Set Free to Give!

A Biblical Study on Christian Living and Giving
by Brent MacDonald

Article history is here. Version 6.


The Search Begins
The Tithe

How Should Christians Be Giving?

Examples of Giving for the Church.
Should the Church Provide for Those in Ministry?
Problem with Mandated Giving in the Church.
Cash Only Please! Money is the focus of giving?
Making a List... Keeping track of giving.
The Conclusion

Appendix A - Can believers earn blessings, favor, or standing with God?
Appendix B - Covenant Theology



Fear. Guilt. Shame. These are words that shouldn't be in use to describe Christians, yet are often the hidden feelings of multitudes of believers today. What dark and secret sin is the source of these feelings? The answer is not what you may think... Giving.

Over the years, we have met hundreds of people that are fearful that they are under God's judgment for their shameful giving practices. The guilt of not living up to the Biblical standard consumes them to the point of discouragement or drives them to a works based system of trying to please God.

What critical Biblical standard have they fallen short of and who is continually reminding them of their inadequacy? A veritable army of pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and even Sunday school teachers comprise the 'who', and the 'what' is mostly centered on the topic of tithing. Subtly, or belligerently, people are berated for not "doing their duty" from the pulpit, in the church bulletin, and in hosts of recommended books and booklets. Some assure the people that to have fallen short is to guarantee that they are under God's judgment, while others more mildly forewarn of loss of blessing (especially financially). Every budget shortfall of the church seems to be blamed on the disobedience of the people in not keeping the tithe, or for giving elsewhere instead of to the "church first."

For the few who manage to meet or miraculously exceed the tithe, an air of superiority often accompanies this accomplishment. Even if the giver doesn't have this, church leadership regularly places them on a spiritual pedestal far above the crowd. The spiritual and material blessing of these people is guaranteed, we are often assured.

Those multitudes who are struggling with getting by, trying to climb out of debt, and raise families, are castigated as lacking faith. All they have to do is "put God first" and give before meeting any other obligation and God will guarantee to meet their needs. One church trumpeted a special "Prove the Tithe Sunday" weeks in advance. How could anyone resist laying out that spiritual fleece and reaping the temporal blessings guaranteed?

For hosts of believers, the idea that we have been set free in Christ is a foreign idea. Even when they can reach to apply this concept to other areas of their life, the issue of giving enslaves them on a daily basis. So is this the life most believers are destined to live or does the Bible provide an answer, a way to break this cycle of bondage? Clearly, the answer to that question is "yes!" It's our desire that in your study of this topic throughout the pages of Scriptures you will find the truth and be set free to give!

Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil;
live as servants of God. 1 Peter 2:16


The Search Begins

In presenting a biblical position on giving - a topic sometimes called "Christian Stewardship" - many aspects must be examined. Differences in practices from the Old to New Testament must be considered. What is commonly meant by numerous terms also need to be defined (including tithes, offerings, and gifts). Perhaps the greatest question comes down to this, "How should Christians give?" The specifics of what is referenced by a given term can and does vary greatly amongst people, in and out of the church. Even the arguments and Bible passages used to justify or nullify practices differ immensely. Merely establishing the past or present practice of a group, church, or denomination does not become sufficient proof that a practice is Biblical - even if that practice has historical roots. Following one of the fundamental tenants of the Protestant Reformation, Scriptures alone must be our absolute and authoritative source for all Christian belief and practice. The fulfillment of this mandate requires a detailed and orderly examination of each aspect of this topic and an honest effort to set aside traditions and personal biases. Within each section we will establish questions that need to be answered and it's important that you take the time to come to a Biblical response to every one of these questions.

Stepping immediately into the fray, the first topic in consideration must be the tithe. Virtually everyone who has attended a church service, or has seen one on TV, has heard about this topic. Sermons are preached on the subject, people are implored to give their tithe. The phrase, "We now wait upon you for your tithes and offerings," has become a staple in many churches before the plates are passed. The question remains; is the tithe a church tradition or a command of God? Merely asking this question is tantamount to rebellion in many churches - an assault on the finances of the church. Stoning the messenger (or questioner) is considered more desirable than even remotely considering that this venerable practice could be anything but Biblical.

Yet, as believers, we need to be willing to question everything that is taught to us in Jesus' name and then hold fast to that which is from God. In an era where everyone wants easy-to-swallow sound bites, true Bible study takes time. Any topic found in numerous books of the Bible must be examined across all of them. Since the Bible never contradicts itself, passages that can be used out of context to justify a position need to be seen from the view of the whole. If it stands up to this scrutiny, it's a valid interpretation of Scripture... if it falls, then a person must go on to look for the overall unity that a Biblical position must have. The maxim "Scripture interprets Scriptures" is a cornerstone of all Biblical interpretation.

As a starting place we will separate the phrase "tithes and offerings" and firstly - due to its prominence - examine the topic of tithing on its own merits. Other forms of giving will be dealt with in subsequent sections. At the onset be clear on this, the Bible does teach that Christians are to be a giving people. The only question is "how?"

The Tithe

A Few Opening Questions about Tithing...

1. What is the tithe? What was/is its' purpose?
2. Who is this practice for? Who are the givers?
3. Who administers it? In other words, who distributes/uses it?

A quick answer, which I've heard many times before, goes something like this. "Everyone is supposed to give at least 10% of all they earn, or are given, to their church. The tithe is so the church has money to operate." Great answer, but is it Biblical?

Jumping to conclusions, especially taught ones, is easy to do. Instead, think along the lines of the formula "A+B=C." Remember, you can't make "C" statements - similar to the entire sample answer above - unless you can prove "A" and "B" from the Bible. The whole picture has to add up. The "A" and "B" of our example includes providing biblical proof that the tithe is for everyone, that it is 10% of everything a person receives or earns, and that the church is to receive it. If any aspect of this does not hold up to biblical scrutiny, the answer ("C") has to be revised.

Starting Points of Reference (lots of "C" statements)...

Common ideas about the tithe are taught in seminaries and expounded from many pulpits. As one that has travelled and participated in numerous churches throughout North America, representing a host of denominations, I'm perhaps intrigued most by the positions that are mutually exclusive - in other words, they contradict each other. Of course, each of these positions is held up by their adherents as being "biblical." When asked why they believe these things, a majority of people will acknowledge some level of traditional influence. Occasional 'proof texts' or verses are held out in support of what they've been taught. Yet when challenged on flaws or gaps in their biblical 'proof,' more than one have said that it doesn't matter if their method of getting there is flawed as long as it ends up teaching people to uphold the practice. Scary! This ends-justifies-the-means theology is pervasive outside the church, but should never become so inside it.

Positions are really methods. The following three methods summarize most of what is being used to say that the tithe applies to the church today. Consider each position and their accompanying questions as we seek to find out if "Tithing is a biblical tradition" as one denominational pamphlet so confidently asserts in promoting this practice to its' churches.

While some of the examples we will give may appear to slam church and denominational leadership, and in some cases justifiably so, I need to emphasize that the vast majority of people (leadership or not) hold to traditional views out of ignorance. It was only after I had received a number of questions about tithing and a few challenges, that I set out to examine the entire subject objectively from Scriptures. What I found was a surprise, as it will be for many readers. It's not wrong for a person to change their position on anything in the Bible after further study. It's only wrong when a person refuses to change their belief and practice to bring it into line with Scriptures. As for myself, what I now believe and teach must conform to God's Word.

Method #1 in Support of the Tithe

Directly or indirectly the Old Testament law is used to show the need for Tithing. Passages from the law, or that were given to people under the law, are used for examples showing that God still wants tithing. Almost on the level of the Ten Commandments, the tithe is held to have continued until today. Somewhere in all this it's assumed that the church merely picked up where the temple left off. Blessings offered to the Israelites for obedience to the law are offered as enticements to carry on the practice ("benefits of tithing" by one printed document).

Questions on Method #1

If the tithe is part of the law, and believed to be still in effect today, but is now administered by the church...

A. It must be shown from the Bible that it's still to be in effect in the church age. That when most aspects of the law, including civil, ceremonial and temple, were done away with - fulfilled in Christ - this part is still to remain.

B. It must be shown from the Bible that the church is to administer it and additionally what its' purpose is. For example; is there any direct command to the church regarding this? What's the difference between an offering and a tithe?

Method #2 in Support of the Tithe

In this promotion of the tithe, the law is said to have nothing to do with the church age tithe. According to these individuals the tithe was given before the law and can be shown to exist after the law [i.e. in the church era].

Questions on Method #2

If the tithe is "outside" or "before" the law and still in effect after the law, it is necessary to show...

A. That the tithe was commanded as something for everyone before the law. In other words, do any of the pre-law examples of tenth giving refer to tithing in any ecclesiastical sense?

B. That the tithe is still in effect in the church age. A New Testament reference, or to say that the tithe is talked about in a New Testament passage, does not necessarily prove this unless there is proper context.

Method #3 in Support of the Tithe

This third method is not really a new one; rather a mix of method #1 and method #2 are used to support it. Since this one takes many forms a quick example will suffice. Typically it is said that the practice of the tithe was commanded before the law and subsequently confirmed by the law, which also provided additional details on its administration. The continuation of the New Testament practice is usually held to be mostly as given by the law. In addition, the same temporal blessings offered for obedience to the law are now transferred to the church (or believers) during the church age for obedience to tithing (i.e. Malachi 3:10-11). Others claim the specific temporal blessings Abraham experienced [possessions, wealth, etc.] to be still available personally for obedience to the tithe. Even many churches that would not adhere to the extreme form of this - what is often called "The health and wealth gospel" - have embraced a lesser version.

One pro-tithing organization, that I'll leave nameless and use as representative of many, uses this enticing statement...

"Those who have practiced tithing have reported tremendous positive results in their finances, relationships, health and careers." (

Examples offered include broke individuals tithing their last dollars instead of paying rent, to miraculously receive a 34 times return in less than week. Other stories recount new tithers getting quick promotions at work, unexpected refunds, lower mortgage payments, new jobs and more. With advertising like this, one would expect the tithe to be the biblical equivalent of a sure-thing investment. A common phrase repeated by many pro-tithing sources is the expression: "The Law of Tithing"

Regardless of the quantity of the reward, they all hold that the individual or the church will be rewarded physically (or materially) for tithing. Some would claim their version to only be in pursuit of "spiritual rewards," though they claim the need of material things and finances to reap these spiritual rewards - again believing this is promised by faithful obedience to the tithe.

It should be noted that some people who hold to the second method use verses from the first method (out of context) to support aspects of their practice of the tithe. As such, these individuals unwittingly fall into this third method too.

Questions on Method #3

See questions on Methods #1 & #2. Also, the questions...

A. Can we earn blessing (material or otherwise) by tithing? The question of whether Christians can earn favour or standing with God is a long biblical study all by itself. See Appendix A

B. If we can earn physical blessings and rewards, in the example of Abraham or the extra ordinary blessing promised to the nation of Israel, what makes a moderate version of this more logically (or Biblically) consistent than the full blown "health and wealth gospel" - where you too should be as wealthy as Abraham? Mixing truth with error cannot be construed as achieving "balance." Truth plus a lie always results in a lie and typically a more dangerous lie due to its' coating of truth.

All the questions raised so far on each method must be addressed. They can't just be summarily dismissed or glossed over. They demand a biblical answer. Fleeing to a traditional response, or citing a prominent church personality or scholar is insufficient. Citing any of the host of tithing seminars is just as unsatisfactory. It should be noted that an increasing number of these seminars are available for church members and even church leadership. These courses have become big business. Some are overtly in support of the tithe, such as...

The McKenna Tithing Program - "A spiritual program that incidentally raises money" (

Others promote the tithe as part of a larger package...

Neil Kennedy presents, "Seven Laws Which Govern Increase and Order"

Even as I wrote this, I received a flyer for church leaders inviting them to The Church Financial Seminar that will show them how to get their people to tithe. Topic headings included: "How to Prove Tithing is a Good Thing" and "How to Advance Your Tithes Above and Beyond." Testimonials of how churches had applied seminar principles and benefited from exponential growth in giving through tithing are, of course, included. One was from a pastor who had "purchased their system" and was wondering how the IRS would view his church board deciding to give him all of the extra $73,000 dollars that had come in! [I think worrying what the IRS would think is the least of his concerns, but I digress.] Subtly or otherwise, the yearning for financial gain provides a continuing motivation to not re-examine the tithe.

While many lament the factions within today's church - and a few will even accuse this document of encouraging these divisions - it's actually people's unwillingness to search out God's truth and live by it that fuels continuing schism. True unity is always based in truth. (See 1 Corinthians 11:18-19).

One additional question needs to be addressed before continuing our study of the tithe...

Did Jesus say that all of the law is still in effect during the church age?: One church document used Jesus' statement in Matthew 5:17 to justify their belief that the tithe (as part of the law) was continued into the New Testament church. Consider that verse and the one that follows it.

Matthew 5:17-18 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

Jesus was teaching that He was not arbitrarily abolishing the law. Further He was clearly saying that it could never be abolished but required fulfillment. Once fulfilled it is done away with by completion! This Bible passage cannot be randomly used to justify carrying on one practice (or aspect) of Mosaic Law. If this passage could be used to continue the tithe, why not continue sacrifices, or putting witches to death (Exodus 22:18), celebrating all the mandated feasts (Exodus 20:15-19), etc.? It is a blatant misuse of Scriptures to say that this passage means all practices of the law go on forever and even worse when it's used to justify only one pet practice. By Jesus' own words, if He fulfilled the law (in any aspect) that part of the law could be finished. It's on this basis that the New Testament church no longer carries on the sacrifices, ritual, festivals, and legal ordinances of the law (read Hebrews chapter 10).

Examples of Tithing (or giving a tenth) Pre-Law...

With some methods claiming that the command to tithe was established before the law, our initial investigation begins with a consideration of all the examples of Scriptures in the time before the giving of the law.

Abraham (formerly called Abram). [Genesis 14:11-24]

The four kings seized all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food; then they went away. 12 They also carried off Abram's nephew Lot and his possessions, since he was living in Sodom. 13 One who had escaped came and reported this to Abram the Hebrew. Now Abram was living near the great trees of Mamre the Amorite, a brother of Eshcol and Aner, all of whom were allied with Abram. 14 When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. 16 He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people. 17 After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley). 18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. 20 And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand." Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything. 21 The king of Sodom said to Abram, "Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself." 22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, "I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath 23 that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, 'I made Abram rich.' 24 I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me--to Aner, Eshcol and Mamre. Let them have their share."

