12.4.06

"What?" and "To whom?"

I have a couple more postings on tithing left in me. It may seem like I am labouring the subject, but I'm just being thorough.

You see, I think sometimes, we can take things for granted, and assume others see things the way we do. We can ask questions like "Do you tithe?", and just take for granted that "What do you tithe?" and "To whom do you bring your tithe?" are obvious.

For me these questions were not obvious. Not at first anyway. I became convicted by the Spirit of my need to tithe before I had received any thorough teaching on the subject, and I was not sure what I should tithe or to whom I should bring it.

I knew that I should tithe "my income" and that I should give it "to God", but very inconveniently God does not have a bank account, and does not accept standing orders or direct debits. Also for people who are taxed at source, there is a question about net and gross; do I tithe everything that comes into my account, or a tenth of what I get on paper?

What?
It is here that the pre-law instances on tithing are very helpful. Abraham gave Melchizadek "a tenth of everything". And Jacob swore to give God "a full tenth of all that you give me."

This takes the whole argument away from petty details like whether it is just "agricultural products" that God is interested in. It's a question of "What has God given me?" If we recognise God as our source, then we acknowledge that all our financial provision comes from him, whether it comes, in the natural, from our employer, as a gift, in return for a service rendered, or wherever else. All that we are and all that we have is a gift from him. To give him the "full tithe" is indeed to give him a tithe of "everything". Since the taxman takes his percentage out of what we have earned, it is natural and only right that we give to God from the full amount before the taxman, whether this is done at source or not.

To whom?
On one level this answer is as simple as it first appears. The tithe belongs to God, and we always bring it to God. Note that in the Old Testament, the Levites collected the tithe. It was not given to them. Not directly by the tithers anyway. The tithe was given to God, and then God gave to the Levites out of the tithe. This may seem like a subtle distinction, but it is important.

You see, in politics a phrase we hear over and over is "taxpayers money". The government of a country is responsible to the people it represents to spend the money collected wisely. There is a sense among the people of "Hey, that's our money you're spending!" But one thing we never see in the scriptures is the sense of "tithe-payers money!" The people did not give their money to the Levites, and the Levites did not get their income from the people. The people brought their tithes to God, and God gave the exclusive right to the Levites to use the money from the collected tithes. Once the people had brought their tithe, their responsibility ended, whether the money was spent by the Levites wisely or foolishly, they had faithfully brought it to God. Equally the Levites were payed from the tithe by God, and thus it was before God that they were responsible as to how they used the money. (Which is the same as everyone else once you have realised who your true source is!)

So the real question is "Who has the right to be payed by God from the tithe today?" We don't have Levites, but what were the Levites? They were people set apart by God to serve him and minister to his people, who had no other source of income. We certainly have men like this today. We should bring our tithes to God at the place where we receive ministry from those who have been set apart for this work and who have pastoral care and spiritual authority over us. It is they who have the right to take from the tithe, as a payment not from man but from God.

13 comments:

Kev C said...

Excellent post Chris, you have been clear and concise in your interpretation, hitting the nail I believe, precisely on the head. It's great to see what I feel in my heart as right laid out in such away, as always thanks.

Ricky Carvel said...

In these days of "Gift aid" the problem of tithing before or after tax has more or less been dealt with. If you give a tenth or your net income to a charitable institution they get an extra 28% back from the government, which more-or-less equates to a tenth of your gross income. If you want to be picky, you need to give a little extra to cover the non-recoverable deductions of your national insurance contributions.

Anyway, my main reson for commenting is that your post suggests that the tithe should be used (exclusively?) to support the work of people called to full time service - ministers, pastors, evangelists, etc. How about money given to other Christian charities? These are frequently run by folk with a heart for a certain ministry, but not necessarily a calling, and the money often goes to support the poor, the sick, the needy, but not those in full time ministry. Should our giving to Christian causes be over and above the tithe? And should the whole tithe go into your local part of the church?

