CORRECT INTERPRETATION AND RIGHT PURPOSE OF WHAT JESUS CHRIST SAID ABOUT TITHE IN MATTHEW 23:23
(1) A. The correct interpretation is to use tithe as the tool/instrument of executing the three (3) weightier matters of the law – judgment/justice, mercy (compassion/kindness) and faith/faithfulness.
(1) B. The Lord Jesus Christ did not condemn the tithe payment during the Old Testament as during His earthly ministry, the Old Covenant of the Law of Moses was still active and in operation; and it is in the Lord Jesus Christ that all the Laws of Moses of the Old Covenant/Old Testament were fulfilled.
(2) The Lord Jesus Christ did not condemn the tithe payment for three (3) purposes as follows:
THE NUMBER ONE REASON WHY THE LORD JESUS DID NOT CONDEMN TITHES:
To Meet The Needs of The Saints in The Body of Christ (the church)
Taking care of the saints physical needs is expected of the church – and this is one of the purposes of the ministry of giving in the church – the number one reason the Lord Jesus did not condemn tithe payment in Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42. The ministry of giving (tithes and offering) as you purpose in your heart in the body of Christ (the Church) is encouraged in 2 Corinthians 9:7 (KJV) “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” But we need to read it in context.
The collection for Christians in Jerusalem was taken up because of a dearth (famine) in the land causing many to go hungry. Let us use the NLT translation for the ease of understanding here:
2 Corinthians 9:1 – 15 (NLT) “I really don’t need to write to you about this ministry of giving for the believers in Jerusalem.2 For I know how eager you are to help, and I have been boasting to the churches in Macedonia that you in Greece were ready to send an offering a year ago. In fact, it was your enthusiasm that stirred up many of the Macedonian believers to begin giving. 3 But I am sending these brothers to be sure you really are ready, as I have been telling them, and that your money is all collected. I don’t want to be wrong in my boasting about you. 4 We would be embarrassed—not to mention your own embarrassment—if some Macedonian believers came with me and found that you weren’t ready after all I had told them! 5 So I thought I should send these brothers ahead of me to make sure the gift you promised is ready. But I want it to be a willing gift, not one given grudgingly. 6 Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. 7 You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” 8 And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. 9 As the Scriptures say, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.” 10 For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. 11 Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. 12 So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God. 13 As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. 14 And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you. 15 Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!”
Before we study carefully the above quoted Scripture (2 Corinthians 9:1 – 15 NLT), please have this scriptural understanding in the back of your mind that there is nowhere in the Bible where God instructed Abraham to pay tithe – and Apostle Paul, in all his epistles, there no where he rebuked Christian believers for not paying tithes
It was also mentioned in the article of Christian Giving: Tithes, Gifts, Vows and Offerings (http://www.truthontheweb.org/heartgiving.htm), to note that Paul did not chastise them (Christian believers) for not paying their “tithes”, and he did not tell them to give offerings above and beyond their tithes, and he did not tell them to use 10% as a starting point (or a limit set) for their giving, and he did not tell them to give the “first fruits” of their earnings, and so on. These things are not found anywhere in the New Testament after the crucifixion. HOWEVER, …he did make it clear that a transformed (converted) person will show their fruits of love by their works. That they, of a willing heart, should give to help the saints in any kind of need.
Let us look at some other Scriptures to support giving in the church to the saints who are poor and in need:
Romans 15:26-27 (KJV) “For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.” This was concerning the poor among the Believers.
James 2:14-18 (KJV) “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.”
1 Corinthians 16:1-2 KJV “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.”
The word of God is telling us to only GIVE WITHIN OUR MEANS. Another very significant verse to add is found in 1 Timothy 5:8 (KJV) “But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” This Scripture is not only referring to the husband (the head of the family) to provide for his family but also referring to the General Overseers including their pastors to meet the needs of their denominational church members, especially from the church money (tithes and offering).
Acts 11:27-30 (KJV) “And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch. And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea: Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.”
Furthermore in the article of Christian Giving: Tithes, Gifts, Vows and Offerings (http://www.truthontheweb.org/heartgiving.htm), it expressed that it is convincing to note that they (Christian believers) willingly gave support for those brethren in need by sending to the Elders of that city whom they entrusted with dispersal of the funds to help the hungry brethren! The Nigerian/African churches, the big denominational ones failed in this area because most of the funds are used to fund the building projects and personal lavish lifestyles of their general overseers who are living in luxury, squandering the money of the masses – and these have blinded them to reach out and minister to poor brethren, especially in the Northern part of Nigeria where Boko Haram have wreaked havoc on the Christians.
