TITHING: FACT, FICTION, OR FRAUD?

The thing that comes to the minds of most professing Christians when  they hear the word 'tithing' is money. In many of today's Christian churches money is talked about as much, if  not more, than the message of Christ.

This study will answer these questions through biblically based research. Additionally, this study will give insight into how God views the practice of  giving  and sharing.

THE CHRISTIAN COMMISSION AND RESPONSIBILITY

Christians  are commissioned by Jesus Christ to proclaim his Father's good news message to humanity:

"Go you therefore and teach all nations,  baptizing  them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the  holy spirit: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I     have commanded  you: and, lo, I am with you always, even to the end  of the world. Amen" (Matt.28:19-20).

Attempting to fulfill this commission is a tremendous  undertaking. It requires much time, talent, energy, effort, and  financial support. Time, talent, energy, and effort must come from God's children, but how should this work of the church be financially supported?

Paul asks the Christians at Rome about the responsibility of supporting those who preached  the gospel message:

"How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a  preacher?  And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How  beautiful  are the feet of them that preach  the gospel  of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things" (Rom.10:14-15).

Paul explained  to the Corinthians that supporting  the ministry and the work of the church is a Christian  responsibility:

"Who  goes to war any time at his own charges? who  plants  a vineyard,  and  eats  not of the fruit thereof? or  who feeds  a flock, and eats not of the milk of the flock? Say I these things as a man? or says not the law the same also? For it is  written in the law of Moses, You shall not  muzzle the mouth of the ox that treads out the corn.  Does God take care for oxen? Or says he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this  is written:  that he that plows should plow in hope; and  that  he that threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. If  we have sown to you spiritual things,  is it a great thing  if we  shall reap your carnal things? If others be  partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that  they which  minister about holy things live of the things of the temple?  and they which wait at the altar are partakers  with the altar? Even so has the Lord ordained that they which preach  the gospel should live of the gospel" (1.Cor.9:7-14 KJV).

But  how  is this support to be given? Should  the  support  come through the tithing system that was a part of God's first covenant with national Israel? Should Christians tithe a certain amount of their increase as the  ancient Israelites did? Or should it come through the  freewill  offerings of those who are personally committed  to   doing  their part in supporting the work of the church?

IS  TITHING REQUIRED TODAY?

Many religious organizations teach tithing as the means of supporting their particular work. And many  millions of people over the years who have regularly dedicated a  percentage  of their income to God have felt that they have been physically and spiritually  blessed  as a result of their giving.

Many who live by the principle of giving a tenth of their  income to a church will  attest to the benefits of tithing  based  on their own personal experiences. But are the elect children of God required to give a tenth of their income to support the work of the church in order to remain in right-standing with God? Many believe that, because  God owns everything, he requires Christians to return  ten percent  of  their  total income to him.  And, if  one fails  to do this, a Christian is stealing from God and will be cursed.

This belief might sound logical on the surface; however, it has a major flaw. There is no historical or biblical proof to support this belief.  From Genesis to Revelation there are no instructions that command the elect children of God or  anyone else to tithe on their monetary income.

If there is proof that the tithing law that God gave to national Israel is binding on the elect of God today, the proof should be easily found in the Bible. In order to fully understand the responsibility of the Christian concerning tithing, it is important to remember that humans do not have the authority  to  require people to worship God in opposition to his express will as revealed through his word—the Bible. If a  person or an organization teaches that tithing on one's income is a universal law  of God that is in effect today, they should  be  honest enough to show how historical or biblical evidence backs up this assertion. However,  this is impossible to do; therefore, most religious organizations that teach tithing just  state  this doctrine as if it were fact and leave it unproven.

The following questions must be answered about the subject of tithing before a conclusion can be reached as to whether tithing is binding on the elect of God today:

THE JEW AND TITHING

First  let us clear up a misconception that many have  concerning  the Jewish  religion. The Jews do not practice the paying of tithes as a  part of their religious system. The Jews do not  tithe today, because there is no one  to pay the tithe to.

According to the law given by God through Moses, tithing cannot be  accomplished today by any of the tribes (nations) of Israel, including the tribe of Judah (Jews).  They  cannot tithe, because there is no Levitical priesthood officiating in  the nation of Israel, nor is there a temple in Jerusalem in which to officiate. Therefore, it  is impossible  for any Israelite to tithe  in  the manner authorized and prescribed under the law of tithing. However,  if a temple were to be built in  Jerusalem  and the Levitical priesthood were instituted again, many  Jews  would tithe in accordance to the law.

ABRAHAM AND  MELCHIZEDEC

Many use the following account in Genesis 14:18-20 in an attempt to prove that  a universal tithing law existed during the  life of Abraham, and  that this account shows tithing as  a universally understood  principle that was observed from the beginning of Creation. But, does  this account reveal the same law that God gave through  Moses?

"And Melchizedec king of Salem brought bread and wine: and he was the priest of the Most High God.  And he blessed Abraham, and said, Blessed be Abraham of the Most High God, who possesses heaven and earth: And blessed is  the Most High God, that  has  delivered your enemies into your hand.  And Abraham gave Melchizedec tithes of all" (Para.).

Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils of war to Melchizedec, the king  of Salem. When Abraham gave this tenth, was he obeying some universal tithing law  that was  later formalized and made a part of God's agreement with the Israelites at  Mount  Sinai?

The surrounding circumstances of this event are those of  war:

"And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel  king  of Shinar,  Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of  Elam, and Tidal  king  of nations; That these made war with  Bera king  of Sodom,  and with Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king  of  Admah, and  Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of  Bela,  which  is Zoar"  (Gen.14:1-2 KJV).

During  the battle with the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah,  Abraham's nephew Lot and Lot's family, servants, and possessions were captured and carried off  by  the aggressors.

"And the vale of Siddim was full of slimepits; and the kings of Sodom  and Gomorrah fled, and fell there; and they that remained fled  to the mountain. And they took all the goods of Sodom  and Gomorrah,  and all their victuals, and went their way.  And  they took  Lot, Abraham's brother's son, who dwelt in  Sodom,  and  his goods, and departed" (Gen.14:10-12 KJV).

Upon hearing of Lot's capture, Abraham armed his servants  pursued Lot's  captors  and liberated everyone and  everything that  the aggressors had taken.  This included things that belonged to  the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah.

As Abraham returned from battle, Melchizedec came to bless him:

"And Melchizedec king   of Salem brought forth  bread and  wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.    And he blessed  him, and said, Blessed be Abraham of the most  high God, possessor of heaven and earth" (Gen.14:18-19 KJV).

In  verse 20, Abraham gives a tenth of the spoils of war  to Melchizedec.  The writer to the Hebrews also refers to this event:

"For this Melchizedec, king of Salem,  priest  of the  most high God, who met Abraham returning from the  slaughter of the kings, and blessed him;  To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace."  (Heb.7:1-2 KJV).

According to the  proponents of  tithing today, tithes must be paid on one's increase.   But, Abraham gave Melchizedec a tenth of 'all':

"And the king of Sodom  said to Abraham, Give me the people, and you take the goods. And Abraham  said to the king of Sodom, I have lifted up my hand to the Lord, the Most High God, the possessor of  heaven and earth, and said that I will not take even from a thread or a shoe-latch, and that I  will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, I have made Abraham rich: However, that is only taken  which  the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went  with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion" (Gen. 14: 21-24 Para.).

WHERE IS THE INCREASE?

Where is Abraham's increase? Abraham did not have any increase, because he only liberated the people who were taken captive and recovered their goods for them.  Granted,  everything  could have been considered spoils  of  war  by Abraham. However, gaining spoils of war was not the reason he  set out  after the aggressors.    Abraham's intent was to liberate  his nephew Lot and his people.

Notice that Abraham kept nothing for himself. He even said in verse 23  that  the goods belonged to the king of Sodom. There was  no increase for Abraham; therefore, even if the spoils of  war were reckoned as tithable items, Abraham would have been exempt, because he did not have any spoils on which to tithe.

This  example does  not  show that Abraham was obeying a  universal tithing  law that required him to give a tenth of the  spoils of war to Melchizedec. It seems that the tenth of the recovered goods given to Melchizedec was an offering of thanks rather than a required payment on an increase.

One must take care not to read something that is not historical fact into this account. This account, which  is used in the New Testament to show the  superiority of  the  Melchizedec  priesthood, does not prove  that  Abraham  was obeying a universal law of tithing. However, it does show Abraham's gratitude to God for his blessings.

JACOB'S VOW

The second proof that is put forth for a universal tithing law is the account in which Jacob vows to give a tenth of all that God blesses him with:

" And Jacob vowed 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 raiment to put on, So that I come again  to my  father's house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God:  And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's  house:  and  of all that you shall give me I will surely give  the  tenth to you" (Gen.28:20-22).

The word 'if ' is important in this account, because Jacob is asking God to enter into an agreement with him. Jacob promises that, if  God will bless him, he will give a tithe of these material blessings. Not only did Jacob ask God for food, clothing, protection, and peace as a condition of this agreement but also he agreed to worship only God and call the place where the agreement was made 'God's House.'

If  tithing  were  a universal law before  Abraham was born and it existed during  Jacob's lifetime, it would have been very presumptuous of Jacob  to think  he could bargain with God on this issue.  To really  understand  what  is taking place in this account, we must find out what the circumstances were that made Jacob decide to make a vow.

Some people believe that God does not bargain with people; instead, he only dictates to them. However, the biblical fact is that God has negotiated many agreements  with  individual  people besides  the overall agreement that he made with the nation of Israel. Read  the examples of Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel  (1.Sam.1:1-28),  and Jephthah, the Gileadite (Jdg.11:30-40). There are indeed many other  bargains with God that were initiated  by  both men and women that are noted in the  Bible. Moreover,  in Ecclesiastes 5:2-5, King Solomon warns people to be careful about making  and keeping such vows and covenants with God.

Notice the tremendous promises that God gave to Jacob. Jacob's vow (a personal contract with God) included a  request for additional blessings based on his promise  to honor  God with an offering of a tenth of what God would give  to him in the future.

Jacob's vow clearly states that if God  would  do these  things,  Jacob would further honor him  with worship  and obedience. Clearly,  this  event does not establish  or  prove  a universal, perennial, or irrevocable law of tithing. What it  does show  is that Jacob made a covenant with God and was willing  to worship  and acknowledge God as his Creator, sustainer,  provider, and protector.

If  Jacob  were obligated to pay a tenth to God because  of  some universal tithing law, why would he have to make a special covenant with God to  give him a tenth?  Jacob's example of a conditional contract with the Creator to tithe does not prove a universal tithing law existed before the Mount Sinai agreement with national Israel  and cannot in any way be used as an example to impose and bind tithing upon Christians who are under a New Covenant.

AT SINAI

At Mount Sinai, there was  a people who had forgotten  the most basic principles of God's law while they were captive slaves in the land of Egypt, but they would soon  have this law revealed  and bound upon  them as a nation:

Exodus 19:20-25 KJV

"And  the  Lord came down upon mount Sinai, on the  top  of  the mount:  and the Lord called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses went up.  And the Lord said to Moses, Go down, charge the people,  lest they break through to the Lord to gaze, and  many of  them perish. And let the priests  also, which come  near  to the  Lord,  sanctify themselves, lest the Lord break  forth upon them."

"And Moses said to the Lord, The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai:  for you charged us, saying, Set bounds about  the  mount, and sanctify it. And the Lord said to him, Away, get you down, and  you shall come up, you, and Aaron with you: but let not  the priests  and the people break through to come up to  the  Lord, lest  he break forth upon them. So Moses went down to the  people, and spoke to them."

When the Israelites left Egypt, they took a great amount of material wealth from the Egyptians. However, no instructions can be found requiring that they pay tithes on this increase of material wealth. Later, when  the Israelites took the spoils of war from the Midianites, they were not required to tithe on these  spoils. Instead, they were to divide them among the people, the priests, and the Levites. See Num.31:26-30.

When there was a need to build the tabernacle,  Moses asked the people to give freewill  offerings for its construction. Why would he ask for these freewill offerings  if there was a universal  tithing system? There may have been as many as six  million Israelites camped at Mount Sinai  for almost a year, which would  have been plenty of time  to  collect  enough tithes and offerings to build a very large structure, This should be further proof that  no universal tithing law existed before the Mount Sinai agreement with national Israel.

