it from the New Living Translation

9 Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce.

10 Then he will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with good wine.

There is no reference to money and tithe was not even hinted (some use this scripture to justify the doctrine of tithing). It referred to agricultural produce.

For today’s believer, firstfruits mean something different – Christ!

But now is Christ risen from the dead, [and] become the firstfruits of them that slept. 1 Cr 15:20

But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. 1 Cr 15: 23

He represents, as the firstfruits, the rest of the believers who shall share in the blessed hope of resurrection. The harvest is ripe, Christ as the firstfruit has been offered up to God and in the fullness of time the rest of the harvest, us as believers, shall be offered up onto God.

Misconceptions in scripture usually arise when people try to bend it to suit their personal beliefs. The truth is revealed in scripture but the personal opinions of man have greatly distorted this, giving rise to a different Gospel.

Because a thing sounds good, doesn’t mean that it is God ordained. Search scriptures properly and let it speak for itself.

Study to show thyself – Personal Gain Christianity

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

And they shall turn away [their] ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

2 Tim 4:3,4

I do apologise well in advance if I sound a bit judgemental with this post but I assure you, that is in no way my intention.

Naturally, I have a very inquisitive mind and because of this I like to know about things and how they work. When I first became a Christian, I was led to believe that being this inquisitive and trying to validate everything taught from the pulpit with God’s word was a sin. So as not to keep ‘sinning’, I accepted everything taught from the pulpit without asking any questions but there were too many inconsistencies. And the time came when I could no longer ignore these inconsistencies and was left quite confused for a period of time before God intervened with the truth of His word.

My past experience made me see that there are some Christians who rather prefer to be lied to than to be told the truth. They would much rather believe the lie that has no scriptural backing just as long as it makes them feel comfortable than believe the truth even when it is presented with overwhelming evidence from scripture. Some are very zealous for God no doubt but this zeal is not at all backed up with knowledge. Others are just simply ignorant and do not know any better.

In the past few days, I have been having a series of conversation with some pro-tithers and discovered something really interesting – a lot of them believe the doctrine because it makes them feel comfortable and not because it can be proven from scripture. It doesn’t matter that the mere logic of the doctrine goes against the very grain of grace which the new testament preaches but they are fine with the twisting and wresting of scriptures by these new age preachers. And instead of adapting to suit the gospel, they adapt the gospel to suit themselves. Was this how it was in the early church? Not at all!

My study of church history made me see how today’s church differs from the early church. People did not become believers because of what they stood to gain. Their faith was not anchored on the false promises of bigger houses, bigger cars, wealth and power. When Peter addressed the crowd on the day of Pentecost, scriptures say they were convicted and asked what they should do and the answer was simple

Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; Acts 3:19.

And the people gave their lives to Christ. There was neither promise of wealth nor promise of physical blessings. Even though a lot of them lost their lives for the sake of the Gospel. In all of this, the church still forged ahead because their love for God was not based on the promise of receiving any physical blessings.

Things changed when the Roman emperor, Constantine became a Christian. Christianity was made the official religion and people were promised white robes and a piece of gold if they joined the church and of course people joined in droves. And the gospel was adapted to suit the pagan practices of the people in a bid to make it more appealing. And it does not appear to have changed much today.

During the reformation, the Protestants left the Catholic Church and more Orthodox Church denominations were formed but still took with them elements of the Catholic Church they protested against.

Over time there was another mass exodus from the orthodox churches when the Pentecostal churches arrived on the scene. These churches were very dynamic and vibrant. They brought with them their own brand of the gospel and for the first time people saw Christianity as means to financial gain. No thanks to the Word of Faith movement! Pure bible doctrine was replaced with personal convictions, personal opinions and personal revelations. And like my brother Lionel at gospelin3d says, many churches nowadays have become more like business enterprises. With every church promoting its own USP.

Sermons are no longer delivered to change lives but are repackaged to appeal to everybody. And just like 2 Timothy 4: 3 says, many people are more interested in hearing fables than endure sound doctrine, so they troop en mass to these churches to hear words that tantalise their ears. Sweet nothings leading nowhere!

Now what do we have? A completely rewritten gospel! A pseudo gospel completely devoid of biblical doctrine but filled with personal opinions.

If they knew the true gospel, why would anybody believe that God is up for sale? Why would you believe that a mere mortal that decides to give God a 10% tithe could control Him? When will we ever learn that we are not the ones in control, God is! That is why there is no power in what is preached today because it is merely enticing words of man’s wisdom.

