Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Tithes That Bind

[7/3/2016 - Editor's note: This article has truth mixed with error, the major failure being to properly assess the Melchizedek priesthood. A future article with correct this error.]

While a large plurality, if not majority, of churches teach tithing with the concomittant demand to comply with some form of it, we concur with the late Dr Ernest Martin that it is a sin. We will go the extra step of declaring it evil for the ekklesia (we transliterate the Greek) to abide by such strictures.
 
Dr Martin’s book, The Sin of Tithing, is probably somewhat provocative in some circles, but we believe that it correctly makes the case against tithing. We will present a summary of it here, but develop it somewhat differently than he did.
 
Religious leaders make the case for tithing by appealing to Mosaic Law, Melchizedek, and the Tithing Principle, oftentimes conflating more than one of these ideas for added impact, or avoidance of the logical conclusions of their initial claims.
 
Those appealing to Moses point out that he ordained tithing; that the law is good; and is to be loved and cherished by honorable Christians.  The tithe was an imposition – ie a tax – to be paid to the Levites by those living in Israel to support the priestly functions for the tabernacle and then temple, the annual festivals, and alms. Tithing was part of the Mosaic code ordained for Israel.
 
One important feature of the tithe was its scope – it was limited to agricultural and livestock production. Other trades were not subject to tithing. In addition, it was limited to the last tenth – not the first tenth – meaning that the first nine cattle were not subject to the tithe.
 
God’s laws require scrupulous obedience – variation and interpretation not being part of God’s tolerance. Those who tithe without living in Israel as Jews, who are not engaged in the two agricultural pursuits noted above, and who do not give to Levites are failing to keep the ordinances as God – or more accurately the angels – gave them. They are worshipping God with strange fire; they are sinning egregiously.

The second two justifications for tithing are frequently conflated – ie the Law and Melchizedek’s example are typically combined to produce the Tithing Principle.  Abraham avenged incursions against him by marauders mentioned in Genesis by counter-attacking them and taking a substantial sum of booty of which he gave a tenth to Melchizedek. The tithers then assert the existence of an ordinance ante-dating the Mosaic Law which means that it is a universal mandate to tithe.
Unfortunately there is nothing in the account of Moses to suggest that conclusion – let alone anything which explicitly teaches it. Moses simply related that Abraham showed respect and gratitude to the murky figure Melchizedek. There is simply no basis for concluding that Abraham gave Melchizedek a tenth because of any commands to do so.
In any event, the tithe which Moses required was for the increase of agricultural produce – which would have exempted war booty. As such, there is simply no basis for using the Melchizedek incident as the basis for requiring a tithe on one’s income.
For those who adhere to the Mosaic Law, there is usually no need to produce an argument for continuing the tithe into the ekklesia. Denominations teaching this sin simply invoke the dint of Law to require tithing. However, there are some denominations which nominally teach that the Law was fulfilled in Christ and that he put it away, replacing it with something else.

These people will acknowledge that the temple sacrifices have ended and that there is no temple. But they don’t really believe that the Law ended. There is a necessity to keep it today in a figurative, spiritual, or metaphorical sense. So, just because the Law no longer exists, one would not murder. As such, one is keeping the Law in principle. Likewise, we would not end tithing just because the Law is put away. Therefore, we need a tithing principle, which instead of taxing agricultural produce will tax all income of everyone living anywhere who is a member of a Church and who names the name of Christ.
This thinking is sad and warped. The Law and sin were put away by Christ. Therefore there is no need to keep the Law. Keeping the Law is indeed a sin. The Law was a teacher given to the Israelites and will be observed in the Millennial Kingdom. But the ekklesia has been given something far greater than the Mosaic Law. Thus we are freed from its shackles, having become mature in Christ, and accepting his fulfillment of the Law for us.

Just because there is no commandment to tithe does not mean that Christians are relieved of giving. Giving is an expression of love and is indeed taught in scripture. But the apostolic church worked with very modest budgets run by free will giving – not mandatory tithes on all income in complete contempt of the scriptures. But not all who come in Christ’s name are of Christ, many of them being of Mammon.
Those who wish to give to Jesus should give to the poor; for through this, admission into the Millennial Kingdom is secured. He who gives unto the least of these gives unto Jesus.

We urge those who are interested in a fuller treatment of this subject to read Dr Martin’s short work.  It may deliver many from hardship and bondage to the Law from which Jesus has set us free indeed.
Reference
The Sin of Tithing, Ernest Martin ( available at www.askekm.com )