Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Tithing (1)

I am frequently asked about tithing. Many sincere Christians have been made to feel guilty if they do not tithe. They want to know if the scriptures require tithing. The answer is that the commands to tithe are all in the Old Testament. We need to assess each of these commands to determine if they still apply under the new covenant established by Jesus death and resurrection.
Bad Start
Tithing got off to a bad start.

The first recorded example of a person tithing is Abraham (Gen 14:17-22). When he had defeated the kings who had captured Lot along with several neighbouring kings, Abraham met Melchizedek, who was king of Jerusalem. He brought bread and water out to Abraham. Melchizedek was a priest of the most high God, so he blessed Abraham.

It seems that Melchizedek had established an order of priests to serve God. The scriptures don’t tell us how he came to know about God, but I presume God called and he answered.

Abraham gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the loot he had plundered. Melchizedek said that he did not want it. However, it seemed that Abraham had made a vow to God that if he would give him a tenth of the plunder if he blessed him in the battle. The only way that he knew to give it to God was to give it to Melchizedek, the priest, so he insisted that he take it. If Melchizedek refused to take the loot, Abraham would be breaking his vow. The mention of the oath seemed to satisfy Melchizedek.
We should notice several things about this incident.

  • God did not ask for the tithe.

  • Melchizedek did not ask for it, and did not want. He was a king, so he had plenty of wealth.

  • Abraham did not understand grace. At this stage of his life, he thought he needed to promise something to God to obtain his blessing. This was an attempt to manipulate God, by doing a deal with him.

Abraham later came to understand God’s grace. He realised that God blessed him because he loved him and because Abraham trusted God (Romans 4:16,17).

The second incident involving tithing was a promise to God that Jacob made when he was leaving home. He promised a tenth of everything to God if he watched over him and kept him safe (Gen 29:20-22). This was manipulation. Jacob was a conniver. He did deals with everyone he met to try to get ahead. In this instance, he tried to do a deal with God. The scriptures do not record whether Jacob actually kept his promise and tithed.

Jacob thought he needed to make a promise to get God on his side. He was wrong. God had chosen to bless him. God chose Jacob because he loved him (Rom 9:14), despite his deceitfulness and manipulation, not because he promised to give wealth to God. No one can out give God.

Tithing got off to a bad start, as the first two examples in the scriptures were situations where people tried to do a deal with God. They committed to tithing if God would agree to bless them. This is still a common reason for tithing. People tithe to their church, believing that God will bless them in return by multiplying their wealth. This is manipulation, not grace and faith.

No comments: