Tuesday, December 15, 2015

"The Tithe: A Biblical Mandate"

The Problem With Proof-Texting

Homestead's website has a page called What We Believe. It states:
We hold that, though all Scripture is profitable when rightly applied, the New Testament alone gives the explicit and definitive guidelines for the church and Christian life, and in no way can the Old Testament any longer be used to justify State churches and their persecution of dissenters, as if the church were merely the Old Testament natural nation of Israel superimposed on the Gentiles. (emphasis in original)
The following picture is from Confession for Baptism and Communion by Blair Adams. Homestead members read all 136 pages and sign in dozens of places twice a year to be considered for communion. (For information on the serious concerns about signing church covenants, please read the excellent articles written by the ladies at The Wartburg Watch and Pastor Wade Burleson.)

A "point of fellowship" means that failure to tithe will result in some form of church discipline whereby a member can no longer fellowship with Homestead Heritage.

Notice that this "Biblical mandate" includes Old Testament scriptures as well as New Testament scriptures to back it up. This is called proof-texting, which is "the practice of using isolated, out-of-context quotations from a document to establish a proposition in eisegesis." Eisegesis "is the process of interpreting a text or portion of text in such a way that the process introduces one's own presuppositions, agendas, or biases into and onto the text."
Gen. 14: 18-20 --  18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying,
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
    Creator of heaven and earth.
20   And praise be to God Most High,
    who delivered your enemies into your hand.”

Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
Note that this tithe of Abraham to Melchizadek is a one time event.

Lev. 27: 30-32 --   30 “‘A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord. 31 Whoever would redeem any of their tithe must add a fifth of the value to it. 32 Every tithe of the herd and flock—every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod—will be holy to the Lord.
Note that the tithe was a requirement in bounty "from the land."  I guess for most of us these days we could joyfully tithe the "grass clippings" from our lawns, or maybe produce from our gardens. No requirements for money. It's also part of the Old Testament law.

Mal. 3: 8-11 -- “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessingthat there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. 
Again, this refers to the bounty "from the land." It's also still referring to the law of the Old Testament.

Matt. 23:23 -- 23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.
Finally, a New Testament scripture.  Jesus is pointing out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees in this entire chapter. He's not laying down a "Biblical mandate" for His church. Even if you interpret it as such, He only mentions spices.

Heb. 7:1-5, 8 -- This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, the name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.”Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.
Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people—that is, from their fellow Israelites—even though they also are descended from Abraham. . . In the one case, the tenth is collected by people who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living.
These New Testament verses are describing Old Testament law. It's also problematic to pull them out of context from the passage they are in. For instance, farther down we read:
11 If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood—why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? 12 For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also. . . 18 The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless 19 (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God. (emphasis added)

1 Cor. 9: 11, 13-14 --   11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? . .13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings?14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.
Again, context is very important here. Why do you suppose they skipped over verse 12?
12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more?
Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. . . 15 But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting. (emphasis added)
Is Paul guilty here of ignoring a "Biblical mandate?" Did he count it as a "point of fellowship" for the New Testament church? Perhaps Paul wrote these scriptures as an example for other ministers of the Gospel to follow.

Rom. 15:16  --  because of the grace given me by God 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
I'm not convinced this "offering of the Gentiles" refers to a tithe. I would read it as that offering of a "living sacrifice." In fact, the NIV translates this as, "so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God . . ." Or perhaps it refers to a free-will offering. The key word here is "offering," not tithe. I get no "Biblical mandate" from this scripture. 

I know that many churches teach tithing, and many Christians willingly tithe, though it is a hotly debated topic.

When I googled "kicked out of church for not tithing," one story dominated the search results. It's the story of Josephine King, who was kicked out of her church for "non-support" of the church "in the areas of 'constant and consistent financial and physical participation.'" According to Ms. King's nephew, "'You shouldn't chase the individuals down,' said Simmons. 'You shouldn't do that. If that's the case, you're money hungry.'"

I have to agree.

Quoted material from:
Adams, Blair, Confession for Baptism and Communion. Elm Mott: Colloquium Press, 2005.


  1. Great analysis, BTDT. Tithing is part of the law that brings death not the grace that gives life, according to 1 Cor. 3:7 and Gal. 3:10.

  2. "...the New Testament alone gives the explicit and definitive guidelines for the church and Christian life"

    Comment: Apparently not when it comes to $$$$$

    1. They definitely make their priorities clear.

  3. The tithe was like a crop share arrangement. God provided the land, His people were to deliver a 1/10th crop share, including livestock. It was actually quite a bargain. In my part of the country the customary crop share arrangement is 1/3 of all crops to the landlord, only 2/3 for the tenant. If the tenant drives a school bus for extra income, the landlord wouldn't even think of claiming 1/3 of the bus driving wages.

    1. Good to see you here, Gary. It was because of your comment on Spiritual Sounding Board that I realized the OT tithe was not monetary. The NT does talk about believers "giving," but there is no percentage specified.

    2. Also, note that the OT tithe was to be consumed by the tither two out of three years, and if the place where the Lord had set his name was too far for the tither to travel, he could convert the produce to money to buy whatever his soul lusted after. So, for those who would impose the tithe on NT believers, they should at least encourage them to tithe biblically, and only pay tithes one out of every three years. Duet. 14:22-29


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