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Two Texans Wrangle Over Tithin'
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Two Texans Wrangle Over Tithin'
Taken from Patricia Backora's current project
The Tithes That Bind
Brother Bill Blessing, a renowned expert on Biblical economics, has just preached his heart out to renounce and repent of his former teachings on tithing. Now he is taking questions from the TV studio audience.
One stern-looking lady was unimpressed. “Brother Bill,” she snapped, “your heart isn’t right with God, the way you peddle a cost-free Christianity, even if you do know how to play on people’s sentiments. There were times money was paid by worshippers at the Temple and you know it.”
Brother Blesing’s eyes darted a moment, then he brightened. “Sister, let’s start off by askin’ you your name, and do you have any children?”
“My name is Martha Smith. I have five children, and they’re all upstanding Christians.”
“What’s the name of your oldest, Sister Smith, and how old is that child?”
“Phil, he’s fifteen.”
“Sister,” grinned Brother Blessing, “did you remember to pay your redemption fee for your firstborn child, and if you did, where did you pay it, to whom, and what currency did you use to pay it?”
“What redemption fee?” she snapped.
“Oh, but didn’t you know? Under Old Testament Law, the firstborn of every human and animal is holy unto the Lord, and you can’t keep it unless you pay so many shekels to a Levitical Priest as a redemption fee. Where’s the money, Sister Smith, and who are you gonna pay it to? It surely can’t be me.”
“But I don’t have any shekels!” protested the woman, agitatedly.
“But if you want to be under the Law of Moses, sister, or any part of it, you still owe God that money.”
“I was planning to give a $100 offering tonight, but I don’t know about that now.”
“Sister Smith, I don’t care if you were gonna give me $1000. As everybody here’s my witness, I’d rather turn my back on questionable donations than turn my back on Jesus. You’ve kept the good Lord waitin’ fifteen years now, and I can prove from Scriptures in Numbers 18 and Leviticus 27 that your redemption bill for that boy has accrued to 20 specially minted Shekels of the Sanctuary. God could care less about Uncle Sam’s money, that’s in Caesar’s domain.”
“I certainly haven’t heard that one before,” said Sister Smith. “Just why won’t U.S. currency do?”
“Well, sister, if you’re gonna keep the Old Law, you’ve gotta do it on God’s terms. Remember how Jesus showed some people a coin with Caesar’s picture on it and said: ‘Render to God what belongs to God, and to Caesar what belongs to Caesar’? To put it bluntly, Caesar’s money just ain’t holy enough to settle Old Testament religious debts with. Under the Old Covenant, it was expressly prohibited to worship God with anything that had an image of any livin’ creature on it. In Jesus’ day, secular currency had to be exchanged for the Sanctuary Shekel before it could be offered unto the Lord. Secular coins bore the image of Caesar, a heathen emperor, just like our own money has American presidents on it.”
“Surely God isn’t that picky,” said the lady.
“Oh, but He is, sister. Back in King David’s day, a man got killed just for puttin’ his hand on the Ark of the Covenant, to keep it from fallin’ from an oxcart onto the road. That tragedy could’a been avoided altogether if only that Ark had been transported back to Jerusalem the right way, as God commanded. Levites were supposed to pick the Covenant Box up with specially made poles and carry it on top of their shoulders. Even the Priests were forbidden to touch this Most Holy object with sinful hands, a place where God’s Presence rested. But those people didn’t listen to God, and that poor guy died. Whenever we tinker around with the way a Holy God wants things done, it’s downright lethal. That’s exactly what tithe teachers are doin’ today, as they reintroduce, reinterpret, and rigidly enforce old laws nailed to the Cross of Christ.”
“Now, sister, if you still think the New Covenant’s too easy to suit you and you insist on goin’ back to the Old Law, it’s a package deal, and you’ve gotta shoulder the whole burden of it. The Bible says that whoever offends in just one point of the Law is guilty of breakin’ the whole thing. So let’s just tackle this knotty problem first. It’s enough to chew on. If you fail to find a way to keep that Law about payin’ the redemption fee, you’ll come under a curse, just like those rascally priests who robbed God in Malachi’s day. Galatians 3:10 says this: As many as are under the Law are under the curse. Now, if a professional priest who knew all the ordinances of Moses inside out couldn’t keep the whole Law, neither could you.”