Com’on, giving tithes and offerings does not change God’s attitude towards you. Attending every church service does not make God love you more than He already does, that is legalism. Who has known the mind of God that he may instruct Him? Why are you trying to justify yourself before God with your works instead of accepting Christ’s justification?

You can never have a successful relationship with anybody by observing a set of rules; God is no different. The bible enjoins us to come boldly into His presence. The sacrifice of Jesus has paved a way for us into the Holy of Holies.

1 Corinthians 13: 1 teaches us to do things out of love and not for personal gain. Do not give offerings with the intention of getting back but give because you love to. Do not attend church services because you have been told an angel moves around distributing blessings to only those who attend but because you love to fellowship with the brethren.

Reject this gospel of personal gain and embrace the gospel of selfless love.

Study to show thyself – Tithing and the parable of the talents

A lot has been written and still is being written on the subject of tithing. For a lot of churches it is a requirement for membership, leadership etc. Meticulous tithe records are kept and those who do not tithe are usually berated and publicly ridiculed.

The promise of the tithe is – tithe and you will always have everything in abundance but when this abundance is not forth coming you are then told that tithing is a form of sacrifice that shows your love for God. In other words if you do not tithe you do not love God. That is blackmail undoubtedly.

The focus of this post is not on the legalities of tithing per say but on how it relates to the parable of the talents.

In Mathew 25: 15 – 30, Jesus tells a parable which He likens to the Kingdom of heaven. This parable was of a man whom before travelling to a far country delivered his goods to his servants; to one he gave five talents, two to another and one to the last, each according to their abilities. On his return, he was pleased that he who was given five had made five more; he who was given two had made two more and was angry with him that was given one and brought it back. How does this relate to tithing you may ask? In more ways than you can imagine. Those that promote the practise of tithing tell you that 10% of what you earn is God’s and the rest of the 90% is yours. How true is this? Quite untrue I dare say. The entire 100% you earn belongs to God and He chose to give it to you to see how good a steward you would be with His money. Do not forget that He is the one that gives you the power to make wealth.

The parable of the talents was all about stewardship. The master was pleased with the servants that multiplied the talents given them but was angry with the servant that gave back what was originally given him. What does this tell us? It tells us that God is more interested in the way you spend the entire 100% than in getting a 10% from you. And because some believers are not disciplined in the way they spend money, they are still broke even though they tithe faithfully.

Let me use this illustration to buttress my point. When I was a lot younger, my dad used to give my siblings and I a weekly pocket allowance. He had taken into consideration the amount of money we would likely need to meet our needs for the week such as money for transportation, mobile phone bills etc. Lets say I decide to show to my dad that I love him so much by giving him back 10% of what he originally gave to me, am sure he will be very pleased. If my dad suddenly discovers that I have been struggling to pay my mobile phone bill and have accumulated a huge debt because the 10% I had given to him made it impossible for me to meet my weekly obligations, do you think he will be pleased? Of course not! He would expect me to show a lot more common sense. Let us also imagine that I am able to use the remaining 90% quite well and begin to indulge myself spending frivolously I do not think my dad would be pleased with that either. Also, if I show great responsibility with the 90% spending wisely my dad would certainly be pleased and could quite likely increase my allowance because he knows I am responsible with money.

Good stewardship is all that God requires. If you are heavily in debt and tithing becomes impossibly, God expects you to show common sense by trying to get yourself out of debt. Tithing while in debt and hoping that God would consider it an act of sacrifice and automatically wipe off all your debts is nothing short of wishful thinking. Why did you get into debt in the first place? In the same vane, tithing when you have not paid your bills too does not show good judgement. These are bills you would still have to pay sooner or later and if you choose to pay later you may end up paying more because you may have accrued charges. Why risk bankruptcy in trying to show that you love God? That would no longer be freedom in Christ but a legalistic bondage.

The book of Proverbs 3: 9 admonishes us to honour God with our wealth in other words let the way we manage all He has blessed us with bring honour to HIM. I don’t think bankruptcy brings Him honour.

If you decide that you would like to give God 10% of your monthly earnings there is nothing wrong with that as long as it is something you can afford. Don’t give him 10% and waste the remaining 90% on bank charges, unpaid bills or wasteful spending, that would be very unprofitable.

