SpicesIn Matthew 23, we have a record of Jesus’ strong condemnation of the religious leaders of his day, who had not led the people faithfully and who had become hypocritical and legalistic. Here is one of the seven “woe’s” he gave them: “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law — justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things (NLT).”

To Tithe or Not to Tithe

The entire Israelite nation ran on a system of tithing, or of giving 10% of one’s income for the support of the Levites who worked at the temple and the needs of the poor (Deut.14:22. Lev.27:30). Being primarily an agrarian society, this mainly included the giving of produce from the farms.  Mint, dill and cumin were herbs (spices) from the kitchen garden and they were only grown in very small quantities and to tithe them would be such a small amount that most people would not have even worried about it. But the Pharisees were pedantic tithers!

Jesus actually commends them for their attention to such detail. Giving is important and we should honour God with our resources.

There has been a lot of debate about tithing over the years …

Some churches and preachers believe that all of the Old Testament laws of tithing still apply to Christians today. They believe that if Christians don’t tithe they are under a curse and will not receive the blessing of God in their lives (see Mal.3:8-12). I have even heard of one preacher who apparently said that there were people who were sick in his church – because they hadn’t been tithing faithfully! Other churches and preachers believe that the teaching about tithing is no longer relevant for Christians today and that we are no longer under these laws. There are plenty of books and articles out there against tithing.  

So what is the best approach to the matter of tithing? Under the New Covenant, everything (100%!) that we have is to be seen as belonging to God and available for his use at any time. The teaching in the New Testament about giving focuses on “generosity.” No specific percentage is mandated. Zaccheus gave half (50%) of his goods to the poor upon his conversion and Barnabas gave all (100%) of the proceeds of a block of land he sold for the work of the church in Jerusalem. Under grace, we give, not because we have to (out of a sense of duty) OR because we are afraid of being judged if we don’t, but because we want to – voluntarily, willingly, generously and joyfully (see Paul’s teaching in 2 Cor.8-9).

In our church community, we teach that giving 10% of our income to God’s work in the world, is an excellent principle (not a law). It is a regular reminder that all we have comes from God. It teaches us to live by faith, as we have to trust our 90% to go further with God's help than we could make our 100% go without God's assistance. It also helps us keep control of our finances. One of the major causes of financial difficulties today is people spending more then they are earning (whatever level of income they have). Regular giving and saving help to curb the spirit of greed in our culture, because they require us to live within our means, which is the key to financial freedom. Finally, it helps to resource the work of the local church. We are very thankful to our church members who commit to support the work of God through the church by giving 10% of their income. Without them, we could not be able to engage in the level of ministry we are involved in today, both locally and around the world. So for us, tithing is a practice that we as leaders model and one which we encourage all followers of Christ to adopt as part of their financial stewardship before God.

Notice that Jesus commends the Pharisees for handling their giving well. They went the extra mile when it came to their tithing and Jesus affirmed them for this (one of the few times he ever does so). However, there are other more important things …

Click here for part 2.

9 thoughts on “Justice Trumps Spices (Pt.1)

  1. As a man sows so shall he reap.
    This law is still in action today as it was in the beginning.
    If this is true in what you sow, it’s true in what you don’t sow.
    God expected his people to tithe, it has been since he made it clear in Deuteronomy 14:22 10% as a minimum.
    Malachi talks about bringing the whole tithe into the house of God, test me now in this declares the Lord. Mal 3:10
    If you don’t tithe, then you are not walking in obedience to the Lord.
    You will be putting your money into your pocket with holes in it(Haggai 1:6), the potential of loss coming against your finances.
    All ceremonial washings and works of personal sanctification have been replaced through the atoning work of Christ, who for-fills all righteousness.
    I guess the key to this Mark is the interpretation of Jesus saying, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.. Matt 5:17. I see that as finished when Christ hands the kingdom back to the father at the end.

  2. Yes, Sam – the principles of giving, sowing and reaping, and God’s blessing on generosity still apply.
    You just won’t find any instance of a Christian tithing 10%, as a response to the OT law, anywhere in the early church or the NT. There is a clear shift to ‘generous giving’ and people giving willingly, as directed by their own heart and the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 8-9 is a good example of this. However, we still see ‘tithing’ as a good principle or practice (not a law), for the reasons mentioned above.

  3. The law grace argument is relevant. What is the Fathers will/command in relation to tithing.
    Do you think the Father would say its up to you as the individual whether you tithe or not, Its optional is what I get in what you are commuicating?
    So is idoltary optional? or is it a command?
    1 Corinth 9:13 Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple(tithes and offerings)
    and those who serve at the Alter partake of the offerings of the alter?
    Even so the Lord commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.
    The word command, So is tithing a command or an option?
    What is Christ commanding and to whom?
    To me it reads as a command to the church and the continuation of the principle and command of tithing.

