Sunday, November 24, 2013

New Covenant Giving

The church today teaches that Jesus fulfilled the law given to Moses at Mount Sinai.  Which is a good thing to teach, because this is true.  He became our Law when we put our trust in Him.

I find it interesting, though, that the one aspect of the Sinai covenant still taught by congregations today is tithing; the giving of ten percent of your income to your local church body.  Believers are often surprised to learn that this is not taught anywhere in the New Testament.

Under the Mosaic covenant, the main purpose of tithing was to support the priesthood. Numbers 18:21 said, - “Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting.

The priests and Levites had no inheritance of land for farming.  They needed to be freed up to concentrate on their service at the holy temple.  (Side note: if you add up and estimate all the required tithes and sacrifices that were required under the Moses Covenant for various holy days and special offerings, it was more like 22 percent).

In Genesis 14, Abraham gave a tithe of war spoils to Melchizedek in Genesis 14.  This mysterious priest shows up out of nowhere, with no geneology, as a snapshot of our future High Priest, Yeshua.
Melchizedek shows up again in Hebrews 7:11-12, which says, Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron?  For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. 
Since Yeshua fulfilled the tenets of the Sinai covenant perfectly, he was qualified to become our new high priest.  And WE are now priests in His kingdom. 1 Peter 2:9 says we are a royal priesthood.  Revelation 1:6 tells us that He has made us kings and priests forever!  There is no longer a Levitical priesthood to support, since we are all the priesthood. 
So does the New Covenant get rid of giving altogether?  By no means!
The letter of the law was abolished, and we now have the Spirit to lead us.  New Covenant law gets rid of the externals of the law, and magnifies the internals – the matters of the heart.  New Covenant law is MUCH more difficult to keep, which is why we need the power of the Holy Spirit.  Some examples given by Yeshua are:
  • Don’t murder, but you are just as guilty if you hate your brother.
  • Don’t commit adultery, but you are guilty even if you harbor lust in your heart.
Giving is definitely a matter of the heart.  If other internals were magnified, would giving not also be magnified?  Let's look at some concepts of New Covenant giving taught by Yeshua:

In Matthew 6:19-25  Yeshua tells us, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! 

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

The middle part of this passage, referring to good and bad eyes, seems out of place.  But when you understand that it is referring to a Jewish idiom (a good eye means a generous eye, bad eye means a selfish eye), the  passage suddenly makes much more sense.

The account of the rich young ruler is told in Matthew, Mark, and Luke:  He asks Yeshua,  "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?"  He’d kept the letter of the law all his life. Yeshua replied,  You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.  Yeshua knew that this man's heart was given over to his money.

Mark and Luke record the story of the widow's mite:  Jesus says, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.”

Both accounts underline what Matthew 5 tells us; that where your heart is, there will your treasure be.

(May I just insert here an exhortation to the wealthy American church?  We are approaching the holiday called Thanksgiving, where we spend the day being thankful for all that we have. Then the next day, we celebrate "Black Friday" and get a whole bunch more stuff.  Just sayin'...  Traditions die hard, but really, aren't we supposed to avoid being conformed to this world?  Can I get an amen here?  Hello?  Anyone?  Cricket, cricket...)

Anyhoo, let's continue our perusal of New Covenant giving.  How did the early believers give, and to whom or what did they give their money?

1.  To each other
Acts 2:44-46 - Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
Acts 4:34-35 - Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.

These accounts are a narrative of what the early believers did, and not a command for us to go live on a socialistic kibbutz (although you can if you want to).  The point is, that these believers had an attitude of generosity among each other, giving wherever there was a need.  They didn't give ten percent, they gave EVERYTHING, knowing that it was all God's money.


2.  To the Jewish believers in Judea
Paul spent close to 10 years soliciting funds for the believers in Jerusalem.  Then and today, life was difficult for Messianic Jewish believers in Israel.  As a tiny minority in Israel today, they are sometimes persecuted and/or have a hard time finding a job.
Acts 11:29 - Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea.
1 Corinthians 16:1-3  Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem.
Romans 15:25-27  But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints.  For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things.

 Below are listed several Biblical reasons to support Jewish missions:

1.  Genesis 12:3 - I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. It is important to note that two different words are used here for "curse." the second one means to treat as unimportant, or lightly esteem.

2.  Romans 1:16 -  For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.

3.  Isaiah 40:1-2 - “Comfort, yes, comfort My people! says your God. “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her.  Isaiah is talking to us here.  He isn't telling Israel to comfort herself.

4.  Matthew 25:40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
The word used for brethren here is literally close kinsmen.  How you treat the Jews matters.
5.  Romans 11:15 -  For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?  The salvation of the Jews is the culmination of God's many promises to Israel throughout the scriptures, and will be accompanied by a tremendous, worldwide harvest.  It should be high on our priority list indeed!

3.  To missionaries

In Matthew 10:9-10, Jesus is sending out the twelve to the house of Israel:  Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food.

In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul speaks further of financially supporting gospel workers.  "If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more?

Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.

But I have used none of these things, nor have I written these things that it should be done so to me… What is my reward then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel.”

Paul, one of the church-planting apostles, is saying that it is not wrong to support workers for the gospel.  However, he himself will not accept such support – he was a tentmaker.   Each person must allow the Spirit to lead him/her in this matter. 

2 Corinthians 9 really seems to capture the essence of giving:  But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.

Put another way, you simply cannot outgive God!

1 comment:

  1. Love this. Thanks for posting. I'd read snippets about the tithing issue. Glad you could put it all together. (Unfortunately we can safely surmise that churches won't stop preaching it, because they "need" it to get money... whether out of genuine need or frivolous purchases.