Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Eliminating the Tithe: Jumping Through Hermeneutical Hoops to Dismiss Biblical Teaching

I received an email today from a member of my former church about tithing. My friend was surprised to learn of the debate about tithing and mentioned that he was studying the scriptures about it. I felt the need to explain my position on the matter so I wrote a response. The following is a copy of my response to my friend's question about tithing.

I appreciate your struggle with this issue of tithing. I have also spent some time working through this issue as well and have come to the conclusion that tithing is biblical and is still required by God.

I won't quote all of the scriptures in the Old Testament about tithing. There are many there to support tithing. The issue comes when look at in the New Testament. Some people seem to want to say that anything that is not commanded in the New Testament is no longer valid for the Christian. I don't think that is true. Jesus said, "If you love me, obey My commands" (John 14:15). Was He speaking only of the commands He gave while in the flesh or was He referring to the commands of God, of which He is God?

I do not agree that we should ignore the Old Testament and obey only New Testament commands. If so, then we would be throwing out more than half of the Bible! We would also be ignoring 2 Tim. 3:16-17 and Psalm 119:105 for the scriptures to which they attest are the Old Testament scriptures. The scriptures of which our Lord Jesus refers to in Matt. 5:18 are the Old Testament scriptures.

You said that John MacArthur says the New Testament never teaches tithing. That is not true. Jesus said, in Matt. 23:23, " Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters
of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone." Jesus did not tell them not to tithe. He said they should have done that (tithe), but not leave the others undone (justice, mercy, faith).

MacArthur and others, have taken out of context 2 Cor. 9:7. Paul was not speaking of the normal giving of a tithe each week. He was taking up a collection to help the church in Jerusalem, thus the context of verse 7 is in regard to a special offering, similar to our Lottie Moon or Annie Armstrong offering.

This idea of only adhering to the New Testament and ignoring the Old Testament is dangerous in my view. I believe, as do many others, that unless Old Testament commands were expressly addressed in the New Testament as no longer required, then they are still binding. Here are a few examples:

1. The dietary laws of the Old Testament are no longer valid. This issue
is pointedly addressed in a vision by Peter in Acts 10.
2. The ceremonial law was replaced by Jesus in John 4:23-24.
3. The sacrifical system was replaced by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross as explained in Hebrews 5-10.

The Old Testament commands of the moral law (10 commandments, commands dealing with sexual immorality, etc.) are still in effect as they are not expressly addressed in the New Testament. This also includes tithing. The only place that tithing is mentioned in the New Testament is in Matt. 23:23 and Jesus says "these you ought to have done." Why should the New Testament have to revisit and affirm every Old Testament command that was given? It would be unnescessary. The commands are still valid unless specifically replaced in the New Testament.

Those who say that unless the New Testament addresses a command, then it is no longer valid, are teaching dangerous practices. If that holds true, then we open ourselves up to all sorts of evil. Here are some examples.

1. Nowhere in the New Testament are we told not to make carved images. Does that mean it is now okay with God that we make images in opposition to the second of the Ten Commandments? (Exodus 20:4-6)

2. Nowhere in the New Testament are told not to take the Lord's name in vain. Does that mean it is now okay with God that we can take the Lord's name in vain in opposition to the third of the Ten Commandments? (Exodus 20:7)

3. Nowhere in the New Testament are we told that life is precious and should not be taken away through abortion or murder. Does that mean that abortion is okay with God? (Gen. 9:5-6; Psalm 139)

I pray that you can see the absurdity of ignoring the teachings of the Old Testament. A good interpretive principle is that we interpret the Old Testament through the light of the New Testament. That does not mean that unless the biblical principles of the Old Testament are repeated in the New Testament then they are no longer valid for the Christian.

As far as tithing is concerned, I believe that 10% is the minimum that one should give. Surely, we should give everything we have because it belongs to the Lord, but a minimum is a tithe (10%).

Have a great day!

Les Puryear
Pastor, Cornerstone Community Church