Church of God, New World Ministries

Your Best Investment - Part 5

Tithing in the Twenty-first Century

The Church of God today lives and breathes and moves in a vastly different and much more highly complex mechanized world than that of the first-century Church.

Operating in a modern world has necessitated different Church procedures and up-to-date methods of organization. Yet the basic biblical faith and way of life remain the same. True Christianity is a way of life! (see Acts 9:1-2; 18:26; 19:9). It has everything to do with your business practices, your basic appearance, your day-in-out association with others, and the way you handle your money.

God has held out His way of life – His way of doing things – to all the generations that have ever trod upon the earth. He has always had a Work that was giving a warning and witness to this world – fearlessly condemning its evil practices and promising a better world to come.

The creation itself is mute testimony to the existence of physical law – unchangeable, immutable, irrevocable (Rom. 1 and Psalm 19). And God Himself is the great Lawgiver! “There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy” (James 4:12).

Here James obviously is primarily referring to the giving of spiritual law. The point is that God is the author of unseen, and yet very active, spiritual laws that regulate man’s relationship with his neighbor – and most importantly, with his God. A vital aspect of this great spiritual law involves man’s financial well-being.

Righteous Abel may well have been the very first human being to fully exemplify this great natural financial law. Notice the apostle Paul’s brief comment in Hebrews 11: “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous. God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaks” (v.4).

Abel was a sheepherder and his brother Cain was a farmer. Notice Genesis 4:3-5: “And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain to his offering he had not respect.”

Note the words carefully. They both gave gifts to God –but Abel put his God before all: he gave God the first, the choicest, and the fattest, Cain carelessly threw together a quick offering out of his harvest; apparently it was neither the first nor the best.

Abel obeyed the greatest of God’s commandments: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deut. 6:5) Jesus Christ of Nazareth called this” the first and great commandment” (Matt. 22:37-38).

You can sum up the financial aspect of this great commandment this way: Give of your best to God first! Giving – not only to God, but to your neighbor – is a living natural law (Lev. 19:18).

God is the great Lawgiver! And He expects His people to be obedient: and submissive to law – natural, physical and spiritual. The patriarch Abraham was just such a person. Like Abel before him, he was a righteous man: “Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws” (Gen. 26:5).  God spoke this scripture to Isaac after Abraham’s death; it was a sort of epitaph on the manner in which Abraham conducted his life.

In a financial way, Abraham specifically expressed his thanksgiving to God as follows: “Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils (to God)” (Heb. 7:4). Abraham was a tither (Gen. 14:17-24). The context of these verses in Genesis clearly shows that God received His due before any further disposition was made. Abraham knew that God was the source of all his blessings: “I have lifted up mine hand unto the Lord, the Most High God, the possessor of heaven and earth” (v. 22). He was an exceedingly prosperous man, one who was mightily blessed of God. His attitude of giving was one of the main reasons why.

His son Isaac and grandson Jacob followed in his footsteps. Jacob privately told his Creator in prayer: “If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God: And this stone, which I Have set for a pillar; shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee” (Gen. 28:20-22).

Jacob, while only a young man, promised to tithe before he had really earned a living away from home. Notice now a follow-up scripture, when Jacob was 147 years old (Gen. 47:28) – the last year of his life. Did God fulfill His part of the bargain and bless Jacob throughout most of his life with material prosperity? “And he (Jacob) blessed Joseph, and said, God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day” (Gen. 48:15).

Jacob had a deeply personal appreciation to God for all his blessings. God had given him a great deal; there was hardly enough space in the country for all his cattle (Gen. 36:7). Jacob evidently expressed this deep appreciation by tithing! “Of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.”

Some people claim that tithing is not giving, and is, in fact, opposed to giving. But this is a play on words intended to divide and confuse God’s people! Years ago a little religious tract had this kind of reasoning. The writer went to great lengths to explain how his wife loved him, and he loved her. He then explained how it was not necessary for him to post a “ten commandments of behavior” on the walls of his home when he left for a trip. He was teaching against having to “arbitrarily” obey God’s law! He pleaded for “grace” in place of “law”! Not that he taught disobedience – far be it from any professing minister to go so far as to openly claim he may disobey God and still receive eternal life – but the cleaver approach was one of whether his obedience was “voluntary” or whether it was “commanded.” He did not, he said, need to post orders on the wall which told his wife, “When I am gone, thou shalt not entertain the milkman, the grocery man, the television repairmen, or the garbage collector in my home.” His wife would just naturally do none of these things – voluntarily – because she loved him!

Beautiful, subtle, human reasoning!

But, suppose his wife did invite the garbage man in for a drink, and maybe more than just a drink. According to this man’s reasoning, had she broken any law? Was there any automatic penalty? Apparently not.

