“THE BINDING OF SUNDAY GIVING”
section 1: “Tithing and the cross of Jesus”
Sunday giving by faithful children of God is unique to the New Testament Church of Christ. There is no record of it either being required or voluntarily practiced by anyone before Acts of the Apostles, post ascension of the resurrected Jesus Christ. On the other hand, there are such things as the tithe.
TITHING. “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD'S: it is holy unto the LORD” (Leviticus 27:30).
A tithe (Hebrew H4643; Greek G1182) is defined as “a tenth.”i The first time a giving of a tithe (tenth) to the Lord is mentioned in the Bible actually predates the Law given through Moses. It appears to be a voluntary act on Abraham's part when he gave to Melchizedec, the priest of God, a tithe of the spoils from his success at rescuing Lot (Genesis 14:20). At any rate the future practice is assured when the patriarch Jacob promises a tenth to the Lord: “And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee” (Genesis 28:22).
Sunday contributing is not the same as tithing. Tithing was required by the Law of God before the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Jesus called on the Jews to repent of their sins against the Law of Moses. John the Baptist condemned the multitude because they needed to “bring forth fruits worthy of repentance” (Luke 3:8). A commitment to tithing appears to have been a key doctrine of the Pharisees for they were very zealous to tithe, even in small things, and Jesus commended this but said they had neglected weightier matters of “judgment and the love of God” (Luke 11:42).
Tithing to the Lord's work was the support system for the Levitical system under Moses. First, the cities gave tithes to the Levites within their gates. It was given to the Levites as their inheritance in the land: “For the tithe of the people of Israel, which they present as a contribution to the LORD, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance” (Numbers 18:24). The tribe of Levi were the Lord's servants in teaching and at the altar.
In addition, the third year tithes associated the Levites with the local ongoing good works; i.e. helping strangers, orphans, and widows within the gates: “When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase the third year, which is the year of tithing, and hast given it unto the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled” (Deuteronomy 26:12).
Second, I understand that the local Levites were to give a tenth of their received tithe to their brethren working at Jerusalem (Numbers 18:26). “And the priest the son of Aaron shall be with the Levites, when the Levites take tithes: and the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes unto the house of our God, to the chambers, into the treasure house” (Nehemiah 10:38; compare to Numbers 18:26).
Third, in addition to the tithes, the Jews were required to make appropriate sacrifices via the Levitical priesthood: burnt offering (Lev. 1:3-17), meal [flour] offering (Lev. 2:1-16), peace offering (Lev. 3:1-17), sin offering (Lev. 4:1-35), guilt offering (Lev. 5:14-6:7), drink offering (Lev. 23:13), and freewill offerings (Lev. 22:21). Briefly, the tithes supported the shadows of the good things to come.
There were other required expenses besides the tithe. The law commanded that no fruit was to be gathered from newly-planted fruit-trees for the first three years, and that the first-fruits of the fourth year from the regular crop were to be consecrated to the Lord (Lev. 19:23-25). The firstborn of the animals were consecrated to God. The corners of the fields, wild areas, left-overs after harvesting were to remain untouched, etc. It has been calculated by some for the Jews to have been obligated to the Lord's work up to 25% of their income.
The End of Tithing
Firstly, the “Law of Tithing” was a support for the sacrificial portion of the Old Testament. When Jesus fulfilled the sacrificial system, everything associated with it ended. There is no doubt that was part of the shadow of things to come; i.e., the New Covenant under Jesus. “For the [Levitical] law having a shadow of good things to come” (Hebrews 10:1). The priesthood changed from the Levi tribe so that Jesus born of Judah could be high priest. “For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law” (Hebrews 7:12). “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross... These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ (ESV)” (Colossians 2:14, 17). Along with the other factors shadowing the Kingdom of Christ, tithing was nailed to the cross.
Secondly, the New Covenant does not mention tithing as a requirement. The Levitical Law came through Moses but the full grace and truth came through Jesus (John 1:17). Jesus gave the apostles authority to reveal what was to be binding today. “I assure you: Whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18, HCSB). Silence of tithing after Acts 2, when the church is established and souls are added to it, underscores the loosing of any obligation to tithe.
Tithing is bound in the Old Covenant of Moses and is now loosed. Jesus' covenant binds something different and better.
Next: Sunday Giving According to the New.
- GAYLON WEST
THROW OUT THE LIFELINE
i(Strong's Dictionary of Hebrew and Greek).