“The Tithe; the Letter or the Spirit?”

Today we hear a lot of talk on the subject of tithing from many of the very prominent preachers, saying that God has given us no, they say that He has commanded that we are to “tithe” of all that we possess. That we are to give ten percent of our gross income to God, and if we do He will in turn look down and see what we are doing and bless us. And after all it is our duty...RIGHT...RIGHT? And we are given to understand that our money is really needed. Nothing can be accomplished without our help. First ask for money, and if you can’t send anything, at least pray for their work. So much is needed to pay for full time salaried preachers, youth directors, bus ministries, gymnasiums, Sunday school classes, etc. etc., and lets not forget about all of those foreign “missionaries” that need some money. It becomes very clear to everyone that there is a need to do so. Not because of what the word of God has anything to say about it, but more so because it takes a whole lot of money to be able to pay anyone to do all of these things of which it seems that God can’t get done without our help!

And I recall reading somewhere that in the early 1880’s that it was estimated that it would only require about 6 cents per person to evangelize the world! Why as recently as two or three years ago just one trip to the Philippines by two “New Missionary Primitive Baptist” cost $25,969! And the list goes on and on. And we hear the cry by these saying, “pass around the plate, support the evangelistic work! And I might add that the phrase evangelistic work is the new word used for modern missionary work.

Well, that’s enough said about that, let’s get on with something more profitable to God’s people. Let’s ask ourselves a few questions. First, what exactly is tithing? Is it really taught in the Bible? And if so, ought we not to put it into practice? And does it belong in our Old Line Churches today?

Consider this, there are two principles in the thought of “tithing.” The first is a physical one, while the second is spiritual. And the first principle points to the second. We will explore these two principles and begin to see the love of God, and the provision for His covenant people.

Beloved we need to seek out the Holy Ghost to enable us to “rightly divide the word of truth,” and applying ourselves to the study of the scriptures in order to understand this important subject, as well as the proper application of it in our lives.

You will recall that we stated the first principle is physical, and that the first principle points us to the second principle. We find the first principle in the Lord’s commandment to the children of Israel to pay a “tithe” in the land. And this “tithe” was to be taken from the first fruits of “the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree or from firstlings of their flocks.” These “first fruits” point to our Lord Jesus Christ, “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: for by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him: And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence” (Col. 1:15-18).

When we take the time to examine the first principle we find that this “tithe” was designed to serve one very special purpose. And that purpose was too physically support the Levite that is within the gates of the nation of Israel. And in this service the Children of Israel were required to rejoice in the Lord, in all that He had blessed them in (Read carefully Num. 18:24-34; Deut. 12:17-19, 14:22-29).

The “tithe” was given in the form of a 10% “tax” imposed on the nation of Israel. And if you don’t pay there was even a 5% penalty added. You may be asking, why impose a tax? Because God knows the heart of the flesh, He knows that the natural or carnal mind is at it’s very best corrupt, and selfish. In Malachi 3:7-10, speaking to Israel the Lord God says, “Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return? Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” And beloved these things have been written “for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4)

And we are told that the Children of Israel were to bring this “tithe” to the place where God chooses to place His name. So they were to collect their “tithe,” and carry it to the tabernacle and later on the Temple at Jerusalem, and present it to the Levites.

Why the Levites? The answer to that question is that the Levites were to do the service of the priesthood in the Tabernacle of God. Because that among the Children of Israel in the land of Canaan the Levites had no inheritance (See Num. 18:20-24; Deut. 14:22-29). That is they had no land of their own. They were to serve the Lord in the Tabernacle, and the Temple. So this “tithe” served as their only means of financial support. So the “tithe” would supply their needs, so that they would not be forsaken in their ministry.

So what if someone was unable to bring their first fruits to Jerusalem, maybe because of their age, or there was too much for them to carry? Well, in that case they were to sell that portion of their first fruits and “turn it into money,” and bring the sum of it with them to Jerusalem. And when they arrived they were to take that money and purchase food, bring it to the Lord, and take the money “for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth,” and then they were to “eat there before the LORD” their “God,” and they were to “rejoice” with all of their “household.”
And added to that every 3 years the Children of Israel were to come, and when they arrived, they were to set all of this “tithe” within the gates of the city so that along with the Levites, “the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates,” could come, and “eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.”