THE TITHING LAW INSTITUTED

One of the first clues concerning when the law of tithing was to take effect and the conditions that had to exist for it to apply to national Israel is found in  Leviticus  25:1-2:

"And the  Lord  spoke to  Moses  in mount Sinai, saying, Speak to the  children  of Israel,  and say to them, When you come into the land  which  I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath to the lord" (KJV).

Only  when the Israelites entered into the land that God  would give them were they to keep the land rest and the Jubilee. This is an extremely important point because it clearly shows that some of the law of  God concerning national Israel requires that the Israelites live in the land of their inheritance.

Although the law of tithing was given to the Israelites while they were sojourning in the wilderness, no tithes were  collected from them during this time, because there was no increase  to tithe on. The Israelites were nomads in the land.  They  wandered from place to place with their flocks and herds.

Moreover, they could not tithe on an increase, because God provided food and clothing for  the Israelites while  they  lived  in the wilderness. Because  of the scarcity of the  necessary items for survival,  the Creator provided them daily  during the entire forty years of Israel's punishment until they came to the borders of the  land of Canaan. See Ex.16:8,12,35; Deut.29:5; Jos.5:12; Psa.105:40.

THE TITHING LAW

Among those who practice tithing as a doctrinal issue, there  are a  variety of viewpoints and methods used to determine what, when, and how one should tithe. Some pay a tenth on their gross income, some pay on their net income, and a few pay on the net increase of their material goods.

The  Old Covenant tithing law  that some try to apply to the elect of God today did not require that a person tithe on their total income, but  only on the increase of the land.

If the question of what is to be tithed on were not hard enough by itself, the question of when to pay is even more  complicated. Should a person tithe each pay period, at the end of the year, or every third year?  Some believe there are three tithes that  must be  paid:  the first to be used to support the ministry,  the second to be used during  God's annual observances and festivals, and the third to be given for the support of widows and orphans. Although these are difficult questions, it is very easy to understand the main  issues and the purpose for the tithing system.

This widely misunderstood law was given to a specific  nation, under a specific set of circumstances, and for a specific purpose. By disproving these misunderstandings and beliefs that have no historical or biblical basis, it will become clear  that  the tithing law given to ancient Israel is  not applicable to the elect of God today. However, there are some important spiritual  lessons to be learned from the law of tithing.

The law of tithing is first  mentioned  in  Leviticus 27:30-33  and only speaks of animal and agricultural items being tithed. Some people might say God was just stating principles to follow when he gave these examples of the law of tithing. However, it seems highly unlikely that these were just examples of the overall principle of tithing, because the instructions that God gave are very detailed and specific:

"And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord's: it is holy to  the Lord.  And  if a man will at all redeem ought of his  tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof.  And  concerning the tithe  of  the herd, or of the flock, even of  whatsoever passes under the rod, the tenth shall be holy to the Lord.  He shall not search whether it be good or bad, neither shall he change it: and  if he change it at all, then both it and the change thereof shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed"  (Lev.27:30-33 KJV).

"All  the  tithes of the land" clearly refers to  the  land  of Canaan and other lands that God had promised to give them as a national inheritance. Leviticus, chapters 25, 26 and 27 speak  specifically of  the lands that the Israelites were to occupy.  This is exactly how the ancient Israelites understood the  law of tithing as indicated by historical evidence. The Israelites  understood that the law of tithing only applied to the land of inheritance. And only those who had received this inheritance could tithe.

When  the tribes of Israel were eventually removed from their land and  dispersed to other geographical areas, they  did not consider the produce of those lands to be  tithable according  to the law.  The produce of these lands were considered to be impure and not  suitable  for use in supporting the temple service. See  Judaism, Vol. II, p. 71, by George Foot Moore and The Life and Times  of Jesus the Messiah,  Vol. I, p. 9, by Alfred Edershiem.

HOW THE TITHE WAS TO BE USED

The  purpose for the tithe is explained in the Book  of  Numbers:  

"And  behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth  in Israel  for  an inheritance, for their service when  they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation"  (Num.18:21 KJV).

The tenth part of all the increase of animals and produce had to be used to pay the Levites for the services they performed in the tabernacle and in the temple at Jerusalem. However, this  tithe of the land was not the Levite's only means  of  support,  nor  did their religious duties consume  all of  their time.  They  lived  much as any other Israelite did when they  were  not performing their  religious duties. Just  as  the  priests  had courses of service, the Levites also took turns in carrying  out their Levitical responsibilities.  When the  Levites  were  not engaged  in their religious duties, they could use their time  as they desired.

Numbers 35:1-8 shows that the Levites would inherit  certain   cities and much of the land around them on which to  raise their cattle and whatever else they wanted. This property was to be  theirs forever  (Lev.25:34). Because  they  had  these cities and all this land, they could support themselves when they were not actively engaged in their ministry to the people of God.

The scriptures also list the stranger, the fatherless, and the widows as being eligible for extra support from the tithe that was used to support the poor (Deut.14:28-29).

TITHABLE ITEMS

Tithable  items fell into two general categories: The increase of grain, vegetable produce, and fruit from trees,  and the increase of domestic animals:

"And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord's: it is holy to  the Lord.  And  if a man will at all redeem ought of his  tithes,  he shall add  thereto the fifth part thereof.  And  concerning the tithe  of  the herd, or of the flock, even of  whatsoever passes under  the rod, the tenth shall be holy to the Lord. (Lev.27:30-32 KJV).

M'Clintock  and  Strong's Cyclopaedia  of  Biblical  Literature' states:

"As the Mosaic law  does  not define  what things are subject to this tithe, but  simply  says that  it is to consist of both vegetables and animals [Lev.27:30],  the Jewish cannon enacted that as to the produce of  the land  'whatsoever is esculent [edible], though still kept in  the field,  and derives its growth from the soil is  tithable'." See the Mishnah, Maaseroth i,1 for clarification of this point.

It is important to understand the ultra-legalistic thought  process  of  most of these Israelites in regard to the law of God. Many who kept the law, kept  the letter of the law with great zeal  (Lk.11:41:42). If tithes had to  be  paid  on things  other than agricultural goods and livestock, there  is  no doubt that these people would have conformed to the letter  of the law.

When one reads the law of tithing, one will notice that nothing is  mentioned about the tithe of money, fish,  mining  or commerce. To claim that these things are tithable items  is to read something into the law that is not stated there.

THE FESTIVAL TITHE

Deuteronomy chapters 12 and 14 verify the agricultural nature of the law of tithing in  ancient Israel and refer to a special tithe for  the  annual observances and festivals  and poor Israelites. Whether or not these  two  additional tithes were separate from the regular tithe or were merely set aside every third year  for this purpose is unclear from  the context. Even Jewish authorities on the law differ on this point. This question is not necessarily pertinent to the  discussion  at hand and is only noted because some who hold to the doctrine of tithing use these two chapters of Deuteronomy to support their belief that Christians should pay three tithes.

The festival tithe (commonly called 'the second tithe') was  not to  be used within the Israelite's home territory:  "You may  not eat within your gates your tithe of your corn [grain] or of your wine, or of your oil . . ."  (Deut.12:17; 14:22). The annual observances and festivals were very important to God and to the people of Israel because they pictured the seven steps in God's plan for the redemption of mankind.

The males were to give a special gift to  God when they came before God on these special occasions:

"Three times in a year shall  all your  males appear before the Lord your God in the place which he shall choose: in the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and in the  Feast of  Weeks,  and in the Feast of shelters/ingathering; and they  shall  not appear  before the Lord empty:  [but] each with a gift in his hand, according to the blessing of the Lord your God that he  has given you"  (Deut.16:16-17 Para.).

A gift or an offering was required, but the  amount is not specified. The importance of  this  kind  of offering and how it applies to true Christians will be explained later.  Notice that this offering was not restricted  to those who were required to pay tithes, but it was required of  all  males.

THE TITHE FOR THE POOR

"And  at  the end of three years you shall bring forth  all  the tithe  [commonly called 'the third tithe']  of your increase  the same year, and shall lay it up within your gates [i.e., home or property]" (Deut.14:28 KJV). This tithe was to be  laid  up within  the person's property  and the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow were to partake of it:

"And the Levite, (because he has no part nor inheritance with you), and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within your gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the Lord  your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do" (Deut.14:29 KJV).

Second  Chronicles 31:6-11  refers to the law of tithing during the lifetime of King  Hezekiah.  At this time, the  tithe consisted of the  produce  of the land and animals, some of which were  stored in special chambers at the temple.

Without exception, the tithe was  a tithe of produce or animals. There  is no reference in the Bible to a tithe of monetary income, the selling or trading of wares,  or any other source of income.

The Temple Tax

After the return from Babylonian captivity, Nehemiah required the Israelites to give an offerings of one third  of a  shekel  per year in addition to the regular tithe of their  increase in order to support the service of the house of God (Nehe.10:32,35-39).

If the Jews had been tithing on all of their income, including both produce, animals, and money,  no temple  tax would have been necessary.  The  primary reason for the Jew's lack of support for the temple and the priesthood was due to being heavily taxed by their captors. Although Nehemiah assessed the third part of a shekel for the support  of the temple, it was not a part of the tithing law as set forth  by God.

WHAT IS  REAL INCREASE?

Those who insist on teaching the doctrine of tithing seem to be quite silent on the  question of what real increase is. A word study  into  the meaning  of the Hebrew words translated into the English as 'increase' in  the  Bible shows that an increase is anything that is over,  above,  and beyond one's expenses. These  expenses  include what it costs to live (e.g., food, clothing, shelter, education, insurance, health costs, taxes, the cost of earning a living, the cost of doing business.).

Two Hypothetical Examples of the Tithing Principle

1. A  certain farmer grows 100,000 bushels of wheat in a one  year period.  If this farmer used the principle of tithing as indicated in  the Bible, and tithed only on his increase, he would deduct all living expenses and all costs of  doing  business from this amount. For example, if  all of his expenses amounted  to  99,000 bushels of wheat, the increase  would  be 1,000 bushels of wheat. If he  tithed on his increase,  the  tithe would be 100 bushels of wheat.  Of course, if there were no increase above his expense, he could not tithe because he would have no increase on which to tithe.

2. If this farmer also raised livestock and his herd or flock had an increase of only nine animals, the farmer would not be obligated to tithe on the increase of nine according to Leviticus 27:32-33, because the tenth animal was the one that was holy to the Lord.

SUMMARY

In  summary,  there is no scriptural evidence  that  the law of tithing required one, two, or three tenths of one's  total  income. The tithe was to be paid only on the increase of agriculture produce and livestock in the land of national Israel.

The law of tithing  under the first agreement between God and national Israel was given specifically to fit the needs of that nation at that time in history.

Under the first agreement, God's worship system required that the Levites and priests serve God and the people  in the place where God placed his name (this was Jerusalem after the temple was built) and throughout Israel where the people lived. Under this agreement, God also instituted  national seasonal observances and festivals  wherein all the males  were  required  to attend at  the  place where God placed his  name.

The law of tithing was designed for the following reasons:

Because the first covenant with national Israel has been canceled by God and a new one has been established through the sacrifice of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, there are now a whole new set  of circumstances for the worshiper of God (Heb.8:6-10). Those who are called under the new covenant to participate in the first resurrection are not under the laws and rules of the first covenant in the same way ancient Israel was.

It is true that many of the terms, conditions, and laws of the first covenant were placed in the new covenant.  However, the law of tithing is not one of them. It is impossible for  Christians  today to conform to the law of tithing as set forth under the agreement with national Israel,  because the circumstances have changed. Today, national Israel does not exist under the rule of God, and there is no Levitical priesthood officiating at a place where God has placed his name. Until these circumstances change, absolutely no one can obey the law of tithing as originally given to ancient Israel.

MALACHI CHAPTER THREE

Many  preachers have pounded the pulpit and  repeated  Malachi 3:7-10 in support of their belief of a  universal  tithing law. Although the prophet's indictment and stinging rebuke is indeed a condemnation  for  not giving tithes and offerings, it  does  not apply to the Father's elect children today.

In order to understand Malachi's message, one must understand to whom he is giving this reprimand. It is clear that he is not speaking to the Gentile nations nor is he speaking to the entire House of Israel, because the ten tribe nation of Israel  had  been taken into captivity several hundred years before the  ministry  of Malachi. Although the first verses of  Malachi 3 are prophetic, there can be no doubt that the only group of people he could be talking to are the House of Judah and perhaps a few from  the House of Israel who were scattered  around the area of Judea:

"And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a  swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that  turn aside the  stranger from his right, and fear not me,  saith the Lord of hosts. For  I am the Lord, I change not; therefore you sons  of Jacob are not  consumed. Even from the days of your fathers  you  are gone away from my ordinances, and have not kept them. Return to me,  and I will return to  you, says the Lord of  hosts. But you say, Wherein shall we return?" (Mal.3:5-7 KJV).

