Thursday 31 March 2016

The Continuity of Giving Tithes and Offerings between the Old Testament and the New

Matthew 6:19-24 “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. “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 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".

The teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ cuts right through external religious performance and hypocrisy. Men can be very religious, but they cannot sustain a performance of the duty of giving, private communion with God and secret giving as prescribed in Matthew 6:2, Matthew 6:6 and Matthew 6:17.

Fasting, giving and prayer all continue from the Old Testament, as does also the worship of the LORD in the prescribed manner that He requires. Ceremonies, sacrifices and other means, such as the ordained office of Levites do not continue exactly, because the OT was in Shadow, now the reality has come.

Colossians 2:16-17 “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ”.

Hebrews 10:1-2 “For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near”.

Matthew 23:23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!”.

Did you notice that Jesus says “these you ought to have done” and by thus he endorses tithing, but not as a religious performance without the heart. Perhaps the key verse for us to emphasise is “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. This is searching and we must ask ourselves some searching questions? Does your giving to the church reflect biblical principles? Does your giving to the church reflect that your heart is really committed to obeying the Lord and that your giving is a matter of priority and of devotion to the Lord? Religious hypocrites do not like any duties, they only want vague guidance to allow them to do what they will.

As I set forth the binding principle of the tithe upon the new covenant church, you may or may not agree. What you cannot disagree with is Matthew 6:21. Where is your heart? Remember that in Hebrews 8:6 that we have promised a better covenant established on better promises. If a Christian rejects the tithe as binding upon their conscience, then we would expect them to give more than a tenth if they claim to be consistent as a disciple of Jesus Christ. However, this rarely happens in my experience.

The Continuity of Tithes and Offerings

I. Before the Law Came

Genesis 14:17 "After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). 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".

We know from the Book of Hebrews that Melchizedek is a type of Christ, but it is not Christ pre-incarnate. Christ Jesus, the eternal Son did not come in Person until his incarnation. Here, we have laid down the clear principle of giving a tenth of everything, as unto God Most High. This was continued through the Patriarchs and this principle was declared by Jacob at his conversion (most likely when it happened) in Genesis 28.

Genesis 28:18-22 “So early in the morning Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called the name of that place Bethel, but the name of the city was Luz at the first. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.”

Jacob’s heart was changed and his desire to give to the LORD changed, and the guiding principle is a tenth. This is something anybody can calculate anywhere in the world. If an orange farmer is told a tenth belongs to his owner, he may not be able to read or write but he knows what a tenth is!

II. After the Law Came
Malachi 3:6-12
“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".

This was binding upon the whole nation of Israel and there are several matters for us to consider briefly.

Departing from the LORD and ceasing to give to the LORD’s church in the OT and the new often go together.
How do we return? It is by giving the tenth and contributions, which the LORD says is robbing God, if we do not.
The full tithe is to be brought into the storehouse which was for the provision of the Levites and the temple worship. The tithe was to maintain true worship and this continues into the New Testament.
The Lord says “put me to the test” and he offers blessings. This is in shadow, but the Lord requires giving to his church (not para-church organisations) for the perpetuity of true worship.

In my experience the Christians who are most happy and holy are those who attend morning and evening worship services as the recognition that they delight in the Christian Sabbath and the ones who also tithe in season and out of season. There are times that tithing is a sacrifice, but we do not shrink back at such times.

III. After Jesus Christ Came
There is no biblical evidence that the tithe is discontinued. Some Christians want explicit proof texts before they will do anything, but oftentimes it is not so that they can obey the LORD, it is because they want to release themselves to a life of self-governed freedom. In short rebellion.

Hebrews 7:1-10: “For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.
See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils! And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers, though these also are descended from Abraham. But this man who does not have his descent from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. In the one case tithes are received by mortal men, but in the other case, by one of whom it is testified that he lives. One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him".

Tithes/tenth is mentioned seven times here. Why? Jewish Christians were still giving their tithe to the temple worship and the writer is explaining that this should cease and instead it should be brought to the church and to our great high priest who is Jesus Christ.

The pattern continues, with changes.

We bring it primarily on the first day of the week: 1 Cor. 16:1-2, the Lord’s Day
It is brought for the church, not the temple
Jesus Christ is the king of peace and king of righteousness and we anticipate his blessings upon us: the inferior is blessed by the superior.
It must be given to support a true church. What is a true church? Where the word is purely preached and heard, and the sacraments are rightly administered and received.
Teaching elders need support in the NT. The pattern of ruling elders and teaching elders (Levites) in the OT. 1 Timothy 5:17-18 “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honour, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The labourer deserves his wages”.
As elders we do not monitor people’s tithing and giving.

In conclusion, giving a tenth/paying tithes is found ten times in the NT (also Luke 11:42 and 18:12). May we remember two guiding principles:

First-fruits Proverbs 3:9-10. We attend to giving first to the LORD and then we must make sure this is done diligently.
I. A cheerful giver (2 Cor 9:7)
II. Consistency
III. This is an example to our children and others
IV. This reveals your heart. Proverbs My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways. Your giving reveals your heart and it is that which the LORD wants.
V. Tithing and contributions helps to guard us against lukewarmness, covetousness and self-centred living, besides many other sins.
VI. The Lord rewards us in heaven for our giving and we store up heavenly treasure. It takes faith to believe this, but it is true.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”, Matthew 6:21.


Anonymous said...

I think the position on the tithe in the New Testament is quite clear; it is not expected of the New Testament church. I will start with your assertion that Jesus endorsed the tithe. When Jesus healed the leper and asked him to go show himself to the priest and offer the sacrifice commanded by the Law of Moses, was he endorsing this to the New Testament church?