Conclusions and questions from this passage...

- This was a spontaneous act of gratitude by Abraham. It cannot be considered an act of obedience since there was no command to do so by God or by Melchizedek.

- Abraham did not command or desire it of anyone else in his household or company, not even of Lot who had now received everything back.

- Abraham gave only of the goods he had extraordinarily acquired (in this one rescue mission), all of which he had already vowed (of his own choice) not to keep (Genesis 14:23). Abraham is never shown as having gone back home (a distance from where this event took place) and given of his own possessions that God had blessed him with.

- Abraham gave to one who appears to be a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus (a Christophany). In the least, it was to a priest (and priesthood) that was directly established by God.

- This giving of a tithe was a one-time event in Abraham's life. We never hear of Abraham or his son ever returning to give another ten percent, nor being command to.

· If Abraham is the example for practicing the tithe outside of the law, how does his experience have anything to do with our common practice of today?

Jacob [Genesis 28:20-22]

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear 21 so that I return safely to my father's house, then the LORD will be my God 22 and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth."

Conclusions and questions from this passage...

- Jacob bargained with God (if you'll do for me, I'll do this). This actually opposes what God has commanded (Matthew 4:7), that we are not to put Him to test. This appears to be the act of a rebellious individual who had not yet learned to trust God. His example is far removed from the spontaneous gratitude and actions of Abraham.

- We are not even told in Scriptures if Jacob ever did give his bargained for tithe, unless perhaps as sacrifices which were consumed by those in attendance, or poured out on the ground (Gen 31:54, 33:30?, 35:1,7?, 35:14). In fact, sacrifices are a completely different subject than tithing.

· If Abraham's one time experience can be used for an example, why is Jacob's one time example not? [To be fair, some actually use Jacob's example to say that a tithe was common, or commanded in Jacob's day, but they make this argument from the silence of Scriptures.]

· If Jacob was going to give a tithe, to whom was he going to give it, as there wasn't a temple and priests (or church and pastors)?

How about some more examples? Here's the problem. The multitudes of other pre-law examples (that we're often assured are there) seem to be missing!

Conclusions and questions from this absence of these passages...

· Where are any examples from the lives of all the other righteous individuals who lived before the law in regards to giving a tithe? If this practice was a norm, before or after Abraham, where is the evidence in support of it?

- In fact, besides the two isolated occurrences above, only examples of sacrifices are shown as being common from the fall to the giving of the law. Sacrifices are a completely different subject and they were clearly commanded by God prior to the law (who actually sacrificed the first animal for a covering from Adam and Eve). The law later built upon the early establishment of sacrifices, giving more details to how they were to be practiced and showing more of the symbolism that would later be fulfilled in Jesus.

- Sacrifices (animals, drink, etc.) are no longer required in the New Testament church (Hebrews 9:26-28, 10:1-14) as this pre-law ordinance and subsequent portion of the law was fulfilled in Jesus. For reference, the many types of Old Testament offerings can be divided into the following classifications. Offerings can be classified as (1) propitiatory (expiatory atonement): sin offering, guilt offering; (2) dedicatory (consecratory): burnt offering, grain offering, drink offering; (3) communal (fellowship): peace offering, wave offering, thanksgiving offering, vow, freewill offering. Only the 'freewill' and 'vow' offerings of the communal category were not mandatory. As Jesus was our atonement, the one who consecrates us for His use, and who is our peace bringing us into fellowship with God, he fulfilled all need of the offerings of the law in His perfect sacrifice (offering).

Examples of the Tithe in Old Testament Law...

Moving on to the giving of the law through Moses, there is much we can learn about the then mandated tithe. Like many other decrees of the law, the tithe had detailed specifics regarding its' administration...

The Law. Deuteronomy 14:22-29 "You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. 23 And you shall eat before the LORD your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. 24 But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the LORD your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the LORD your God has blessed you, 25 then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the LORD your God chooses. 26 And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household. 27 You shall not forsake the Levite who is within your gates, for he has no part nor inheritance with you. 28 "At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. 29 And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do. (NKJV)

Conclusions from this passage...

- The tithe was commanded of the nation of Israel

- The tithe was of yearly increase, not of everything one owned or grew. Specifically it was only of things grown, both in the ground and of livestock. Nowhere in the law is any person commanded to give a tithe (in any form) of lands, clothing, and other merchandise, except for grown or cultivated items. For those who confuse passages on the first fruits offering with tithing, scriptures specifically says that the tithe of the livestock was by random (which could make the animal good or bad, young or old), and no substitution was allowed!

Leviticus 27:30-33 "'A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD. 31 If a man redeems any of his tithe, he must add a fifth of the value to it. 32 The entire tithe of the herd and flock — every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd's rod — will be holy to the LORD. 33 He must not pick out the good from the bad or make any substitution. If he does make a substitution, both the animal and its substitute become holy and cannot be redeemed.'"

- The tithe was now a yearly (once a year) ordinance - specifically of the increase over the previous year's yield.

Some have questioned that this was a yearly practice based on the fact that crops matured at different times of the year. While it's quite clear in the Bible that the separating of a tenth of the flock would be annual, little is told us on when the setting aside of the tithe of the increase in grains would have taken place. As people would have been capable of storing their harvest, it is quite probable that it was still a once a year event, with a goal of taking it to the temple during one of the mandated feasts. At most a person may divided it (the tenth) into thirds to take a portion for each of the three required festivals at the temple. For a majority of Israel (those away from Jerusalem), the only times of the year they would go to the temple would be at these special gatherings. Since the majority of the tithe was to be eaten by the giver, it's likely that dividing it up would provide provisions for each of the festivals. This division would not have increased the tithe, it would have merely determined when it was to be used, since it was still of the increase and not of everything a person had at that time.

Exodus 23:14-17 "Three times a year you are to celebrate a festival to me [spring, summer, fall -- arranged so as to not disturb planting and harvests, or require travel during the winter]. 15 "Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread [Passover]; for seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in that month you came out of Egypt. "No one is to appear before me empty-handed. 16 "Celebrate the Feast of Harvest [also called "the Feast of Weeks" or Pentecost] with the firstfruits of the crops you sow in your field. "Celebrate the Feast of Ingathering [Feast of Tabernacles] at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field. 17 "Three times a year all the men are to appear before the Sovereign LORD. [My additions for explanation]

Rabbinical writers especially point out that the last mentioned festival, the Feast of Ingathering, which took place following the completion of the ingathering of all produce of the ground, was the big "feast" in terms of what was consumed. As such, this could be best equated to our modern celebration of Thanksgiving. Perhaps this meant that more of the tithe was taken to the temple at this time to be consumed before the Lord.

- The tithe guaranteed a vacation for the people, a time of rest from working.

- The giver administered the tithe! The giver (not a priest or pastor) was responsible for using it or distributing it.

- By the law, the tithe was to be consumed by the giver in fellowship (especially with his family and extended household.) and only at the place God designated. (See Deuteronomy 12:4-7, 17-19). This mandatory act of fellowship included the following lesser aspects...

· It was to be shared with those in full time ministry (Levites), people who by designation had no inheritance because they were devoted to service of the Lord. [This part was mandatory only every third year! See also Deuteronomy 26:12-13]. Note that it was not only the tithe that was eaten by the giver. Even with most of the sacrifices, the giver and family normally ate them, with only a portion of the whole being given to help the priests (Levites). [See 1 Samuel 1:4, 2:13-14]. In regards to the tithe, the priests in turn ate it (which was "grain and juice from the winepress") with their family, etc., except for ten percent of it, which was given to the high priest. Though not explicitly told so, it would follow that the high priest and his family (servants, etc) would consume this final percentage [Numbers 18: 21, 24-32]. While some scholars hold that this last referenced passage in Numbers contradicts, or shows an alternate practice to the passage in Deuteronomy, using standard principles of biblical interpretation, it requires us to look for the higher unity while using scriptures to interpret scripture. Obviously the passage in Deuteronomy prevents the "all the tithes" mentioned in Numbers from referencing anything but the portion for the Levites given every three years.

The difference between instructions in Deuteronomy and Numbers led some rabbis to believe that there were two tithes each year, one for the Levite and one to be eaten before the Lord. Yet it is unlikely that the text would institute a second tithe the way it does, without introduction or clarification. Some also believed that the triennial tithe was additional, making a total of three tithes. But it is unlikely that the offerer would have to affirm that such tithe was given properly while saying nothing of the first, or primary tithe. (Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Copyright 1996 by Baker Books)

· It was to be shared with strangers (aliens)

· It was to be shared with needy (fatherless & widows)

- Israel was promised a blessing for following the commanded practice of the tithe. Blessing came with obedience to the law; punishment came with disobedience [which was the same for every aspect of the law]. Every command of God comes with this same pro and con. All sin or rebellion against God has consequences. The entire issue of the tithe was not to be a burden to the people; rather it was a personal show of obedience. The giver was responsible to God for what they had done (as administrator of the tithe), and were commanded to speak to God and tell Him that they had been obedient in keeping the command (see Deuteronomy 26:13). Even the priests, in doing the same with their portion of the tithe, had identical responsibility. The result would be that all the people would "learn to revere the LORD your God always. (Deuteronomy 14:23)"

Hezekiah. [At this time temple worship was being restarted after a period of rebellion] (2 Chronicles 29:3, 31:4-12) In the first month of the first year of his reign, he [Hezekiah] opened the doors of the temple of the LORD and repaired them. ... 4 He ordered the people living in Jerusalem to give the portion due the priests and Levites so they could devote themselves to the Law of the LORD. 5 As soon as the order went out, the Israelites generously gave the firstfruits of their grain, new wine, oil and honey and all that the fields produced. They brought a great amount, a tithe of everything. 6 The men of Israel and Judah who lived in the towns of Judah also brought a tithe of their herds and flocks and a tithe of the holy things dedicated to the LORD their God, and they piled them in heaps. 7 They began doing this in the third month and finished in the seventh month. 8 When Hezekiah and his officials came and saw the heaps, they praised the LORD and blessed his people Israel. 9 Hezekiah asked the priests and Levites about the heaps; 10 and Azariah the chief priest, from the family of Zadok, answered, "Since the people began to bring their contributions to the temple of the LORD, we have had enough to eat and plenty to spare, because the LORD has blessed his people, and this great amount is left over." 11 Hezekiah gave orders to prepare storerooms in the temple of the LORD, and this was done. 12 Then they faithfully brought in the contributions, tithes and dedicated gifts.

Conclusions from this passage...

- Three separate things are in view throughout this account: freewill offerings, tithes, and mandated offerings (such as firstfruits). [See 2 Chronicles 31:5, 12]

- When Hezekiah ordered the people to give what was due to the priests [31:4], it included all three types of giving. The tithe that was due was the long forgotten third year tithe that was used to help the Levites. It's not surprising that it would be mentioned during this start up of the temple. Getting provisions in storage to provide for the Levites (who were again doing their temple service) was important. Only ten percent of the tithe given by the people would have actually gone in the storeroom [See Numbers 18:26-28] as the portion that would sustain the active priests doing service at the temple. We will consider more regarding this in the next scripture passage to be examined regarding Nehemiah.

- Notice that when the people did what they were supposed to be doing, there was more than enough food for the Levites [See 2 Chronicles 31:10]. We shouldn't be surprised that God's system worked then even as any method He has for us will work now.

- Excluding freewill gifts, both the mandated firstfruits offering [greater] and the tithe [lesser] were all about food. They were to make it possible for the Levites to eat, not provide them a bank account. In fact it appears that consecrated items could not be sold to those who were not Levites - they belonged only to those for whom they were designated.

Nehemiah. [Regarding the law being re-instituted after the temple was rebuilt] (Nehemiah 10:35-39) "We also assume responsibility for bringing to the house of the LORD each year the firstfruits of our crops and of every fruit tree. 36 "As it is also written in the Law, we will bring the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, of our herds and of our flocks to the house of our God, to the priests ministering there. 37 "Moreover, we will bring to the storerooms of the house of our God, to the priests, the first of our ground meal, of our [grain] offerings, of the fruit of all our trees and of our new wine and oil. And we will bring a tithe of our crops to the Levites, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all the towns where we work. 38 A priest descended from Aaron is to accompany the Levites when they receive the tithes, and the Levites are to bring a tenth of the tithes up to the house of our God, to the storerooms of the treasury. 39 The people of Israel, including the Levites, are to bring their contributions of grain, new wine and oil to the storerooms where the articles for the sanctuary are kept and where the ministering priests, the gatekeepers and the singers stay. "We will not neglect the house of our God."

Conclusions from this passage...

- This passage changed nothing from the law, as it merely restated it. The mandated firstfruits offering and giving of firstborn, etc., had nothing to do with the tithe and was a completely separate ordinance. To apply the standard of the firstfruits to the tithe (as some churches do) in saying that the tithe has to be first and the best is not shown by this Old Testament passage. It is not proper Biblical interpretation to arbitrarily combine separate ordinances of the law (or aspects of such practices), much less carry them into the church.

- It was necessary for the proper implementation of the law to be set forth again, because common practice during the divided kingdom period allowed many corrupt practices to become commonplace. In fact, it appears that during this time Israel (the northern kingdom), with its' false places of worship, stopped going anywhere to eat the tithe and only went to one of the two new spots to bring the Levitical tithe every third year (see Amos 4:4). With these changes the customs of the people were almost entirely in opposition to God's commanded practice. It's no wonder that God condemns them repeatedly for turning away from Him! Likewise, if the tithe is still for the church it then becomes very important that we know (and can prove from Scriptures) where the tithe is now supposed to go.

- While every three years the tithe was shared with the Levites [see Deuteronomy 14:28-29], the Levites were only required to take 10 percent of that amount to the temple storehouse [see Nehemiah 10:38], where it was distributed to the priests for their usage (consumption). This small percentage (10% of loosely 1/3 of people's original 10% ... less than ½ of 1 percent!) was all that was going to the temple storehouse from the tithe. All the additional goods that went to the temple storehouse, from the people as a whole (verse 39 above), were the mandated offerings of the firstfruits, etc. This additional passage from Nehemiah shows how the firstfruits and tithes are clearly spoken of as being separate and that only the portion for the priests (all of the firstfruits and their once every three year portion of the tithe) went into the storeroom...

