Kingdom Coffers: "Flat Tax" or "Love Offering"? Part 1

I think the controversy between Paul and the Judaizers in Galatia and the subsequent church council may be relevant to the question of how biblical the concept and practice of tithing is. As we all know, the apostles who actually walked and talked with Jesus during his earthly ministry stuck around Jerusalem and did little in the way of what Jesus said they’d do in Acts 1:8 as far as being his witness not only in Jerusalem and Judea, but then to move over to preach to the Samaritans and then extend the preaching of Christ to the “uttermost parts of the earth.” It took the providence of God through the unpleasant means of persecution at the hands of, among other Jewish leaders, one Saul of Tarsus. This persecution chased the First Church of Jerusalem to begin “planting” churches in Gentile lands for the sake of their very skins (after all, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”). Then, as he was on his way to Damascus to continue persecuting Christians, Saul is confronted by, and converted to, the very one he was ultimately persecuting, the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 9:1-6). In this event, the Lord informs Paul of his plan to send him to preach the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 26:16-17). Among the churches born out of this foundational missionary work came the churches of Galatia.
These Galatian churches are the ones which were plagued by the Judaizing heresy, in which Gentile Christians were taught by their elder Jewish Christian brethren, that now that they were following the Jewish Messiah, they needed to take things a step further and begin receiving the sign of the Mosaic covenant (circumcision). The Judaizers became so influential that even the apostle Peter was motivated to endorse their dangerous emphasis (Galatians 2:11-14). This is what sparked the controversy. Paul confronted Peter about how they shouldn’t be teaching Gentiles to incorporate the types and shadows of the Mosaic Law into their faith and practice, because this tendency is compromising the gospel, and endangering the eternal souls of Gentile professing believers. The controversy became so significant that the apostles decided to deliberate about this issue in what we now know as the Jerusalem church council. This apostolic council’s conclusions are recorded in Acts 15. Considering just what, if any, practices based on the civil, ceremonial and dietary laws of Israel ought to, or can profitably, be imposed on Gentile Christian converts, they resolved to reduce the burden to four things, three dealt with food (Acts 15:29), its preparation and its relevance to unbelieving religious customs, and one issue relevant to the purity of the New Testament temple of the Holy Spririt (sexual immorality, cf. 1 Corinthians 6:12-20). Notice, here, what Mosaic Covenant practices are not included. The one that applies to this writing is the laws regarding the tithe (Numbers 18:24-28). The apostles thought about it, and decided (in so many words) that, among other things, they didn’t need to teach Gentile Christians to give specifically (or even at least) ten percent of their produce or income in whatever form it may exist.
But the question may be raised: did the tithe not predate the Law, since Abram tithed to Melchizedek? We’ll examine this issue next time.
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7 responses

  1. I can’t wait John, so hurry up.

    At the regular Pastors prayer at 1 p.m. yesterday this subject was discussed before we got down to prayer.

    Some among us are busybodies and nosy and go off doing the “work” of the Lord sticking their noses into the conflicts of others thinking that that is their calling, to be peace makers.

    I listened intently because I have my cause too!

    Here is where I found myself standing:::>

    a long paste but I commend you read if fully understanding what is being implied, which parenthetically can only be grasped by studying the purposes Paul puts forth in the Pauline mindset about 10% or 100% of all is our stewardship and whatever amounts necessary are the means to His end of the matter of giving!

    Act 20:22 And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there:
    Act 20:23 Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me.
    Act 20:24 But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.
    Act 20:25 And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more.
    Act 20:26 Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men.
    Act 20:27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.
    Act 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
    Act 20:29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
    Act 20:30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
    Act 20:31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
    Act 20:32 And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.
    Act 20:33 I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel.
    Act 20:34 Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.
    Act 20:35 I have showed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.
    Act 20:36 And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all.

    Mind you Paul was wealthy!

    Act 24:24 And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ.
    Act 24:25 And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.
    Act 24:26 He hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul, that he might loose him: wherefore he sent for him the more often, and communed with him.
    Act 24:27 But after two years Porcius Festus came into Felix’ room: and Felix, willing to show the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound.

    I just cannot buy into the tithe business and your point is well taken that of the four things determined to be the GOSPEL LIFE OF THE KINGDOM ON EARTH, that issue was absent from their determination!

    I believe we are either in the world living and parsing our money and time to God as we will, or we are in the world living and giving all of our life for the Will of God according to the work of the Holy Ghost!

    Was that bold and assertive and direct?

  2. John D. Chitty | Reply

    Not only bold, assertive and direct, but also “practical and relevant”!

