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Biblical Tithing: Questions and Answers June 30, 2014

Posted by Henry in Tithing.
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Tithing has become a foundation in most churches yet it is one of the most misunderstood and misapplied terms in the Christian lexicon today. Most people will also claim they know what tithing is yet have never studied the subject in any detail. Many therefore have a perception of tithing based on tradition rather than grounded in Biblical truth. I therefore set out below a number of questions and answers concerning the tithe as set out under the Mosaic law to help clear up some of the confusion and misconceptions around the subject.

1. What is a tithe?
A tithe is a tenth meaning a tenth part or every tenth one. (Lev 27:30-34)

2. Is this the same as 10%?
No. E.g., if the tither was giving a tenth of livestock from his 50 cows a tenth would be 5 but if he was giving a tenth from 45 this would only amount to 4 because he cannot give 4.5 livestock which is what 10% would equate to.

3. Was the tithe from income?
No. A tithe was a tenth of the increase of agricultural produce and livestock in the land of ancient Israel (Canaan) – i.e., what the land brought forth. God gave the land as a gift but reserved a tenth part of what the Land brought forth for Himself. So it was not a tenth of what you made but a tenth of what He first gave (Lev 27:30-34).

4. Could tithes be given in the form of money?
No, not strictly speaking. Although money was readily available, the commandments required food produce and livestock. If you wanted to redeem or buy back the tithe you had to add a fifth (or 20%) of the monetary value on top of the actual monetary value (Lev 27:30-34).

5. Was the tithe the first 10%?
No. It was not a percentage (see 2) and it was NOT the first tenth either. Since a first fruit of the harvest (e.g. grain) was to be given to the priest first (Ex 23:19, Ez 44:30) then the tithe could not have been first. Similarly, the tithe of livestock was not the first tenth but every tenth one that passed under the rod (Lev 27:30-34). The idea that the tithe is “10% off the top” as many pastors teach is not supported by scripture.

6. To whom were tithes given?
The nation of Israel comprising the eleven tribes gave tithes to the Levite tribe (one tribe which made up the twelve). This is because the Levite tribe did not get a portion of the Land so God gave them the tenth part He reserved for Himself as their inheritance (see 3, Num 18:21, Heb 7:5). The Levites in turn gave a tithe of the tithes they received to the priests (Num 18:28). Note the priests did not get all the tenth in Israel – only a tenth of what the Levites received.

7. Who were required to give tithes?
Only those who tended land and owned/looked after livestock were required to tithe to the Levites who in turn tithe to the priests (Lev 27:30-34, Neh 10:37, Num 18:28).

8. Was the tithe the best of what you had?
No. If you were giving livestock you were not allowed to examine whether it was good or bad – you had to give the tenth one that passed under the rod regardless of its condition (Lev 27:30-34). It was the Levites who were then required to give a tithe which constituted the best of the tithes they received to the priests – the Lord’s heave offering (see 7, Num 18:29-30)

9. Were people of other professions therefore not required to tithe, such as artisans, carpenters, brick makers etc?
When God gave Israel the land He reserved a tenth part of the increase that the Land brought forth for Himself, which He gave the Levites for their inheritance because they did not get a share of the Land (see 6). There was no requirement to tithe money nor were people of these professions required to tithe of their wood, metal, cloths, bricks etc. The key thing to note is that God never reserved a tenth part of anyone’s income for Himself. He reserved only a tenth part of the increase of the Land which HE gave in the first place. This was then to be given to the Levites who did not get a share of the Land. If you tended land alongside another profession then you were also required to tithe from the Land but not your other income. For that matter you couldn’t “tithe your time” either.

10. Were people of other professions therefore not required to give of their income (money) to the upkeep of the priests and the temple then?
The temple or tabernacle had a treasury where money was offered to (1 Chron 29:8, Neh 7:70-71, Josh 6:19, 24, Ezr 2:69). This was separate and apart from the “storehouse” which housed the tithe (which was food produce, Neh 10:37-38, 2 Chron 31:6-12, Mal 3:10). Whilst the people also gave money offerings (from their income), wood offerings (Neh 10:34), produce and animal offerings etc these were separate and apart from the tithes (see 1 Chron 22:15, Ex 35:30-35, 36:2-4, for some of the different professions that were in Israel).

11. Is tithing for today – should the church tithe?
The tithing ordinance (Mal 3:7) was abolished (Eph 2:15, Col 2:14) when Jesus went to the cross therefore the church is not under this law.