Nehemiah 12:44 At that time men were appointed to be in charge of the storerooms for the contributions, firstfruits and tithes. From the fields around the towns they were to bring into the storerooms the portions required by the Law for the priests and the Levites, for Judah was pleased with the ministering priests and Levites.

The book of Nehemiah also confirms that the tithe was still only in regards to things grown and cultivated; livestock, grain, wine and oil (Nehemiah 13:12).

The entirety of the concept surrounding the eaten tithe and the once every three-year special tithe must be understood to pertain to what God is saying in the next passage we will examine...

Malachi Passage. Malachi 3:6-12 "I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you," says the LORD Almighty. "But you ask, 'How are we to return?' 8 "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. "But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' "In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse-the whole nation of you-because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit," says the LORD Almighty. 12 "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land," says the LORD Almighty.

Conclusions from this passage...

- This is God's indictment on Israel for not obeying His law. In this passage God restates the obligation the priests and people had under the law. Two separate transgressions are in view in this passage - tithes and offerings. The tithe is the same one we've been looking at as established by the law, while the offerings that are spoken of here are the mandated offerings of the law which included the firstfruits.

- Verse 10 is a specific rebuke of the priests who alone were to bring a share of the tithe into the storeroom. (See the earlier section on Nehemiah again. Way back to the time of Hezekiah we are told what the purpose of the temple storerooms was. While it included space for the Levitical share of the tithe, it also included storage for other dedicated gifts and offerings, both mandated and freewill. See 2 Chronicles 31:4, 11-12.) In fact, read all of Malachi. This book is mostly a message for the priests. The priests had stopped following the law and the people where following their bad example. In verse nine, God includes the people as being guilty on grounds that they were withholding the mandated offerings. Check out the many passages throughout the Old Testament (try Isaiah) where God holds the nation at fault for the corruption of the priesthood and leadership. Many of the people were likely not giving their every third year portion of the tithe any longer either. Earlier, shortly after Nehemiah re-instituted temple worship, the people of his day had forgotten about the Levites. This prompted the Levites to forsake what they were supposed to be doing and lookout only for themselves (Nehemiah 13:10-13). The downward spiral alluded to in Malachi would likely have fed on itself. With the priests not bringing what they were obligated to bring into the storehouse and with less being given by the people (especially in mandated offerings), the shortages probably prompted the priests to look out for themselves again, forsaking God's work.

- This passage also restates the blessing God promised Israel for following the law. Again, this message was first and foremost to the priests in an effort to have them see what harm they were causing the nation through their disobedience. The priests, with their position of authority, were to be more accountable as they were to be examples and teachers of the people.

It needs to be noted that the passage in Malachi is one of the most preached on, in our modern churches, in regards to tithing. It is used in spite of the fact that it is clearly a passage for those under the legal obligation of the law and (as with the whole book of Malachi) is primarily an indictment on the leadership of Israel (especially the priests, who where the only ones who took tithes into the storehouse). The blessings offered for their obedience are merely a restating of the extraordinary blessing God promised them (as a nation) if they would obey His law (Deuteronomy 7:12-15; 11:13-15, Exodus 23:24-26).

So what's wrong with using Malachi to encourage tithing in the church? The quick answer is "everything!" Using this passage for this purpose is a misuse of Scriptures. It is completely wrong to guilt people into giving by claiming they are robbing God. For example, an on-line document by Rev. Rick L. Patterson, Th.D., president of Miami Christian University, says...

"God is specifically telling us that if we do not tithe our 10% unto Him, then as far as he is concerned we are robbers or thieves."

To make the accusation that someone is today robbing God, it becomes necessary to prove from the Bible that there's still a set obligation, and amount, as Israel had under the law. If no amount is set, as with freewill offerings under the Old Testament law (see Leviticus 7:16), not giving cannot be construed as robbing God - unless the gift was vowed (or promised) by the choice of the giver and then it would become a broken promise (see especially the example of Ananias & Sapphira, Acts 5:1-11)

Some more questions and thoughts...

· Before any of these passages could be used for the church, it still must be shown that they apply beyond the physical nation of Israel who was specifically under Mosaic Law.

· If this passage somehow teaches a blessing to the church for tithing (which there is no evidence of), why shouldn't the church claim all the other temporal (material) blessings promised Israel for their obedience?

Before leaving the Old Testament we need to consider another idea that has been put forth concerning the purpose of tithing in Old Testament times...

The tax versus gift hypothesis. This view is taught by Dr. John MacArthur, Jr., a writer and theologian who has written many very helpful things. I was not made aware of his materials on the subject of tithing until after a limited release of the first version of this document. What I found was that his conclusions are similar to my own in regards to whether or not the tithe applies to the church, only that we differ in the 'why?' and his interpretation of some Old Testament tithe law.

MacArthur teaches that there were really three different tithes, one of which was every third year. He is not the first to espouse this viewpoint, with some citing extra-biblical sources who referred to two tithes or three tithes (and perhaps a seven year cycle of tithing). One reference work cites the problem in this manner...

There is thus an obvious apparent discrepancy between the legislation in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. It is harmonized in Jewish tradition, not only theoretically but in practice, by considering the tithes as three different tithes, which are named the First Tithe, the Second Tithe, and the Poor Tithe, which is called also the Third Tithe (Pe'ah, Ma`aseroth, Ma`ser Sheni, Dema'i, Ro'sh ha-shanah; compare Tob 1:7,8; Ant, IV, iv, 3; viii, 8; viii, 22). According to this explanation, after the tithe (the First Tithe) was given to the Levites (of which they had to give the tithe to the priests), a Second Tithe of the remaining nine-tenths had to be set apart and consumed in Jerusalem. Those who lived far from Jerusalem could change this Second Tithe into money with the addition of a 5th part of its value. Only food, drink or ointment could be bought for the money (Ma`aser Sheni 2:1; compare Deut 14:26). The tithe of cattle belonged to the Second Tithe, and was to be used for the feast in Jerusalem (Zebhachim 5:8). In the 3rd year the Second Tithe was to be given entirely to the Levites and the poor. But according to Josephus (Ant, IV, viii, 22) the "Poor Tithe" was actually a third one. The priests and the Levites, if landowners, were also obliged to give the Poor Tithe (Pe'ah 1:6). (International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright (c)1996 by Biblesoft)

As we have already shown, using Scriptures alone, there is a higher unity that removes any apparent discrepancies. The "Jewish tradition" cited in support of the double tithe is primarily from works written (or compiled) centuries after the destruction of the temple. There appears to be no direct, earlier, evidence to support the idea, other than Josephus, and he contradicts these traditions by having a third tithe. It is possible that by late Old Testament times, or even still more likely in the final years of the temple, a multiple tithe system may have been enforced. The Pharisees had a way of legalizing things that were never intended by Scriptures. If there were multiple tithes at the time of Jesus I would expect the self-righteous New Testament Pharisee in Luke 18 to have pointed out his diligence to "tithes." Beyond the biblical certainties, these various ideas supporting multiple tithes allow for much speculation as to what they may have been used for.

In MacArthur's articles he holds to all of the tithes being used to support the government of Israel. In his view, with Israel being a theocracy, the Levites were the administrators of the governmental system. Making it multiple tithes, instead of one tithe with multiple purposes, enables the percentage to grow as well. (This sounds like the thinking of many modern governments, but I digress again.)

Because Israel was a theocracy, the Levitical priests acted as the civil government. So the Levite's tithe (Leviticus 27:30-33) was a precursor to today's income tax, as was a second annual tithe required by God to fund a national festival (Deuteronomy 14:22-29). Smaller taxes were also imposed on the people by the law (Leviticus 19:9-10; Exodus 23:10-11). So the total giving required of the Israelites was not 10 percent, but well over 20 percent. All that money was used to operate the nation. (MacArthur, Giving and the Tithe, 2001)

Problems are immediately evident with this quotation, when viewed in light of all the Old Testament passages we've already examined. For example, we have already established...

- The tither ate his tithe with his family, etc. This cannot be construed as funding a national festival much less the government itself. If this was a tax it doesn't sound like any governmental tax anywhere else in history. How many governments would allow you to share your tax with the poor (on your honor), or consume most of it with your family and friends?!

- The tithe had nothing to do with money. It was crops and livestock. The Old Testament tithe was not imposed on acquired belongings, lands, or monetary gain, only on natural increase which included crops, livestock and fruit of the vine. (Consider that there would be nothing to tithe regarding crops every seventh year, which was a Sabbath year during which no crops were to be grown. If the government was dependant on this it would certainly make for automatic cutbacks!).

"All that money" (as MacArthur calls it) could hardly be used to operate a nation, when there was no money involved. The "smaller taxes" MacArthur references are equally questionable. Consider the first passage he references in support of this idea.

Leviticus 19:9-10 "'When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.

How this becomes a tax is beyond my imagination. In this passage God was instructing people to be merciful and allow there to be food for the poor and alien to glean from the fields. Oh that our taxes of today would show such compassion!

Exodus 23:10-11 "For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, 11 but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what they leave. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.

Once again, the second "smaller tax" passage is shown to have nothing to do with money and, like the first, nowhere is it paid to any government (Levites or king). When God established his seventh year rest for the land, it was to provide rest to the people and to show compassion on the poor (and perhaps even the animals).

MacArthur's statements imply that the tithe was the largest means of income for the Levites. In fact, as we've already seen, it's the other mandated offerings that provided the bulk of support for the Levites. If you multiply the number of tithes to get twenty percent or more (as MacArthur states), there is still the issue of proving that the Levites were the government. I consider this premise highly unlikely on numerous grounds of Scriptures.

Remember that the tithe was instituted when Israel was a true Theocracy (ruled by God alone), long before Israel asked for and got a king. If the Levites were supposed to be receiving at least 10% already (or 20%, or 23.3% as MacArthur attests), why would God have had Samuel warn them that the new government (monarchy) would demand a 10% (tithe) share of everything for that government? Also, if the Levites were agents of the government, why would Solomon have separate store cities and administrators (who were not Levites) collecting all his provisions?

1 Samuel 8:10-11a,14-18 Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, "This is what the king who will reign over you will do... He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day."

I believe that there was a secular tithe imposed after the monarchy was set up, but it was not generally referred to as the "tithe" (wording that almost always was used in reference to the religious 10%). The monarchy imposed 10% was simply a tax. These taxes were collected and administered by government officials, completely separate from the priesthood. For example, from the time of Solomon...

1 Kings 4:7-8a Solomon also had twelve district governors over all Israel, who supplied provisions for the king and the royal household. Each one had to provide supplies for one month in the year. 8 These are their names...

A person could perhaps try and justify saying that the Levites were the government before the monarchy, though it's even unlikely during the time of the judges and, for that matter, during the time of Moses as he established tribal leaders for governing (see Exodus 18:13-26). During the greater portion of Israel's history the idea becomes completely unprovable, including during the unified monarchy and divided kingdom that followed. Through these periods the secular governing authority was so strengthened that it is shown continually as being in control of all aspects of governing. Even during the Roman period (late Old Testament and early New Testament) all taxation authority was with the Roman government (as with the earlier Persian government at the time of Nehemiah. See Nehemiah 5:4).

Before leaving MacArthur's teaching on this subject we need to consider one last statement...

All giving apart from that required to run the government was purely voluntary (cf. Exodus 25:2; 1 Chronicles 29:9). Each person gave whatever was in his heart to give; no percentage or amount was specified. (MacArthur, Giving and the Tithe, 2001)

Check the verses he used for his examples, they pertain to constructing and furnishing the tabernacle or temple -- something that was always freewill, as we have already examined. If the Levites were the government, would not maintaining or constructing the building where their service was centered be part of running the government? How can other mandated offerings, such as the first fruits, be considered voluntary, or are they to be considered taxes too? The bottom line is that it is stretching credulity to try and claim a Levitical government and call some or all of the offerings and tithes, "taxes."

Before leaving the topic of taxes, it should be noted that there was a defined temple tax (one of the few things regarding the temple that pertained to money) ...

Matthew 17:24-27 After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked, "Doesn't your teacher pay the temple tax?" 25 "Yes, he does," he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. "What do you think, Simon?" he asked. "From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes-from their own sons or from others?" 26 "From others," Peter answered. "Then the sons are exempt," Jesus said to him. 27 "But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours."

This temple tax was first imposed by Moses (2 Chronicles 46:6, Exodus 30:11-16) as part of the law. It was a defined amount of money (that had not changed for hundreds of years) payable by all the male citizens of Israel 20 years and older. Collected once a year in the month of Adar (our March) this tax was specifically for the maintenance and care of the temple (and tabernacle to begin with). It was from this tax that the money changers had figured out a way to gouge the temple tax-payers -- profiting off of something that was supposed to provide for God's house. This tax alone was the prescribed form of financial income for the temple. Based on the number of people in Israel it most certainly would have raised substantial amounts of money. When it was first imposed by Moses it was also called "atonement money" representative of the need to redeem their lives. With the fulfillment of our atonement by Jesus Christ (and the destruction of the temple form of worship), this requirement was done away with. If the church could be shown to have taken over where the temple left off, it would be even more logical to carry a head-tax into the church rather than some form of the tithe. At least it was dealing with money. For the record, some churches throughout history have even imposed a form of "pew taxes" or a "church rate" to provide funding for their building. (I wonder if they exempted women and children? But, again, I digress.) When people can pull random things from the Old Testament into the new, like the tithe, this shouldn't surprise us. Pointing towards the day when the temple of God would be in men rather than in an edifice -- truly when all would be known as sons of God -- Jesus' words that "the sons are exempt," showed that a new and better way was coming.

While this discussion on taxes has little bearing on concepts of the tithe that are popularly carried into the church, I believe it's important that we always seek to find a solid defendable position based on all the Scripture passages. While it would be convenient to be able to contrast the Old Testament tithe to modern taxes, it actually detracts from showing how far removed the Old Testament tithe is from God's plan for giving in the New Testament era (but this is getting ahead of our progressive study).