Those who reason against tithing, and who cleverly try to persuade people against “arbitrary” tithing, or a “system” of tithing, or “tithing to a computer,” are using the same subtle, and satanic reasoning. They like to leave God out of the picture, and focus people’s minds on man’s reasoning!

“Tithing” merely means “tenthing.” It is giving –voluntarily – one full, first tenth of one’s increase to God, which is already His! God Almighty reserves the right to tell you and me what is sin. We are given the God-granted privilege of deciding whether or not to sin! God reserves the right to place His prior claim on the first tenth of our incomes – and grants us the full freedom to decide whether we will voluntarily, freely, cheerfully give to God what He claims! He will never take it! But He will completely withdraw His protection and His blessings from one who disobeys His plainly spoken prior claim.

This attitude of deciding “I will obey – but only when I get good and ready, only when I decide to voluntarily obey” is the attitude of complete rebellion! Rebellion, according to the divine Word of God, is “the sin of witchcraft” (I Sam. 15:23)!

Child psychologists attempt to persuade timorous parents to use this type of reasoning when dealing with their children. Never “tell” the child when to go to bed, when to get up, when to come in from play, when to take a bath, they reason, but ask him if he is “ready” to do these thing, or if he might “like” to do them.

Thus, you avoid building up a spirit of resentment and rebellion in the child. If the child can make his own decisions, they reason, he will be far more mature. Following his parents’ orders will clearly warp a child’s development, they claim.

What an abominable teaching! And how evident are the automatic, evil fruits being suffered by whole nations, who are seeing daily the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them” (Isa. 3:12).

One who reasons this way attempts to exalt himself above God! He wishes to bask in his own super-spiritual aura of goodness by pridefully rejoining his great sacrifices of giving! He is exactly like the man in the parable of the Pharisee and the publican who boasted, “I give tithes of all that I possess.” Instead of the attitude of humble obedience to divine law, and to divinely revealed principle and the God-ordained way of life, there was pride and vanity in the lofty pronouncement of his own goodness in giving tithes.

God says “to obey is better than the fat of rams” (I Sam. 15:22). But to the one who says, “No, Lord, I will give only when I get good and ready: I will never give when you tell me to – only when I decide to,” we say he will be standing with those who look in wonderment and beg Jesus Christ to be admitted into His Kingdom, while He says, “I never knew you.”

Jacob said he was going to give God the tithe! “Tithing” means “tenthing,” and is giving!

God has always used giving as an ongoing principle to conduct whatever Work (at whatever time in history) He was directing through human instruments on this earth. By the time of the Exodus out of Egypt, the descendants of Abraham. Isaac and Jacob had grown from a small patriarchal family of several hundred (including servants and herdsmen) to a great multitude of from two to five million people. The size of the population dictated the need for a code of law in writing to govern such a great multitude of people. Yet the principles of giving remained the same as before.

Notice Numbers 18:21. “And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.”

Here God turned His tithe over to the Levitical priesthood for their use in the administration and conduct of His Work in the time of Moses. Its origins, however, clearly were not Levitical. Notice: “And all the tithe of the land is the Lord’s” (Lev. 27:30)

Its origins, however, clearly were not Levitical. Notice: “And all the tithe of the land is the Lord’s” (Lev. 27:30). Tithing goes all the way back to the Melchizedek priesthood, which may have begun as far back to Adam.

To Melchizedek, Levi’s great grandfather Abraham “gave a tenth part of all” (Heb. 7:2). The apostle Paul here makes it clear that tithing is not Levitical or “ceremonial,” in the sense that it began (and by implication had to end) with the administration of the Levites. “And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham. And here men (the Levites) that die receive tithes. Levi also, who receives tithes, payed tithes (before he or his children were born) in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his (grandfather, when Melchisedec met him” (vs. 5-6, 8-10).

So tithing had long been an ongoing financial law by the time God formally instituted ancient Israel’s civil law through Moses. It was not a new idea of Moses that completely revolutionized their monetary system

Hebrew 7 proves there is a definite link between patriarchal tithing practices and the later Levitical system. Tithing is God’s permanent, continuous financing system from the patriarchy on through the Mosaic dispensation- and even now in the New Testament era of God’s Church.

Time took a quick toll on the willingness of ancient Israel to tithe and obey God’s laws. Soon that united nation split into two nations. It finally got so bad that God had to disinherit the northern ten-nation kingdom (I Kings 17). Meanwhile, conditions rapidly worsened in the southern nation of Judah also.

However, King Hezekiah, a righteous ruler, came to the throne to temporarily stem the tide. He presided over a national housecleaning. Pagan idols and carved images of alien gods (objects of idolatry) were smashed into pieces (II Chron. 31:1).

