A Change in the Law?
Anyone able to read the biblical teaching about tithing is aware that the tithe can legally be given only to the Levites or used by people for festival requirements at the Temple in Jerusalem. This has posed a dilemma to those wishing to secure the tithe of the people for their own use. In order to legitimize the receiving of tithe, church authorities often refer to the teaching in the Book of Hebrews which speaks about a change of the law. Having mentioned that Abraham paid a tithe to Melchizedek, priest of Salem (Hebrews 7:4-10), the author said: "there is made of necessity a change also in the law" (verse 12).
Some modern ministers adopt the erroneous assumption that this change of the law involved the direction in which the tithe was to be paid. They want the text to mean that the tithe is not to go to the tribe of Levi any longer but to Christian ministers. But this is not what the Book of Hebrews was teaching. The change was not about tithing in the first place. It was a change in the priesthood itself. Paul said that the Levitical priesthood had been "set aside" and was no longer in force (Hebrews 7:18). The only priesthood that was now valid for Christians was the Melchizedek.
While it is true that the Melchizedek priesthood has authority to accept monies from those who worship God (and this was demonstrated back in the time of Abraham when he provided a tenth of the spoils to Melchizedek), there is still, however, no law of tithing prescribed by God associated with that priesthood. Abraham simply gave a voluntary offering of a tenth to Melchizedek. There was no law recorded in the Word of God demanding that Abraham pay Melchizedek that tithe on the spoils he got.
There is another point that needs to be understood. Christian ministers today (including every human on earth) cannot be reckoned as Melchizedek priests. The Bible states in no uncertain terms that the priesthood of Melchizedek is "an unchangeable priesthood" (Hebrews 7:24). The margin to verse 24 has: "A priesthood which passes not from one to another." The truth is, the Bible speaks of only one priest called Melchizedek. No human, no matter how holy and righteous or how authoritative he may feel himself to be, can ever be considered a Melchizedek priest. Indeed, only one person can possibly fill that role and he is identified in the Book of Hebrews as being "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens" (Hebrews 7:26). He is also "without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abides a priest continually" (Hebrews 7:3). Melchizedek was "made like" a Son of God, though he was not a Son of God as was Christ. Christ only came in the order of Melchizedek (representing Melchizedek on earth while the priest remained in heaven). To be in the order of Melchizedek shows Christ representing the priest, but the priesthood itself does not pass to another person.
Now, it would be perfectly proper to pay tithe to that Melchizedek priest if one voluntarily decided to do so. Abraham did and he was honored for his faithfulness. Because of this, some Christian ministers have construed that the Book of Hebrews now authorizes the payment of tithe to Melchizedek. This is true! But a major problem arises. When those ministers begin to say that they themselves are a part of that Melchizedek priesthood troubles emerge. In no way is this true. This is because that priesthood "passes not from one to another" (Hebrews 7:24). To be in that "order" of the Melchizedek priesthood demands that one be perfect as was Jesus Christ. Being in that "order" of priesthood requires each person to be "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners"? How many ministers and preachers are "without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God"?
There is no minister, preacher, evangelist or even the papacy who can claim such honors. It is time to give up the nonsense that ministers in the Christian ekklesias are presently in the role of being Melchizedek priests to receive the tithe of the people. The apostle Paul made it abundantly clear that the Christian ekklesia today has only one priest [that is, one mediator] between all members of the ekklesia and the Father. That one mediator is Christ Jesus. Paul said: "There is one God and one mediator [one priest] between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5). And that one priest is Christ acting in the capacity of a Melchizedek priest on behalf of Melchizedek who was then in heaven (and still is).
So the apostle Paul made the statement that there has now been a change in the law. No longer do Christians have to give heed to the Levitical priests and the tithing laws that were associated with them. Our priest is now Christ Jesus in his role as the one mediator [the one priest] who is now in heaven at the right hand of the Father. He is presently in the order of the Melchizedek priesthood. All our attention as Christians should no longer be to the Levites and their priesthood supported by the tithe of the Israelites. Our priesthood has been changed to the Melchizedek which has no earthly representatives. In short, Christ Jesus is our high priest (and the only one), and we do not need any other priests.
[Melchizedek and Christ are very close to each other. He is probably Christ’s own personal angel, constantly near him, and assisting Christ with certain executive duties that an angel can perform. See my research on the Angelic Powers.]
There is yet another erroneous teaching that has been devised as a means to exact the tithe from the Christian laity. Ministers teach that Christ should receive the tithe of his people simply because he is "the Christ." This may be fine, but the problem remains that Christ is now in heaven. How can the members of the Christian community give tithe directly to him? Some preachers have provided a ready answer. They say that the tithe should now be given to "Christ’s body" (which is his ekklesia or his official "church" on earth). They think that "the Body of Christ" should be supervised by the ordained ministers of the various denominations of Christendom and this would give them authority to receive the tithe that Christians should give to Christ.
