|The Tithe: Who's Robbing Who?
by Jack Helser
Preface: About 2 years ago, the Lord led my wife and I to leave the
institutional church we attended to home church. Since both of us had
attended institutional churches all of our lives, the new direction
challenged us, and the alarmed reaction of our friends nearly persuaded
us to ignore the Lord's leading. Finally, after the Lord showed us numerous
scripture references about believers meeting in homes (Acts 5:42, Acts 8:3,
Acts 16:40, Acts 20:20, Romans 16:3-5, 1 Corinthians 16:19, Colossians 4:15,
Philemon 1:2), and that there is not even one scripture in the New Testament
where believers erected a dedicated church building, we were put at ease about
home church fellowship.
Home Church is a new path for us, and the questions are many, as we feel our way along in this vast new territory. Still it is a wonderful adventure, and provides the kind of relational Christian fellowship, freedom and flexibility we have always longed for. One of the nagging questions for me as a 'Home Churcher' is the subject of the 'collection'. There are clues in the New Testament about giving, such as the glimpses of the early Church provided by Acts 2:42-47 and Acts 4:32-37 where everything was shared, every need was met, and there were no needy persons among them. There is also the picture in Acts 6 where the Apostles devoted themselves to the Word, and chose 7 men to oversee the daily distribution of food among the believers.
Clearly, the giving ('collective wealth') of the early Church was shared by all, in as much as the people obviously discussed their needs so that they could help each other meet those needs, and feed each other on a daily basis. Other scriptures support this conclusion, such as 'carry each other's burdens' (Galatians 6:2), 'love by actions' (1 John 3:18), etc. The early Church was a close knit family who really 'walked the talk'.
The picture of the Church that emerges from these scriptures differs RADICALLY from the Old Testament. In the OT, the Levite priests were the recipients of the tithe, and the 12 tribes of Israel were responsible to bring the tithe to the priests. The reason for that was simple, the Levites did not receive any land as an inheritance to raise flocks and herds or grow fruit and grain. They worked in the temple day and night, so someone had to feed them and their families.
Now we turn the page to the New Testament, and suddenly EVERY BELIEVER is benefiting from the offerings of the Church, not just a select few.
The reason for that became clear when the Lord showed me 1 Peter 2:5 and 9, and Revelation 1:6, in which the Word says we are ALL PRIESTS. The Word of God also makes it clear that as believers in Jesus Christ, we are SONS of God (1 John 3:1, Galatians 3:26), and Jesus said in Matthew 17:25-27 that the SONS ARE FREE (exempt from the temple tax). It is also very important to note that Stephen and Paul stated clearly in Acts 7:48 and Acts 17:24 (respectively) that God does NOT live in houses made by human hands. Rather, God now lives in US - we are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16).
If we believe the Word of God about who we are (Priests, Sons, the Temple of the Holy Spirit), we can clearly see another of the fatal flaws of trying to re-implement the OT "tithe" in the NT church. The Biblical pattern for the OT tithe is that it was the NON- priest tribes (the 12 tribes of Jacob) who brought the tithe to the temple. The priest tribe (Levi) received the tithe. In fact, the priests (Levi) could NOT tithe because they didn't grow food! Far more important than that though, is that God was the inheritance of the Levites, and as such the Levites were WHOLLY consecrated/ devoted to serving God. In other words, instead of getting off with giving just 10% of their food-stuffs to God as did the other tribes, the Levites had to give 100% of themselves to God!
The Levite priesthood is the picture (a fore-shadow) of New Testament believers, who have also received God as their inheritance by giving themselves WHOLLY (100%) to Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:24-25).
That all believers are IN Jesus Christ who is our High Priest forever and as such all believers are priests, sons, and the temple of the Holy Spirit, is the basis and reason for every believer sharing in the gifts ('collective wealth') of the Church.
Following the train of thought that ALL Priests are to share in what is given, and backing it up with the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:40 wherein He makes it clear that giving to His "brothers" (all believers) is the same as giving to Christ directly, we need to assess who is really being robbed when ministers quote Malachi 3:8-9 to their congregations of believers.
8. "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. "But you ask, `How do we rob you?' "In tithes
and offerings. 9. You are under a curse--the whole nation of you--because you are
Please take a look at Malachi 3:5 with me:
5. "So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me," says the LORD Almighty.
Notice that one of the things God is angry about is that laborers are defrauded of their wages. Owing that Malachi and Nehemiah were written at about the same time, I believe the fraud (robbery) spoken of in Malachi 3, is described in detail in Nehemiah 13:4-13. In this text we see how that robbery was taking place. What I gather from the scripture, is that it was NOT that the Israelite's were withholding the tithe from God, but rather Eliashib the priest opened the temple store rooms to Tobiah and the portions of food assigned to the Levites were not given to them. (Tobiah was an Ammonite who worshipped the pagan-god Molech according to Ezra 2:59-60 and Nehemiah 2:10). In fact, Nehemiah 13:12 says ALL JUDAH brought the tithe to the storerooms, and once TRUSTWORTHY priests were put in charge of the storerooms, the Levite priests once again received their portion (verse 13).
