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Friday, September 26, 2008

Abraham Tithed?

This is the first post of a thread on tithing in the COGs.

Some people go to the first instance of a thing being mentioned in the Bible to establish the basis for that thing. A good practice. We first see the idea of giving a tenth when Abraham gave a tenth to Melchizedek.

(GEN. 14: 18-20) 18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. 19And he blessed him and said: "Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; 20and blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand." And he gave him a tithe of all.

Abraham tithed. Paul even confirms it in Hebrews 7. This was 430 years before the Aaronic priesthood. Tithing, as it is reasoned, is now clearly established as a precedent under the current system as well. 
...Or is it?

When preparing a new convert for the idea of tithing, the COGs will go back to Abraham. HWA demanded quite a large percentage of his followers' income. A large demand calls for a weighty claim to back it up. What more weight could be added than the idea that something was done since Abraham's day - or since the very beginning? HWA's reasoning behind mentioning Abraham was to say that tithing was done before Sinai, therefore it preceded the Old Covenant, and cannot be replaced when the Old Covenant was magnified. This is the first part of a two-part logic. First, claim Abraham tithed, and bring that idea forward into the New Covenant. Second, like the first, claim that when Christ replaced the Levites, He gave the tithes to the ministry. In other words - legitimize a regular income, then legitimize claiming the income for yourself.

Here's what happened. Abraham was on his way home from saving Lot out of captivity when he met Melchizedek at the valley of Shaveh. The war spoils weren't even divided yet. Once they were to be divided, Abraham told Bera, the King of Sodom, that he promised God he would accept nothing – not even so much as a shoelace – of the spoils for himself.
I want you to notice a few things about that.

Take a closer look at what Abraham did. He did not "tithe" regularly, he gave a tenth one time. There is a difference. The difference is in the frequency. "Tithe", as a noun, means "tenth", or "ten percent". But it can also be a verb, "to tithe", meaning:
.to give or pay a tithe or tenth of (produce, money, etc.).
.to give or pay tithes on (crops, income, etc.).
.to exact a tithe from (a person, community, parish, etc.).
.to levy a tithe on (crops, income, etc.).
[Definitions courtesy of]
Abraham gave a tenth (noun) one time, HWA sees him giving tenths (verb) regularly.

Abraham gave his tenth to none other than Melchizedek himself. This was most like a free-will offering. The law being 430 years later, and the sacrifices being added even after that, there is no reason to believe Abraham kept a tithe as law. Tithes are not said to be free-will offerings, but heave offerings (NUM. 18: 24-28; DEU. 12: 6, 11, 17). Deuteronomy 12: 17 makes a clear distinction between free-will offerings and heave offerings, so they were certainly different.

Abraham was not tithing on his own increase, or his regular income. He was tithing on the spoils of war.

(HEB. 7: 4) Abraham... gave a tenth of the spoils

It can be argued further that Abraham did not give a tenth of all the spoils of war. This word “spoils” in HEB. 7: 4 is the Greek word Akrothinion (Strong's 205), which means “the chief spoils, or the best of the spoils”. It is only used here. This is somewhat similar to the "tithe of a tithe" the Levites gave to Aaron the priest rather than the “first tithe” as the COGs call them. The gist of the word Akrothinion indicates the firstfruits – an idea many should be familiar with.

Abraham tithed of the spoils before they were divided up, not just his own. He promised God before the war began that he wouldn't keep so much as a shoelace. In other words, he tithed on other people's goods. Are we to tithe other people's goods? Or are we to give away the other 90% of our income as well? To the King of Sodom none the less? No one suggests that!

But the deep question is: does this in any way prove we should tithe today? What other things did Abraham do? Let's ponder that.. it's quite telling!
Abraham circumcised his males. Even though, according to the Mayo Clinic, one of the word's foremost medical institutions, "circumcision may have many health benefits", it is clear that there is no command for Christians to physically circumcise. Rather, the circumcision is of the heart. Abraham also offered animal sacrifices (as did Noah, and Abel). Yet we clearly understand there is no need for animal sacrifices in the New Testament Church. Jesus was our sacrifice. Now, we are living sacrifices. Abraham had an extramarital sexual encounter. That can't be good. Yet clearly even looking at a person who is not one's spouse to lust after them in one's heart is sinful. 

