In Part 1, I gave you my back story regarding the research, questions, feelings and other stuff I had regarding this doctrine and a little bit of my experience when I took the journey out and away from this doctrine; we ended the post by diving into the “Malachi 3 Model”, which is constantly used to “prove” this doctrine and “true”. This post will explore more of the teachings than the last one did.
My thoughts in both of these posts, honestly, aren’t “original” in any sense of the word. I’m not the first and definitely not the last to write about this subject, I am just another voice in the chorus. Hopefully my “voice” helps those who are looking for answers. Hopefully, the way I write and the way I put this blog together helps people think through things like this and gives them courage to dig in and question the long-held beliefs, doctrines or traditions that they or their church cling to, but don’t really understand why.. Time and time I’ve said it already and this blog is relatively young: Questions are good and you can find Life in them. Take these things to the Father. He will show you Truth.
So, without further ado… let’s throw some more steak on the grill, shall we?
Using Abraham as our model for tithing:
I use to be one of the guys up on the podium who would try to smack his (very…VERY) amateur theological chops at using Abraham as an example of tithing before the law. I would do this to try to “prove” that the tithing requirement should be followed using the “Law of First Mention”. The biblical account is found in Genesis 14, the text referenced is found in Genesis 14: 18 – 20.
The “Law of First Mention” is basically a way to interpret Scripture through looking at the first mention or first occurrence of a certain subject in Scripture and it states that the first mention/occurrence establishes an unchangeable pattern and sets the tone for the rest of Scripture to be interpreted. Another way of looking at it is this: There is where it is first mentioned, that is God’s mind and final word on the matter.
Since we Christians are blessed with Abraham’s blessings and he tithed before the Law and since good old Melchizedek is a type and shadow of Jesus, then we should do as Abraham did and tithe…right?
Now, I do find validity in the “Law of First Mention” regarding other things, including giving (as a quick example – Abel gave to God by faith and Cain didn’t, thus demonstrating that God approves of our actions when they are motivated and done freely in faith) however I do not believe it is being used correctly when it comes to the principle of the tithe or tithing with Abraham.
What I have learned:
It is true that Abraham tithed before it was ever required by the Old Covenant Law. I have read different viewpoints talking about how Abraham’s tithing was based on old arab or old heathen/pagan traditions and although interesting, I didn’t dig too deep into that. The point is, he did give a tenth. Yes, his account of giving a tenth was the first mentioned in Scripture.
One important thing that is left out of using the example of Abraham tithing is: WHAT he tithed and HOW he did it.
Go back and read it for yourselves.
First, Abram went to war. Whether this is important or not, he was still being called Abram, not Abraham. Although God was leading him out, He had yet to make a covenant with Abram and change his name to Abraham. Back to the first point: Abram went to war.
The story in Genesis 14 goes like this: A group of kings (Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Kedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim – Gen 14:1) basically made an alliance with their armies and went to war against another group of kings (Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela aka Zoar – Gen 14:2). Four kings against five. Apparently the second group had been harassed or “under the thumb” of at least one of the kings for about twelve years when they decided enough was enough and revolted in the thirteenth year after gathering together and joining armies in the Valley of Siddim(Gen 14: 3-4 – which apparently is where the southern part of the Dead Sea is now located). From what I can tell (based on the short account in Gen 14) , the first group went on a rampage defeating other territories and then came back to wage war in the Valley with the group they originally had set their sights on (Gen 14: 5-9). Battle ensued, the first group was the victor and it is mentioned that they took all of the possessions, food, and equipment of the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, including Lot, Abram’s nephew and everything Lot owned also (Gen 14: 10-12).
Now, this is where Abram goes to war. The rest of this account is Genesis 14: 13-16. He wasn’t active in this fight until they captured his family, someone came and told him about all that happened. Abram decided to fight and did so in a manner that the kings didn’t expect: he fought what would we now call a “guerilla war”, he broke his army up into small groups and attacked by night. Makes sense, an effective way for a smaller armed group to maintain momentum and minimal losses is basically to attack quickly and by stealth under cover of night. It worked, because the armies kept running away and Abram’s little band of ancient guerillas kept chasing them down until they recovered all of the plunder, his nephew Lot along with his possessions and apparently all the women and people who had been captured.
This is what sets the stage for Melchizidek and the exchange that Abram made. Melchizidek blesses Abram and then Abram gives Melchizidek a tenth or tithe.
Second, Abram gave a tenth of the spoils and plunder of that battle, not from his own income or property. Some translations actually say “Abram gave him a tenth of all the recovered plunder” in Gen 14: 20, where some translations just say “and he gave him a tenth of all”, normally the latter is used over the former. Obviously you could see why, “a tenth of all” is a lot easier to use than “a tenth of all the recovered plunder”.
Third, he gave all of it away…all of it, not just the 10%. Read further into the text. He gave the tithe to good ol’ Melchizedek and then gave the other 90% back to the King of Sodom (Gen 14: 21 – 24)
Lastly, it was a one time thing. It has never been taught, and I can not find (although I may be wrong) another recorded instance of Abram or Abraham giving a tenth to a priest or any other holy man of God.