12. Do the scriptures contradict themselves?
This question though not specific to the tithing question needs to be asked if we are to truly answer the question of whether tithing is for today. It is clear that if scriptures say that the law (and ordinances) have been abolished that it cannot also be saying that we are required to observe the tithing law at the same time.

Pure Religion and undefiled March 6, 2012

Posted by Henry in Contending for the Faith.
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Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (Jam 1:27) KJV

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (NIV)

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. (NLT)

Recently I have written a series of posts addressing “tithing” (amongst other things) and this started with the post “Unravelling the tithing dilemma”. Some reading this blog may think that my sole focus has simply been on “tithing” and may even think I sound like a broken record repeating myself but there is a central theme and purpose to each post and in this post I aim to tie up all that I previously stated. Hopefully the point of all these posts may therefore come to the fore through reading this post.

I opened this post with a quote from James 1:27 as this sits at the heart of the tithing equation today and which sits at the very heart of our Gospel. The two other translations I gave, more fully expresses what the KJV version intended to say. What sits at the heart of the tithing equation therefore is the question of what is acceptable religion before God?

 Under the Old Covenant Israel was called to give a tithe of the produce of the Promised Land to the Levites, the poor, the fatherless, the widows who were all in NEED that they may eat and be satisfied (Deut 14:29). Today the church seeks to recapture the practice of collecting a tithe but what does the church do with it? In contrast to ancient Israel where the tithe went to meet immediate and pressing needs, today we use the tithe to maintain lofty and expensive church buildings and pay a salary to the priests or pastors (and perhaps the organist). Today we talk about giving to God, and equate our giving to maintaining these structures as giving to God (this is seen as furthering the Gospel). Yet in the early church giving to God was tantamount to meeting the needs of the poor, the fatherless and the widows. If the tithe is God’s then let us start giving it to God via the poor and stop talking about it. In Matt 25:35-46 we see Jesus saying that if we feed the hungry, visit the sick, clothe the naked etc we have done it to Him but if we did none of those things we did not do it to Him. There are those who will argue of course that when we give money to church that the church will in turn use some of this money to send missionaries abroad and to give to the poor and other charitable causes. In my experiences, some churches remit a portion of the takings to the umbrella body and this may help to support missionaries in the field. However, for others the main church takings (tithes and offerings) are normally treated as sacrosanct – by this I mean that most of it is used up on the administrative overheads (including salaries) and the rest kept in a bank account but very little or none of it goes to meet the needs of the poor. Instead, after the main tithes and offerings are collected we are then asked to “dig deep” into our pockets for extra funds or “love offerings” that will go to missions and fund charitable works. This was not so in the early church however. Do we for a minute think that God is pleased with great and grand buildings we have elevated in His name, and maintain with vast sums of money year by year, whilst millions of people throughout the world go hungry each day? Perhaps the church cannot solve the poverty problem across the world but we can certainly do more even in our immediate communities.

In the early church all of the church takings were redistributed to meeting the needs of the whole church, including the elders who ministered over the church. This is aptly demonstrated in Acts 2:42-47 and Acts 4:32-35. What a contrast to today’s church where the poor and the needy who come in go home empty-handed with the promise that God will bless them if they tithe faithfully even if they have to borrow to pay that tithe (as in the example of some churches)? The early church did not consider their possessions as their own but had all things in common – and they laid what they had to give at the apostles’ feet who in turn redistributed so that no one lacked. Other examples of this practice are evidenced in 2 Cor 8:12-15 and 2 Cor 9:1-8 where Paul collected gifts from other churches to give to the poor Christians in Jerusalem. The early church was acting out the very commands/teachings that Jesus Christ imparted to us such as in Matt 19:21 where He instructed the rich young ruler to sell his possessions and give it to the poor. We also see another example in Luke 16:9 where Christ says we should make to ourselves friends with the mammon (worldly wealth) of unrighteousness. In meeting the needs of the general poor we are also encouraged to give to the elders, especially those who minister in the word and doctrine (1 Tim 5:17).

 Today we have reassigned the purpose of the tithe (not that we are under the Law), as the principle of it as demonstrated under the Law is not borne out in how we utilise it in the church today. In contrast to the early church also, faithful stewardship is now exemplified by our giving of tithes and offerings to God to maintain lavish buildings and large administrative budgets in the place of directly redistributing the funds to meet the needs of the poor. Is our religion as practiced in this way by the church today acceptable to God when pure religion and undefiled, which God accepts is defined in scripture as caring for the fatherless and the widows and keeping oneself spotless from the world?

