I have never met a tither who regretted tithing. I have found them to be joyful about their giving and honoring God with their substance. I have, however, met non-tithers who argued against tithing and even seemed angry against those who honored God in this way. Their opposition is often inordinate toward those who taught or practice tithing. On the other hand, those who have learned to worship with their increase often reveal great joy in being able to give more than their tithe.
Why do those who worship God with their life through tithing exhibit consistent love toward God? What spiritual disciplines are being revealed in their life? I have often watched the fruit of a tither over a lifetime. I have observed stability, faithfulness, consistency, and general peace. Their families and lives seem to be in order. Why is this?
Means of Worship
We are created to worship. Worship includes our whole being and life. Jesus taught us something powerful when he said, “You cannot worship God and mammon at the same time” (Matt 6:24). Mammon is often translated to mean money and wealth. In a biblical culture, mammon is seen as greed and being overtaken in self-centered worship. Jesus is really saying that money has significance in our lives when it comes to worship. He taught that where your treasure is that is where your heart will be (Matt 6:21). He did not say where your heart is that is where you should put your treasure. He actually said the opposite. Your heart follows your treasure. It comes down to worship. What is consistently valuable to you? When your life and budget includes God you are investing in heaven. Money is the tangible indicator. When talking about money Jesus said, “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? (Luke 16:10-11). The ‘true riches’ is the heavenly or spiritual riches. What he calls little or least is money. Even though it is called least it serves as a true indicator. If one is a worshiper of God then mammon becomes a servant to him. If mammon is worshiped then God becomes less significant. Money reveals more about a person than some might think.
When a person tithes they are turning their life into worship, because tithing is taking ten percent of your increase and setting it aside for Him on a systematic basis. It automatically brings daily life to worship. Worship is part of their everyday existence. When a person works hard and receives an exchange of money for their labor they are acknowledging God as the provider and owner of their life. When they receive increase through favor they are acknowledging God as the benefactor. Tithers are worshipers in every factor of their life because they are not just giving at random but purposefully and systematically.
Tithing brings a person’s finances into priority. It is an antidote to greed. It acknowledges God on every level. It reveals God’s authority in every sphere. When a person tithes it might be the first time in some people lives they have learned to live on less than they make by budgeting the tithe. By giving 10% of their increase they step out in faith that God will meet their needs for the rest of the week. Tithing off the top requires honor and trust to God (Prov 3:9). Abraham understood that when he tithed to Melchizedek only God could make him rich and tithing was a step of faith to declare that to be so (Gen 14:23).
Means of Controversy
There has been controversy over the years in the abiding validity of the tithe. From time to time anti-tithing teaching surfaces. The argument against the tithe usually involves stating we are living in the day of grace; therefore, any instruction in the Old Testament is no longer valid or applicable to us today. Others argue that tithing still remains as a command from God and to do otherwise is to disobey God. Both sides use the scripture as their authority and feel strongly about their beliefs.
Not wanting to appear legalistic for their own benefit, most pastors are at a loss of what to say when challenged by those who uphold that tithing is no longer valid. They often are accused of being self-serving when they teach on tithing or charged with being legalistic and requiring people to keep the law.
Those who believe that tithing is no longer valid use the argument that since tithing was commanded and primarily mentioned in the Old Testament it is legalistic to teach tithing today. In an effort to not be under the obligation of the Old Testament law, some have declared that God does not want us to label a set percentage of our giving as being obligatory in this present day. The word tithe means ten percent and thus to tithe is to give a tenth of one’s increase. Interestingly enough, those who argue against the tithe often contend our giving should go beyond the tithe. They say under the day of grace we should be giving above the tithing amount. Their motive may be well intended to free people from what they perceive as being under the law, however, what they call grace-giving can leave people feeling unsure of what or how much to give. This argument may actually bring people under bondage itself by indicating that if a person really loved God and was committed, he would be giving much more in this day of grace. What is intended to remove obligation can actually produce it. Those who argue for the no-tithing view would simply say, God desires for us to give but no expectation to tithe or have obligation to give is in the New Testament.
Means of Interpretation
The view one takes of tithing can lie in the field of interpretation of the Bible. There are basically two approaches to interpreting commands given in the Old Testament. The first can be called the principle of repetition. The principle of repetition states that unless something is repeated or re-commanded in the New Testament, it is no longer valid. The second principle is the principle of fulfillment. The principle of fulfillment states that unless something was repealed in the New Testament, it still remains valid for today in the fulfillment of Christ’s work. Not as a requirement for righteousness, but in obedience to Christ. Jesus expected his disciples to fast, pray, and obey. Not for righteousness sake, but as a lifestyle of love and obedience to Christ.
With the principle of repetition, Christians often do not know what to do with the Old Testament. They are not sure what part it plays in today’s world. They may believe the Old Testament is inspired and applicable as examples for Christians. They may see it provides wisdom from the Proverbs, and inspiration and comfort from the Psalms; but beyond that, the Old Testament has little value to these Christians. Many Christians use the principle of repetition in their approach to understanding our responsibilities in the church. They look for the New Testament to repeat or re-command. Using this interpretation leaves them with little help and often no answers for society or principles for life. With this interpretation, they fall prey to the view that God has nothing to say concerning crime or dealing with the ills of society for today. To take this approach is to assume that society has no divine obligation to deal with the murderer, rapist, thief, or perjurer, or a number of other crimes, because God addresses these issues primarily in the Old Testament. If the Church takes this view then it falls to a man-centered standard of what man believes to be right and is guided by what society determines.
