If You Love Jesus You'll Tithe Anyway
By Patricia Backora, author of the book
Tough Love in Christ's Millennium
Which you can order online from: http://www.publishamerica.com
Scripture-twisters have used fear to prevent hungry saints from eating the so-called tithe. And one form of that fear which has been foisted upon Christians is to call into question their love for Jesus if they don't "lay their all" on the altar. But who is on the receiving end of what is typically set upon the altars of Christendom after collection (money)? Whenever "tithe" money is taken up by church ushers, it is not sent by Space Express up to God's celestial bank. God owns the whole world. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He doesn't depend on the meager meal money of widows to sustain His eternal life.
Psalms 50:8 I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices, or thy burnt offerings, to have been continually before me.
Verse 9 I will take no bullock out of thy house, nor he goats out of thy fields.
Verse 10 For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.
Verse 11 I know all the fowls of the mountains, and all the wild beasts of the field are mine.
Verse 12 If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof..=
God doesn't need for ushers to gather up our filthy lucre service after service from poor widows to feed Himself. And after the service it is gleefully counted by clergymen who have many dreams they need to finance. This money is often taken from the mouths of poor families who are either low-paid or struggling on welfare, and people pay it because they are told not to eat the "tithe". Monetary tithing is nowhere taught in either Testament. It is an unmerciful doctrine.
In so many words the "laity" is told that they are a class apart, and "if they really love Jesus, they'll make this regular sacrifice out of their meager incomes." The common pew-warmer must never eat what ought to be sacrificed to their spiritual superiors as sacred. But in Matthew 12:3-4 Christ speaks of how the starving David ate the sacred showbread, which was meant for the priests only. Jesus says in verse 7: But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. Even if tithing on money were legitimate (and compulsory), God’s mercy would surely take priority over sacrifice. I’m sure He would allow some poor mother to buy a bit of food for her hungry child, rather than pressure her to tithe her meager welfare check to the church. In Matthew 15: 3-6 and Mark 7: 10-13 Jesus upbraids some Pharisees who have plenty of religion but no love. They taught their disciples to offer a “corban”, a monetary gift which could have relieved the want of elderly parents. Thus, the true Word of God was rendered ineffectual by their vain traditions.
Yes, some would far rather have sacrifice (money) than mercy. The whole reason for the tithe was to keep food in God’s House for the hungry. For proof of that, I refer you to Deuteronomy 14:22-29. Most of this passage deals with the Festival Tithe, paid on the first, second, fourth and fifth years of each seven-year tithing cycle (none was paid at all in the seventh year when the land was allowed to lie fallow). I would especially like to quote verses 28-29, which speak of the special third and sixth-year tithe set aside for hungry Levites and poor people.
Verse 28 At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy. * * * Notice, the tithing was not done out of a person's decrease, or poverty, but out of his increase (harvest from agriculture). And this third-year tithe was not laid up in a church treasury, but in the gates of the city for the benefit of those who could eat it.
Verse 29 And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow which are within thy gates, shall come and eat, and be satisfied, that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest. * * * The Levite (who fulfilled deacon duties back in Old Testament times) was counted among the poor. And instead of being ordered to tithe out of her welfare check, the widow helped to eat the tithes of agricultural produce brought by more prosperous Israelites.
Tithe-enforcers argue that “all Scripture is profitable for doctrine and instruction in righteousness (II Timothy 3:16)”. Such activities as gathering together to share a meal with other believers to rejoice in the Lord’s goodness, and making provision for true works of God and for the poor are applicable to the New Covenant of Grace, but the Mosaic ordinance which financed these things cannot be laid upon New Testament believers. II Corinthians 3:6 says: Who (God) also hath made us ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. To sum it up: When you minister the Law instead of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus, you minister DEATH!
Tithing: Money Just Doesn’t Fill the Bill
One unscriptural scripture preachers use as leverage over the “laity” is: “The first tenth of your paycheck belongs to God”. Wrong! It ALL belongs to God, because we ourselves are His purchased possession!
Some think they’re doing God a favor by reinventing and transplanting Old Testament Laws (ones they deem profitable) into the Body of Christ. But did God really tell the people to take the first item off the pile to pay as a tithe, or the tenth? Let’s dig into a little Scripture, and you just might get an even more vivid picture of how ridiculous it is, trying to marry the Old Covenant, with its obsolete rules and regulations, to the New, which is a Covenant of Liberty in Christ Jesus. Talk about strange bedfellows!