Related Posts:

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After the way of Gehazi December 8, 2011

Posted by Henry in Word of Faith Movement.
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There are many people in Christendom today who clamour after ministers, teachers and prophets that claim the ability to work miracles. Such people shower money and gifts on these “miracle workers” in exchange for their miracles and breakthroughs, unaware that this practice is wrong. However there is a very important lesson in the story of God’s healing of Naaman through the hands of the prophet Elisha, which is lost on the church today. Notice I did not say that Elisha healed Naaman but rather that God healed Naaman through Elisha. This point should be very clear because only God can grant the miracles of healing but He may do so using His ministers as His instruments.

The story is told in 2 Kings 5, how that Naaman, the captain of the king ofSyria’s army though he was a great man of valour, he was a leper. Naaman got word from his wife’s maid that there was a man of God in Israel who could cleanse him of his leprosy. To cut a long story short, when Namaan went to Elisha’s house and the prophet sent a messenger out to him to tell him to go and wash 7 times in the Jordan River and he would be cleansed. After some protestation Naaman was convinced to do as the prophet had said and he complied and was made whole again. Naaman was so thankful for his healing that he wanted to bless the man of God, so he went back to Elisha’s house to bestow a blessing upon him. But note Elisha’s response in verse 16 of the passage:

15And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him: and he said, Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel: now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant. 16But he said, As the LORD liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none. And he urged him to take it; but he refused. (2 Kings 5)

Elisha flat out refused to take anything from Naaman. Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, however thought that he would pursue Naaman to collect money and gifts, falsely claiming that Elisha had sent him to receive the things which he claimed were meant for two other young men ofIsrael. Elisha however being the man of God, perceived what Gehazi had done and challenged him with the following words in verse 26:

Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants? (2 Kings 5:26)

 

Gehazi thought he would use the Grace of God as a means to collecting “filthy lucre” but Elisha demonstrated aptly that this occasion was not appropriate for receiving monetary or other gifts. Today our so-called men and women of God are playing the role of Gehazi by collecting money, tithes, offerings and gifts in exchange for miracles and breakthroughs. There are individuals such as Mike Murdoch, Paula White, Creflo Dollar, Joyce Meyer, Prohetess Juanita Bynum, Kenneth Copeland, Matthew Ashimolowo and others who all promise miracles and breakthroughs if you sow seeds (monetary gifts) into their ministries. They will claim that you are not buying a miracle but rather that you are exercising your faith – they attempt to spiritualise their claims by saying that you have to make sacrifices to get God to move on your behalf – they claim that the size of your seed will determine the size of your harvest and by giving your seed they will add their faith to yours. They try to veil their claims in scriptures by misapplying them in order to convince the church that God cannot do anything for them if they don’t test their faith by sowing a sacrificial seed. The truth though is that God does not need you to do anything in order for Him to work a miracle in your life or give you a breakthrough.

Naaman did not know God as he was an idol worshipper, yet he came to the prophet Elisha for his healing. He received his healing without sowing any seed and even after receiving his healing the prophet refused to take gifts from him. This shows that God is sovereign and He will have mercy upon whom He will have mercy and there is nothing man can do to appease God. God healed Naaman not so that Elisha would be blessed materially but because it was His sovereign will to do it to the praise of His glory. Elisha made sure not to corrupt the Grace of God by accepting money and gifts because God is not in the business of selling miracles. There are some ministers today however who have become as greedy as Gehazi by collecting gifts in exchange for God’s grace. If one receives a miracle, healing or breakthrough through the preaching or personal ministration of a minister, it is not a time for collecting money.

Of Blessings, Breakthroughs and Divine Favour! October 14, 2010

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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Are you frustrated that the Lord has not answered your prayers for the breakthroughs and divine favour which you seek?

 

Have you faithfully tithe but find that the “windows of heaven blessings” continue to elude you?

 

Have you diligently sown your seeds into “good soil” and confessed daily but you are still not receiving a harvest?

 

Do you “give to God” faithfully but feel like the Lord has abandoned you as you are not receiving anything in return?

If any of these questions apply to you then I have good news for you. The reason why you are feeling frustrated and disappointed is because you have been fed a false gospel. God is not man that He should lie so do not be disappointed in God. God did not make the above promises to you – the man in the pulpit did. The man in the pulpit who presents himself as God’s mouthpiece is the lier and I will demonstrate as I examine those questions one by one.

