Love Your Neighbor

The pastor commented on Sunday that he had more friends when he was in the world than he did in the church. I remember an unsaved friend telling me the same thing. She preferred hanging out with prostitutes and people who did drugs, because they were “loving and accepting.”

I realize that is a cop out, but there is some truth to that. Unbelievers often treat their “friends” better than Christians do. It seems we forget the greatest commandment: love.

I feel bad that “What would Jesus do?” was a fad, because that is a question we should ask ourselves. Are we responding to others the way Jesus would?

I am not of the belief that Christians should not “judge,” but there is a difference between acknowledging that someone is sinning and actually being judgmental.  As humans, it is easy to look down upon those living in sin instead of realizing that, but for the grace of God, that could be me! Even in the Church, people tend to gossip about others instead of going to them and challenging them to keep walking with God. This is not really love for others. It is more focusing on others’ sin in order to get the focus off of your own.

loveyourneighbor

God did not save you because you are a good person. If you are truly saved, it is more than likely because you saw your need and knew that you were wretched without God. Don’t lose sight of that. No one is hopeless, but I believe many have been turned off due to the lack of love they see in those who claim to love God. As John asks us, though, how can we love God when we don’t love our Brothers and Sisters (1 John 4:20)? And I would add, how can we love God when we don’t love everyone that He died to save?

True love is carrying a burden for those who are hell bound. It is interceding for them and being willing to be the hands and feet of Jesus when necessary. There are a lot of hard hearts in the world, but I’m convinced that there are still many who will respond to love.

Love is also seeing the needs of your Brothers and Sisters and looking for ways to lift their burdens. It’s taking time to listen to their struggles when you would rather be doing anything else.

I work with Christians, so I am not around unbelievers that much. I am also not good with words, except on paper, so I struggle to walk up to someone I don’t know and begin a conversation. But I hope I am never too busy to share a kind word or a smile, to recognize a need when there is one and be willing to fill that need. I pray that, every time I walk out my door, people see Jesus in me. This time of year, especially, people are hurting, and they need hope. Don’t neglect to show God’s love wherever He opens the door for you to do so.

I also hope I am never too busy or preoccupied with my own struggles to be available for a Brother or Sister in need. Jesus was constantly giving, and we need to be willing to do so too.

Praise: A Sacrifice?

I grew up singing “We bring a sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord” but I confess that I did not understand what a “sacrifice of praise” was until a few years ago. Praising God is fun … at least for me … so how could it be a sacrifice?

I am reading through the Book of Psalms right now, and it tells us a number of times to offer up a “sacrifice of praise” or a “sacrifice of thanksgiving.” Reading it translated as “thanksgiving” has caused me to ponder this even more.

praise

My family and I have entered a season of life recently that, honestly, I have been dreading. In it, I am going to have to die to self and forgo some of my plans this summer. That’s not easy for me but I know that, in this, God is performing His perfect work. Because of this, I do find myself thanking Him. I don’t always feel like it but, as I praise Him and thank Him for what He is doing in each of our lives, I feel more peace and more grace, and I know that, because of Him, I’ll never walk alone.

No matter what you are going through today, don’t stop praising Him. You may not always like the changes that God brings your way or the tasks He calls you to but, if you are willing to lay down your life and surrender to Him 100%, you will find that peace that passes understanding, and you will grow even closer to a God who loves you so much more than you can think or imagine.

rose

Should a Christian Tithe?

Should a Christian Tithe?  Tithe

I.  The Command to Tithe

Deuteronomy 14:22 “You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. 23 And before the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. 24 And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the Lord your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the Lord your God chooses, to set his name there, 25 then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the Lord your God chooses 26 and spend the money for whatever you desire–oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household. 27 And you shall not neglect the Levite who is within your towns, for he has no portion or inheritance with you.

28 “At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. 29 And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.