The main problem addressed here is that the people had almost entirely quit supporting the Levites with tithes and offerings and had become lax in their obedience to God's law. However, the Creator had  promised to bless Israel with  tremendous abundance (Deut.28)  if they would keep their part of the covenant that they made with him  at Mount Sinai.

WILL A MAN ROB GOD?

"Will  a  man  rob God? Yet you have robbed me.  But you say, Wherein  have we robbed you? In tithes and offerings. You  are cursed with a curse: for you have robbed me, even this whole nation"  (Mal.3:8-9 KJV).

God is addressing the entire nation (House of Judah), when he says that  they  had robbed him. The covenant  their  forefathers had ratified  at Sinai specifically stated they would  obey  whatever he asked them to do (Ex.19:5-8).  One of the things he asked them to do was to give a tenth of their increase to him for the support of the Levites.

Because they were not tithing and giving offerings, which were also required, they were stealing the tithe that belonged to him by right of contract. God also tells them they had been cursed because they had robbed him and kept his tithe for their own use.

"Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food  in my house, and test me, says the Lord  of hosts, and see if I will open the windows of heaven to you, and  pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough  to receive it.  And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he  shall not  destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall  your  vine cast  her fruit before the time in the field, says the  Lord  of hosts"  (Mal.3:10-11 KJV Para.).

Although the people were breaking the covenant, God was  more than  willing to forgive them and bless them. All they had to do was  keep their part of the covenant: "Honor the Lord with  your substance, and with the firstfruits of all  your increase:  So shall  your barns be filled with plenty, and your  presses  shall burst out with new wine"  (Pro.3:9-10 KJV).

The  prophet Nehemiah who was a contemporary of Malachi reprimanded the House of  Judah for the same reasons that Malachi did:

"And I  perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given them: for the Levites and the singers, that did the work, were fled every  one to his field.  Then contended I with the rulers, and said, Why is the house of God forsaken? And I gathered them together, and  set them in their place. Then brought all Judah the tithe of the corn and  the new wine and the oil to the treasuries" (Nehe.13:10-12 KJV).

During  the  ministries of Malachi and Nehemiah, there were very hard times in the land of Judah. Many were in debt, and food supplies  were  very short; however, this situation was allowed  to come upon them because of their disobedience to God's law. See Deut.28.

The Storehouse

What and where were the storehouses Malachi referred to? Some people believe that there were storehouses scattered  all over Israel; however, the storehouse that Malachi spoke of was at the temple in Jerusalem. These storehouses originated during the  reign of King  Hezekiah about the eighth century  B.C., in which Hezekiah required the people of Jerusalem to bring a tenth of the produce to the temple:

"Moreover  he   [Hezekiah]  commanded the people  that  dwell  in Jerusalem  to  give the portion of the priests and the  Levites, that  they  might be encouraged in the law of the Lord. And  as soon as  the commandment  came abroad, the children  of  Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of corn, wine, and oil,  and honey, and of all the increase of the field; and the tithe of all things brought they in abundantly. And concerning the  children of Israel and Judah, that dwell in the cities of Judah, they also brought  in  the tithe of oxen and sheep, and the tithe  of  holy things  which were consecrated to the Lord their God, and  laid them by heaps"  (2.Chron.31:4-6).

The People's Generosity

The people of Jerusalem and the  people in the surrounding areas brought a tenth of their increase. 2.Chronicles 31:7-10  tells us that the people brought so much that it had to be piled up outside  of the temple. Upon  hearing of the people's generosity, Hezekiah  had  storage rooms built in the temple in order to store the tithes the people brought.

Although  the  principle of blessings for  obedience  is  clearly shown in the third chapter of Malachi, there is no indication whatsoever that the  law of tithing is a part of the  new covenant.  To say these scriptures are an indictment against all peoples and nations because they do not tithe is a misrepresentation  of  what God intended to be conveyed by Malachi.

Although the first few verses of Malachi 3 seem to be prophetic, Malachi was plainly addressing this chapter to the nation of Judah, which was  under  a curse because they were not tithing and supporting the Levites as they had agreed to do. This chapter hardly  applies  directly,  or literally to Christians.

Just  because parts of the Book of Malachi refer to the 'end  of the age' does not mean that the entire book is prophetic.  If one believes  that Malachi 3:8-10 applies in a dual sense to the end  of the  age as well as Malachi's day, then one must completely and totally disregard the contextual setting of the chapter.

If  we  take  an honest look at  Malachi chapter 3 in context, what Malachi was inspired to say cannot in any way be used to establish the  premise that there is a  universal tithing  law, nor does Malachi give any authority to  enforce the law of tithing on the elect of God today. Taken at face value, Malachi 3:8-10  is completely understandable in its historical context. To read more into these scriptures than was intended in order to gain  financial  support for the church and the ministry is totally unwarranted  and  unnecessary.

NEW TESTAMENT TITHING

The important questions  for Christians  today in regard to tithing are the following: Is  tithing a requirement under the new covenant? If so, how must it be collected and administered?  If tithing is not required, how does one fulfill one's obligation to support the church and its ministry?

RENDER TO CAESAR THE THINGS THAT ARE CAESAR'S

Most proponents of tithing today use the following New Testament text to prove that the law of tithing  is binding on Christians today:

"And they sent out to him  their  disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master,  we  know that you are true, and teach the way of God in truth, neither care you for  any  man:  for you regard not the person of  men. Tell us therefore, What think you?  Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? But  Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt you me, you hypocrites?  Show me the tribute money.  And they brought to him a penny. And he said to them, Whose is this image and superscription? They said  to him, Caesar's. Then said he to them, Render therefore to Caesar the things which  are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's.  When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left him, and went their way" (Matt.22:16-22 KJV).  

Does this text show that the law of tithing is binding on Christians today?  No, it does not! Tithing is not mentioned or alluded to in this text. When Matthew 22:15 is read, the motive for the Pharisee's question becomes clear. "The Pharisees took counsel how they might entangle him  in  his words."

Jesus' words in verses 16-22 were spoken in the context of answering an attempt of the Pharisees to trap him into saying something that could be considered  sedition  or rebellion against the Roman government. If he did, they  would have had a reason to bring an accusation against him before  the Romans. These  men  were very foolish,  because  Christ understood  their motives and said, "Render to  Caesar  the  things  that   are Caesar's."

The Jews were a conquered people. They were not sovereigns over their property or their lives. All that they possessed belonged to Caesar. They lived or died by the will  of  Caesar. When Jesus said "Render to  Caesar  what  is Caesar's,"   he was not making a  superficial  statement, because Caesar owned everything by right of conquest.

The only thing Caesar could not control or own was the will and spirit  (mind) of this conquered people, which was theirs to  do with  as  they  pleased.  Each Jew had the  prerogative  to either obey Caesar  or  to obey God. Disobedience to Caesar brought physical punishment. But, disobedience to God  had even more far- reaching consequences.

The question here was not one of tithes or even money. The  question  was about who one should obey— "Caesar, or God?" Jesus' gives the right answer: "When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left him,  and went their way" (v22).

THE TITHING OF THE SCRIBES & PHARISEES

"Woe  to  you, scribes and    Pharisees, hypocrites!  for  you  pay  tithe  of mint and anise and cummin, and  have  omitted  the weightier  matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought  you  to  have done, and not to  leave  the  other  undone"  (Matt.23:23 KJV).

The Scribes and Pharisees were very careful to pay tithes on small amounts of  herbs and spices that they probably  had grown in a small pot or garden.

"And the Lord said to him, Now do you Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is  full of ravening and wickedness.  You fools, did not he that made that which is  without  make  that     which  is within  also?   But    rather  give  alms of such things as you have; and,  behold,  all things are clean to you.  But woe to you, Pharisees! for  you tithe  mint and rue and all  manner of herbs,  and  pass over judgment and the love of God: these  [former] ought you to  have done,  and  not to leave the other  [latter]  undone. Woe  to you,  Pharisees! for you love the uppermost seats in  the  synagogues, and greetings in the markets"  (Lk.11:39-43 KJV).

The  Scribes and Pharisees were very legalistic and they meticulously tithed the smallest increase of their herb garden, which was done to fulfill the law of tithing that concerned agricultural goods produced from the land.  Jesus said they were right in giving to God what was  rightfully his. However, Jesus brings to light a serious attitudinal problem that  these people had in regard to their fellow man and the rest of the law of God. Moreover, Jesus reprimands them for their legalistic, hypocritical,  and loveless attitude.

The Levitical Priesthood  was  still  in authority  and officiating in religious matters  during  Christ's lifetime, so the tithe was still to be paid  to them under the law of tithing. Only after Jesus' death  and resurrection was the agreement with national Israel revised and replaced with a far better one.  See our study about the covenants.

THE LABORER'S HIRE

Another scripture that is often quoted in an attempt to prove that the law of tithing is still binding is Luke 10:7:

"And  in the same house remain,  eating  and  drinking  such things as they give: for the laborer is worthy of  his hire. Go not from house to house" (KJV).                         

In  this account, Jesus sent out the seventy  disciples to preach about the Kingdom of God and he told them  not to take any money  with them, but to accept what is  provided  for  them along  the way (Lk.10:1-12).  Many people use this text  to  say that Christians should tithe  and  that  the ministry must be the recipient of these tithes because they  are the laborers of the church. Indeed, one who labors in the proclamation of the gospel is worthy of his hire.                                    

In order to understand the meaning of Luke 10:7, one must understand  the circumstances that surrounded those whom Jesus sent forth to proclaim the gospel message. They left their jobs in order to become laborers of the gospel; therefore, their means of support came from those whom they served through the proclamation of the gospel or through the supernatural works that they bestowed on those with whom they came in contact. See also Matt.10:5-10.

It is not wrong for those who serve the church and do the work of the church full or part-time to be compensated for this work.

Some people think that they are worthy of their hire and they may or may  not be right. The measure of whether one is worthy or not depends entirely upon the service rendered.  Many quasi-Christian evangelists, preachers, and teachers believe that they are worthy to be kept in the style of  kings and they live in opulence with private aircraft, mansions, and a host of servants. Where do these people of such supposed great  ability and service get their examples for  such treatment?  Their examples for such treatment is not found in the Bible;  instead, their example is the society  around them.

For the  servants  of  the elect  to live in opulence, while those whom they are to serve live  in constant  need is nothing short of criminal and a gross violation of the law of love. See also our study concerning the subject of usury.

Those    who  call themselves 'ministers' of the living God  and  draw substance  from the church beyond what is just and prudent are stealing from God and his people. Misappropriation or mis-management of what is given to God is gross misconduct  and will be dealt with very severely in the day of judgment by God the Father.

Where Should Financial Support Come From?

If the law of tithing is not binding on the elect of God today, from where does the financial support for the work of the ministry and the proclamation of the gospel come?

God does  not  need human instruments  to proclaim his message. The  fact  is that  God  is powerful enough to proclaim his message  without our help. However, he has purposed to use people to perform much of this work for him.  

But, how  will the ministry be supported if people do not tithe? Paul supported himself a good deal of the time, and God provided for Elijah  through  miracles (1.Kgs.17:1-16). We humans  tend to forget  that God is all powerful. For him  to provide food, shelter, protection, and financial help for his elect is a  small thing  in comparison to what he is doing to sustain his physical creation. God can and  will provide for those who ask of  him  in  faith.  However,  just because he can and does provide, does not  mean that a Christian can neglect their responsibility to assist in the sustaining of those who are engaged in the work of the gospel when it is prudent or necessary.

WHERE YOUR TREASURE IS                       

Jesus  says,

"Do not lay up treasures for yourselves on  earth, where moth and rust does corrupt, and where thieves break in and  steal: But lay up treasures for yourselves in heaven,  where neither moth  nor rust can corrupt, and where  thieves cannot break in  nor steal: For where your treasure is, that is where your heart is" (Matt.6:19-21 Para.).   

Just what  is your treasure?   What  is the  most  treasured  thing a person can possess?  Is  it money, friends,  houses, fine clothes, jewelry?  Or is it the one thing that money cannot buy—life? Are not all things secondary to one's life? Without life there is nothing. The thing God wants his elect children to store  up in heaven is righteous character that will endure forever. Wherever one places one's effort and one's  life is where one's treasure is.

