GIVING ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES
Biblical Research Monthly April, 1970
by Dr. David L. Cooper
The phrase "storehouse tithing," in the sense it is applied today, does not appear in the Scriptures. We hear a distorted echo of Malachi 3:10, "Bring ye the whole tithe into the store-house, that there may be food in my house, and prove me now herewith, saith Jehovah of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."Tithes and Offerings According to Mosaic Law
Whenever reading a passage of Scripture, one must consider the entire context. Who is doing the talking? To whom is the author speaking? Why? Under what conditions? Malachi was the last prophet of, and his message the last in, the Dispensation of Law. His was a reiteration of a legal enactment imposed under the Mosaic economy. The Children of Israel had been restored to their own land from the Babylonian captivity. They were failing to bring their tithes to the Temple--the means by which its services were maintained in accordance with God's instruction through Moses.
The manner in which tithes and offerings were to be brought by Israel is prescribed in Deuteronomy, chapter 12, and should be read in its entirety. Verses 5-14 read: "But unto the place which Jehovah your God shall choose out of all your tribes, to put his name there, even unto his habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come; and thither ye shall bring your burnt-offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and the heave-offering of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill-offerings, and the firstlings of your herd and of your flock: and there ye shall eat before Jehovah your God, and ye shall rejoice in all that ye put your hand unto, ye and your households, wherein Jehovah thy God hath blessed thee. Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes; for ye are not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance, which Jehovah thy God giveth thee. But when ye go over the Jordan, and dwell in the land which Jehovah your God causeth you to inherit, and he giveth you rest from all your enemies round about, so that ye dwell in safety; then it shall come to pass that to the place which Jehovah your God shall choose, to cause his name to dwell there, thither shall ye bring all that I command you: your burnt-offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the heave-offering of your hand, and all your choice vows which ye vow unto Jehovah. And ye shall rejoice before Jehovah your God, ye, and your sons, and your daughters, and your men-servants, and your maid-servants, and the Levite that is within your gates, forasmuch as he hath no portion nor inheritance with you. Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt-offerings in every place that thou seest; but in the place which Jehovah shall choose in one of thy tribes, there thou shalt offer thy burnt-offerings, and there thou shalt do all that I command thee." The reader is also urged to read carefully Deuteronomy 14:28,29.Giving According to the New Testament
In what place did God choose to place His name? To what city did He require the tithes to be brought? Psalm 87:1-3 provides the answer. "His foundation is in the holy mountains. Jehovah loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God" (Psalm 87:1-3). We learn from the Deuteronomy passages that God was to select a place where the tithes were to be paid. For a storehouse, Jerusalem became that chosen place.
The prophet Malachi knew Moses' teaching and the contents of Psalms 87 and 132. He knew where the storehouse was located. The Lord, through the prophet, castigated the entire nation, charging them with disloyalty because from the days of the fathers, until the prophet's time, the Hebrew people had been unfaithful with respect to the tithes and offerings. The entire matter is set forth through Malachi in the following words: "From the days of your fathers ye have turned aside from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith Jehovah of hosts. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with the curse; for ye rob me, even this whole nation. Bring ye the whole tithe into the store-house, that there may be food in my house, and prove me now herewith, saith Jehovah of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast its fruit before the time in the field, saith Jehovah of hosts. And all nations shall call you happy; for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith Jehovah of hosts." (Malachi 3:7-12)
The Lord charged the nation with having turned aside from keeping the divine ordinances. Then Jehovah appealed to the nation to return to Him, assuring them that if they did, He would accept them. Instead of being of a contrite heart and repenting, they defiantly challenged Jehovah by asking, "Wherein shall we return?" To this bitter and caustic retort of the people, Jehovah charged them with having robbed God: "Will a man rob God? yet you rob me. But ye say, wherein have we robbed thee?" To their impudent question Jehovah replied, "in tithes and offerings." He then announced that they were under a curse because of willful disobedience. Jehovah, through the prophet, was very explicit, declaring that the entire nation had robbed Him, therefore, they were under a curse.
In loving-kindness, God, through the prophet, plead with Israel to return to Him, saying: "Bring ye the whole tithe into the store-house, that there may be food in my house, and prove me herewith, saith Jehovah of Hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it" (Malachi 3:10). Moreover, the Lord promised He would rebuke those foreigners who might invade their territory, devour their goods and wreck the countryside. He also promised unprecedented prosperity and peace to Israel if he would only be obedient to Him.
In the light of the quotation from Deuteronomy, and other related passages, it is clear that what God meant by "storehouse"--into which the people were urged to bring their tithes and offerings--was the storehouse at the Temple in Jerusalem. No Christian should interpret the language of Malachi's prophecy as applying to a church comprised of a group of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Moreover, no one understanding the Gospel message--that salvation is all of grace and not of works--can apply the language of Malachi's prophecy to the church today--a local congregation or denomination. Should we do so, we would have to say that the entire church, or denomination, is under a curse for the passage declares that was the case of the whole nation of Israel. In view of all the facts before us, it is utterly impossible for anyone to apply the teaching of the Books of Deuteronomy and Malachi to the church or any part of it. To apply this latter passage to Christians, in order to coerce them into paying tithes into the treasury of a local church, is to pervert and distort the message of God. Such teaching makes it mean something God never intended the message to convey. To apply this language to a local church is to put the church under law and out from under grace. This, in spite of the apostle's declaration, that we are not under law but under grace.
