Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Truth on Tithing, by Travis Seitler

What does the Bible say on tithing?

That’s a question I’ve been asking over the past year. I basically grew up with a “10% of all gross income goes in the offering plate” understanding of Christian giving… but that changed about a year ago, when I began to study the topic in earnest.

For instance, one thing that constantly trips up modern-day Christians is that we fail to remember that the Law given to Moses did not merely outline a religious system… it was a constitution establishing a nation’s government. Thus, we need not only to discern which laws were sacrificial in nature (as Christians, we hold that Jesus Christ is our atonement and makes all other sacrifices—and thus all laws requiring sacrifices—moot), but also whether certain laws were governmental or sacramental in nature. While this may be a simple process with the laws of a “secular” nation, it can get difficult when you’re dealing with a theocracy.

My studies keep drawing me to the same conclusion: God’s eternal Law of Love compels us to serve the poor, but the tithe laws were a form of taxation, and served as the welfare system for Ancient Israel. Thus, these laws only apply to those under the Old Covenant living in geographical Israel.

Deuteronomy 15:7-11 (which I wrote about recently) provides the framework for all God-glorifying giving, and serves as the “spirit of the law” regarding money, possessions and neighbors:

"If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye [be evil toward] your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the LORD against you, and you be guilty of sin. You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be [evil] when you give to him, because for this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land."

The tithes, while a sacrifice to the LORD, were arranged in such a way as to serve as the particular fulfillment of this command with regards to the Levites (as God forbade them from owning land, cf. Deut. 18:1-8), as well as other poor in the Israelites’ midst (Deut. 14:22-29). Additionally, not only here but also in Nehemiah’s time (after two months of working daily with wood, stone, etc. to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem), the reinstated tithe consisted solely of agricultural produce (Neh. 10:35-39).

Now when you begin to question the tithe, the knee-jerk response you often get is a quote from The Most Overused Tithe Verse In The Bible: “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions.” Congratulations, you have now been labeled a God-robber! However, this is neither faithful exegesis nor Biblical correction. It’s simply propaganda and browbeating. To show you that this is the case, let me share the entire passage with you, and pay attention to what I emphasize:

Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. 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. 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. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 3:8-12, ESV)

Let me make it perfectly clear: the tithes were never about collecting money for the Temple. Tithing was the means by which a food bank was kept for the poor and needy in Israel.

There is only one passage in all of Scripture which speaks of money in relation to the tithe: Deuteronomy 14:22-29. However, the money is never actually given to the Levite. Rather, it is used only as a convenient form of transport for those who must travel a long distance. Once the tither arrives at Jerusalem, he is commanded to convert the money back into food, strong drink (beer), etc. and to consume these items with the Levite, sojourner, fatherless and widow (that is, those without such provision). And you know what? Jesus mentioned something much like this in Luke’s gospel:

[Jesus] said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14, ESV)

Never, all in Scripture, is a tithe used to pay building and maintenance expenses for a meeting-house or clergy. The tithe is food, and it’s used to feed people—period. Freewill offerings (and/or perhaps a modern-day equivalent to Nehemiah’s “temple tax”) are the only Biblically-approved source of income from which such things as Equipment Upgrades, Insurance, Janitorial Services, Payroll Expenses, Repairs and Maintenance, Utilities, Mortgages, etc. are to be paid.

In contrast to the Old Covenant system, Paul set aside any pastoral “right” to live off the ministry and instead worked additional jobs to provide for his own expenses. He reasoned that he stood to gain no heavenly reward from “simply” preaching the Gospel (1 Cor. 9:15) and must go out of his way to make it a completely free gift if he were to receive anything from the Father because of his work. However, if Paul were simply a “New Covenant priest” he would have been leading the churches into sin by causing them to break God’s Law which required a community to feed its Levites (again, Deut. 18:1-8). Thus, we can infer that Paul did not believe these laws were binding for ministers of the Gospel.