What constitutes tithable commodities under the Old Law is summed up in Leviticus 27: verse 30: And all the tithe OF THE LAND, whether OF THE SEED or OF THE LAND, or OF THE FRUIT OF THE TREE, is the LORD’S. It (not money) is holy unto the Lord. If something edible was raised on the land (cattle, sheep, etc.) or grown on the land (wheat, grapes, etc.) it was a tithable product.
Verse 31: And if a man will at all redeem ought of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof. How can a dirty dollar bill, which has passed through countless sinful hands, possibly be redeemed as a holy thing? How can you redeem money with money anyway? Does God run a Savings and Loan, authorizing His supposed representatives to charge His children a prime rate of 20% interest? I maintain that if some of the rules of Old Testament tithing on farm produce apply to tithing on a New Testament Christian’s cash wages, then they all do! If you “borrow” $100 of “tithe money” to go see the doctor, you’ve gotta pay “God” (the preacher?) back $120, or you break that same Law you’re so anxious to return to, and you’re counted as a transgressor!
Verse 32: And concerning the tithe OF THE HERD, OR OF THE FLOCK, EVEN OF WHATSOEVER PASSETH UNDER THE ROD (Ever seen a twenty-$ bill toddling on two legs to pass under the rod?) , the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord.
Does (did) God REALLY order people to give the best tenth for a tithe, or the TENTH item?
Verse 33: HE SHALL NOT SEARCH WHETHER IT BE GOOD OR BAD, NEITHER SHALL HE CHANGE IT: and if he change it at all, both it and the change shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed. How comical, the idea of applying this principle to filthy lucre. Imagine dividing your $1000 salary into 10 $100 bills, then putting them in a bag to shuffle them up. Then you pull them out one by one, till you get to the last one. That one, not the first, counts as the “tithe”. And even if it’s a rumpled up bill with Susie Q's phone number on it, you’ve still got to count that one as the tithe. But money-hungry preachers tell you, regarding tithing: “Give of your best and first tithe (money) to the Master, before you meet every other obligation.” But the aforementioned passage is proof that it was the TENTH item counted in a series of tithable commodities which was set aside by farmers and herdsmen as the holy tithe under the Old Law; not the first, and not necessarily the best one. The word “tithe” simply means “tenth”. Even if a rancher’s tenth cow was the scrawniest of the whole lot, it was still counted as the tithe. The “best of the tithes”, or a mere 1% of the total, were to be offered by the Levites to the High Priest in Numbers 18: 25-32. It would be sheer blasphemy for any man to claim to sit in the office of the High Priest under the New Covenant, so as to claim the best tenth of a tithe of any man's paycheck or other possessions. The office of New Covenant High Priest is occupied by Christ alone (Heb.4:14-16).
Offerings brought to the Altar always had to be without spot or blemish (Deuteronomy 15:21). Since tithes were taken at random from every tenth item counted, and worshippers were not to “search (check) a tithed animal whether it be good or bad” before counting it as the tithe, the people’s tithe didn’t qualify for the Altar anyway. All this sanctimonious spin about rank-and-file Gentile Christian “laity” offering up “tithe” money, an inedible item on the Altar just doesn’t wash with Scripture! Only that 1% of all the produce OF THE LAND OF ISRAEL, the Heave Offering (KJV) hand-picked from the people’s tithe and PAID BY THE LEVITES to the High Priest, was ever presented at the Altar!
What about those times where terms like “without spot or blemish”, “firstfruits” or “redemption money” are applicable? Let’s dig up a few more Old Testament observances, and after reading the following sections tell me whether you’d like to go back to keeping this mind-bogglingly complicated Scroll of the Law, with its 600-odd ordinances. Or rather, just read it so you can better appreciate what a colossal burden Christ has delivered you from!
The Law: Fulfilled In Christ, but Misapplied
God has opened my eyes. Now I am able to see through the religious hoopla going on in churches and “miracle crusades” presided over by Prosperity gurus. One favorite fund-raising gimmick is to prime the pump of pious fervor by bandying about a lot of Old Testament buzzwords, and doing it with the right theatrics. At least once I was in a meeting where the preacher appealed to his flock to present a “wave offering to the Lord” (with cabbage of the highest denominations, what else?).
Knowing his trusting, bah-h-h-ing sheep would readily follow, the man said, “God loves a cheerful giver. Let’s see you wave your biggest bill as your firstfruits offering unto the Lord. That’s it! Wave those bills high now, and make a joyful noise unto the Lord.”