Study to show thyself – Tithes and offerings requirements for prosperity

The doctrine of tithes and offerings still remains a very hot topic in today’s church and has gotten even hotter since the onset of the recession. A lot of church assemblies are experiencing a downturn in giving because things are no longer the way they used to be with most of the congregation. A lot of them have lost their jobs and now struggle to make ends meet. Bills are going unpaid and the rates of repossessions have soared with people losing their homes daily. This actually raises a question, “shouldn’t the church be insulated from this?” money

We have been taught that tithing faithfully as well as giving offerings prevents occurrences like this but has that proven to be the case? There has been no discrimination with regards to the effects of this recession both tithers and non-tither alike have been hit. And this poses another question; who lied? God or the pastors? We know from scripture that God’s word always comes to pass. So if God has promised that all who tithe would always experience abundance, then, all faithful tithers would be insulated from the effects of the on-going recession. I am yet to see that happen. And this brings me to one conclusion – pastors have greatly misinformed their congregations.

I have written several pieces on the doctrine of tithing but will turn my attention to the giving of offerings and how it affects today’s church.

The general rule of thumb about offering in today’s church is that it is any amount of money you give in church that is more than your tithe. Plausible but is that the scriptural definition or a man made definition? I will go with the latter, offerings were never described as such in the bible.

Before we examine offering in the New Testament, let us first of all look at it in the Old Testament.

The first record of offerings being presented in scripture is in Gen 4 when Cain and Abel came to present their offerings before God. And God accepted Abel’s offering but rejected Cain’s. A lot has been said about this in a bid to give a plausible explanation. Some have said that Abel brought a tithe while Cain did not; others say that Cain’s offering was rejected because they were the produce of the ground, which was cursed, and Abel’s was accepted because it contained blood. Is there enough scriptural evidence to support either of these theories? I am afraid not. We are told in scripture that no scripture is of private interpretation and out of the mouth of two or three witnesses every word is established. Those explanations have failed on these two counts. The key to understanding what transpired between God and Cain and Abel rests in the Heb 11: 4, let us look at it from the message bible

By an act of faith, Abel brought a better sacrifice to God than Cain. It was what he believed, not what he brought, that made the difference. That’s what God noticed and approved as righteous. After all these centuries, that belief continues to catch our notice.

The above scripture tells us why Abel’s offering was accepted and Cain’s was not, it was the attitude of the givers and not what was offered.

Before God gave the law to Moses, people had been giving offerings to God; these offerings were mainly thanksgiving offerings.

When the law was given, the children of Israel were instructed by God to give different offerings. And some of the offerings are:

  1. Freewill offering
  2. Sin offering
  3. Wave offering
  4. Heave offering
  5. Drink offering
  6. Burnt offering
  7. Atonement offering

These offerings as their names suggest were given at different times and for different reasons. It was a requirement for the children of Israel to be in right standing with God. The book of Hebrews tells us that these offerings brought constant reminders of sin and had to be performed year in year out.

So we can safely say that offerings served redemptive purposes in the Old Testament in one way or another.

In the New Testament, all forms of offerings were abolished because of the sacrifice of Jesus, the eternal offering that was offered once and for all to replace sin offerings, wave offerings, Atonement offerings and all other offerings.

Nowhere in scripture do we see that your offering should be any amount above your tithe. Even this definition itself poses a problem because money was not titheable, tithes were only paid on farm produce.

So are we instructed to give offerings in the new dispensation as a show of our love for God? A resounding no! Are we told that our giving of tithes and offerings insulates us from famines, recessions etc.? Another resounding no!

The early church only made collections to meet the needs of brethren in their midst and this was entirely voluntary. They never mandated brethren to pay tithes or kept any record of such. When it was time to appoint deacons in Act 6, tithing was not used as a criteria instead they looked for men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom. In today’s church, it is quite the contrary – tithing is a requirement for membership in many local assemblies.

A lot of monies collected in today’s church unfortunately, are wasted on the pipe dreams of pastors under the guise of supporting the Gospel. How does buying a private jet aid the spread of the gospel? The book of Acts says that people loved the way the brethren of the early church lived and as such God added to them daily such that should be saved. Many of today’s church buildings are just built to inflate the ego of pastors who love fame more than building the lives of people! It is so wrong and very unbiblical!

Giving in the New Testament should be to meet the need of the brethren and not as a show of love to God or a means of achieving right standing with God. That is legalism. It never promises financial prosperity but only promises that if you are generous to others, you would also enjoy their generousity. In other words, treat others the way you would like to be treated.

So if you are in debt, ask the Lord for guidance on the way out. He could lead you to a good financial adviser, He moves in mysterious ways. Don’t expect that you can give or tithe your way out of it. It is simply a fallacy. Don’t be suckered by these televangelists who promise you the world when you give to them, they are telling lies. God would always take care of His own, tithe or no tithe, offering or no offering.