God's Children Are Free
by Patricia Backora
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God’s Children Are Free!
The Children of Israel had been enslaved to Pharaoh of Egypt for 400 long years. But after God set them free from Egyptian bondage, they started on their journey to the Promised Land. But Pharaoh panicked. Who would toil to keep his building programs going? Who would produce the wealth of the land which kept Egypt's economy strong and kept him in creature comforts? No, Pharaoh would have none of this freedom business. He must go after those slaves and force them to go back to Egypt.
A similar situation is happening today. For centuries God's people have been held in bondage to the laws of carnal religious rulers. According to McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature, “In the early Christian Church the custom of consecrating to religious purposes a tenth of income was voluntary, and it was not made obligatory until the Council of Tours in 567 A.D. The second Council of Macon in 585 A.D. enjoined the payment of tithes under pain of excommunication (article ‘tithes’).
The Encyclopedia of Catholicism states: “Paul’s instructions on the Jerusalem collection urge voluntary giving (I Corinthians 16:1-4; II Corinthians Chapters 8 and 9) which became the practice of Christians until religious and civil authorities (sixth and eighth centuries) initiated legislation mandating tithing.”
By the beginning of the Middle Ages (the sixth century A.D.), the bloated bureaucracy of Big Religion had grown so complex that it needed a more predictable source of income than freewill offerings to keep its machinery running. It was hard for organised Christendom to subsist by faith alone. The prelates sitting on Church councils knew that the poor peasants generally could neither read nor gain access to the Scriptures, let alone scrutinize Church laws in the light of Paul’s Gospel. So the council met with no serious resistance when they took material out of the Old Covenant and spun it into a cure-all for their financial ills: obligatory tithing on money. And even though most modern Christians are well able to check this doctrine out for themselves, they are made to feel guilty for even questioning its validity. It would be too costly for organized Christendom if too many tithe-payers learned the truth. But why should modern Christians be burdened with man’s version of an ancient ordinance the early Church didn’t have to keep? Jesus denounced the Pharisees for teaching as doctrines the commandments of men (Matt. 15:8-9; Mark 7: 6-7).
Just like Jesus went through the Temple setting the birds and the beasts free from the buyers and the sellers, God is setting His people free, hallelujah! And no man has the right to make God's liberated people return to their cages of bondage.
Jesus did not truly abolish the ordinance of circumcision, one author claims, contrary to Ephesians 2:15 and Colossians 2:14 which teaches that He took the handwriting of ordinances which had condemned us to the Cross with Him. Instead Christ changed it to a spiritual form which is still binding upon God's people. Spiritual circumcision has nothing to do with a surgical scalpel. It refers to putting off the sins of the fallen nature (verse 11). But this pro-tithing writer uses this comparison to argue for "spiritual tithing" which calls for the collection of material money. The author reasons that if, in this age of grace, there still remains a spiritual application of the Law of circumcision in the lives of God's people, then it must follow that even though Mosaic tithing might have been abolished by Christ, it was only to make way for a revolutionary new method of tithing: a "spiritual" tithe which consists of literal paper money collected by material men in sharp suits and tithes. A tithe never once commanded or taken up either under Moses' Law or by any New Testament apostle!
When you add to Scripture by rationalizing that there must be some new commandment God overlooked and adding it yourself, you're opening a real can of worms! Certain churchmen might grudgingly admit that New Covenant tithing was nowhere commanded in Scripture by the early apostles of Christ but they still justify their ten per cent tax on churchgoers' wages. Circumcision has a spiritual counterpart in the New Testament, and so must tithing, they reason (or hope!) Theological experts decide what form that "spiritual" counterpart is, with or without the authority of Scripture! The metal scalpel was put away to make way for spiritual circumcision of the heart. But the wicker basket or velvet bag is still there to take up a "spiritual" tithe!
Appeals to Christian debt or duty were used extensively in the piece I read. The author relies more on emotional extrapolations of biased theological logic than on what the plain text of Scripture has to say TO NEW COVENANT BELIEVERS. Instead of appealing to plain commands clearly spelled out by the first-century apostles, he appeals to the believer's sense of obligation to pay those who make their living from preaching. If ever there was a desperate "end justifies the means" tactic, that has to be it! Pharaoh won't get his tomb finished in time if those selfish slaves don't have a heart and come back to Egypt! Pharaoh misses his sacrificial offerings of sweat and tears.
The writer even argues against one of the clearest cases against New Testament monetary tithing: that every one of us who believe are part of Christ's Kingdom of Priests (I Pet.2:5,9). Aaron the High Priest did not pay tithes. We are spiritually made one with Christ our High Priest, so we are not subject to the tithing tax either. As He is, so are we in this world (IJohn 4:17).
The writer insists there's still a problem exempting so-called laymen from the tithe because the Body of Christ includes not only learned theologians who actually "minister" for a living, but tiny children and uneducated lay people as well. How could a five-year-old believer possibly be part of Christ's Royal Priesthood? Can he preach an eloquent sermon? Can He read Greek?