Now, in a crowd of thousands of excited people, you must have enough sanctified common sense to master your own emotions and be grounded in God’s truth enough to judge the collective “blessing” by the strict yardstick of Scripture. Have you ever read of the Apostle Peter groaning to organ music and appealing to Levitical laws to make the money flow like milk and honey? What did the Firstfruits offering and the Wave offering consist of anyway, and what was the significance of these ancient rituals?
It was upon the Altar that the Firstfruits, the very first ripening fruits of a harvest, were brought in a basket (not a checkbook) by the Israelite farmer (see Exodus 23:19; Numbers 18:13; Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Nehemiah 10: 35-37). From this the “wavesheaf” was taken and offered up as holy unto the Lord (Leviticus 23: 9-12). This ritual was performed on the second day of Passover, or 7 weeks before Pentecost (verse 15).
The Firstfruits is not synonymous with the tithe of the whole harvest offered by the laity of the Nation of Israel. The tithe was payable later in the season, when the whole crop ripened. Nehemiah Chapter 10 describes how sacrifices, tithes, and offerings were resumed after being discontinued in exile. Notice in verse 37: And to bring the firstfruits of our DOUGH (bread dough, that is!) and our offerings, and the FRUIT OF ALL MANNER OF TREES, unto the priests, to the chambers of the House of our God; and the tithes OF OUR GROUND (the Firstfruits and the tithes are listed separately) unto the Levites (who receive the people’s 10%). And remember, the LEVITE’S tithe of the tithe (Or 1% of Israel’s agricultural output) comprised the Heave Offering (Numbers 18:25-28 KJV), (Heb.”Terumah”).
Christ, our unblemished Passover Lamb, fulfilled the Wavesheaf offering when he offered Himself up to God once and for all for our redemption from sin (see Hebrews Chapter 10). Paul the Apostle compares the dying and burial of the natural body to the sowing of a seed which results in a harvest, where that seed is changed into a new, far more glorious form, speaking of our own resurrection to immortality (I Corinthians 15:35-44). Christ is the Firstfruits from the dead (verses 20-23), and the First to be resurrected to immortality and offered to God, in happy anticipation of the resurrection of His saints. Christ IS the Fulfillment of both the Firstfruits and the Wave Sheaf offerings, even as as He fulfilled in His own sacrificial death the animal sacrifices of ancient Israel. I suspect God is offended by the way fishers for funds make a big haul by perverting the simplicity of the Gospel of Christ with appeals to people’s religious sensibilities.
In the Book of Nehemiah, the exiles of Judah are returning from captivity after a 70-year absence. Now Temple worship was being reinstituted, along with all the various ordinances which could only be kept in the Land of Israel. Turn to Chapter 10: 38 to get a real thrill: And the priests the sons of Aaron shall be with the Levites, when the Levites take tithes: and the Levites shall bring up the TITHE OF THE TITHES into the House of our God, to the chambers, unto the treasure house (Now, get this!) That’s the very same “storehouse” (Hebrew: outsair ) so often quoted from Malachi 3:10 ( the lone verse tithing teachers base most of their doctrine on!) That was the place where THE LEVITES (whom modern preachers readily identify with) took their own tithe (1% of the total) to THE PRIESTS (higher ranking members of the priestly Tribe of Levi who were descended from Aaron). These are the same Levites who are cited by Malachi as being guilty of withholding the best of the tithe from God! They, NOT THE LAITY (other tribes of Israel), were the ones primarily responsible for keeping this treasure house full of good things!
Pick One Law, You Marry ‘Em All
If any religious leader still insists on playing Levite, let him go the whole gamut and keep all the 600-odd points of the Old Law. Stop eating pork, ham and shrimp. Southerners, you’ll have to give up catfish, as that has no scales (Deut. 14:9-10). Cease all work on Saturdays. Wear a beard and side locks. Don’t order cheese on your Big Mac, or you’ll break he law against consuming meat with dairy products. If your brother dies childless, marry his widow to raise up a son to perpetuate his name. It works both ways, now!
“Ah, but I couldn’t do that,” you say. Why? “Well, Paul says church leaders are to be the husband of only one wife.” Yes, he did say that. You are not expected to follow the ancient custom of levirate marriage. Neither are believers bound by the old Law of Tithing, which never was on money to begin with.