Tithing was quickly reinstituted! “And as soon as the commandment (from Hezekiah) came abroad, the children of Israel brought in all the increase of the field: and the tithe of all things brought they in abundantly. And concerning the children of Israel and Judah, that dwell in the cities of Judah, they also brought in the tithe of oxen and sheep, and the tithe of holy things which were consecrated unto the Lord their God, and laid then by heaps. And when Hezekiah and the princes came and saw the heaps, they blessed the Lord, and his people Israel” (vs. 5-6, 8).

A couple of verses at the end of this chapter sum up the results of Hezekiah’s widespread reform movement: “And thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah, and wrought that which was good and right and truth before the Lord his God. And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered” (vs. 20-21).

As long as the nation of Judah obeyed God’s laws and faithfully paid their tithes, they were blessed almost beyond belief. Unfortunately, they soon went backwards spiritually and all too quickly joined their northern neighbors in the tragic state of national slavery to a foreign power. A mistaken belief that tithing “was no longer necessary” contributed heavily to their nationwide apostasy.

There is a great tithing principle in God’s Word which ever transcends giving of a tenth of all one’s increase. The entire question revolves around whether a person is of a willing and obedient spirit, and really desires to obey his God and Creator, or whether he wishes to be a pharisaical nitpicker and must, like a balky mule, be forced or dragged with the threat of a whip into doing every single task set before him. It is a matter of conversion and of attitude!

The question revolves around whether or not we are willing and eager to do all our heavenly Father commands us (as well as being instantly responsive even to those things which life may suggest for our good), or whether we are always carefully approaching the study of His Word from the point of view of “just how much must I do?”

In the Sermon on the Mount there is one scripture in particular that bears on this question. Jesus told His disciples privately: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill (Jesus came not to annul, rescind, or do away with the law, but to fulfill it – that is, to fill it to the full, like filling up a bottle with water). For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of the least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:17-19).

One verse in Luke’s account adds a great deal of emphasis to this vitally important point: “And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law of fail” (Luke16:17).

Then Jesus went on to show in the rest of the 5th chapter of Matthew just how He magnified God’s law. Using only six different illustrations, He first paraphrased an Old Testament law or principle and then gave its real intended meaning.

Our point is this: Jesus Christ of Nazareth did not specifically deal with the tithing law anywhere in the Sermon on the Mount. And it is not dealt with specifically and pointedly anywhere else in the New Testament. In most cases, the mention of tithing in the New Testament is incidental to another main subject being discussed. This is because tithing was not generally being questioned at that time. It was not a theological issue as were physical circumcision and the eating of meats in an idol’s temple.

So, what we are left with is the modern application and expansion of the Old Testament principles and laws (which Jesus specifically said He did not come to rescind or annual) related to tithing in particular.

God is alive. Jesus Christ is a living, functioning, active High Priest. God’s Holy Spirit is living and powerful today, and the Bible is a living witness – not a dead one that has been viable and applicable for nearly 2,000 years.

No one should assume that unless you can read a specific command somewhere in the New Testament, God’s expressed and implied will (and His desire in our lives, as well as in the lives of the “holy men of old” which are examples for us) is automatically obliterated!

God does not need to speak directly to His children twice! If God clearly expresses His will, blesses His people for observing His ways and His laws, and if we see New Testament indications of God’s Church following the same principle, then we ought to obey our God.

People begin to assume that unless the New Testament carefully itemizes and catalogs every iota of required Christian behavior, it is no longer obligatory: that unless you can find some reference in the New Testament to a practice in the Old Testament, then you are not required to keep it.

The point is, there is no New Testament evidence that tithing was ever rescinded, Jesus upheld the principle in His denunciation of the self-righteous Pharisees (Matt. 23:23; Luke 11:42).

But how would we know just how to apply the tithing law in the 21st century? How does Christ speak to His Church today? Notice Hebrews 1:1-3: “God, who at sundry times in diverse manner spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son. Whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express (character) image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high (a living Christ).”

But what about questions and problems unique to a super complex, technocratic space age? How does Christ speak to a Church that exists in the midst of a modern world with a different set of problems than those peculiar to the 1st century? Has Christ left 21st century Christians utterly without any on-course, on-target direction?

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John record in painstaking detail many specific conversations between Jesus and Peter. But none is more important for God’s Church today than the one quoted in Matthew 16:18-19. “And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church: and the gates of hell (Greek, hades, “the grave”) shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee (Peter) the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

The authority of binding and loosing was perpetually given to the New Testament Church until Christ comes again to visibly take the reins of government both in the Church and in the world at large.

Jesus Christ of Nazareth plainly said in verse 18 that the true Church would never die out. It was not dependent on Peter’s perpetual existence, tradition says he died, as Christ prophesied, in painful martyrdom (John 21:18-19).

And Matthew 16:19 clearly points out that those whom Christ appointed to lead the Church would have the right, the power and the authority to make those decisions necessary to give every age or generation since then the God-intended warning and witness.

