Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Giving vs Tithing: Dispensations and Covenants

Giving vs. Tithing

A lot has been said and a lot of questions have been raised about the legitimacy of tithing in the church age. Is tithing (as an obligatory action) a bona fide function for the church-age believer? How are believers in the Church to give? What is the foundation of Christian giving? This article will attempt to address each of these questions, while providing a Biblical foundation that supports the proper mindset and function of giving in the church-age.
When addressing the issue of giving and its function within the life of believers, it is important to understand a couple of very important facts. First, God engages mankind in unique and distinct ways during different periods throughout history. In theology, these periods are known as dispensations. A dispensation is a specific period in the history of mankind that can be defined in terms of divine revelation. In each dispensation, God has chosen specific ways to interact with His people. There was the Age of the Gentiles, The Dispensation of Israel, The Dispensation of the Hypostatic Union (The Period in which Christ walked the earth), the Dispensation of the Church, The Tribulation, and The Millennium.
These dispensations can be sub-categorized for the purpose of anatomization, but the knowledge of their existence is all that is needed here. We simply want to bring a sense of lucidity to the framework being presented.
Secondly, God deals with His people through covenant. From the beginning of time, God has instituted and administrated covenants with mankind. Each covenant is distinct and exclusive in relation to those with whom God initiates the covenant. It is a mistake for Bible students to apply covenants from one dispensation and group to another. For instance, God’s covenant with Israel is often applied to the Church, but this is an erroneous concept. God’s covenant with Israel has great value to Church age believers because it reveals His essence and His character. God’s essence never changes, for the Bible tells us that he is immutable. Understanding this, we are able to observe His dealings in past dispensations, through previous covenants and ascertain how He will deal with us.
The covenant presents the specific details that outline what is expected between both parties. Some covenants are conditional while others are non-conditional (meaning that God will execute is promises regardless to what the believer does).
Analyzing what has been presented thus far reveals that giving has to be understood under the light of the current dispensation and active covenant between God and His people.
Giving for the church-age believer is an act of worship that is executed through grace. For giving to have any intrinsic value, it must be done from the platform of grace.

There have been many arguments for tithing (the giving of a tenth of one’s earnings) being a church-age requirement, but there is no biblical support to substantiate this claim. Some argue that tithing existed before God’s command to the nation of Israel. This is true. Abraham gave Melchizedek a tenth, but this was not of his earnings. It was a tenth of the spoils that he claimed in battle. It is important to understand that Abraham did not do this because he was commanded by God to do so. He did it because it was the custom of that time to pay the King a tenth of all the spoils claimed in battle within the boundaries of his kingdom. Melchizedek was the King of Salem, so Abraham was paying homage to him.
Tithing as an obligatory action, was commanded by God to the nation of Israel (Lev. 27:30-34). This was done as a form of taxation. There were several tithes commanded. There was a tithe allocated for the maintenance of the Levites because they did not receive an inheritance of the land of Canaan (Num. 18:21, 24). There was a tithe allocated to support the national feasts and the required sacrifices (Deut. 14:22-27). There was also a tithe collected every third year for the purpose of providing for those that were poor and destitute (Deut. 14:22-27).
Those that teach tithing as a bona fide Church-age requirement teach it in an all encompassing fashion. They apply the requirement across the board; however, this is not how the command to tithe was presented in the Old Testament. Not everyone was commanded to tithe and a tithe was not demanded of all possessions or earnings. The tithe was specific to cattle and crops (Deut. 14:22). The ancient Jew calculated and paid his tithes only once every year. Tithes were paid on the annual increase not on all transactions throughout the year.
Another point of interest is the historical point of view of the Church concerning tithing. Historically, there is no indication of the early Church paying tithes. Also you would have to consider the teachings of the Apostle Paul to be a valuable indication of where the early church stood on tithing. No one planted more churches during the infancy of the church-age than Paul, and his ministry was primarily directed towards gentiles (Non-Jewish believers). This is important because the law was never given to gentiles; meaning that they had no advanced knowledge of the requirement to pay tithes. Paul, who insisted that grace had replaced the law, never taught obligatory giving. As we will soon find out, Paul taught against giving out of any type of compulsion.
Here are a few facts to ponder concerning tithing:
·       Tithing as commanded in the Mosaic Law was never 10 percent of all you earn.
·       The Temple (which would be the church now) did not receive all of the tithes that were paid by the Jews.
·       The early Church did not command or observe tithing.
·       Because tithing is commanded by the law, the prosperity associated with it can only be experienced by those that desire to be justified under the law.
Grace Giving
The most extensive teaching on giving can be found in 2 Corinthians chapters 8-9. In chapter 8 verse 3, Paul tells the Corinthian believers of how the church in Macedonia gave out of their lack, but they gave of their own accord, not out of compulsion or legal requirement. Paul then tells the Corinthians that they should follow the example of the Macedonians, but he insures them that this is not a command (verse 8).
When these chapters are examined closely, you will be able to see that Paul did not have confidence in the Corinthians to give graciously, so he laid out the principles of grace giving. Step by step he presents the power in giving and its relationship to the grace plan of God. The Corinthians were the recipients of God’s grace and it was important for them to express that same grace through their free-will giving. Giving is an act of worship, and worship cannot be commanded or legislated, it must be freely given.
Even in the Old Testament where tithing was commanded, there was also the bringing of a free will offering.
Proper giving requires the proper mental attitude toward giving. When the believer’s mindset is antagonistic toward giving, their giving has no intrinsic value, because true giving is a function of grace.
Dr. Rick Wallace
It is in verse 6 of chapter 9 that Paul comes to the meat of the matter; when you sow sparingly you will reap sparingly. No one can expect to reap a harvest beyond the seed that has been sown. When you sow bountifully you will receive a bountiful harvest. Verse 7 closes the door on the matter as Paul tells the believers in Corinth that they are to give as their heart purposes, not out of compulsion or begrudgingly. When a person gives out of compulsion their heart may not be in agreement, and God is looking at the heart. The motive behind giving is more important than what is given.
Paul goes on to inform his readers that as they pour out into the lives of others through grace, God is able to take what they have sown and multiply its return.
When Christian leaders teach obligatory giving with the amount specified, as in a tithe (tenth), they rob the believer of the blessings associated with free-will giving.
Does this mean that believers are to give less than a tenth? Church-age giving is based on grace and grace is the higher standard in comparison with the law. So, if the law required a minimum of 10 percent, how much more should be given under grace?
For the sake of clarity, there is nothing wrong with establishing a 10 percent baseline for giving, as long as it is not based on a compulsion to adhere to Old Testament law. ~ Dr. Rick Wallace

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