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And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was the priest of the God Most High.) and he blessed him and said, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!" And Abram gave him a tenth of everything. -- Genesis 14: 18-20 (ESV)
Anytime I write about tithing I need to preface it by stating that I am not against giving to a local church that is truly preaching the uncompromised Gospel of Jesus Christ. Forget how big they are, how popular they are, or how convenient they are. Forget their annual "missions" trip to build a playground in a South American orphanage. Forget their Facebook pictures of all the great outreaches they do. Without preaching the uncompromised Gospel it is all meaningless. But if they are, there is no better investment for Christians to make. This is not about being cheap. This is not about hoarding money. In fact it is about being responsible with our money. I have heard far too many Christian believe that once they give their "tithes" it is not on them what the leadership does with it. That is absolute nonsense. If you know you are in a church that is not preaching the uncompromised Gospel you ought to leave first of all but secondly you have a Christian obligation to not give them any money to further the work against Christ. Remember, there are only two options:
Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. -- Matthew 12: 30 (ESV)
We are either actively gathering people to Christ or scattering them away. There is no third option beloved. Supporting false ministries with our money is furthering their work. With this out of the way, let us take another look at some of the theological switcheroos pastors seem to be playing today regarding tithing. The very first thing we must understand is there is a vast difference between a tithe and tithing.
Tithing -- a practice of giving 10% of one's increase to the church
Tithe -- an English word, translating "tenth" from Hebrew and Greek
I do not want us to miss this because it is at the heart of nearly every tithing switcheroo played by pastors today. The word tithe simply means a tenth. If I gave you one of my ten jelly beans I gave you a tithe of them. Tithing as a practice originated in the Hebrew Law. The way God had set up the theocracy of Israel, the Levites were to keep the temple and handle the spiritual needs of the community as a whole and as such, God did not want them to have to plow fields or raise livestock. So all of the other tribes were required to provide a tenth of their agricultural increase to the Levite Tribe so they had food to eat. Now one can see the correlation between that system and the church system. I get that. The church now takes care of the spiritual needs of the Christian community so giving to them for the work of the Kingdom makes sense. But it is not a "tithe" because tithing was part of the law, the very same law that was nailed to the cross by Jesus Christ:
Look; I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no use to you. I testify again to every man that accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. -- Galatians 5: 2-4 (ESV)
Everywhere you see the word circumcision, just insert tithing. Paul used circumcision because the Judaizers were infiltrating the early church at Galatia claiming circumcision was needed along with faith in Jesus. Just like today greedy pastors who have little faith in the Holy Spirit have infiltrated the church and tried to mix tithing as a compulsory Christian requirement. Yet what is the New Testament instruction on giving?
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. - 2Corinthians 9: 7 (ESV)
Claiming Christians must tithe violates this verse -- plain and simple. Tithing was part of the law and the law was nailed to the cross. The problem is that a lot of young gun pastors realized this. They realized that the big lies about who the Prophet Malachi was actually speaking to, the leaders, were not working like they used to. They knew they need to try and expand the tithing argument beyond Malachi and the Law. Enter our key verses and the switcheroo that Abram "tithed." Abram did not "tithe" as if it were a practice; remember our definitions above. That's the switch. The pastors who abuse these verses are trying to convince you that you need to practice tithing regularly based upon the fact that one time in the 175 years that Abram/Abraham was alive he gave a tenth of the spoils of war to a local king. I recently heard one pastor claim the "Law of First Mention" requires us to accept that because this was the first mention of tithing it is an established pattern from God. How absolutely absurd and theologically vacuous. This is a definition of the Law of First Mention:
"According to the Biblical Research Studies Group, the Law of First Mention is the "principle that requires one to go to that portion of the Scriptures where a doctrine is mentioned for the first time and to study the first occurrence of the same order to get the fundamental inherent meaning of that doctrine."
This is how something intended for good can go so wrong. When we see that God changed Abram's name to Abraham, it was followed by a great honor; namely being declared that he would be the father of many nations. This establishes a pattern that we can trace that God will always follow a name change with a great honor. We see this millennia later when Simon is changed to Peter for example. To read the key verses and claim this established an unchangeable pattern is ridiculous. If you take the Law of First Mention seriously here this is the pattern based upon this story:
1) Tithing must never be from our personal wealth because Abram gave nothing from his own riches.
2) Tithing must always follow a great victory in war, when we have plundered our enemy and taken his riches because that was what Abram actually gave a tithe of.