Seventh-Day Adventists/Matthew 23 and the Tithing Question
Frank wrote at 2013-11-11 02:44:55
11 9 2013 - Matthew 23 and the Tithing Question
<<< The expert’s answer: >>>
The first thing I would like to point out to you is that the Pharisees were tithing on their spice gardens (mint, anise, and cummin). I point this out because you must reinterpret their tithing of spices into a monetary tithe for it to have any possible relevance to tithing today.
On what basis do you make such a change? If you want to use Matthew 23:23 to prove that Christians must tithe shouldn't the tithe include kitchen spices? I have never heard of nor read of any tithe preacher who required church members to tithe spices.
<<< The tithe went to the Levites and they used it in the form that it was received. They also ate of the sacrificial offerings (heave offering). Since they had no land of their own they were dependent on the tithe and the offerings. The principle of the tithe in the New Testament does not demand that it be paid in produce. >>>
Jesus identified tithing as an Old Covenant law when he said, "...and have omitted the weightier matters of the law..." Here Jesus stated that tithing was a matter of the law. What law? The law in view is the Old Covenant law. Therefore, tithing went the way of the other "matters of the law" into obsolescence (cf. Hebrews 8:13).
<<< Why is the tithe carried over into the New Covenant? The children of Israel were to have accomplished the gospel commission of taking the good news of the promised Savior to all the world. Because they did not, the gospel commission was taken from them and given to a “nation” (spiritual Israel (1 Peter 2:5, 9)) that would “shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:” Christ prophesied, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (Matthew 24:14 KJV) The tithe is the means of supporting the gospel ministry until Christ comes. It didn’t end at the cross. >>>
Undoubtedly you will protest that Jesus mentioned other things in the same verse that are not obsolete. My response is that justice, mercy, and faith are principles that are commanded in the New Testament for Christians and tithing is not so commanded. Paul declared that Christians are free from matters of the Old Covenant law. "But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter" (Romans 7:6 NASB).
<<< If we are truly serving in the “newness of the Spirit” we will not be transgressing the moral law (which is defined by the 10 C’s). Jesus is the New Covenant remedy for sin that the Old Covenant ceremonial and sacrificial remedies foreshadowed. Morality did not die with Jesus. The definition of sin did not change with the death of Jesus. The penalty for sin did not change with the death of Jesus. Jesus died to restore fallen man to favor with God under the New Covenant, which is the only covenant under which any man is saved. >>>
It is extremely important to the proper understanding of this verse to recognize that Jesus was speaking to Jews living under the Old Covenant. So naturally he affirmed tithing, a "matter of the law" as our Lord put it. Matthew 23:23 (as well as its parallel Luke 11:42) must be read in the context of the Old Covenant. Jesus was speaking before the establishment of the Church; therefore, he was not supporting tithing as a New Covenant doctrine. He was speaking to the religious leaders of Judaism not Christianity. At that time the temple was still standing so the Levites were performing their job for which they received the tithe.
“To the Levites I have given every tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service that they do, their service in the tent of meeting" (Numbers 18:21 ESV).
<<< The principle of the use of the tithe for the gospel ministry is derived from the use of the tithe to support the Old Covenant Hebrew sanctuary. The entire plan of salvation was taught by the Hebrew sanctuary and its services and those who ministered to the people were the Levites. That was the Old Covenant gospel ministry. >>>
So for these and other reasons I must disagree with you that Jesus was supporting tithing in the Church. On the contrary Jesus supported free-will offerings as the way to finance the Church. When Jesus sent out the seventy-two he told them to live off of the free-will offerings of others. He did not tell them to demand tithes (see Luke 10:1-16). Granted this was before Calvary and so the tithes legally belonged to the Levites. However, after Calvary Christians still did not practice tithing.
"And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need" (Acts 2:44-45 NLT).
<<< These verses do not address the tithe. The tithe is not a free will offering. >>>
Paul made his teaching on how Christians are to support the Church abundantly clear.
"The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly,and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:6-7 ESV).
<<< In context, Paul is attempting to motivate the Corinthians to give abundantly for relief for the poor. These are free will offerings. This is apart from the tithe which is used for the gospel ministry and is not a free will offering. >>>
Only one who is biased toward error could miss the obvious truth being taught here and elsewhere in the New Testament.
<<< Either one of us or both of us are biased toward error. >>>
Let's not forget in looking at this verse in light of the tithing question that the Pharisees were well known to exaggerate the Law making it a greater burden to the Jews. The tithing of small spice gardens was never part of God's Law (cf. Leviticus 27:30 & Nehemiah 13:12).
The Pharisees were certainly not farmers growing and selling spices to make a living. They probably had kitchen window spice gardens. They had exaggerated God's law on tithing. Why? Because of their love for God? No, so they could extoll themselves as better than others who did not tithe on their little gardens. Jesus exposed their self-centeredness when he described them.
"Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others" (Matthew 23:5-7 NIV).
