Seventh-Day Adventists/Matthew 23 and the Tithing Question
You claim there is no New Testament support for tithing. Somehow you missed that Jesus himself supported tithing as a valid practice for Christians when he rebuked the Pharisees. In Matthew 23 Jesus told the Pharisees they should tithe but not to forget other important things. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone" (Matthew 23:23 KJV). Your poor understanding of the Bible has caused you to miss the truth taught by Jesus. He taught people to not neglect tithing but also don't neglect judgement (justice), mercy, and faith. You teach people the exact opposite of what Jesus taught. You say neglect paying God your tithe. Those poor fools who listen to you are condemned and their sin is on you. Here's a question for you: Why didn't the Pharisees condemn Jesus for not tithing if he wasn't tithing? --John
Dear Brother John:
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. 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). 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).
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).
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).
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).
Only one who is biased toward error could miss the obvious truth being taught here and else where in the New Testament.
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 discribed 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).
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.
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.
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!
“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.
"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).
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).
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 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. 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.
Thanks for the questions,