Seventh-Day Adventists/Tithes to the clergy
The New Covenant fulfills the Old. The Levites received the tithes in the Old Covenant. In the new the clergy are the inheritors of the Levites' tithe. The Christian clergy are the new Levites they inherit that which the Levites had under the Old Covenant. Therefore, we rightly tithe to them to support the spread of the gospel.
Dear Brother James:
Before I respond to your comment, let's review what is the biblical definition of the tithe. Not what you think a tithe is, not what your pastor says a tithe is, but what the Bible says the tithe is. "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... 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). So the Bible says a tithe is fruit and vegetables grown on the Promised Land and animals, herds and flocks, raised on the Promised Land. How do the farmers and livestock owners give their tithe? "... to bring the tithes of our land to the Levites, for the Levites should receive the tithes in all our farming communities. And the priest, the descendant of Aaron, shall be with the Levites when the Levites receive tithes; and the Levites shall bring up a tenth of the tithes to the house of our God, to the rooms of the storehouse" (Nehemiah 10:37-38 NKJV). So the Bible says that the Levites collect the tithes as well as give a tithe of the tithe to the high priests in the line of Aaron.
"Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Moreover, you shall speak to the Levites and say to them, ‘When you take from the sons of Israel the tithe which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall present an offering from it to the Lord, a tithe of the tithe. Your offering shall be reckoned to you as the grain from the threshing floor or the full produce from the wine vat. So you shall also present an offering to the Lord from your tithes, which you receive from the sons of Israel; and from it you shall give the Lord’s offering to Aaron the priest'" (Numbers 18:25-28 NASB).
As one can easily see the biblical definition of the tithe does not equate with the tithe preacher's definition of the tithe being all Christians giving 10% of their income to the clergy. Unless a new definition of the tithe can be discovered in the New Testament we must accept the definition as recorded in the Old Testament. Therefore, does your pastor requests tithes of fruits, vegetables, and livestock?
I can understand how some equate Christian clergy with Levites. The Levites were assistants to the High Priest. Jesus is now the only High Priest (cf. Hebrews 4:15; 6:20; 8:1; 9:11). The Christian clergy assist the High Priest by spreading the gospel message. Therefore, some see them as the "New Levites". I understand this thinking, but it is a faulty analogy.
First, the whole Levitical system including tithing ended at the Cross. The priesthood was not transferred to the Christian clergy rather, like the rest of the Old Covenant, it became obsolete. "In that He says, 'A new covenant,' He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away" (Hebrews 8:13 NKJV). What did the Old Covenant Levitical priesthood become obsolete to? "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light" (1 Peter 2:9 NIV). It became obsolete to the priesthood of all believers not to only the clergy. Although I don't believe in the concept of "New Levites" I believe it is more biblical to call all believers the "New Levites" than it is to say that of the clergy.
Second, both the Aaronite and the Levitical priesthoods were subsumed by Jesus. Consequently, neither priesthood continues today. Jesus annulled or made legally void the entire Old Covenant priestly system. All understand the author of Hebrews to inform us that the Aaronite high priesthood has been subsumed by Jesus. I believe the author to also be telling us that the Levitical priesthood has likewise been subsumed by Jesus. "And those indeed of the sons of Levi who receive the priest’s office have commandment in the Law to collect a tenth from the people, that is, from their brethren, although these are descended from Abraham" (Hebrews 7:5 NASB). Here he is speaking of the Levites not the Aaronite High Priest. It was the Levites who collected the tithes from the people not the Aaronite High Priest. “Moreover, you shall speak to the Levites and say to them, ‘When you take from the sons of Israel the tithe which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall present an offering from it to the Lord, a tithe of the tithe" (Numbers 18:26 NASB; cf. Nehemiah 10:38). Therefore, the author of Hebrews is telling us that the entire Old Covenant priesthood not just the high priesthood has been annulled or set aside.
"Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also... For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God" (Hebrews 7:11-12, 18-19 NASB).
Third, the Levitical priesthood was never meant by God to be continued or transferred. He gave the Levitical priesthood to Israel due to transgression. "Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary" (Galatians 3:19 ESV).The Levitical priesthood as part of the Old Covenant Law was meant to last only until the coming of Christ and the New Covenant. "Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith" (Galatians 3:23-26 ESV). God's original plan was for Israel to be a kingdom of priests. "Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites" (Exodus 19:5-6 NIV). After the sin of the Golden Calf incident (see Exodus 32:1-6) the Levites distinguished themselves by not worshipping the image and by obeying Moses (see Exodus 32:25-29). Then God took away the priesthood from the first-born sons of every Israelite family and awarded it to the Levites alone.
"Then after that the Levites may go in to serve the tent of meeting. But you shall cleanse them and present them as a wave offering; for they are wholly given to Me from among the sons of Israel. I have taken them for Myself instead of every first issue of the womb, the firstborn of all the sons of Israel. For every firstborn among the sons of Israel is Mine, among the men and among the animals; on the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I sanctified them for Myself. But I have taken the Levites instead of every firstborn among the sons of Israel. I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and to his sons from among the sons of Israel, to perform the service of the sons of Israel at the tent of meeting and to make atonement on behalf of the sons of Israel, so that there will be no plague among the sons of Israel by their coming near to the sanctuary" (Numbers 8:15-19 NASB: cf. 3:12, 41, 45).