There was some discussion in our church a year or so ago about tithing - sadly it was never resolved. One side in the discussion (the one I was on) was that we should be encouraging our church members to tithe their income directly to the church, and then we (as a church) could decide which causes and charities we should support out of that. The other side argued that people should split their tithe between the church and the causes of their own choosing.

Chris HH said...

Good points, Ricky!

The gift aid point is an interesting one. My view is that the first tenth of my income belongs to the Lord, before the taxman takes anything away and before he gives anything back. So I thank God for gift aid, but I don't base my tithing practice on how much the government gives or takes, but on what belongs to God.

The issue of what to do with gift aid returns on the tithe is an interesting point too. Do you treat them as money that has been tithed, or as a general offering to the church (free to be used in any way.) My own understanding is that since it is money that has been returned for money that has already been tithed, it also should be considered part of the tithe. (Just like the principle that something given in exchange for something that was devoted would also become devoted.) But I think this is an issue for the local church leaders to decide according to their revelation and conviction before God.

I do believe that the tithe should be given to the local church ministries, but if they decide to use it to support the poor the sick and the needy, then that is an absolutely valid use of God's money. Deuteronomy 26 gives instructions that the tithe may be eaten by "the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow." So this would encompass ministries (not necessarily local) and also those in need. The principle used in our church is "people not projects".

I'd agree with you that although the tithe can be used for these things, people should tithe their income directly to the local church, and allow the local ministries (those who are given the tithe by God) to decide how it is distributed. If individuals are deciding how and where to distribute the tithe themselves, they are treating it like their own money rather than God's.

Our own charitable giving should be over and above the tithe. This includes what we give to the church, as we have not really given anything that is our own, until we have brought what is God's.

Elwyn Jones said...

Hi Chris,
We will all agree that it is taught that the ordinary working man must fork out10%of his pay packet before his tax and National Insurance in tithes. But one of the areas I've always been confused over is the businessman’s responsibility when it comes to tithing.
Once upon a time there was a factory machinery maintenance engineer who was made redundant, with his redundancy money he set up his own business, manufacturing oilcans. Through sheer hard work, determination and a lot of luck in 15 years he turned his business into a successful company, with an annual turnover of 750k. In the first several year’s of his business the profit he made was used to build a dream home for his wife, the one she always wanted. The car he drove, the petrol he used, insurance, tax and maintenance was all paid from his firms money, once a month he visited his main customer, while he was there he would take his wife and his customer out for a meal even a west end show, with all the expenses coming from the firms money. Even his food is bought at discount prices because of his business connections.
After all these operational expenses are paid for he then pays himself 15k per year living expenses, the same as he pays his employee. This employee is a Christian; he must have a car to drive to work and pay for all the expense that comes with a car out of his wages as well as taxes etc.
We all know that he would be expected 1.5k in tithes.
You mentioned Abraham tithing everything he had so that means that this businessman should tithe 75k plus offerings.

Christopher Alton said...

Before any of us can tackle the doctrinal issues involving tithing, we have to firstly get past the question "How much?"

Whilst we are still (consciously or sub-consciously) trying to minimise the amount we pay, then we are not yet truly sowers. The most important part for God is not the amount but the heart that gives it. As Jesus told the Pharisees, we should persue the one without neglecting the other (Matt 23:23)

Elwyn Jones said...

The only time Our Lord Jesus tells anyone to pay tithes,(Matt 23 ), If this was understood as a command to the Church, how come it is never reaffirmed by any of the New Testament Apostles? Our Lord Jesus was addressing the Pharisees,in this portion of Scripture not His own disciples,and He calls the concerns about tithing a gnat.

Will somebody please show me where in the New Testament we can find any of the believers paying tithes, or any of the N. T. Apostles asking for Tithes ?

Our Apostle Paul said in 2 Cor 9:7
Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver.

There are some of us that take doctrinal issues very seriously.
and we will shout from the pulpit that we as christians must give.
But the issue here is Tithing.

Chris HH said...

I too believe in generous freewill offerings, which is why I make sure I have always brought my tithe.

