Tuesday, May 03, 2005

TITHING...

'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. If a man redeems any of his tithe, he must add a fifth of the value to it. The entire tithe of the herd and flock—every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd's rod—will be holy to the LORD. 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.'

Leviticus 27:30-33

Is it biblical to tithe today? Are we as Christians mandated to continue the tithe and if so, who should we be paying this tithe to? The churches, ministers and clergy? In the scripture above the tithe is defined as fruit, trees, and cattle or flock (animals), it doesn't mention anything about money being given to God or it being holy to Him. One might say, well there was no form of currency at the time, people relied on the trade of goods and cattle as currency. That may be true yet in another scripture it states:
Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always. But if that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the LORD your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the LORD will choose to put his Name is so far away), then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the LORD your God will choose. Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice. And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own.
Deuteronomy 14:22-29

So, apparently there was some form of currency in the form of silver that could have been used for tithing, yet it was only used as a contingency. This particular passage also answers another question posed earlier, who shoud the tithe go to? From what I read here it should go to me to be used to honor and rejoice in the presence of God. Interesting.

I bring up the subject of tithing because it is something that, from my experience, is an untouchable doctrine within the Christian church, specifically the black church. Whenever questions arise regarding tithes one is quickly rebuked and told that they just should be paid. Many invoke Malichi 3:8 saying that you will be cursed with a curse if tithes are not paid. I even heard and have seen first hand ministers give whole sermons on Malichi 3:8 telling the congregation that if they do not give their tithes and offerings then they too will be cursed by God. Yet, I disagree with such a premise, how is it that one can take a scripture that isn't referring to the new church and somehow apply it or really mis- apply it, to today's church? It wasn't written to us but it was written for us. The Lord was not speaking to the church but to Israel, specifically the Levitical Priests who were responsible for collecting and giving the tithes and burnt offerings as Numbers 18:24-28 describes an order given to Moses to instruct the Levites (priesthood) on collecting the tithes(fruits, oils, animals) from the people and then honoring the Lord with a tenth of that tithe. So Malichi 3:8 cannot be applied to today in the sense that it has been by many, meaning, the true point of the scripture is missed if we focus on the tithing aspect from a monetary perspective. The crux of Malichi is regarding the heart of the priests not being with God, but having a contempt for God and His word. Demonstrating this contempt by only giving the bare minimum as burnt offerings. You can parallel this with the situation with Cain back in Genesis 4, Cain's sacrifice was unacceptable due to his contempt for his brother and unwillingness to give God what was right as opposed to Abel who gave God the fat portions of his flock.
Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought SOME of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought FAT PORTIONS from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

Genesis 4:2-5 (emphasis mine)
So the plight of Cain wasn't that he didn't give but how and what he gave to God. He did not give God his best nor was it from a contrite heart but one of contempt for God. Keep in mind here that I am not saying we should not tithe at all, but that it seems to be done in the wrong spirit given to the wrong people, and for the wrong reasons. I've stated on this blog before that we should not give to God in order to get from him. This is a distorted relationship to have. What if marriage was designed in such a way where each only gave love and support to the other only to get something in return? I think we've all seen the result of such an arrangement in many households today. The Lord doesn't need anything from us for all belongs to Him anyway.

Well, I will end here and pick this up tomorrow. There is a lot more to this that I want to touch on.

Until then, I would love to hear others POV on this matter.



5 comments:

DT7559 said...

Jerry, I have to say that you had touched a nerve when you decided to catagorize and or generalize Black churches.

First let me begin this by saying that I did not realize there was such a thing as Black or perhaps White churches. I find that to be very offensive, especially when you addess the issue of tithing. I do not pretend to be a bible scholar of any sort, but I do exercise common sense as it relates to tithing.

I have been to several churches that had mostly Blacks and some of those that had mostly Whites, but never would I refer to any church as being Black or White. Nor have I ever heard a pastor say that if one did not tithe he or she will be cursed by God.

If you read certain key phrases and scriptures, you will see that tithing relates and or parellels with the first fruit.

The first fruit is often referred as being money (gross income) simply because without money, how are we able to obtain food, clothing, cars, homes, and etc?

The question that I ask is, if the government takes taxes from our gross income, then what makes you think that God should come in second place. Just a food for thought.

We as Christians have a morale and spiritual obligation to help those whom succomb to poverty, homelessness, and sick by supporting our God in order to help our churches aid in these issues. What do you think?

Personally, I have seen countless times when the church I attended provided financial resources to those who were in need.

Churches have an ultimate responsibility to oversee the best interest of people, and they need our support to ensure that this obligation is met.



Here are some references from Bible.com at it relates to tithing.

