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Saturday, May 28, 2011

2001--on tithing and giving

            My name is Tom, this is simple church minute.  One can easily find in most Bible commentaries and dictionaries that in the Old Covenant days, there were clearly two tithes for certain, and possibly a third.  One was for the support of the Levites, who, unlike the other eleven tribes, did not have land, but whose job was to direct the worship of the Lord for all of Israel. Key Bible verses about this tithe are Leviticus 27 verses 30 to 33 and Numbers 18 verses 26 to 32. Another tithe was to be used for festivals. Key verses for this are Numbers 18 verses 20 to 26, Deuteronomy 12 verses 1 to 19, and Deuteronomy 14 verses 22 to 26.  The third tithe was either every third year, or a third of a tithe every year, or 3 of 7 years of Sabbath years, its not clear from our current vantage point.  If there is a third tithe, the key verses are Deuteronomy 14 verses 27 to 29 and Deuteronomy 26 verses 12 to 15. It was for helping the poor, of which it seems that the Levites were a part of.  When Israel was a nation, the budget of the nation came out of the tithes.  By the time of Jesus, the rabbis had made a rule, not found in scripture, that the Jews were not to give more than 40%, because rich Romans were spending large amounts of personal fortunes on public works projects as political advertising to get into the Empire’s public offices.  When Jesus died on the cross, the early church understood His death as the ultimate sacrifice that fulfilled the Old Covenant.  The early church gave generously to help spread the message of Jesus, help other believers, and help those in need nearby.  They did not have buildings, and leadership was by God’s leadership gifts. It needs to be noted that in Acts 15 verses 22 to 29, where the leaders of the church in Jerusalem meet to guide the early church as to what of the Old Covenant Law believers were still to follow, tithing is not mentioned.  Saul’s parents were apparently wealthy, as he was a citizen, and his parents or previous ancestors, being from Tarsus, almost assuredly purchased their citizenship.  When he became a Pharisee, it was a rule that Pharisees had to learn a trade to support themselves, because Levites in the past had a difficult time getting by when large amounts of Israel fell away from God and didn’t tithe.  When Saul came to follow Jesus, grew in faith, and started on his missionary journeys, he had the trade of tent making to support himself with.  When Jesus said “a worker is worth his keep” in Matthew, that was not license for churches to have a payroll, but he was specifically indicating that the those who would receive teaching and leadership had a responsibility to support brothers and sisters who went to bring the message of Jesus. This is particularly true when they go to places so culturally different that being able to make a living with their skills was unclear to impossible.  Jesus commended the widow in Matthew 12 verses 41 to 44 for giving a little out of little or no income, as opposed to those who gave much larger amounts out of their abundance.
          The teaching of a 10% tithe came back into the church in the 8th century, when the Catholic Church started owning land in northern Europe, where 10% of a year’s crop was the traditional land rent.  The local leaders, who at that time were trained in performing ritual, but not necessarily understanding scripture, then got it confused with the Old Testament writings.  Whether that was an honest mistake or not is beyond our reach.  Possibly this did not get cleared up in the Protestant Reformation or later due to church leaders not being as prepared as Paul was to earn a secular living.  Today, in traditional churches, 85% of offerings go to building costs and payroll alone.  Interestingly, we see little growth in the number of believers in the free world, and a great move of coming to faith in Jesus in the Marxist, Buddhist, and Muslim lands where such expenditures are usually impossible.
          You can find out more about believers in this area worshipping without corporations and buildings, and with believers committed to building up each other at www.hrscn.org.   I can be reached at (at the time of this post, I am anticipating a change in phone number).  If you wish to review what I said, a transcript is on my blog, tevyebird.blogspot.com, dated May 28, 2011.

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