“It’s not enough that we do our best;
sometimes we have to do what’s required.”
Sir Winston Churchill
- Understanding our duty, our responsibility as citizens of whatever country is to acknowledge our present-tense role as conduits of the grace, wisdom and freedom of Almighty God. If anyone can value freedom, it should be those who depend on God for achieving and giving eternal freedom to them, unconditionally.
One of the main reasons “tithing” has become a divisive issue in the church could be boiled down to a grammatical misunderstanding. To clarify, we will discuss “tithe” in the two forms in which it is used in scriptures, as a noun and as a verb.
“Tithe” as a Noun
“Tithe” simply means “tenth.” So, if I give you a dime, I am giving you a tithe of a dollar. Please note that “giving” is the verb, or action, and “tithe” is simply a quantity or amount. A tithe of 467 cows is 46.7 cows; a tithe of 12 months is 1 month +1 week (approximately). In many places in scripture the word is simply a number.
It is also used as a verb, or an activity God requires as partial fulfillment of His covenant with Israel.
Elements of a Covenant
The main elements of a covenant are based on “If you do such and such, I’ll do so and so.” Both parties agree to it, so there is an underlying assumption that each participant gets something out of it. When Christians speak of The Covenant, it is the covenant made in the Old Testament that is usually being referred to; specifically, the commandments and precepts given to Moses to bring the nation of Israel into a covenant-based relationship with God. The parties involved are Israel and God; the conditions of compliance are that if Israel will keep all the commandments and the precepts, God will be their God, and Israel will be His people. The consequences are long, happy, healthy lives; basically material blessings. (Remember, salvation was not available until the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.) The consequences for disobeying were also spelled out: failure to keep ALL of the law would result in God bringing judgment upon His people. Like the benefits, the consequences were likewise material in nature: disease, drought, war and famine.
There were many requirements of the law, only one of which was the tithe.
“Tithe” as a Verb
In the following section we will look at the specifics given in the scripture that make up the covenantal elements usually referred to as “the tithe.” In general, we can say that “to tithe” is to fulfill the law by paying a set amount in specific ways to specific people for specific uses at specific times in order to maintain a specific relationship with God. If the Israelites did their part, to fulfill the commandments (there were hundreds, by the way) and the precepts, then God was obligated by His Word to fulfill His part, and take care of them and bless them.
It may help to remember that the Levites were not the first to tithe; many idolaters dedicated a tenth of their increase to their gods, and held festivals and meccas to celebrate the blessing of their gods. Giving a portion of the spoils of war and of the increase of the field was common throughout the ancient world, from Greece to China to Mayan civilizations. And giving in proportions of ten was common, as it was the basis of most of the known counting systems (by virtue of the common counting appendages).
As we study the scriptures, or anything else for that matter, we need to do some objective evaluating of the content. Here are some guidelines:
1) Who wrote it? (Author) Is this person speaking for God, or themselves, or for a position or belief they are trying to re-enforce or question?
2) To whom was it written? (Audience) Believer or non-believer? Those under law or under grace? To those in authority or to the common man?
3) What was the social situation? (Environmental Context) What city? What is the history of the region? What was going on politically, religiously, financially at the time?
4) When was this written? (Age Context) Was this written under Law or under Grace? Pre-Resurrection or Post-Resurrection?
5) What is the practical application for us, since we, as believers, now live in the age of grace? (Application)
6) Review the passage before and after the scripture being studied. Remember, in the original there were no chapter breaks, passage numbers or even punctuation or capitalizations.
7) Study key words according to their original definition. A Strong’s Concordance, referencing the King James Version, is an invaluable resource, as is a good interlinear reference, which gives a modern-day translation with a “straight-rendering” or “word-for-word” translation of the original language, whether Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek).
8) Does what I have learned from this passage cause me to depend on God, or on myself (the strength of my emotions, will or intellect). I have found this a good test to see whether I have interpreted a passage according to grace or from a law mentality, which begets legalism and death.