  • the only commands to tithe are found in or during the Old Covenant

 

II. The Purpose of the Tithe

Numbers 18:21 “To the Levites I have given every tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service that they do, their service in the tent of meeting, 22 so that the people of Israel do not come near the tent of meeting, lest they bear sin and die. 23 But the Levites shall do the service of the tent of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations, and among the people of Israel they shall have no inheritance. 24 For the tithe of the people of Israel, which they present as a contribution to the Lord, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance. Therefore I have said of them that they shall have no inheritance among the people of Israel.”

25 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 26 “Moreover, you shall speak and say to the Levites, ‘When you take from the people of Israel the tithe that I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall present a contribution from it to the Lord, a tithe of the tithe. 27 And your contribution shall be counted to you as though it were the grain of the threshing floor, and as the fullness of the winepress. 28 So you shall also present a contribution to the Lord from all your tithes, which you receive from the people of Israel. And from it you shall give the Lord’s contribution to Aaron the priest.

  • purpose of the tithe was to fund a permanent priesthood in Israel

 

III. The Location and Spirit of the Tithe

Deuteronomy 12:17 You may not eat within your towns the tithe of your grain or of your wine or of your oil, or the firstborn of your herd or of your flock, or any of your vow offerings that you vow, or your freewill offerings or the contribution that you present, 18 but you shall eat them before the Lord your God in the place that the Lord your God will choose, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, and the Levite who is within your towns. And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God in all that you undertake. 19 Take care that you do not neglect the Levite as long as you live in your land.

  • to be taken to Jerusalem only
  • portions of tithe to be eaten with family, servants and local Levites (basically as a feast)

 

IV. Special Added Tithing

Deuteronomy 26:12 “When you have finished paying all the tithe of your produce in the third year, which is the year of tithing, giving it to the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your towns and be filled, 13 then you shall say before the Lord your God, ‘I have removed the sacred portion out of my house, and moreover, I have given it to the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all your commandment that you have commanded me. I have not transgressed any of your commandments, nor have I forgotten them. 14 I have not eaten of the tithe while I was mourning, or removed any of it while I was unclean, or offered any of it to the dead. I have obeyed the voice of the Lord my God. I have done according to all that you have commanded me. 15 Look down from your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless your people Israel and the ground that you have given us, as you swore to our fathers, a land flowing with milk and honey.’

  • there is some disagreement amongst the commentators whether this added tithe represented a second or third 10%
  • most scholars lean toward two tithes (an annual 10% of everything and a second 10% of everything on the third year)
  • there were other donations required of the Israelite and there was also an encouragement to contribute freewill gifts which totalled to a annual “taxation” of 20-30%

 

V. An Example of the Tithe’s Re-institution

 

VI. It’s Omission a Cause for Chastening

Malachi 3: 7 From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ 8 Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. 10 Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. 11 I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts. 12 Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.

  • obviously abandoned for pragmatic reasons
  • part of giving to God what He required was trusting that He would still supply all one’s needs

 

VII. Commanded in the NT to those Still Under the Old Covenant

Matthew 23:23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.

  • remember that the New Covenant is not yet established so tithing was a genuine act of obedience to YHWH
  • by the time of Jesus the tithe had been so “midrashed” that it was an oppressive burden men tried to get out from under

 

VIII. Never Commanded for New Covenant Believers

  • there are no NT texts that command a Christian to give 10% of all he has to the Lord

 

IX. Why Do We Give Money to Church?

To Meet the Needs of Church Members

1 Timothy 6: 17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

 

To Enable Pastors to Do the Work of Ministry

1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The labourer deserves his wages.”

 

X.  How Much Do We Give to Church

2 Corinthians 9:6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

  • the simple answer is… there is no set amount!
  • the NT pattern often links giving to need
  • we should give a lot (bountifully), thoughtfully (as made up mind), freely (not under compulsion), happily (God loves a cheerful giver) and trustingly (God will cause the bountiful giver to be a bountiful reaper)

Posted here.

May Day! May Day! Don’t let the swindlers lead you astray!

The Tithe

It is arguably the most pervasive doctrine of the Church, so well-received that even those who ardently decry any other form of abusive ministry will just as fervently defend this doctrine.

“Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed Thee?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it may not destroy the fruits of the ground, nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes, says the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 3:8-11).

This one passage, very familiar to anyone who has attended church faithfully for a period of time, has done much to burden the Christian with something that doesn’t even apply to him.

Without going into a great amount of detail, the comparisons between the Old Testament law of tithes and offerings and the New Testament principles of giving contrast so sharply that it is virtually impossible to ignore the differences.

For one thing, the O.T. tithes were directed toward the nation of Israel. The above verse indicates that quite clearly. It was a physical demonstration of the Jewish people in covenant relationship with the LORD. It was both the individual Jew’s and the entire nation of Israel’s duty to tithe on order to fulfill the Law. If he/they didn’t tithe, they were cursed.

There is no such thing as a nation of Christians. Our covenant is one of the heart. Christ has already fulfilled the Law in us (Romans 8:3-4). The mandated, outward observance of religious statutes (such as circumcision and tithes) have been done away. When Paul heard that Judaizers were attempting to bring circumcision into the Christian community, he placed anathema on them for subverting the law of grace (Galatians 1:6-9). The whole point of the book of Galatians was to show that we are no longer under the Law, nor could the Law make us righteous (Galatians 3:10-11). Since it says in verse 10 that everyone who practices the Law must abide by every point, or he is cursed, it is clear that circumcision is also implied, as were the temple practices, the priesthood, etc. Since these things are no longer in practice for the Christian, tithing falls right into the same area. Also, since Malachi curses those who do not tithe, and we are told in Galatians 3:13 that Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law, it is evident that both cannot apply.

Also, it is obvious that the Old Testament tithe was a requirement–no exceptions. But we are told in 2 Corinthians 9:7 that we are not to give under compulsion (or requirement), but to give as we ourselves purpose to give from our heart.

The tithes were used to support the Levitical priesthood for service at the Temple (Numbers 18:21-30). In the New Testament, all believers make up the priesthood (Revelation 1:6), and believers themselves are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), the only temple where God dwells.

One more critical point should bring the argument in favor of a tithe to a screeching halt. The tithes were assessed only the increase of the crops and cattle of the Jews, and was paid in crops and cattle (Deuteronomy 14:22-23). Only if a person lived too far from the temple to make the yearly trip with a caravan of goods could he convert the tithe into money, and add one-fifth to the price (Leviticus 27:30-33, Deuteronomy 14: 24-25).

Now, it is a great leap to say that the local church building now represents the Temple where the tithes were stored, and since it is too far to bring our cattle, produce, new wine, etc., then we are permitted to bring our money instead. But then, remember that we must add one-fifth to the price, thereby giving more than the traditional 10% tithe. And all this to support the Levitical priesthood, which, symbolically is now the local pastor…

You can see where this is all going. The argument falls apart when taken in context. Now, certainly we should give, and that generously, for we own nothing. We are only stewards of what belongs to God anyway. But twisting the financial arm of the average church-goer or laying a heavy burden of guilt on him for failure to fulfill an unwarranted expectation is Pharisaical.

“And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the multitude were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. And calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty put in all she owned, all she had to live on'” (Mark 12:41-44). (The above is by author unknown, found by me years ago.)

We see here, at the last, a revelation from the Lord that giving is a matter of the soul. Read the sermon on the mount and see the comparison between sheep and goats – each group did the same things, but the sheep did so unto the brothers of Christ, knowing only that they loves the redeemed brotherhood; and the goats gave without knowledge of love, thinking they were honoring the Lord. This reminds us that the righteousness of deeds done in our flesh is rubbish, while the small things we do in the Spirit of God are pure gold.

Not everyone who teaches tithing is a swindler. A.W. Pink is an example of such a man. Yet the teaching of tithing is, in my opinion, the result of not seeing the theology of the Kingdom of God rightly, being too concerned with earthly things and the continuation of Israel as seen with eyes of flesh.

For more reading, including a couple of free ebooks, check out http://www.tithingdebate.com/

The battle cry of The Reformation was – and still must be – Soli Deo Gloria! Let nothing we do be less.