Romans 12:13 (KJV) “Distributing to the necessity (needs) of saints; given to hospitality.”
2 Corinthians 8:7-15 (KJV) “Therefore, as ye abound in everything, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also. I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love. For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich. And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago. Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have. For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not. For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.
They should give to those who are in need in the Christian community. Note that Paul urged them to give to the needy, and he said that he was not commanding them in their giving, he is not putting anybody under the fear with negative consequences or pressure or compulsion to give and he gave them his advice concerning their giving, and so on. It was documented in the article of Christian Giving: Tithes, Gifts, Vows and Offerings (http://www.truthontheweb.org/heartgiving.htm), that in the epistles of Apostle Paul by the teaching of the Holy Spirit in the Bible, under the New Testament Covenant which is the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, nowhere are Christians ever commanded to tithe or to give a certain amount or to give a certain percentage or to use a certain percentage as a starting point for their giving! Instead, Christians are urged to do extremely well in this grace of giving (2 Corinthians 8:7, 12 NLT You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. 12 So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers … will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God. ”) by giving beyond what we think we can give, with an attitude of “eager willingness” from the mind and “overflowing joy” from the heart in the Lord.
Kenneth Hoeck, the writer of the article of Christian Giving: Tithes, Gifts, Vows and Offerings (http://www.truthontheweb.org/heartgiving.htm) said that however, we are not meant to give foolishly to the point where it makes us “hard pressed” and unable to meet our needs (2 Corinthians 8:13, above). We’re meant to give willingly, according to our means (2 Corinthians 8:11-12, above). For example, if you earn less money than another person does then you shouldn’t feel bad about not giving as much as that other person because you don’t have as much as that person. You should give willingly based on what you do have, not based on what you don’t have (2 Corinthians 8:12, above). This is revelation knowledge with understanding for you. Don’t let any pastor, especially prosperity gospel preacher take advantage of you anymore!
Remember that tithing was designed to meet the needs of the people so that there will be equality in the Christian community in such a way that nobody lacks – every need is met.
THE NUMBER TWO REASON WHY THE LORD JESUS DID NOT CONDEMN TITHES:
The Ministers of The Gospel Must Be Taken Care of
In the New Testament under the grace, we don’t have Levitical priests rather we have pastors so the preachers of the gospel of Christ should live from the tithes and offerings. It is not a sin for the preachers of the gospel of Christ to live from the tithes and offerings; it is Biblical for the preachers of the gospel of Christ to live of the gospel and this the reason why the Lord Jesus Christ did not condemn tithing: 1 Corinthians 9:14 (KJV) “Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.”
Let us read in context:
1 Corinthians 9:7-10 (KJV) “Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.”
1 Corinthians 9:11-16 (KJV) “If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless, we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel. But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void. For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!”
1 Timothy 5:16-17 (KJV) “If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it (the church) may relieve them that are widows indeed. Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine.
From this Scripture (1 Timothy 5:16-17 KJV), a careful study by Kenneth Hoeck revealed in the same article “Christian Giving: Tithes, Gifts, Vows and Offerings” (http://www.truthontheweb.org/heartgiving.htm) that the first verse (16) indicates the care of the widow being compulsory to the saints (not called a tithe but nonetheless required) and then the second verse (17) says the elders, especially those working in the Word, are worthy of double that same honor. This shows care for the elders (spiritual leaders like the priests in the Old Testament) is also a worthy cause for Christian giving. In his writing, Hoeck expressed that this is summed up well in the next verse (1 Timothy 5:18 KJV) which is a quote from Deuteronomy 25:4 KJV “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn”. This Scripture is magnified from letter of the law to the spirit of the law: 1 Timothy 5:18 KJV “For the scripture saith, thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The laborer is worthy of his reward.”
THE NUMBER THREE REASON WHY THE LORD JESUS DID NOT CONDEMN TITHES:
The Need For Running The Expenses Of A Church (the church running costs).