9) When using outside references, dictionaries, expositories, etc., use as great a variety as possible, as often these individual works are written to enforce a viewpoint, approach, belief, doctrine or denomination.
10) When studying scripture, use as many versions and translations as possible, as each will have a nuance that may give further revelation by the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment. This also trains us to become interpreters, rather than simply sponges that absorb the surface layer.
These are just a few criteria to keep in mind whenever we study the scripture, regardless of what version we use. This is important because we want to handle the scriptures rightly, and not be putting words in God’s mouth. In this way, we can have confidence that as the Holy Spirit brings the words to life, He is doing so according to His will, and not because it’s something we want to hear, or have heard from someone else.
This is a wonderful and exciting time to be alive and witnessing some fantastic things God is doing! Many of the clouds that have kept His plans secret are being blown away, revealing the grace, freedom and wholeness that is our inheritance. As we begin to explore some of the practical ways we can enter into His rest, we need to keep a few basic guidelines in mind:
1) Truth is a Person — Jesus Christ Himself. Though we will be referring to the scriptures, we will not be looking to the Bible as our primary source for truth. Our goal is to encourage the reader to hear from the Living Word directly and internally. Most of us realize that you can make the scriptures say whatever you want, which is one of the reasons there are so many denominations and translations today. The scriptures have been translated into over a thousand languages, each with their own subtleties and emphasis necessitated by the language. So our goal is to become acquainted with that witness, that “a-ha” within that testifies that what we have heard or read is Truth.
2) None of us has all the truth. Therefore some of what we believe must not be true. We must be willing to admit and let go of the misconceptions we have about God, ourselves, others and what He’s doing in our lives, and let Him change our hearts, minds and behaviors to line up with what He says is True.
3) Most of us don’t know what we believe. Much of what we believe has been passed down; it’s okay to question it. That which is truth, from God for us at this time, will stand the light of day. That which doesn’t, well, it wasn’t bringing us life anyway. So let it go!
4) We need to be practical — God is! There are things we can do, and stop doing, by which we can cooperate with what God is doing. God wants us involved in what He is doing in our lives, in this world, and in His plans for this time frame.
5) Wholeness, freedom and life are God’s provision for us — NOW! God wants us whole, complete and entire, and will not cease his efforts until we enter His rest.
6) We are often fighting the wrong battles. We’ve been distracted by battles that have already been won, yet are not taking up the sword where we need to.
7) A lot of what we have chosen to believe is because it fits our temperament, how we feel, our history, and how we perceive our identity. As our perceptions change, our beliefs will also change.
8 ) We are all dealing with the same basic problems. There are only two kinds of people in the world; those that are spiritually dead, and those that are spiritually alive. Once we get beyond this, we can look at what is really keeping us from entering into life: the flesh.
9) How Do You Spell “Success”? Let’s face it, this is really the bottom line. And we’re not talking about what organized religion calls success: achieving our goals, not “sinning,” fulfilling our calling, perfecting our gifts or being in full-time ministry. Our true calling is to “live in the spirit,” yet we often don’t even know what that means. For our purposes, living, moving, walking and having our being in the spirit will be referred to as depending on God, for our very life, for the meeting of our needs, and for guidance, direction, assurance, etc. For most of us, we have no idea what it would look like to truly live the Christian life. What would it feel like? Would we think differently, act differently? We need to discover how God defines success.
10) Is what you’re learning practical? Can you apply what you’re being taught to your daily life? We want to be able to stop going ’round the mountain, from one crisis to another, and finally learn how to walk daily as the overcomers God says we are. Sure, there will be times when we don’t feel happy, or our circumstances are bad, but is there something we can actually do to live in that promised peace and rest today? YES! And it’s simpler than you might think.