It is good to say we are led by the Holy Spirit, however, one must be reminded the standard given by the Holy Spirit is the Law of God and not a different standard. We must be cautious to not be as our modern culture of no absolutes or standard. The Holy Spirit brings standards to our heart, but what are these standards? Are they different from what God’s law has already given? God’s law, though it has been fulfilled in Christ as far as our righteousness is concerned, still reveals the heart and standard of God.
The church at large would also have to change their beliefs concerning other practices of worship.This is particularly true for those who see the New Testament church being the restoring of the tabernacle of David (Acts 15:15-17). Musical instruments and all forms of worship apart from singing could not be expected as a regular means of worship because we have no instruction or example in the New Testament.
We can say the Holy Spirit is the one who makes us covenant keepers. Without the Holy Spirit we have no way to stand. The standard of the Holy Spirit is the same law standard of the Old Testament. It is the same law written in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. It is not a different standard or law, but the same. It is now written in our hearts. It is the same law now fulfilled in Christ and carried out in us by the Holy Spirit with all aspects of right-standing taken care of in Christ.
Jesus came to fulfill the law. The priesthood, sacrifices, and ceremonial aspects are all fulfilled in Him. He did not come to alter, repeal, or annul the law. His instruction to us and His disciples was to not to even think that He came to destroy the Law and the Prophets. Jesus said, “I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17). This is very important. He explained further that, “If anyone annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:19). To destroy means to invalidate, dismantle, annul, spoil completely, put an end to, and make useless or repeal. Jesus did not come to do that. Jesus came to fulfill the law, which means to ratify, establish, confirm, or carry out something promised, cause to be, or to be complete. Any aspect of the law that required one to be made righteous transitioned to being fulfilled under the ultimate sacrifice, Jesus. Our righteousness is settled in him so nothing we do – even tithing – can bring favor toward salvation or righteousness. We are both favored and righteous in Christ. The priesthood, sacrifice, and ceremonial ordinances were fulfilled in Christ and thus made true on our behalf. Christ is our high priest and perfect sacrifice. When we accept Christ we are counted as righteous beyond any ceremonial aspect. Tithing falls under the same obligation that all acts of obedience does. It does not produce righteousness but follows righteousness.
Some Christians accept no requirements to be placed on them. They are focused on that fact they have been made in right standing with God and think that any command of obedience is keeping the law. That puts them in a position to reject any obligation to God’s authority or His ownership of their lives. The truth is, since Christ owns us and has paid for our righteousness, then we are under an obligation of love and obedience to honor him in all things.
Means of Standard
When Paul teaches we are free from the law, he is referring to the law’s requirements for righteousness. Jesus is the end of the law for righteousness to all who believe (Rom 10:4), yet Paul uses the law to instruct Christians regularly. He commands children to honor their father and mother, the first commandment with promise (Eph 6:1). He cites the law as the command of authority to know how to pay those who labor hard and well (1 Cor 9:9). Over 260 times Paul quotes from the Old Testament to teach and command Christians. Paul’s writings proclaim the law as good, holy, just, and spiritual (Romans 7:7, 12, 14). When he speaks of being free from the law, he speaks of the ordinances and sacrifices of the law. These obligations were fulfilled in Christ, and we are no longer under the curse of the law because Christ has made us righteous.These ordinances are not against us in this newly created state. This wonderful doctrine, however, does not remove us from obedience to God’s commands. Rather, it does the opposite.
So much of the instruction given on tithing is in the Old Testament; however, we see the same financial requirements placed upon the New Testament church. These include support for those who labor by the gospel, care for the widow and orphan, outreach to the stranger, and ministering to the poor. The church requirements have not changed from one covenant to another. The commands are given to the church collectively as Paul wrote to the church in Corinth and in his apostolic letter to Timothy. James, the brother of our Lord, also stressed the requirements of true religion. How could these expenses be expected to be paid? There was an expectation of tithing.
Some teach that since Malachi 3:8-12 mentions offerings, along with the tithes, and these offerings were used ceremonially, then tithing is no longer valid. The tithe did help supply some of the ceremonial offerings, but the tithe was established for reasons other than ceremonial requirements. We can see clearly that the offerings of sacrifice are not required ceremonially in the New Testament, but the tithe received under the New Testament is not used ceremonially. Jesus became our sacrifice, but He did not become our tithe. Tithe brings no righteousness, but it does acknowledge our faith and worship toward him. Therefore when the sacrifice was fulfilled in Christ, the tithe continued by passing all things through the cross.
We worship God with our tithe as they did in the Old Testament but without ceremonial sacrifices. Our sacrifice is the fruit of our lips and the offering of our bodies to His service, but the tithe still reveals our faith, submission to God’s church on the earth. It is a recognition of His ownership of our lives and possessions. Tithing truly is an act of worship.
Part 2 – Coming soon.