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Truth & Discernment Ministry
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Victor T. Stephens
Searching the scriptures daily ....
(Acts 17:11)
By: Victor T. Stephens
Copyright All Rights Reserved
"Error does not become truth because it is widely accepted; Truth does not become error even when it stands alone."
 -- Unknown
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INTRODUCTION


In today's church, there are many Christian leaders who have adopted the opinion that they are beyond challenge and rebuke; believing they have the sole authority and proficiency to interpret the scriptures of the Bible. According to God's word, however, such a consensus is invalid. The Word of God instructs each and every Believer to study, test, rebuke, and correct all teachings regardless of the status and popularity of any teacher who claims to be called into the ministry (2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16; 1 John 4:1 ).

The Bible also commands us to watch our lives and doctrine closely because the time will come when many will not adhere to sound doctrine (1 Tim. 4:16; 2 Tim. 4:3). The Apostle Paul was the most prolific writer of the New Testament. Nevertheless, despite his greatness, the Berean Christians "searched the scriptures daily to find out whether these things (which Paul taught) were so" (Acts 17:11). These people, who were of noble character, were praised for examining the scriptures for themselves rather than blindly assuming that Paul's interpretations were accurate. The Bereans proved to be an exemplification of people who were diligent in studying and upholding the truth of God's Word.

Following the Berean paradigm, I have discovered that many doctrines taught in the modern church consist of an intermixture of truth, traditions, legalism, and false doctrines. One such aberration is the indoctrination of monetary tithing for the new covenant believer. It is a doctrine that has been incredibly twisted and misconstrued by those in leadership positions in the church. For many years numerous church leaders have subtly and arrantly misapplied the laws of Old Testament tithing by strategically using isolated parts of Scripture inappropriately to redefine the context and statutes of the biblical tithe. Due to indifference, inadequate discernment and deception, tithing has now become so thoroughly entrenched in the modern day Christian church that it is widely accepted without a careful study of its legality.

In this article I will prove that the indoctrination of monetary tithing as a law or guideline is false doctrine. Furthermore, I will illustrate that there are some dramatic distinctions between the Old Testament tithing laws and today's tithing principles taught in our modern churches. We will examine tithing before the Mosaic Law, during the law, and after the establishment of the new covenant. The facts disclosed in this article will convincingly substantiate that there exist no solid scriptural evidence to regulate Christian giving by means of monetary tithing.

As you read this article, I highly encourage you to brush aside any preconceptions, carefully weigh the evidence, and verify Scripture in context. As the facts become clear, many of you will be staggered by the misleading and fraudulent tithing doctrine fed to you by many leaders in the church. Let's not use this, however, as an argument against responsible giving. As Believers in Christ, we should have an attitude of generosity towards those who are truly in need.

Those of us who are earnestly seeking the verity of God's word should rejoice in the truthfulness of Scripture. There are many, however, who are highly motivated to remain on this insidious multi-billion dollar pathway (Isaiah 56:11). Thus, as a result of exposing the unadulterated truth without political correctness, like the Pharisees during Jesus' ministry on earth, some readers may get offended. In consideration of that, I anticipate some push back and persecution by those who believe that they are beyond correction; as well as those who are intentionally teaching false doctrine for personal financial gain (Micah 3:11; 2 Cor. 2:17).

On account that many of these false teachers are high profile and influential leaders within today's church, I foresee similar outrage from their unsuspecting supporters. Moreover, I expect much the same from those who tithe self-righteously. On the other hand, from my experience communicating with several church leaders regarding the interpretive errors of their tithing doctrine, it is also my expectation that some will systematically ignore and dismiss the clear evidence against tithing without engaging in a constructive rebuttal. Their silence, however, will speak louder than any words could possibly say.


