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Tithing – Through a Different Lens (Part 1)

Tue, Jul 8, 2014

Featured, Tithing

Piggy Bank“From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes – from their own sons or from others?”  (Mt 17:25, NIV)

Christianity is often described in terms of a relationship between God and people, and the Bible is full of various metaphors of this troubled but beautiful relationship.  It makes sense, then, that this relationship should penetrate and affect all aspects of our lives, and help shed light on all sorts of matters.

In the above verse we see Jesus drawing on this idea of relationship in regard to the paying of the temple tax, and I think what he said about this tax can indeed be applied to the somewhat controversial issue of tithing.

But first, some background to the temple tax: it was an annual tax among the Jews which raised funds for the maintenance of the temple.  It corresponded to an earlier payment commanded by God in the Old Testament, mentioned in Ex 30:12-16.  In both cases they were specific, obligatory payments – or taxes, essentially.

Just like tithes in the Old Testament law.

That’s the thing about tithes – under the Old Testament law, they functioned very much like a tax.  It was a fixed percent (a tenth) of the land’s produce each year, that was compulsorily paid to God.  They were detailed in commandments such as the following:

“A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord.” (Lev 27:30, NIV)

“Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year.” (Deut 14:22, NIV)

And so if the Israelites, who were under God’s law, didn’t pay their tithes (and other prescribed offerings), they could be said to be stealing from God.  We see this in Malachi, when God condemns the Israelites as robbers when they withheld their tithes from God:

‘“Will a man rob God?  Yet you rob me.  But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’  In tithes and offerings.”’  (Mal 3:8, NIV)

A serious charge.  But that reflects the state of things under the Old Testament law.  There was a certain distance between God and people (even God’s chosen people), a sense of duty and obligation, of contracts and penalties.

But when Jesus comes, he changes everything – our relationship with God, firstly, but with that, even death and taxes.

 

Joey

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    A Question of Law

    Fri, Apr 12, 2013

    3 Comments

    In a dispensation of grace, what kind of law – including penalties and punishments – should Christians apply among themselves?

    And with the separation of Church and State, what kind of law should Christians promote for their country, that would govern both Christians and non-Christians?

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