To tithe or not to tithe? That is often the question.
The law of Moses regulated the giving aspect of Hebrew worship with the tithe. A strict ten percent offering of certain animals and produce was mandated, leaving little personal consideration to the worshiper himself. He could obey or disobey, but the amount he was supposed to give was etched in stone.
To many modern preachers and worshipers, this sounds like the perfect system and yet even Old Testament experience shows that humanity can mar it. Malachi wrote, "And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably" (Malachi 1:8)?
The Jews imagined a loophole in their worship, by which they could offer to God their refuse and expect his approval. Their hearts were disconnected from their worship and they were simply going through the motions in the least expensive way imaginable (cf. Isaiah 1:10-20). God was not pleased.
Jesus could have reformed the tithe and instituted it for his
new covenant after the cross. Things that were lawful and approved prior to the
cross were not necessarily added to the new testament of Jesus Christ. Animal
sacrifice was left behind, as was incense burning, the Sabbath and instrumental
music in worship. The apostle Paul described this transition as the abolition of
"the law of commandments, contained in ordinances" which formerly
separated Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2:14-22). A parallel passage says the old
law was taken out of the way and figuratively nailed to Christ's
cross with him (Colossians 2:11-15). If we make an attempt to justify our actions or our worship choices with the law of Moses, we fall from God's grace (Galatians 5:4).
So, while numerous passages regulate the tithe for Israel under the Old Testament, a different and incompatible form of giving is prescribed in the New Testament. The tithe does not fit in the church because God did not put it there.
The practice of the first century church was that each member laid something aside on the first day of the week, forming the treasury of the local congregation, from which it funded its evangelism, edification and benevolence work (I Corinthians 16:1-4, cf. Philippians 4:15-16, Acts 4:32-37).
In regulating this offering, no apostle ever demanded anyone earmark ten percent of his funds as the mandatory gift. Instead, the saint was commanded to "give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver" (II Corinthians 9:7). The purpose in one's heart must also reflect the degree to which God has prospered him (I Corinthians 16:2).
Is that more, less or the same as ten percent? Some still would prefer a number mandated for them, instead of this act of worship being left up to their discretion. Sorry, the new covenant is a law written on the heart and it requires the involvement and development of your own selflessness and participation. "He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully" (II Corinthians 9:6).
Because it is the first day of the week on which the saints made their offering, it is reasonable to conclude that this was part of their weekly assembly for worship, fellowship and communion (Acts 20:7). For this reason, the collection plate is passed every Sunday and only on Sunday in churches of Christ, so that each church's members can fund the work of God in that place.
The worshiper is set free from the restrictions of the tithe and liberated to purpose in his own heart what he will give. Give liberally and lovingly and remember that everything you contribute is simply returning to God a portion of what he entrusted to you (James 1:17).
Many are pessimistic and discouraged over their circumstances which they feel limit their abilities. An observation of the latter years of the apostle Paul’s life would be an encouragement for us to find victory over circumstances. Paul, along with many of the early Christians, was frequently bound in prison “for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus”. This was his lot when he wrote a number of epistles. He referred to these bonds: “For which I am an ambassador in bonds” (Ephesians 6: 20) “So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all of the palace.” (Philippians 1: 12-13) “Remember my bonds” (Colossians 4: 18). It was natural for his bonds to hinder him in some way, even in his writings; but, as his friends remembered that he was in bonds, they would understand and could pray for him.
We all have bonds in some fashion and quite often need encouragement. Sometimes we say we could have done better, had it not been for some unavoidable and disturbing influence that hindered us. Have you ever contemplated victory over circumstances? In a sense, the businessman has a bond of work; the professional man his appointments; the invalid his illness; the mother her home duties; and the poor man his poverty. Many things they would like do if it were not for their bonds or obligations. We need to take lessons from Paul’s bonds and not let these “bonds” in our lives defeat us. Observe these lessons that are suggested by Paul’s bonds:
His bonds were not disgraceful to him. He was not in prison because he had done wrong; but because he would not do that which he knew to be wrong. His chain was a symbol of principle! Our bonds, unless brought on by wrongdoing, are not disgraceful and we should patiently accept them. Rather than to view the bonds as being disgraceful, we need to look up and realize that in all legitimate circumstances, we can be beneficial to truth and the Lord’s cause. Now hear this: “wherein I suffer trouble, as a evildoer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound” (II Timothy 2: 9)
His bonds didn’t prevent him from being useful. Paul may have been saddened by the fact that he was kept from his travels—yet he was made to see that his imprisonment had been an advantage to him. He evidenced this fact in writing to the Philippians: “But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” (Philippians 1: 12-14) Some of Paul’s rarest opportunities came to him during the time that he was in bonds. As he wrote: “but the word of God is not bound” (II Timothy 2: 9). It was during such times that he was privileged to preach to the jailer, Felix, Agrippa, Onesimus and Caesar’s household. Every child of God should remember that the Lord can make all things work together for good, if he will only do his best whatever his circumstances might be. Bitterness and a sour disposition should never be allowed to dominate us when bonds come. Furthermore, we are extremely poor judges of ultimate results. In the day of final reckoning, those who felt that they were doing very little because of their circumstance may find that they have done a great deal.
His bonds did not mar his happiness. Having been beaten and in prison; yet we read: “at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God:” (Acts 16: 25) If we will allow Him to, Christ can bring happiness to us. It matters not in what kind of a situation we may be placed. An individual who understands this principle will say: “If I must live in this place, I will develop it”. “If this is my lot, then I will make the best of it”. Any average person can master any set of circumstances, if he will allow the Lord to lead him. “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4: 11-13).
His bonds did not lessen his reward. Anyone’s responsibility is measured by his abilities plus his opportunity. We often connect reward with activity; but Christ connects it with faithfulness and character. If we have done our best within our limitations, that is what the Lord requires of us and our reward will be far beyond our ability to ask or think. “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” (II Timothy 4: 7-8) What a beautiful reward!