This may sound reasonable on the surface, but the interpretation will not legally work. The reason is because the "Body of Christ" represents the whole of the ekklesia, not simply the ministers. If the tithing rule were applied to the "Body of Christ," it would mean that all members would be tithing right back to themselves, because all of us (collectively and individually) represent the "Body of Christ."
Another suggestion has been made to get to the tithe. The Bible states that Christians are now symbolically called "priests" (1 Peter 2:5, 9 and Revelation 5:10). But these "priests" are certainly not Melchizedek priests (as I have just explained). Only Christ is in the order of a Melchizedek priest, not other humans. But what kind of "priests" are the Christians that Peter and John were referring to? This is simple to understand. They were likening Christians to the nation of Israel in its relationship with the rest of the Gentile world. In Exodus 19:5–6 the nation of Israel was reckoned to be a "priesthood nation" to the rest of the world, and Peter and John used the same analogy that the Christian ekklesia was also a "priesthood" like early Israel. This was not a type of "priesthood" to which God said people had to pay tithe. And, indeed, if it were a type of "priesthood" to pay tithe, then it is just like the analogy of the ekklesia being the "Body of Christ." The members of the ekklesia would simply be paying tithe back to themselves. This, of course, is utter nonsense and no one can imagine that Peter and John were suggesting such a thing. The apostle simply meant that the Christian ekklesia was like a "priesthood" to the rest of the world as Israel had been to the rest of the Gentile world at the time of the Exodus (Exodus 19:5–6). The Gentile world did not pay tithe to the twelve Israelite tribes, and tithe is not expected to be paid to the Christian ekklesia by the people of the world today.
Tithing as a Principle?
There is a final ploy that many ministers have in their arsenal of devices to get people to tithe to them. They want the matter of tithing to be reckoned a kind of universal law (or a principle) that people should naturally want to obey even if it is not specifically demanded in the Holy Scriptures. They want to call it a principle of giving that seemingly God has placed in operation throughout the universe without having written anything about it. If all else fails, the ministers usually resort to this tactic of introducing a so-called "universal tithing law" to exact the tithe from the people.
The fact is, however, tithing should not be accepted even as a principle of giving. This unfortunate analogy leads to many difficulties with biblical teaching (especially since there is not a word about such a principle in the Bible). Look at the matter for a moment. If one wishes to make tithing a "principle," then why not make all rituals of the Bible to be principles? For example, the wearing of phylacteries is an Old Testament teaching (Numbers 15:37–39), but if one insists that the wearing of phylacteries should be done today as a principle, it then means that people would still be performing this law which is no longer necessary.
There are other examples. What about the sacrificing of animals because there are numerous laws about such things in the Old Testament (Leviticus, chapters 1–5)? Should those sacrifices be done in principle? Why, if we did, we would be right back doing them again like the early Israelites. And then there is the law of the Old Testament about boring the ear of a slave (Exodus 21:5–6). Should such boring of the ear be done today in principle?
The fact is, using the word principle and attaching to it the phrase "universal law" may give an aura of philosophical reasonableness to any concept or subject that people want others to accept. But applying the "principle" is actually tampering with the laws of God and making them fit the human concepts that people have devised to hold on to old teachings that God has long ago rescinded or changed. Making laws into principles when God has given no such authorization to do so is risky business and it has no sanction within the Holy Scriptures. It is an excuse to make human laws of one’s own origination while not being satisfied with the divine interpretations that the Bible itself demands. It is time to give up such nonsense that tithing is a principle of "universal law." That is a teaching of man, not God.
In summing up this chapter on giving monies to Christ for the spreading of the Gospel to the world (that all of us should be active in doing), I wish to give a final method by which anyone can be assured that what money or contribution is given goes directly to Christ. This is a sure way that no one who loves the New Testament teaching can argue with. The teaching comes from Christ himself. Christ told people this certain way to give things directly to Him,
"When the son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory. And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats ... then shall the King say unto them on the right hand, Come, you blessed of my father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was an hungered, and you gave me meat: I was thirsty and you gave me drink: I was a stranger, and you took me in: Naked and you clothed me: I was in prison and you came unto me."
• Matthew 25:31–32,34–36
Christ went on to say that the righteous might be puzzled over this, because none of them ever gave Christ these things personally. But Christ went on to say: If you have "done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, YOU HAVE DONE IT UNTO ME" (Matthew 25:40).
There we have it! This is the assured manner to give something to Christ. If you help out the unfortunate brother in Christ, you have given something directly to Christ. "You have done it unto me."
So, if a minister says that one is robbing God by not tithing (and one still feels constrained to believe him), then the person can simply give a tenth of his income to any brother in need and he will know it has gone directly to Christ. One would not be "robbing" God any longer. This shows that a person does not have to give money (even tithe) to a minister or a church organization in order to give something to Christ. That’s what Christ said and it seems reasonable for Christians to believe it.
The next chapter shows that Christians are in a special legal position today, and that special position shows they do not have to tithe the biblical tithe. It is one of the most important chapters of this book.
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