The Tithe: Final Thoughts

There are 7 articles in the “Tithe” series. Please click HERE for all 7 articles. They are:
1. To Tithe Or Not To Tithe: The $earch For Truth
2. Tithe Follow-Up
3. The Tithe: Who’s Robbing Who?
4. Just What WAS Abraham’s Example?
5. Fun With Numbers
6. The Tithe: Final Thoughts
7. The Tithe Revisited
Written between 2000-2002, they were posted on my former web site Lord, You Are (dot) com (now defunct). Exposing the falsehood of the modern tithe doctrine was instrumental in setting me free from man’s Laodicean traditional church. As always, I pray the Lord will use them to set you free from false teaching and guilt-based giving. 

Jesus As Priest Shows Us What To Do With An Offering

For a long time, I’ve had this gut feeling that there is so much more to the miracle of feeding the 5,000 with 5 loaves and 2 fishes than I’ve ever considered – specifically – I’ve felt there is a link between what Jesus did with the loaves and fishes, and what a true son of God – a true Priest – would do with every offering: specifically, give thanks for it, bless it, and then give it back to the very people who gave it, to take what they needed to meet their needs / fill their bellies.

donottithe18Let me digress a little – the modern mammon-loving theology of today goes something like this “I’m your priest, preacher, minister; this building is your storehouse; I’m the one feeding you; the worker deserves his wages; so you owe me your tithes and offerings; or you owe “this church” your tithes and offerings”.

OK, IF Jesus subscribed to that school of thought at all, here’s what the feeding of the 5,000 would have looked like:

Jesus would have received the 5 loaves and 2 fishes and said to his disciples “thanks – now I’ve got my lunch – why don’t you see if you can rustle up some grub for yourselves and these people here – good luck”.

If ever any priest on earth deserved to receive the offering of the people He ministered to, is was Jesus, who is our high priest in the order of (like) Melchizedek. He could have said “the worker deserves his wages” or “those who announce the gospel are to make their living from the gospel”, etc. Or “I’m the store house …” And He would been fully justified in keeping the offering for Himself.

But Jesus didn’t keep the offering. Not one crumb. He gave it back to the people who gave it to Him – the Father multiplied it, and everyone was fed. Knowing the nature of Jesus, who gave all, I’m certain He didn’t eat until after everyone else was fed. After all, He said “I didn’t come to be served, but to serve, and to give my life as a ransom for many…” Jesus is a GIVER!

One of the things I have pondered a lot lately, is the statement Jesus made that His Father was always working, and He was simply doing what He saw His Father doing. Jesus was a living example of God in Heaven – and He told us to “follow me”. Now we often get hung up on scriptural interpretations, and we try to follow Jesus words verse by verse, and it seems like we are always tripping over ourselves when we do. Shouldn’t we instead follow Jesus example? Jesus did what He saw the Father doing, shouldn’t we do what we see Jesus doing?

What did we see Jesus do with the feeding of the 5,000? He did exactly what the Father does again and again – Jesus gave it all – 100% – back to the people – giving generously – extravagantly – lavishly – beyond anyone’s expectations.

And so, if we are to “Follow Him” – and that’s the example Jesus set – what can we deduce from the hirelings who take up offerings and keep it for themselves?

donottithe6I anxiously wait for the day when a priest, pastor or minister receives an offering, lifts it up to the Father, gives thanks, and then gives it back to the people to take what they need. Not just once in a blue moon – but every single time they take up an offering.

As long as they keep it for themselves – they are falling short of doing what Jesus did – and they are NOT providing the Father with an opportunity to bless and multiply the offering(s).

Notice too – that what was brought to Jesus is FOOD. That’s all any priest is ever entitled to – food – and a place to sleep.

How Does That Relate To What You Said About 1 Corinthians 9:14 in “Tithe Follow-Up”?

OK, about 1 Corinthians 9:14 where I said the gist of that scripture is to “practice what you preach” – specifically, those who announce the good news are to live out the good news … the good news provides for serving all – sharing all – and so the one who goes out and announces the gospel needs to lead by example – by sharing what he has and always serving, and giving, where in turn, the people will share and give with the one who goes out, thereby meeting his needs.