If you want to use that example and the “Law of First Mention”: Go to war and bring all the spoils back, then give your 10% to a local church or holy man and then freely give the 90% away to a crooked politician of your choosing (Crooked, you say? You remember the King of Sodom, right?)
I don’t see many Christians running off to follow that example, do you?
Ok, how about an easier example: Take your bonus from work (you worked hard or “fought” for that), or tax return check, or lottery winnings and then give 10% to your church and 90% to the Porn Industry.
Personally, I would opt to follow Abel’s example and strive to give to God freely and by faith, faith made the difference, not what he brought according to Hebrews 11.
You get my point. Moving on.
Using “experience” testimonies to back up and reinforce the practice of tithing:
“Test me” is what God says in Malachi 3 (yeah…we are going back to Malachi 3 for a moment or two). We hear from the pulpit how this is the ‘only’ Scripture that God says that we should test him to be faithful to his promises. So we do. We don’t tithe (or aren’t tithing yet) and then we decided to give this tithing thing a shot (or start back up) mainly because there is some sort of financial need or crisis in our lives, like needing a job or needing to pay the bills. We start to tithe and we get blessed through some channel or another.
It is a simple formula: A + B = C.
God wants to bless you financially (but can’t because you are withholding the tithe from him) + you start tithing = You get blessed. It’s not coincidence, this is God’s blessing on your life for being faithful in your tithing. This is the message and this is what we are taught.
What I have learned:
Is this really the Scripture we want to test God on? Doesn’t that say something about ourselves if we want to test him on giving to get blessings instead of testing him on the truths of the New Covenant?
As far as coincidence in the tithing and your blessing that followed: No, it isn’t coincidence. Yes, it is.
Yeah, I’m having my steak and eating it too (see what I did there?).
It is no coincidence that God is blessing you, HE LOVES YOU, you’re his kid and he is trying to raise you into adulthood!
It is a coincidence that you were blessed right after you started tithing.
Ok, think this through with me for a moment. God is your Father now, we have been given sonship and our very spirits cry out “Abba!” – or Papa or Dad/Daddy, if you will. According to Jesus’s own words, he knows what we need before we even ask it or before we even know that we need it right? Isn’t that what the Scriptures tell us? And as a Father, he is trying to help us grow up into the full stature of Christ, basically grow up as an adult in our faith and walk with Him. Let that sink in a moment. Reread that if you need to. Okay? Good.
With that thought in mind, isn’t it possible, that God was already working on that need of yours because he knew about it before you did and was delivering it to you anyway when you decided to tithe? Maybe, as a father, he was watching and waiting to see if you would come to him and ask him for his advice on what to do?
Why would he wait to help you out until you decided to finally hand over that money or that job or that blessing?
The Scripture doesn’t say that he knows what we need before we ask or think of it, but holds it back until we tithe to him! Remember, God works through people. People get in the way all the time. That’s a reason why “your blessing” would’ve been held up in the first place. By the way, if the blessing is really “your blessing” because you tithed, so God is “obligated” to do it…then…was it really from God?
Isn’t any gift from God undeserved and unearned; freely given? Just a thought…
Further, if God is our Father and trying to help us become adults in our faith and Walk with HIm, why would he want us dependent on tithing as a catalyst for him to provide? I thought he wanted us to have faith in Him, not a regulation? Wouldn’t faith in Him spur us to go to our Father and ask Him for his thoughts or what to do in any given scenario?
But, but Tom! I wasn’t working before I started tithing and then God blessed me with this job after I started tithing.
Did He really do it because you were giving him money that you could barely afford to give him? Maybe it was because you had been hitting the streets for the last six months with job applications and he had been trying to guide you to a certain job (because he loves you and knows what you need) and you finally applied for it? Remember, he works through people.
No, no Tom, you don’t understand! God has put tithing in as a way for us to be blessed and if we don’t tithe, we can’t expect any financial blessing to come our way.
Ok… besides the fact that God already fulfilled this requirement, that we are redeemed from the curse of the Law and it was never intended for us since we are not under the Law? He didn’t fulfill the Law and then “reinstitute” certain things…that sounds a bit more like another religion I know about outside of Christianity.
So let me get this straight, if I am supposed to be the picture and model of God to my children, should I expect them to give me things before I bless them? I am their father! I shower love, attention and all sorts of blessings on them because they are my children! Yes, they disobey and sometimes that disobedience gets in the way of me blessing them, there are consequences for their actions after all, I am trying to help them grow up. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that I want to give them everything I can. Sometimes, I bless them in spite of their disobedience because I’ve already planned on blessing them; because blessing them isn’t based on their actions but on my love for them!
Why does God have to “wait” until you bless Him before He blesses you?
Okay, let’s take a break here. Looks like my remaining thoughts will be put into another installment.
Woohooo! Hooray for longwindedness!
Enjoy your steak and I will see you in a few days with Part 3!