“Well,” hedged the woman nervously, “I live a very commendable Christian life, considering the kind of husband I have to put up with everyday!”
“Sister, God’s gonna hold your husband accountable for his own sins, and they probably are worse than yours in some ways. But know this: Our God will settle for nothin’ less than absolute perfection, and if you can’t deliver that degree of perfection, you won’t inherit the Kingdom of God any more than he will. That is, unless you place your trust in none other righteousness than that of our Savior, Who alone was able to fulfill all the points of the Law in His own sinless life. Think you can do that, sister?”
“I think God expects me to stand on my own two feet,” she huffed, “as any mature person would! I’ve made a covenant with God, too. He doesn’t have to bless me unless I pay Him 10% of all the money that falls into my hands. After all, it takes two to fulfill a legal agreement. Tithing is a far more reasonable bargain than you give it credit for. After all, I still get to keep 90%. don’t I?”
“So that 90% is all yours, not God’s, and He has absolutely no say in what you do with it.”
“I never said that!” she snapped.
Brother Blessing frowned. “I think you’re missin’ my whole point, sister. If you first offer yourself up to God, as Paul says in Romans 12:1, then He owns you and everything else you have. He really owns 100%, not just 10%, but I think He might be just a bit more compassionate than we give Him credit for.”
“But if I tithe, I obligate Him to bless me!” cried the woman.
“Sister Smith, God ain’t some puppet on a string you can control with cold, hard cash. From what I gather, you think that the day you welsh on payin’ tithes, you can’t expect any further blessings from God.”
“That’s right. God promised the ancient Israelites earthly blessings, but only if they’d be faithful to observe all His Law. I certainly don’t want to be a poor church mouse who has to wait till I get to heaven before God ‘blesses my basket and my store, and I’m above and not beneath’. I want Abraham’s blessings to be mine, NOW, while I’m still on earth, and people can SEE how God rewards those who keep His statutes! And I don’t expect any favors from God unless I keep my end of the bargain. God is my Partner in prosperity, and I don’t intend to let Him down! He can count on Martha Smith to tithe to all those fine men on this Network who shed tears of tender compassion as they pray for all the Christian viewers who are bound by poverty; souls who could be set free, if only they’d keep God’s Laws of Prosperity.”
“Look what you’ve gone and done now, Sister Smith. You’ve been taken in by crococile tears shed by money-hungry sharks, I oughta know. God forgive me, I used to spend hours in front of a mirror practicin’ my Sarah Bernhardt faces to get ready for the show. Every actor knows how to turn on tears like a water faucet. It just ain’t that hard to do, once you get the knack of it. This is me doin’ my bit for the Hallelujah Telethon.”
He looked up at the TV cameras, squinched his eyes, and stretched his wide mouth into a contorted grimace. “Oh, Je-e-e-sus!” He gyrated wildly and jerked his hands heavenward. “Set your people free,” he groaned in his deepest tremolo. “Set ‘em free to sow a seed out of their need. Help’em believe so they’ll receive. O-h-h-h...JE-E-ESUS!... he shrieked, gripping his chest and swooning. “O-h-h-h. child of God!” his twiddling fingers outstretched like a hungry beggar, “you gotta GIVE, or God can’t give to you. Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy, and it’ll come back to you packed down like a cup of brown sugar, shaken together, and runnin’ over so you won’t have nowhere to put it.
“And,” he said matter-of-factly, “that’s where the canned organ music would come in to play people’s hearts like a fiddle. Only thing we forgot was the fake angels flyin’ around my head to go with it.”
After spending time asking forgiveness of the indignant audience, their intense debate continues:
“Sister Smith,” he asked, “can you forgive me too?”
“For all your silly theatrics,” she said unctuously, “I’ll forgive you. But one thing that’s unforgiveable is the disgraceful attitide you’ve developed toward Christian finances.”
“So you thought my attitude was more Christlike when I robbed people blind?”
“And you attacked the anointed ministry of other preachers by calling them crooks and thieves.”
“If my memory serves me right, Sister Smith, I didn’t assign any names to those crooks or thieves, except I pointed the finger at myself; Bill Blessing of Tomahawk, Texas.”