Leviticus 23:10 - "Say to the people of Israel, When you come into the land which I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest;

Exodus 23:19 - "The first of the first fruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of the LORD your God.

Proverbs 3:9 - Honor the LORD with your substance and with the first fruits of all your produce;

Ezekiel 44:30 - And the first of all the first fruits of all kinds, and every offering of all kinds from all your offerings, shall belong to the priests; you shall also give to the priests the first of your coarse meal, that a blessing may rest on your house.

I hope this helps answer some of your questions. Nevertheless, I hope you become more sensitive when you choose to use the word Black.

God Bless!

Jerry McClellan said...

DT7559, first off, welcome to my blog and thank you for leaving a comment, it is much appreciated.

In so far as your contention against me for referring to "black" churches vs. referring to all churches, I fail to see the problem you have. My primary church experience has been within the confines of the black church and not a white church, meaning, throughout my life I've predominantly attended churches that are owned, operated, and located by and around black people. The members are 80 to 90 percent black and the pastor or pastorial boards are all black. Therefore I speak from a reference point of the "black experience". While I am sure there are plenty of white churches that are guilty of the same practices, I chose to specify the black church. My choice.

"If you read certain key phrases and scriptures, you will see that tithing relates and or parellels with the first fruit."
I agree, yet this "first fruit" is always in reference to actual food or live-stock and not money (gold, silver)

"The first fruit is often referred as being money (gross income) simply because without money, how are we able to obtain food, clothing, cars, homes, and etc?"
Who refers to it as money? It isn't in the bible, if you find it let me know.

"The question that I ask is, if the government takes taxes from our gross income, then what makes you think that God should come in second place. Just a food for thought."
As I stated in my post, I am not advocating for not paying tithes, I am addressing the intent and understanding behind doing so. No where did I equate taxes with tithing either. That really is a whole other conversation, yet one that should be answered for you already.(Render unto Ceasar...?)

We as Christians have a morale and spiritual obligation to help those whom succomb to poverty, homelessness, and sick by supporting our God in order to help our churches aid in these issues. What do you think?
I agree, but why can't we as Christians do this on our own within our communities, among our neighbors rather than giving it to a church where it is mostly used to pay salaries and bills? God doesn't need our support, we are mandated to go out and spread the Gospel and admonished to bare the infirmities of the weak, although this is in reference to the church members and not the whole of society.

Churches have an ultimate responsibility to oversee the best interest of people, and they need our support to ensure that this obligation is met.
Your intent in this statement is flat out wrong while the words themselves can be true from this perspective, the responsibility of the church is to go out and spread the Gospel(which is in the best interest of the people) as Christ Himself commanded us to do.

The scriptures you cited are good and appropriate, yet only serve to support my assertion about tithing, that it is not based on a monetary system but on one that centers around food and live-stock and the Levitical priesthood and has nothing to do with supporting ministries or the church but is intended as an expression of worship.

Michael_the_Archangel said...

First, I'm not going to use Scripture to either push for a tithe or not, as you've shown (and I see it every day) you can find Scripture to (usually) bloster one side or another of an argument. For me, a tithe is my small way of telling the Lord that I appreciate the good fortunes that He has given me and I wish to support the establishment that we raised to praise Him (as a group).

As for pastors citing Scripture and/or arguing that you are required to tithe, we've all seen church leaders do things that as Christians we question. I do feel it's important to support "God's House" but it's something (to me) that we need to search out in our own hearts and give according to it.

Bottom line, when I arrive for my final judgement, HE will know what was in my heart and mind (as well as my personal finances) and I will be judged accordingly.

Jerry McClellan said...

Great point Michael, as I will point out in my next post on tithing, that is what it boils down to and a plain, honest reading of scripture demonstrates that point. That the tithe was meant to be a physical expression of worship towards God. Many have justified the tithe by stating that it is to be used as a measuring stick for giving, a spring board if you will for giving more to God's kingdom. I think that is an acceptable justification, and my contention is really with those who continue to guilt people into paying tithes. Doing so causes it to become an undue burden, more like any other bill to be paid each month. I think the heart of the matter lies in first, intent (why are you giving, and do you really understand why you are giving?) and then direction (where/who is the money is going or is supposed to go to?)

Jeremy Pierce said...

Abraham tithed to Melchizedek. I believe that's the first mention of a tithe. Once the sacrificial system was in place, Israel tithed to support the Levites, and the Levites tithed to support the priests.

There's no mention of a tithe in the NT except during the gospels during Jesus' ministry. The command is simply to give to the work of the Lord, i.e. to support those who are engaging in evangelistic and teaching ministries whose work requires expenses due to traveling and due to ministering so heavily that they can't support themselves. This is over and over in Paul's letters.