And though Jesus Christ has remained at the helm – He is the Head of the Church today as much as He has ever been – He has clearly demonstrated that His awesome power and rule could work in and through His chosen human servants.

As clearly commanded in the New Testament (Matt. 4:4; Luke 4:4; I Cor. 10:11; Rom. 15:4; II Tim. 3:15-16; John 5:39), Christ’s servants today have taken a long, careful look at the Old Testament laws, principles and examples. We have already seen a rather brief “word’s-eye” summary of that view in relation to tithing.

Additionally, God’s ministers have been shown through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the writings of the apostle Paul that since tithing is a God-ordained practice of the Church, the ministry of God has the power (authority to take tithes) over the material substance of theChruch. In I Corinthians 9 Paul asserts his right of financial support, by the Church. “Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel” (v. 14).

Tithing is a living, natural law deeply rooted in the Bible and in the ecclesiastical and secular makeup of many nations in antiquity. Ancient Assyrians, Egyptians, Babylonians, Chinese and Greeks all practiced a form of tithing. Rulers and religious leaders of those nations either required, or themselves paid, a tenth of the produce or spoils to their particular gods.

In more modern times, John D. Rockefeller, it is said, accepted at eight years of age God’s challenge to prosper the individual who pays God His tenth. William Colgate, the well-known soap manufacturer, apparently practiced the principle of tithing all the way from boyhood to his position as head of a great multimillion-dollar corporation.

The Bible is filled with statements of how the living natural law of giving works automatically for the giver. It has worked for human beings down through the centuries from Abraham to today -  and will continue to work for those who have the courage to step out on faith and exercise this great principle.

Make no mistake about it: Tithing is a test of faith! The first impulse of our innately carnal, selfish nature is to instantly balk at the very thought. Humanly we would rather give by impulse than by principle. But haphazard, hit-or-miss, do-it-when-you-feel–it giving is inadequate when it comes to actively supporting the very Work of the living God on this earth today!

By knowing how a man deals with money, how he gets it, spends it, shares it, you know one of the most important things about him.

We have said that tithing is akin to prayer.  You cannot find one of the Ten Commandments devoted to prayer. Yet Jesus gives, not only many commands, but many examples of prayer, as does the entirety of the New and Old Testaments. We read that “men ought to pray,” and of Jesus saying “when (not if) you pray.”

Prayer to God is an offering of one’s deepest heartfelt intent coupled with thanksgiving and gratitude. Tithing and the giving of our material substance are exactly in the same category.

Make no mistake! When we recognize God’s prior claim over His tenth of the income He allows us to earn on His earth, from His wealth (all the gold and silver are mine, says the Eternal), we no longer have any responsibility over it.

Our responsibility ends when we lick the envelope, place a stamp on it, and mail it.” But what,” one might reason, “happens if someone were to misuse the tithe?” That is like asking what happens if your neighbor sins! Does your neighbor’s sinning somehow spoil your home? Do others’ sins taint your spiritual life?

Let’s learn the lesson of responsibility! God has given the responsibility for the conduct of His Work into the hands of His own ordained ministry – His government on this earth. If one, as Judas did during Christ’s time, should abuse his authority, then that becomes the responsibility of his human superiors, or of Christ, who is over all! As surely as Christ stands ready to bless you when you tithe, He stands ready to punish any who disobey, or who would dare to abuse their authority.

We give to God, not to any man. But to disobey God, to withhold God’s tithes because you fear a person might steal them or misuse them is trying to take over God’s responsibility. Tithing is an act of faith. And, believe it or not, there is no way you can prevent God from blessing those who step out on faith, and give to their Creator.

Make your investment an eternal investment! Make God your partner. Put your heart and your treasure into the Work that God is doing, the work of warning all nations of immediately impending global troubles; the Work that is preaching the message of the good news of the New World to come – a world at last living under the loving guidance of our Creator God.

TO WHOM SHOULD WE TITHE?

To whom or to what organized body should we give our tithes and offerings? It would be nice if we, as humans, could give our tithes to God personally. But for obvious reasons that’s a little unrealistic! The only other alternative is to give it to whatever group appears best to represent God on this earth. In Moses time, it was the Levitical priesthood who carried out His work. Today it is the Church of God which is fulfilling God’s commission to preach and publish the gospel around this sick and dying world. T

This Work, like no other in this era of modern history, is bringing the true gospel to the nations of the world. Before you commit yourself to supporting any “Christian” organization, you owe it to yourself to make sure you have correctly identified the true Church of God. This worldwide Work of God is collectively striving to fulfill the great commission originally given to the early Church – to preach and publish the gospel to this generation with all the zeal that God’s Spirit can provide! We sincerely believe that tithing is a biblical and godly practice – clearly designated for the financial support of preaching the gospel!

 
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