“But what about Brother Conway, and your pastor? You mentioned those two.”
“All I said was they had much to gain by me helpin’ ‘em. God knows their hearts, and every preacher out there who knows he’s guilty of the same tricks I pulled isn’t accountable to me, but to God. And those who know they’re scammin’ the saints are skatin’ on thin ice if they claim their ‘ministry’ is anointed of God. As for me, I was crafty about it. I don’t think I ever labelled my ministry as ‘anointed’; I just hopped on the same gravy train others were ridin’ , and I told so many truth twisters that I ended up brain-washin’ myself as well as others. I wanted with all my heart to really think I had a right to get everybody else’s money. Until Christ Himself got through to me, I doubt I was even in my right mind anymore, I was so far gone. Sin had deadened me to true righteousness, and I was a blind leader of the blind.”
“Well, still,” Sister Smith shrugged, “I’ve spent years listening to Prosperity tapes and going to conferences, and Prosperity teachers seem to be bright, intelligent men in their right minds. I’ve stored a wealth of information in my heart and head I didn’t know before, thanks to those preachers you just condemned.”
“I condemn nobody,” said Brother Blessing. “People are condemned before God when they knowingly twist Holy Scripture to make an easy buck off of poor people in Jesus’ Name, and cast a shadow of reproach on His Holy Name. It was only by the sheer grace of God I’ve been forgiven.”
Her eyes narrowed into angry slits. “Unless you repent and do your first works, you are cursed with a curse! Not only are you robbing God of His tithe by teaching people their ticket to heaven is free, but you’re undermining one of the bedrock doctrines of the church! One which gives religious people a chance to put their money where their mouth is, if they expect to get anything from God!”
Brother Blessing looked so sad. “You really don’t believe in the grace of God, do you, sister?”
“Whatever gives you that absurd notion!” she snapped.
“Well, sister, out of your own mouth you’ve made a pact before God not to take any blessings from Him you didn’t earn. All our viewers, far and wide, just heard you pledge to keep all 600-odd of Moses’ ordinances, which involve ceremonial washings, dietary laws, savin’ a bit of your biscuit dough for the preacher, and offerin’ up animal sacrifices for your sins. Where do you think you’ll do that? Out on your backyard barbecue grill?”
My, what a chorus of Texas hee-haws broke out. The woman looked round, glaring. “You’re being ridiculous!” she snapped. “Those people should be laughing at you, not me!”
“Oh, they’re not laughin’ at either of us, Sister Smith. They’re laughin’ at the very notion of tithin’ today as God commanded it in the Bible. That’s what’s plum ridiculous.”
“So you’re saying it’s ridicuous to be faithful to the inerrant Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation?”
“Sister,” inquired Brother Blessing, “answer me this, if you will. Do you work on Saturday, or just rest?”
“When do I ever get time to rest?” she sighed. “I’ve got my washing to do, my meals to make, my house to clean, cakes and pies to bake to get ready for company coming the next day for Sunday dinner.”
“Aha! Then you, Sister Smith, are in violation of God’s law about not doin’ any work on Saturday, the Jews’ Sabbath Day! Did you know how terrible the penalty is for breakin’ that law?”
“But that’s different!” she cried. “God changed the Sabbath to Sunday!”
“Well, that’s as clear as mud to me,” said Brother Blessing. “No Scripture says: ‘Thou shalt switch from Saturday to Sunday’. Now I’ve heard strong cases argued for either day, but we won’t get sidetracked on that issue. Paul said in Romans 14:5: One man esteemeth one day above another; another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. But there is a spiritual sabbath we enjoy each and every day.We who enter into Christ’s finished work on our behalf also enter into God’s spiritual Sabbath of Rest, by ceasin’ from our own labors as Hebrews 4:10 tells us. But even if you are bent on keepin’ Sunday in the same way the ancient Jews kept their Sabbath, you’re still breakin’ God’s rules by not doin’ it the right way. Just like the tithin’ teachers change God’s rules on how to do that.”
“Oh, you’re just being stubborn as a mule!” she protested. “You, who supposedly represent the Lord, are making a mockery of holy things! Wait! I’ve got you now, Bill Blessing, and you’ve got no answer for this one! My Bible says this, and it’s found in the New Testament: ALL Scripture is profitable for instruction in righteousness. That must include Old Testament Scriptures as well.”