Unless you consider Christ's endorsement of the Old Testament principle insufficient, no further example or expansion is required.

It was applying the principle of tithing to your garden herbs which Jesus called a "gnat" not the tithe itself.

Elwyn Jones said...

Dear Chris
I am in no way having a go at you because you feel compelled to pay tithes. I am just an ordinary man who fears God and trembles at His Word (isaiah 66-2) and I look into the Holy Bible for my self to discover the Truth.

I am most grateful to you for allowing me to post my comments on your blog site. There are of course beliefs upon which Christians have always differed and will continue to do so.(nothing new in that) I trust you will not see me has a pain or offensive ( I don't think you do)
In the final analysis it is a matter of one's personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

I am convinced that God makes Himself known not to the casual intellectual curiosity, but to passionate thrist (jer 29-13)

Ask an average Christian to talk about God, after getting past the expected answers you will find that his god is a little god of vacillating sentiments. james montogomery boice once said that and I agree with him.

You haven't been like that Chris and I am most grateful to you for it. nothing wrong with a few spark's flying, friend !

I've learnt alot by these exchanges
thank you.

May God Bless us both.
Elwyn

God willing until next time.

Christopher Alton said...

There is a Hebraic literary device which Jesus and the Apostles used, called Kal v'chomer ('How much more?'). Now, if the people of the Old Covenant gave a tenth of all they had to God (plus freewill offerings) then how much more should we, the recipients of the New Covenant, give to God?

My question for those of us who don't believe in tithing, but simply in "giving" is, are you outgiving those who were under the law, from the freewill of your hearts? Do you "give" at least 10% to God??

Mark Robins said...

In response to Christopher Alton:

Can you explain the principle of tithing? What do you do with the ten percent that belongs to God? The only place in scripture where the teaching/doctrine kept in it’s context of the way you are to tithe is Deuteronomy 14:22 on. Tithe two years to yourself for a feast to show God’s blessings to your family, and one year to the preists/levites. It seems to me that we are under the misguided idea that tithing to God is giving ten percent to the church! As for me I tithed ten percent of my wages and ten percent of my business profits to the church, until I found the more scriptural pattern of Christian giving out of love AKA Romans 13:8 to 10 all commandments and law are fulfilled through love, including the commandment of tithing.

Elwyn Jones said...

Is it possible for just an ordinary Christian to study the Bible, God's living word and come to the conclusion that giving is voluntary involving the Heart and not some Law.If we don't tithe, Do we suppose we are sinning?

Can't we pay the Church bills the same way we pay our living expenses through budgeting and careful house keeping?

Why can't we ask the people to contribute towards paying the Church expenses and trust them to contribute voluntarily out of love. Insn't that trusting God in faith to provide?

Can't we heed the word's of our Apostle Paul in 1 tim 5-8
"but if any provide not for his own,and specially for those of his own household,he has denied the faith, and worse than an infidel.

Freely we have received, freely give.

I have showed you all things, how that so labouring you ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, How He said, IT is more blessed to give than receive(acts 20-35)

Anonymous said...

When Jesus instructs the rich young ruler how to become perfect, he said nothing of giving tithes - rather to provide for the poor. This indeed, is in line with what I believe to be the TRUE purpose of the tithe. In the OT, it was for the Levites (BECAUSE they had "no inheritance"), the aliens, widows and orphans (BECAUSE they could not support themselves). The Israelites were under the compulsion of the Law and paid tithes like taxes. We are under Grace and are encouraged to give from our hearts. If this is to a local church, that's fine. Just be wary of any church that attempts to say that the Bible teaches that tithes belong to the local church. At best, this is ignorance...at worst, just plain lies and manipulation.

Chris HH said...

Anonymous,

Anyone who teaches that the tithe belongs to anyone other than God is on very shaky ground. This includes the plethora of those today who teach that the tithe belongs to them to do with what they like!

We are under grace, but this does not give us licence for a free-for-all. The faith we have is a faith that leads to obedience.

We are encouraged to give from the heart, but tithing is not giving, because the tithe was never ours to give.