OLD TESTAMENT TITHING BEFORE THE LAW OF MOSES


Proponents of tithing claim that giving ten percent of one's income to God is a divine principle that predated the Mosaic Law; thus it is still applicable today for Christians under the new covenant. Advocates of pre-law tithing use the accounts of Abram's and Jacob's tithe (Gen. 14:20; 28:22) to support their argument. In addition, some church leaders have the temerity to use passages of Scripture that have no connection with tithing to endorse tithing for the New Testament church. For example, in order to fortify their beloved tithing doctrine, it has been alleged that "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil", as well as "fat portions" of livestock delineates a tithe. Beginning with Adam and Eve, let's now examine these accounts.


ADAM AND EVE: THE TREE OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL


** Genesis 2:15-17: The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." (NIV) **

** Genesis 3: 1-6: Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'" "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman . "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (NIV) **

Since Adam was put in the Garden of Eden to work it, the claim by some pastors is that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil represented a tithe. This is a convenient assumption at best and twisted logic at worst. If the "tree" was indicative of a tithe, then to whom were Adam and Eve giving the tithe? To God? God doesn't need anything since He owns everything. As we will observe later, the tithe was always given to God for the purpose of serving those in need.

Other than being used as a test of Adam and Eve's obedience, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil has absolutely nothing to do with tithing. Moreover, the Bible gives no indication that this specific tree was one tree out of ten. However, there is a similarity in this account with today's tithing doctrine. In the same manner that Satan duped Eve to believe that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a source of supreme power for attaining infinite knowledge of good and evil, his (Satan's) ministers today are redefining the "tree" once more to manipulate, deceive, and defraud well-meaning Christians.

Sadly, some Christians will believe anyone who preaches from the pulpit without considering that there are many false teachers in today's church (2 Peter 2:1 -3; 1 John 4:1). Like the Bereans, becoming more cognizant and skilled in biblical interpretation is the greatest defense Believers can use against Satan's deceptive tactics.


THE OFFERINGS OF ABEL AND CAIN


The first time an offering is mentioned in the Bible is illustrated in the forth chapter of Genesis. When Abel and Cain presented their offerings to God, the Lord accepted Abel's while Cain's was repudiated.

** Genesis 4:2-5: Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the first-born of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. (NIV) **

Some pastors use this account to support the giving of tithes. They claim that:

1) Abel gave in the correct manner (a tithe) to the Lord because he brought the "fat portions from some of the first-born."

2) Cain's offering was rejected because he refused to bring the "fat" (tithe) of his income.

What we have here is more proof of scriptural hijacking by some leaders in the church. It is evident there is not a clue to the amount given by Abel and Cain; nor do we find anywhere in Scripture where "fat portions" of flocks are equivalent to a tithe.

In the passage above, Abel and Cain brought offerings corresponding to their occupations. Take note of the distinctions here: Abel brought "fat portions from some of the firstborn....", whereas Cain brought "some of the fruits...." The dissimilarity between the two offerings is that Cain refused to bring some of the better of his first ripened harvest; thus he probably gave random leftovers or spoiled fruit. God found pleasure in Abel's offering because its quality was a reflection of his faith (Heb. 11:4, 6). By contrast, the Lord rejected Cain's offering because its inferior quality indicated that he had a lack of faith and possessed an evil and greedy disposition (1 John 3:12; Jude 1:11).

Many teachers in the church also attempt to define first-born and firstfruits as synonymous with tithes. As with "fat portions", these terms are misconstrued. First-born and firstfruits are some of the first offspring of animals or humans and some of the first premium ripened fruits, vegetables, and grains respectively. There is no specific percentage regarding the giving of first-born and firstfruits. Later, I will discuss more distinctions between the giving of firstfruits and tithes.


ABRAM: THE TITHE TO MELCHIZEDEK


In the first two segments we learned that the Bible presents no accounts of Adam and Eve and their sons, Abel and Cain, as having paid tithes. The first time tithing is actually mentioned is in the fourteenth chapter of Genesis where Abram, later known as Abraham, gave a tithe to Melchizedek.

** Genesis 14:18-20: Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand." Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything. (NIV) **

Proponents of tithing contend that Abram obeyed a perpetual law of tithing; thus tithing is still binding today. Historical research coupled with a further evaluation of Scripture will prove otherwise. An investigation into the history of tithing will show that the giving of tithes was a man-made custom practiced by many ancient nations to pay tribute to pagan deities and to those of higher authorities such as kings
(1 Sam. 8:15-17). Embraced by the Hebrew nation as well, tithing was practiced as a sign of gratitude to God.

The Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Douglas, Hillyer, Bruce [editors]) states:

"The custom of tithing did not originate with the Mosaic Law, nor was it peculiar to the Hebrews. It was practiced among other ancient peoples" (Tithes, p.1572).

The Baker Theological Dictionary of The Bible (Walter A. Elwell [editor]) states:

"Giving a portion of one's profits or the spoils of war was known in the ancient world from Greece to China. Gifts were made as religious offerings, or given to a political authority as tribute or tax. Donation of a tenth portion, or tithe, was common apparently because most people counted in tens, based on ten fingers" (Tithe, Tithing, p.779).

Since Melchizedek was a King-Priest, Abram ... following ancient custom, gave a gratuity (freewill gift) of thanksgiving to show appreciation to the one true God for leading him to victory over his enemies. With that said, let's observe the following facts:

1) Melchizedek never demanded a tithe.

2) Abram voluntarily gave (not paid) from what he recaptured from a battle (spoils, plunder), not from wages (Heb. 7:4).

3) He tithed on other people's possessions (Gen. 14:11, 22).

4) Abram gave most of the spoils back to the king of Sodom (Gen. 14:23 -24).

5) The Bible never states that Abram, who was very wealthy (Gen. 13:2; 24:35) gave a tithe from his own personal possessions during this occasion or at any other time period.

In light of these established facts, we should be able to clearly recognize that Abram's tithe to Melchizedek has no parallel to monetary tithing in today's church age. I find it interesting that those who teach tithing conveniently disregard this evidence. Someone may inquire, "If tithing was not commanded by God before the Mosaic Law, then how did tithing become law?" That is a very good question. The answer will be disclosed in the next section.


JACOB'S TITHING VOW


The next reference to tithing occurs in Genesis, chapter 28.

** Genesis 28:20-22: Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father's house, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth." (NIV) **

This is another favorite passage of Scripture that church leaders use to support pre-law tithing. Christians are taught that Jacob, like his grandfather Abram, was following an everlasting tithing law. On the contrary, however, it is this section that gives rise to more evidence that tithing was not commanded by God before the Mosaic Law. How so? The key word in this passage is "vow" ("Then Jacob made a vow...."). What is a vow? The definition of a vow is:

"A solemn promise or pledge that binds a person to perform a specific act or to behave in a certain manner. All vows were made to God as a promise in expectation of His favor or in thanksgiving for His blessings. Vowing was voluntary. But after a vow was made, it had to be performed (Deut. 23:21-23; Eccl. 5:4-6) {Illustrated Dictionary of The Bible, [Herbert Lockyer, Sr. [Editor], p.1088}.

As we can see, a vow is not a response to a command, but a voluntary promise of one's free will. In the same manner as Abram, the tithe that Jacob vowed to give was a voluntary gratuity based on the customs during that time period. If tithing was commanded prior to the Mosaic Law, then it would seem unreasonable for Jacob to make a vow if the tithe already belonged to God. According to the definition of a "vow", it was only after Jacob made the promise to give a tenth that his vow became binding.

At this point, a remaining question may be: If tithing was not commanded before the Mosaic Law, then how did tithing become law? As we have just discovered, Jacob vowed to give a tenth of all that he would receive. Since a vow becomes an obligation once it is made, Jacob's vow to give a tithe became a requirement. A requirement of what? The Promised Land (Canaan). After the death of Jacob and the conquest of Canaan, God held Jacob the nation (Israel) accountable to pay the tithe. Thus, we have the enactment of the law of tithing.

In summary, tithing began as a man made custom that was practiced by many nations during ancient biblical times. It was designed to pay tribute to pagan gods, kings, and the one true God worshiped by the Hebrews. Due to Jacob's vow, tithing was initiated into law.

Let's now take a look a tithing during the Mosaic Law and examine how it contrasts with church tithing.
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