PHYSICAL THINGS WILL PERISH

Above all other  people on earth, Christians should  realize   that the physical things of this  life are meaningless when compared to the eternal rewards offered by God the Father.  Most people treasure their physical life above all else, but Jesus says the higher priority should go to the things of the spirit:

"And he said to them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consists  not in the abundance of  the things which he possesses. And he spoke a parable to them, saying, The ground of a certain  rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I  will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have much goods laid up  for many years; take  your ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said to him, You fool, this night your soul shall be required of you:  then whose shall those things  be, which  you have provided? So is  he that lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God" (Lk.12:15-21 KJV). See also Lk.12:31-34.

Jesus does not mean that the elect should not be wealthy; however, he does mean that wealth should not be one's main priority. The  apostle John says,

"Beloved I   wish  above all  things that you  may prosper and be in health, even as  your soul prospers" (3.Jn.2).

Laying up treasure in heaven involves putting God first in our lives  and  seeking the eternal things of righteousness  and  the Kingdom  of God more than the physical temporary things  of  this life.  

In this parable Jesus refers to the law of tithing when he speaks about one's priorities in life. If one's first priority is  putting self and material gain ahead of God and others, one is  laying up treasures on earth, not in heaven.  Where one's  treasure is indicates where one's heart is.          

THE PRINCIPLE OF WORK FOR PAY                                 

Many people believe that the elect will not support the church or its work if they are not required to tithe. This is a valid concern, but giving is still a  personal  commitment. If a person is unwilling or unable to  provide material support for the church and its work, it is a matter that needs to be dealt with between God and that person, because God knows the heart. For one person to  condemn another because of the degree of  material  support a person gives or does not give is wrong, because only God knows the attitude and  heart of an individual.

Those who come under the new covenant during the gospel age must strive to bring every thought and aspect of their life into conformity with this covenant. A person who has accepted its  terms and conditions cannot withhold any facet of their life. True Christianity  is  not to be  taken  lightly. The commitment to the Father and Jesus Christ must be total and is the most serious commitment a person  can ever make with their life.              

Many  preach that tithing should be done out of a sincere desire to please  God.  Although they are misguided and uninformed on the subject, they are at least demonstrating  a genuine desire to put God first in this area  of their life.  Unfortunately  many have been preaching the doctrine of tithing to further their own interests.  Instead of being honest and forthright  in teaching the truth about this subject, they pervert  the scriptures and place unnecessary burdens on people.               

Even  if  the law of  tithing were applicable  today, over 99% of those who profess  to obey  it  are in violation of this law in one point or another, especially in the point of tithing on one's monetary income.

Although there is not one scripture in the entire  New  Testament that instructs the elect of God to observe the law of tithing as stated under the first agreement with national Israel, there are many scriptures  that instruct the elect to freely  share their skills, talents, time, and material goods to support the church and those who labor in the gospel.

THE ATTITUDE OF GENEROSITY                             

The  attitude of generosity is repeatedly stressed as being a desirable  character trait, but selfishness is strongly condemned:

"There  is that  scatters,  and yet increases; and there is  that  withholds more  than  is right, but it tends to poverty. The  liberal  soul shall  be  made fat:  and he that waters shall be watered  also himself" (Pro.11:24-25 KJV).

"But this I say, he that sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he that sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Every man according as he purposes in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity:  for God loves  a cheerful giver" (2.Cor.9:6-7 Para.).

The Bible clearly shows that generosity  is one  of  the major character traits of God the Father and our Savior:

"Let  nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in  lowliness  of mind let each esteem others better than themselves.  Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.   Let this mind be in you, which was also  in  Christ Jesus" (Phil.2:3-5 KJV).                 

THE MELCHIZEDEC PRIESTHOOD

There is no doubt that God directed the Israelites to tithe in order to support the Levites and the Levitical priesthood, and most professing Christian ministers recognize that they are not Levites or a continuation  of  the Levitical priesthood.  However, with this admission  comes  the problem  of how  to legitimatize the receiving  of  tithes.

Many teach that, after Jesus became the High Priest in heaven, (after the order of Melchizedec), he assumed the function of the Aaronic priesthood and made those who were to minister to his Father's elect children a part of this priestly order. Others believe that after Jesus' resurrection, the authority and responsibility for shepherding God's people passed from the Levitical priesthood to the apostles and then to the Eldership. Because of these beliefs,  most professing Christian ministers assume that they have the right to accept tithes from those under their authority.

Although these beliefs may seem to have some merit, there was no transfer of authority and responsibility from the Levitical priesthood to the elders of the congregations of God. Moreover, the elders of the early church were not a part of the priestly order of Melchizedec. The spiritual leaders of the congregations of God have a distinctly different purpose and responsibility in the plan of God for the salvation of humanity. Furthermore, there are a number of false assumptions that have been made by biblical scholars, quasi-Christians, and spiritual leaders of the elect that need to be  dealt with in order to clearly understand the authority of those who will serve the elect as spiritual leaders during the end of the age.

It is clear that Jesus Christ is now of the priestly order of Melchizedec (Heb.6:20; 7:1-28), so many assume that the ministers of Christ are also ordained to this priestly order; however, this is a false assumption. The scriptures clearly show that it is only Christ who is of this order. Nowhere in the New Testament is there even the slightest hint that those  who minister to the elect of God during the gospel age of salvation are ordained into the Melchizedec priesthood.

Hebrews 5:1-10 KJV                                

"For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.  And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins"  (vs.1-3).

Here, we find that those of the Levitical priesthood were imperfect and they had to have a sacrifice made for their own sins, which is the first clue to understanding why the spiritual leaders of the congregations of God are not of the Melchizedec order of priests. They cannot be of this order because they do not have the authority to offer gifts and sacrifices for others. This is also one of the reasons why the authority of the Levitical priesthood was not transferred to the spiritual leaders of the congregations of God.

"And no man takes this honor to himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.  So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said to him, You are my Son, today have I begotten you.  As he said also in another place, You are a   priest for ever after the order of Melchizedec" (vs.4-6; Psa.110:4).  

Just as the Creator God (Jesus Christ) called Aaron to the  priesthood,  God the Father personally chose and ordained Jesus Christ to the priestly order of Melchizedec. Search the Bible  from the beginning to the end  and you will find only one person of human origin who was ordained to the priestly order of  Melchizedec; that person is Christ.

"Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears to him that is able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him;   Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchizedec" (vs.7-10).  

"Where Jesus entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedec" (Heb.6:20 Para.).  

Although the elect of God are a royal priesthood (1.Pet.2:9), they are not at this time part of the priestly order of Melchizedec. It is only Jesus Christ that is of the order of Melchizedec. It should be evident that the spiritual leaders within the church during the gospel age of salvation have a completely different ministry from Jesus Christ who ministers to the Father's elect children as a high priest. Moreover, they have a different ministry from the Levitical priesthood who will minister to physical Israel.

Melchizedec, a Superior Priesthood

The writer to the Hebrews explains why the  Melchizedec priesthood is far superior to the Levitical priesthood, which was demonstrated when the Levites symbolically paid tithes to Melchizedec through  Abraham.

"For truly they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham: But he [Melchizedec] whose descent is not counted from them [the Levites] received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him [Abraham] that had the promises. And without any contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better. And here men that die [the Levites] receive tithes; but there he [Melchizedec] receives them of whom it is witnessed that he lives [an eternal being]. And as I may so say, Levi also, who received tithes, paid tithes in Abraham. For he [Levi] was still in the loins of his father [Abraham] when Melchizedec met him" (Heb.7:5-10).

Verses 5-10 clearly show the distinction between the Levitical priesthood and the priestly order of Melchizedec. The Levitical priesthood is a physical priesthood, which is inferior to the order of Melchizedec, which is a spiritual priesthood.

"But this man [Jesus Christ], because he continues for ever, has an unchangeable priesthood" (Heb.7:24 KJV).

Verse 24 is extremely important because some who minister within the congregations of God believe that this scripture proves that they are of the Melchizedec order of  priests by virtue of being in a leadership position.

A more literal translation of the phrase 'an unchangeable  priesthood' is 'a priesthood which passes not from one to another.' If the Melchizedec priesthood cannot be transferred from one to another and is an order of priests that must be entered into, men who believe that they are of the priestly order of Melchizedec are mistaken, because the scriptures clearly show that Jesus Christ is the only human who has entered into this order of priests.

The message of Hebrews 7 is that now we have a perfect high priest who sprang out of Judah, not Levi, who is able to bridge the gap between man and God the Father, which enables man to come into God's presence.

A Perfect High Priest

Hebrews 7:11-16 KJV

"If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchizedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?  For  the priesthood  being  changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law" (vs.11-12).

Verse 12 is often  used to substantiate the claim that  today's spiritual leaders have the  authority to collect tithes from God's people, because the priesthood is now changed. But, is this what this text actually says? Verse 12 concerns the law that regulated who may officiate as high priest of the nation of Israel.  Only a man who is of the tribe of Levi and of the bloodline of Aaron can become a high priest of national Israel.  This law has never been changed. The prophet Ezekiel says that after Christ's return, decedents of Aaron will still officiate as high priests.  The law that has been changed, is how one may access God the Father. Prior to Jesus Christ, no human could access God the Father. But now, this law is changed. Now,  through Jesus Christ who is descended from the tribe of Judah, the Father's children may come into his presence. See our studies about the various covenants and God the Father's good news message.

Under the first agreement with national Israel, the High Priest acted as a bridge between God and his people. Because the High Priest himself was guilty of sin and under the death penalty, he was also in need of a perfect sacrifice and a perfect high priest to act as an intermediary between  himself and God:

"For he of whom these things are spoken pertains to another tribe, of which  no man gave attendance at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord  sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.  And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchizedec there arises another priest, Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life" (vs.13-16).

Because of the imperfection of  both the sacrifices and the High Priest of Israel, no human could pass beyond the Creator God into the presence of God the Father. But, why wasn't this possible? The reason is that the Father dwells in heaven, and any human who is allowed to come into his presence must be totally sinless, holy, and righteous. No human could qualify or had the authority to go before him prior to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, because before the advent of Christ, all people were sinners and under the death penalty for the violation of the Father's law. Therefore, in order to solve this problem a new  spiritual high priest had to be ordained after the  Melchizedec order of priests, which is a sinless spiritual priesthood. See Gen.14:18; Psa.110:4.

Hebrews 7:11-16 shows a change in the conditions of the first agreement with national Israel; this change allows  the elect of God during the gospel age of salvation to go directly before God the Father without going to a physical priest and having him speak to God on their behalf, which was done under the first agreement with ancient Israel:

"Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: 'Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said,'Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, O God'. . . .He sets aside the first to establish the second. . . Day by day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God" (Heb.10:5-12 NIV).

Jesus Christ is now the High Priest who sits at the right hand of God the Father in heaven. And because of his sacrifice and the new agreement, there is now  a new life-giving way to gain access to the very presence of God the Father.

"Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he has consecrated for us, through the vail, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God" (Heb.10:19-21 KJV).

"But now has he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better agreement, which was established upon better promises" (Heb.8:6 KJV).

Our High Priest

Jesus Christ now holds an extremely important position that is vital to our salvation. He is our high priest. It is because he lives that he is able to be our high priest and intercede on our behalf before the Father:

"Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin"  (Heb.4:14-15 KJV). See also Heb.2:14-18; 9:7-28.

Jesus Christ is now a spiritual  high priest after the order of Melchizedec, which is a higher order of priests than the Aaronic priesthood, because it is a spiritual order of priests. Jesus Christ did not replace the physical Aaronic order of high priests; he is above the Aaronic priesthood. Aaron's descendants through Zadok will still be high priests during Christ's reign as King of kings and Lord of lords when he rules the earth from Jerusalem after his return. See Ezekiel chapters 40-48.

From what is said in the above scriptures about the order of Melchizedec, it should be obvious that no one who serves the elect under Jesus Christ is a part of the order of Melchizedec. Moreover, none of those who serve Jesus Christ as his ministers are spiritual priests or spiritual  high priests in heaven. Only Jesus Christ is in heaven serving the elect as their high priest before God the Father.

Those who serve the elect of God serve them in a much different capacity than the Aaronic priesthood served ancient Israel and in a much different way than Jesus Christ now serves the elect.

The Changing of the Covenant

What many fail to understand about the New Covenant, which Jesus established with his death and resurrection, is that it pertains to two distinctly different peoples.  It is a covenant with the physical people of national Israel that will be implemented after Christ's return as King of kings, and it is a covenant with those whom the Father calls to be his elect children during the gospel age of salvation. It is the portion of the covenant that concerns  the Father's elect children that is the better covenant spoken of by the writer to the Hebrews.