That being the case, a Christian pastor ought not presume to live off of the tithes of his people. If a tithe is requested of the congregation, then Biblically it needs to be food, and it needs to be distributed to people who need food. (Which is to say, faithful application of the tithe laws requires the establishment of a congregational food bank.) Beyond that, there is no Biblical requirement to “lay [any] money at the [pastors'] feet.” (It is certainly encouraged as the decent thing to do for a chap who has given his whole lives to serving you and yours spiritually… but it’s not required.) In and 4, the money laid at the apostles’ feet was “distributed to each as any had need” (Acts 2:44-45; Acts 4:32-35). Likewise, the money collected on Paul’s behalf from the Church in Macedonia, Achaia, and Corinth was going directly to feed the Christians in Jerusalem who were suffering through a famine—not to line his personal “chariot fund.” And of course a meeting-house is nice, but depleting a collected tithe to fund it—or even to keep it lit and climate-controlled—is unbiblical.

So if I don’t think the tithe applies to us today, does that mean I can get away with not giving anything? God forbid! On the contrary, I believe Christians are to “sell [their] possessions, and give to the needy” (Luke 12:33), but are not bound by a 10-33% annual tithe to modern-day Levites per se. The sacrificial system is no longer binding, but I am still bound by the perfect Law of Love: specifically, to “love [my] neighbor as [myself],” (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 19:19, etc.) and thus to “remember the poor” (Gal. 2:10), “open wide [my] hand to [my] brother, to the needy and to the poor, in [my] land” (Deut. 15:11), “bear with the failings of the weak, and not… please [myself]“ (Rom. 15:1-3, cf. vv. 25-27), and to “contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality” (Rom. 12:13) “that there may be fairness” (2 Corinthians 8:13-15). Sometimes fairness means giving 1%, sometimes 99%.

But the most ironic thing about my tithe law studies is that some of those who are being commanded to “tithe” (give 10% of your gross income) to “the church” (really meaning “the pastors”) are actually poor enough that the pastors are required by God’s Word to be tithing to them.

So in conclusion: Christians are commanded to give to the poor and needy in our midst, but we are not bound by tithe laws. However, even if one were convinced that Christians must tithe, a faithful reading of Scripture insists the tithe be used to feed the poor. It is wholly foreign to the Word of God to use a tithe on buildings, utilities, vacations, insurance or even clothing.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Satisfaction Found only in Hunger

"Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." -Matthew 4:1-4

i love this passage; it so clearly points out what faith is! Jesus has the power to do whatever He wills; walk on water, turn water into wine--He could've even come down from the Cross if He desired. He certainly has the power to turn a few stones into bread, so why not do it? in essence, that would quell satan's tempations and Jesus (Who is God in the Flesh) would still remain perfect, in that He's all-powerful and unlimited (the limitations of this world are nothing to Him, as they are everything to us; He is from above, we are from below). theoretically, He could've performed another miracle to be recorded in Scripture and shown as a victory against the devil in a way that would have been unprecidented, but He didn't. why?

"Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong." -2 Corinthians 12:10

one of my favorite Biblical figures, Paul, sums it up nicely i think in Corinthians. after asking God three times to take away a 'thorn in his flesh', which is alluded to but never made explicitly clear in Scripture as to what it actually is, God basically tells Paul 'My Grace is sufficient for thee', to which Paul replies with the verse posted above. i love this answer! it's so... enlightening, really! the solution to a problem ('problem', from our perspective only) isn't necessarily to remove it, but to act with it and even through it! in other words, weakness isn't weakness, it's strength! consider this passage:

"Then Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, and all the people that were with him, rose up early, and pitched beside the well of Harod: so that the host of the Midianites were on the north side of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley. And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me. Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from mount Gilead. And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand; and there remained ten thousand. And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people are yet too many; bring them down unto the water, and I will try them for thee there: and it shall be, that of whom I say unto thee, This shall go with thee, the same shall go with thee; and of whomsoever I say unto thee, This shall not go with thee, the same shall not go. So he brought down the people unto the water: and the LORD said unto Gideon, Every one that lappeth of the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth, him shalt thou set by himself; likewise every one that boweth down upon his knees to drink. And the number of them that lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, were three hundred men: but all the rest of the people bowed down upon their knees to drink water. And the LORD said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand: and let all the other people go every man unto his place." -Judges 7:1-7

