Tithing – Through a Different Lens (Part 2)

Tue, Jul 8, 2014

Featured, Tithing

Financial AdviserTithing wasn’t always a rigid affair, dictated by law and religiously repeated each year.

Genesis Chapter 14 gives an account of Abraham (then called ‘Abram’) saving his nephew Lot, who had been captured during a war between two groups of kings.  Abraham manages to rescue not just Lot, but also the other people and plunder with him.  When he returns victorious, he meets Melchizedek, who was both a king and a priest.  Melchizedek brings out bread and wine, and he blesses Abraham.  And then Abraham gives Melchizedek a tenth (or a ‘tithe’) of the spoils.

This, of course, happened well before God gave the law through Moses.  And so there was no obligation which compelled Abraham to give Melchizedek the tithe – it was given of his own accord.  That’s the first key difference between the tithe given by Abraham before the law, and the tithe paid by Israelites under the law.  One was voluntary, the other required.  Another difference is that we do not read of Abraham giving a tithe to Melchizedek every year thereafter, or for that matter ever again, whereas the Israelites were required to pay a tithe to God (through the Levites) each year.

In Hebrews Chapter 7 Melchizedek is revealed to be a sort of precursor to Christ, a figure who speaks of a different priesthood and a better covenant to that of the Levites and the Old Testament law.  In that light, then, the tithe that Abraham gave to Melchizedek can be seen as indicative of the kind of giving to be done under the new covenant that Jesus established – that is, a giving that is not under compulsion, mechanically performed at prescribed intervals, but rather one born of freedom.

And that happens to fit perfectly well with Paul’s instructions to the Corinthian church on giving:

‘Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.’  (2 Cor 9:7, NIV)

This approach is also consistent with the new relationship we have with God because of Jesus, as his children.  As Jesus implied in his question to Peter regarding the temple tax (Mt 17:25), God – the King of kings – does not require duty and taxes from his children.

So, perhaps to rephrase the question of tithing, and to follow on from the apostle Paul’s thought of what God loves, and to borrow from Jesus’ question about the temple tax, perhaps the question about tithes and giving could be framed as follows:

What do the kings of the earth cherish more: duty and taxes from their subjects, or gifts from their own sons?




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    A Question of Law

    Fri, Apr 12, 2013


    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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