Sunday Meeting 09/03/23
God, through Moses, indeed required and elaborated the practice of tithing in the Levitical law. In the barter economy of that time, people were expected to give a tenth of the increase of their possessions as tithing. However, Moses also allowed one’s tithe to be rendered as money. This practice continued even into the New Testament. But was the concept of tithing introduced by Moses?
Paul links the Messianic covenant not to the Mosaic covenant at Sinai but to the Abrahamic covenant based on faith (Gal. 3:16-19). And tithing was first introduced by Abraham when he gave one-tenth of his spoils to Melchizedek after defeating five kings many centuries before Moses (Gen. 14:18-20). The author of Hebrews draws a connection between Melchizedek, the King of Peace, and Jesus, whom he typified (Heb. 7:1-10). This tradition of giving one-tenth to the Lord was thus passed down through generations, as evidenced by Jacob’s dedication of a tenth to God (Gen. 27:20-22).
The Levitical law stipulates two types of monetary or produce contributions: tithes and offerings. The tithe is clearly mandatory (Lev. 27:30,32; Deut. 14:22-23). Offerings, on the other hand, are voluntarily given to the Lord out of free will. The latter is encouraged whenever God’s people feel moved to offer, especially when blessed (Exod. 35:4-5).
How does this ancient tithing mandate apply—if at all—to New Covenant believers? It’s important to remember, again, that tithing existed before the Levitical precepts, so its annulment would require explicit clarification. But let us ask a broader question: Does the New Testament entail and require a lesser or greater level of sacrifice and devotion of believers’ wealth and goods? The New Testament clearly removes specific ceremonial requirements for righteousness, such as purification rituals, festivals and dietary restrictions (Col. 2:16-17; Acts 15:1-29). Can we, therefore, imply from these ceremonial shifts that God expects less devotion, sacrifice and surrender of our talents, possessions, property and wealth?
In Matthew 23:23, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for neglecting the “weightier matters of the law” while championing their willingness to continue paying tithes. He says, “You should have done the latter without neglecting the former.” While His point is to rebuke their skewed disproportionality in the priority of obedience, He nonetheless takes the occasion to tell them they should not neglect tithes. This is unequivocal and unavoidable. Though this rebuke came during the transition from the Old to New Covenants, we will shortly see scriptural evidence that Jesus identified tithing for support of ministry as a precept that would continue into the New, just, as we have seen, it also had preceded the Mosaic Covenant.
In His seminal Sermon on the Mount, Jesus did not say, “You have heard it said—but I will make it easier.” In effect, He said, “You have heard it said . . . but I’m making it harder.” In fact, He puts obedience so far out of reach that we cannot fulfill it apart from a relationship of grace with Him. He specifically says, “Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no wise enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20).
All the first apostles were told to quit their jobs, drop their livelihoods and follow Jesus (Mark 2:13). The rich young ruler was told to sell everything he owned and give it to the poor and follow Jesus (Matt. 19:22). Zacchaeus was prompted to give half his possessions to the poor upon encountering Jesus (Luke 19:8). And Jesus makes the statement in Luke, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:33).
These can be taken out of context, and little fetish doctrines of poverty can be created that do not honor God, which i do not promote. One is told to sell everything, others are commanded to drop their livelihoods, and Zacchaeus pledges to give 50%. There is a personalization and variation to what God requires of each follower. Scripture allows for a disparity of wealth among the saints.
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. —1 Timothy 6:17-19
Scripture tells us that money is the root of all kinds of evil and that through it, people’s faith becomes shipwrecked (1 Tim. 1:19). We also recognize that, essentially, money is authority made actionable. Let me illustrate.
If I walk into a store, see a product that I like, pick it up, and just walk out with it, I will soon find myself in jail, charged with petty larceny (unless I happened to live in San Francisco). I don’t have the authority to walk into other people’s dominion and take whatever I want. But money gives me that power—I hand a credit card, and then I take the very thing that would’ve sent me to jail. In the same way, a king can enter another’s nation and demand whatever he wants, backed by the threat of violence. He exerts his will through brute force. But money makes little kings of people, as they use the authority of money to bend and coerce life to conform to their wants.
When we perceive money, especially our craving for it, as a lust to escape limitations and do whatever we want, we perceive it as an expression of authority. When we see money’s power to facilitate our autonomy, we recognize how it is a root of evil because it enables the devil’s initial lie when he instigated the initial sin: “You will be as gods.”
When possessed by the wrong mindset, money eliminates our need for trust, faith, gifts, hard choices, painful priorities and sacrifice. Money terminates our dependence on and desperation for a Father from whom every good and perfect gift flows (James 1:16-17).
