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Giving vs. Tithing

Which is the Will of God?

By David A. DePra

If Christian people understood the New Covenant, indeed, if they understood God Himself, there would be no questions or confusion over the issue of GIVING. For example, TITHING would not even be on the table for discussion. We would know that it is NOT required of Christians. Likewise, we would not be manipulated and deceived by the continual promises made by so many today to the effect that if we give money to THEM, that God will bless us financially. Yet on this matter of money and giving in the church, error continues to reign in so many places. Frankly, it is nothing more than an outward indication of how little we understand of the overall Truth in Jesus Christ.

The Covenants

Of course, those who demand that the tithing laws of the OT are required of Christians today have their, "proof texts." I know them all quite well, since many years ago, I tithed religiously. Usually, the passage from Malachi is used front and center, and the teachers of tithing will likewise point to Abraham tithing to Melchizedek as proof that tithing was in effect before God formalized it into law through Moses. Somehow lost in all of these arguments is the bottom line: What reflects the mind of Christ and the true gospel of grace?

The inerrant Word of God tells the Truth about the mind of God. It is OF His mind. But you have to take the entirety of scripture on the subject to arrive at God’s mind – not just parts of it. If you did not have the New Testament, you could find the whole Truth in the Old Testament – the apostles did. The Truth of grace is THERE – if not openly, then in the form of the types and shadows. The trouble is, Christian people have this pension for taking a type or shadow OF Christ, and setting it up AS Christ. Would you point to YOUR shadow and say that it was you? No. But that is what Christians do to the One they are supposed to know.

The Old Testament, in so many ways, was a type or shadow of Christ. That means that the Old Testament was TRUE – but it was NOT substance. Only the PERSON is substance. Thus, when we look at the Covenants, we MUST understand this one Truth: The New Covenant did not ADD to the Old Covenant. Rather, the New Covenant REPLACED the Old Covenant. It is vital to see this – and to see in what sense this is true.

The New Covenant replaced the Old Covenant, but NOT because the Old Covenant was error. Neither did the New Covenant replace the Old with contradictions to the Old. No. The New Covenant replaced the Old in the same way that a Living Person could replace his shadow. The shadow DOES properly reflect the Living Person – it IS His shadow; it is a TRUE shadow. But it is NOT HIM. Once the real Person comes, it is time to move on into the REAL relationship with the Living Person, instead of continuing to live with the shadow.

So many Christians today, when you begin to talk to them about the fact that the New Covenant is DIFFERENT than the Old Covenant – indeed, it REPLACES the Old – immediately think that you are doing away with a big chunk of the Bible. For instance, if you tell them they don’t have to tithe, they will argue that the Bible teaches tithing, and even though that teaching is found in the OT, that since the OT is a big part of God’s inspired Word, tithing must be in effect for today. To them, this is the only conclusion possible.

The answer to this goes back to seeing the WHOLE of God’s mind and revelation on these matters. What does the New Covenant MEAN? And how does it REPLACE the Old Covenant without contradicting it?

We’ll get to that in a minute. But first, let’s address this issue of what we need to do about Old Testament commands. The Old Covenant DID command tithing. I’m saying that tithing is no longer for today. Am I not changing God’s requirements and laws?

No. God changed them – at least as to outward practice – although not the spiritual intent. If you doubt that God has made some changes between Old and New Covenants, I can point out many that He did make. But the biggest one involves the FOURTH COMMANDMENT. Remember that one?

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shall thou labor, and do all thy work: {10} But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shall not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it. (Ex. 20:8-11)

This command is not merely an obscure OT ordinance. Rather, it is one of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. Yet do YOU keep the SEVENTH DAY Sabbath? You probably do not – although I do know of a few people who do keep it. Well, you will notice that not only does God command that the Sabbath be kept, but He commands that it be kept on the SEVENTH DAY – indeed, He links His command to the fact that HE instituted the Sabbath at creation. So if there were one command that we would never be able to CHANGE, it would be THIS command. It states the command, the day, and the reason. It is one of the BIG TEN. Yet you and I know that most of Christianity does NOT keep the seventh day – indeed, it is accurate to say that most Christians keep NO day at all in the way that this command requires.