Examples of Tithing in New Testament...

For something that occupies so much time in many pulpits, you would expect the New Testament to have a lot to say on the subject of Tithing. It is not enough to say that Jesus spent a lot of time talking about money... He did! But check out the context of what He was talking about. Unless it has to do with a tithe (the religiously mandated ten percent), which wasn't even money in temple times (unless converted by the giver for easier traveling), it's not talking about the same thing.

In fact, the New Testament only talks about the tithe THREE times...

Matthew 23:23 (also Luke 11:42) "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices-mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law-justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.

Conclusions from this passage...

- This passage was speaking to those who are still under the law (the scribes, Pharisees, etc), who were still mandated to uphold the law. Notice that the tithe was still in terms of goods (increase), specifically cultivated items (crops). The ceremonial law and all it entailed were not done away with until after Jesus died and rose again.

- Jesus was telling them that they had missed the point of the law and had descended into a hollow legalistic ritual rather than seeing the intent of the law.

- Merely showing that Jesus wanted them to uphold the law - while it was still in effect - does not place a requirement on the church to follow. Jesus offered sacrifices at the temple as well and fulfilled all the required elements of the law, but this does not mean that all those practices of the law should be carried into the church also. Again, it is improper Biblical interpretation to arbitrarily take one part and leave others, without clear Biblical instruction or precedence.

- It's interesting to note that Jesus looked on the tithe as a lesser part of the law, calling justice, mercy, and faithfulness more important. It's a stark contrast to how many churches hold the tithe as an extremely important (and perhaps most important) part of their professed worship.

Luke 18:11-12 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men-robbers, evildoers, adulterers-or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'

Conclusion from this passage...

- This passage is the words of a self-righteous person, still under the law, who looked to the deed as gaining favor from God. Like the other Pharisees, he was missing the point. Part of the problem of the mandated giving and ritual of the law was that people often looked only to the act, rather than considering the motivation of their act. Even today, many people point to the tithe as fulfilling their "obligation," rather than considering their motivation and coming to a complete understanding of Christian giving.

Hebrews 7:1-28 Read the whole chapter on your own.

Conclusions and questions from this passage...

- This whole passage was to show the deficiency of the Levitical priesthood (law) and the need of a spiritual priesthood forever in Jesus (grace). Nowhere does it say that Abraham was following a command to give a tithe (even as the Old Testament passage does not).

If (and this is a big 'if') this passage could be shown to teach the need of a tithe, it would be in the example of Abraham (refer back to the beginning of this article), though it implies that the tithe (of faith) was already paid (in a spiritual sense) for subsequent generations. The focus of the passage was not on tithing but on the greatness of Jesus' eternal priesthood, even as Melchizedek (as a pre-incarnate appearance or at least a type of Jesus) was far greater than the earthly priests of the law. Nowhere does this passage draw a continuation of the law's tithe into the church. In fact, it could be said that it points out gifts (freewill offerings) given to God are greater than any law-bound tithe.

- This passage clearly states that the former regulation of the law has been set aside through Jesus...

Hebrews 7:18-19 The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless 19(for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.

Examples of Tithing for the Church...


... Absolutely None ...


As the Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology (1996, Baker Books) put it... "Nowhere does the New Testament require Christians to tithe in the sense of giving 10 percent..." This becomes a very strange statement for something that consumes volumes of pulpit time, but not so when all of Scriptures is considered. Teacher and author, John MacArthur, Jr., arrived at the same conclusion...

New Testament believers are never commanded to tithe. Matthew 22:15-22 and Romans 13:1-7 tell us about the only required giving in the church age, which is the paying of taxes to the government. (MacArthur, Giving and the Tithe, 2001)

If, at any time in New Testament Biblical history, there was a possibility that the tithe could have been carried into the church, it was during the struggle between Jewish church and the infant Gentile church. Acts chapter 15 begins with some of the Jewish believers telling the Gentiles that they had to follow an aspect of the Law of Moses to be saved. When Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem to try and work this out with the leaders of the Hebrew church, those creating the problem on the Jewish side went all out, demanding that the entire law of Moses must be observed.

Acts 15:5 Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses."

Here was a prime opportunity! The ancient Jewish church (assuming that they might act selfishly and apart from God's will) could have picked any or all of the law and claim it to be necessary for the Gentile believers. Yet after seeking God's will and consulting with the Elder's and Apostles (Acts 15:6-19), they determined that saddling Gentile believers with unnecessary parts of the Law of Moses would hinder them from coming to the Lord. In the end the Jewish church only asked that the following aspects of the law be upheld by the Gentile believers...

Acts 15:28-29 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.

Obviously, if God wanted the tithe to be a part of the church, He could have had it stated here. Not honoring idols makes sense, as a reflection of one of the Ten Commandments (and God's holiness), in regards to not having any graven images (Exodus 20:3-4). So also does abstaining from sexual immorality in regards to adultery (Exodus 20:14). Perhaps the strangest request here is the legal prohibition of eating things strangled and still with their blood. It appears that God wanted them to carry this one aspect as something that would help keep the peace between the Jewish and Gentile church. To break this one element of the ceremonial law was considered to be highly offensive to the Jews. While it was not really a concern to Gentiles (see 1 Corinthian 10:25-26), God was asking the Gentiles to abstain from something that would be willfully and blatantly offensive to their Jewish brothers. Either way, the tithe was not even in view during this event. (Perhaps we need to ask how the church arrived at the point where the command to tithe has been substituted for the actual admonition to not eat things with blood or strangled. This latter command, carried from Jweish dietary law, was all but forgotten in the years that followed, especially after the destruction of the temple and the later failed Bar Kochba rebellion in 132 A.D. From that point onward the church became overwhelmingly Gentile in practice, losing most contact with Judaism and any perceived reason for this last restriction on Christian liberty.)

Whether Peter, as the Apostle to the Jews, or Paul, as the Apostle to the Gentiles, or even the beloved Apostle John (Galatians 2:8), each of these writers of the New Testament had plenty of opportunity to talk about tithing, if it had been important or relevant to the Christian Church. Over and over they worked to correct aberrant practices and establish sound doctrine in the new church and yet they were completely silent regarding the tithe.

Today's pastors and theologians are anything but silent on the tithe. Many, otherwise sound, teachers find it necessary to artificially prop up something that just isn't there. Risking the wrath of many who enjoy John Piper's writings (which I often do as well), I will use his message on this subject as an example. The following points are from his sermon given September 10, 1995 as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church...

Seven Biblical Reasons to Tithe

The way I would like to handle this is to give seven summary reasons -- which I will try to show from Scripture -- for why I pray my sons will all give the first 10% of their income to the work of Christ, and then grow beyond that as God prospers them.

1. Tithing honors an Old Testament principle of how God provided for the ministers he called and the expenses of their ministry.

2. When we release a tenth of our income and give it over to the ministry and mission of Christ in the world, we honor the Creator rights of God who owns everything, including all our income.

3. Giving away a tenth of our income to the mission and ministry of Christ is an antidote to covetousness.

4. The fourth reason is almost the same as the last one, but not quite. When we go to the tithe and beyond, as I am suggesting we should, it puts a governor on ever-expanding spending.

5. The fifth reason for going to the tithe and beyond in our giving is that this is God’s way of bringing about many good deeds for his glory.

6. The sixth reason for pressing to the tithe and beyond is that it is God’s way of providing you, the tither, sufficient money for your needs.

7. Finally, in our giving we should press toward the tithe and beyond because it will prove and strengthen our faith in God (sic) promises.


As a refresher, and to practice applying the principles we've already learned, we will quickly examine the Bible passages and arguments that Piper uses in defense of his seven points.

#1. Piper states that because God gave no inheritance to the Levites, He assigned them the tithe (Numbers 18:20-21). This is true, but remember that the portion of the tithe shared with the Levites was only a small portion of the whole, as most of it was consumed by the giver in fellowship and shared with the poor as well as the Levites. Giving 10% of our money to the church in no way honors an Old Testament means of God providing for his ministers -- this is an entirely new concept of the tithe. In fact, the new concept of the tithe removes it's administration (and any possible joy of sharing) from the giver and makes it a church function and now one centered around money rather than meals. Provision for the Levites came through a combination of many things, including a portion of mandatory offerings. Why wouldn't arbitrarily reinstating the firstfruits offering be closer to honoring an Old Testament means of providing for ministers and be just as logical? Once again, the tithe had nothing to do with money and did not provide for the Levites "expenses." Piper also appealed to Matthew 23:23 to say that Jesus promoted the tithe, concluding "So Jesus endorses tithing." Re-read the section on that passage that we covered earlier -- it is a contextual misuse of the Matthew 23:23 passage to apply it to the church. Superficially, perhaps his best argument in this section is 1 Corinthians 9:13-14...

1 Corinthians 9:13-14 Don't you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? 14 In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.

Piper claims that since Paul appealed to the Old Testament practice of the temple storeroom provisions being used to support the priests and Levites that it proves that a tithe should be used to support ministers in the church. His words are; "it seems likely that tithing would have been the early Christian guideline, if not mandate." Yet it's dangerous to read too much into Paul's "In the same way." Taken to an extreme, could not everything concerning the Levites be carried forward? To do so would result in the minister's share of the tithe only being the smaller portion that actually was put in the storeroom (re-read earlier sections), and then only of the increase of crops, livestock, and fruit of the vine, and no minister should be allowed to own lands as an inheritance (even as Levites had no inheritance in the land). In fact, this is not what Paul was saying when he said, "In the same way." In the context of the entire passage, that these two verses were pulled from, Paul was establishing that ministers of the gospel should able to receive physical income and provision while carrying out their ministry. This is the principle whereby believers should provide for those in Christian service. Paul even points out that he did not always use this right (by his own choice, exercising his freedom). Nowhere in this passage does it establish a method for this provision, much less reestablish Old Testament legal requirements to accomplish this. As you will see later in this article, reestablishing legal requirements, or inventing a new legal requirement, would go against the Biblical principles that Paul worked to establish for the church.

Piper's final statement in this point is as follows.

"In other words when we tithe today we honor a principle and plan of God that sustained the ministry in the Old Testament and probably sustained the New Testament ministry as well.

The evidence we have already examined in Scriptures does not support this statement, both regarding his claim that the tithe sustained the Old Testament ministry and "probably" supported the New Testament church as well. The next section, which deals with church history, will also help to show that the "probably" is completely improbable.

#2. While no scripture is used to defend this point, a couple of his opinions should be evaluated. [Though there is a scripture verse in this point, it is not being used to support the claim being made.] Piper's statements...

Giving God a tenth of our income does not deny that all our money is God’s, it proves that we believe it.

I believe the tithe should be the first check we write after the income deposit is made in the bank.

What Bible passage, for the New Testament church, says that giving a tenth of our income to the church proves that we believe all our money is God's? [Though he doesn't directly say that the giving must be to the church, he implies it throughout all points.]

Since we're back talking about writing a check, based on our gross income, how does this have anything to do with even the Old Testament tithe? Remember that the tithe was of the increase (net) of crops, livestock, etc. -- money wasn't even in view. [I think I'm beginning to sound like a broken record on this!]

#3. How giving away ten percent of our income, versus using all of it for God's glory, becomes an antidote to covetousness is beyond me. But Piper says, "Tithing is one of God’s great antidotes to covetousness." While he used many versus that validly say that covetousness is wrong, there are no passages that even begin to prove his point and associate the two. When a person buys into a mandated percentage it really does nothing towards controlling covetousness, which is an issue of the heart (see Colossians 2:20-23 below). A person can covet just as well with the remaining 90% if they believe that somehow the remainder any more belongs to them than the first 10% did.

Colossians 2:20-23 Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 21 "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? 22 These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

#4. While Piper provided a great example of a person who understood Christian Stewardship as a lifestyle, namely John Wesley, his attempt to use it as proof of the need to "go beyond the tithe" is invalid. Again, teaching that there is a dichotomy between what is God's and what is ours does nothing towards controlling "our natural impulse toward luxury." Coming to a right understanding of Christian Stewardship (as we will soon examine) is the only sure course.

Piper uses 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 as a proof text for the next three points. We will not spend much time examining it here as we do so in the section entitled "How Should Christians Be Giving?"

#5. The heart of Piper's argument in this point is the statement "Excess money is for good deeds." Again, I'll emphasize that we need to skip the dichotomy. The truth of scriptures is that all we have and all we are is for good deeds! Consider...

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Hosts of other passages that say much of the same include; Matthew 5:14-16; Colossians 1:10; Titus 2:7,14; Titus 3:8, 14; Hebrews 13:20-21)

Rather that Piper's statement that we need to "go to the tithe and beyond," Scripture teaches that Christians are beyond the tithe.

#6. Claiming that Paul, in 2 Corinthians 9:6-8, was restating Malachi 3:10, Piper then spends much of this point trying to apply that Old Testament passage to the church. As we have seen, this passage had nothing to do with the church (re-read the earlier section on Malachi). Yet by tying Luke 6:38 to Malachi, Piper echoes the popular claim that a person should test God in tithing. [It's dangerous business putting God to the test unless he has specifically commanded it of us. See Psalms 78:41, Matthew 4:7, Luke 4:12] Where we end up in Piper's teaching is with a mild form of the prosperity gospel, because this "is God's way of providing you, the tither, sufficient money for your needs." Simply put this is telling people that they have to earn God's blessing and daily provision, claiming that if you tithe God is sure to give more money in return. Piper does emphasize that this won't make you rich... remember this is the mild form of the prosperity gospel. Again, what makes the mild form logically more consistent than the extreme forms? Before continuing, we need to look at the whole passage in Luke (beginning with the verse before the one verse Piper used)...

Luke 6:32-38 "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 37 "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

This whole passage is on love. Jesus was illustrating that a believer will act out of love. When we show mercy and forgiveness in everything (including with material goods) God gives us more and more ability to act in love! That's what I want "pressed down, shaken together and running over", the ability to love more and more in everything I do. This is far better than desiring any increase in my earthly bank account!