Under the Old Covenant, the first-born of every man and beast was the Lord’s (Exodus 13:1-2; Numbers 18:15-16; Leviticus 27: 26-27). Human males under 5 had to be redeemed with a payment of 5 Temple shekels, 3 for females. The redemption fee was higher for an older person. The firstborn of all unclean (non-kosher) animals had to be redeemed instead of being offered, e.g. the jackass (Exodus 13:13; Leviticus. 27:27) This is one example of hundreds of Mosaic ordinances preachers have neglected to transfer over to our Dispensation of Grace. James 2:10 says: For whosoever shall keep the whole Law, and yet offend in ONE point, he is guilty of ALL. The Law of Moses is not a restaurant menu. Where commitment is concerned, the Law of Moses is indivisible. If you vow faithfulness to one law, you yoke yourself to the whole clan. You can’t just covenant with God to keep one law you like and shine off on all the rest. How long has it been since anybody sent their friendly TV preacher a redemption fee for a firstborn kitten or puppy! If anybody hopes to score points with God by observance of one Mosaic ordinance, that individual must place himself under ALL of the Law of Moses! It’s a package deal! If one Mosaic ordinance is transferable to the New Testament Age of Grace, every other Mosaic ordinance is transferable and binding, not just the money-makers! The whole Law includes circumcision for men, periodical seclusion and pigeon offerings for women, ritual cleansings and washings, animal sacrifices, physical inactivity on the Sabbath, abstinence from pork BBQ, going to the Priest to have your zits checked, and paying a redemption fee for your firstborn child. Thanks to Christ, we are redeemed from the condemnation of imperfect Law-keeping, without having to muddle through all those Levitical Laws and fees (Isaiah 52:3; I Peter 1:18).
You really open up a can of worms when you try to enforce Old Testament Laws in this Dispensation of Grace. Even if monetary fees still had to be paid today in fulfillment of ancient Levitical law, God wouldn’t accept U.S. currency, with its mystical inscriptions and images of men, as these violate His Law against making images (Exodus 20:4). Ministers simply couldn’t accept $3.00 as a redemption fee for a baby girl, instead of three Shekels of the Sanctuary! The Jews of Christ’s time had to exchange their Roman coins, engraved with images of Caesar, for acceptable Temple shekels (Matthew 21:12). Even then, those coins were not used to pay tithes, but taxes for the maintenance of the Temple, as in the census tax taken of every Israelite over twenty (Exodus 30: 11-16). Each person, whether rich or poor, was charged the same amount--half a shekel. That would constitute far less than 10 %of a rich man’s income. Under Nehemiah’s leadership, God allowed this small sum to be reduced to one-third of a shekel, perhaps because the people at that time were under foreign tribute and needed a bit of relief. This is one example of God’s compassion.
The Temple Tax, however, cannot be used to argue that money secured the eternal redemption of the Israelites, even if this tax was easily affordable by most everyone. Psalms 49: 7-8 tells us that nothing we can give God can ransom anyone’s soul from death, and the redemption of our soul is precious (costly). It is the Blood which makes atonement for sin (Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:22). Rather, paying that census tax was a tangible reminder (memorial) of the faith each person directed toward the God Who inhabited the Temple, and also symbolized the fact each Old Testament saint had an equal vested interest in the benefits of its rites. The money paid for the upkeep of a Temple which performed substitutionary animal sacrifices on their behalf. These rites were crucial in the salvation of believing Israelites in that they served as “promissory notes” before God until their ultimate fulfilment in Christ, the perfect Lamb of God. The Blood of Christ, not silver and gold, has redeemed us (John 1:29; John 1:29; I Peter 1: 18-19). Faithfulness to ritual obligations, as in paying the Temple tax, showed their faith in the future coming of the final Sacrifice for sins, Jesus. In every dispensation, good works spring from true faith ( James 2:26). On one occasion Jesus took His own Temple tax from the mouth of a fish (Matt.17:27). This speaks of grace, not works. Jesus did not labor to earn this contribution to a religious system which was growing more corrupt by the day. Jesus was not the slave of that system which had deviated so far from God's original plan that instead of feeding the widow, it now devoured widows' houses (Matt.23:14; Luke 20:47). Another observation can be made from this incident: Taking money from the mouth of a fish is the ancient equivalent of rummaging through the couch cushions for spare change. This incident should forever put to rest the assertions of Prosperity teachers that Jesus was not materially poor when He lived on earth!
After they got the money out of the fish's mouth Jesus asks Peter whether the kings of the earth take custom, or taxes, from their own children, or from strangers (Matt.17:25). Peter replies in verse 26: "From strangers." And Jesus replies, "Then are the children free." We, beloved, are the children of God. What right has any self-appointed religious IRS agent got to dun a hard-working man or woman for 10% of his net income, let alone the gross (before taxes), as so many churches practice today, contrary to the Word of God?