The 'robbing of God' wasn't taking place with the 'bringing' of the tithe, it was taking place with the 'distribution' of the tithe to the priests. The wicked priest Eliashib and Tobiah the Ammonite (pagan) were apparently raiding the storerooms of the temple for themselves. What God considered robbery (fraud) was withholding the tithe from His priests, who abandoned their service to God when they weren't fed.
And there in Nehemiah 13:4-13 you have THE VERY picture of what is happening in the Church today: the priesthood of believers is being robbed by those who are in charge of the 'temple store room'.
Brethren, EVERY BELIEVER IS A PRIEST and as a priest YOU are entitled to share in the gifts (collective wealth) of the Church to meet YOUR needs (Acts 2:42-47 and Acts 4:32-37), for food and drink (Acts 6:1 and Matthew 25:35), for shelter, clothes and medical expenses (Matthew 25:35-36).
Brethren, you aren't the ones robbing God. The ones robbing God are the very ones who are accusing you!
To be ABSOLUTELY CLEAR in this matter:
Sons do NOT tithe. The SONS are FREE. WE are ALL SONS (Matthew 17:27, 1 John 3:1, Galatians 3:26).
Priests do not tithe from their own labors, they receive the tithes of those who do. WE are all PRIESTS (Numbers 18:20-23, Hebrews 7:5, 1 Peter 2:5 and 9, Revelation 1:6).
Reason: Numbers 18:26-30 or so dies indicate that priests tithe out of the tithe they receive from the tribes - it was called a "heave offering", and was the 'best of the best' which they gave to God through Aaron. It doesn't really affect the article at all - but the statement "Priests do NOT tithe" might have been misunderstood. The 'context' I was going for though is still true - that the 12 tribes worked the land and out of what they produced, they tithed. The Levite priests served in the temple - having given their lives to God in exchange for God being their inheritance - so in the sense of the other tribes, they do not labor - they 'serve'.
The tithe was brought to the temple in Jerusalem. The temple is NO LONGER a building. WE are now the TEMPLE (Malachi 3:10, Acts 7:48-50, Acts 17:24, 1 Corinthians 3:16).
It is for THESE REASONS the early Church shared EVERYTHING with each other!
FLIP-SIDE OF THE TITHE
One recurring thought I've had about articles which expose the false teaching of the tithe, is that the FLIP SIDE of the tithe is seldom discussed. Here's what I mean:
Acts 2:44 All the Lord's followers often met together, and they shared everything they had. Acts 2:45 They would sell their property and possessions and give the money to whoever needed it. Acts 2:46 Day after day they met together in the temple. They broke bread together in different homes and shared their food happily and freely, Acts 2:47 while praising God. Everyone liked them, and each day the Lord added to their group others who were being saved.
Acts 4:32 The group of followers all felt the same way about everything. None of them claimed that their possessions were their own, and they shared everything they had with each other. Acts 4:33 In a powerful way the apostles told everyone that the Lord Jesus was now alive. God greatly blessed his followers, Acts 4:34 and no one went in need of anything. Everyone who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money Acts 4:35 to the apostles. Then they would give the money to anyone who needed it.
Notice all those scriptures that imply they freely sold their land and possessions, and then shared ALL the proceeds with the community of believers? Acts 2:46 also indicates that they practiced HOSPITALITY on a regular basis. I find some relief in Acts 2:46 in that it is clear the believers had their own homes to live in.
The early Church was so committed to the Lord and to each other that they shared EVERYTHING and sold their possessions and shared ALL the proceeds - which is 100%. Faced with giving ALL / 100%, perhaps that is why the tithe is so attractive to your average run-of-the-mill church goer. The 'tithe' lets people get by with just 10%, whereas the examples in scripture require 100%.
What concerns me is that people, myself included, are glad to see the lie of the tithe exposed, but we resist embracing the truth that ALL / 100% of what we have belongs to the Lord. Since all that we have and are belongs to the Lord, we are expected to share what we have with our brothers and sisters who are also in the Lord. Our mindset that by abolishing the 10% tithe means we can now give as little as 0% is headed in the wrong direction .... we now give 100%.
I imagine very few of us are prepared to share everything we have, myself included. If giving ALL is the example Christ set for us, and if giving ALL is the example set by the early Church, are we really willing to cast off the "lie of the tithe" for the truth of "giving all"? And for me this is a hard question: IF there is something that I am not willing to share, has it become an idol in my life?