Why are Christians NOT required to keep the seventh day Sabbath? How do we get around one of the Ten Commandments? Well, in the answer we discover a perfect example of how the New Covenant replaced the Old – not with a contradiction to the Old, but with a revelation of the Person who was represented by the shadow.

God rested when His creation work was done – it is upon this that the entire commandment rests. But notice that this was the first, or OLD creation – God rested when THAT was finished. But are Christians of that OLD creation? No. Through Christ, the old creation has died. God has now made a NEW creation through the resurrection. This is why we no longer keep a Sabbath that celebrated the completion of the OLD creation – in Christ there is a NEW creation.

That is one reason. But there is more. Christ Himself is God’s completion of His new creation. And it is by faith that we are baptized INTO HIM and ENTER INTO HIM – in other words, by faith we REST IN HIM. Indeed, when we enter God’s true rest IN CHRIST, we cease from all of our labors and works – as far as using them to earn or merit anything from God. This is, of course, the basic gospel. Indeed, we see that the fourth commandment is a type or shadow of the gospel of grace in Jesus Christ – there it is right in the middle of God’s Ten Commandments!

So what we see here is that the fourth commandment was absolutely true from the start – as far as the Truth and revelation that it contained. But until Christ, it was merely a shadow of things to come – it was NOT yet the substance or reality. When Christ came, and ushered in the New Covenant, and the new creation, everything that the fourth commandment embodied was revealed IN CHRIST. Thus, we don’t have a contradiction to the fourth commandment. No. We have the shadow being replaced by the Person.

Now, there are people who, despite agreeing with this principle, nevertheless demand that we MUST keep the fourth commandment by keeping a day – indeed, some even demand that it be the seventh day. I even know of some who insist that it is precisely because the fourth commandment is a shadow that we are required to keep it – they say if we don’t keep it we are denying the Person who is the substance.

Actually, the opposite is the Truth. Why? Well, here is the problem: The moment you say we are REQUIRED to keep the Sabbath, you are putting yourself UNDER THE LAW. Sure. And in doing so, you are actually denying the true meaning of the Sabbath rest in Christ. You really are. The true Sabbath in Christ means that if I enter into HIS rest by faith, nothing is based upon MY WORKS. But the moment I require any WORK, I am no longer keeping the true Sabbath. Thus, ironically, to require that we keep the Sabbath as a day is a denial of everything that day means as fulfilled in Christ.

Now, I could certainly go on with this. But I’ve discussed this issue of the Sabbath to establish the fact that things have changed because of Jesus Christ. Can anyone doubt that the New Covenant is different than the Old Covenant? Are we still commanded to sacrifice animals, or has that been replaced by the once for all sacrifice of Christ? Do we still keep OT Holy Days, or are they fulfilled in Christ? Is there still a Levitical priesthood, or is there a new priesthood in Christ? If you answer YES to even one of these questions, then you know something has changed. Indeed, this is exactly what God said has happened:

For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decays and waxes old is ready to vanish away. (Heb 8:8-13)

The difference between the OLD and NEW is clear: The Old was outward, but the New is inward. Or, to get right to the point, the New Covenant is, "Christ in you, the hope of glory." Thus, we are right back to seeing that Christ, the Person, replaces all that merely spoke of Him in type and shadow. For example, we don’t need a tabernacle or temple under the New Covenant. WE are the temple of God because Christ is in us. Neither do we need the sacrificial system, or any of those other symbolic aspects of the OT. Christ is in us. He is the fulfillment of all of those types and shadows.

Now, of course, someone will always object and say, "Well, then you can just sin because you think grace abounds." I’m not getting into that here. The Truth is, if you know Christ, you won’t want to sin, for even God’s law will be written on your heart, which is exactly what the passage from Hebrews says is the essence of the New Covenant.

Under the Law

But again – if I don’t understand the covenants, I won’t grasp much else. In fact, I might walk through my Christian life keeping all of these OT laws and ordinances, thinking that this is somehow keeping me in right standing with God. Yet all the while I am, at best, carrying on a relationship with a SHADOW. The real Truth is, if I know Jesus Christ, I am not going to put myself under the law.

To be under the law does NOT mean to KEEP it. That is secondary. No. To be under the law means that the law – i.e., my keeping or breaking of it – determines my standing before the Lord. If I keep the law, I deem myself righteous. If I break it, I deem myself unrighteous. You will note that I did not say GOD deems me as such. No. For He has already said that there is only one means of righteousness – that which is imputed and imparted through Christ.