i know that's quite a bit to read, but i encourage you to do it. Gideon here is told by God that he is to lead isreal to fight the Midianites, but before he does, God tells Gideon not once, but twice to lessen the number of soldiers set to go into battle with him; finally God says in verse 7 that 'by the three hundred men... will I save you'. what a perfect example of what Paul was speaking of when he said 'for when i am weak, then am i strong'! God wants us to realize our weakness in order to show us His strength (which is even referred to as 'being made perfect in weakness' in Scripture), as well as showing the rest of the world that even though we are nothing, God can accomplish something with and through nothing.

this all being said, God doesn't need weakness to make His strength known. i believe one of the deepest messages we can take from Paul and the story of Gideon is that regardless of our perceived notions of strength and/or weakness, God is still in power; we cannot move outside of this fact. again, this points back to what i said in my first post; faith is me admitting to God that 'i cannot'; it's not something i 'have' towards Him, or me 'believing enough' in Him. rather, faith is me accepting that 'God is', therefore i have no choice but to believe! the truth is the truth whether or not you accept it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What you can do for God (nothing, just so you know)

it always gets me how so many pastors preach that we should cut out tv and radio and movies and etc. from our lives in order to be 'closer to God' or 'seperate from the world'; what does cutting things from your life have to do with God's proximity to us?! let me introduce you to a wonderful, yet perspective-altering, fact: God is present in all places, at all times, in all actions. He's within and without us, beyond the farthest reaches of the known and unknown universe, yet He's small enough to fit inside 1 Planck length (just so you know, the Planck length was named after physicist Max Planck; it's roughly 0.0000000000000000000000000000000000162 meters. Current theory suggests that 1 Planck length is the smallest distance or size about which anything can be known; it's so small that we have no way to even observe something that infinitely tiny). God is untangible, invisible and unreachable to us; yet He's what we touch, He is what we see. we both cannot escape Him and cannot causally experience Him.

now, with that being said, what is your sacrifice worth to Him? do you think cutting television out of your life really impresses the God that defies logic? do you really think that God, the One Who came before time (that being impossible to us to even understand, being that 'before' is a time related notion, therefore God's being 'the One Who came before time' is a physical paradox to us) is limited by your choice whether or not to listen to your car radio while driving home from work in the evening? to think that you, a creature destined for death and, without the very God we're speaking of, eternity in Hell, is unable to draw us closer to Him because of a few physical impedences (which are only impedences to us, mind you) goes against everything that christianity actually is. don't get me wrong, i'm not saying that sacrifice is bad; rather, i'm saying that it's good, but ultimately worthless if you never accept the fact that God owns your heart. " For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" -Mark 8:36. likewise, what shall it profit that same man if he were to cast off all his physical possessions, thinking it made him more acceptable in God's eyes, only to find that he himself is the true problem that's in the way? you have to realize that you are the 'sacrificial possession', not your tv, or music, or etc.. without a sacrificial heart, your actions are meaningless, trite and worthless altogether.

let me expound on this a little, to further clarify the truth: this teaching, that in order for God to be close to you, you must offer Him physical sacrifices, is misguided at best. sacrifice is not defined as 'how many possessions you can give up', but rather, it's giving up the notion of being able to be close to God by and through your actions. this is what my first post (or really technically second, but who's counting) was all about--The Unregenerate Mind. that is exactly what the unregenerate mind is; man's thinking that He has anything to do with God's will, or power, or presence in this world, or thinking that our choice to give up 'worldly' possessions brings us closer to God. our actions are just actions; it's our heart God's after, not our actions. besides that, if we accept that God has our hearts, He'll have our actions by default anyway; so your running around, worrying about how much you can 'do for God' isn't even something you should worry about!

how many christians out there live enslaved to their own ideas of Who God is and What He requires of them? how sad it is to know that the unending freedom spoken of in John 8:32 is literally all around them all the time, but they're the objects standing in the way of it taking them over, inside and out! let me be completely frank here; this is why i've started this blog. i don't honestly know where this is going, but i only hope that others will read this and take up my fight alongside me. perhaps others are out there that will see, or already have seen, God in a way that can only be described as 'Enlightenment', just as He's revealed Himself to me.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Lifting the embargo On God's Power

God is unlimited, right? well, yes... and no.

