The Tithe is by The Law, but Generosity is By Faith.

What I am about to say will frighten a lot of pastors who teach tithing to their congregations. Tithing is an old word meaning “giving one tenth.”  The Law of Moses required that all Covenant people give ten percent of their income (their herds, grain, oil, etc.) to God (Lev. 27:32) in order to feed and house the priests and the Levites (teachers of the Law – Num. 18.21). Jesus spoke about tithing, saying in Matthew 23:23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” Considering that Jesus agreed with the tithe, many interpret the tithe as a Law carried over into the New Covenant, binding on all believers. But after the Gospels, tithing is only mentioned once in the rest of the New Testament in Hebrews (7:4), and that is in regard to the New Covenant in Christ  being anticipated in the Law of Moses.  In fact, Paul says plainly in Romans 10:4 “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”

Jesus Overturns the Money Changers Tables in the Temple
Jesus Cleansing the Temple

Now the word for “end” in this passage is the word telos in Greek, which means the fulfillment of purpose or intent. So Paul is saying that Jesus fulfilled all the legal requirements of the Law of Moses for us, and what is then laid upon is us the command to Love: “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’” – Galatians 5:14 

So, what is my point?  My point is that the Law of Moses which the legal requirement of the tithe was fulfilled for us in Jesus Christ, who met all the requirements of the Law so that we might be made righteous by His faith working in us. Therefore, if anyone is trying to please God through obedience to the Law, their giving of a tenth by guilt, or to avoid punishment, or to give a tenth in order to get a reward, then they are still under the Law and not living by faith, and, as Paul says in Galatians 2:16, “(We) know that a man is not made righteous by observing the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by the faith of Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no-one will be made righteous.” Rather than trusting in the legal requirement of the Tithe, we ought to be trusting Jesus Christ who has fulfilled that legal requirement for us!!

Okay, so where does that leave us? Are we to refrain from giving because we no longer have to? No! We should give more! Here’s the deal, God does not require us to give, He asks us to give so that we may enter into His character and nature. God is a God of love and generosity. He gives the rain to the just and the unjust alike. Even to those who are ungrateful, He grants the sun, the rain, and food. What’s more, He gives his Love to those who do not ask for it or seek Him.  If we are to become like God, then how are we to behave: through fear, withholding our giving; or in faith and joy, giving freely as God leads us to give? See how Paul teaches about giving,

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: ‘He has scattered get high abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures for ever.’ {Ps 112:9} Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. -2 Corinthians 9:6-13

There are a couple of points here. There is no mention of a tithe in what Paul says, but he talks about giving with a generous and glad heart. His point is that he wants us to enter in, not by the Law, but by the Spirit and, as we participate in the Spirit of God, we become like God. We become generous.  The second point is that there is a natural law of reciprocity in God’s house. The world’s system works differently. It works by scarcity, greed, selfishness, and covetousness. That is the system Jesus warned about called mammon:  “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” – Matthew 6:24

But God’s system works by faith and by generosity. In fact it works totally contrary to the world’s way. You increase in wealth by being generous, not by hoarding.  One of my favorite passages in Scripture is from Proverbs. It says in Proverbs 11:24 “One man gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.”   It is a window into how God’s economy works. It works by giving.   So, the law of reciprocity is a natural law, not a religious one.  If you are stingy and are afraid to be generous, in God’s house you will not prosper; or if you do, you will prosper for a season, only to have it taken from you.   But if you are generous, and a giver, you will increase in wealth and prosperity. Plus, you will become a partaker of God’s character and become more like Him. And God will be able to trust you with wealth because He knows you will do the right thing with it, and give when He tells you to.

Finally, my point is that your willingness to give is a window onto your faith in God. If you trust God, you will give. If you don’t, you will hoard or give reluctantly. Stories abound where people have finally become committed to giving a tithe, or tenth of their income, and then they finally start to prosper and get blessed.  I believe the reason they do start to prosper is not because they are obeying the Law, but because they are finally expressing faith in God and trusting Him with their money and with their lives.  The Law exists as a standard or signpost.  I say that if you are not giving at least ten percent, you are living in fear and not faith. You don’t trust God with your money. You don’t believe He will be faithful and provide for you. Your actions reveal your level of faith, or your lack thereof.  However, if you are trusting God with your provision, you will give and give generously. You won’t fear to give, or give “grudgingly,”  but you will give with joy and expectation of God’s blessing and favor.  The Tithe is by The Law, but Generosity is By Faith.

Are you living in fear of the Law, or in generosity by faith?

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