If we say “Abraham did it so we should do it”, does it follow that if Abraham DIDN'T do it, we shouldn't do it? I would think so. Yet we worship Christ as our Savior and he did not. I'm not trying to nit-pick about the father of the faithful. But to say “Abraham did it, therefore it is certainly commanded for us” is gross oversimplification and simply not so.

Not being satisfied with Abraham, HWA then moved to use Jacob as an example as well.

(GEN. 28: 20-22) 20Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, 21so that I come back to my father's house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. 22And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God's house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You."

Jacob tithed. Or did he? Look closer at what is said here. In Genesis 28, Jacob is charged by his father Isaac to travel to a land called Padan-Aram, which is in modern day Syria, in order to take a wife from among his own cousins, the daughters of his uncle Laban. Jacob was on his way when he received a vision of the gate of heaven, and he spoke with God. God promised to bring Jacob home again, and to bless him with possession of his ancestral lands, and to make Jacob the progenitor of a great multitude. Jacob, grateful and in awe, promised to give a tenth of whatever he had to God upon his safe return as God promised. Jacob also made it conditional that God would have to bless him first. This was not a continual tenth, but a singular tenth of whatever he possessed at that time of his safe return - be it small or, as Jacob hoped, very great. So this was again not a true tithe as we understand tithing.

Friends and those deeply loved by Christ, when we listen to a person preaching, we should be like the Bereans and search the scriptures to find out if the message is true. I know how hard that can be! For thirty years I was a believer in Armstrongism. I was only recently set free from that unbearable yoke of bondage. It is hard when you only see one perspective. Sometimes coming to look at the problem from another angle is just not in a person's nature. Sometimes the pressures to conform are overwhelming. In that light, I give you this information freely in hopes that it will set you free as well.

*Part two of this thread is now available - We Are Not Levites


Corky said...

The only ones given the authority to exact tithes in the Bible are the Levitical priesthood. It is plainly written in the book of the law.

Nowhere in the NT is the authority given to the apostles to exact tithes. In fact, it says "freely ye have received, freely give".

Modern day: no one has even the authority to preach the gospel or to baptise. It was only for those who were commanded to do so and were given the Spirit gifts in order to do it.

Persecution and martyrdom was one of the costs paid by those of that "short work" (Rom. 9:28) of preaching the gospel as a witness of Jesus "in" all the world. That work was completed (Col. 1:23) by the apostle Paul.

Since that time, no one has the authority of the apostles nor the Spirit gifts of tongues, prophecy and even of "knowledge" (I Cor. 13:8-10).

The knowledge Paul is speaking of is the knowledge of "all the truth" that the Spirit guided them into. Why? Because that which is perfect came and anyone can read it and it doesn't require the Holy Spirit to understand it.

It's really ridiculously simple, trust in Christ and behave yourself in the way you already know you should.

Love God, Love neighbor. How much more simple can it get? Of course, love cannot really be commanded but the capacity for it is within you, if you choose to exercise it.

Bill said...

A few minor issues;

Paul was not the author of Hebrews.

Abraham having a child by Hagar was not seen in that culture as being an extramarital affair. In fact, such a thing was customary under those circumstances.

Bill Hohmann

xHWA said...

Well, Corky, you certainly have a way of looking at the scriptures that I've never heard before.

I'd have to say that I do not agree with ya. But the beautiful thing is people don't have to be in line with me, just Christ.

Bill said...

Corky wrote:

Modern day: no one has even the authority to preach the gospel or to baptise. It was only for those who were commanded to do so and were given the Spirit gifts in order to do it.

This is a good example of trying to prove a negative.

Paul said he was not sent to baptize. Yet he was called and given "Spirit gifts" in order to preach the gospel.