“By the works of the Law shall no man be justified,” Brother Blessing countered. “That’s in My Bible too. Still, the one you quoted is very true, sister. Now, can you remember what Scripture says the tithe was used for in the first place?”
“To provide for the priests and feed the defenseless and hungry,” she said.
“Right. Although there are no Levitical priests today, the Book of James asks us this question: ‘If ye see a brother or a sister lackin’ food or clothes, and ye say: Go in peace, be ye warmed and filled; yet give them not those things necessary to meet the needs of their body, what good does it do?’ He also said: ‘Pure religion and undefiled in the sight of God is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction’.
Despite all the cheers, Sister Smith gritted her teeth and acted like she hadn’t heard him. “One more quick point, Brother Blessing,” she said, breathlessly. “How about this one? Jesus said “Whosoever shall break one of the least of these My commandments and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven.”
“Here we go, runnin’ round the same old mulberry bush,” said Brother Blessing. “As I said earlier, Jesus never did command tithin’ on money. If y’all will all turn with me now to Matthew Chapter 5, you’ll notice Jesus sayin’ right before that verse you quoted, there in verse 17: Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I AM NOT COME TO DESTROY, BUT TO FULFILL. And in Luke 16:16 Jesus says: The Law and the Prophets were until John (John the Baptist, that is). He was considered the last of the Old Testament prophets who served under the old economy of Law, and he said of Christ: ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, Who taketh away the sins of the world.’ At that time Jesus was about to offer Himself up as an Atonement for the sins of the world, and usher in the New Covenant of Grace.”
“Now what would cause Christ to bring up the subject of destroyin’ the Law? I suspect because there were lots of times the Scribes and Pharisees accused Him of law-breakin’; like that time He healed people on the Sabbath Day, when no work was supposed to be done. He chose the way of mercy over the way of sacrifice. And Paul teaches in Romans 10: Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believeth. In other words, Christ fulfilled the Law of Moses in His own perfect Life, which was a sinless Life He could offer up as payment for our sins. And In that passage we quoted earlier Christ warns us that if our righteousness isn’t greater than that of the Scribes and Pharisees, we just can’t make it into the Kingdom of Heaven. “Saints, that’s a mighty tough challenge to undertake, to live independent of Christ’s righteousness, and goin’ about to establish our own. In Romans 10:3, Paul speaks of those who, bein’ ignorant of God’s righteousness, will try to create their own kind of righteousness; instead of acceptin’ Christ’s Gift of Righteousness, which God, the perfect Record-keeper, posts to the account of those who believe on His sinless Son.”
Sister Smith said nothing, only gnashed her teeth and furrowed her brow.
“Remember, sister, Christ came to dwell in our hearts by faith, to fill us with His own Life, and to give us His zeal for holiness. Before God’s people could be born again through the Spirit, and have the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus dwellin’ in their hearts, ancient Israelites struggled to keep a complicated legal code written on tablets of stone. They followed the letter of the Law out of fear, because the spirit of the Law hadn’t been written on their hearts yet. The Bible says: Love is the fulfillment of the Law. If you love your needy brother or sister, you’ll do anything you can to lighten their load, even if you can’t bear it altogether. I’d say since the goals of the old tithin’ Law were: to ‘rejoice before the Lord’ in a fellowship meal with God’s other people, and provide for the poor and the priesthood; it must be that you serve its purpose when you share meals of thanksgiving with every class of people in the congregation; and also, give free-will offerings to feed the poor and support the true work of God both at home and abroad, don’t you think?”
“But what about those tithing storehouses spoken of in the Bible?” Sister Smith persisted. Aren’t they analogous with the church treasury?”
“Do we have to go through all that again, Sister Smith?” asked Brother Blessing, wiping his brow. “Food was stored in those storehouses, not money. Dollar bills don’t satisfy hunger, at least not directly. They don’t grow from the soil of the land, unless you mean the trees they grew from, before they were cut up in a pulp mill somewhere to make paper for the money.”
Will Brother Blessing ever make Sister Smith see sense? Who knows? But I wouldn't bet a nickel on it. There's an old saying: A man persuaded against his will is of the same opinion still.
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