And so the Bible warns us:
Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. —Luke 12:15
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. —Matthew 6:19-21
No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. —Matthew 6:24
But the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. —Mark 4:19
Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. —Hebrews 13:5
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. —1 Timothy 6:10
But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? —1 John 3:17
Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death. —Proverbs 11:4
Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf. —Proverbs 11:28
Giving tithes, as commanded in Scripture, helps prevent our love for wealth from taking over. By acknowledging God’s ownership over our possessions right from the start, we align our focus beyond material gain to things above, such as the temple, its ministry and its mission. This helps safeguard us from falling into the trap of greed, which causes the shipwreck of our faith.
The New Testament exhorts us to dedicate ourselves wholly, devoting our time, skills and resources to the service of God and His church (Rom. 12:1-2). Under the New Covenant, we are taught to be stewards, not proprietors. While the old covenant stipulated 10% of our profits, the New Covenant calls for 100%, given freely and willingly rather than through coercion. Nevertheless, the 10% tithe still aims to align our minds and resources toward God by presenting Him with our first and best fruits.
As a community, we believe in the importance of individual stewardship over private property rather than a shared purse. This means we each have control over 90% of our wealth beyond the initial tithe to God. It is our responsibility to invest and responsibly allocate this wealth. We retain the power to decide how we give back to God, which is entirely within our control.
Let us consider the following scripture:
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 3:8-12
So, according to this equation, we don’t tithe because we are blessed with abundance; instead, we are blessed if we are faithful to tithe. We tithe to involve God and make Him a co-owner of what we have stewardship over.
Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine. —Proverbs 3:9-10
The preceding passages teach us several important lessons. Firstly, if we withhold our tithe that rightfully belongs to God, we are stealing from Him. Secondly, if we prioritize God and pay Him first, He will generously provide for us and alleviate our practical sparsity. Thirdly, paying a tithe contributes to the upkeep of God’s house, which is now the church. Finally, giving tithe honors the Lord with our wealth, a virtue as relevant for the New Covenant as the Old, and therefore helps keep in check pride and greed that can consume an unrestrained soul.
Someone might argue that a practical tithe could be just as effective as a monetary one, and even though they haven’t given money, they have given their time and service. There may be a way to justify such reasoning, but not if this justification is employed after explicitly agreeing to a 10% monetary tithe. Consider the cautionary tale in Acts 5. While it may be an acceptable option to render the Lord a non-monetary tithe equivalent, we forfeit that approach once we pledge to the contrary. God did not judge Ananias and Sapphira for falling below their obligatory 10% monetary tithe. They were judged because they had outwardly committed to giving the entire amount but then secretly conspired to modify that down to a lesser portion.
We must guard our hearts against dishonest rationalizations after committing and later regretting the cost of our pledged sacrifice.
Don’t make promises to contribute 10% of your profits to your church ministry and then fail to follow through, as this will bring judgment upon you. In our own church community, we have historically agreed that this is the best way to cover our expenses and manage the tasks the Lord entrusted to our care.
When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God. —Ecclesiastes 5:4-7
If you make a vow to the LORD your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the LORD your God will certainly demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin. —Deuteronomy 23:21
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. —2 Corinthians 8:1-5
So here’s a precedent: Paul is having to respond to a church begging to participate in the blessing of giving what he felt went beyond their means.
The elders who perform their leadership duties well are to be considered worthy of double honor [a word often translated as “price” or “value”], especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and “The laborer deserves his wages.” —1 Timothy 5:17-18
The following passage in 1 Corinthians 9 also makes this mandate of the temple laborers receiving their compensation through the tithe unequivocal:
"Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk? Do I say this merely from a human point of view? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? For it is written in the Law of Moses: 'Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.' Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely He says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest.” Paul equates ministers receiving their livelihoods from the church to a farmer reaping his living from plowing and threshing the fields of the Lord.
He says, “If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ. Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar?”
The correlation between the provision for Old Testament temple servants and New Covenant ministers’ livelihood was explicitly established by Paul. The clarity of this connection leaves no room for uncertainty, as evidenced by the following scripture.
“Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food (livelihood) from the temple and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:9-10; Lev 7:28–36; Num. 18:8–20).
Although this particular decree from Jesus is not explicitly recorded in the four gospels, it is apparent that Paul was cognizant of it, potentially having observed Jesus himself preach it, as he proclaims, “The Lord has commanded….” The crucial phrase in this passage is “in the same way.” We could terminate the discourse at this juncture as it incontrovertibly establishes that the ministries of the New Testament should be sustained “in the same way” as the Levitical priests of antiquity. This passage thus revalorizes the former tithing model as a “commanded” tenet in the new structure of the church.
Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany. —1 Corinthians 16:1-4
As stated, Paul bases New Testament patterns for monetary giving on Old Testament scriptures and precepts, evidently carried over and not discarded with circumcision and the ceremonial law. Even more critical is the precedent Paul establishes here, the precedent that church leaders may precisely stipulate the form and timing of congregational giving. “On the first day of every week (Sunday), each of you is to put something aside and store it up” (1 Cor. 16:2).