I know of a group of people, for example, who today continue to keep all of the OT Holy Days, including Saturday as the Sabbath. They would probably tell you that they do not believe that they are saved by such conduct. They might even deny that they are KEPT saved by it. But this is exactly what they believe. For the moment you make YOUR WORKS determine your eternal destiny, or make YOUR WORKS determine God’s grace towards you, you are, by definition, preaching salvation by works. You may not use those terms, but in the end, it is the same thing.

Do we realize that the Galatian church believed, "salvation by works?" Sure. If you, as they did, believe law-keeping is what keeps you righteous, then you believe law-keeping keeps you saved. And if you believe that, then you believe that you can lose your salvation through your inadequate works. No other conclusion is possible once you so much as try to KEEP saved by your works. But this is, according to Paul, "another gospel." It is heresy. And yet thousands of professing Christians believe this today. They may not state so outright, but once I demand that my works and law-keeping – on even a single point such as tithing – is necessary to keep me right with God, I am walking in this error.

The gospel of grace in Jesus Christ states that solely on the basis of Christ – which is completely independent of ME – I am made righteous by faith. I am declared legally righteous before God by faith in Christ – the righteousness of Christ is imputed to me – and likewise I am imparted with Righteousness Himself because through faith I have Christ in me. The OUTCOME of this new birth is that I will do good works. But those works do not save me, keep me saved, or change anything about my standing in Christ. Rather, those works are the result of loving God, and of the continual work of the Spirit of holiness.

But again – there are thousands who sit in church each week who never hear this, do not understand it, and there are even many who demand otherwise. What a sorry thing that is since this is the very gospel of Jesus Christ. We would do well to once again read the first chapter of Galatians:

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. (Gal 1:6-10)

You will note that the false gospel Paul repudiates, and to which he attaches a very serious warning, is not a gospel that promotes immorality. It is not a gospel that denies that Jesus is God, or one that suggests Christians should not obey God. No. The false gospel of Galatians is one that preaches law-keeping and supposed obedience front and center. And yet it is a false gospel because of what it makes those things mean – it makes them be the means by which we are saved, keep saved, and continue in right standing with God. This false gospel is, in fact, a denial of the Truth, and of the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

Today many preach LICENSE in the church. That is heresy. But just as bad, many continue to preach LEGALISM. They threaten people with punishment for failure, and offer them rewards for obedience – and claim to speak for God. Others present the false gospel of Galatia in the form of nice, religious principles – and yet attach the SAME kind of threat, although perhaps in less obvious form. But all of it is HERESY. It is the gospel of UNBELIEF, for it substitutes for the gospel of grace for which Paul continually strove, and for which Jesus died.

The Truth of God will result in freedom from sin and a life of progressive holiness – and yet one that is free of condemnation, manipulation, and fear tactics. People will NOT need to be kept in line with a threat of punishment or curse. Rather, people will obey God because they want to – despite the fact that their works have NO EFFECT upon their salvation or standing with God. Does that sound impossible? It is, unless we are talking about a new birth. Again, read Galatians. This is Paul’s conclusion:

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. (Gal 6:15-16)

Losing Yourself

All of this is necessary background if we are to see the NT Truth about giving. In order to see this Truth, we have to completely eradicate ourselves of any thinking that suggests that, "we must give to get." Or, that we must, "give to avoid the curse." We have to STOP bargaining with God on all fronts, whether it be money, works, or service. The plain and simple Truth is this – until we live for God to the complete disregard of rewards or punishments we are NOT living in the Truth. We are falling short of it.

This is a radical statement, of course, for many Christians. Thousands GIVE, do good works, and serve God at church – thinking that they are earning something from Him. Some think that are earning a greater reward in heaven. Others think they are keeping in His favor, or avoiding His displeasure. Still others do these things out of mere duty. But it is an absolute fact that if we are walking with Christ for those kinds of personal benefits we are NOT seeing the Truth. We may, in fact, be more deceived than we suspect is possible.

If you and I cannot give all of ourselves to God – even if there would be NO reward for doing so – we cannot say we love Him. Indeed, I don’t think we KNOW Him. What? Do we think that the Christian life is some kind of bargain or deal we have worked with God? – such that we are in this thing only if it PAYS us to be in it? Read the Bible. Did it pay the apostles – in this life – to follow Christ? No, it cost them their lives. Why do we think it will cost us less?