#7. Pressing "towards the tithe and beyond" will never prove and strengthen our faith in God's promises, as Piper claims. Being enslaved to a newly created system of giving 10% of all your money to the church does nothing towards proving one's faith. Following God's word is proof of one's faith (John 14:15). Though Piper uses Hebrews 13:5 in this point, a verse which warns us to be "free from the love of money", giving away 10% does nothing towards freeing a person from the love of money. Studying, believing, and putting into practice the principles of Christian Stewardship that God has given to the church -- which deals with all that I am and have -- is the sure cure for a love of money. If I don't deal with the big picture, it's just as easy to have a love for the remaining ninety percent even if I buy into a new law to tithe. In fact, with many versions of instruction on tithing, I can believe that my ninety percent share will get bigger because I'm taught that God will reward me for tithing. I would argue that this concept actually encourages a love of money.

In conclusion, John Piper is teaching a traditional view of tithing that is unsupported by Scriptures. He is not the first, nor likely the last...

So How Did We Get Here?

Protestants are quick to condemn Roman Catholics for holding tradition as equal or superior to God's written word. The Protestant reformation was a call to return to the purity of God's word, to shed the trappings of man that had been building up on the practice of Christianity. It was never the intent of the reformers for the reformation to be a one-time happening. In fact many of the so-called radicals of that day only differed with other reformers in the speed by which they wanted to make the changes. It was the feeling of some of the prominent reformers that too much change in too many areas would cause even greater opposition. Sadly, the reformation seemed to stall in so many areas in the generation that followed. The changes already made were enshrined as being orthodoxy and the practices that had been left alone ultimately were lumped in with them.

The tithe was a Roman Catholic practice that was carried forward, albeit with a few tweaks here and there. Before considering the time of the Reformation, it is first necessary to examine the history of the early church. For those who would say, "Why bother? History doesn't really matter," I beg to differ. While we should never place it on par with Scriptures or in place of Scriptures, history does allow us to see where we have deviated from God's word and what led to it. In addition, we need to remember that we do not practice our faith in a vacuum. The same Holy Spirit that guides us into all truth has taught believers throughout history. For this reason we will often find other believers that have held to the same Scriptural truths throughout all eras, even the very dark times of church history.

My quest for church origins, in regards to these practices, led to an examination of the writings of those called the early church fathers. Primarily the writings of early church leaders, who wrote on just about every practice and dispute of the early church, if the tithe was common, it should have been mentioned. In the earliest versions of this document, I stated that I had found nothing. In fact, I subsequently found a single early (pre third century) church father who referenced tithing. That church father was Irenaeus, who lived from A.D. 120-202. Writing circa 177 A.D. in his work entitled, "Against Heresies," Irenaeus was working to refute what he saw as error creeping into the church during the century following the last apostle. In Book IV, Chapter 13, in a chapter entitled "Christ Did Not Abrogate the Natural Precepts of the Law, But Rather Fulfilled and Extended Them", he wrote the following...

3. And for this reason did the Lord, instead of that [commandment], "Thou shalt not commit adultery," forbid even concupiscence; and instead of that which runs thus, "Thou shalt not kill," He prohibited anger; and instead of the law enjoining the giving of tithes, [He told us] to share all our possessions with the poor; and not to love our neighbours only, but even our enemies; and not merely to be liberal givers and bestowers, but even that we should present a gratuitous gift to those who take away our goods. For "to him that taketh away thy coat," He says, "give to him thy cloak also; and from him that taketh away thy goods, ask them not again; and as ye would that men should do unto you, do ye unto them:" so that we may not grieve as those who are unwilling to be defrauded, but may rejoice as those who have given willingly, and as rather conferring a favour upon our neighbours than yielding to necessity. "And if any one," He says, "shall compel thee [to go] a mile, go with him twain;" so that thou mayest not follow him as a slave, but may as a free man go before him, showing thyself in all things kindly disposed and useful to thy neighbour, not regarding their evil intentions, but performing thy kind offices, assimilating thyself to the Father, "who maketh His sun to rise upon the evil and the good, and sendeth rain upon the just and unjust."

For Irenaeus, Christ had fulfilled the letter of the law so as to set us free to uphold its' intent through the imitation of our heavenly Father in love. A few chapters later he offers even more details of this freedom.

Chapter 18 - Concerning Sacrifices and Oblations, and Those Who Truly Offer Them

2. And the class of oblations in general has not been set aside; for there were both oblations there [among the Jews], and there are oblations here [among the Christians]. Sacrifices there were among the people; sacrifices there are, too, in the Church: but the species alone has been changed, inasmuch as the offering is now made, not by slaves, but by freemen. For the Lord is [ever] one and the same; but the character of a servile oblation is peculiar [to itself], as is also that of freemen, in order that, by the very oblations, the indication of liberty may be set forth. For with Him there is nothing purposeless, nor without signification, nor without design. And for this reason they (the Jews) had indeed the tithes of their goods consecrated to Him, but those who have received liberty set aside all their possessions for the Lord's purposes, bestowing joyfully and freely not the less valuable portions of their property, since they have the hope of better things [hereafter]; as that poor widow acted who cast all her living into the treasury of God.

It is clear that the one early church father who referenced tithing was doing so not to uphold the Jewish practice but rather to show that the church inherited freedom to do far better! Christians were not those who gave a portion out of obligation, they are those who give all out of love.

Moving into works of the late third century and beyond there are increasing references to tithing, mostly due to a fundamental paradigm that took place in the church -- the state church. It was only after the church became institutionalized and recognized by the state (Rome) that tithing began to be imposed as a means of supporting the organization. While there had been those in full-time ministry, who were dependant on gifts and generosity of others from the earliest days of the church, it was only after the church began to acquire buildings, lands, and other vast holdings, that reinstitution of a tithe was contrived as a means of financing all this.

For example a document called "The Constitutions," which was thought to have been written or compiled between 350-400 A.D., has much to say on tithing and offerings. It should be noted that this document establishes long and detailed ritual and regulation for the church, most not found or even hinted at in Scriptures, and often attributes them to Scriptural persons including the apostles. From Book 8, Section 4, "The Same Apostle's Constitution Concerning First-Fruits and Tithe Tithes" (Notice the claim that this came from the apostles!)...

XXX. I the same make a constitution in regard to first-fruits and tithes. Let all first-fruits be brought to the bishop, and to the presbyters. and to the deacons, for their maintenance; but let all the tithe be for the maintenance of the rest of the clergy, and of the virgins and widows, and of those under the trial of poverty. For the first-fruits belong to the priests, and to those deacons that minister to them.

By this document, the Old Testament offerings and tithes (-- in truth a new tithe, as it wasn't even administered in fashion of the old) were still in effect, with the new church hierarchy taking over for the old priesthood. Book 2, Section 4, provides additional details...

Of First-Fruits and Tithe Tithes, and After What Manner the Bishop is Himself to Partake of Them, or to Distribute Them to Others.

XXV. Let him use those tenths and first-fruits, which are given according to the command of God, as a man of God; as also let him dispense in a right manner the free-will offerings which are brought in on account of the poor, to the orphans, the widows, the afflicted, and strangers in distress, as having that God for the examiner of his accounts who has committed the disposition to him. Distribute to all those in want with righteousness, and yourselves use the things which belong to the Lord, but do not abuse them; eating of them, but not eating them all up by yourselves: communicate with those that are in want, and thereby show yourselves unblameable before God. For if you shall consume them by yourselves, you will be reproached by God, who says to such unsatiable people, who alone devour all, "Ye eat up the milk, and clothe yourselves with the wool;" and in another passage, "Must you alone live upon the earth Upon which account you are commanded in the law, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." Now we say these things, not as if you might not partake of the fruits of your labours; for it is written, "Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox which treadeth out the corn;" but that you should do it with moderation and righteousness. As, therefore, the ox that labours in the threshing-floor without a muzzle eats indeed, but does not eat all up; so do you who labour in the threshing-floor, that is, in the Church eat of the Church: which was also the case of the Levites, who served in the tabernacle of the testimony, which was in all things a type of the Church. Nay, further, its very name implied that that tabernacle was fore-appointed for a testimony of the Church. Here, therefore, the Levites also, who attended upon the tabernacle partook of those things that were offered to God by all the people,-namely, gifts, offerings, and first-fruits, and tithes, and sacrifices, and oblations, without disturbance, they and their wives, and their sons and their daughters. Since their employment was the ministration to the tabernacle, therefore they had not any lot or inheritance in the land among the children of Israel, because the oblations of the people were the lot of Levi, and the inheritance of their tribe. You, therefore, O bishops, are to your people priests and Levites, ministering to the holy tabernacle, the holy Catholic Church; who stand at the altar of the Lord your God, and offer to Him reasonable and unbloody sacrifices through Jesus the great High Priest. You are to the laity prophets, rulers, governors, and kings; the mediators between God and His faithful people, who receive and declare His word, well acquainted with the Scriptures. Ye are the voice of and witnesses of His will, who bear the sins of all, and intercede for all; whom, as you have heard, the word severely threatens if you hide the key of knowledge from men, who are liable to perdition if you do not declare His will to the people that are under you; who shall have a certain reward from God, and unspeakable honour and glory, if you duly minister to the holy tabernacle. For as yours is the burden, so you receive as your fruit the supply of food and other. necessaries. For you imitate Christ the Lord; and as He "bare the sins of us all upon the tree" at His crucifixion, the innocent for those who deserved punishment, so also you ought to make the sins of the people your own. For concerning our Saviour it is said in Isaiah, "He bears our sins, and is afflicted for us." And again: "He bare the sins of many, and was delivered for our offences." As, therefore, you are patterns for others, so have you Christ for your pattern. As, therefore, He is concerned for all, so be you for the laity under you. For do not thou imagine that the office of a bishop is an easy or light burden. As, therefore, you bear the weight, so have you a right to partake of the fruits before others, and to impart to those that are in want, as being to give an account to Him, who without bias will examine your accounts. For those who attend upon the Church ought to be maintained by the Church, as being priests, Levites, presidents, and ministers of God; as it is written in the book of Numbers concerning the priests: "And the Lord said unto Aaron, Thou, and thy sons, and the house of thy family, shall bear the iniquities of the holy things of priesthood." "Behold, I have given unto you the charge of the first-fruits, from all that are sanctified to me by the children of Israel; I have given them for a reward to thee, and to thy sons after thee, by an ordinance for ever. This shall be yours out of the holy things, out of the oblations, and out of the gifts, and out of all the sacrifices, and out of every trespass-offering, and sin-offerings; and all that they render unto me out of all their holy things, they shall belong to thee, and to thy sons: in the sanctuary shall they eat them." And a little after: "All the first-fruits of the oil, and of the wine, and of the wheat, all which they shall give unto the Lord, to thee have I given them; and all that is first ripe, to thee have I given it, and every devoted thing. Every first-born of man and of beast, clean and unclean, and of sacrifice, with the breast, and the right shoulder, all these appertain to the priests, and to the rest of those belonging to them, even to the Levites."

Hear this, you of the laity also, the elect Church of God. For the people were formerly called "the people of God," and "an holy nation." You, therefore, are the holy and sacred "Church of God, enrolled in heaven, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people," a bride adorned for the Lord God, a great Church, a faithful Church. Hear attentively now what was said formerly: oblations and tithes belong to Christ our High Priest, and to those who minister to Him. Tenths of salvation are the first letter of the name of Jesus. Hear, O thou Holy Catholic Church, who hast escaped the ten plagues, and hast received the ten commandments, and hast learned the law, and hast kept the faith, and hast believed in Jesus, and hast known the decad, and hast believed in the iota which is the first letter of the name of Jesus, and art named after His name, and art established, and shinest in the consummation of His glory. Those which were then the sacrifices now are prayers, and intercessions, and thanksgivings. Those which were then first-fruits, and tithes, and offerings, and gifts, now are oblations, which are presented by holy bishops to the Lord God, through Jesus Christ, who has died for them. For these are your high priests, as the presbyters are your priests, and your present deacons instead of your Levites; as are also your readers, your singers, your porters, your deaconesses, your widows, your virgins, and your orphans: but He who is above all these is the High Priest.

It's clear in this long excerpt that the church was now promoting it's leadership as being a continuation, or at least an equivalent, to the Levitical priesthood. It's no surprise that most of the remaining volumes of this work detail a list of dos and don'ts, creating a new system of legalism (or law) for the church (... including such 'important' details on how often and where women should bathe).

Since there was no rational or biblically consistent way of imposing the tithe on the church (and believers), many different methods were implemented in the years that followed. Sometimes the tithe was only on crops and livestock, yet it became increasingly more important to receive money to finance church endeavors. Tithes were sometimes payable to the local priest, sometimes to higher church authorities, sometime to secular authorities who had been assigned the tithe by the church. For a layperson to be found with the tithe at one period in history (1179), it was punishable by excommunication (and by statement, the loss of one's soul) - a far cry from the tithe being administered and consumed by the giver in Old Testament scriptures. In some countries the tithe was applied as a universal tax, while in lands that had feudal estates the estate often paid the tithe/tax with the feudal residents having nothing to do with it (other than having some of their work taken from them). The adaptation of the tithe reached a pivotal point as it neared the 13th century. Up until this time, the tithe was still mostly considered to be of things grown ("fruits of the earth"), but now it was decreed that the tithe was of "all kinds of profit and wages." Thus the final stage was now set for what has become the monetary tithe of today.

To emphasize the importance of understanding the historical invention of the modern tithe, some excerpts from the article on tithing in the Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics (1928, Scribners) sum up the changes that began a couple hundred years after the apostles.

In the [early] Christian Church the need of supporting the clergy... was recognized, but the system of tithe was not generally resorted to for several centuries. ... Until the 4th century little is heard of it, and some writers regard the matter from a totally different point of view from that which was later adopted.

Simply put, tithing was deemed necessary by the organized church when the amounts of money needed to support the organization had grown to the point that freewill giving wouldn't suffice. The mindset was, if people wouldn't give enough of their own free will; use the clout of the organization to impose mandatory giving. What was the great change that led to this financial necessity? It was the onset of the church's great love affair with building huge edifices and owning lands. During this period of time, lines between Old Testament norms and new Christian practices blurred. It was easy to justify large cathedrals with "sanctuaries" by equating them to the glory of the temple (ignoring the fact that the new dwelling place of God was in people). Of course temples needed priests and a priesthood (ignoring the new priesthood of all believers), and how else to finance all this but to impose mandatory giving. Into this quagmire of beliefs the 'new version tithe' emerged, based more on what they wanted it to be than what it Biblically had been. Ignorance of scriptures, by what became known as 'lay people,' combined with leadership who professed to be the only ones able to interpret and teach scriptures, easily enabled a whole new system to be established. This latter claim has been used, to some degree, by modern teachers when faced with questioning parishioners.

