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Over the past few years my blog has been visited by people from all over the world. Very few know me, or of me, they simply are looking information concerning the Bible and discover my blog. After many years of intense study and teaching, I've come to believe we are vulnerable to misguided and incorrect teaching if we don't understand for ourselves the teaching of God's Word. My 'hot buttons' are - grace, sovereignty, exhortations and sanctification. If you understand these basic principles of Scripture, and apply them to daily life, you will understand what it means to have peace, joy and absolute security in any circumstance.

Monday, May 23, 2016

ARE CHRISTIANS REQUIRED TO TITHE?

"Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law." Galatians 3:23 - 24

I'm going to do my best to explain this passage of Scripture because it is so essential to the lives of those who believe and call themselves 'Christians'.

First, the 'law' being referred to is the covenant in the Old Testament between God and His people, the Jews. God gave the Ten Commandments, see Exodus, chapter 20. He knew it would be impossible for anyone to keep the law perfectly as required to be righteous in His eyes. Notice that God put the law in charge to lead us to Christ. The intent was not to keep the law but to bring us into a relationship with Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

In many respects, it's easier to live by the law than it is by faith. The law is something concrete you can point to; faith is believing in something you can't see, touch or feel. But, when the Lord gives it to you, it's very real. Take note of the word 'revealed'. This is how we come to believe, by revelation. The apostle Paul wrote this,
speaking of the gospel he preached...

"I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ."  Galatians 1:12

It's only when the Lord reveals truth to us that we come to know it. We can never be freed by the law; it imprisons us. Freedom and righteousness comes by grace through faith, which is a gift from God. Ephesians 2: 8 - 9 teaches this truth so clearly.

I am aware that many believers struggle to 'be good' rather than believing they stand righteous before God. Right now here on earth, we Christians are righteous in God's eyes! The Bible is full of exhortations so the fear of not being good enough to please God is understandable given the many verses to substantiate this thinking. Many pastors focus on the exhortations rather than leading us to the truth of the Savior. In other words, they don't finish the story or get to the bottom line! Which is??

"But now, a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known. . .This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. . .all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.  Romans 3:21 - 24

God exhorts us to act like who we are - a child of His. We exhort our own children because we want them to live a good life. God wants His children to have a good life and He gives us a pattern to do so. This is different than giving the law.

I am going to get to the subject of tithing. Sometimes to create a clear, complete picture, we need to 'set the stage'. The more we know about the Bible and the better our understanding, the less likely we are to be led astray or manipulated.

I remember a young couple telling me that they didn't go to church because they couldn't afford it. Instead, they watched various televised services. A good church has more to offer than the message the pastor gives. Being a part of 'the body' and bonding with other believers is usually a positive, uplifting experience. Belonging and sharing are important so it's sad to think some feel like they can't 'afford' to go to church.

In the Old Testament, the temple and synagogues were actual physical buildings where people went to worship God, i.e., the 'church'. In the New Testament, the church is the 'body of believers'. At first, there were no buildings; people met in homes. Low overhead! There are now glorious church buildings all over the world. They require a staff of people, maintenance, utilities, etc. In other words, it takes money to support the church. I think most people understand that churches are dependent on those who attend to pay for all this. It also takes money to do the work of the church - share the gospel and help the poor and needy in our communities.

In the Old Testament, tithe meant 10% of your earnings and was designed to meet the needs of the religious, economic and political system of ancient Israel. Each of the 12 tribes, except for the Levites, received an allotment in the promised land of Canaan. The Levite tribe assisted Israel's priests and were supported by the tithes from the other 11 tribes who gave 10% of the produce they grew, and the animals they raised. In turn, the Levites gave 10% to support the priests. This was the law, see Leviticus 27: 30 - 33, and Numbers 18:21 - 28.

In the New Testament mentions of tithing refer to the Old Testament system and no specific rules about tithing are given for the New Testament church.  The Jews expanded the Ten Commandments in Leviticus and Numbers. The first five books of the Bible are called 'The Law'. Do these laws apply to Christians who are under the covenant of grace? No, they don't. Jesus came to fulfill the law therefore if you are "in Him", you are not under the law.

We do however have the opportunity and pleasure to see where God is working and join Him by sharing what we have for the good of His Kingdom. It also makes us feel better to be a part of something that is doing good. But know this, God is totally self-sufficient and doesn't need anything from those He has created. I love this verse!

"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else."  Acts 17: 24 - 25

When the Lord has purposed a 'work' He will always provide the means to do this work. If our plan to do 'this or that' fails, it simply wasn't God's plan. Our churches and various ministries often imply that they should get all of the 10% when we'd like to give to several organizations. Many of us will give much more than 10% overall. There are numerous groups worthy of our support, even non-Christian ones like wounded veterans or helpless, abused animals.

Ask the Lord to direct your giving just as you ask Him to keep you and your family healthy and safe. Follow your heart, not the law, because you are filled with the Holy Spirit - that's God's Spirit in you - and His Spirit will direct you according to His will, Ephesians 1:11. Sad to see people leave the church, or change churches because of money issues. Be guided by the Lord and His Word alone.

Thank you Lord that you make us aware that all we have is a gift from you and you are the One in charge. Give us clear direction so we feel comfortable and know we are walking according to Your plan.