The covenant with national Israel still contains provisions for a physical high priest and priesthood, whereas the covenant with the Father's elect children contains a provision for a spiritual high priest only (Jesus Christ); no physical priesthood can intercede on their behalf to the Father. However, those of the Sovereign Father's earthly nation of kings and priests have the ability to intercede on behalf of each other under certain circumstances. See Jms.5:14-16; 1Jn.5:14-17; Eph.6:17-19.

The writer to the Hebrews explains the cancellation of the first covenant with national Israel and the establishment of a new agreement with national Israel and the Father's elect children of his new creation. See our study about the sons of the new creation.

Hebrews 8:6-9, 13

"But now has he [Jesus Christ] obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he said,  Behold, the days come, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, says the Lord (vs.6-9 Para.).

Because national Israel did not keep the agreement  that their ancestors made with the Creator God at Mount Sinai, God has canceled it and made another that is far superior.

"In that he said, A new covenant, he has made the first old. Now that which decays and waxes old is ready to vanish away" (v13 Para.).

The first agreement that the Creator God (Jesus Christ) made with national Israel was ready to vanish and it did vanish with the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D.. The first covenant that God made with national Israel is no longer valid, it has been replaced with a new agreement that will be formalized after  Christ's return and the gathering of national Israel. See our studies about the various resurrections and covenants.

The biblical fact is that the spiritual leaders who serve the Father's elect children  during the gospel age of salvation are a separate and distinct ministry from the Melchizedec ministry of Jesus Christ and the ministry of the Levitical Priesthood to national Israel, because they are separated and ordained for a distinctly different  purpose.

DID THE APOSTLES COLLECT TITHES?                          

If tithing were a Christian principle, there would likely be some reference to the apostles collecting or distributing tithes. An example of people involved in supporting the ministry and the church is that of Ananias and Sapphira and their land sale:

"But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold  a possession,  And  kept back part of the  price,  his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles'  feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why has Satan filled your  heart to lie to the holy spirit, and to keep back  part  of the  price of the land? While it remained, was it not your own? and after it was sold, was it not in your own power? why have you conceived  this thing in your heart? you have not  lied to men, but to God" (Acts 5:1-4 KJV).

Most people who practice tithing today would say that Ananias  and Sapphira had lied about the sale price of their property so that they would not have to pay so much tithe; however, this is not the case at all, notice what Peter says to them:

"While  it remained, was it not your own?  and after it was sold, was it not in  your  own power? why have you conceived this thing  in  your heart?  you have not lied to men, but to God" (Acts 5:4 KJV).                                                

Peter  did  not mention anything about tithes or offerings.   He said  the  money  was theirs.  Neither God nor the church were entitled to any  part of this money until it was pledged to the church. Only after  the pledge was made did the money belong to God. Ananias and Sapphira's sin was not that of failing to tithe or give a proper offering. Their sin was lying.                                   

THE FINANCIAL SUPPORT OF THE APOSTLE PAUL

Anyone who has read the writings of Paul should  have  observed that he did not water down the truth of God. He preached all the truth  and  did not hold back correction when it  was  necessary. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul shows them that they had a problem with their spiritual attitude, behavior,  and understanding and he tells them how to correct these problems:                       

"And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual, but as  to  carnal, even as to babes in Christ. I have  fed  you with milk, and not with meat:  for hitherto you were not able  to bear it, neither yet now are you able.  For you are yet carnal:  for  whereas  there is among you envying, and strife, and  divisions, are you not carnal, and walk as men?  For while one  says, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are you not  carnal?" (1.Cor.3:1-4 KJV).                

"To this very hour we have gone hungry and thirsty, without  even enough clothes to keep us warm. We have been kicked around  without  homes of our own. We have worked wearily with our  hands to earn  our  living . . ." (1.Cor.4:11-12 LBP).

Paul and the others who served with him were not collecting tithes and offerings from the Corinthians; they were supporting themselves as they  taught these people God's truth. In this letter, Paul enumerates many of the Corinthian's problems and tells them what to do to correct these problems. It only seems logical that if Paul and the others with him were authorized to receive tithes, he would have also mentioned this in the long list of problems that those at Corinth needed to correct.

1.Corinthians 9:1-15 is often quoted to prove that the law of tithing is binding on the elect today, but this is not Paul's intent:

"I am an  apostle,  God's messenger, responsible to no mere man. I am  one  who has  actually seen Jesus our Lord with my own  eyes.  And  your changed lives are the result of my hard work for him. If in  the opinion of others, I am not an apostle, I certainly am  to  you, for  you have been won to Christ through me.  This is  my  answer  to those who question my rights. Or don't I have any rights  at all? Can't I claim the same privilege the other apostles have  of being a guest in your homes? If I had a wife, and if she were  a believer,  couldn't I bring her along on these trips just as  the other  disciples do, and as the Lord's brothers do, and as Peter does? And must Barnabas and I alone keep working  for our living, while you supply these others?" (vs.1-6 LBP).

Apparently  someone at Corinth had questioned Paul's  apostleship and he was setting the record straight. Although Paul  was a tentmaker and more than likely supported himself by working in this trade as indicated in Acts 18:3 and 20:34, it seems that the church at Corinth was supporting the efforts of others while they labored in the gospel, but they were not supporting Paul who had raised up this church:

"What soldier in the army has to pay his own expenses? And have you ever heard of a farmer who harvests  his crop and doesn't have the right to eat some of  it? What shepherd takes care of a flock of sheep and goats and  isn't allowed to drink some of the milk? And I'm not merely quoting the opinions  of men as to what is right. I'm telling you what God's law says. For in the lawGod gave to Moses he said that you must not  put a muzzle on an ox to keep it from eating when it is treading out the  wheat. Do you suppose God was thinking only about oxen when he said this? Wasn't he also thinking about us? Of course he was.  He said this to show us that Christian workers should be paid by those they help. Those who do the plowing and  threshing should  expect some share of the  harvest. We have planted  good spiritual seed in your souls. Is it too much to ask, in return, for mere food and clothing?" (vs.7-11 LBP).  

Paul  tells them here that all those who labor in the gospel should  be  paid for their effort. Doesn't it seem  a  bit strange that Paul did not quote the tithing law to get his point across? Paul had been a strict Pharisee (Acts 26:4-5); he  knew the law extremely well and he knew that the  law of tithing did not apply during the gospel age of salvation, which is why he never mentions it in his reprimands to the churches or to individuals.

"You give them to others that preach to you, and you should.  But shouldn't we have an even greater right to them? Yet we have never used  this right, but supply our own needs without your help.  We have never demanded payment of any kind for fear that, if we did, you  might be less interested in our message to you from  Christ" (v12 LBP).                      

Paul clearly shows that it is the responsibility of the elect to support those who labor full-time in the church and the gospel. Paul had a right to expect to be supported by the congregation at Corinth but he did not ask for this support while he was there.

"Do you not know that they which minister about holy things  live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so has the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel" (vs.13-14 KJV).

There  is  no  doubt  that Paul  is  talking  about  the  Levites who received tithes and offerings in payment for their service at the temple and to the people. However, the point he is stressing is that those who  preach the  gospel  should be supported by those to whom the gospel  is preached.

"Don't  you realize that God told those working in his temple to take for their own needs some of the food brought there as  gifts to him?  And those who work at the altar of God get a  share of  food that  is brought by those offering it to the Lord.  In  the same  way the Lord has given orders that those  who  preach  the Gospel  should be supported by those who accept it.  Yet  I  have  never asked  you for one penny. And I am not writing  this  to hint that I would like to start now. In fact, I would rather die of  hunger than lose the satisfaction I get from  preaching to you without charge" (vs.13-15 LBP).

One thing to  remember is that one spiritual law of God is just as important as another. The apostle James says,  "Whoever shall keep the whole law, and   yet offends in one point, he is  guilty of violating the whole law"  (Jms.2:10 Para.).        

For the  apostle Paul to  unilaterally make a decision to temporarily  suspend the tithing law for the congregation at Corinth would have been to defy God and reject his calling to preach the truth.  The apostle Paul makes no mention of tithes at all,  he does not even infer that tithes should be paid. The whole context is wages for service rendered.              

There are some people who believe that the spiritual leaders of the church should support  themselves as Paul did for much of his ministry. However, just because a  man becomes  a spiritual leader within the congregations of God, it does not mean that he somehow has more  time, substance, and energy than any other member of the church. Doing the  work of the ministry takes extra time, money, and energy. A married or single spiritual leader must take much time from his family or his personal pursuits in order to properly fulfill his responsibility.           

THE COLLECTION AT CORINTH      

In 1.Corinthians chapter 16, there is an account that many people who worship on the first day of the week use to justify their tithing  and offering practices:

"Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do you. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God has prospered him, that there  be no gatherings when I come.  And when I come, whomsoever you shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality to Jerusalem" (1.Cor.16:1-3 KJV).

It  is interesting to note that during 41-54 A.D. there was a drought, which was  predicted by  the prophet Agabus that encompassed  a large part of that area around Jerusalem. Moreover, there is always a  need for  food during and after a drought, because  it  takes time for the land to become productive again. In all likelihood these were the circumstances that necessitated the  collections made by the apostle Paul:                               

"And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem to Antioch. And there  stood  up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the spirit  that  there  should be great drought throughout  all the world:  which  came  to  pass in the days of Claudius Caesar"  (Acts 11:27-28 KJV).                                              

It seems that the apostle Paul wrote 1.Corinthians in late spring of 55 A.D., and he began a collection that was meant for drought relief. Paul also mentions this collection in his  letter  to  the congregation of God at Rome (about 58 A.D.):

"But  now  I  go  to    Jerusalem  to minister to the saints.  For it has pleased  them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution  for  the poor saints who are at Jerusalem.  It has pleased them  verily; and  their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been  made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in carnal things.  When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain" (Rom.15:25-28 KJV).                                

This account speaks about an offering  of  produce for those at Jerusalem, but it never mentions tithing.         

In  his second letter to Corinth, Paul states again that  he  took nothing  from them in the way of physical support:

"Have I  committed  an offence in abasing myself that you might  be  exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely? I robbed other  churches,  taking wages of them, to do you  service.   And when  I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to  no man:   for that which was lacking to me the brethren  which  came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have  kept  myself from  being  burdensome to you, and so will I keep myself" (2.Cor.11:7-9 KJV).                                

If those in the other congregations  that Paul mentions were required to tithe, why would Paul have felt he was robbing them in order to serve the congregation at Corinth.  Because Paul had been a well educated legalistic Pharisee, and of the tribe of Benjamin (not Levi) he knew that he had no right to the tithes under God's first agreement with national Israel. Clearly, he and the other apostles and elders were supported through voluntary offerings  by God's  people. There is no scripture in the entire New Testament that indicates otherwise.               

PAUL'S KINDNESS  

Some people believe that the apostle Paul was a hard hearted person, but  the contrary is true. He was very kind, caring, and merciful, even to his own hurt. Paul had a right to be supported by those he was serving  but he did not take what was rightfully his, because he did not want to offend the members of the Corinthian congregation:                                    

"I  have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel.  Yes,  you yourselves know, that these hands have ministered to my  necessities,  and  to them that were with me. I have  showed you all things, how that so laboring 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 to receive" (Acts 20:33-35 KJV).

The  apostle Paul and others who served the elect of God practiced what they preached. They worked long  and hard to support themselves in order  to  preach the  gospel and serve God's people:  

"Don't you remember, dear brothers,  how  hard  we worked  among  you? Night and day we toiled and sweated  to  earn enough  to live on so that our expenses would not be a burden  to anyone there, as we preached God's Good News among you"  (1.Thes.2:9 LBP).

"For  you  well know that you ought to follow  our  example:  you never saw us loafing; we never accepted food from anyone  without buying  it; we worked hard day and night for the money we needed to live on, in order that we would not be a burden to any of you. It  wasn't that we didn't have the right to ask you to feed  us, but  we  wanted to show you, firsthand, how you should  work for your living" (2.Thes.3:7-9 LBP).

What is totally lacking in the writings of Paul is any insistence for the elect of God to observe the law of tithing.  However, Paul does have much to  say about  a  giving attitude  and that the elect of God should  give  to support those who serve them as elders and laborers in the gospel. Paul  never quotes  or  refers to the law of tithing when discussing  the matter of support for the church and the ministry. But why not? The reason is that Paul knew the law of tithing did not apply to  the elect of God during the gospel age of salvation.                   