Should not Christians tithe? One will look in vain in the New Testament to find one tenet of teaching about tithing. The reason is that Christians are not under law whereas tithing was a part of the Mosaic law. Since tithing is not in the New Testament Scriptures--which is our rule of faith and practice--we should not teach that tithing is binding upon us; rather, we should teach the form of giving that is sanctioned in the New Testament. "What," you ask, "is taught in the New Testament on this point?" My answer is that the teaching of Christ, with regard to giving, is found in His recorded statement in Luke 16:1-13: "And he said also unto the disciples, There was a certain rich man, who had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he was wasting his goods. And he called him, and said unto him, What is this that I hear of thee? render the account of thy stewardship; for thou canst be no longer steward. And the steward said within himself, What shall I do, seeing that my lord taketh away the stewardship from me? I have not strength to dig; to beg I am ashamed. I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. And calling to him each one of his lord's debtors, he said to the first. How much owest thou unto my lord? And he said, A hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bond, and sit down quickly and write fifty. Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, A hundred measures of wheat. He saith unto him. Take thy bond, and write fourscore. And his lord commended the unrighteous steward because he had done wisely: for the sons of this world are for their own generation wiser than the sons of the light. And I say unto you. Make to yourselves friends by means of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when it shall fail, they may receive you into the eternal tabernacles. He that is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much: and he that is unrighteous in a very little is unrighteous also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
The gist of our Lord's illustrated lesson may be summarized as follows: The Lord is the possessor of all things. We are His stewards, responsible to Him for the way in which we manage what He entrusts to us. What we have in our names, legally and otherwise, is not our own as He asserts in the following words: "And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?" (Luke 16:12). Unquestionably, what we possess is the Lord's property. Moreover, if we are not faithful in the mammon of unrighteousness (worldly goods and possessions), who will commit to our trust the true riches (the spiritual realities of the eternal world)? From these factual statements, it is clear that we, regardless of what possessions God has put in our hands, are simply His stewards. We are expected to use, and invest for His glory, that which He has entrusted to us as stewards.
It behooves us to remember that the Lord is keeping the books. Figuratively speaking, He is sitting over against the treasury, observing and noting what we do and how we do it.
The Christian should not ask himself, "How much of my goods shall I give to the Lord's service?" Contrariwise, the question which he should honestly and conscientiously ask and answer is "How much of the Lord's possessions, entrusted to me as His steward, shall I use for my personal needs?" The person who honestly faces and answers this question, as in the presence of God, has the solution to his problems concerning giving. He will never be occupied with the subject of tithing but will--as a faithful steward--be concerned with the matter of faithfulness in discharging his duties and obligations related to the Lord's cause.
But one may ask, "Is there not something said, or some suggestions made, in the New Testament as to the percentage we should give?" Yes, we have the following instructions from the Apostle Paul to the church at Corinth (this, in regard to the matter of bringing weekly offerings to the service of the Lord): "Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come" (I Corinthians 16:2). As is reflected in this passage, the apostle had previously given instructions to the churches throughout Galatia, as well as to the church of Corinth, concerning the matter of giving to the Lord's cause. It is to be remembered that those Christians of the early days were, as a rule, from the poorer classes--from the rank and file of the people--and depended largely upon their daily earnings for a living. The apostle, recognizing this situation, instructed, "Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store as he may prosper, that no collection be made when I come." Viewing these instructions in the light of the teaching of the Saviour (in the passage quoted from Luke), we see that the Christians were urged to give each week to the Lord--out of that which they had received during the week. Note especially that they were to take it out weekly. Obviously, this was to preclude the possibility of the Lord's portion being spent for their personal needs.
But all people do not receive salary or wage weekly. Most, in this country, are paid twice a month. If the apostle were speaking to us today, he would tell us that when we receive our salaries, or wages, we should be careful to take out the Lord's portion as He has prospered us. It should be emphasized that the Lord's portion should be taken out first. What is left should be retained for one's own needs. Many devout Christians follow this practice, doing it not because of being under law, but under grace.
If all Christians were to adopt the New Testament plan for giving, there would be no lack in any branch of the Lord's service. There would be a superabundance of money for carrying on every phase of the work of the Kingdom of God. May the Spirit of God stir our hearts to loyalty and fidelity to Him and His service. The Lord honors that one whose life is consistently faithful to Him. Those who live in this manner shall never lack anything, but everything that comes into their lives will be blessed of the Lord.
A dear Christian who desired only to do the will of God was rather surprised at my position regarding Christian tithing. Relating her own experience to me, she said that in her younger days she heard nothing from the pulpit regarding tithing; therefore, her giving was sporadic and somewhat meager. Later in life she heard a message concerning Christian tithing. By this sermon she was convinced that Christians should tithe. She immediately adopted the principle. Being open-minded, and desiring to do the will of God, she grew in grace and in the knowledge of the truth. Before long, she was not only tithing but was making additional, substantial offerings to the Lord's work. While she admitted tithing is not taught in the New Testament, she was glad that she started giving a tenth systematically. Her testimony was to the effect that after she began tithing, her nine-tenths was blessed of the Lord and went as far as her ten-tenths did previously--sometimes farther! Moreover, she reasoned that if the Lord required the Jews to tithe, we should at least measure up to the standard for those who were under the law.
A careful study of the law of Moses shows that Israel not only tithed, but made many additional offerings. As in all things, let us in our giving, seek to do the will of God as it is clearly expressed in the Holy Scriptures.
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