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 dictionary.com]
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