ENGLISH VERSION - Bulletin Nº 43 July 11, 2021

Should i faithfully contribute to tithing?

by Rev. Renato Souza Prates

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          At the 2018 Supreme Council meeting in Águas de Lindóia which we were part of with the Deputy of the Presbytery of Macaé, we had the pleasure of approving the “Pastoral Letter on Tithing”, which was produced by a highly qualified commission appointed by the Supreme Council to respond to questions raised against the practice of tithing in the Presbyterian Church of Brazil. The excerpt below is just an approach to the doctrine of tithing in the New Testament, but the document is very broad, starting with an exegetical-theological approach to tithes and offerings and the difference between them, since the Old Testament, ending with a historical approach to the practice of contribution. Anyone interested in studying the entire document can access it at the following email address: Miolo da Carta.pmd (tesourariaipb.org.br).

          The same material was widely published in the Jornal Brasil Presbiteriano at the time, expressing the practice of our church in relation to this matter.

 

          Tithing in the New Testament

          The first reference to tithing in the New Testament comes from the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself when he condemned the Pharisees for tithing correctly, but they forgot the virtues embedded in the teaching about tithing – justice, mercy and faith (Matthew 23:23 = Luke 11:42). In this passage, far from nullifying the tithe, Christ reaffirms it by declaring: "Yet you ought to do these things, without omitting those!" In the very essence of tithing, we saw the principles of justice, mercy, and faith. Justice in providing sustenance to the Levites who would dedicate themselves to the sacred service without receiving an inheritance like the other tribes; mercy, because the triennial tithe was intended not only for the support of the Levites, but also for the needy who should be the object of the compassion of the covenant people; and faith, without which it is impossible to please God and which reflects a heart that truly loves and worships the Father, just as tithing was linked to the context of worship.

          The Pharisees were tithing legalistically, without the essence of biblical teaching, and Christ condemns this. But as for the act of tithing itself, he confirms that he should do it without forgetting the motivation. "The meaning of this was that the most important issues should be highlighted without, however, neglecting the others."

          The other situation in which the word appears in the New Testament is found in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, where the boastful Pharisee prided himself on giving a tithe of all he earned (Luke 18:9-14). Once again, what was condemned in the parable was not the practice of giving the tithe, as this is standard for the people of God, but the fact that the Pharisee depends on his own righteousness rather than trusting in the Lord's grace.

          The only other place the word tithe is mentioned is Hebrews 7:1-10, especially in reference to the tithe that Abram gave to Melchizedek in Genesis 14:20 as part of the context for Jesus' high priesthood. As the writer to the Hebrews declares, Abram separated the tithe from everything, recognizing the Melchizedek priesthood as a legitimate priesthood of God (7:3-4), and Jesus became high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 6:20). Furthermore, even the priests of the Levite family who properly received the tithes according to the Old Testament law (7:5) gave tithes to Jesus, that high priest of the order of Melchizedek, because they were still on the back of Abram when Abram gave the tithes to Melchizedek (7:6-10)1.

          It is important to note that the writer to the Hebrews would not use the example of tithing if tithing were not a practice known to his contemporaries. The New Testament speaks of other practices of financial contribution existing in the early church, not having to legislate again on the topic widely known to the people of God.

          Another direct order from Christ

          The argument against tithing in the New Testament over the absence of an express command from Christ has already been overturned by the first reference to tithing we saw when Christ reaffirmed its validity (Matthew 23:23). But even if there was no "Thus saith the Lord", it is worth remembering that the argument from silence works for both sides, as it is also used for the practice of baptism in place of circumcision, the supper in place of the Passover, and the keeping the Sabbath day on Sunday and no longer on Saturday, without necessarily having an express order. However, as we have already seen, there is a clear command from Jesus.

          Although already convinced, it is worth remembering here another express command of Christ on the giving of the tithe, preserved by divine inspiration through the pen of the Apostle Paul. Although the word does not appear, the entire context speaks of the giving of the tithe in the Old Testament to support the Levites.

          It is the passage from 1 Corinthians 9:7-14 that we will now consider. The subject of context is the livelihood of the preachers of the Gospel - "those who preach the Gospel may live in the Gospel…". The apostle remembers the way in which those who served in the Sanctuary supported themselves, that is, through the tithes that were brought to the Altar of the Lord, and Paul then declares – “so also commands the Lord”. Paul makes a clear and direct connection between the support of the Levites in the Old Testament and the support of the preachers in the New Testament. Note that Paul claims that what he has just quoted – the support of the ministers, is totally enveloped in the same Old Testament model of worship as the giving of tithes for the support of the priests; and here the "Lord" - Christ, likewise commands that preachers be supported by the tithes of God's people. Who are we to despise this “Thus saith the Lord” which is brought to us by the teaching of the Apostle? It is nothing more, nothing less than an order from the Lord of the Church!

          Later the apostle Paul writing to Timothy declares that “the elders…are worthy of honorary doubles” (1 Timothy 5:17-18). Where would they find the resources to systematically pay the monthly fees if not through systematic contribution ordained by Christ?

          We see, then, that the practice of tithing is largely supported by the words of Jesus.

          Biblical Conclusions

          • Theological teaching on tithing is present in the Old and New Testaments. Tithing was practiced before the law, in the Melchizedek priesthood (Genesis 14:20); was taught in the law during the Levitical priesthood (Numbers 18:1-32; Deuteronomy 14:22-29; Leviticus 27:30-32); and it is also practiced today, in the priesthood of Christ (Matt 23:23; 1 Corinthians 9:11-14; Hebrews 7:10)”20;

          • Tithing and offerings, although they differ in proportion, value, purposes, and regularity, have to do with Christocentric worship. No one should stand before God empty-handed;

          • Fulfillment of the law in Christ does not release Christians from living the principles that stem from the Old Testament practice of generosity, detachment, planning, and proportionality;

          • Christ commands tithing in the Old and New Testaments;

          • The application of tithing in the New Testament as a regular contribution is a correct and expected practice by the church, and the contribution may even exceed the stipulated percentage of 10%, when offerings are included.

From this Sunday on, you will enjoy a Revelation Series with Dr. Joel Beeke. It is amazing studies from which we can learn more about this instigating book.

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