When Jesus was speaking about the tithe, the Old Testament was still in full effect and His audience was the Jews and he used it as an analogy to describe how meticulous they were with trivial things; straining a gnat while swallowing a camel. The New Testament only came into effect after the death and resurrection of Jesus.

With regards to the book Hebrews, the writer was trying to show from scripture that the priesthood of Jesus replaces that of the Levites. He used things familiar to the Jews to prove his point. The Jews already knew that a non-Levite could never receive tithes, so the writer uses Abraham’s encounter with Melchizedek to show that there is a class of priests not descended from Levi who were legally priests through an oath and as such belonged to a more superior priesthood that lasts forever. Heb 7: 28 is the clincher

For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.

The tithe is not the same thing as the firstfuit and both were part of the Old Testament laws and were only to be brought from agricultural produce from within the land of Israel alone. The children of Israel were commanded to offer the first crops to ripen and the first born from the livestock as the firstfruit. The tithe was then collected after the harvest; the famer divided his crops into ten equal parts and separated the tenth as his tithe. For the tithe of livestock every tenth animal was separated as the tithe. No portion of scripture ever says money can be given in lieu.

The bible admonishes us in the New Testament to give as we are able without imposing a 10% minimum and we are further told that anything we give will be accepted as long as it has been given willingly cheerfully.

Kevin Bidwell said...

Thank you for taking the time to make a comment. I am sorry that I do not know your name and your blog only gives away the title "elite in Christ".

The heart of the matter is the relevance of continuity between the Old Testament and the New Testament which impacts our understanding of how to rightly interpret the Bible. What is your view with respect to the continuity and changes in the covenant administration between the Old and New? I hold to the Westminster Standards and the chapter "Of God's Covenant with Man" in chapter 7 answer this question excellently.

I agree with you that in the New Testament that generosity and cheerful giving to the Lord are encouraged: 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9. However, this does not abolish the covenantal duty of giving tithes and offerings to the Lord's church. If you are not persuaded then we can agree to disagree, but may I suggest two books to read. They are both by O. Palmer Robertson and the first is "The Christ of the Covenants" and the second is "The Christ of the Prophets". They are both published by P and R and they are very rewarding reads.
Kevin J Bidwell

Kevin Bidwell

Anonymous said...

Hi Kevin,

I hadn’t realised you’d responded to my comment and only just saw the comment you left on my blog. A rather difficult question I admit. My name is Tony by the way.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I think the bible is quite clear on what should constitute a tithe. With this in mind, we clearly cannot meet this remit in the New Testament no matter how hard we try. There is one thing Abraham and Jacob’s ‘tithe’ have in common, it never won them right standing with God and played no part in influencing God’s relationship with them. It was something they freely chose to do. A deep contrast to the tithing mandated in the law which wasn’t a standalone law but was dependent on the rest of the law to be effective. Every aspect of the law were so intricately woven together that breaking just one was tantamount to breaking all. This is the reason a Sabbath breaker could be stoned to death even if he’d kept all the other laws. As such, we cannot isolate the command to tithe and ignore all other aspects of the law, it is either all or none.

That aside, no single scripture calls the tithe 10% of money; this bit is thoroughly man-made neither does scripture say God has given the tenth as a giving guide. Also, scripture does not equate the firstfruits to the tithe; they were both 2 very different laws with God commanding that one must be done before the other. The firstfruit was the first crops to ripen and was offered before the harvest while the tithe was collected at the harvest.

God bless

Kevin Bidwell said...

I am wondering if you are reacting to extreme teachings and indeed false teaching from the prosperity movement rather than expounding the Scripture. To indicate that tithing does not involve money is a fascinating assertion, though it is not accurate. We think for example of the giving of the widow woman, whom we know does not explicitly indicate tithing, but giving to the temple which was money (coins). In an agricultural society, of course the context of giving included the value of a tenth of the crops or herds.

However, in my first response I asked you to think through about the continuity of the Old Testament with the New and here I want you to consider the threefold division of the Old Testament Law. This division was between the ceremonial law, the civil law and the moral law, all of which were perfectly fulfilled by the Lord Jesus Christ in his obedience in his life, death and resurrection. A good book I recommend you read on this is by Phillip Ross "From the Finger of God". This I think you will find helpful. There is continuity in the law, for example the moral law of the Ten Commandments is binding upon all men, and not just the church. Do you agree that the Ten Commandments are morally binding upon yourself?

I am doing a series of sermons in Sheffield Presbyterian Church on the book of Malachi currently and this helps people to see the continuity in the covenant of grace between Malachi, the Lord Jesus and the church. The links to these sermons are:

I hope that you find these resources instructive, helpful and able to give you further light on your questions and comments.

Anonymous said...

I think you’ve just proven my point. You’ve been unable to pull out a reference to money being given as tithe which is why non-farmers in the OT did not tithe from wages they received. When tithing is being discussed, the widow’s mite really shouldn’t feature. You appear to interchange giving and tithing; they are certainly not the same thing.
Scripture is clear on the subject of money and the tithe;
30 “A tenth of all crops belongs to the Lord. This means the crops from fields and the fruit from trees—a tenth belongs to the Lord. 31 So if you want to get back your tenth, you must add one-fifth to its price and then buy it back. 32 “The priests will take every tenth animal from a person’s cattle or sheep. Every tenth animal will belong to the Lord. 33 The owner should not worry if the chosen animal is good or bad or change the animal for another animal. If this happens, both animals will belong to the Lord. That animal cannot be bought back.” Leviticus 27

Can you provide scriptures in support of your stance that money could also be tithed? And my position really has nothing to do with scripture twisting prosperity preachers, I have simply found the doctrine to be seriously wanting in terms of biblical support.