So the ideal would be for the priesthood to return to the first-born sons of all Israelite families not to a separate priesthood, the Christian clergy. In the New Covenant we are all sons of God even Christian women. "[F]or in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:26-28 ESV). We Christians are the fulfillment of the "kingdom of priests". "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9 NRSV). " [A]nd made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen" (Revelation 1:6 NRSV). Unlike the Levitical priesthood which held a lofty position over the rest of the Israelites, the Christian clergy is not superior to the rest of Christians. We all have different gifts, but one is not superior to another. "For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned" (Romans 12:3 NRSV; cf. 1 Corinthians 12:4-13). This reminds me of the words of our Blessed Lord to his Apostles concerning authority in his Kingdom.
"But Jesus called them to him and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many'" (Matthew 20:25-28 NRSV).
Fourth, the Levitical priesthood, especially the high priesthood, stood between the people and God. They were Old Covenant mediators and intercessors. In the New Covenant Jesus subsumes these roles in himself. "For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5 NIV). "Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25 ESV). In the Old Covenant the people dared not to approach God except through the Levites (cf. Numbers 3:10; 17:27; 18:7). In the New Covenant the people of God are no longer restricted to approaching God only through the "New Levites", i.e. the clergy. Through the mediatorship of our High Priest, Jesus, we approach God boldly with confidence.
"Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:14-16 NRSV).
We all have access to God without a human mediator. This was vividly portrayed at the death of Jesus with the tearing of the temple veil that had separated the people from God. "And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last. And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom" (Mark 15:37-38 NASB). For these reasons I do not believe that the Christian clergy or anyone else to be the "New Levites".
Your final statement that Christians are to tithe to support the spread of the gospel is unbiblical. Absolutely Christians must support the spread of the gospel as they are able. Indeed it is our great privilege to do so. However, tithing is never, I say again never, promoted in the New Testament as the way or even a way of doing so. Paul writes much about financial support of the church, but never mentions tithing. I find this fact very informative.
Paul is emphatic that believers must financially support the spread of the gospel. This support includes making sure that those who have the gift of preaching are free from financial hardships in order to exercise their gift for the Kingdom.
"Don’t we have the right to food and drink?... Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? For it is written in the Law of Moses: 'Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.' Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?...Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel" (1 Corinthians 9:4, 7-11, 13-14 NIV).
The Corinthians were not giving properly to support the spread of the gospel. Paul does not tell them to tithe rather he tells them how their fellow Christians in the Macedonian churches were supporting the gospel.
"We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints" (1 Corinthians 8:1-4 NRSV).
This illustrates a wonderful example of Christian giving for all to see and emulate. Even though they were undergoing "a severe ordeal of affliction" and were in "extreme poverty" they still gave generously. If a tithing system were in place it would not matter that they were afflicted and in poverty the tithe preacher would still demand that a tithe be made. A tithe preacher would not call a tithe generous, but the law. Paul calls their giving "a wealth of generosity". Further he proclaims that the Macedonian Christians gave voluntarily to the cause. This is very unlike the tithe preachers who say that Christian tithing is not voluntary, it's mandatory. The Macedonian Christians gave not a required tithe, but they gave, as Christians should, sacrificially "even beyond their means". They realized that it is a privilege to support those who have the special gift of preaching. Tithing does not cut it in the New Covenant. we belong to a new and better covenant (cf. Hebrews 8:6). Consequently, the old and inferior covenant including tithing is now obsolete. "By calling this covenant 'new,' he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear" (Hebrews 8:13 NIV). Is it an acceptable response to this better covenant to offer the same legalistic tithe as offered by those under the inferior covenant? I don't believe so. Christians are to give from a heart full of love as the Holy Spirit leads (not as the Law demands) without any concern for a legalistic amount. "Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:6-7 NIV).
To sum up: What we have in the New Covenant, the priesthood of all believers, is exactly what God intended in the Old Covenant when He gave the priesthood to all first-born sons. The idea that the Christian clergy are the "New Levites" has some merit, but is not biblical. The New Testament clearly informs us that all Christians are priests. The New Testament never informs us that the clergy are the "New Levites". The New Testament clearly teaches that Christians are to financially support the spread of the gospel with free-will sacrificial offerings. The New Testament never mentions tithing as a way to support the spread of the gospel.
Tithe preachers make giving money to the church a top priority. They preach it forcefully. They misuse Malachi 3:8-10 as I have proven elsewhere.
They make the unfounded claim that to not tithe to the church is robbing God and He will curse them for it. Such unbiblical nonsense is used to guilt and frighten people into tithing. This is a most despicable act on their part. A more biblical way to give to God is to give time and resources to the poor and less fortunate.
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me'" (Matthew 25:31-40 ESV).
An interesting interpretation is one that sees "the least of these" as referring to those who suffer these hardships in their spreading of the gospel. “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me... And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward" (Matthew 10:40, 42 ESV; cf. Mark 9:41).
The tithing system as taught by Christian tithe preachers is oppressive of the poor. The Bible teaches in both the Old and New testaments to help the poor. Tithing as taught today is a man-made, heretical doctrine oppressive of the poor. As such God could not possibly be the driving force behind today's tithing system. God's tithing system, valid only under the Old Covenant, was not at all oppressive of the poor. In God's system the poor paid no tithes at all. In fact every third year the poor received the 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; cf. 26:12). Therefore, does your tithe preacher tell the poor not to tithe? Does your tithe preacher give the entire year's tithe to the poor of your community at the end of every third year?
Thank you for sharing your comments.
God Be With You,