WHAT HISTORIANS SAY ABOUT NEW TESTAMENT TITHING      

Historical evidence also proves that tithing has not been required of the children of God during the gospel age of salvation:                                      

"It is admitted  universally that the payment of tithes or the tenth of  possessions  for  sacred purposes did not find a  place  within  the Christian church during the age covered by the apostles and their immediate successors" (Hastings Dictionary of the Apostolic Church).                              

"The  Christian church depended at first on voluntary gifts from its members" (Encyclopedia Britannica).

"It [tithing] was not practiced in  the  early church"; "The Christian church depended at first on voluntary gifts from its members" (Encyclopedia  Americana).

"The  early church  had  no    tithing  system—it was not that no need  of  supporting  the  Church existed  or was recognized, but rather that  other  means  would  suffice" (The Catholic Encyclopedia).

In the Sclaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, it is explained that when the tithing concept was first adopted by the  Catholic  Church,  it was voluntary in nature.  But, at  the  Synod of Macon in the year 585 A.D., payment of tithes was made compulsory under  threat of excommunication.  Secular authorities  were  then used to enforce this demand.     

M'Clintock and Strong's Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature:

"In the early Christian church the custom of consecrating to religious purpose a tenth  of income  was voluntary, and it was not made obligatory  until  the Council of Tours in 567 A.D.. The second Council of Macon, in 585, enjoined the payment of tithes under pain of ex-communication" (article 'Tithes').

It is interesting to note that nowhere  in  the    historical  records  of the early church  or  the  New Testament  writings  can one find a record of the church financing  its  efforts or the ministry through the tithing system.

The early church  did not practice the law of tithing given to Israel in the wilderness, but how and why was this  law imposed on professing Christianity as a means of financial support?  Early church history shows that the  Catholic  Church changed the way that it thought the church should be financed, and  most of  professing Christianity today accepts the Catholic church's teaching in this matter.

The  historical record, and the New  Testament  scriptures prove that obligatory tithing was  not taught  or practiced by the early Christian church.                         

It becomes apparent when one searches history and the scriptures  that there  is  no historical or scriptural authority  whatsoever for carrying  over and modifying (almost beyond recognition, as some have  done) the law of tithing that was given to ancient Israel.                                            

THE REJECTION OF TRUTH

The origin of  professing Christianity's tithing  system can  easily be found by anyone who wishes to investigate the subject. But as always,  many who come to know and understand the truth of  God will refuse to accept or obey it.

To reject truth is willful sin. To those   who  are truly Christians and the elect of God,  the apostle Paul says,  "There  is no more sacrifice for this type of sin,  but  a fearful  looking forward to death" (Heb.10:26-27).

Jesus Christ says that we can know a person's spiritual condition by their fruit:

"Beware of false prophets, which come to  you  in sheep's  clothing,  but inwardly they are ravening  wolves. You shall know them by their fruits.  Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?  Even so every good tree brings forth good fruit:  but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit.  A good  tree cannot  bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree  bring forth good fruit.  Every tree that brings not forth good fruit is hewn  down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore you  shall  know them by their fruits" (Matt.7:15-20).       

AN INDICTMENT FOR THIS AGE                               

Ezekiel chapter 22 is  part of  a dissertation about  the national and personal  sins of Israel. Within this chapter, the prophet Ezekiel serves an  indictment  from God upon the people of  Israel. Ezekiel gave this indictment and warning message about 127 years after the ten-tribe House of Israel  had been taken into captivity by a foreign  power. Whether or not the House of Israel received this prophetic message at that time; it is clear that this message has a contemporary meaning for the scattered House of Israel today:

"There is a conspiracy of her  prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have  devoured souls; they have taken the treasure and precious things; they have made her many widows in the midst thereof. Her priests [pastors and ministers] have violated my law,  and have profaned my holy things:  they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they made a difference between the holy and the profane . . ." (Ezk.22:25-26 KJV).                          

Most professing Christian church leaders know that they are teaching tithing in  opposition to biblical truth. But, rather than repent and teach the truth of God, they refuse to do so and tenaciously hold onto their teaching of tithing for their own gain.       

No person or organization has ever had the authority to bind anything on the elect of God unless it can be proven from the Bible that it has already been bound in heaven. Unless today's tithing system within the congregations of God can be biblically proven as a valid way to financially support the church, it has no place in the true church of God.

NEW COVENANT LIBERTY                                 

The first covenant between God and national  Israel  had a physical priesthood as the mediator between God and  man and animal sacrifices, which had to be offered to cover the  sins  of the people. This  system was to be supported by mandatory tithes on the agricultural and animal production of the land plus freewill offerings from all Israelites.                

Under the New Covenant that is made with individuals who are called to become children of God during the  gospel age of salvation, Jesus Christ is the High Priest, Advocate, and Mediator between the Father and his elect children. This new covenant is described in the letter to the Hebrews, chapter 8:

"He [Jesus Christ] obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them [the Israelites], he said,  Behold, the days come, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, says the Lord (vs.6-9 Para.).

The new covenant is a better covenant and supersedes the first agreement that was made with national Israel. It is clear  that the law of tithing that God gave to Israel does not apply to the elect of God today, because none of the conditions for its practice exist today. Moreover, the elect of God today have entered into a new and different relationship with the God family.

The  fact is that  the agreement that the Father's elect children have with him does not contain many of the laws, terms, and conditions that were in  the agreement with ancient Israel, such as circumcision, sacrifices, a multiple tithing system,  and many other requirements that were specifically given to the ancient Israelites for that day of salvation.

But  just  because   a Christian does not have to  abide  by  the Levitical  tithing law does not mean that he is absolved of  all responsibility  to  support the church and its work.  One  who uses  the liberty of not being required to give a  specific percentage of their increase as an excuse not to support the church or its work is violating many important spiritual principles concerning their responsibilities toward God, his people, and the church.

STEWARDSHIP     

Jesus gave  his people a commission embodying an outward concern for others. How that commission is to be supported is taught throughout the Bible in a positive way. The early  disciples clearly understood  how the work of the church was to be supported  and   the method that they used is the one we should use today. There was no confusion or misunderstanding regarding this matter in the early church.

Paul was inspired to reveal that much of what was written as God's word before the gospel age of salvation is to be used to guide our lives today.  If  the tithing system given to ancient Israel were to be used literally as a  guide  for  the support of the church, only people who make their living from growing agricultural products and animals would be required to  give  and bear the responsibility for the support of the church.

Although  the giving of a set percentage of one's income to  help support of the church,  its work, and the poor is a  good practice, there is a far better and more rewarding  method for this support, which is set forth in the Bible. Besides the law of tithing,  God provided another way for those who were not covered by the  tithing system to have a part in supporting the Levites, the priesthood, the poor, and the temple system of worship. This method is the giving of freewill offerings, which is still a method that is binding upon the elect of God today.

WRITTEN FOR THE ELECT TODAY   

Christ and the apostles taught from the Books of the  Law, the Writings, the Prophets, and the Psalms. The prophet  Isaiah  said that the Savior would come  and magnify these teachings (Isa.42:21). Jesus said that he taught his disciples the true meaning  of the laws, principles, and precepts that had been inspired  to be written down centuries before.

Speaking of  the people and the events that were recorded  in the  inspired writings,  Paul says:

"Now  all  these things happened to them for examples:  and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world  are  come"  (1.Cor.10:11 KJV).              

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is  profitable for  doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:  That  the man of God may be  perfect, thoroughly furnished to all good works" (2.Tim.3:16-17 KJV).

OFFERINGS

The prophet Malachi makes a very important point that applies to the elect of God today and their responsibility  to give offerings to God. Malachi 3:8-9 records  that the  nation of Israel had robbed God of tithes and offerings. However,  these offerings were not a part of the law of tithing.  They were  freewill  offerings that the people had to give  to  show their appreciation and gratitude to God for the blessings he  had bestowed upon them.  

Although historical and biblical evidence proves beyond doubt that the elect of God are not obligated to observe the law of tithing, the holy scriptures also prove that the elect are robbing God and themselves if they do not  freely and generously give offerings to support the body of Christ (the church) and its work.

After the Creator God had given  the  instructions to build the tabernacle, he requested that  the Israelites bring  an  offering with which to construct the building (Ex.25:2-3).  However, God did not specify the  exact  amount that each person should give; he left the amount to each individual's discretion.

The Creator also commanded the Israelites to bring gifts to him on a regular basis: "Three times in a year shall all  your males appear before Jehovah your God in the place which he  shall choose: . . . they shall not appear before the Lord God empty;  [but] each  with a gift in his hand, according to  the  blessings  of the Lord God  your God which he has given you" (Deut.16:16-17 Para.). Again, the gift or offering was required,  but  the amount of the gift is not specified.             

The Terumah

"Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring me an  offering: of  every man that gives it willingly with his  heart  you shall take my offering. And this is the offering which you shall take of them; gold, and silver, and brass" (Ex.25:2-3 KJV).

Here, the English word 'offering' has been translated from the Hebrew  word 'terumah', which means 'a contribution.'  Simply put, God requested a contribution to build the tabernacle. Chapters 35 and 36 show that the Israelites contributed more  than enough for the work of the tabernacle.    

The Terumah Minah                               

"And there  you  shall bring your burnt offerings, and  your  sacrifices,  and your tithes, and heave offerings of your hand,    and your  vows,  and your freewill offerings, and the  first  of your herds and of your flocks" (Deut.12:6). See also Deut.23:23.  

Here, the English word 'freewill' is translated from the Hebrew  word 'minah', which means 'a gift'. Notice that  these gifts were in addition to tithes and sacrificial offerings.              

Many Examples of Freewill Offerings                             

In the Bible, there  are many examples of people freely giving to God and others. When the tabernacle and altar were to be dedicated, the princes of Israel brought wagons, oxen, silver, gold and much more to be used in the service of the tabernacle. See Num.7:1-25.                               

The  prophet  Nehemiah  and many others gave of  their  time  and   energy  to  bring  wood to the temple for the  burnt offerings. There is  no  doubt that this was a considerable undertaking, because there  were  a  tremendous  number  of  burnt offerings made  each  year  at  the temple:

"And we cast the lots among the priests,  the  Levites,   and  the  people,  for  the wood offering [qorban, which is an offering to be brought through unselfish labor],  to  bring  it into the house of our  God,  after  the   houses  of our fathers, at times appointed year by year, to  burn   upon  the altar  of the Lord our God, as it is  written  in  the   law" (Nehe.10:34 KJV).

"Thus cleansed I them from all strangers, and appointed the wards of  the priests and the Levites, every one in his  business;  and for  the  wood offering, at times appointed, And for the firstfruits. Remember me, O my God, for good" (Nehe.13:30- 31 KJV).

The Corban Offering

Mark 7:9-13 records  Jesus' reprimand to the Pharisees for having the wrong attitude toward giving:

"And he  said  to them,  Full well you reject the commandment of God, that you  may keep your own tradition.  For Moses said, Honor your father  and your mother; and, Whoever curses father or mother, let him die  the death:  But you say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever you might  be profited by me; he shall be free.   And you suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother;  Making the word of God of no effect through your tradition, which you have delivered: and many such like things do you" (KJV Para.).  

The Greek word 'corban', which is used to explain the Pharisees' wrong attitude toward giving, is from the Hebrew word 'qorban', which means 'an  offering' or 'oblation of  self-sacrifice  coming from one's life substance'.        

The  Pharisees  were  so perverted in their  view  of  what  they thought  was righteousness that they twisted and manipulated the laws  of God to fit their own selfish desires.  The Living  Bible gives a good translation of Christ's reprimand in Mark 7 and puts what he said in a proper perspective:

"You  are  simply rejecting God's laws and trampling  them  under your feet for the sake of tradition. For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: 'Honor your father and mother'. And he said that anyone who speaks against his father or mother must die. But  you say  it is perfectly all right for a man to disregard  his  needy parents, telling them, 'Sorry, I can't help you! For I have given to God what I could have given to you.'  And so you break the law of God  in order to protect your man-made tradition. . ." (Mk. 7:9-13 LBP).

Speaking of a time far into the future after the Kingdom of God is established on earth and all mankind is living  in  peace, the prophet Ezekiel says:

"For at Jerusalem in my holy mountain, says the Lord,  all Israel shall worship me. There I will accept  you,  and require you to bring me your offerings and the finest of  your gifts" (Ezk.20:40 LBP).    