In using proof texts, including Matthew 10:10, Luke 10:7, and 1 Corinthians 9:7, to claim authorization for implementing mandatory giving, it began the cycle of commonly misusing scriptures to justify tithing. It took going against scriptures and even the writings of early church fathers to adopt this counterfeit system of giving. For example, continuing from the Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics...

Irenaeus, referring to tithes in the Jewish system, says characteristically that Christians, as 'those who have received liberty, set aside all their possessions for the Lord's purposes, bestowing joyfully and freely not the less valuable portion of their property. ... Epiphanius says that the tithe is no more binding than circumcision

Well known writers such as Augustine (writing between 386 - 430 A.D.) had become influenced by the new system that was then gaining ground, but still wrote of freedom in giving, trying to somehow reconcile the two. These attempts to reconcile the two opposing systems continue to this day. Continuing from the Encyclopaedia...

In was inevitable, however, that, as the Church spread far and wide, circumstances should make it necessary to fall back upon rule, based upon legal provision, and the old standard of a tenth was set up, and the Christian priest was compared in this matter to the Jewish priest and Levite.

Initially the Eastern Church opposed the Western Church, who had quickly adopted this system. In fact there appears to have been some resistance among parts of the Western Church. Again, more from the Encyclopaedia...

Even in the West there is evidence that 'this species of ecclesiastical property was acquired not only by degrees, but with considerable opposition.' The moral duty of paying the tithe was now generally taught, but, even after it was made a matter of [church] law, tithe was paid reluctantly and irregularly. In A.D. 585 the Council of Macon ordained its payment... He who refused to pay it was to be excommunicated. Other councils enjoined it, but it was not until the time of Charlemagne that it became a matter of [civil] law. In one of his capitularies he ordained it to be paid to churches and clergy.

Now with civil authority and enforcement, the tithe was entrenched in country and after country where the Roman church spread. For all the great reforms accomplished in the Protestant Reformation, none of the major reformers were willing to affect their (or the church's) means of livelihood by examining the tithe. As such, the tithe was so well accepted that it was non-issue. It also remained so because a number of them developed a system of doctrine whereby they believed they had scriptural reason to carry much of the Old Testament into the church See Appendix B. In fact, beyond the tithe, many of them were quite willing to continue using civil authority to enforce church law; now a Protestant version versus the former Roman version. While no longer using civil compulsion, the church of today still imposes this developed tithing system onto its adherents. Perhaps it's time for the Reformation to continue.

Ecclesiastical Tax Collectors

Some church leaders treat church members as so many workers and drones. Leaders demand that members bring their tithes “into the storehouse,” and embarrass, humiliate, or discipline them if they fail to do so. During the Middle Ages, the Roman Church-State collected the tithe as a tax -- no doubt a model for those who desire to re-establish Christendom today. Some modern ecclesiastical tyrants have suggested that church leaders examine the income tax returns of church members to make sure they are tithing the full amount due. They want members to send their intrusive 1040s not merely to the IRS, but to the church Session as well, which, meeting in secret of course, will decide who is paying his church taxes and who is not.

Other church leaders wheedle and cajole and urge members to fork over the cash by making them feel guilty of being selfish or stingy, or of lacking faith. They strong-arm members to make “faith promises,” that is, to make presumptuous promises to give more money to the church than the member can afford to give, and frequently more money than the member owns. Such “faith promises” teach the member to presume upon God by jumping off the pinnacle of the Temple, expecting that God will catch him. Still other church leaders use a combination of tax money, guilt, intimidation, and false promises to amass endowments by which they fund their sinecures, build monuments and bureaucracies to their own glory or to the glory of idols, construct palaces to live in, influence rulers, and control the destiny of nations. That is how the Roman Church-State became the wealthiest institution on the face of the Earth.

In the face of all this clerical treason, manipulation, and exploitation, what is a Christian to do? (Excerpt from a newsletter article entitled "Biblical Principles of Giving" by John W. Robbins of the Trinity Foundation, March 2004,

Many pastors and teachers of the church have never done a study on this matter and have unquestionably accepted the traditions passed on to them. Like many of us, until we were challenged to search the Scriptures for the truth, we didn't even know we were supposed to be looking. In love, encourage others - especially leaders of the church - to seek out this truth. There's no better place for reformation to begin. My greater concern is for those who have heard the truth and adopt the attitude of "don't confuse me with the facts!" Those who ignore God's word, do so to their own peril (James 3:1). Continuing to extort money under false pretences (which is to use any manner not prescribed by God) is ultimately to be found robbing believers (of money and more, as you will see in the next section).

So if the Tithe isn't for the church, what and how should we be giving? ...

How Should Christians Be Giving?

Examples of Giving for the Church...

The pattern of giving exemplified throughout the New Testament is one of offerings... not the mandated offerings of the law, but of "freewill" offerings. Examples abound regarding the giving of material things (including money). Before looking at the New Testament, it needs to be noted that even the law, which was a shadow of good things to come (Hebrews 10:1), contained a number of examples of freewill offerings. These offerings contrasted sharply with the mandated requirements of the law, perhaps showing better the heart of the people as they cheerfully looked after a need. Some of the examples from the time of the law...

Exodus 25:1-9 The LORD said to Moses, 2 "Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from each man whose heart prompts him to give. 3 These are the offerings you are to receive from them: gold, silver and bronze; 4 blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; 5 ram skins dyed red and hides of sea cows; acacia wood; 6 olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; 7 and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece. 8 "Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. 9 Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.

Exodus 35:4-9 Moses said to the whole Israelite community, "This is what the LORD has commanded: 5 From what you have, take an offering for the LORD. Everyone who is willing is to bring to the LORD an offering of gold, silver and bronze; 6 blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; 7 ram skins dyed red and hides of sea cows; acacia wood; 8 olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; 9 and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece.

1 Chronicles 29:16-17 [King David praying...] O LORD our God, as for all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name, it comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you. 17 I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things have I given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you.

Conclusion from these 'shadow' passages...

- The building of God's tabernacle and subsequent temple was from freewill offerings, so that God would be glorified through the generosity of His people. This 'shadow' provides an example of how our care for God's tabernacle today, through the cheerful and freewill gifts of His people, brings glory to Him. This Old Testament tabernacle is not representative of a church building, rather it is symbolic of the living building of the church. The people of the church (believers) are the tabernacle, within whom God dwells by His Holy Spirit (see Ephesians 2:21-22). For this reason it shouldn't surprise us that other New Testament passages remind that we are to especially care for believers (see Galatians 6:10). If we truly were caring for the people that are the church imagine how much God would be glorified even amongst non-believers! This generosity should flow naturally from the love that God has given us...

1 John 3:16-18 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. (See 1 John 4:7 too!)

Two final examples from Old Testament times also provide example for the church. In the timeless principles laid out in the book of Proverbs, these nuggets of truth were valid for those before, during, and after the law.

Proverbs 11:25 A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.

Proverbs 22:9 A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.

Moving from Old Testament times to the New Testament, the following is perhaps one of the best passages, of the multitudes of examples, concerning this topic of giving...

2 Corinthians 8:1 And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. 5 And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will. 6 So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7 But just as you excel in everything-in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us-see that you also excel in this grace of giving. 8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. 10 And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. 11 Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. 12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. 13 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, 15 as it is written: "He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little." 16 I thank God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you. 17 For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative. 18 And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel. 19 What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. 20 We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. 21 For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men. 22 In addition, we are sending with them our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous, and now even more so because of his great confidence in you. 23 As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ. 24 Therefore show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you, so that the churches can see it. 9:1 There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the saints. 2 For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action. 3 But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be. 4 For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we-not to say anything about you-would be ashamed of having been so confident. 5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given. 6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written: "He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever." 10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Conclusions regarding Christian giving as found in this passage...

- Giving is not out of compulsion.

- Giving is to be done cheerfully.

- Giving is not to be done grudgingly.

- Giving is to promote equality (not create hardship).

- Giving is a testimony and result of love!!!

- Giving is to provide for the physical and spiritual well being of saints.

- What you have committed to give (of your free choice), follow through on.

- Spiritual harvest is reaped from physical giving. The reaping, in verse 6, does not promise material wealth in response to giving. Believers will reap (or experience) spiritual blessing from (and through) our material giving. God's only promise regarding our physical needs is that He will supply all our needs (verse 8 and Philippians 4:19)

- We give knowing that God provides all we have to meet our needs and those of others.

- Notice the contrast of this New Testament standard (the outworking of grace in generosity and love) to the mandated requirements (obligation) of the Old Testament law.

Continuing our New Testament search...

Romans 12:4-8 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

Conclusion from this passage...

- Believers have unique and special functions (and gifting) within the church. As some are called and gifted for teaching others are called and gifted for giving to the needs of others. (While this may be a primary gift of some, others may still have it as a lesser gift).

Philemon 13-14 I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. 14 But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced.

Conclusions from this passage...

- Giving is not to be forced. We should not be trying to force, guilt, or coerce anyone into giving.

- Giving is to be spontaneous, from a heart full of love.

- This passage concerns extraordinary circumstances as it is regarding a possession rather than money. Yet, that possession was a run-away slave, who would have been of financial benefit to his owner. Though the circumstances of a Christian owning a slave are not likely today, the general idea behind this passage still applies.

1 Corinthians 16:1-3 Now about the collection for God's people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. 3 Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem.

Conclusions from this passage...

- Giving (of freewill gifts, not tithes) is to help God's people (spiritually and physically). While some say that the "in keeping with his income" is justification for setting a percentage of income (i.e. the tithe), the translation "as he may prosper" used in many other translations conveys the thought better. God only desires that you share, as you are able. A percentage amount is not set anywhere in this passage. This is a reflection of the early church's instruction that the poor not be forgotten (see next passage, Galatians 2:10). Even in the law, when an equivalent statement to the "in keeping with his income" was used, namely "in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you. (Deuteronomy 16:10,17)" it was not used in conjunction with the tithe, rather in association with the free-will offerings (see Deuteronomy 16:16-17). The passage in Deuteronomy carried the full implication that the freewill offering be used for fellowship of family, employees (servants) and not forgetting those in full time service to God, the poor and helpless, and even the outsider, "the alien" (see Deuteronomy 16:11, 14). The result of this generosity is promised to be "joy!" (See also Deuteronomy 16:15).

- Saving up gifts for a particular purpose is encouraged. Individuals set apart for that purpose by the local church body may administer the final distribution of the gifts. (Being set apart does not mean that a person has to have a special status or denominational ordination, merely that a body of believers chose them for that purpose).

- Giving should be first on the basis of greatest need. The particular need of the church in Jerusalem, at this time, was very great. The church there was under continual persecution, with many believers having their possessions and properties confiscated. The giving being done here was not merely an issue of being nice -- it was urgently needed! Yet in the midst of this urgency, no specified amounts or percentages were being demanded as they trusted that God would supply through the generosity of His people.

Galatians 2:8-10 James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews. 10 All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

Romans 15:25-27 Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the saints there. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. 27 They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews' spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.

Conclusions and questions from this passage...

- Giving is first and foremost to assist the poor [physically and spiritually].

- Taking care of the poor was considered to be so important that it was singled out as first and foremost in instructions to the Gentile church.

· Why is care of the poor, in and out of our churches, so low on the priorities of most church budgets and individual giving?

· How can churches claim that the tithe must be paid to the church first, or only to the church if the giver has exhausted their resources? This "church first" princple is often demanded even if the individual has poor and needy (physically or spiritually) that they could be helping directly and immediately, including family and neighbors. The whole idea even violates this timeless principle set out in Proverbs...

Proverbs 3:27-28 Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. 28 Do not say to your neighbor, "Come back later; I'll give it tomorrow"-- when you now have it with you. (Consider also James 2:15-17, 4:17).

Conclusions from the passages in Romans and Galatians...

- Giving is first and foremost to assist the poor [physically and spiritually].

- Giving should also help those who shared the good news with you.

Ephesians 4:28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.

Conclusion from this passage...

- Everyone is encouraged to be able to share with those in need (spiritually and physically).

The whole message of the New Testament, for the church, is that giving is an act that comes from love (Matthew 22:27-39). Teaching that actions stem from real love must be a primary biblical message for the church, as it's a message that permeates the New Testament!

To say that God will bless us in giving is quite different than saying "God promises to bless our obedience in giving." Obedience has to follow a command. The New Testament message to the church is one of opportunity not of obligation. The generally stated responsibility that believers are to be living a life of giving - a message that all believers are to be instructed in - serves to teach people how to show their love. Again, the only motivation under grace is love.

The apostle Paul went to extraordinary lengths to be an example to other elders and leaders of the church regarding the need to live a life of giving, to always be looking out for the weak (which encompasses the widow, children, the poor, those spiritually in need, etc.). Read Acts 20:28-35 taking special note of the last verse...

Acts 20:35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"

The topic of giving seems to always get bogged down in money. In fact this scriptural life of giving we are called to includes far more than mere money. A picture used throughout the New Testament is that of stewardship, basically the message is that believers are faithful servants entrusted with the master's goods.

1 Corinthians 4:1-2 So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. 2 Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful

We live in the Master's house, we eat of the Master's food and we benefit from His belongings. Truly since everything belongs to Him (Psalms 24:1), we don't really give it back to Him, we're called to use it as He would have us to! (This was really the same principle found in the Old Testament law regarding the giver eating his own tithe... obedience - doing what the Master commanded - was the heart of the issue.) If we consider all we have to not belong to us, our usage of it all becomes an act of love.

