Are We Robbing God?

“You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.” (Malachi 3:9-10)

My father believed in the tithe and he held to its principle strictly throughout his life. I wouldn’t say that he didn’t suffer hard financial times during his life but I would say that he always overcame and was never in want of the things that were needful. But the question is the tithe was an Old Testament law and practice and does it apply to the Church today in the New Testament era.

The context of this scripture concerns the disobedience of the Israelite people for not bringing their offerings to the Temple. As a result of their disobedience God had judged them with a small harvest. This scripture is a challenge from the Lord for the Israelite people to bring the full tithe into the Temple according to the Levitical Law given to Moses. (Leviticus 6:14-23) They were to bring the tithe into the storehouse which was where the grain was stored in the Temple. If they did as the Lord commanded, then the Lord would bless them with abundant crops. The tithes and offerings were to support the ministry of the Temple and its ministers, the Levites.

Secondly giving the Lord His tithe, ten percent of their first fruits, was an act of their worship of the Lord in the Temple. Malachi wrote this prophecy 400 hundred years before the first Church in Jerusalem. If we were to apply this scripture to the Church of Jesus Christ, then it would be out of context of its original writing.

So this changes the question to if the New Testament Christians commanded to tithe? The idea of the tithe began when Abraham gave a tenth to the Priest of Salem Melchizedek who scholars say was Jesus before He was incarnated. Abraham gave this tithe in appreciation for God delivering him from the kings who had captured his nephew Lot. “And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” He gave him a tenth of all.” (Genesis 14:20) It was later in the days of Moses that the tithe was commanded to be a part of the Temple worship. The purpose was for the Israelite people to support the Temple and the Levites with a tithe of their produce and livestock. Later this system of the tithe was applied by King Hezekiah to the Temple as a reform of the law. “As soon as the order spread, the sons of Israel provided in abundance the first fruits of grain, new wine, oil, honey and of all the produce of the field; and they brought in abundantly the tithe of all.” (2 Chronicles 31:5)

The practice of the tithe continued on into Jesus’ day and He rebuked the Pharisees because they tithed the small things and neglected the greater things of service in justice for the people and a true love for God. “But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” (Luke 11:42) The Pharisees paid close attention to the Law of Moses and obeyed it completely. Yet they failed in a true love for God and love for their neighbor. Jesus had challenged them to do both.

Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill the law. “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:17) Jesus came to establish His Church for the Jew first. But the Jews rejected Him as their Messiah and the gospel of Jesus was opened up to the Gentiles. There were, obviously some Jews who accepted Jesus as their Savior. But because of the Jewish rejection of Jesus as their Savior and the influx of Gentiles into the Christian faith the leaders of the Church struggled if the new Gentile believers should adhere to the Law as written by Moses. The outcome of their deliberations gave only a few instructions for the sake of harmony between the two parties, Jew and Gentile. The tithe was not among these instructions. “Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. “For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” (Acts 15:19-21)

In the Old Testament communication between man and God was accomplished by Priest and Prophets. The Priest were concerned with man’s communication towards God. The Priest concerned themselves with man’s forgiveness of sins through the sacrificial system of removing the sin through the blood of animals. They also prayed the concerns of the people to God. The Prophets were used to communicate the words of God to the people. The support of these ministries were through the Temple and supported by the tithe. This was necessary as the Holy Spirit did not indwell the hearts of men and the prophets and priest we the liaison between man and God. God promised to change this system in the times to come through the Prophet Joel. “It will come about after this That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions.” (Joel 2:28)

In the New Testament Jesus became both the High Priest and the Prophet. He promised that the Holy Spirit would come and dwell the hearts of men if they would have faith in Him. “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17) No longer would the Temple worship system be needed as Jesus would fulfill the worship system of the Temple and He would establish His Church as a way to worship God and propagate the gospel to receive the grace of God’s salvation.

In the New Testament the Church, the body of Christ, is to give voluntarily to support the Church and its ministry. “And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.” (Acts 2:44-45) It was a support that was given from the desires of the heart in service to their Lord. They wanted to continue in the sharing of the gospel to the ends of the earth. “For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. Yes, they were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things.” (Romans 15:26-27)

The Church then because of its commission, (Matthew 28:19-20) and its love for God and neighbor supports the workers who have committed their time to the ministry completely as they can. It is a work in faith that God’s people will provide through His blessings. “If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?” (1 Corinthians 9:11) For they labor in the fields of harvest to bring in the fruit for the Kingdom of God and are worthy of their spiritual gift. “For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” (1 Timothy 5:18)

The world is the mission field for the Church and many have given up their home and comfort to serve Christ in spreading His message. All members of the Church are involved in the outreach and each must willingly give of their time, talent, and treasure that men may be saved from the darkness. “You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs.” (Philippians 4:15-16)

There is not in the New Testament an amount given or a percentage required for the financial support of the Church and its ministries. The tithe may be a good standard to start giving but the early Church did not focus on what to give but what was needed. This meant at times giving more than a tenth and for some they gave their all to the cause of Christ. “For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need. Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” (Acts 4:34-37)

What should we give? If you are led by the Holy Spirit then give as He proposes you to give in your heart. Where the Lord guides He provides all we need do is trust and obey. My father suffered hard times in the ministry of the gospel, but he was never in want, and as his child I was never in need. My father was a tither but I know he gave so much more. He gave most of his time, talent and treasure because he proposed in his heart to serve the Lord cheerfully. “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant February 2, 2017

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