And then later on we find in 2 Chron. 31:3, that the Lord also appointed the king’s a portion or “tithe” of another 5% of their “substance for the burnt offerings, to wit, for the morning and evening burnt offerings, and the burnt offerings for the sabbaths, and for the new moons, and for the set feasts, as it is written in the law of the LORD.” And that was to be on top of what they gave the Levites!

To illustrate how well this law works, by that I mean how well that the flesh responds in keeping the law of the “tithe,” and please make no mistake about it, this is a law, lets read the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 23: 23, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” In keeping the law they had only done what was required on the surface of the law. Only the part of the law that could be seen by men! They had tithed even down to their spices. But beloved they had “omitted,” or left out, neglected, and completely ignored the “weightier” or far-reaching and significant “matters of the law.” They left off the second principle that concerned the law of the tithe, which Jesus says was, “judgment, mercy, and faith!”

Let me give you an example in Mark 7: 8-13, Jesus said that the Jews were laying aside God’s commandments, and in there place followed after the traditions of men with such things “as the washing of pots and cups.” He said, “Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, ‘Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:’ But ye say, if a man shall say to his father or mother, ‘it is Corban,’ that is to say, a gift, ‘by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.’ And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.” They were saying that it was perfectly alright for a man to disregard his needy parents, telling them, ‘sorry, I can’t help you! Because I have given to God what would have been given to you.’

The “tithers” of today display a spirit of covetousness, when they come and put pressure put on people to pay their fair share? Why sometimes if they can’t or won’t pay their far share or their tithe, the “tithers” will even take them to a court of law, to try to force them to pay up! They are no different than those in our Lord‘s day of whom He said in Matthew 23:4, “For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.”
With the coming of our lord Jesus Christ into the world fulfilling the law “to a jot and a tittle,” knowing that it was He himself who said, “the law and the prophets were until John’ (the Baptist) ‘since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it” (Luke 16:16). So the law of tithing ended with John’s ministry!

Now, our Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ has “made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life” (1 Cor. 3:6). And whoever follows after the letter of the law, is also under its “curse! (Gal 3:10).

Lets apply this truth to our lives today. Consider this, when we follow after the law, we are under obligation to keep it. And not only so but we must keep it to the letter! And if we fail to keep it in ONE POINT, we become guilty of the whole law!” (Gal. 5:3; James 2:10).

But Jesus in His Mountain Sermon placed the letter of the law along side of the Spirit of the Law; which is the second principle, for example He said of the letter of the law, “whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement.” Then Jesus reveals the second principle of the heart of the law, which is the very heart of God, adding, “that whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” When we read all of Matthew 5:31-44, we are made to see the heart of the Holy Spirit, which is life, peace and joy in the Kingdom Church of Christ.

In Matthew 6:1-4, Jesus gives us a view of the heart of the law of the tithe when he says, “take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: that thine alms may be in secret.” And where is that “secret” place? I contend that it is the heart of the born again Child of God! It is that hidden place of which the world cannot go! We are to go in and close our heart’s door, and shut out the corruption of the world, and God the Father who sees in the secret places of our heart “shall reward thee openly.”

The second principle is giving from the heart! The Apostle Paul said, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly,’ (miserly, covetously, or selfishly) ‘or of necessity:’ (because we are under the law,) ‘for God loveth a cheerful giver” (1 Cor. 9:7). Here it is! Here is the very heart of the matter! It is a matter of not a law, a tax or heavy burden! It’s the heart! Giving as the Lord shows us the need! When we see our brother’s need, and as He gives us a purpose in our heart! No a tenth of our income! No, a thousand times no! But like the widow in Mark 12:42-44, who gave from her heart all that she had! The Lord said, “That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: for all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.”
We are to give our all! All of our being! Giving out of not only our money and resources, but of our time, and our prayers! Not 10% of the time! Giving of whatever the Lord places in our heart to give. Knowing that “he which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.” Not according to the letter which “killeth,” but of the “Spirit” which is life, joy and peace!

And in closing let me clarify by saying this, if we see that our brother is hungry the love of God in our heart says we are to feed him! If we know that he is sick we pray and visit him. When we see that the kitchen floor needs to be swept, we get a broom and sweep the floor. We are there for our brothers and sisters because we love them from our hearts. We give to those who ask of us. And forbid not those who seek to borrow from us. Asking nothing in return. And the Lord who seeth us in secret will reward us openly.

God bless us to follow after the love of the Spirit.

Elder Thomas McDonald