There are also examples of people preaching Christ who were not apostles. (Acts 18:24-28)

"The knowledge Paul is speaking of is the knowledge of "all the truth" that the Spirit guided them into. Why? Because that which is perfect came and anyone can read it and it doesn't require the Holy Spirit to understand it."

Not everyone had access to the writings of Scripture, and until fairly recently, the vast majority of mankind was illiterate. So God is a repecter of persons after all, seeing as only those who could read and had access to the Scriptures were going to "hear" and believe the gospel.

And the carnal man is not going to understand the things of the spirit, for they are spiritually discerned.

Bill Hohmann

xHWA said...

Bill, I would say that we believe Paul was not the author of Hebrews. I wouldn't say conclusively that we have undeniable proof he was not. Since we can only suspect who the author may be, I will credit Paul. It's neither here nor there.

Also, you are correct about the custom of Abraham's day. That custom would likely Abraham a pass since he was not living under either Covenant.
Jesus' word is the custom for us, however, and would not give us a pass should we follow Abraham's example.
I call it an 'extramerital affair' in relation to two things: Jesus' definition for us, and the Jewish tradition of the 7 Noahide laws, of which adultery was one.

TLC Tugger said...

I don't know where you got that bit about health benefits of circumcision. NOT ONE national medical assocation on earth (not even Israel's) endorses routine circumcision. 95% of the world's Christians do not circumcise.

See Romans 2:29, Romans 3:30, Acts 15:10, I Corinthians 7:18, I Corinthians, 12: 18, Galatians 5:6, Galatians 5:2, Galatians 6:15, Philippians 3:2, Colossians 2:12, Matthew 9:12

Circumcision is not part of Christianity.

xHWA said...

Well, TLC Tugger, I pretty much got the health benefits bit from the medical community. There is a decreased risk of penile cancer, decreased risk of std's, decreased risk of urinary tract infection, and easier hygiene, among other things. Google it up. Mr. Internet can learn you all about it.

Also, if you read what I said in my post, and other posts here, I make it abundantly clear that circumcision is not required for Christianity. In fact, it contradicts it. But thanks for the verses.

xHWA said...

According to the NCBI, approximately 25% of men are circumcised for religious, cultural, medical, or parental choice reasons.

That's not 90%, that's 75%.

As far as the endorsement of "routine circumcision" goes, you may be correct to say that no health association endorses routine circumcision. However, they all provide a risk/benefit analysis, and leave the decision up to the parents. So, the converse of your statement is most likely also true - none routinely condemn it.

xHWA said...

I am not going to publish any more comments of yours on circumcision. Please stick to topic. This post is about tithes.

If you wish to debate circumcision, debate it in a place that's even remotely interested in circumcision.

If your point has anything to do with showing how circumcision is required or not for Christians, feel free to comment. I however, have already posted several times on how it isn't a Christian practice.

Anonymous said...

There is no commandment for a monetary tithe, and there was money in the form of silver shekels, even in Abraham's day(ie,Gen.16:23-Abraham paid for his burial plot with silver shekels)
And yes, Christ was worshipped by Abraham, and we know that because Christ says that "before Abraham was I Am"-John 8:57-58,(Christ's title in the Old Testament)
Remember no one has ever seen the Father(John 1:18 & 5:37)and so who did Abraham see in Gen.18?

xHWA said...

I agree Anonymous. I suppose the manner in which I worded it was a bit confusing. Let me put it to you this way so you can better understand what I was getting at.

Abraham worshiped the being who became Christ. The Bible makes that clear. But they worshiped Him as a Lord only. Christ is a title, not a name. He wasn't "Christ", or wasn't known to us as "Christ", until His first coming. Moses and all the prophets looked forward to the day of His first coming. Today, that day is past. Now we know He is our Savior. We worship Him as our Lord and Savior. There is no Biblical evidence that those in the Old Testament worshiped the Word of God as Messiah.
And that's what I was referring to.

As for the money thing, I don't know why you mentioned it specifically, but thanks for contributing that.