Sunday, March 18, 2018

Tithing (5) New Covenant

The tithe had two purposes.

  • Food for a celebration feast at Jerusalem three times a year.
  • Material support for the Levites and other poor people living in their towns.
These purposes for tithing do not carry forward into the New Testament. Jesus made the perfect sacrifice on the cross, so the tabernacle/temple sacrifices became redundant. Jesus fulfilled the feasts. There is no temple for us to visit, so it is not possible to take produce and have a celebration meal at the temple. Once the gospel went to the world, returning to Jerusalem for feast became impossible.

We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. He lives within us, so we can celebrate in his presence every day. A shared meal with the body of believers that we belong to fulfils the role of the feasts. Followers of Jesus, are expected to share food with other believers when the body of Jesus meets to celebrate the Lord’s supper.

Similarly, there are no Levites serving at the temple needing the tithe for their income. Giving to the Levites was rural to urban giving. This may be needed in the body of Jesus, but it will be prompted by the Holy Spirit, not by a rule to be obeyed.

God still cares for the poor. While under the law, the Holy Spirit had not been given in fullness, so people need a rule for giving to the poor. Specifying a tenth ensured that people were generous. Under the new covenant, the Holy Spirit has been poured out on all who believe. He can lead his people into generous giving. In the book of Acts, there was no tithe, but they gave to everyone who had need.

They shared everything they had. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them (Acts 4:32-34).
Generous caring and sharing led by the Holy Spirit is more effective than tithing.

God still expects his people to care for widows, orphans and disabled. In the New Testament that takes place through giving and sharing (Acts 6:1-7; 1 Tim 5:3-16). He also expects that churches will support each other when the need arises (2 Cor 8,9). These activities are led by the Holy Spirit, not by a rule of the tenth.

Under the new covenant, there is no temple, and no Levites caring for it, so the role of the tithe has disappeared. Tithing is replaced by generous giving and sharing led by the Holy Spirit. Deacons were appointed to direct giving to the poor.

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