Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tithing and Circumcision

Really? A cleaner, fresher soul?
10% or more for "best results"?
Galatians 5:1-6
1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.  
2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. 3And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. 4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.  
5 For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.
Have you ever been in a discussion about Tithing where the idea comes up that while it is true a Christian is not under "The Law" but that Tithing was instituted prior to "The Law" so "it has always been God's plan/requirement"? Have you ever heard someone give that argument, or given it yourself?

I've discussed this subject many times and I categorically hold to the view that a Christian is not to be compelled to "tithe." As I point out often, the person claiming a Christian must or should Tithe often has little idea what a "Tithe" is. They think it is 10% of a person's income. I've often been satisfied (because I'm sometimes needlessly rude) by asking a person to define the Tithe using the Scriptures. Can you? To be honest, I can only do so in a very rudimentary way myself. It's actually a pretty complicated system with lots of if/then type clauses. Go ahead, do an honest study of the subject. What did the Jews really have to do in order to fulfill the Tithe? Once you know the answer, then try to figure out how a Christian is supposed to do all of that, and who exactly the Tithe is supposed to be given to. OK so that's a complicated, and actually somewhat rude way of killing the argument. Not only is it rude, it is only partially helpful, and much too complicated to even be practical in most normal conversations.

Galatians 5:1
Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. 
Stand fast in the Liberty Christ provides and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Since a specific yoke is not identified this means any yoke of bondage - including some religious system that includes following rules about giving.

So this is all well and good, but what about the idea that Tithing was instituted before "The Law" was given and therefore just because a Christian is not under "The Law" we still must follow what God has always required? Well firstly, the Christian is not under law, not just not under "The Law" Rom 6:14. Further, "The Law" means Torah, not just the 10 Commandments. There is no revelation, practice or requirement instituted by God for Mankind prior to Torah. So that argument is dead. But.... I want to nail the coffin shut because bad teaching tends to get resurrected by men all to often; many times with good intent.

Galatians 5:2-4
2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. 3And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. 4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 
Here Paul is telling us that if one becomes circumcised that one is in debt to keep the whole law. How often have we read this and not thought about Tithing? Pretty often I'd bet!

When people talk about Tithing (or their understanding of Tithing anyway) being instituted or recognized or accepted (depending on the person's level of faithfulness to what the Text actually says) before The 10 Commandments were given in Exodus 20:1-17 they are talking about Jacob's vow to God.

Genesis 28:18-22
18 Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it. 19 And he called the name of that place Bethel; but the name of that city had been Luz previously.
20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, 21 so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. 22 And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”
God accepts Jacob's vow, and people use this as a precedence for requiring the Christian to "give God" 10% of their income. Because God accepted this one might make the case that we are required to follow suit.

Yet we read in Galatians 5:1-6 that if a person becomes circumcised that they are in debt to keep the whole law which Christians are not under (as we read in multiple places in the NT).

It's interesting that Circumcision wasn't just recognized or accepted by God it was commanded by Him. Further it was commanded by Him 11 chapters prior to His accepting Jacob's vow. (*see update) This command was given to our spiritual father - Abraham (Abram). Another argument used to support Tithing is that Abraham paid "a tenth part" to Melchizedek Heb 7:1-10 and so we must also do likewise.

*UPDATE: I did make an error here. Abram is recorded giving a tithe to Melchizedek in Genesis 14:18-24, several chapters earlier than Circumcision is commanded. I do not believe this changes the argument, or lessens it's accuracy. However, it does take away some of the emotional impact of stating "11 chapters prior"... 

Yet, Circumcision was commanded by God to Abram for him and all his descendants.

Genesis 17: 9-11 
9 And God said to Abraham: “As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. 10 This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; 11 and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.
This is a command, not just an accepted vow, and Paul tells us unequivocally that if we attempt to follow this instruction that Christ will profit us nothing. While my mistake (*see update) is most real, both events happen well before the giving of "The Law." I strongly believe therefore that Paul's warning applies to both.

My Brethren, do not again subject yourself to a yoke of bondage thinking that somehow you are honoring God through your supposed obedience. You are reducing the perfect sacrifice of Christ from complete fulfillment to a mere enabler.

How can a Christian decide how much to give, and who to give it to?

2Cor 9:6-15 and 1Tim 5:17-18 can be of considerable help, but you'll notice there is no rule (neither law nor Law) to follow in either passage. Not even a suggested minimum...


Jan said...


We also hold to grace giving. We ended up leaving our last church over the issue because the pastor said from the pulpit that anyone who disagreed with the 10% tithe was a heretic. (Paraphrase, but "heretic" was his word.) I knew right then that we were out of there as he basically just called my husband a heretic. (He didn't mean to direct it at DH, but that is how it went anyway.)

The thing that gets me is, people have so little to give these days, especially with the economy being what it is, and when you give 10% of your salary (and is that gross or net?) there's not that much left for other charitable giving. This means that once you have done your obligatory giving with the tithe--which it should be mentioned must go to your church, not anywhere you please--you are very unlikely to be able to give to the individuals or other groups you might want to support or help out.

Not that I don't think folks should support their own church. Obviously they should. But they should also be able to give according to the needs they see come up around them, as the Lord leads, too. But if they give all they've got to their church, they can't do that.

Our giving should always be individually God directed. He will certainly give us lots of opportunities to do so, and that is when we can do it cheerfully, which He loves.


Kevl said...

Hey Jan,

I have a real problem with assemblies getting themselves in financial situations where they NEED people to give large sums of money.

Are there times when God brings unity in the desire to step out and do big things that cost real cash? I suspect He does. Should we just do huge expensive things because we can expect God to support it? I don't think that's how it works...

In fact I'm not sure of a single example in the Scriptures. God had the Temples built, but that was done by express instruction from Him - including every detail about what it was to be.

We are considering joining a closed brethren assembly. Joanne isn't really down with the idea of wearing a head covering, and I have some other small reservations. Yet they believe and preach The Gospel, are completely dispensational... AND they meet in a fire hall which costs them next to nothing. They do not ask for money at all. People give as they are led, to whatever they are led to support.


mcfirefly said...

Dr McGee used to point out that the Levites who received the tithe were also not allowed to own property. He suggested that you could ask a minister who insisted that Christians must tithe whether, putting themselves in the place of the Levites under the Law of Moses, as they obviously were, were they also willing to own no property?