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Sunday, March 08, 2015

Tithes & Offerings; Robbing God to Pay Peter & Paul

Yes, the tithe is Scriptural; we've established that! Manifold proof that a tithe, or tithes were required of Israel under the Old Covenant is evident, just look it up! It also becomes necessary, where a pastor & building are involved, for a certain amount of funds to be deposited into the offering box, or congregational coffers at least once a month! If not for tithes, how are this coffers to be filled to the necessary level; how are pastors & bills ( rent ) to be paid if not through an obligatory tithe?!

Most Christians, pastors & elders in particular, are familiar with the passage in Malachi to which the title of this post alludes. This remonstrance was aimed at Israel under that first covenant because they failed, not so much to pay the obligatory ( under that first covenant-Leviticus 27, Numbers 18 ), but to render justice & mercy ( Matthew 23:23, Zechariah 7:9, Psalm 89:14 )! At the cost of the care of widows & orphans, which James said is true religion, the pharisaical Jews were paying tithes into the Temple treasury, but it wasn't doing anything except beautifying the Temple for the praise of men!

Now, don't take this the wrong way; by saying this we're not putting forth the idea that Christians should NOT tithe, or support a pastor, or even help out with monthly bills for a specialized building! By all means, if & when any Christian can afford to meet any needs, they most certainly should, but on the other hand, it is most definitely NOT a requirement ( across the board-even for those who really cannot afford it ) in order to be considered a good Christian! One of the marks of a good Christian, indeed, IS to love his neighbor ( brother, especially ) when & however he can!

The tithe was established, under that first covenant, as an obligatory tax, if you will, in order to provide for those who were not provided for otherwise, whether they were specialized Temple servants, or just weren't able to provide for themselves! Our Creator must have known that human beings, by nature, were selfish creatures who needed a bit of incentive ( Law ) in order to care for others in need! There are those today who operate under similar conditions ( 'there ought to be a law' ) & seem to need that same incentive. There are others, a greater number, I believe, that fulfill the Law of Love with the normal incentive, yet many of these too, still hold themselves under that old covenant law of the tithe!

Ministers of the Gospel do deserve to have their needs met & to receive a certain amount of respect, moreso than those who stifle the their gifts & thus their ministry of the Gospel! Though this most often, particularly in this day & age, involves monetary ( financial ) expression, it need not necessarily involve financial contribution or remunerations! As all of God's People are ministers, this concept, a novel one indeed, could have interesting implications & applications when it comes to the matter of the tithe! The priesthood of believers has been established for centuries, but this is at least one of the implications of that doctrine that has not been fairly applied!

Our Heavenly Father has blessed us all in different way! The apostle Paul wrote to the Church at Ephesus, 'He Himself gave [ some to be ] apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers' ( Ephesians 4:11 ); we all cannot orate well, some have a readier, less selfish attitude when it comes to giving, some are naturally more hospitable than others, and some are natural leaders! If no one leads, no one ( else ) can follow, right?

The question is, 'who do we follow?'

Do we not follow Jesus the Christ? Are we not supposed to follow His lead & His lead alone? What would Jesus do?  If every Christian truly followed Jesus & not his or her concept of who He should be, an obligatory tithe would not be necessary to support a pastor & praise team ( even a Director of Communications ), or to pay overhead ( bills & rent ) on a specific building! Such a concept is not a new one; this is how the Church in its infancy operated, each giving according to his ability & meeting individual needs within the Church as they presented!

Jesus is our Head, Jesus is our Leader; we are to emulate Jesus! By following Jesus & acting as He acted ( remembering too, how He overturned the Temple ), we can be sure that we are on the right Path; if we follow any given pastor, preacher or elder, how can we be sure that we are doing what Jesus did? The simple answer is that we cannot be sure; in fact, in some congregations today, the exact opposite would seem to be true!

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier [ matters ] of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.
Matthew 23:23

Keeping in mind the historical context of Jesus' words above, we can see that Jesus condemned the Pharisees in spite of their tithing! They, under that first covenant, had been commanded to give 10% of their income to the building & upkeep of God's Temple. This pointed forward to the time of the Christ & the building & upkeep of the True Temple, His Body ( John 2:21 )! Now, with the Advent of that True Temple, which Temple we are, the only tithe we are required to uphold is that of loving God & our neighbor as ourselves!

Charles Haddon Shank

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