Pristine Grace

The New Covenant
Essay 10
Jesus Christ: The End of the Tithe
by Bob Higby

The New Covenant

OLD COVENANT giving:

"Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year. And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always. And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; [or] if the place be too far from thee, which the LORD thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the LORD thy God hath blessed thee: then shalt thou turn [it] into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose: and thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household, and the Levite that [is] within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee. At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay [it] up within thy gates: and the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which [are] within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest." Deut 14:22-29 KJV

"A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord. . . . The entire tithe of the herd and flock--every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd's rod--will be holy to the Lord." Lev. 27:30,32 NIV.

"Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me." But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' "In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse--the whole nation of you--because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their friut," says the Lord Almighty. Mal. 3:8-12 NIV

"Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone." Luke 11:42

NEW COVENANT giving:

"Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. . . . Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God." 2 Cor. 9:6-8, 10-11 NIV

"And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality." 2 Cor. 8:10-13 NIV

     One of the most severe curses in the history of Chrisitian teaching is the attempt to bind the conscience with guilt-giving. This manipulative dogma has been preached continuously in every sect and professed non-sect. What answer shall we give to those who demand a large portion of our money as a legal requirement of the gospel?

     The most common (though not exclusive) dogma of guilt-giving is that of the tithe. We have those who preach single-tithe, double-tithe (Joseph demanded one-fifth, right?) and even triple-tithe (the Worldwide Church of God, until the last few years when it changed). Virtually all of the tithing 'requirements' are directed to a particular church, organization, or preacher that supposedly has the God-ordained 'appointment' to collect and utilize it.

     Many denominations considered 'orthodox' are absolutely dogmatic about tithing as a Christian duty. It is often preached that "if you are going to come here and be a part of this work of God, the changeless law of the Lord demands a tenth of your gross income." That means it is to be given nowhere else except to that local non-profit corporation. Otherwise, one is accused of robbing God--which implies a serious doubt of salvation. This is not occurring in one isolated congregation--but in virtually all of those in a particular denomination. Including those who claim to be 'liberated' from vain tradition. The seminaries train the ministers to preach it as a 'must.'

     It has been taught publicly by 'televangelists' that only those who tithe will be in heaven. No exceptions. If one listens carefully, it is clear that the required giving involves more than 10% of gross income and is to be given only to teachers who supposedly have everything straight. There are an infinite number of examples. An arrogant, institutional churchianity of many centuries has thrived and prospered in proportion to how much it has preached guilt-giving.

     What shall we say about the old Mosaic tithing law? Well, it doesn't even resemble the tithing preached in churches today. Not in the slightest. What we have is another reinterpretation in an attempt to impose law-covenant requirements in the age of the gospel. Let us review the other items that persons have 'recast' to attempt bringing them into the grace-covenant:

  1. Sunday rest as the Sabbath of the fourth commandment (or, in some cases, a continuation of Saturday).
     
  2. Water baptism 'for the remission of sins' as a new covenant of circumcision.
     
  3. The church building and institution to replace the temple and synagogue.
     
  4. The clergy/laity distinction and one-bishop rule to replace the priesthood.

     Another Item is the gross reinterpretation (at best) of the Mosaic tithing requirement under discussion. It is a direct slap in the face to what Paul taught about giving. Finally, it is a return to the former elements of the law that condemn and drive men into sin. It should be rejected totally as a vain regulation that demands contempt for our liberty in Christ.

     The tithe required in Deut. 14 can be summarized as follows:

  1. It was agricultural only and did not apply to money at all.
     
  2. It was on the 'increase' only.
     
  3. Only the tithe of every third year was given to the Levite. This gift also had to be shared with the strangers in the land, orphans, and widows.
     
  4. The tithe of the other two years was stored up for thanksgiving celebrations. It could be exchanged for money if an appointed place of worship was too-distant. Upon arrival at the appointed place, the money could be spent on any party supplies that were desired. We must keep in mind, though, that this was a party 'unto the Lord' and not one for sheer pleasure and drunkenness.
     
  5. It is likely that more produce and meat was burned than was given to the Levites and the poor. If the usual practice of sacrifice in the former covenant was followed, any excess of the increase tithe in the two years would have been burned to the Lord as an offering. I can picture some persons with wide-open mouths replying with Judas, 'why this waste?' God's ways are not our ways.
     
  6. A great blessing was pronounced on those who were faithful to this law.

     The 'blessing' of Deut. 14 and that of Mal. 3 are exactly same thing: Malachi is repeating Moses. It is a very great distortion to isolate Malachi 3 as a grace-covenant requirement for God's people today.

     Well, by now it probably seems that God did not require a lot in the former covenant in terms of giving. Very true. Additional offerings beyond the tithe were encouraged but not required.

     In the covenant of grace, we have an infinitely better motive for giving than under the law. Our basis is the joy of the gospel. God doesn't state an amount that he requires: we are to give in proportion to the blessings of the gospel in our lives. Additionally, there is no one proper recipient of our gifts. It can be the Christian education of our children, a worthy Christian ministry, a local congregation or pastor faithful to the gospel, Christians in true need, or a ministry of one's own. Even a party to reach the unsaved. Christ said to make friends for eternity by using unrighteous mammon.