The extension of this goes beyond money and external physical things. As a believer, my body is no longer my own, it too belongs to the Master. My taking care of it is part of being a good steward of the Master's belongings (1 Corinthians 6:15-20). Even our time is not our own, it belongs to the Master! The wise use of our time to carryout the Master's business should be 100%. This doesn't mean that I have to be in a Bible study or church service all the time. In fact, spending time with my children (Proverbs 22:6), working on my marriage (Ephesians 5:25-33, 1 Corinthians 7:3-5), earning a living (1 Timothy 5:8), sleep and relaxation (1 Timothy 6:17) are all instructed by the master. These things together with more "religious sounding" things such as prayer, exercising whatever spiritual gifts and talents God has entrusted you with (Romans 12:1, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4), Bible study (2 Timothy 2:15), fellowship (Hebrews 10:25), and making disciples (Matthew 28:19) are still merely part of using 100% of my time for the Master.

Ephesians 5:15-16 Be very careful, then, how you live-not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

Some have tried to say that since the law is a shadow of things to come (Hebrew 10:1), it merely means that the law's mandated 10% is now the minimum they must give to their church (of course disregarding the original purpose of the tithe). This concept becomes absurd if applied to other areas of the law. Imagine trying to take other aspects of the law and be more zealous about them! The result would be churches full of "super Pharisees." Again, it must be emphasized that the message of the law was not the letter of it, but the truth behind it! Telling people that the law required ten percent so grace now requires more, gives the legalizer all the ammo they need to pat themselves on the back when they give their 11% to the church... while at the same time neglecting their family, the poor, etc. This is not a "straw man" scenario, as far too many churches claim that giving the tithe to the church comes first and that giving it in spite of hardship is your obligation.

So what does grace require? 100%! Does this mean that I have to give all my money to a church? (Some cultic organizations have actually gone there). No, it means that our life of Christian stewardship is 100%. Every aspect is to be lived as an act of giving... to ourselves (care of our bodies & spouse, whom we are one with), to our families (in time and provision), to the household of faith (caring for the weak and poor and those serving in ministry, especially missions and evangelism), and to outsiders (as we help all poor and needy, both physically and spiritually). Living out a balanced life of love is a way of life - 100% giving all the time! While the law pointed to this, far too few found it. With the example and revelation of grace in the New Testament and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in believers, enabling us to now live it, the church has no excuse.

Should the Church Provide for Those in Ministry?

This might sound like a foolish question, but it's one that must be addressed. As some have become frustrated with the abuses of certain churches, the lavish lifestyles of some pastors in the face of the need of their people and the peoples around them - all backed up with continual pleas to tithe - they have fled to the opposite position (rather than a biblical one!). Using these things as an excuse these individuals claim that there should be no such thing as full-time ministers or paid ministry positions. Is there validity to their claims?

The dishonest promotion of the tithe for personal gain is referred to in the next passage, which speaks of elders and leaders of the church needing to uphold sound doctrine. (And it is personal gain if they benefit from it, and dishonest if they know from Scriptures that it is not applicable to the church). As you read this next passage remember that the words, "circumcision group" are merely a way of saying "those who work to enslave people to any aspect of the law." While specifically true of many Jews in Paul's day (see Titus 1:14), it is also true of Gentiles who try and live like Jews in some or all aspects.

Titus 1:6-11 Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless-not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8 Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. 10 For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. 11 They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach-and that for the sake of dishonest gain.

As mentioned, for various reasons including the abuses of some in ministry, there are those who claim that no Christians should be in full time service or paid Christian ministry. Often they use the example that Paul worked to provide for his needs and that of his companions (on more than one occasion); they ignore the fact that this was an extraordinary outworking of God's grace. Paul himself backed up the idea that he had every right to earn a living through the gospel, but that he (of his own freewill) chose not to. He never made this a mandate nor insinuates that God did either. In fact, when available, Paul accepted gifts to further the ministry he was entrusted to. While it should never be beneath any Christian in ministry to perform secular work to make ends meet, as the need arises, it's not a requirement. (If I may digress, once again, for a moment... Consider how many so-called church leaders would abandon the flock if the going got personally tough financially, before they would dirty their hands in "menial work" to make ends meet?). But again, to the scriptures...

1 Timothy 5:17-18 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, "Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain," and "The worker deserves his wages." (See Matthew 10:10 & Luke 10:7! also)

Conclusion from this passage...

- People in Christian ministry need to earn a living, contingent on their doing it well!

- Christian ministry is not a blank check to unlimited income. "Wages" implies suitable income to live commensurate on the work being done.

1 Corinthians 9:3-12 This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. 4 Don't we have the right to food and drink? 5 Don't we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord's brothers and Cephas? 6 Or is it only I and Barnabas who must work for a living? 7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk? 8 Do I say this merely from a human point of view? Doesn't the Law say the same thing? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses: "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." Is it about oxen that God is concerned? 10 Surely he says this for us, doesn't he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. 11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 12 If others have this right of support from you, shouldn't we have it all the more?

Conclusions from this passage...

- People in Christian ministry need to provide for their family and for the well being of the ministry they are called to carry out.

- Believers should share in providing for the costs of carrying out the ministry (especially evangelism and missions).

Philippians 4:10-19 I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength. 14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. 17 Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. 18 I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Conclusion and question from this passage...

- Believers should help provide for those who are in physical need as they work to spread the gospel. The privilege of giving is open to, and should be shared, by all believers as God enables them!

· How can anyone say that a tithe must be given to the church before any other giving by a believer? [Many churches teach that all tithes must be given to the church before anyone gives to missions or for evangelism, etc.] Is there any biblical basis for this? Some even say that the tithe should be given before meeting the needs of family. Does giving to the church negate personal responsibility to care for family (1 Timothy 5:8), poor, and missions?

While not directly related to the question of supporting those in ministry, the question of supporting the upkeep (or purchase, etc.) of a building also comes up frequently. Again, people seem to run to both sides of this question. Some claim no church (local fellowship of believers) should ever own a building. Far more claim the opposite, that the tithe was mandated by God to support having the building as well. As we've seen, the tithe was never used to support the building in Old Testament times, so precedence would be hard to claim. In fact, in the New Testament you'd be hard pressed to find any passage in support of funding a building, with or without a tithe. Why? Until the church became institutionalized a couple centuries after the time of Jesus, the church (being the believers) met in whatever places they could find, ranging from the big public area of the temple before it was destroyed (Acts 5:12), subsequently private homes (Colossians 4:15, 1 Corinthians 16:19, Romans 16:5, Acts 20:20, etc.), and still later even catacombs. Is this to say that having a building is wrong? No. A building is no different than any other tool or possession that a believer, or group of believers, might own. The questions always must be... How is it being used? Is it efficient use of the Master's belongings? With people thinking of a building when they hear the word "church," and not of the people who truly are the church, it's time to start considering if we've put way too much emphasis on the structure. If vast amounts of our time, efforts, and resources are being consumed on the building to the point of preventing us from caring for the poor and those in ministry (especially missions and evangelism), it might be time to start asking which is more important. (Our actions will testify to our answer, regardless of our words).

Problem with Placing Giving as a Mandated Requirement of the Church.

Some church leaders have said, "If we taught this instead of the tithe (meaning the popular version of what the tithe is today), we'd never be able to keep the doors of the church open." So my question is this... Which is greater, "Grace" or "Law?" If people are taught and learn of the freedom and responsibility they have been given under grace, that "the only thing that matters is faith expressing itself in love (Galatians 5:6)," won't grace always show itself to be greater? When people are enslaved to a rules-bound system not instituted by God, though having a form of godliness (2 Timothy 3:5), it is harmful because...

- It makes "new law" (or reinstates the old) - see Galatians 5:1-6! (See also Romans 6:14). Paul was extremely concerned with people trying to enslave believers to the law again. While his specific example in Galatians was circumcision, the same could be said of any aspect or mandate of the law. Generally speaking, apart from the Jews, it's not non-believers that are in danger of becoming enslaved to the law; it's people in the church. For so many believers who have been caught up in some form of enslavement, the church needs to start emphasizing Paul's opening words on this subject...

Galatians 5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

- It places tradition over God's word (Matthew 15:6). If the tithe is not for the New Testament believer, then teaching it or mandating it to the detriment of what the scriptures actually teach nullifies God's word. This becomes a dangerous precedent and practice. It becomes an important question to ask how any church can make an absolute statement that "the tithe goes to the local church," as more than one publication and message has asserted.

- It robs the giver of joy!

- It robs the world (lost) of seeing grace (love) in action!

- It gives an excuse for Christians to not be responsible for what God has commanded (i.e. looking after the poor). Even if a person gives to the church it does not remove their personal responsibility to share and care for others. Sadly, man who have dropped something in an offering plate are self-satisfied that they have done their "duty." While the example is slightly different, the principle of this passage certainly applies...

Mark 7:9-13 And he [Jesus] said to them: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.' 11 But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban' (that is, a gift devoted to God), 12 then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that."

Teaching to serve out of compulsion, fear of punishment, or hope for finding favor through actions (or to get rewards) - rather than out of love - is in opposition to the message of the New Testament (John 14:15, 23-24; 1 John 2:6!). Sin, failing to do what we know is right (James 4:17), often temporarily blinds us, keeping us from seeing God's blessing (even though we are still the recipient of it). This is how giving has been turned into a burden by many believers, rather than a blessing through which God is given all the glory! The believer filled with love and compassion, which comes from God never from compulsion, has been set free to give.

Cash Only Please!

The focus on money has become so great in many churches that sermons are preached on why you need to give in the way they want you to give. Giving of time, influence, hospitality, and sometimes even material goods, is downplayed as somehow inferior. One passage used to justify this comes from second Samuel.

2 Samuel 24:18-25 On that day Gad went to David and said to him, "Go up and build an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite." 19 So David went up, as the LORD had commanded through Gad. 20 When Araunah looked and saw the king and his men coming toward him, he went out and bowed down before the king with his face to the ground. 21 Araunah said, "Why has my lord the king come to his servant?" "To buy your threshing floor," David answered, "so I can build an altar to the LORD, that the plague on the people may be stopped." 22 Araunah said to David, "Let my lord the king take whatever pleases him and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing sledges and ox yokes for the wood. 23 O king, Araunah gives all this to the king." Araunah also said to him, "May the LORD your God accept you." 24 But the king replied to Araunah, "No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing." So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them. 25 David built an altar to the LORD there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the LORD answered prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.

It's amazing, and sad, how Old Testament passages are pulled from their context, and sometimes even held in opposition to other passages, to make some teachers' points. A few big "why?" questions need to be answered about this specific instance with David. For example, why did David feel it necessary that the sacrifice cost him something? Is there a command in Scriptures that it must be so for David, or for anyone else? Why does this passage seem to contradict the actions of Abraham, the father of all those of faith?

The verse immediately prior to this passage helps to set the context (and actually it would even be better to read all the way from the start of the chapter)...

2 Samuel 24:17 When David saw the angel who was striking down the people, he said to the LORD, "I am the one who has sinned and done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? Let your hand fall upon me and my family."

David had sinned. He recognized that it was his sin. Under the Law of Moses anyone who had sinned was required to make a sin offering, a sacrifice for their sin.

Leviticus 5:5-6 "'When anyone is guilty in any of these ways, he must confess in what way he has sinned 6 and, as a penalty for the sin he has committed, he must bring to the LORD a female lamb or goat from the flock as a sin offering ; and the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin.

It was necessary for the sacrifice to cost David, under the law, because it was David's sin. The one who sinned was responsible to bring the offering (read all of the Law!). So for all under the Law the exact same would apply. If animals belonging Araunah had been sacrificed, the sacrifice would have been Araunah's not David's. As a Jebusite, Araunah would not have been aware of this making it necessary for David to clarify why he must pay for them. Moving to the New Testament church, we are no longer under the law. There is no longer any need for sacrifices for sin (see Hebrews 10:18)!

Returning to Abraham, prior to the Law, his freewill gift was quite different than David's compulsory sacrifice.

Genesis 14:16-20 He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people. 17 After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley). 18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. 20 And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand." Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

Abraham voluntarily gave a tenth of all the plunder he recovered to Melchizedek, as priest of God Most High. While Abraham hadn't paid for a cent (or shekel) of it directly, it had been through the efforts of people directed by him (the 318 trained men in his hire. See Genesis 14:14). Giving does not have to be direct, or cash only. Giving through the efforts of people in your employ, or through your influence, is still giving. To this degree all giving does cost the giver something. A person only has so much influence to use, so many favors to call in, so much time to give, etc. Using any or all of this for the glory of God is just as valid giving as any cash gift. Another example...

Nehemiah 2:6-9 Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, "How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?" It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time. 7 I also said to him, "If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? 8 And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the king's forest, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?" And because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests. 9 So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king's letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me.

Ezra 1:5-8 Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites - everyone whose heart God had moved - prepared to go up and build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem. 6 All their neighbors assisted them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with valuable gifts, in addition to all the freewill offerings. 7 Moreover, King Cyrus brought out the articles belonging to the temple of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and had placed in the temple of his god.

Ezra 8:24-30 Then I set apart twelve of the leading priests, together with Sherebiah, Hashabiah and ten of their brothers, 25 and I weighed out to them the offering of silver and gold and the articles that the king, his advisers, his officials and all Israel present there had donated for the house of our God. 26 I weighed out to them 650 talents of silver, silver articles weighing 100 talents, 100 talents of gold, 2720 bowls of gold valued at 1,000 darics, and two fine articles of polished bronze, as precious as gold. 28 I said to them, "You as well as these articles are consecrated to the LORD. The silver and gold are a freewill offering to the LORD, the God of your fathers. 29 Guard them carefully until you weigh them out in the chambers of the house of the LORD in Jerusalem before the leading priestsand the Levites and the family heads of Israel." 30 Then the priests and Levites received the silver and gold and sacred articles that had been weighed out to be taken to the house of our God in Jerusalem.

Nehemiah and the people returning to Israel from the exile all used their influence to bring gifts to the temple. Nehemiah got a pagan king to donate lumber! The people had their pagan neighbors contributing goods and livestock along with monetary gifts. This was all for the Glory of God and all subsequently used by Him. In this, the principle still applies, though we no longer have to take our gifts to a temple or priest (or church or pastor) to use them for God. Using what we have, or even directing non-believers to use their wealth and goods for good, is giving of ourselves in service to the Lord. Since it all belongs to God, we are merely faithful stewards in His command. And yes, God can (and does) use things belonging to non-believers!

Psalms 24:1 The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.

Matthew 24:45-47 "Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47 I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.