Jesus once said:

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. (Mat 16:24-27)

There is NO middle ground here – not according to Jesus Christ. God doesn’t want, or need, your money. He wants YOU. But not just a verbal commitment. Not just IF it pays you. He says that you absolutely, in every way, must LOSE your life to Him – you must completely relinquish ownership over yourself. Then you will find true life – you will find real Truth. But notice: If you do lose your life to Christ, and find real life, then this will govern everything – including your money, and your giving. If you don’t lose your life to Him, you can give until you are broke, but you will NOT be a disciple, and you will NOT find true life.

There is a Truth in this that is vital to see. If I lose my life into the hands of Jesus Christ, it means that I can no longer serve Him for what I get out of it. I say this despite the fact that I might get something out of it. But I won’t serve Him because of that – this will not be in my thinking or motivation. In fact, to emphasize this Truth, we might paraphrase the words of Jesus and apply them to our thinking about rewards and punishments for works:

Whoever would LOSE his reward into My hands will find it. But whoever would seek to EARN his reward will lose it.

The Truth here is really not complicated. We are to get to the point where we live for Christ without reservation and leave any rewards to Him. We are to completely LOSE ourselves to Him – leaving it to Him to find us, and to give to us what pleases Him. This will set us free to abandon ourselves to God. And it will set us free from the delusion of thinking what we do for God is equal in importance to what He has for us.

If I am serving God for a reward, blessing, or even to establish my righteousness in my own eyes, then I have NOT lost myself into His hands. No. In that case, I am very much in charge. But unfortunately, this attitude – which is UNBELIEF – is the very thing that is going to make me unable to find true life in Christ, and it is the very thing that will disqualify me for any reward or blessing. It is only if I completely abandon myself to Christ, and give my all to Him to the disregard of self-gain, that I can find real life in Christ. Only then can God trust me with any real blessing or reward that might suit His purpose.

Now, you will notice that at the end of the above passage about losing your life, Jesus says that God will reward everyone according to their works. Doesn’t this seem to contradict everything else in the passage? Actually, no. It affirms all that we have been seeing. How? Well, first of all, the word translated, "reward," means, "recompense," which could mean reward or wages, but really refers to God’s giving us whatever is just and right in response to our works. But our WORKS are not merely the mechanical actions we DO. The real nature and essence of our WORKS are found in the motivation behind them. In this passage, the only work mentioned is that of losing our lives for the sake of Christ. THAT is a work or choice. So, in other words, Jesus says, "Lose yourself in to my hands, and if you do, then you will find true life. Losing your life IS A WORK – it is a choice. Lose your life, your reward, lose all of yourself. If you do, then God will be able to recompense you accordingly – in other words, God will be free to give you whatever He sees fit is right and good for you."

Can we see that if we freely give without any expectation of reward – that if this is our WORK -- that God can freely give to us – that this is His recompense to us. Sure. It’s not so much a PAYBACK as it is a freedom for God to give to us. If we lose ourselves into His hands, and give freely without any expectation – and this is REAL – then we are doing this because we have seen the Truth and desire it. God is then free to give us anything He chooses in response.

Do you want God to give to you whatever HE chooses, rather than what YOU choose? If you, then freely give to HIM, or to others, as He directs. Then because you are free, He is free to give unto you.

But here is the danger: To set this up as a law. To make a deal even out of this. People might say, "Oh, I see. If I freely give, God will be free to give to me. Ok. I’ll freely give so that I can get from God." No. This is NOT what it means to lose yourself to God, nor what it means to freely give. Rather, such nonsense is nothing more than the SAME legalism as before, only with different terms.

What we are talking about when we look at the words of Christ is a RELATIONSHIP based upon Truth and grace. It is REAL. You lose your motivation of a reward because you have seen GOD! You cannot continue in those old patterns. No. The Truth about God has renewed your mind and you have learned Christ to the point where you are able to leave the whole reward business in HIS hands.

This is really where LOVE will lead us. Can we see that LOVE doesn’t keep a timecard? Or a scorecard? Love is abandonment unto the One I love. You cannot walk in freedom, or walk in love – much less walk in faith – if you are serving and obeying God for some reward you think you are going to get for it! What? If there were NO reward, would you begin to sin and walk away from God?