"If You Love Jesus You'll Do it Anyway"
That tried-and-true religious guilt trip has been used repeatedly throughout the history of the institutional church to pry a fearful saint from his money. In one church I knew of, implicit questioning of a person's love for Jesus was used to persuade several dog-tired saints to get out of bed every night during the wee hours of the morning, get dressed and go man a 24-hour prayer chain which zealous young elders pressed the pastor into starting. Only trouble with that was, only a few dozen adults, at most, regularly attended the church services, some women couldn't drive or had small babies, and the way it panned out, the very same ones had to take the same one-hour shifts night after night. I don't recall much fruit coming out of that prayer chain, as most everyone in that sleepy rural area was asleep during those hours. Perhaps a prankster or two might have called, but important spiritual principles were being violated. The prayer chain was imposed on the so-called laity, "those on the outside looking in", by those in the "inner circle". The burden of many was laid upon just a few.
Whenever the pastor of a small church dreams big dreams of a fancy building project, based on projected income from the "tithes" of the saints, he is laying the burden of many upon just a few, and lading men with burdens grievous to be borne (Matt.23:4). I challenge anybody who believes that "tithe money" ought to be used for building projects to quote just one verse where the Bible specifically commands "tithe money" to be used for building church buildings. In the very beginning, church buildings as we know them today did not even exist. And no, I'm not talking about quoting any age-old religious tradition of men which was fabricated by applying some vague mystical interpretation of Scripture. If the Apostle Paul used "tithe money" to construct a cathedral, then I'll concede that I was wrong about this. And I'll go so far as to state emphatically that not one verse of Scripture proves that Jesus financed His own ministry off of unscriptural monetary tithes. Jesus and His followers were helped by freewill offerings, plain and simple.
Only members of the priestly Tribe of Levi ever collected tithes under the Old Law. Tithes were never collected by Gentiles. Next time your pastor takes up tithes ask him what tribe of Israel he's descended from, and whether he plans on skipping tithe-taking during every seventh sabbatical year of the tithing cycle.Does he plan to devote the entire third year (Poor Tithe) to feeding the poor every time the third year of the seven-year cycle rolls around, or does he claim executive privilege of a make-believe substitute priesthood of his own fabrication? God does indeed have a spiritual priesthood under the New Covenant, but that includes EVERY member of the Body of Christ, not just a privileged few! Not only have WE (everyday believers) been made a royal priesthood and a holy nation in Christ (I Peter 2:5,9), but we are the Temple of God (I Corinthians 3:16). What right does anyone have to force us, the so-called laity (a man-made division in the Body of Christ) to pay tithe money to “spiritual Levites”, when every blood-washed believer in Christ is called a priest? A believer’s position under the New Covenant is a much more desirable one than that enjoyed by any Old Testament Israelite or Levite. Why?
The term “laity” , as we understand it, could be applied to all Old Covenant Israelites not of the tribe of Levi, since these other tribes were not chosen to draw near unto God to perform sacred rituals. “Although Israel was God’s Chosen People, only sons of Aaron,descended from Levi, were chosen by God to minister before Him at the Altar. And of that one clan of Levi , only the High Priest was allowed to pass beyond the inner Veil of the Tabernacle into the Holiest Place of all, the Holy of Holies, where the sacred Ark of the Covenant was. And even he could only enter once a year (Hebrews 9:7), to sprinkle blood upon the Mercy Seat of the Ark, as an atonement for himself and for the people. Hebrews 10:19-22 assures us that now every true believer can enter into the Holiest Place and draw near unto God because the Blood of Christ makes us acceptable to Him. We who are saved by faith in Christ ARE the Temple of God, and God’s Holy Spirit dwells in us (I Corinthians 3:16; II Corinthians 6:16).
We show our belief in what God's Word says (or lack of it) through our actions. If we pay unscriptural money tithes to men, it shows that we see treating those men as superior priests and ourselves as mere laity, an unscriptural concept in the New Testament. Tithing to men under the New Covenant denies the priesthood of all believers in Christ. By taking "tithes" to some "church building", we are denying what the Word of God has to say about US being the Temple of the Living God, and are saying instead that the church building is the Temple.
So much more is at stake here than dollars and cents. Christ paid a terrible price to set us free to walk in liberty, that we might be free children of God. "If you love Jesus, you'll do it anyway" just doesn't wash. I recall the same church elder who started the prayer chain also said that a woman should jump off a cliff if her husband told her to, because "if you love Jesus you'll submit". When satan misapplied Scripture to appeal to Jesus' religious sentiment to get Him to jump off a cliff, Jesus stuck strictly to "It is written" (Matt.4:5-7). No one, high or low has the right to question our love for Jesus because we dispense with unscriptural religious traditions in favor of the written Word of God as taught by the original apostles.