Okay, let's examine this part of his logic which supposedly justifies New Covenant tithing. He asserts that a tiny child in the Body of Christ can't really be called a priest because he's not educated enough to count both feet yet. So it must follow this kid is one of the lowly laity who has to tithe on his teething biscuits! Ha ha ha! Following that theory to its logical conclusion, you can deduce that the baby grandsons of Aaron the High Priest would have been subject to the tithing tax too, because the dangerous equipment at the altar hadn't been childproofed and they couldn't minister there yet! Give me a break! Being an infant does not exclude you from the tribe you were born in or make you any less of an heir of your father! And guess Whose heirs we are?
Jesus fed the five thousand. He didn't fleece them for five thousand tithes. What seminary did Jesus earn his post doctorate in? As a Carpenter, Jesus did not owe any Mosaic tithes (unless He raised livestock or grew a veggie garden on the side). Jesus might have paid some whopping dues to the government, and He did pay a small tax for the upkeep of the Temple (Matt.17:24-27). But Jesus' carpentry income was not subject to the Mosaic tithing tax. As a Member of the Tribe of Judah, Christ did not qualify to collect the Mosaic tithe either (Heb.7:5,14). That task was reserved strictly for descendants of Levi. Next time your spiritual leader asks why you're late paying your "tithe", ask him (or her) which tribe of Israel they're descended from!
Jesus poses a profound question to Simon Peter in Matthew 17:25 when collectors of the Temple tax came calling (Translator’s notes in the margins and other versions indicate that’s the kind of tax it was). “What do you think, Simon?” inquires Jesus. “From whom do the kings of this earth take custom, or tribute? From their own children, or strangers?”
Peter replied, “From strangers.”
Jesus said: “Then the children (of the overlords) are free (exempt from paying taxes to them).” That same usage for “free” is found in I Samuel 17:25, where one of the rewards offered for dispatching Goliath is that the giant-slayer’s father and his house will be free in Israel (free from taxation).
All who have experienced the New birth are free children of God. God does not appoint His more privileged children as religious tax collectors over His humbler ones. In the Old Testament a Temple tax was levied, but not under the New Covenant. Believers of the New Testament ARE the Temple of God (I Cor.3:16; IICor.6:16)! On what Scriptural basis do you levy a ten per cent tax on the Temple of God? The tithe is a tax, not a gift!
Leviticus 25:1-5 describes a Sabbath of the Land, during which time no crops would be grown (or tithed on). The Old Testament was an inferior covenant to the New, but back then even the land got a rest! So if you've got the gumption to do it, point these facts out to your pastor and ask him if you can have a break from tithing every seven years like the ancient Israelites did. If you really want to raise his eyebrows ask him if you can hold a thanksgiving potluck cookout with the tithe (Deut.14:26). Ask him if he's willing to turn the "tithe money" over to the local food bank every three years to feed the hungry in your community (Deut.14:28-29). That's about as close as you could get to the true spiritual intent of the true Biblical tithe, which was used for those purposes! Even if tithing was still applicable today, wouldn't it be more charitable to feed the poor widows with "tithe money" than take that money from poor widows to build big churches with?
And as for this notion that tiny children can't minister in Jesus' name, I'll say from experience that I've sometimes heard wiser words out of a baby's mouth than out of the mouth of a pulpit pilot. My daughter wasn't even old enough to go to kindergarten when she said to me on a day the devil was hassling me: "You have Jesus in your heart, Mommy." I've also heard other testimonies during my lifetime of how people's believing children would speak an encouraging word or do something kind to lift the morale of grown-up believers. Jesus often lambasted the learned men of His day for neglecting duties of charity toward the poor and for hindering people from entering into the kingdom of God. Just read Matthew Chapter 23 to see what Jesus thinks of these educated fools.
It isn't years lived on this planet or theological nit-picking that brings the love of Jesus or His wisdom, it's the Spirit of the Living God! Better a sticky kiss from an innocent child than a sticky question about why you aren't being faithful to a false doctrine!
I'll cite a few verses from Matthew Chapter 18 to show how Jesus Himself viewed children.
Verse 1 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
Verse 2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,
Verse 3 And he said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Verse 4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Verse 5 And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.
Who did Jesus point to as being greatest in the kingdom of heaven? Professor Knowitall from Brightbrain University? The Pope? This year's bestselling author? Nope! A little child who probably hadn't even learned his ABC's at the village school yet! A little tyke who hadn't even dragged his first soapbox out to the front yard and preached yet! And most telling of all about Jesus' attitude toward children is the way He identifies Himself with them so completely! Whoever receives one of these little ones in His Name receives Christ Himself! That includes every part of Jesus, even the Jesus Who's up there in heaven right now interceding on our behalf as our High Priest, because Christ is indivisible (I Cor.1:13) and we are one in the Spirit of Christ (Gal.3:28; I Cor.6:17). The world might lay taxes on God's people, but in light of these precious truths, how can Christians be justified in doing that to their own brethren with whom they are supposed to be one in the Spirit of Christ? Going back to my original point, how can anybody downplay the plain teaching of the Bible that ALL who have saving faith in Christ belong to His Royal Priesthood, everybody from believing babies barely out of diapers to elderly people getting ready to go home to heaven?
In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for it seemed good in thy sight (Luke 10:21).
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