Here we see Jesus doing just that – He’s already told the 12 or was it 72 (?) that He sent out to take nothing extra, to find a place to stay, and the worker deserves his wages which was food. Paul reiterated the food payment in 1 Corinthians 9… and in the loaves and fishes broken to feed 5000, we see Jesus as priest receiving his wage of food, but then turning right around like the gospel teaches, and He serves the people first, thereby making Himself least of all by taking care of His own needs last – and the Father blesses His giving back to the people by multiplying the 2 fish / 5 loaves to feed 5000, with many many leftovers!

That’s living the gospel – and I believe the heart/spirit of what Paul was saying in 1 Corinthians 9:14.

The “Suburbs” of the Levites

donottithe3A brother in the Lord wrote with a question, about the pastures God gave to the Levite priests. His pastor suggested that the Levite priests DID raise their own flocks and herds, and therefore were obligated to tithe from them. As proof, Numbers 35:4-5 was cited, in which the Levites were given a quantity of land around each of their 48 cities in Canaan. The pastor suggested that my brother was still required to tithe based on the text. The following is my response:

Reference:

Num 35:4-5 (4)And the suburbs of the cities, which ye shall give unto the Levites, shall reach from the wall of the city and outward a thousand cubits round about. (5) And ye shall measure from without the city on the east side two thousand cubits, and on the south side two thousand cubits, and on the west side two thousand cubits, and on the north side two thousand cubits; and the city shall be in the midst: this shall be to them the suburbs of the cities.

Dear Brother,

There were 23,000 Levite men 1 month old and older (Numbers 26:62), when they crossed into Canaan, to take possession of the 48 cities they were given (Numbers 35:7, Joshua 21:1-42). That breaks down to about 480 men (1 month and older) per city. Assuming a life-span of 40 years or so, and the typical Jewish marriage age of 14 (+/-), I’d suggest those 480 men represented about 320 households, with husband, wife, male child, and unknown number of daughters. I imagine it’s reasonable to suppose an average population per Levite city of 2000 people, or less.

Desert type adobe/mud/stone dwellings are typical in Canaan, and not at all like single family dwellings we gave in the US. Rather, they are densely packed cities (Psalm 122:3). IF we assume densely packed cities with connected dwellings (fortress-like for protection, with outer walls), and since the dimensions given in Numbers 35:4-5 are basically square or rectangular, let’s suppose that the cities consist of a square arrangement of homes, 18 wide by 18 deep, to account for the 320 households. With foot-paths, or passage ways for a cart or beast of burden, and allowing 400sf (20×20 feet) for each dwelling, on one level, a city would be about 500 foot square at most.

Beginning then with a 500 foot square city (1 and 2/3rds football fields), and mapping out the 2000 cubits (3000 feet) for ‘pasture’ (suburbs) surrounding the cities per Numbers 35:4-5, the cities, including the ‘pasture would measure about 6,500 x 6,500 feet, or about 1.5 square miles per Levite city … that’s about 960 acres in farming terms. ;^)

For a reality check, I looked at some animal husbandry sites to see what the recommendations were for animal density on grazing land … this is what one web site said:

“The common rule of thumb is that one acre of permanent pasture can support one animal unit (one cow or horse, six sheep or goats) through the grazing season. Pasture productivity can vary widely from that guideline. Lush improved pastures can provide grazing for 10-12 ewes with their lambs per acre. Stocking rates for aggressive rotation, with substantial rests for the pastures after each grazing cycle, can reach 6 cows or 36 sheep per acre on improved pastures. At the other end of the scale, a cow or horse would have trouble supporting itself on five or even ten acres of dry Western native grassland, and one sheep per acre is the rule on some Australian sheep stations.”

