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January 8, 2022 12:01 am
In the Old Testament, the people of Israel were required to give one tenth of their income back to the Lord. Does the tithe apply to Christians today? Today, R.C. Sproul considers our responsibility to support the work of the church.
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The last book of the Old Testament the prophet Malachi shows bring the whole time I've loose your house know this text has become extremely problematic text in terms of the controversy that is engendered by it is this principle of the ties.
One of those laws of God that carries over into the new covenant were simply stated, are we also required of God to tie this is a common question among Christians.
We want to be faithful to God and do those things that he expenses to do but does not apply to commands like this that were directed to the ancient Israelites puts Fidelity's doctors he still continues his series. The hard sayings of the Bible.
Sometimes it said in the church that the minister on occasion crosses the line and makes a transition from preaching to meddling.
I'm afraid maybe that's what's about to happen today because the Old Testament hard saying that we will be examining in this message has to do with the question of tithing and I bring up the subject at the risk of meddling, but I remember after my father died when I was a young man.
My mother disposed of many of his personal effects. She saved certain documents in certain things that were important to them and a few years later when I became a Christian.
For some reason my mother showed me some of these personal effects that been left behind by my father, and one was a hand written sermon on followers, not a minister but he was asked to speak occasionally in the Methodist Church where he grew up and hear one of the things that my mother had saved was a copy of his hand written sermon that he had preached and I was able to look at it and as I read it, I was struck by its content, and also by its title in the title of the sermon was simply will a man rob God. It was a sermon on tithing.
I remember one before I was a Christian, just as a matter of family responsibility that was instilled in us as young people that we had a duty and obligation to ties.
This was a big thing with my father so that when we got our allowance as children we were required to take her percentage of that allowance and put it in the collection plate on Sunday morning so that we would establish a practice that would be continued throughout our lives. Well, it wasn't until after I became a Christian that I learned where this text came from and discovered that it was from the last book of the Old Testament from the teaching of the prophet Malachi, we read in chapter 3 of Malachi beginning at verse eight. These were Will a man rob God. Yet you have robbed me, but you say in what way have we robbed you in tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed me even this whole nation bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house and try me now in this, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.
Now this text has become an extremely problematic text in terms of the controversy that is engendered by it. Questions arise such as these. First of all is this principle of the ties that is clearly commanded by God in the Old Testament economy.
One of those laws of God that carries over into the new covenant and imposes a like obligation upon Christians were simply stated, are we also required of God to tie a second question is what is a ties what is the meaning of the time. The third controversy is to whom should the ties be given, and the fourth controversy which is been precipitated by the so-called health and wealth movement toward the prosperity gospel is does tithing guarantee of future prosperity from those who give it so we can see all of the discussions that have emerged over this question. First question then is this is this principle of tithing that is given in the Old Testament, something that carries over into the New Testament to answer that question fully would require a series of lectures on the whole significance of the Old Testament law and to what degree it applies to the New Testament Christian. And so I'm not going to take the time to give a complete survey of that question simply to say this, that the New Testament does not explicitly restate this obligation.
New Testament is a little bit more ambiguous.
But if anything, the New Testament imposes a greater obligation upon the people of God.
In light of the clear teaching in the new covenant that we live in a better covenant that we have more blessings bestowed upon us than the people of the Old Testament did that the riches we receive from God in the New Testament are greater than those that abounded in the Old Testament. And so, from a simple process of reasoning, it would seem at least prima facie that as the benefits increase so the responsibilities increase proportionately with it, even as God himself says in the New Testament, to whom much is given much is required.
And secondly, we are told in the New Testament that we are to give as the Lord prospers us so that the principal of giving to the work of God. Certainly is reaffirmed in the New Testament now are simply asking what are the guidelines for that principle of supporting the work of God in the New Testament or to help understand that. Let's take a moment and look at the second question, what is the time while the word ties means as I'm sure most of you already know 1/10 in the way it worked in Israel was this that God had separated one tribe from the family of Jacob to be responsible for ministering in the temple and the matters of the religious community and they were not to have to look for secular employment to meet their needs but the other tribes were responsible to support the work of the Levites by the giving of the time, so that the purpose of the ties was to underwrite the work of God in the midst of the people I would also say two things that are often overlooked, that the Levites were responsible not only for the ministry of the temple, the tabernacle, but there were also responsible for the religious instruction of the nation, so they were the ministers and the teachers.