<<< While they were certainly zealous to appear righteous in the eyes of the people, their tithing of spices was something that Jesus said they ought not to leave undone. “But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” (Luke 11:42 KJV) Apparently it WAS part of God’s law. >>>
As to your last question, while it is true that the Pharisees hated Jesus and looked for every opportunity to discredit him the fact that there is no record of the Pharisees accusing Jesus of violating the tithing command does not indicate that he kept it. The reality is that the Pharisees did not condemn Jesus because he was not required to pay tithes. He was not a farmer nor a herdsman the only two occupations that were required to tithe. It is highly likely that Jesus learned to be a carpenter from his earthly father Joseph. "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?...” (Mark 6:3 NASB; cf. Matthew 13:55). Then he became an itinerant preacher of the gospel. So you see Jesus was never in an occupation that required him to pay tithes; consequently, the Pharisees never accused him of not tithing.
Let me ask you, why are you so concerned with whether or not I tithe?
Lately, SDAs have been trying to prove that all Christians "must" tithe. They have failed to produce Bible evidence in support of their belief, but I have noticed an attitude pattern among many of these SDAs. They express SDA arrogance. This may be born of the Remnant/True Church doctrine of SDAism or perhaps it is born of their belief that Ellen White was a true prophet like the Bible prophets. In any case they all seem to believe that whatever they do all other Christians must do. If they tithe then all must tithe. If they observe the 7th day Sabbath then all must observe the Sabbath. If they avoid certain foods then all must avoid those foods. This type of mindset expresses itself in an attitude of arrogance, a truly unbecoming trait for Christians to possess.
<<< SDA’s believe and teach certain Bible doctrines that are required to be adhered to by their members. They also believe that they are included in the commandments that Jesus asks his followers to keep if they profess to love Him (see Matthew 19:17, John 14:15, 15:10). The SDA Church is raised up to give a final call for repentance and reformation during the anti-typical day of atonement. The Old Covenant type was the yearly day of atonement in which all the children of Israel were to afflict their souls, that there be no unconfessed sin, that they should not be cut off from the people. This represents the time when Christ comes the second time with His Father and all the angels to rescue His people. Any one with cherished, unconfessed sin will be “cut off” (destroyed by the brightness of His coming) because God is a consuming fire and sin cannot exist in the presence of a Holy God. (See 1 Thes 4:16, 17; 1 Thes 5:2, 3) >>>
Understand that if you reduce religion to something outward whether it be Sabbath-keeping, tithe-paying, etc. it will always cause division in the Body of Christ. You will have created a religion where you can test everyone's faithfulness by outward appearances a very dangerous decision indeed. Our Lord warned against such when he said, "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves" (Matthew 7:15 NASB). If you wish to test everyone by your standards you become a Pharisee and lose the love of Christ.
<<< The standard is Christ and the Bible. SDA’s believe that the Spirit of Prophecy is in complete harmony with the Bible in spite of all the attacks against it. If the Church was not being attacked the way it is, then its claims would be suspect for Satan doesn’t waste His time with those he has already overcome. >>>
If you want to use Old Covenant tithing as a type for New Covenant giving then all Christians should not give the same percentage. Tithe teachers would never tell you this, but the New Testament nowhere promotes a fixed percentage of giving for Christians.
<<< Since SDA’s believe the tithe is a New Covenant principle and its very meaning is a “tenth” which is a fixed percentage. Beyond the tithe, which is God’s and not man’s to begin with, are free will offerings that are at the discretion of the giver. >>>
In the New Covenant we learn to give in support of the Body of Christ as one is able (cf. Acts 11:29), in accordance to what one has (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:2), in accordance to how the Holy Spirit moves one's heart (2 Corinthians 9:7), knowing that one will reap in proportion to what one sows (cf. 2 Corinthians 9:6). Tithe teachers tell poor Christians to give 10% of what little they have to the Church. Under the Old Testament type the Israelite poor were not required to tithe at all, in fact the poor received a tithe!
<<< SDA’s believe the worthy poor are to be supported by free will offerings and are required to tithe on those offerings. A tenth of their increase (not a tenth of all they have) is the Lord’s. If they can survive on a dime they can survive on 9 cents with the Lord’s blessing. >>>
“At the end of every third year you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall deposit it in your town. The Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do" (Deuteronomy 14:28-29 NASB).
God has always been concerned with the treatment of the poor. Under the Law poor people were not required to give the same sacrifice as the wealthy. "But if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two young pigeons, the one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for her, and she will be clean” (Leviticus 12:8 NASB). So why do you believe that in the New Covenant poor Christians are required to give the same financial sacrifice as the wealthy? Clearly Paul did not agree with your assessment.