Firstly, the Lord did not promise you “breakthroughs” or divine favour, man did. The Lord gave you divine favour when He sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for you and I so that we may obtain mercy – this is Grace, which is divine favour. Man however changed the meaning of divine favour to mean that you can receive “supernatural abundance” in earthly things and sup with kings, which the Lord did not promise you. To obtain true divine favour therefore all you need to do is seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all else shall be added unto you. This does not mean that you will receive all the material desires of your heart but the Lord promises to meet your needs. You should also remember that before you ask, the Lord already knows what you need. In much the same way a parent takes care of a young child without the child needing to ask the parent for anything so too the Father will take care of His children. What “breakthroughs” do you seek therefore?

Paying your tithes and expecting the “windows of heaven blessings” is foolhardy to say the least and no amount of “confessing” will bring those benefits to you. Under the New Covenant a Christian is NOT required to tithe and the Lord will not honour your tithe according to Mal 3:10 because that scripture was not spoken to the church but to Israel under the Old Covenant. Under the Covenant Israel were required to give a tithe not because this would ensure God’s blessings but they were required to give it because the Lord had blessed them. In this sense the tithe was like a tax that the Lord required to sustain the Levites, who had no inheritance in the Promise Land. As such you do not pay taxes to ensure future income but rather you pay it because you already have an income and because it is required by Law. If you are therefore paying the tithe because you think that this will compel the Lord to do something extra for you then you are already giving it with the wrong motives. The Lord is not a debtor to any man – so if you pay the tithe thinking that the Lord owes you something then you have been deceived. In the first place the tithing practice today is a violation of God’s Law – it is therefore the man that collected the tithe from you that owes you, not God.

Some preachers within the Word of Faith movement will tell you that the Kingdom of God operates on the “principle” of sowing and reaping. I contend however that this is not the case. Indeed the analogy of sowing and reaping is often used to describe the Kingdom of God or certain aspects of it but the Kingdom of God is not reactive. It doesn’t depend on us doing something but it is rather all about the sovereign Will of the Father. The Kingdom of God is about salvation which comes by Grace. Grace is God’s sovereign will to lay down the life of His Son, Jesus Christ, to save us from our sins (John 3:16). It was because God first loved us and not that we did something to appease God in order to earn His love, why He gave us this FREE gift. The Lord does not need you to “sow” therefore in order for you to receive a “harvest” from Him. Did Christ not say, “Does the rain not fall upon the just and the unjust?” What did the unjust do to deserve rain from God? Absolutely nothing! Yet even his harvest is being multiplied because of the rain. The following verses which Jesus spake should also be considered:

26Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

32(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

 Since the Lord did not ask you to sow therefore He does not need to honour your sowing with a harvest. You have therefore sown in vain  because you were deceived – you have given your money to a man who lied to you instead of exercising due diligence and being a good steward of what the Lord had already given you.

Lastly, this idea of “giving to God” is perhaps one of the biggest misnomers in the church. How does giving some money to the offering plate or bucket constitute giving to God? Indeed when you give money to church you are contributing to financing the activities of the church but the Lord is not getting a single penny of that money. Man it is that collects the money and man it is that disburses these monies according to how they see fit. The Lord does not need your money, moreover, this idea that money is needed to finance the gospel is simply not true. The Lord Himself was the first pastor and minister of the Gospel yet He did not collect tithes and offerings and other monies to finance the Gospel He came to establish. He did not build a church and set up an administrative structure to which money would flow into. Yet today we are being told that the Gospel cannot go forth without money. This is somewhat ironic when we consider that Jesus called the Twelve and sent them out and specifically told them not to take money or food with them. On their return the Lord asked them if they lacked anything when they went out to deliver the gospel to the Lost Sheep and their response was no. Indeed money is needed to sustain people but we have subscribed to the Roman church model in creating the cash machines we call church today, and financing these cash machines are seen as tantamount to financing the Gospel. The reason why you might not be receiving the blessing therefore is that you mistakenly think that by giving to church you are giving to God and as such the Lord owes you something. You would be more blessed however if you gave to the poor and needy as shown in the following scriptures (noting that it is more blessed to give than to receive, Acts 20:35):

17He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.( Prov 19)

 

 

27He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse. (Prov 28)

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