Today we come to the concluding part of our series on tithing. To have a comprehensive grasp of the subject please click here.
There are three dispensations of tithing under consideration: a). Pre Law (Abraham and Jacob) tithing. b). The dispensation of the Law when God commanded the Israelites to tithe as inheritance tax for the Levites; c). The dispensation of the Church. The critical question is, is tithing a New Testament ordinance?
Under the dispensation of the Law, tithing was a duty to the State. Israel was a theocratic state. Indeed under the Law, tithing was a constitutional issue. It was embedded in the “constitution” of Ancient Israel. It was a contributory scheme under the law of inheritance for members of the tribe of Levi. The Levites were never apportioned what we might call states today, though they had cities. There was a spiritual penalty for non-payment of tithe under the Law. Tithing was compulsory.
But Abraham the father of tithing, tithed voluntarily. So did his grandson Jacob. They understood salient principles. Abraham tithed in acknowledgement of the sovereignty of God. And he tithed in acknowledgment of grace. There was no way his private army of 318 men could defeat the allied armies of four kings, yet he did. Grace! His tithing was a personal acknowledgement of the help of Jehovah. He acknowledged God’s mercy. But there was an additional factor at the heart of the tithing of Abraham – property rights.
That is why two factors were invoked by Melchizedek at the blessing of Abram – grace and property rights: “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, POSSESSOR AND MAKER of heaven and earth, and blessed, praised and glorified be God Most High, WHO HAS GIVEN YOUR FOES INTO YOUR HANDS. And Abram gave him a tenth of all he had taken.” (Genesis 14:19-20). In other words Abram tithed in acknowledgment of two factors: 1). His personal achievements were actually God’s personal achievements. 2). God’s property rights extended to all he owned.
The same two factors were at the heart of Jacob’s tithing. He pledged to tithe in acknowledgement of them: “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go and will give me food to eat and clothing to wear, so that I may come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God; and this stone which I have set up as a monument shall be God’s house, and of all the increase of possessions that YOU GIVE ME I will give the tenth to you.” (Genesis 28:20-22). Not only did Jacob pledge a tithe to God, he also donated a piece of land (Bethel) to God. Like his grandpa, he tithed in acknowledgement of God’s mercy, and he acknowledged God’s property rights. God’s mercy and property rights were also at the heart of tithing under the Law. The preamble to God’s instruction on firstfruit offering and tithing was as follows: “When you have come into the land WHICH THE LORD YOUR GOD GIVES YOU AS AN INHERITANCE. And you shall say before the Lord, A wandering and lost Aramean ready to perish was my father (Jacob), and the Lord brought us into this place AND GAVE US THIS LAND, a land flowing with milk and honey. And now, behold I bring the firstfruits of the ground which you, O Lord, have given me.” (Deuteronomy 26:1,5,10). Therefore Abraham, Jacob and Israelites tithed in acknowledgement of God’s mercy and God’s property rights.
In the dispensation of the New Testament the mercy of God is so indubitable it is incontrovertible. The very foundation of the New Testament is the mercy of God. Jesus called it the weightier matter of the Law. But both the mercy of God and God’s property right take on a whole new dimension in the New Testament. “But God is so rich in His mercy and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5). In other words, the great proof of the mercy of God is the sacrifice of Jesus for sinners. And so while Abraham and Jacob acknowledged God’s mercy through tithe for preservation and achievements, mercy for the New Testament saint is predicated on the work of redemption. It’s a much higher dimension.
As for God’s property rights in the New Testament it is even more profound. Abraham, Jacob and the people under the Law defined God’s property rights as per tithing in terms of possessions. But in the New Testament God’s property rights extends beyond property. Your very self belongs to God. God owns you! All that you have, and your very being belongs to God. You were bought and paid for. You’re a chattel. “You are not your own. You were bought with a price, purchased with a preciousness and paid for, made His own.” “You were bought with a price… Consider yourselves slaves to Christ.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 1 Corinthians 7:23-24). Now you understand why Paul opened his letter to the Romans with this salutation: “This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus…” Romans 1:1. and why he wrote, “For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me…” Acts 27:23.
Apostle James also referred to himself as a slave of his Master, Jesus Christ. (James 1.1). In the light of the above it is rather surprising that some Christians quibble over giving to God – fussing over percentages, splitting hairs over gross or net! And this with Someone that gave you his Son! “And who has given Him so much that he needs to pay it back? For everything comes from Him and exists by His power and is intended for His glory.” (Romans 11:35-36). These quibbles betray a lack of understanding of redemption, and even a lack of appreciation of it. The saints of old recognized the simple fact that they and all that they owned belonged to God. It’s why they sold their properties and laid the proceeds at the feet of the apostles. They weren’t compelled. That much was evident in the words of Peter concerning the transgression of Ananias and Sapphira: “As long as it remained unsold, was it still not your own? And even after it was sold, was not the money at your disposal and under your control?” (Acts 5:4).
In the New Testament ownership is separate from possession. We are mere trustees of God’s properties. The spirit of giving in the New Testament is freewill. There is no giving under compulsion in the New Testament. And Paul would reinforce this fact in his epistle to the Corinthians: “Let each one give as he has made up his own mind and purposed in his heart, not reluctantly or sorrowfully or under compulsion, for God loves (He takes pleasure in, prizes above other things, and is unwilling to abandon or to do without) a cheerful (joyous, “prompt to do it”) giver whose heart is in his giving.” (2 Corinthians 9:7 AMP). But giving in the New Testament is governed by an equitable principle: “Remember this: he who sows sparingly and grudgingly will also reap sparingly and grudgingly, And he who sows generously that blessings may come to someone will also reap generously with blessings.” (2 Corinthians 9:6). “And God is able to make all grace (every favour and earthly blessing) come to you in abundance, so you may always and under all circumstances and whatever the need be self-sufficient [possessing enough to require no aid or support and furnished in abundance for every good work and charitable donation]. (2 Corinthians 9:8. AMP). These are principles of general application.
We must make a scholastic note before we round up this series. Scholastic honesty demands we point this out: Unlike firstfruit in the Old Testament which was abrogated by redefinition in the New Testament, tithing was not. Tithe remains a first principle inaugurated by the father of faith, Abraham. Faith predates the Law, supersedes the Law. But you’re not under a curse if you don’t pay your tithe. You’re not under the Law. And Jesus was made a curse for you. And no, you’re not going to hell because you don’t pay tithe. It’s not a basis of salvation, it’s a base of prosperity. And no, you can’t split your tithe to give to the poor or another ministry. You pay in full to your local church. And no, it makes no difference whether you “give” or “pay” tithe. Pure semantics in the light of its substance. And if you don’t like the governance structure in your church go to another church rather than withhold tithing. But the decision whether to tithe or not to tithe is yours. It’s personal. The critical question is, what is the level of understanding you have? And what is your relationship with God? This concludes our treatise on tithing.
© Leke Alder | firstname.lastname@example.org