We have committed our entire lives to Jesus and agreed to assume free-will responsibility for investing and stewarding 90% of our earnings for His glory. But we immediately offer 10% of our bountiful increase for temple (church) service—“in the same way” as in the old temple. And, again, Paul’s previous instructions regarding timing and method show that church leaders are responsible for dictating the form and timing of our tithe, not individuals.
Church members are expected to tithe ten percent of our profitable increase, not our gross revenue as a business. Each individual should prayerfully consider whether to tithe personally from one's private salary or corporately from the company. If we view the church like we do the State, our contribution becomes grudging and not blessed by the Lord. As it's said in 2 Corinthians 9:7, "God loves a cheerful giver" and in 2 Corinthians 8:12, "When the heart is willing, the gift is acceptable." However, if we are reluctant in our giving, we might intentionally pull a minimal salary from our business while categorizing vehicles, food, trips and every conceivable expense as "business-related." This could lead us to boast that we tithe our salary but not our business expenses, which is dishonest with ourselves about our true intentions. We should never seek to trust God with as little as possible.
If God has called us to this covenant expression of His body, then He has called us to share in its vision and the finances necessary to realize its mission. Of all the investments we make (in lands, enterprise, pleasure and otherwise), we should feel most solid about investing in the current and future ministry of the church. What would we be without the ministry of our body? In what condition would our marriages or families be, if they would exist at all? We have the singular privilege of being partners in the ministry, making possible the generational continuation of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers who have guided us and will hopefully lead the church and our children and grandchildren into the future.
As a general pattern, believers are encouraged to tithe locally within the context of their regional fellowship. Further, just as Abraham was a king himself who defeated five other kings but still paid tithe to a king with seniority over him, so also should local congregations render a tithe of their church revenue to those senior ministries who have brought them forth and still cover them in the ecclesial arrangements between local and mobile ministry. Most of Paul’s writing about monetary giving pertained to raising funds for the Jerusalem church as an oversight body and the mother of the other congregations. Paul made his fathering, founding role in congregations grounds for reaping a practical harvest. When ministries are themselves the fruit of other ministries and continue to plant seeds given to them by others, they have an obligation to continue sharing in the bountiful returns. “If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much for us to reap a material harvest from you? Others have this right to your support, shouldn’t we have it all the more?” (1 Cor. 9:11-12).
Speaking not to individuals, but to a congregation, Paul tells them that others and he have the “right” to their financial support. This word “right” that he uses is “exousia” most often translated as “authority.“ Mounce includes in this word’s definition: “license, authority, rule, dominion, and jurisdiction.”
For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings. —Romans 15:27
Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word must share in all good things with his instructor. —Galatians 6:6
As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this. Even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent help more than once. I don’t say this because I want a gift from you. Rather, I want you to receive a reward for your kindness. At the moment, I have all I need—and more! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God. —Philippians 4:15-18
I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given. Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” - 2 Corinthians 9:5-6
In addition to supporting ministries, our tithes and offerings alone have made possible the founding of nine new churches in ten years, the care of widows and orphans, the publication of our school curriculum and the truths essential to the church’s restoration from the literature ministry, the beautiful community lands around the world where our food and dreams grow and our children are nurtured in faith. Our tithes and offerings paid for the buildings where we worship, the fairs where many have first witnessed the kingdom and the craft village that speaks of another country to hundreds of thousands annually. Who among our peers in the world has given ten percent of their income to such life-changing, hope-generating, Spirit-led eternal purposes? Which of them have reaped the compounded blessing of practical and spiritual things in exchange for ten percent of their profits? When we see the opportunity God presents us with, we understand better how the congregation begged Paul for the privilege of giving, even beyond their means.
This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! —2 Corinthians 9:12-15
Let me summarize. Tithing is not all we are commanded to give. We are called to give everything, but the remaining 90% is at our discretion—to provide for our households, show generosity to the saints, offer free-will gifts to missions or various needs, build friendships that will help us make it to heaven, invest and grow an inheritance for descendants, and overall, glorify God. The tithe is given to support church ministry “in the same way” as the temple attendants were provided for. We have the injunction of Jesus, who said, “You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former” (Matt. 23:23). Therefore, we have no exemption from tithing. It was not introduced in the Sinai covenant but established in the Abrahamic covenant of faith. If anything, the New Covenant requires an expansion of this principle so that we would have a greater precedent toward giving, not less.
So, if the leadership of this church has asked us to support the ministry in this way, and we have pledged to do so, it is no longer under our discretion. Once we have committed to it, it is a pledge that we have a duty to deliver. God has blessed this church; we are prosperous. But in this simple matter, let us not undermine the Biblical mandate and thus stunt the expansion of God’s kingdom that He would have us support by withholding what we have promised. This principle is abundantly confirmed before the Levitical law, after the Levitical law, by the Lord Jesus, and by the Apostle Paul.