Saturday, October 02, 2010
WHY OH WHY DOES THE CHURCH TITHE?
The tithe (literally "a tenth") is an Old Testament law designed to provide for the Levitical Priesthood (who could not own property) and to maintain the temple in Jerusalem.
In the New Testament, there is no temple to provide for except the people of God. That is, there is no building or structure to support and maintain. Why? Because the New Testament Church is not a building.
In Ephesians 2:21, (and elsewhere), we are told that we are the Temple of God:
"In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit." - Eph 2:21-22
Under the New Covenant the people of God are the only Temple. This is why the Apostles and the early Christians didn't bother to build a Christian temple for people to worship in. They fully understood that God did not live in temples built by human hands (as both Stephen and Paul affirm in the book of Acts), but that He has now poured out His Spirit on all flesh - old and young, male and female, Jew and Gentile. This is the New Covenant.
Because there is no longer a physical temple to maintain, there is no longer any need for a tithe to the Church. Historically, the Apostles, and the early church did not collect a tithe from anyone.
In fact, the Christian Church didn't mandate a tithe until the 7th Century. Imagine, over 700 years with no tithe? How could that be? To begin with, offerings in the early, New Testament church were voluntary and freely given out of love. Most gave more than a tithe (or "tenth"), they sold everything they had and shared it with those around them who had need. Still, this offering wasn't a law or a command of the Church, it was freely shared out of love.
Tertullian, in his "Apology" (2nd Century) affirms that no offering was taken out of compulsion but says:
"Even if there is a treasury of a sort, it is not made up of money paid in initiation fees, as if religion were a matter of contract. Every man once a month brings some modest contribution- or whatever he wishes, and only if he does wish, and if he can; for nobody is compelled; it is a voluntary offering…to feed the poor and to bury them, for boys and girls who lack property and parents, and then for slaves grown old."
Under Constantine, the clergy were paid for their services (for the first time in Church history), but that payment was provided by the Roman Government, not by the Christians themselves.
Additionally, under the New Covenant, every single believer is a priest of God. Therefore we should either keep our offerings to ourselves (to "pay our priests") or we should give and share with those in need around us.
Here's what the early christians did with their money:
"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had...There was no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.”- Acts 4:32-35
Our house church family gives freely to help the poor in our community. We do not pass a basket. Yet we do give 100% of every penny received to buy groceries, support families in need, and to care for the needs of people in our own Body and in our community.
This is only possible if we do not pay our pastors or maintain a building, but under the New Covenant of God, this is more than a possibility, it's highly encouraged.
Giving is a high value in the New Testament Church, but tithing is unknown under the New Covenant of God.