  4. Hi Samuel.
    If you take the tithing laws from the OT and make them ‘commands’ for Christians, to be consistent, you’d have to take all of the OT laws and do the same. My belief is that only the moral law (the 10 commandments – minus the Sabbath day) come through the cross (THE hermeneutical filter), as both Jesus and Paul affirms them all, while pointing to the higher law of love. All other laws, including the ceremonial laws are fulfilled and abolished at the cross. Of course, principles and practices can be derived from them but no binding laws. Hope that helps. Thanks.

  5. Hi Mark
    In relation to 1 Corth 9:13
    A command can only be outworked if there is provision for the command, provision for the command can only be guaranteed through law.
    You said “My belief is that only the moral law (the 10 commandments – minus the Sabbath day) come through the cross (THE hermeneutical filter), as both Jesus and Paul affirms them all.
    Jesus said in Matt 22:20-22 20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?
    21They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.
    Jesus talking about money, Caesar’s coin is in his hand.
    From my reading of this passage, questions that you need to ask, who was Jesus directing the quote “and to God the things that be Gods? Did he need to say such a thing in relation to the task at hand or was he deliberately making a reference to tithing?
    Here are two examples by Jesus and also Paul of the continuation of not only the principle of tithing but the command.

  6. “In our church community, we teach that giving 10% of our income to God’s work in the world, is an excellent principle (not a law)………We are very thankful to our church members who commit to support the work of God through the church by giving 10% of their income.”

    Hi Mark, I’ve been to your church only twice in 5 years, so I don’t really know about your church’s tithing practices (If I lived closer, I would choose to attend your church, instead of my current one). I do however have a couple of questions:
    Question 1: About your church members who commit to give 10% of their income: On average, do they give 10% before tax or after tax? (of course it depends on an individual to individual – see 2 Cor 9:7, but I’m asking about “on average”). No need to check with your church accountants, but what is your gut feel? Do they give before or after tax, on average?
    Question 2: To your church members who commit to give 10% after tax, do you belive that it’s an excellent principle/good practice (not a law) if they gave 10% before tax instead?

  7. Goodness samuel, your a headache to listen to. I wasnt tithing, my income was low, my jobs were part time because thats all i could handle really and every spare cent i gambled at the pokies out of extreme addiction. I had made determined promises to God about what i would give and broke them continually.
    So in this state, several months ago, I was mowing the lawn one day and I started to get an onslaught of thoughts. They were crazy positive and i just started glowing in my spirit. They were words of amazing affirmation, specific encouragement and amazing license to move forward in confidence in God. That day i decided to listen to a sermon on CD that i had avoided for many weeks. Like ten points of my little revelation on the lawn were on the CD. Something my leaders spoke over the local body of christ had been revealed to me before i heard it, by the Spirit. I was so amazed. I had not obeyed my sense of obligation to tithe and was aware of my failure. So was my pastor and he did not point out what i thought was the elephant in the room that I could be giving to the Lord what i gave to the pokies clubs… I knew theoretically that there was a relationship with the leadership of the church but i never experienced the spoken word being so powerfully received by my spirit and honoured by heaven. I was so glad God blessed me even though i didnt pay my tithe at all. I let my leaders know how i felt and honoured them for obeying God, I dont believe God wouldnt honour their words so if it wasnt from him. And all this blessing available ofcourse because Jesus obeyed the Father. I cant understate how empowered my spirit was by this event.
    when our leaders live by the Spirit they can choose with wisdom how to motivate the body. Its amazing how ineffective the letter of the law can be in that regard, and i think that should humble people who try to deliver the word of the law instead of the word of the spirit of Life.
    Full Honour to the leaders who obey God! May God provide their finances in abundance.

  8. Samuel / John Kay,
    There are believers who tithe, and are financially blessed.
    There are believers who tithe, yet struggle financially all their lives.
    There are believers who don’t tithe, yet are financially blessed.
    There are believers who don’t tithe, and struggle financially all their lives.
    There are unbelievers who are financially blessed.
    There are unbelievers who struggle financially all their lives.
    Question for Samuel/JohnKay: To all the people on earth who are financially blessed, do you think most of them are born-again or non-born-again?
    Matthew 5:45 – He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

  9. Mark thanks for being such a diligent steward of the word of God, applying your advocated theology to offering, rather than to dogmatic tithing methadology has bought a greater liberty to our lives.
    Thank you

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