This is the fifth part of our series on tithe. If you missed Parts 1-4 please click here. In Parts 1-4 we established the origin of tithing and its progression – the Abrahamic conception and Jacobian extension. We also saw the incorporation of tithe into the Law of Moses as a citizen duty in a theocratic state. Then we distinguished tithe from firstfruit and gained an understanding of firstfruit in the New Testament. Today we begin the knowledge exploration of tithe in the New Testament dispensation. Is it still relevant? We shall continue with the tradition of comprehensive scholarship so we’re thoroughly equipped with understanding.
The history laid out in scriptures can be broadly partitioned into five eras: a). The Pre-Law Era – from Adam to the genealogies of Abraham up to the giving of the Law. b). The Law Era including the Prophets – from Moses; covers the remaining swath of the Old Testament. c). The Era of Transition between the Old and New Testaments – essentially the period of earthly ministry of Jesus. d). The Grace Era – the era of the Church from Pentecost till date. e). The Apocalyptic Era documented in Revelation, Daniel, etc; but that is not within our contemplation.
Tithing began in the Pre-Law Era, was incorporated into the Law Era and carried on in the Transition Era. The protagonist in the Transition Era is of course Jesus the Christ. With his arms outstretched on the cross to the past and the future his body was the intersection between old and new. He would teach on the deeper aspects of tithing under the Law, he being the Law Giver. (Isaiah 33:22). It was through him we learnt the substrate of tithing under the Law of Moses, about which we shall soon alight. But he said emphatically that he did not come to abrogate the Law but to fulfill it: “Think not that I have come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one little title shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Matthew 5:17. What does he mean? Is the Law of Moses therefore still operative? Is tithing under the Law still applicable?
We discover the meaning of the words of Jesus when he appeared to his disciples post-resurrection pre-ascension: “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms concerning me.” Luke 24:44. In other words, what Jesus meant by fulfilling the Law was the fulfillment of all texts concerning him. Everything written in the Law and the Prophets concerning the Messiah MUST come to pass. It’s why Jesus said, “If you really believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me” (John. 5:46). It’s why Jesus was born of virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14) in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), why he was taken to Egypt (Hosea11:1).
Jesus fulfilled 354 precise prophecies ranging from his birth, to his death, to the amount paid for his betrayal. Peter also bore witness in Acts 10:43: “He is the one all the prophets testified about.” As it turns out, Jesus was teaching his disciples how to interpret scriptures when he spoke of fulfilling the law. The next verse after his statement went as follows: “He went on to open their understanding of the word of God, showing them HOW to read their Bibles THIS WAY.” Luke 24:45 MSG. He taught them HOW to understand the types and shadows of the Old Testament, to interpret scriptures. ‘He said, “You can see now how it is written that the Messiah suffers, rises from the dead on the third day…” This understanding Paul had in great measure being a former Pharisee, well schooled in Jewish law. God gave Paul special understanding. Concerning Paul’s technical competence in scriptures Peter wrote: “This is what our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him – speaking of these things in all of his letters. Some of his comments are hard to understand, and those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters to mean something quite different, just as they do with other parts of scripture. And this will result in their destruction. 2 Peter 3:15-16.
This technical appreciation of scriptures has grown into what is now known as systemic theology. Systemic theology is a coherent, scholastic presentation of scriptures. These are the subjects of study: Paterology (study of God the Father), Bibliology (study of the Bible), Christology (study of the Christ), Pneumatology (study of the Holy Spirit), Soteriology (study of salvation), Demonology (study of demons), Theological Anthropology (study of the nature of humanity), Hamartiology (study of sin), Angelology (study of angels), Ecclesiology (study of the Church), Eschatology (study of end times). A pastor must be grounded in systemic theology and a Christian must be cognized with the fundamentals of his faith.
Referencing the words of Jesus concerning fulfilling the Law, Paul wrote: “For Christ is the end of the Law [the limit at which it ceases to be, for the Law leads up to Him Who is the fulfillment of its TYPES, and in Him the purpose which it was designed to accomplish is fulfilled… That is, the purpose of the Law is fulfilled in Him]…” (Romans 10:4 AMP). Because we’re not under the Law the obligations and curses of the Law do not bind us. (Romans 6:14-15). Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us. (Galatians 3:13).
Jesus taught about tithing twice in scriptures, though one incident was recorded twice, hence the three passages in scriptures concerning the teaching of Jesus on tithing. He taught Tithing under the Law. His teaching was consistent with his general approach to teaching the Law – going to the very essence of the Law. For example, he gave us the grundnorm of the Law when asked which commandment is most important. Apparently the information was tucked in the Law itself, in Deuteronomy 6:5. Jesus quoted it: “’Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commandments are PEGS; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” (Matthew 22:37-40 MSG). This fundamentalist approach informed his words when he admonished the Pharisees on tithing as follows: “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you’re careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law – justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.” Matthew 23:23. In other words, there is a substratum to the Law of Moses, the very basis of the Law, the pegs on which the laws hang – The Bible calls these, “weightier matters of the Law” (KJV), “absolute basics” (MSG), “more important things” (NLT).
It is the invocation of a “weightier matter of the Law” (mercy) that made Jesus forgive the woman caught in adultery. He didn’t abrogate the Law on adultery. He just invoked a “weightier matter of the Law” – the prerogative of mercy! If Christians understand this simple principle, there’ll be less condemnation and less judgment. The weightier matter of the Law (mercy) will become the foundation of the New Testament. It became known as grace. Luke also wrote about the same event at which Jesus remonstrated the Pharisees: “You keep meticulous account books, tithing every nickel and dime you get, but manage to find loopholes for getting around basic matters of justice and God’s love.” (Luke 11:42 MSG). It was the “weightier matters of the Law” that sent Jesus to the cross – justice, mercy, fidelity and love of God.
Jesus would do his second teaching on tithing and take on the Pharisees again in Luke 18:12. Two men, he said, went into the temple to pray- one a Pharisee, the other a despised tax official. The Pharisee of course rolled out his self-righteousness: “’I am not a sinner like everyone else; for I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I am certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.” But the tax collector beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me for I am a sinner’. I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee returned home justified before God.” (Luke 18:12-14). The sinner understood the principle of the weightier matter of the Law, hence he begged for mercy.
Having understood weightier matters of the Law, please pray this prayer for mercy and forgiveness: Father I acknowledge that I am a sinner, that Jesus Christ died for me, that you raised him from the dead. Please forgive me. I accept Jesus today as my Lord and my Saviour. And I receive your grace that will cause me to succeed. Amen!
© Leke Alder | firstname.lastname@example.org