pesos What would happen if the tithing system in our churches disappeared?

Just asking.

It’s an interesting question and one that we should consider.

Why should we consider it?

Because tithing to the church is nowhere to be found in the New Testament.

The scripture that churches typically use to encourage their people to tithe to their organization is this passage from the Old Testament:

“For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 3:6–12 ESV).

In the Old Covenant, curses and blessings were contingent upon one’s disobedience or obedience to the Law. When we read the above passage, we will see that same covenant is invoked. You’ll be blessed if you tithe. You’ll be cursed if you don’t. However, New Testament Christians understand—or should—that they are set free from the curses of the Law. If we don’t understand this, we don’t understand our salvation. We are simply unable to keep the Law. The Law brought punishment and God’s wrath. But Jesus took that punishment upon Himself, in our place. That’s what His death on the cross is all about. These truths are laid out for us thoroughly in Romans and Galatians.

So. Why do pastors teach this Old Covenant cursing and blessing covenant to their people?

That’s a very good question. However, I don’t have an answer. I can tell you why I did. I had been taught this somewhere along the line and continued to believe that it was a biblical truth. It didn’t even occur to me that it was problematic because it wasn’t in the New Testament. Looking back, I am ashamed of this. In one sad case, it caused a rift between a nice Christian couple and us.

There are some who will raise the point that tithing precedes the Law, based upon this passage from Genesis:

“And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him and said, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!’ And Abram gave him a tenth of everything” (Genesis 14:18–20 ESV).

It’s odd that this scripture should be used to defend giving a tithe to the church. First of all, there was no church here. Second, the tithe was given to Melchizedek, who was a type and shadow of Jesus.

However, for those who contend that, because this offering to Melchizedek (a type of Christ) was before the Law and is therefore the biblical course of action to take, I will agree until shown otherwise. The tithe is currently my default level of giving. However, it’s also true that, in the New Testament, Jesus makes it clear that He requires all that we possess. Each individual Christian will discover what that financial sacrifice entails through the Lord’s process of sanctification in his or her life. It will be different for each of us, because we have a living relationship with a living God. There is no legalistic list of things to possess or not possess, what to give and what to keep.

So, it’s not the tithe as a standard of giving that troubles me. It’s tithing to the church that troubles me, because it’s just not in the New Testament.

I once heard a pastor teach that, when we tithe, we give our tithes to God, through the church. Clever. Are there any verses from the Bible that back that one up? There aren’t any. Do a search for the word “tithe” in a New Testament concordance. You’ll find it nine times (if you include the word “tenth”), that pertain to the giving of money. Three of them are used by Jesus in His rebukes to the scribes and Pharisees. The others are from Hebrews in reference to the passage in Genesis about Melchizedek and Abraham. The only offering—not a tithe—that was taken in the New Testament was for the relief of the poor in Jerusalem (Acts 24:17; Romans 15:25-28; 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8:1-4).

However, if we accept that we should give at least a tenth of income to the Lord, not legalistically, but out love for the Lord and others, where should it go? The truth of the matter is you can give it wherever you want. This makes our giving more, well, I guess you could say, complicated, but perhaps a better word is relational. Now, instead of automatically giving a set amount to an organization, you will need to pray where your money that is dedicated to God should go.

And it may very well be to a person or persons.

Why?

Over and over again in the Old Testament, the Lord tells us to take care of the poor, especially His people. I’m going to reference the Old Testament not as a matter of Law, but to investigate the Lord’s heart concerning the poor. So, we should never equate our giving to the poor with our righteousness. Many people give to the poor but do not know the Lord. Matthew 7:22-23 is a cautionary tale for all of us. However, as we attempt to understand God’s heart about where our resources go, here’s one that makes me think:

“But there will be no poor among you; for the LORD will bless you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess—if only you will strictly obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all this commandment that I command you today” (Deuteronomy 15:4–5 ESV, emphasis added).

Wouldn’t it be something if the Church took care of its own people like this?

I think this pairs up well with this New Testament admonition:

“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10 ESV).

However, we are also encouraged in the New Testament to give to anyone who is poor. We see it here:

“Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:33–34 ESV).

Here:

“When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12–14 ESV).

Here:

“And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham’” (Luke 19:8–9 ESV).

And here:

“…and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do” (Galatians 2:9–10 ESV).

Again, here is where we are encouraged to give money to the church:

(Crickets)

 

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