The  Old Testament is full of examples of  the  Creator God requesting and receiving gifts, contributions, and freewill offerings. However, did the Creator God who became Jesus Christ need anything  that his human creation could give him?  Humans do not have the ability to supply God's needs. But they can give something that God the Father and Jesus Christ want. God  the Father and Jesus  Christ want their human creation to have an  attitude of giving and sharing.

THE ATTITUDE UNDER THE NEW COVENANT             

Under the new agreement, a person's  attitude is more important than their overt actions, because this is where the thought process of spiritual sin begins. The physical act of sin is just the manifestation of what begins and is nurtured in one's mind. It is not the amount that one gives in support of the church and its work or how often one gives to the church or its work that is important to the Father and Jesus. It is one's attitude toward giving and sharing that is important, because one's attitude shows where one's heart is.                              

The responsibility to give is far greater under the new agreement than under the old, because the guidelines are different. Under the new agreement, one must give because they want to and not because they are required to. Spiritual  Christianity—true Christianity—involves internalizing God's way of life and living  it from the heart.  True Christian giving is to be  based on freely, cheerfully, and liberally giving and sharing from the heart.               

THE WORK OF THE CHURCH

"For  whosoever  shall call upon the name of the  Lord  shall  be saved.  How  then shall they call on him in whom  they  have  not believed?   and how shall they believe in him of whom they  have not  heard?  and how shall they hear without a preacher? And  how shall  they preach, except they be sent?  as it is  written,  How beautiful  are the feet of them that preach the gospel of  peace, and bring glad tidings of good things" (Rom.10:13-15 KJV).

It  takes  a  vast amount of effort, time, talent,  and  money  to preach  and teach the truth of God to this sick and dying  world. Although God could supply all of the material needs of the church and its work if he wanted to, he expects us to adopt the attitude of giving and supporting his work as part of our spiritual growth process. See Matt.28:19-20.  

EXAMPLES OF GIVING           

One reason that the writings of the Law,  the Prophets, and the Psalms were preserved was so that the Father's elect children could use them as a guide for spiritual growth. Therefore, we should seriously consider the  examples  of giving and sharing that are recorded for our benefit.        

However,  to use Abraham's and Jacob's example of giving and God's tithing system for ancient Israel as the authority to legislate  tithing as a requirement upon the elect of God today is a misapplication of  these examples.  There  is  a vast difference between someone  who decides from his heart to willingly  and cheerfully dedicate a portion of his substance toward supporting the church and its work and someone who is commanded to do so or made to feel guilty if they do not.

A GIVING CHURCH             

An excellent example of giving and sharing from the heart is that of the church at Philippi. These early Christians seem to  have been   more  spiritually mature and expressed more of the right kind of love and spiritual  fruit than some of the  other churches that Paul served.

The  tone of Paul's letter to the Philippians, though  full  of  instruction  and reprimands, is warm and reflects a positive confidence that the church is generally healthy spiritually.  The  tone is quite different from that of the  letters to Corinth.  Is it significant that, more  than any other Church, the Philippians were faithful in supporting Paul even when he was in  other areas and should have been supported by others.                                              

"Notwithstanding you have well done, that you  did communicate  with my affliction. Now you Philippians  know  also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia,  no church communicated with me as  concerning giving  and receiving,  but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent  once and  again to my necessity. Not because I desire a gift: But I desire Fruit that may abound to your account. I have  all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the  things  that were sent from you, an odor of a sweet smell,  a sacrifice  acceptable,  well-pleasing to God. But  my  God  shall supply  all your need according to his riches in glory by  Christ Jesus" (Phil.4:14-19 KJV).

The Philipians set an excellent example, and the positive assurance Paul gave them that God would supply their needs applies to anyone who is spiritually mature and fulfilling their responsibilities before God.

AUTHORITY TO RECEIVE SUPPORT          

There  is no doubt that it is the elects' responsibility  to support the church and its work of proclaiming the gospel. The apostle Paul speaks about this obligation many times in his letters to the churches. Moreover, he  tells the Corinthians it was his right to receive  this support (1.Cor. chp.9; 2.Cor.chp.11), and he speaks of  the generosity of  the Philippians, the Galatians, and other churches.  The churches of Paul's time supported the  efforts  of the ministry with freewill offerings as we who are called by God today should also do.       

Paul's  clear  instructions in 1.Timothy 5:17-18  show  that  those who serve Christ as spiritual leaders of the elect and labor in the proclamation of the gospel  have the right to  receive support from those  they  serve. Every spiritually mature Christian who  is  seeking  to live in accordance with God's way will endeavor to fulfill their responsibility to help support  the church and its work:

"Let  the  elders  that rule well be  counted  worthy  of  double   honor,  especially  they who labor in the  word  and  doctrine.   For  the scripture says, You shall not muzzle the ox that treads out the  corn.  And, The laborer is worthy of  his  reward"  (1.Tim.5:17-18 KJV).       

THE RIGHT PRIORITIES

"Therefore  take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or,  What shall  we  drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?  (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for  your heavenly  Father  knows that you have need of all these  things.  But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness;  and  all these things shall be added to you" (Matt.6:31-33 KJV).  

The elect are instructed not to be overly anxious or concerned  about the physical, everyday needs of life. One thing a true Christian should realize above all else is that,  if their priorities  are  not correct, they are  walking  on  dangerous ground. Seeking the Kingdom of God cannot take second place to anything else in a Christian's life.                            

Jesus  says, "Seek you first the Kingdom of God" (Matt.6:33). The elect of God have been called to be God the Father's sons and high officials in his  spiritual  government  (Rev.5:10; 20:4-6).  For a Christian to place anyone or anything above their calling  and worship of God is indeed sad, because it  shows  a great  lack  of  understanding of what is being  offered  by their heavenly Father.

Do  we take care of all our material needs  and  desires first,  and then think about the material needs of the church and its work?

The Father and Jesus Christ certainly do not intend that we prove our righteousness by starving or not properly fulfilling our personal responsibilities to our families. One  caution  we  find over and over in the Bible  is  to  avoid becoming too concerned with physical goods and appearances.  One of the Ten  Commandments  deals with the very  human  problem  of covetousness. None  of  us is immune to it  and  we  should not overlook  how spiritually devastating covetousness can be.   Paul called  it idolatry (Col.3:5), because it results in  putting God in a secondary position.                

In the general context of Christian liberty, Paul writes,

"Let him that is taught in the word communicate [in the sense of sharing material goods [See Phil.4:14-15] to him that teaches in all good things. Be not deceived; God is not  mocked: for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap. For he that sows to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but  he  that sows to the Spirit shall of the  Spirit  reap life everlasting" (Gal.6:6-8 KJV).

Paul  uses the same analogy in discussing the subject of  giving   with  the Corinthians:

"But this I say, He which  sows  sparingly   shall  reap also sparingly; and he which sows bountifully  shall reap also  bountifully.  Every man according as he  purposes  in   his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity:  for  God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound   toward  you:  that  you, always having  all  sufficiency  in  all things, may abound to every good work" (2.Cor.9:6-9 KJV).       

Jesus says,

"Give, and it shall be given to you; good  measure, pressed  down, and shaken together, and running over,  shall  men give  into  your bosom. For with the same measure that  you  mete withal  it  shall be measured to you again" (Lk.6:38 KJV).

The principle of reaping what we sow applies  in every  area of life, but it particularly applies in the realm  of Christian giving and sharing. This is a living spiritual principle that is as much  in effect today as in the days of Solomon. Solomon expresses this empirical principal:

"Cast your bread upon the waters:  for  you shall find it after many days" (Ecc.11:1 KJV).

THE WIDOW'S MITE

"And  he  [Jesus] looked up, and saw the rich men  casting  their   gifts [Greek:  'doron.' English: 'a present', 'sacrifice', 'gift'  or 'offering.']  into  the treasury.  And  he  saw also a certain poor widow casting  in  thither  two   mites.  And he said, Of a truth I say to you, that this  poor  widow  has  cast  more  than they all: For all  these  have  of  their abundance cast in to the offerings of God: but she of  her  penury   has cast in all the living that  she had" (Lk.21:1-4 KJV).            

Does  God  expect us to give all we have to the church  and its work and  live   in  poverty? No, he does not! Nowhere does God teach  that  people should  give until they are impoverished. The Bible teaches  just the opposite. Instead, we are expected to use good  judgment and  give as we are able and sometimes sacrifice if there is a necessity to do so.  

Regardless  of what some people think, adherence to the law of tithing in this age of salvation is not the key to financial success. However, placing  the  worship  of God and obedience to  his truth first in our lives  is the key to eternal success.  A person can give  a tenth of everything he has to the church  and its work and  still  go   into  poverty  simply because "Time  and chance happens to us all" (Ecc.9:11). If a person makes poor financial decisions, his finances are doomed to failure no matter how much, or how long he may  have tithed or given and shared with others. 

God does not expect us to give everything we  possess. In Luke 21:1-4, Jesus shows that the Father looks at the attitude of an individual,  not on the amount of the offering. The rich men  gave much, but by comparison the widow gave far more.  God wants us  to give and share the amount that reflects, in our particular circumstances, the commitment to put him and his way of life first.     

BE CAREFUL HOW YOU GIVE           

"Take  heed that you do not your alms before men, to be  seen  of them:   otherwise you have no reward of your Father which  is  in heaven.  Therefore when you do your alms, do not sound a trumpet before  you,  as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and  in  the streets, that they may have glory of men.  Verily I say to you, They  have their reward. But when you do alms, let not your  left hand  know  what your right hand does: That your alms may  be  in secret:   and your  Father which sees in  secret  himself  shall reward you openly" (Matt.6:1-4 KJV).

THE GENEROUS CHRISTIAN

The  parable  of the sheep and the goats has much  to  do with the support of the church and its work. Many people understand the  first part  of  this  parable, but very few understand   who  is being referred  to  in the last part.

Matthew 25:31-46

"When  the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all  the  holy   angels  with  him,  then shall he sit upon  the  throne  of  his   glory:  And  before  him shall be gathered all  nations: and  he   shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides  his sheep  from  the goats: And he shall set the sheep on  his  right hand,  but  the goats on the left" (vs.31-33 KJV).

Here, there is a separation of  sheep  and  goats, which represents two groups of people. One group is to be given a reward as shown in verses 34-40, and  the other group is to be punished as shown in verses 41-46. But why is there a separation?

Those at His Right Hand

"Then shall the king  say  to those at his right hand, Come, you blessed of my Father,  inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For  I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat: I was thirsty, and  you gave me drink to drink:  I was a stranger, and you took me in: Naked, and you clothed me:  I was sick, and you visited me: I was in  prison, and you came to me. Then shall the righteous ask him,  Lord, when did we see  you hungry, and fed you?  or  thirsty, and gave you drink? When did we take you in as a stranger? or naked, and we clothed you?  Or when did we see you sick, or in  prison,  and  came to you? And the king shall answer and say to them, truly I say to you, inasmuch as you have done  it to one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it to  me" (verses 35-40 Para.).

Who Are the Brethren In Verse 40?  

Many people think that the brethren spoken of in verse 40 are  one's  fellow man,  and that the principle is one of being neighborly and kind to one's fellow man. This may be true in a broad sense. However, the entire context of the chapter is Christ rewarding his followers (i.e., the Father's elect children).                      

Here, the English word 'brethren' is translated from  the Greek word 'adelphos', which generally denotes one's 'near kinsman' or 'a person of close  association.' Moreover, the disciples and followers of Christ are a part of his family.   Although there are other meanings to  this word, such as 'mankind' or 'countrymen', in this parable the word is clearly in the context of a close relationship.

Are  all people who are living in sin  and going about their  evil  ways the brothers of Christ? No, they are not. The scriptures are very clear as to the identity of Christ's brothers.

"While  he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother  and  his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. Then one said to  him, Behold, your mother and your brethren stand  without, desiring  to  speak with you. But he answered and said  to  him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And  he stretched  forth his hand toward his disciples, and said,  Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother,  and  sister, and mother" (Matt.12:46-50 KJV).    

Those at His Left Hand

"Then  shall he say also to them at his left hand, Depart  from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his  angels:  For I was hungry, and you did not give me any food:   I  was thirsty,  and  you gave me nothing to drink:  I was a stranger,  and you did not help me:  naked, and you did not clothe me:  sick,  and  in prison, and you did not visit me. Then shall they also ask him, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a  stranger, or  naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to  you? Then he shall say to them, Truly I say to you,  inasmuch  as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did  it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting  punishment: but the righteous into life eternal" (vs.41-46 Para.).