God IS unlimited, but to say that He's unlimited is in itself a limitation on God, a limitation of our understanding of what 'unlimited' actually IS. this is why God calls Himself 'I am'; because that's the only fitting description for Him--He IS.

i don't mean to be repetitive, but this leads back to what my last post says: it's another example of how we 'build temples of flesh for a Spiritual God'. the very fact that we try to see God through our eyes is a limitation on God. in fact, what i'm saying right here, right now is a limitation, in that we're not limiting God; we're just focusing on ourselves and ignoring God, Who is IN EVERYTHING. so i guess this brings me to the point of this post in and of itself.


that means exactly what it says; God is, AND i am not. in order to appreciate God, we need to depreciate ourselves. David said it best in Psalm 39:4--"Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that i may know how frail i am". when you realize, and i stress REALIZE (there's a difference between 'knowing' and 'realizing'), how weak and powerless you are, you realize that you're incapable of DOING anything for God. how prideful is it for the creation to look at the Creator and say 'i'm going to do this for you!'? it may seem like a good thing, but the simple truth is that we're just human beings, saved by Grace.

i was reading someone's blog recently (titled Sister, Where Art Thou) and was interested in a post called 'modesty saves money', so i posted several replies to it, basically saying that modesty is a good thing, but it in no way brings oneself 'closer to God'. the administrator replied to my aforementioned reply and asked that i clarify what i had meant, to which i again replied explaining that God isn't interested in what we can do for Him, but where our heart is (i.e., He wants our hearts, not our talents, skills, etc.. if He has our hearts, He has all of those things by default). she responded with this:

"AGoodTheory (was "Anonymous")
I read your further comments, but rejected them. I do not think this blog is the place to discuss a theory like you have concerning God and what He wants or does not want. My blog is for "Law Word Keepers", for sisters who have, or wish to develop, an understanding of what obedience to God's word means. You, in essence, deny that there is such a thing as God requiring obedience from His elect. The two positions do not go together.Since you did not want to discuss modesty or anything else really but just wanted to say what you had to say about what God requires and doesn't require, I suppose your own blog is a better place for that.

Grace and Peace,Talitha"

i don't mind someone disagreeing with me (that's not to say that it doesn't 'get under my skin' when someone completely rejects what you have to say; i think that's the normal response we have when people do this to us. i'm not condoning it, i'm just saying that i'm human), but this is exactly what' lifting the embargo on God's Power' really means! if you're truly living by faith, you wouldn't be afraid to allow the arguments of those that oppose and/or question you. REAL faith is the realization that God is leading you regardless of whether you accept that or not; this is not faith, this is fear. fear leads to the rejection of all voices outside of oneself because of disagreements or incongruities of viewpoints and/or perspectives. i'm not saying this person is without faith; what i'm saying is her faith is essentially dead IF she believes she can be closer to God through what she can or can't do.
'lifting the embargo on God's Power' doesn't really mean that we're somehow 'giving' God back His Power; it means that we're closing our eyes to our own understanding, and realizing that God is always with us as christians. we cannot move outside of His Will for us because, whether we know it or not, God is leading us. to deny this is to 'place an embargo on God's Power', thus the title of this post. lifting the embargo means that you realize that you're nothing compared to God; He's all powerful, He doesn't need you to understand Him! He wants you to BE FAITHFUL in that even though you DON'T UNDERSTAND, He's still in Power, with or without you.
thanks for reading... again :]

The Unregenerate Mind

so often i read blogs from people about christianity and what they believe, the 'standards' they hold to and the doctrines they use to support those standards. i'm totally fine with people saying what they want; freedom of speech is great and i wouldn't want it to be limited in ANY way! i DO, however, have a problem with what it IS that these people are saying is 'christianity'.