11) Man likes to make complex what God has made simple. One of the things we will be doing is to unravel and bring into the light some of the things being taught in organized religion that are contrary to what God says is Truth. So keep your ears open for what the Spirit is saying to you, the church, and when He bids you to come up hither, Come!
12) Accept what God reveals, even if it doesn’t answer all your questions or doesn’t seem to fit in with your other beliefs. We like to understand everything before we accept it, and will try to carry to logical conclusions that which God has only revealed in part. God has the right to teach us on His timetable; He operates strictly on a need-to-know basis. If and when we need to know something, He’ll teach and reveal it to us. Rest in what He is in you today!
13) Is what you’re believing working for you? Or are you counting the days until you can be whisked away to your reward, that place of perfect peace where you can finally rest and enjoy freedom, confidence and the acknowledgement of God; “Well done, good and faithful steward. Here is your reward”? This is not what God intended for us — He has a purpose for our time here, and it is my firm conviction that if we don’t learn it here we will have to learn it in the next age to come.
14) Religious Jargon. One of the first things we’re going to do is to try as much as possible to stay away from religious terms, and instead re-phrase the concepts into something that will hopefully mean something to all of us. So though we will occasionally refer specifically to a scripture verse, in order to encourage the Spirit making these things real on a personal level we will not be trying to “prove” these things by the written word. We trust that the Lord will witness to you personally what He wants you to know; that which is not from Him will be washed down the drain anyway, so even if you find you can’t accept some of what is written here, we hope you enjoy and are challenged by some differing perspectives.
One of the most divisive issues in the church continues to be regarding tithing. Many mis-understand the term, its use in the scriptures and its meaning for the church today. We will be looking at the topic from as clear a perspective as possible, based on the scriptures. The act of tithing is clearly delineated in the scriptures, but a misunderstanding of the ways the term is used in scriptures and what happened at the Cross and Resurrection has caused many Christians to continue to be brought under the heavy weights of the Pharisees.
The scriptures can generally be broken down into the following time-frames: 1. Pre-Codification of The Law (before the law was written down); 2. The Codified Law (the written law); 3. Additions to the Law (included in post-Torah books of the Bible), 4. The Transition (when Jesus taught under the law), 5. The Fulness of Times: Grace! (from the Resurrection until whatever comes next).
For clarity sake, and to see the progression of God’s unfolding plan, we will review the scriptural usage and function of the tithe and tithing within each of these time frames. The scripture verses being discussed are included for clarity sake. References are in The New King James Version unless indicated; please feel free to refer to additional references and versions as desired.
Because your enemies know their days are numbered. The world system has a ‘life’ of its own, and joins the devil and your flesh in sometimes desperate, often subtle measures to keep you from becoming free and whole. Knowing you are a target will keep you alert to what is going on in and around you as part of training your soulical and natural senses. The best way to counter any attacks, or even threats, is to embrace them as additional opportunities to depend on God and learn to rule and reign on this earth now.
By now you’ve heard me say that there are two kinds of people in the world, those that have been rejected and those that have been rejected more. The good news about rejection, at least here on earth, is that because it is something we will always face, there will likely come a time that it won’t bother us as much as it likely does now. I know, that’s not saying much, but accepting the inevitable – that becoming one with God doesn’t prevent rejection, pain and struggle – hopefully adds to entering that rest of the present. Without the dichotomy of the right and left hand of God in our lives, without the pain, joy stands alone and is taken for granted. And we lose the appreciation for the one and the gratitude for the other that is a hallmark of our relationship with the Eternal.
This week let the Lord draw your attention to any feelings or emotions that may be out of proportion to the circumstance. Regardless of the trigger or stress, if an emotional response lasts longer than 24 hours or is out of proportion altogether, it likely indicates a wound. Ask the Lord if this is a wound He’s ready to heal, and if so, follow the normal procedures to get it taken care of quickly. As always, test the voice to make sure it’s the Lord: “Lord, is that you?” Listen for the voice of the Shepherd in contrast to the voice of the butcher.
Have a great week!