The discussion about tithes and offering is a very sensitive topic in many Christian circles especially for those who argue against it. Many sincere believers have spent hours debating over this subject for many years. Numerous books and articles have been published for it and against it. Unfortunately, several critics do not know that they are barking at the wrong tree. The purpose of this article is to help understand whether those who observed tithing today are really embracing the Law or moving in the grace of God. The presentation here will be in the form of a conversation between two believers.
Eric: Hi Danny!
Danny: Hi Eric. How are you doing?
Eric: I’m fine. How about you?
Danny: I’m good. By the way, I heard that your church believes in tithes and offering, is that true?
Eric: Well, if you are referring to our manner of giving more than the tithe then you are right.
Danny: Is it okay if I ask you some questions regarding this topic?
Eric: Sure. Go ahead!
Danny: Why are you still following the Law by giving ten percent of your income to the Lord? Isn’t it that you are living under the Law when you do that practice?
Eric: Thank you for asking me that question. I believe it’s high time for you to understand that we also believe we are not under the Law but under the grace of God in Christ Jesus. Since we are under grace we move beyond the Law.
Danny: What do you mean?
Eric: Okay. Let me explain to you slowly. Do you believe that murder is a sin?
Danny: Of course. Nobody will deny that.
Eric: Can you explain to me what murder is all about?
Danny: Well, it’s killing somebody without the Law’s consent.
Eric: You are right and that’s a good definition. But do you remember what Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire”(Matt. 5:21-22). Isn’t this surpassing the Law of physical murder?
Danny: You are right!
Eric: How about explaining to me what adultery is all about in the Law?
Danny: The sin of adultery is committed when a husband or a wife commits physical sexual acts with another person other than his or her spouse.
Eric: You are right again. But Jesus did not stay on that level but expounded, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28). Isn’t this surpassing the Law?
Eric: Let’s now go to idolatry. Can you define idolatry based on the Mosaic Law?
Danny: An Israelite could be guilty of idolatry during that time if he serves or bows down to any carved images made in the likeness anything in heaven, in the earth beneath, or the water under the earth (See Exo. 20:3-5).
Eric: That’s correct! But notice that Jesus expounds on this as well by not limiting idolatry only to carved images but rather things that a person places at par with God saying, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matt. 6:24). Again, you will notice how the Lord expounds the commandment by surpassing the Law. I hope you’re seeing my point.
Danny: I think I am getting your point. So what’s the connection of all of these with tithing?
Eric: The Hebrew word for “tithing” simply means “tenth” of something. History tells us that this custom is already evident among the pagans themselves even before the Israelites practice it. This principle of giving applies to a regular harvest of income which includes fruits, vegetables, animals, or spoils during the war. The number ten probably is a number of testing like the ten lepers who were tested as to whom will be grateful. The ten virgins as to whom will be faithful to wait. The same can also be observed when Jacob’s obedience to Laban was tested ten times. The Lord also laments that Israel tested Him ten times (See Num. 14:22). We can see that tithing is also a test. Unfortunately, the Pharisees became so legalistic with the tithing that they missed out on the real essence of this practice.
The Lord Jesus rebuked them by saying, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Matt. 23:23). If you notice that Jesus said, “These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” In other words, it’s okay to tithe but do not neglect justice, mercy, and faithfulness. Unfortunately, the Pharisees brushed aside the latter by focussing on the former.
Danny: But isn’t tithing a practice under the Mosaic Law?
Eric: Yes. You are correct! This is why a believer should not give below ten percent because if he does what do you think will happen?
Danny: He will be breaking the Law.
Eric: Yes! And what do you think will happen if a believer observes the tithing until his last breath?
Danny: He is surely living under the Law.
Eric: You are right again! But what should a believer do in the area of giving to uphold the Law by not breaking nor living under it?
Danny: He must give beyond ten percent.
Eric: You are correct! In fact, the apostle Paul wrote, “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law” (Rom. 3:31). This simply means we should not break the Law but we must uphold, support, or establish by moving beyond it as believers. No wonder Jesus Himself explained, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20). Literally, to exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law is to observe things beyond the Law which is impossible. So we need to place our faith in Jesus Christ. Now that we have already placed our faith in Christ we are no longer under the Law but we moved beyond the Law while not breaking it. And in doing these things we need God’s grace. This grace-giving is generous giving beyond the tenth of our regular income. This is where you decide in your heart to give between eleven and one hundred percent. This is where cheerful giving and freedom come which became the practice of the Corinthian and Macedonian churches (See 2 Cor. 8:2; 9:7).
Danny: Okay I understand. But what if I still experiencing God’s blessing eventhough I choose not to follow His command to tithe?
Eric: If you think that is already God’s “blessing” that is not yet “the blessing” if you truly follow Him in the aspect of biblical generosity or generous giving. Besides, the blessing does not come only through material but in many ways where God will protect His children from anything that would devour what he has. I don’t think the principle of God through tithes and offering only applies to the Israelites but to those who will trust Him as they give generously. After all, whether you experience His blessing right away or not, what’s really important is obedience and trust in Him (see Mal. 3:10-11; 1 Sam. 15:22).
Danny: Now I understand the reason why the New Testament church did not mention any tithing because they practice generous giving which is beyond tithing. Now I understand that we believers are not really guilty of moving under the Law whenever we give because we uphold the Law by going beyond or surpassing it. So whenever we hear an exhorter encouraging us to give our tithes and offering this simply refers to grace-giving or generous giving which is beyond ten percent. Truly, we cannot out-give the Lord’s abundant provision for us. I learned a lot from you today!
© Jun Divierte (2017)