So, let’s suppose half the 960 acres was for fruit and grain, and the other half for animals. Let’s also say these people looked to their pastures to support the animals without trucking in grain/hay to feed them (they practiced self sufficiency). We know that Israel (Canaan) is a hot and arid climate, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suppose that there was just 1 animal per man there (480) or an animal per acre – unless they were to drive the animals into the pasturelands of the 12 tribes for feeding and breeding. God (Moses) was so specific about the measurements of the ‘pasture’ (suburbs), that I can’t begin to imagine that they had many animals, nor drove them for feeding into the lands of the 12 tribes.

Consequently, I believe the limited size of the land means the animals were not so much for food as they were for pets, or for the Levites personal offerings to God for sin/fellowship. In farming terms, 960 acres for 2000 people is paltry! God quite literally boxed them in – and made them dependent on the 12 tribes for food. They could not possibly have provided their own food with so little land. If that amount of land had been sufficient to support the Levites with food, why then did God tell the 12 tribes to bring a tithe to feed the Levites? Does God want FAT Levites? That He would provide for them food from their “suburbs” around their cities, and a 10th of all the food from the 12 tribes? I don’t think so. The ‘suburbs’ allowed them to be ‘gentleman farmers’ at best.

I’m Confused Now! How Do I Know What and Where to Give?

For our brothers and sisters who are struggling with the issue of what they should give to, whether a building fund, or to missions, or a neighbor in need, there are a few questions I often ask myself that help to clarify the answer:

Will it burn?

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 GNB  (11)  For God has already placed Jesus Christ as the one and only foundation, and no other foundation can be laid.  (12)  Some will use gold or silver or precious stones in building on the foundation; others will use wood or grass or straw.  (13)  And the quality of each person’s work will be seen when the Day of Christ exposes it. For on that Day fire will reveal everyone’s work; the fire will test it and show its real quality.  (14)  If what was built on the foundation survives the fire, the builder will receive a reward.  (15)  But if your work is burnt up, then you will lose it; but you yourself will be saved, as if you had escaped through the fire.

Will it rust? Can it be stolen?

Matthew 6:19 GNB “Do not store up riches for yourselves here on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and robbers break in and steal.

Can people eat it, drink it, wear it?

Matthew 25:34-36 GNB  Then the King will say to the people on his right, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father! Come and possess the kingdom which has been prepared for you ever since the creation of the world.  (35)  I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink; I was a stranger and you received me in your homes,  (36)  naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me, in prison and you visited me.’

Far too often, we have built with perishable materials when the true church is built with people. Paul tells us that God has already laid the one and only foundation upon which to build – and that foundation is Jesus Christ. Upon that foundation of Jesus Christ, the apostle Peter says the Lord is assembling us, as living stones, into a spiritual temple (1 Peter 2:5). Only the spiritual temple that the Lord has built will withstand His test of fire!

1 Peter 2:5 GNB  Come as living stones, and let yourselves be used in building the spiritual temple, where you will serve as holy priests to offer spiritual and acceptable sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ.

To bring the point home, let’s take a look at a familiar story about “Church Building”:

Luke 10:30-37 JAV (Jack’s Amplified Version) A man was traveling along the road to Jericho. He fell among thieves who beat and robbed him, and threw him in a ditch. Along came a Pharisee, on his way to church. He heard the man moan, but said to himself “I don’t have time for that man, I’m needed at the church to present myself before sinners as an example of righteous living.” Moments later, a Teacher of the Law saw the man in the ditch. He too walked quickly by as he thought to himself “I’m needed at the church to read scripture”. Finally, a Samaritan spotted the man in the ditch, and his heart went out to him. The Samaritan cried out “look, a living stone in the Lord’s Temple has been injured.” The Samaritan cleaned and bandaged the man’s wounds, gave him a drink, helped him to his feet, and got him to a place where someone could nurse him back to health. The Samaritan even paid for the man’s medical bills.

Who was the REAL Church builder in that story?

We need to invest in people; we need to build with people. When this world is done, and the Lord has burned up all our vain works, I think we’ll see that only people remain. Only people will cross over from this world into Heaven. And so, in terms of storing up riches in Heaven, we need to invest in what will cross over, and that is people.