Friday, August 23, 2013

Truth on Tithing

Malachi 3:8-10

“Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. 9  You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. 10  Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.

Here is the truth: Those who are opposed to tithing are people, almost without exception, who have "Will Worship Religion" (Colossians 2;23). They want to worship God according to their own will. That is, they want a religion that will not cost them anything. For this reason MOST of them do not support a local church regularly in spite of what they say. They are grasshoppers that leech off of the ecclesiastical institution of the Kingdom of God, wanting to reap the benefits of established Christianity (baptism, weddings, funerals, marriage counseling, prayer when they are sick, hospital visits, schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, missionary work, Christian charities, etc) without any commitment to institutionalized Christianity that produces these services. 
Somehow, they hide behind the idea that tithing is keeping the Law - which is wrong. Tithing has ALWAYS been God's program from BEFORE the time of the Law (Abram, Genesis 14:20; and Jacob, Genesis 28:22).
I could debate the issue with them, but, it would do no good. They will not see truth, because they do not want the truth.
The Israelite had more than one tithe. The first and main tithe was for the living of the priest (Leviticus 27:30; Numbers 18:21). The second tithe was something like a savings for the family to make the required trips to Jerusalem each year (Deuteronomy 14:22ff). There was a third tithe every third year which was for the welfare of the poor (Deuteronomy 14:28-29). We, as NT believers are not concerned with the second and third tithe (which were added by the Law), our concern is with the first tithe that goes to the support of the ministry.
Now, having said that, I do have  a bone of contention with the way most pastors teach tithing. The biblical principle of tithing is to honor God with the first ten percent of one’s “increase.”
Since we live in an economy where hard currency is the commodity of barter, in most evangelical churches the congregant is encouraged to pay the tithe from the gross (instead of the net) of their paychecks. For some time this has concerned me, for the following reason: When Israel was instructed to tithe it was always from the increase from their crops and livestock. 
There are two things I want to mention: 
First: the Israelite was not permitted to reap the corners of their fields (Leviticus 19:9-10); this was left for the poor, fatherless, an strangers (those who had no fields to plant and harvest). It was part of the welfare system of the country. So, the corners of the field were not tithed because it was not part of the “increase” of the farmer. The corners of the fields, being the welfare system, corresponds to the Social Security deduction (and any other taxes that goes to support the poor) from the paychecks of God’s people. To require, then, God’s people to pay tithe from the gross of their wages is requiring more than God demands of His people. A further point one should consider is this: If one tithes on the gross, including the Social Security, when it comes time to draw on that money, no tithe will be owed on the SS check until the amount drawn surpasses the amount that was paid in. I just wonder if a senior who has paid in to SS $100,000 in a working career and retires with a monthly check of $1,200, will be permitted to remain a voting member of the church without tithing for the 7 years it takes to recover the money that has already been tithed on. 
Furthermore, since the principle of tithing is ten percent of the “increase,” to figure how much tithe one owes is not as simple as the amount of money coming through one’s hands. Let me explain: 
Consider the fact that Israel was an agricultural society and their tithing was unique to that type of economy. Not only did the Israelite not tithe on the corners of his fields, he only tithed on the INCREASE of his goods. For example, When all things were equal, if he had 100 calves born in his herd in a season, he would have been increased 100 calves and he owed the Levites 10 calves; which he either took to the temple or converted to money and took that to the temple (Deuteronomy 14:25).  However, if the Israelite’s herd produced 100 calves and a flash flood caught his herd and killed 50 of those calves, then, the man’s INCREASE would not be 100 but 50 calves. In this case the Israelite, being considered here, only owes the Levites ten percent of the 50 calves that he was actually increased - which would be 5 calves instead of 10. When this principle is converted into modern day economics one sees the challenge. The money lost, or spent, in making 100,000 dollars a year income is not to be counted into the increase. E.g. a farmer who sells his crops for 100,000 dollars, but, has a 70,000 dollar seed, chemical, fuel,  equipment, and labor bill, has not been increased 100,000 dollars. 
When determining the amount of tithe owed, it may be a good rule of thumb to look at one's annual tax return and tithe on the taxable income minus the social security payments (since SS is taxable income, but is the corners of the field). Of course one's church will need one to spread that out over the year so it can meet its payroll, etc. So, estimate this year’s tithe from last year's taxable income (minus the social security payments). One can adjust the tithe payment at the end of the year.

Of course, when this is considered some saints will not "owe" any tithing at all. In such cases it will be remembered that God loves a cheerful giver, and all giving of a person in poverty is a love offering which does not go unnoticed by Jesus Christ (Luke 21:2). Because one does not "owe" tithe does not exempt one from giving. Malachi speaks of robbing God in tithe and offering. There is a difference between the two. One may not owe tithe, but remains obligated to God with whatever offering one's faith may allow.
This, most likely, will not make me popular with the pastors and business managers of many churches, but who will deny that I have written the truth?

Apostolically Speaking
☩ Jerry Hayes