I am talking here about seeing the Truth – about seeing Jesus Christ. Indeed, this motivation of serving God with abandon – which is LOVE -- is really the ONLY POSSIBLE OUTCOME of seeing Jesus! If you see Jesus, and come to know Him, and are surrendered to Him in faith, this is going to be the result. You will LOVE HIM. You will WANT to lose yourself to Him. You will WANT to serve Him. Indeed, you will WANT HIM!

This is really all about an eternal RELATIONSHIP with God. Jesus described this relationship in one sentence: "Freely you have received. Therefore, freely give." (Matt. 10:8) To, "freely give," means that I give expecting NOTHING in return. It means NOTHING ELSE. This is exactly where God seeks to bring us. It is really what it means to BE TRUE TO GOD – and again, is the only possible result if we see the Truth in Christ Jesus.

The Measure

Now, before moving on, we must look at one more passage:

Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that you mete withal it shall be measured to you again. (Luke 6:38)

Doesn’t this sound as if we are going to receive a one-on-one reward for every dime we give? Well, not if we look up the Greek. The, "measure," spoken of here does not refer to the AMOUNT you give. Rather, it refers to the METHOD you use to measure. In other word, Jesus is saying, "The method you use to determine your giving is going to be the measure God will use to give to you." Can we see this great Truth? Jesus is affirming everything we are saying about the motive for our giving. In short, if we FREELY GIVE, God will be able to FREELY GIVE to us. But if we give only to get, is that what we want God to do to us – do we want Him only to give to us if He knows that He can get something out of us in return? Is that grace.

Herein we see a principle. Only if we freely give without any strings attached is God able to give to us without strings attached – only if we freely give are we able to be trusted with the fullness of what has for us. This is a principle that not only applies to money, but really, to so much else in Christ. If all we do is mechanically give money to people, simply because we want a reward for it, we have not seen the Truth. We are not rightly related to God. God has not dealt with our self interest. Therefore, God cannot give much to us. But if the, "measure," we use to give is to FREELY GIVE, then that same freedom that motivates us enables God to freely give to us freely all the more.

This is about being rightly related to God – not about figuring out a principle to follow. If we know God and have given OURSELVES to Him, we will more and more be able to give freely. And because of this, God is free to give more to us. In that case, we will revere and value what God gives – and know that it is all by His grace.

But how often have we heard such a message preached? It isn’t preached hardly at all. Instead, people are manipulated into giving, or serving – they are told God will reward them, or that He will curse them for not giving and serving. Or people, in their own pride, serve God to be seen of men, or to feel good about themselves, or to appease a guilty conscience. This is a misrepresentation of God. At best, it is legalism, which is a false gospel. But at worst, it is a deception Satan is using to keep people in bondage to a terrible religious spirit.

Tithing is Legalism

Once we see that it is God’s will for us to utterly LOSE ourselves in His hands, the idea that we can buy and sell with God ought to seem an unholy thing. It actually is. The notion, for example, that God demands tithing under threat of curse, or promise of blessing, should – to us – be obvious error. The teaching that states that if you GIVE TO GOD that He will give to you ought to have no power to move us. Indeed, any teaching that states that our Christian works earn anything from God ought to be purged from the Christian church. This is EXACTLY what Paul warning against over and over again.

Tithing is an especially good example of where Christians fail to see the Truth on this matter – it betrays the fact that we don’t understand the New Covenant, and it betrays the fact that our understanding of the very gospel of grace is suspect. For the law of tithing, as it is normally taught in Christian churches, is the very definition of LEGALISM. In some ways, it embodies everything that is wrong in our grasp of the Truth.

Normally, Christians are taught that if they tithe, that God guarantees financial blessing. They are likewise taught that if they don’t tithe, God will at least withhold this blessing, and may actually curse them financially. They are taught that if they don’t tithe they are stealing from God. In this one teaching, we see LEGALISM at its height. And completely ignored is whether a person has truly lost themselves in every way into the hands of God.

Of course, I realize that some teach that IF you have lost your life into the hands of God, well then you WILL tithe, and you WILL give. But this is nothing more than the same legalistic system of rewards and punishments being taught on another level. In other words, instead of telling people that they must do this or that to keep right with God, this error teaches people that in order to PROVE you are right with Him you will do such and such. But this is exactly the same error, and exactly the same misrepresentation of God.