Still in his article (http://www.truthontheweb.org/heartgiving.htm) while giving reasons why the Lord Jesus Christ did not condemn the payment of tithe, Kenneth Hoeck said “A Church Building (own or rent)” Examples From Old Testament.
He explained further that a Church building that is owned or rented will need either to maintain it or renew its rent. The church may be planning to have her permanent site – all these will require money. Kenneth gave a narrative of Old Testament for better understanding of this number three reason. He said we can use the examples from Old Testament to explain that there will be a need for running the expenses of a church (the church running costs). The Tabernacle structure was funded by voluntary donations for the cause. Let us look at some Scriptures:
- Exodus 25:1-2 KJV “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering.”
- Exodus 35:4-5 KJV “And Moses spake unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying, This is the thing which the LORD commanded, saying, Take ye from among you an offering unto the LORD: whosoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it, an offering of the LORD; gold, and silver, and brass,”
- The First Temple was funded by voluntary donations for the cause:1 Chronicles 29:6 KJV “Then the chief of the fathers and princes of the tribes of Israel, and the captains of thousands and of hundreds, with the rulers of the king’s work, offered willingly,
- 1 Chronicles 29:9 KJV Then the people rejoiced, for that they offered willingly, because with perfect heart they offered willingly to the LORD: and David the king also rejoiced with great joy.
- 2 Chronicles 29:31 KJV “Then Hezekiah answered and said, Now ye have consecrated yourselves unto the LORD, come near and bring sacrifices and thank offerings into the house of the LORD. And the congregation brought in sacrifices and thank offerings; and as many as were of a free heart burnt offerings.”
- Leviticus 24:1-2 (KJV) “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamps to burn continually.
- Exodus 27:20 (KJV) “And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamp to burn always”
He (Kenneth Hoeck) explained that the above commandment to the Israelites is a clear indication that God expected them to meet some running costs of the place of worship. The offerings themselves came from the Israelites, according to the commandments relating to the offerings. Besides, oil what were the other expenses? The other expenses for all other needed materials or items in the Tabernacle including wood for the fire on the altar of burnt offering were provided willingly by the people of Israel through voluntary. This giving for the church running costs can come from the tithes and offerings since today people bring and donate cash/money in the church bountifully (more than the giving of the Old Testament).
Nehemiah 10:34 “And we cast the lots among the priests, the Levites, and the people, for the wood offering, to bring it into the house of our God, after the houses of our fathers, at times appointed year by year, to burn upon the altar of the LORD our God, as it is written in the law.”
We see here how Nehemiah and the elders solved the problem of the wood supply. It was a matter of putting in some work required to cut and bring the wood in. All of the people participated in the “draw”, including the Levites and the priests. We can have a church building committee to oversee the running cost of the church. We can also look for genuine givers who are of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business in the church.
Nehemiah 10:32-33: (KJV) “Also we made ordinances for us, to charge ourselves yearly with the third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our God; For the shewbread, and for the continual meat offering, and for the continual burnt offering, of the sabbaths, of the new moons, for the set feasts, and for the holy things, and for the sin offerings to make an atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the house of our God.
Kenneth used this scripture to let us see Nehemiah and the elders how they decided to meet the running cost of the Temple in a prescribed manner – each family giving a flat rate. Please note: one-third of a shekel (of silver) is not much by any standard. They were very modest. One could certainly conclude, according to the word of God, that the church running costs should be met by the believers according to the decision of the elders, with everybody participating. But it must not be by force.
He (Kenneth) expressed with a question that should the church finances be separated into two funds: one for the support of those in the ministry and the help to the poor, and one for covering the running costs of the church? According to the Old Testament example given, the answer is yes. The tithes (poor, widow, Levites, Feast funds) were holy to the Lord and were not to be profaned in any way. When it comes to the New Testament it is not as clear, for there was no mention of the church running costs, but we certainly have a pattern in the Old to guide our way. In his explanation, Hoeck said we need wisdom which he believes that tithes and offering under the ministry of giving from people would be able to support the running costs of the church if the church members give generously from the bottom of their hearts.
Under the Old Testament the poor, the fatherless, widows, strangers were exempted/excluded from paying tithes – rather they are the ones to receive the tithe met for the poor and needy but in most Nigerian churches, it is not practiced at all, even they ask them to pay tithes: Deuteronomy 26:12 “When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase the third year, which is the year of tithing, and hast given it unto the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled.”
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