The lesson of this parable is very clear, when it is viewed in the context of the Father's elect children who are also the brothers of Jesus Christ. If one who professes to follow Christ is  unwilling to give compassion and support to his spiritual brothers,  he cannot be  given eternal life. God the Father and Jesus Christ  want  to share everything that they have with those who are called to salvation. Giving and  sharing are attributes of godly  character,  and in order to qualify  for  the Kingdom of God, a person must have this character trait. Those who willfully neglect the support of  the church and its work are treading on dangerous ground and  should  examine  their attitude  toward  their brothers in Christ.

SUPPORT FOR A COLLECTIVE WORK

Some people might believe that a Christian must belong to a collective work or organized group and support it  or he will be condemned by God for not supporting his church and its work.   However, the scriptures do not support such a concept.

Most  of  this world is deceived as to what a  true  follower  of Christ  is and how a Christian should behave. A Christian does not have to be part of a collective or organized work in order to  fulfill  his obligation to perform the Christian endeavor.  To fellowship  and to work with  a  dedicated group of loving Christians  is  indeed  a wonderful  experience and a tremendous opportunity for  spiritual growth. However, there are some who cannot  fellowship or help in a collective or organized work, because of circumstance such as geographical location, distance, or other constraints.

This  paper is not written to make anyone feel guilty or to gain support for this or any other particular collective  work.  The intent is  to help the Christian to understand and  be  able  to place  the concept of tithing  and the giving of offerings in the proper perspective  within one's own life. Some may not be able to find a group of true Christians to fellowship with or a group with which  they agree in regard to  the  method  of performing the Christian  commission. Therefore,  they may wish to remain autonomous in their  Christian endeavor.  Remember, God is interested in one's attitude.

A Christian can do their own personal work for God and be as dedicated a servant and disciple of our Savior as one who is part of a collective work.  One's walk with  God is an individual matter, not a collective situation.  However, if one claims to be part of a collective work, the scriptures clearly show that one should support it with effort, finances, prayers, or whatever one is able to give or share.

Whether or not a person is part of a collective work,  it  is   the  individual  Christian's responsibility to sort  out  how  to apply the principle of giving and sharing as indicated  in  both  the  Old  and New Testaments. Giving, sharing,  and an outgoing concern for others are not optional attitudes for a Christian, they are the foundation upon which godly character is built.

A MINIMUM REQUIREMENT

A  point that escapes many when studying the subject  of  tithing   is that the tithe was the  minimum that God expected to be given to him for the  support of the temple service and other services to Israel. Besides the  tithe, God expected the Israelites to give generous offerings in the form of festival offerings and freewill offerings.                        

The  tithe  was the lowest acceptable level of  giving,  not  the maximum  acceptable level. If an Israelite gave just ten  percent of his increase, he was only giving the minimum required. The Bible has many things to say about those that only do the minimum:

"But  which of you, having a servant plowing or  feeding  cattle, will  say to him by and by, when he is come from the field,  Go and  sit  down to meat? And will not rather say  to  him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird yourself, and serve me,  till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward you shall eat and  drink? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that  were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have  done all these things which are commanded you, say, We are  unprofitable  servants: we have done that which was our duty to do" (Lk.17:7-10).

Christ says that those who only do that which is required of them are unprofitable servants.

THE LUKEWARM CHRISTIAN

"And  to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans  write:  These things says the  Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning  of  the creation of God; I know your works,  that  you are neither cold nor hot: I would that you were cold or hot. So  then because  you  are lukewarm, and neither cold or hot, I  will  [am about to] spue you out of my mouth. Because you say you are rich, and increased in goods, and  have   need  of  nothing; and know you not that you are  wretched,  and miserable,  and poor, and blind and naked: I counsel you  to buy of  me  gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich;  and  white   raiment,  that  you may be clothed, and that the  shame  of  your nakedness  does not appear; and anoint your eyes  with eye-salve, that  you  may see. As many as I love, I rebuke  and  chasten:  be zealous therefore, and repent" (Rev.3:14-19 KJV).

There are many lessons a Christian can learn from this warning to the  Laodiceans, and one of the most  important is that  God does   not tolerate minimum performance. Those who  have been called to be a son of God must endeavor to be zealous in their commitment  to God.   Jesus  Christ says if one is doing the  minimum  that  is required,  he  is  unprofitable, and if one is lukewarm  in his commitment to God, he is in grave danger of being cast out of the body of Christ.  God  does  not require or expect his elect children to give or share what they do not have. Furthermore, he will not condemn those who cannot give or share because of circumstance beyond their control or because of poverty. Giving materially to support the church and its work or others should not be done  to  the point  of impoverishment,  because  our  Father in heaven wants  us  all to prosper (Jn.10:10; 3.Jn.2).

GOOD WORKS

"Now  there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha,  which by  interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of  good works  and almsdeeds which she did. And it came to pass in those days,  that she was sick, and died: whom when they  had  washed, they  laid  her in an upper chamber. And forasmuch as  Lydda  was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent to him two men, desiring him that he would not  delay to come to them. Then Peter arose and went with them. When  he was come, they brought him into the upper  chamber:  and all the widows stood by him weeping, and showing the  coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them. But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the  body  said, Tabitha, arise.  And she opened her  eyes:   and when  she  saw Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his  hand,  and lifted  her up, and when he had called the  elect  and  widows, presented her alive" (Acts 9:36-41 KJV).

This account emphasizes  Tabitha's giving attitude. She was a person of good works, and one  who gave  the gift of her time, energy, and physical substance. We  do not know the reason why God gave her back her physical  life. However, we do know that he placed a great deal of importance on her giving attitude, because he inspired her attribute of  giving to be mentioned twice.                  

Another  record  of a giving attitude is that of  the  centurion Cornelius:

"There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a   centurion  of the band called the Italian band, A devout man, and  one that  feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people,  and prayed to God always. He saw in a vision  evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and  saying to him, Cornelius.   And when he looked on him,  he was  afraid,  and said, What is it, Lord? And he said  to  him, Your prayers and your alms are come up for  a  memorial  before  God . . . And said, Cornelius, your prayer is heard, and your  alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God" (Acts 10: 1-4; 31).                    

Concerning  giving, Paul says:

"Every man according as he  purposes  in  his  heart, so let him give; not  grudgingly,  or  of necessity: for God loves a cheerful giver" (2.Cor.9:7 KJV).

Here, the English word 'cheerful' is translated from the Greek word 'hilaros' which means 'merry', 'willing', 'voluntarily.'

A  major reason for developing a giving attitude is  to  practice   being like Christ.  Paul says to be Christ-minded:

"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil.2:5 KJV).

What  was Christ's mind like? Jesus Christ who was the Creator God gave all that he had for humanity; he gave up his immortality to become a human and gave his life for all of humanity. We who  have  been chosen to follow him are admonished to have the same mind he has.

How  can  a person who professes to be a follower of Jesus Christ and his heavenly Father have  a selfish attitude? A generous, giving, and sharing attitude is a godly character trait,  which anyone who professes to be one of the Father's elect children should be perfecting as one grows in the grace and knowledge of God the Father and Jesus Christ.

In the Bible, there are many examples of how to give to and share with the church, the work of the church, the ministry, fellow Christians, and others. But, how  do  we  give the ultimate gift to God the Father  and Jesus Christ?  What  is the gift that they earnestly  desire  with  all their being?

First, one must know what gift is desired.  A clue can be  found by examining the things that God wants to give those whom he has called to salvation.  He says he wants to give eternal life.  He says through the apostle Paul:

"Eye  has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him"  (1.Cor.2:9 KJV). See also Isa.64:4.

In the parable of the sheep and goats (Matt.25:34), Jesus says, "Come you blessed of my Father inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." It is clear from these and many other scriptures that God the Father and Jesus Christ want to share eternity with  those called to salvation.  

But  how can this be accomplished unless those the Father calls  respond   positively  to his teachings. The greatest gift we can give God the Father and Jesus Christ is obedience to the principles that have been given to us so  that  we can enter into the Kingdom of God as members of his divine family. Therefore, one  who fails to learn the lesson of giving and sharing deprives himself of a vital dimension of what true Christianity is all  about.       

ANONYMITY IN GIVING

In  a few countries around the world, the governments allow  their citizens  to deduct charitable gifts from their  taxable  income, whether they are given to churches or other organizations.  These gifts must  be recorded and proof must be kept  to substantiate  actual donations.             

There  are  two  problems associated with  this  kind  of  record   keeping. The first is that it eliminates the anonymity of  the giver, which allows others to view their personal  interaction  with God.  The second problem is that people tend to  impute motives  and draw conclusions from this information.                                      

The  second  problem is destructive to the one doing the judging. Jesus' example of the rich  men and the widow's mite clarifies this problem. Only  God knows the hearts and attitudes of people and  he alone has the knowledge and the right to judge the attitude of  giving. Outward appearances are often very deceiving.

God  is not necessarily interested in the amount of effort expended or the size of the offering. However, he is very  interested  in the attitude of the giver, because the  attitude  shows the degree of one's spiritual conversion. No human has the  right to judge another's Christianity purely on the basis of his  gifts and offerings to a collective group or to individuals.

This judgment is beyond the responsibility  and understanding  of any individual and simply should not be done because it is usurping  God's prerogative to be the judge of our efforts.  It would seem far better to give  anonymously  and keep this most precious relationship private  between the one giving and God than to go public with it.            

However,  there  could  be benefits to having  the  donations  on record in countries where one is allowed to increase his income by  claiming this tax benefit. The key to giving privately or openly is of course  the degree of trust and confidence one has in those  handling  the gifts and offerings and one's own attitude toward  God in the giving process.

THE TITHE AND THE OFFERINGS

For the ancient Israelite, tithing was not a complex  issue. Only people who farmed the land or raised animals were required  to tithe. If a person was required to tithe, the requirement was that a tenth of the increase had to be given to God. However all Israelites were  required to give mandatory and freewill offerings for the support of the priesthood and the needy. If the Israelites  had been faithful in giving these offerings,  all  of their needs would have been supplied.

There were fundamental  differences between the tithe and the  offerings. The tithe was determined by God  and  could   not  be adjusted  either up or down and it remained  at  the  fixed   rate of one tenth of what was produced from the land.

However,  to determine the amount of an offering was just  the  opposite. The offering could be a large or a small amount of anything the  person wanted  to give. The amount of this offering depended entirely upon the discretion of the one doing   the giving. In other words, the amount depended upon the individual's attitude toward God.

THE SPIRIT OF THE LAW

The concept of offering pertained to the spirit of the  law  rather than  the  letter of the law. It is far easier for  a  person  to fulfill the letter of a law than the spirit. When  fulfilling the letter, one does not have to make a decision of what to do.  What to do has already been decided.  It is just  a matter of  obeying or not.

But with the spirit of the law, one must determine how  the law  applies  to one's life and particular circumstances. Fulfilling the spirit of the law requires that a person do some  introspection  and attitude  analysis before making a decision. The concept and requirement to give offerings for the support  of the ministry and to give help to the needy is very much a part of the New Testament teachings for Christian behavior and cannot be overlooked if one is to stay in right-standing with God the Father and Christ.                

The responsibility of the elect to support the church and its work compares in many ways with the ancient Israelites' responsibility to support the Levites, the priesthood, and the poor of Israel. However, the elect of God are under a completely different set of circumstances, because they have physical as well as spiritual  requirements  placed upon them. The elect must not only fulfill  the letter of their covenant with God the Father but also fulfill the spirit of the law.

How much should a person give and share with others? This question can only be answered by each individual, after considerable introspection into one's  attitude and particular circumstances. It is obvious from the  teachings  of Jesus Christ and the apostles that one is not required to give all of their  substance to the support of others. Nevertheless, one should not neglect their responsibility to the church, its work, or others as the  need arises.

The  apostle John summarizes what the Christian  attitude  toward giving  and  sharing should be:

"But whoever has  this  world's goods,  and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his bowels of compassion  from  him, how can the love of God dwell in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in words,  but in  deed  and  in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knows  all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, then have we confidence toward God" (1.Jn.3:17-21 Para.).                   

The  question of how much each individual should give and share  is totally a matter of conscience, circumstances,  attitude, dedication, and priorities  in life and love toward God. Only  each individual Christian can answer these questions.          

Will you follow the precepts and traditions of man, or will you follow the  truth of God? The decision is yours—no one else can decide this for you. The matter of offerings is totally between you and your God.

By B.L. Cocherell, file b4w8