just today i was reading a blog by someone who i'm sure is very fervent and sincere in their convictions, but they've completely missed the preverbial 'boat' of what, exactly, christianity actually IS; TRUE christianity, REAL faith, is me looking at God and saying 'I CANNOT'. that's it. that's the sum of everything that Jesus taught us, the core of everything that being 'seperate' and 'holy' is about; me admitting that i'm utterly and completely powerless. think with me on this... when you got saved, wasn't that essentially what you were saying to God? 'Lord, i can't save myself, only you can; please forgive me for thinking that i can. i accept you as savior' (please don't think i'm saying that THIS SPECIFIC PRAYER is what saves you or me or anyone; rather, i'm saying that, in so many words, we are all basically saying the same thing at the core when we truly 'get saved'; we're admitting that 'i cannot' to God). most people who have been saved should be able to at this point see exactly what i'm saying and agree; we ARE powerless, we CAN'T save ourselves, we NEED God. the point at which a lot of christians diverge is that they drift away from this simple, basic faith as they 'grow in Christ' (i put ' ' around that statement because that is exactly what they AREN'T doing when they let go of that faith; they may grow in 'doctrine' or 'teachings', but they completely die in faith. i'll explain this now). the problem with this is that christians--really the entire human race--mistakes beliefs with BELIEVING. Jesus taught that we as christians should be seperate from the world, this i agree on; what does that seperation actually MEAN though? does it mean i should dress differently? talk differently? listen to different music? it CAN mean that, but it goes MUCH deeper than that. TRUE seperation, REAL seperation, is me LETTING GO OF THINKING I CAN DO ANYTHING TO BE SEPERATE. what did we just say about salvation earlier? it was saying to God that 'i cannot'; this same faith is what governs the ENTIRE christian life! it's so simple; REAL faith says 'i can't have enough faith', real understanding says 'i don't understand', and furthermore 'i CAN'T understand'.

we as christians have for a very, very long time put God in a box of our descriptions, of our 'understanding'. this is not REAL understanding; it's foolishness. we have pastors who are esteemed as knowing more about God because they have 'doctorate' degrees given to them by other 'esteemed' pastors and teachers; how utterly foolish! God doesn't want you to learn teachings of men; rather, He wants you to LET GO OF LEARNING. does this mean we should stop trying to grow in Christ, or 'let go of learning' from His Word? no. emphatic no! it means we need to let go of teachings, let go of 'beliefs'; these are the very things the world holds on to so tightly! we as christians have 'left our first love', so to speak. we've forsaking real faith and replaced it with our own understanding. how sad, pathetic... how completely near-sighted and foolish!


i ENCOURAGE you to reply to this, whether you agree or disagree with what i've said. i'm not here to tell you to believe what i'm saying, or to think like me; rather, i'm saying LET GO OF YOUR BELIEFS! LET GO OF YOUR UNDERSTANDING! we don't HAVE faith, we ARE faith. you should ALWAYS question what people tell you; that's not a sign of doubt, it's a sign of REAL understanding.

anyone that tells you they have the answers; mom, dad, brothers, sisters, teachers, PASTORS, uncles and aunts, ANYONE that says they 'know what to do', is lying, whether they know it or not. the truth is, we don't have any answers. we ONLY have questions. the answer WE HAVE are based on what we ALREADY KNOW; that's circular logic my friend, and it's a dead faith, a dead understanding. REAL faith and understanding is me saying 'i don't know'.

the unregenerate mind, the 'old man' as referred to in scripture, isn't JUST referring to the desire to sin; it's pointing DIRECTLY at the notion that we think we understand anything without God.

thanks for reading :]

Saturday, March 7, 2009


First of all I'd like to say hi and welcome to my blog!
I encourage you to reply to all my posts, whether you agree or disagree;
I'm not here to proclaim what I believe, rather, I'm here to speak the Truth.
Read what I have to say, reply if you like; all comments and questions are
Thanks for checking 'me' out ;]