As God has blessed you; give through your time, your goods, your finances, your influence, your life. Use them all where most needed to accomplish as much as possible for God's kingdom. Buying lunch or coat may do more than giving to your church.

Luke 14:12-14 Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

1 John 3:16-20 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 19 This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence 20 whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

Matthew 25:34-40 "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' 37 "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' 40 "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

Not everyone is in a place to give directly to the poor or hungry, or to visit the sick or those in prison, or to directly help the widow and fatherless. Nor is there any indication in Scriptures that we are all called to do the same things and have the same ministry opportunities. In fact, God gave (and gives) a diversity of gifts and callings so that every aspect of His kingdom is cared for. The principle of Scriptures is that the one enabling someone to minister will be just as blessed as the one doing the ministering.

Matthew 10:40-42 "He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. 41 Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man's reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward."

3 John 5-8 Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. 6 They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. 7 It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. 8 We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth.

Making a list...

In the extreme, we have seen churches that literally keep a list of their members' giving, for the purpose of shaming (directly or indirectly) those they feel aren't giving "their share." This is an unbiblical practice that effectively robs the giver of their God-given choice and joy in giving (and in whatever manner God has set before them).

Many individuals officially, or unofficially, keep the same type of list because they are encouraged to do so by their church. Since many churches constantly are berating (or guilting) their members into "doing their duty", of course as defined by the church, people feel the need to keep a list to see how they rate in this demanded duty. Those churches that claim the right to collect tithes especially make this duty bound list-making a necessity.

If giving becomes a believer's way of life the lists are unnecessary. Giving of your finances, material resources, hospitality, influence, and time, as God as provided and as He gives you opportunity, becomes something natural and part of your everyday life.

Matthew 6:1-4 "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (NIV)

When you make giving a way of life, you don't need to let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. There is no need to keep track of how much you have given (or to whom), merely that you have sought to make the most of every opportunity that God has given you (Colossians 4:5). Your Father in heaven is the only one watching... why do we feel that we need to know how God is using what He has led us to do? If God graciously enables you to see what He is doing, rejoice, but if you never know this side of eternity it should suffice that God used you for His glory. To demand anything more only comes from pride.

1 Corinthians 4:6b-7 "Do not go beyond what is written." Then you will not take pride in one man over against another. 7 For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? (NIV)

Some have taken this so far as to not keep (or want receipts) for any eligible charitable giving. While this is between you and God, the God-ordained authorities have seen fit to make this system part of our lives. Balance in life comes from not allowing the system to force (or limit) what giving opportunities you have available. But, wherein God leads you to give financially or materially in a manner that would enable you to claim the charitable deduction on your taxes, this becomes God's way of providing you even more to use for Him.

The conclusion.

Live free by God's grace and don't let anyone enslave you again to the law. Love more, give 100%, and glorify God through all you do!

Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Appendix A - Can believers earn blessings, favor, or standing with God?

Most Christians understand from the Bible that a person cannot earn salvation by works (Ephesians 2:8-9) and that trying to be good by one's self can never impress God (Isaiah 64:6). Where this seems to stop for many believers is after salvation. For them saved by grace (unmerited favor) turns into living by works. In reality, the Christian life is all about grace from beginning to end. Every good thing comes solely from God and every good thing we do is because God enables us. Every blessing God gives is solely because He is the one who blesses, not because we deserve it, or can earn it, or demand it.

A dangerous philosophy in many churches, and with many believers, is the belief that God's blessing is proof that they are doing something right. They would define God's blessing in terms of increased numbers, financial well-being or other material successes. I will offer you this... Blessing is never proof of God being impressed with something you've done; it's merely proof that God is the one who blesses!

Understand that the Christian martyr who has lost all belongings, seen his family tortured and killed, and is about to die for his faith is still blessed. God blesses every single believer - the outworking of that blessing may vary widely from person to person. In contrast, the rebellious unbeliever - regardless of how many material things he or she gains - is never blessed. The issue is not what they have done; it's whether or not they have found favor with God. This favor is found totally by grace (unmerited favor), from beginning to end, through Jesus Christ.

Looking for proof that all who are found in Christ are blessed?

Psalms 2:12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Notice that this passage tells us that all who take refuge in Jesus are blessed, quite different than the idea that some who take refuge in Him might be blessed!

Psalms 32:1-2 Of David. A maskil. Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 2 Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. (See also Romans 4:5-8).

Again, all whose sins are forgiven, or covered, are blessed. Because none of our sins are ever counted against us, we are blessed on account of the one who blesses, not because of anything we do or don't do.

Psalms 94:12 Blessed is the man you discipline, O LORD, the man you teach from your law...

Who gets disciplined? Every believer according to Hebrews 12:5-8! And, once again, the Bible tells us that every believer disciplined by God is blessed. (Consider for a moment that part of the blessing itself is the discipline...)

Psalms 34:8-10 Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. 9 Fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing. 10 The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

In God blessing us - every person who takes refuge in Him - He has promised us that we lack nothing and that he will provide every good thing. Who knows better what 'every good thing' is than the one who is perfectly good and the source of every good thing? (See also James 1:17). In lacking nothing (not even the discipline we need), it is by His standard - He who knows our every need - not by the standard of our whim and wants (or societies' norms).

Psalms 119:1-2 Aleph. Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD. 2 Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart.

Who is blessed? All who are blameless are blessed, not by their own efforts but because their sins are no longer counted against them. Every believer has been assured that there is nothing that can now condemn them (Romans 8:1). It is the result, or fruit, of this salvation that enables us to keep his statues (Romans 3:31) and seek Him with all our heart (Hebrews 11:6).

This final passage from Psalms provides a slightly different illustration of blessing, in regards to having children.

Psalms 127:3-5 Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. 4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. 5 Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.

Obviously not every person is blessed with children, only those who God chooses to bless with them. This passage clearly states that children come from God (as the giver, by His choice) and that the recipient is blessed. We can desire children, some have even demanded children of God, but the bottom line still remains - God gives them to whom He pleases. In fact, God also determines the amount of time we have them. While it can be said that this is a blessing which God gives to unbelievers and believers alike (as a common blessing, similar to those referenced in Matthew 5:45), the unbeliever never truly experiences the full blessing of understanding that their children are "a heritage from the Lord."

Perhaps the most known passage on being blessed comes from Jesus' words in Luke...

Luke 6:20-22 Looking at his disciples, he said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.

Notice the recurring theme in all these 'blessed are' statements. Every one of them is a statement that applies to those who come to faith in Jesus Christ. These are not 'do this and you will be blessed' statements, rather they are 'because you are this you are blessed statements.' It's those who turn these inside out that create a works based means of trying to find favour with God. For example, people have adopted ascetic ways of life to embrace poverty, hunger, and sorrow, all to try and somehow gain favour with God. Some even teach (including cults like the Jehovah's Witnesses) that going out and confronting people so they can 'persecute' or 'mock' you increases your blessing (or is proof that you have found favour with God). Again, this is totally backwards. These statements all pertain spiritually to those who are blessed because of Jesus Christ.

Moving to the book of Matthew, the 'blessed are' statements here are even easier to see as being spiritual characteristics of believers - the only ones who receive the kingdom of heaven and who don't fall away from Jesus (those who persevere, overcome, endure - all biblical terms to describe God's working to completion what He begins in us. See also Philippians 1:6. This concept is also reflected in the 'blessed is' statement found in James 1:12).

Matthew 5:3-10 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 11:6 Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me."

Do you believe that Abraham, the man of faith, was blessed? Well, every single believer is equally blessed along with Abraham! Every spiritual blessing available has been stored up for us in Christ.

Galatians 3:8-9 The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." 9 So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Ephesians 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

So is a believer's obedience and service to earn favour with God? Never! (For more on this see Ephesians 6:5-8 and Colossians 3:22-25). It's totally out of love, love that originates and is empowered by God (John 14:15-24).

The last passage we will consider, and perhaps the most definitive, is the parable of the landowner needing workers.

Matthew 20:1-16 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. 3 "About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' 5 So they went. "He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. 6 About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, 'Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?' 7 "'Because no one has hired us,' they answered. "He said to them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard.' 8 "When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.' 9 "The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 'These men who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said, 'and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.' 13 "But he answered one of them, 'Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?' 16 "So the last will be first, and the first will be last."

This parable so clearly shows that God calls and God provides. The denarius, which was equivalent to what a worker would need daily to provide for himself and his family in ancient times, represents the blessing each of us needs every day. God's blessing is in proportion to our need not our wants or efforts. To demand any more from Him is to be as ungrateful as the grumbling workers, who called the master unfair, while in fact they had been blessed with everything they needed.

One final note regarding blessing. Consider that sin is the reason we often cannot see God's blessing or wherein we squander or misuse it. Imagine for a moment one of the workmen, in the parable last considered, getting so angry as to throw away the denarius he had just been given. His anger (sinful thought) over a perceived unfairness led to an obviously wrong action, one that removed the results of the blessing from him. In the same way, through sinful thoughts and actions, many believers do that exact same thing with God's daily blessings.

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Appendix B - Covenant Theology

I will not begin to try and cover all teachings of Covenant Theology in this work. Regardless of the merits of this system of belief, which was begun by some of the prominent Reformers and fully framed in the generations that followed, there are logical inconsistencies. And before I hear cries of "unfair," with claims that Covenant Theology has been around since the early church, I disagree. Though elements of it have existed from early times, the complete system as espoused today was not completed, or fully framed, until after the time of the Reformers. Also note that there are differences in how some churches and denominations understand Covenant theology (i.e. Baptist versus Presbyterian). In addition, do not take my criticism of Covenant Theology to be an endorsement of the other predominate position known as Dispensationalism. It has more than its' fair share of inconsistencies as well, but again this could be another volume in and of itself.

Wherein Covenant Theology attempts to bring all aspects of the Old Testament into the church, unless specifically abrogated in the New Testament, it does so without consistency. It is on this basis that (to some) Baptism is said to be the covenant sign equivalent to circumcision, yet now changed to include female infants as well. It's dangerous business taking Old Testament practices, altering them out of the silence of Scriptures, and continuing them in the New Testament under the guise of the church inheriting all the promises and commands of Israel. Picking through the law and choosing what aspects still pertain is equally inconsistent.

Finally, before anyone hits me with the charge of antinomianism, I reaffirm my belief that the outworking of Christian faith is the upholding of the law (Romans 3:21). Faith enabled works - made possible by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in all believers - is a logical result of God working in our lives to make us holy (James 2:18). Wherein the heart of the law is a reflection of the Holiness of God, we will display this holiness in our lives as we grow in grace. It's not surprising that the Ten Commandments are restated all throughout the New Testament, specifically and in summary. Believing that Christians uphold the law cannot be construed to say that a believer is bound to follow all aspects of Mosaic law. Some denominations even attempt to do this by variously continuing dietary laws, Saturday only Sabbaths, etc. Simply put, the New Testament shows us that in Jesus all the ceremonial law, including that centered on tabernacle/temple worship, has been fulfilled. Being released from this ritual and mandatory service has freed us from all of the law except that which specifically shows us God's holiness. We have been set free with only the admonition to not use our freedom to sin (1 Peter 2:16).

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Index of Scriptures Used or Referenced


14:11-24 14:16-20 14:23 28:20-22


18:13-26 22:18 20:3-4 20:14 20:15-19 23:10-11 23:14-17 23:24-26 25:1-9 25:2 30:11-16 35:4-9


5:5-6 7:16 19:9-10 27:30-33


18:20-21 18:21, 24-32 18:26-28


7:12-15 11:13-15 12:4-7,17-19 14:22-29 14:23 14:28-29 16:10,17 16:11,14 16:15 16:16-17 26:12-13 26:13

1 Samuel

1:4,2:13-14 8:10-11a,14-18

2 Samuel


1 Kings


1 Chronicles

29:9 29:16-17

2 Chronicles

29:3 31:4,11-12 31:5,12 31:10 46:6


1:5-8 8:24-30


2:6-9 5:4 10:35-39 10:38 12:44 13:10-13 13:12


2:12 24:1 32:1-2 34:8-10 78:41 94:12 119:1-2 127:3-5


3:27-28 11:25 22:6 22:9






3:6-12 3:10 3:10-11


4:7 5:3-10 5:14-16 5:17 5:17-18 5:45 6:1-4 10:10 10:40-42 11:6 15:6 17:24-27 20:1-16 22:15-22 22:27-39 23:23 24:45-47 25:34-40 28:19




4:12 6:20-22 6:32-38 6:38 10:7 11:42 14:12-14 18:11-12


14:15 14:15-24


5:1-11 5:12 15 15:5 15:6-19 15:28-29 20:20 20:28-35 20:35


3:21 3:31 4:5-8 6:14 8:1 12:1 12:4-8 13:1-7 15:25-27 16:5

1 Corinthians

4:1-2 4:6b-7 6:15-20 7:3-5 9:3-12 9:7 9:13-14 11:18-19 12 16:1-3 16:19

2 Corinthians

8:1 9:6-8


2:8 2:10 2:8-10 3:8-9 5:1 5:6 5:1-6 6:10


1:3 2:8-9 2:10 2:21-22 4 4:28 5:15-16 5:25-33 6:5-8


1:6 4:10-19 4:19


1:10 2:20-23 3:17 3:22-25 4:5 4:15

1 Timothy

5:8 5:17-18 6:17

2 Timothy

2:15 3:5


1:6-11 2:7,14 3:8,14




7:1-28 7:18-19 9:26-28 10 10:1 10:1-14 10:18 10:25 11:6 12:5-8 13:5 13:20-21


1:12 1:17 2:15-17 2:18 3:1 4:17

1 Peter


1 John

2:6 3:16-18 3:16-20 4:7

3 John


Written by Brent MacDonald of Lion Tracks Ministries, (c) 2003-2006, as posted on and Please contact the author for written permission to reprint in whole or in part. Web links to this page are welcome and encouraged.

All quoted Bible passages in this document are from the New International Version (NIV) unless otherwise marked. Our use of this translation does not imply endorsement or recommendation, rather it was selected due to its widespread usage. Each passage was compared with other popular translations, including KJV and NASB, to assure clarity of usage. We recommend examining the passages in your favorite translation.

New International Version (NIV), Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

New King James Version (NKJV), Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved.