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Monday, March 9, 2009

Christians Tithe?

This is the final post (that I had planned) in my study of tithing in the New Covenant. How can I possibly sum this topic up? I feel no matter what I say it will be insufficient in so many ways.

In past posts we have seen that the best minister is an unpaid minister. Paul exhorted elders to imitate him (I COR. 11: 1), and he was unpaid. Unpaid ministers will attest to the manifold benefits of such a practice. The Didache shows:
"Let every apostle who comes to you be received as the Lord. But he shall not remain more than one day; or two days, if there's a need. But if he remains three days, he is a false prophet. And when the apostle goes away, let him take nothing but bread until he lodges. If he asks for money, he is a false prophet."

We have also firmly established the abolition of tithes - and not only tithes, but the entire the Old Covenant as well, taking the Levitical priesthood with it. What should the New Covenant congregation do? The thought of a Church without tithes is unfamiliar to some and naturally uncomfortable. What is commanded if not tithes?

In short, one word: giving! We can see clearly, both in the Old Testament and the new, that helping the poor and needy is a salvation issue. 
So, what is the correct method for the New Testament Church? Instead of a multi-tiered tithe system, Christ installed a newer (and in my opinion more difficult) system, in which the Christian is to share all that he has with his fellows. Ten percent seems an insufficient baseline to start with.... but there is much more! 

(LUKE 6: 38) Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.
(MATT. 10: 8) Freely you have received, freely give.
(LUKE 12: 32-34) 32 “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
(ROM 12: 1) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 
(EPH. 4: 28) Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.

The Earliest Example
What I read in the New Covenant bore very little resemblance to Armstrongism. Once again we see the idea of 100% as opposed to 10%, 20%, 30%, 30% + offerings, etc....

(ACTS 2: 44-45) 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 
(ACTS 4: 32) 32 Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.
(ROM. 15: 25-27) 25 But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. 26 For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. 27 It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things.

They didn't divide away 10%, they distributed to whomever had need. I should point out that this was in no way a hippie commune. People still retained ownership of their own goods. It was a simple matter of generosity. Whomever had extra generously supplied the lack of whomever had need.
(II COR. 8: 13-15) 13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; 14 but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack—that there may be equality. 15 As it is written, “He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack.”

Is this what Armstrong taught? Is that what we see reflected in his followers? Is there any doubt that within the COGs the majority withheld from each other, even towards their poor brethren? The idea of a tithe prevented the very mindset that God wanted to foster within us. We had already given at the office, so to speak, and our obligation was finished. It is a fact that we did not live according to this example as a whole. While some in the church had a superabundance (HWA chief among them), some went bankrupt trying to follow an abolished system of compulsory tithing. And yet, as is often the case, those who had the least were usually the most willing to give while those who had the most were usually the most willing to withhold.

Money Only?
Now, I feel it should be stressed that giving need not be monetary. How many times are we shown that God gives us Spiritual gifts, and we are to share those gifts. Perhaps a person is destitute and cannot give money. To a tithing system, that person is a liability. Their ability to contribute is cut short. However, in the New Covenant, we are free to give what God has graced us with. Should that be a spiritual gift, great; labor, wonderful; comfort in time of need, excellent; a good example, much needed. If a Christian has anything to give or share, it all counts in God's eyes.

(LUKE 11: 41) But rather give alms of such things as you have; then indeed all things are clean to you.
(ACTS 3: 2-6) 2 And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; 3 who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. 4 And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.” 5 So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. 6 Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”
(I TIM. 5: 9-10) 9 Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the number, and not unless she has been the wife of one man, 10 well reported for good works: if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work.
(JAS 2: 14-16) 14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?

Give To Whom?
The COGs have a tradition of not helping anyone outside their own organization. Anyone not in the immediate organization is brushed of as a lost cause, usually with a prideful comment like "let the dead bury the dead" or "God is not calling everyone at this time". Is this correct? To whom should a Christian give?

(MATT. 5: 42) Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.
(LUKE 6: 29-31) And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. 31 And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. 
(ROM. 12: 20) Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
(ACTS 10: 1-4) 1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, 2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. 3 About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius!” 4 And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, “What is it, lord?” So he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God.”
Cornelius was an Italian.
The Thought Counts!
No, we didn't care for the rest of the world, least of all our 'enemies'. We viewed them as useless; counting the hours until they would be swept away in the Tribulation for their disregard of the Old Covenant. This is a horrible attitude! It is judgmental, it is contrary to the Gospel, and it demeans those Christ died to save. 
We should have learned from the example of Zacchaeus. He wasn't perfect, but he gave generously and he made right his wrongs. When Jesus visited him, the crowd gossiped against Jesus because Zacchaeus was a sinner; in their eyes unworthy of God's love.

(LUKE 19: 8) Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” 

Did Christ judge him and dismiss him until the second resurrection?

(LUKE 19: 9) And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; 10 for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

Not only did we teach and live contrary to what Christ taught, but we were commanded to withhold any generosity. The tithes were not ours! Only Headquarters was close enough to God to know how to waste the tithe money. After tithes were sent in, if any was left, that too was begged of us, "Send in your widow's mites!" In the face of it all, we were told that God loves a cheerful giver. Well, it's a minor point, but one cannot "give" tithes as they are a requirement not belonging to us, like taxes. That being the case, then we cannot be a cheerful giver in relation to tithes. No... tithes are abolished in the New Covenant, but the attitude in giving still counts!

(MATT. 20: 25-28) “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. 26 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. 27 And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
(I COR. 13: 3) And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
(II COR. 9: 6-15) 6 But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. 9 As it is written: “He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.” 10 Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, 11 while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. 12 For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, 13 while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men, 14 and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you. 15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! 
(I JOHN 3: 16-18) 16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. 

Especially, do not be deceptive in your giving. Do not lie to God in making a promise on giving that you won't keep, nor should you make inflated claims about your giving (it is far better to hide your giving). Remember Ananias and Sapphira!

(ACTS 5: 1-11) 1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. 2 And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? 4 While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”
5 Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. 6 And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him.
7 Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter answered her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?” 
She said, “Yes, for so much.” 
9 Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband.

I would mention briefly that both (II THS. 3: 10) and (I TIM. 5: 8) talk very sternly about laziness and an unwillingness to work to earn one's own way. Paul is no fan of people who make a career out of receiving charity when they are perfectly capable of work. Charity is one thing. The poor will always be with us (MATT. 26: 11). Abusing the system to take unfair advantage of the generosity of others is something else entirely.

God Will Reward!
Not that I am saying that Christians should give in order to receive a reward from God, but at times giving is difficult and our carnal natures can work against us. Knowing that God will reward the faithful can go a long way to overcoming your own limitations.

(MATT. 10: 40-42) 40 “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. 41 He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. 42 And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”
(EPH. 6: 8) knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.

If Christ taught tithing, what place would the righteous have in asking “when did we see you and clothe you and feed you?” Clothing and food would not have been tithed, but rather food items only, since that is the focus of the Old Covenant tithe system. And tithing, being called mandatory as well as the sole responsibility of the layman in the church, even the source of their righteousness (which is a grave error), if it were taught by the Apostles it would have been immediately recognizable to all who read the Bible. In all of the early Christian documents we find absolutely no mention of tithing. In fact, the Didache is clear that the teachings of the Apostles were contrary to any demand for money. Instead, what do we see? I think these next two selections summarize our Christian duty nicely!

(MATT. 25: 31-46) 31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ 41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ 44 “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” 
(ACTS 20: 32-35) 32 So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. 34 Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me. 35 I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

With all honesty, beloved by God and treasured, you who are still in Armstrongism, consider these verses. Consider this entire study (not that it is anything, or the only such study), and consider carefully all that our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us [which is entirely nullified by a partial keeping of the law]. If you allow yourself to read the New Covenant without the fear of Armstrongism, seeing the truth with the spiritual eyes Christ gives you rather than the eyes of Herbert Armstrong, then you cannot help but see that it is true -- tithes are abolished. In its place is a system of generous giving. What would you say to Christ if you stood before Him, if He asks why you should not be with the goats? Will you say "I was afraid and hid your talents with the ministry"? I would hope not. All you need do is step into the New Covenant.

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