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.

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