<<< The tithe does not require the same amount (or same sacrifice) from the rich as from the poor. It requires the same percentage of their increase. Assuming the rich man has a greater income than the poor man he will pay a greater tithe than the poor man. Those with a greater increase pay more than those with a lesser increase. There was a temple tax under the Levitical system that required the same amount regardless of the financial shape of the individual. That is a regressive tax as it puts a greater burden on the poor. The year of Jubilee was intended to protect the poor from being oppressed by the rich. >>>
"For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have. Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality" (2 Corinthians 8:12-14 NIV).
<<< This applies to free will offerings for the poor. Not the tithe. >>>
Did Jesus tell the rich man to sell all he had and give a tithe to the poor?
"A ruler questioned Him, saying, 'Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?' And Jesus said to him, 'Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness,
Honor your father and mother.’ And he said, 'All these things I have kept from my youth.' When Jesus heard this, He said to him, 'One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.' But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich" (Luke 18:18-23 NASB).
Please remember this important point that often gets forgotten in the tithing debate: only those who made a living off of the land of Israel paid a tithe.
“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. Whoever would redeem any of their tithe must add a fifth of the value to it. Every tithe of the herd and flock—every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod—will be holy to the Lord” (Leviticus 27:30-32 NIV).
<<< The principle of the tithe is carried over under the New Covenant in the New Testament. >>>
By promoting the Old Covenant doctrine of tithing in the New Covenant you are mixing Old Covenant Law and New Covenant grace. All throughout Christian history such mixing has proven disastrous. Jesus warned his people against this mixing when he taught,
“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins” (Luke 5:37-38 NASB).
The new wine represents New Covenant grace and the old wineskins represent Old Covenant Law. Mixing the two causes precious New Covenant grace to be lost.
<<< The old wineskin according to SDA understanding of the law is the Hebrew sanctuary with its ritual remedy for sin. The New wine is faith in Christ for forgiveness of sins and the power of the Holy Spirit for righteousness apart from the works of the Jewish ceremonial ordinances. The moral law (the 10 C’s written in the heart and mind) is established as the rule of life according to Romans 3:31, not done away with. >>>
The great tragedy of SDAism is that they haven’t learned this and so promote this loss of grace. The SDA hierarchy is so intoxicated with certain aspects of the old wine that they can’t see the exclusive nature of the new wine. Thus they dilute the gospel. They mix the two covenants and in a drunken state they think they are doing right by supporting the spread of Old Covenant Sabbath keeping and tithing neither of which are valid New Covenant doctrine.
<<< The Sabbath was made before sin. It was blessed and sanctified by God when the seventh day ended (see Genesis 2:2, 3). SDA’s believe that the principles of the Ten Commandments that were written in stone by God at Sinai, were written in the heart and mind of Adam and Eve when they were created. If not, the test of obedience they were given was meaningless. Being created in the image of God, they were to exhibit His love by living out those principles in their everyday life. When they failed the test of obedience, they sinned and sin is transgression of the law.
As for the gospel of grace, it is soon to come to an end. When Michael stands up, (see Daniel 12:1) every case will have been decided (see Revelation 22:11). Man will have to stand before a Holy God without the benefit of a mediator. Those who have been declared righteous will be able to stand. Those who have not put away every sin through obedience to the Holy Spirit, will perish. >>>
This is an example of the SDA hierarchy eschewing grace for work oriented doctrine. Our Lord warned against becoming too comfortable with the Old Covenant wine. “And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, ‘The old is good enough’” (Luke 5:39 NASB).
Sadly, the current SDA hierarchy boldly teaches that the old is good enough. Consequently, they stunt the spiritual growth of faithful SDAs.
<<< The controversy between Christ and Satan is soon to play out in earnestness. If the things that SDA’s have taught do not come to pass, the Sunday keeping Christians can say I told you so. If the things that SDA’s teach do come to pass, then they will receive their reward at the second coming. >>>
Thanks for the questions,
<<< In Christ’s love,
Mike wrote at 2013-11-27 17:06:51
"If you want to use Old Covenant tithing as a type for New Covenant giving then all Christians should not give the same percentage. Tithe teachers would never tell you this, but the New Testament no where promotes a fixed percentage of giving for Christians. In the New Covenant we learn to give in support of the Body of Christ as one is able (cf. Acts 11:29), in accordance to what one has (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:2), in accordance to how the Holy Spirit moves one's heart (2 Corinthians 9:7), knowing that one will reap in proportion to what one sows (cf. 2 Corinthians 9:6). Tithe teachers tell poor Christians to give 10% of what little they have to the Church. Under the Old Testament type the Israelite poor were not required to tithe at all, in fact the poor received a tithe!" Excellent answer from Sal. "Tithe teachers would never tell you this, but the New Testament no where promotes a fixed percentage of giving for Christians."
Betty wrote at 2013-12-08 13:58:47
I agree with you, Mike. The NT does not promote a fixed percentage of giving. Sal has exposed the "Great Tithe Lie". There is no tithe for Christians only free will offerings. Tithe teachers cannot honestly dispute Sal's statement, "the New Testament no where promotes a fixed percentage of giving for Christians". This is fatal to those who believe the NT promotes tithing.