    As for how much we are to give, I believe the greatest verse in Paul’s entire passage which brings it all into focus is 2 Corinthians 8:9, which reads:

    “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. “

    Jesus gave 100% as our substitute, so that he could then serve as our example. If his gift doesn’t motivate our giving, nothing will!

  3. Great post, John. I never thought of the connection between Acts 15 and this whole issue.

    I do think that many today unnecessarily bind people’s consciences in the matter of the tithe. And often the reason is they can’t trust God themselves. The leaders know if they preach on the tithe, they can be supported financially, but if they just trust God, that’s a little scary. Granted many want to see God’s blessings on people, and they sincerely think those blessings are tied to a Mal. 3 promise.

    Anyways, it is a topic worth exploring. And I’m glad you are!

  4. John D. Chitty | Reply

    Thanks, Bob.

    Frankly, I never thought of this connection either until I read the incredible Wikipedia article on tithing to which I linked at the beginning of the post. Don’t neglect to read that link! It sums up well the history of tithing and made it all become clear to me.

    But more on that later!

    On my connecting this passage with tithing, I invite anyone who may have some reason to correct this connection to please do so. I don’t want to go beyond the text by misapplying these things.

  5. I am reminded of the conversation the duck overheard the chicken and pig have one morning after their feeding and watering by Farmer John.

    The duck overheard this conversation while walking along a dirt road with the chicken and pig:::>

    Hey Piggy, I was thinking, Farmer John has been such a good farmer to us, feeding and watering us daily all these years and without complaint!

    I suggest we do something for him!

    What, asked the pig?

    AAAAh, ah, well, what about making Farmer John breakfast tomorrow morning?

    Hmmm, hey that’s a great idea exclaimed the pig!

    Ah, what should we make him for breakfast, asked the pig a short time later?

    Walking along the dirt road a bit farther, the chicken said, I know, how about ham and eggs for breakfast then garnished with fresh fruits and a glass of cold milk?

    Hmmm, hey, that’s a great idea!! the pig said quickly.

    Then suddenly the pig stopped and said,

    HEY, HEY, HEY, WAIT JUST A MINUTE, HAM AND EGGS, AH, WELL, WAIT A MINUTE, THAT’S JUST NOT VERY FAIR!!!

    Why asked the chicken?

    Well, for you chicken, it’s a contribution, you and the cow, for me, well it means my complete sacrifice!

    2Ch 15:1 And the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded:
    2Ch 15:2 And he went out to meet Asa, and said unto him, Hear ye me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin; The LORD is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you.
    2Ch 15:3 Now for a long season Israel hath been without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without law.
    2Ch 15:4 But when they in their trouble did turn unto the LORD God of Israel, and sought him, he was found of them.

    But here’s the gravity of the issues of this Gospel Life under the Old Law of His Holiness:::>

    2Ch 15:10 So they gathered themselves together at Jerusalem in the third month, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Asa.
    2Ch 15:11 And they offered unto the LORD the same time, of the spoil which they had brought, seven hundred oxen and seven thousand sheep.
    2Ch 15:12 And they entered into a covenant to seek the LORD God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul;
    2Ch 15:13 That whosoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.
    2Ch 15:14 And they swore unto the LORD with a loud voice, and with shouting, and with trumpets, and with cornets.
    2Ch 15:15 And all Judah rejoiced at the oath: for they had sworn with all their heart, and sought him with their whole desire; and he was found of them: and the LORD gave them rest round about.

  6. John D. Chitty | Reply

    With that in mind, I want to remind you to read the link on the statement, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

    This also reminds me of the lyrics to what is probably my favorite Steven Curtis Chapman song, inspired by Jim Eliot, Nate Saint and their partners who were killed by the Aucas just before their wives and sisters could go in and evangelize them.

    No Greater Love

    Man of courage
    with your message of peace
    What is that look in your eyes?
    Why have you come
    to this faraway place?
    What is this story you would
    lay down your life to tell?
    What kind of love can this be?

    There is no greater love than this
    There is no greater gift
    that can ever be given
    To be willing to die
    so another might live
    There is no greater love than this

    Broken hearted
    from all you have lost
    How can you sing
    through your tears?
    What is this music
    that can bear such a cost?
    What is this fire that grows stronger against the wind?
    What kind of flame can this be?

    This is the love
    that God showed the world
    When He gave us His Son
    So we could know His love forever
    Beyond the gates of splendor

    There is no greater love than this
    There is no greater gift
    that can ever be given
    To be willing to die
    so another might live
    There is no greater love than this

  7. Great lyrics, John. Thanks for sharing, I’ll have to look that song up.

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