That's why today you have seminaries and Christian colleges and so on. That also often receive some of the funding provided for the work of God, but in any case, the way work was this that in an agrarian society, people basically were either former Subaru produce or they were ranchers who raised cattle and suppose you had a herd of 500 cows and during the course of the year that heard produced 10 just say for the sake of keeping the math simple 10 cab's all that meant that the cattle rancher in Israel had to give 10% of his increase to the Lord, not 10% of the total worth of his herd. That would mean he would have to give 51 cows in this case, they had a herd of 500 and new calves of 10.
He would have to present one of those calves to the Levites as the payment of his time.
Likewise, those who grew produce had to give 10% of the increase of their produce back to the Lord and so this produce the foodstuffs is basically how the ties was paid not completely there were also occasions for currency to be used as we see in the New Testament when Jesus talks about the widow's might. That is given which is as important to God as the rich man's donation. But the thing that is so striking about the Old Testament principle of the ties were the 10th is the equity of it that every person in the land was required to ties. That is, they were to give 10% of their increase to the work of God in the beauty of it was that it was established on a percentage basis that had equity. There was no progressive income tax. In Israel, a progressive income tax would have been viewed by God and by the Jewish nation as an injustice as an in equitable system of taxation, one that our nation embraces and for the most part without a whole lot of protests, although recently there have been movements to develop a flat tax where everybody pays the same percentage but not the same amount and that that is important for the general equity specifically so that economics may not become politicized, but anytime you have a nation and a system that is so-called progressive in its taxation.
You turn taxation into a political football which is exactly what is happened in our country but in Israel.
Everyone had to pay the same percentage not the same amount so that the wealthy person had to give a lot more produce are a lot more of his wealth to the work of the kingdom. Then the poor person, but the point is, each had to pay the same percentage and it was a beautiful thing because not only could the person who was more prosperous have to give the same amount he was not elevated as being some great wonderful hero because he gave more money than the poor man.
He was simply doing his duty and he was expressing his gratitude for the prosperity that he had enjoyed in it in our civilization we tend to fall in all over the big givers, even if the big givers are not necessarily tithing. Let's put it this way. If I make $10,000 a year. My requirement is to tie the thousand of it.
If I make $10 million a year. My requirement is to tithe.
I million, but if the guy who has 10 million give us 500,000. He's a hero. But he's a thief.
At the same time because he is robbing God of 50% of what he is required to get so we need to be careful about that sort of thing and not be respecter of person simply on the basis of how much actual money they give God is looking at the responsibility that he gives to everybody in the Old Testament and to withhold that ties any degree is considered robbery of God. Think about that.
This is a concern of mine because in the last survey I show there always doing these polls in Gallup polls and barn on the other show that of those who identified themselves as evangelical Christians in America 4% identified themselves as tithers if that's the case, the 96% of professing Christians in the United States of America the day in the evangelical world are consistently systematically stealing from God. I know we deplore those who were always trying to raise money in the Christian community and the huckster mentality that we seen and rightly so. With some of the methods that we are exposed to one of the reasons for the hard sell in the high pressure is to make up for the 96% shortfall that the work of the kingdom faces every day in America. This is a serious problem. The biggest problem that I know of for godly ministries to make an impact in this world is insufficient resources were working on 4% of what the church should have for her mission to be fulfilled and that's why this is such a serious matter and God regarded it as serious enough that he would curse his people if they withheld their tithes and offerings from the next question is to whom was the ties given while in the Old Testament we read that the tithe was taken into the storehouse, that there was a central depository to receive the produce the animals and so on.
And then the Levites from this central depository would allocate and dispense the ties to those who were in the Leviticus system. I know that I've heard ministers in our day and age say that the only legitimate place to which the ties can be paid is the local church because only the church represents the storehouse and then it is the responsibility the church to distribute those ties and offerings to various ministries and so on. I'm not sure we can draw that conclusion from the Old Testament system at all. I've talked to some my friends who are pastors and local churches who want the local church be the storehouse lesser will regularly be consistent about that were going to have to advocate that all of the tithe say within the Presbyterian Church of the Lutheran Church or whatever be given to a central agency in the denomination and then allocated to the individual churches and that's when they get nervous and I said no, no, no, we don't accept that kind of assist, but that would be more consistent with what was going on in Israel and I don't know how were supposed to handle this distribution of tithes and offerings to your favorite ministries or your local church but I would say this that it would seem to me that one of the requirements of membership in a local church should be the vow to support the ministry of the church with your offerings and with your ties and I do believe even though I'm involved in a ministry that serves the church but is not officially part of the church and the depends upon donations from 50% of its budget. I still believe that the Christian's obligation is to give the lion share of their ties to the local church and to support the ministry of the local church. I don't think they're required to get all their but I do think the dinner was a matter of prudence, if nothing else of commitment to the local church that they make that a top priority in their giving. The final thing I want to comment about this text is the promise that is found here where God says try me now in this if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing this promise of God of opening the windows of heaven for blessing to those who give one the most abused text on television and radio you will ever see.
I've seen appeal letters from people saying if you will send this ministry a donation of $50. I promise you that God will return to you $500 or $5000 may make up some kind of figures because here God says he will open up the windows of blessing and that is used as a gimmick to manipulate people to sacrificial giving, which I think is important. However, that abuse is an abuse of a real promise of God, and I mentioned for this reason, when I worked in the church as a pastor, and so on and would talk to people about the responsibility of tithing. The biggest single reason that I heard from people who did not ties with this. I cannot afford the time and Nancy let me translate that for you. What you mean is that you cannot afford to live at the style of living. You are currently experiencing and ties because that 10% has to come out of someplace. That's why it's so important that we start early on this so that we become accustomed to it so that everyone I just know every year and people arguably supply either gross or net or whatever. I just look at my gross income for the year and I say okay right off the top 10% before Uncle Sam gets a dime for anybody else. My first obligation is to God. It's not my money so you can afford. I can never afford to steal from God. So if I hold back. I'm embezzling from my creator and my Redeemer. That's why look at it so I have to give what is my responsibility. The freeing thing is if I'm prosperous and outgunned. What I'm supposed to do on free to enjoy the fruit of my labor as long as I'm good stored and prudent with that.
And so it is a very liberating thing to live within the guidelines of what God has commanded and I happen to believe that I've never missed a single penny of time that God indeed provides for us in such a way that one of the best investments we can make in this world is in the King with a message from his series, the hard sayings of the Bible that was Dr. RC Sproul you're listening to Renewing Your Mind. Timely web of this is a message that this certainly resonates with my wife and me early in our marriage.
We were not faithful with our time there is no reason for disobedience. My parents were faithful in their giving an eyewitness that early on but my wife and I encountered some financial hardships in the early 80s, to the extent that we felt led to pray about it soon afterward.
My wife is convicted of our failure to tithe and she lovingly confronted me about it so next paycheck right off the top. We tied not to the net but the gross amount and make a long story short, we begin to see our financial burden light, and in ways that we could've imagined were planned. We continue that practice to this day unlike RC never regretted it. We realize that God is who he says he is, he is faithful and he wants is to entrust every part of our lives to him, including our finances, we are offering Dr. scroll series on these hard sayings that a digital format.
He covers several difficult passages like the hardening of Pharaoh's heart in the creation of the earth in six literal days of the reasons why we sweater were getting these hard sayings of the Bible writers because we like Peter believe that they hold the words of eternal life. Our commitment to the inspiration and authority of Scripture means we study explain the defendant and apply all of it carefully. So we invite you to contact us and request this series with your donation of any amount to look at your ministries. You can call us at 800-435-4343 or if you prefer you can go online to Renewing Your Mind.org but as I shared a bit of my testimony as relates to tithing.
God hears RC again with some additional thoughts on trusting God in this way.
I mentioned earlier about investing in the kingdom of God. I've published over 40 books and I own the royalties to most of them were some of them and they have benefited my family in a marvelous way so that I'm not a rich person that I'm comfortable and I've tried to be very judicious in making investments because I believe that we should delay gratification and provide for our family and I had spent some time with some cash and I had in the bank and then the word invested and I have a man who handles my investments for me and he's a Christian. We were at breakfast when when I said I need to invest this money. He said in RC fit. I get tired of this investing in corporations and stuff he said would be great if we could invest our money in the work of God. So I decided to sit on this Tyrone. I said even though I'm all paid up and then some with the pie I was gonna take this and instead of investing it in something that would yield me a financial return.
Invest this capital in a ministry and I was one of the most exciting decisions ever have the opportunity to make sure the return will be totally invisible to me. It'll be fun. And I think that it should be fun for all of us to really put our money where our models are and to work to support the work of the church. The work of Christ, the work of his kingdom, but I hope you make plans to join us next week as we continue RC series the hard sayings of the Bible just before Jesus healed the man born blind. The disciples asked Jesus who would sin the causes blindness. They asked a loaded question. Jesus corrected the wrong assumption to find out why next Saturday. I hope you'll join us for Renewing Your Mind