There is also another side to this error of teaching that tithing or giving will ensure God’s blessing. It is actually a way of teaching people how to control God. Sure. If I am in financial hardship, all I need to do is start writing checks. But wait. I forgot. I’ll never BE in financial hardship if I tithe or give. It can’t happen.

What I am saying is this: You and I cannot control God. We cannot control Him by anything we do or don’t do. The moment I introduce a system whereby my works control God – even if I say God has put Himself under this control by His own promises – the moment I introduce this kind of error, I have limited God’s grace, sovereignty, and ability to work in my life.

This really gets back to what we saw earlier about God’s will that we give ourselves to Him fully. What if, for example, I am in bondage to the love of money? What if I serve mammon? Christians are very capable of serving mammon, and of being bound to the love of money. How will God be able to set me free from such a terrible bondage if I can keep the money rolling in – by God’s own hand – by tithing? Can we see a problem here?

This is the problem legalism creates every time all the time. God wants US. He wants us to LOSE ourselves to Him. But for some Christian people, MONEY is what is keeping them from doing that. They simply will not open up themselves to God in this area, and expose all they own to Him. They are afraid to do so – and this is unbelief. Because of this, in some cases, God might need to bring such people to the point of losing what they own, so that they will lose themselves to HIM. But what if tithing – as usually taught – were true? Well, in that case God would have to honor His promise to bless those who tithe financially, even though their heart was far from Him. In short, such a person would be kept in bondage to money BY THE VERY TITHING they believe is the key to blessing.

Now, let us be clear about something. If the law of tithing is TRUE – if God does bless those who tithe, and curse those who don’t – then there can be NO exceptions to this law. The law of tithing in that case has to work all the time every time. If it is required of Christians under the New Covenant, then it IS required, and therefore MUST work. You cannot beg the question, and say that if a person’s heart is not right with God then tithing won‘t work – because if you say that, then you are saying that getting the heart right supersedes the law of tithing – and if that is the case then tithing isn’t for today – getting the heart right IS. Notice how this would be closer to the Truth. In the end, you have one or the other. Either God wants us to keep this law of tithing, or He wants our hearts. If it is the former, than the heart doesn’t matter – keeping the law does. If it is the latter, than tithing isn’t for today, dealing with the heart IS.

Again, don’t say that God wants the heart right, and if it is, then we will tithe. You cannot say that because, as we have seen, if your heart is truly right before God, you won’t need to tithe. All of you will belong to Him. And you certainly won’t be plugged into a rewards system. Does God need to promise you a reward, or threaten you with punishment, in order to get you to obey Him? If so, then most certainly, you don’t love Him and haven’t lost yourself to Him. Do you think that you must keep up God’s flow of blessings by giving to Him? Then you have not grasped the grace of God in Christ.

This issue of tithing strikes at the heart and core of the grace of God. Any time you introduce rewards and punishments as the motivation for obeying God, you have fallen from grace. Many Christians don’t see this, and many object to it. But it is the Truth. The law of tithing is the very definition of legalism.

Tithing and the NT

Even many who teach tithing admit that tithing is NOT giving. You cannot give to God what He says already belongs to Him. Of course, the question then emerges as to why God would bless you for giving to Him what already belongs to Him. Hmmmm.

Of course, once we realize that WE belong to God, which in turn means all that we own belongs to Him, then our logic holds: God has no reward for you because you GIVE. No. You are giving only what belongs to God to begin with. But here in is a wonderful Truth – one to which we have already alluded. If you give yourself continually into the hands of God without any expectation of reward – then it is precisely this attitude that frees up God to give to you whatever is in keeping with His present purpose. In other words, freely give because you have freely received, and it you do, God is free to continue to freely give. It’s all free. It’s all of grace. There are no deals, bargains, or angles to work.

The NT says that, "God loves a cheerful giver." There is no mention here of tithing. It does not says, "God loves a cheerful tither." In fact, there isn’t a single teaching in the entirety of the NT about tithing. The subject, outside of the gospels, is not mentioned once – despite the fact that there are entire chapters devoted to giving, and to the support of NT ministry. In the gospels, there are a couple of references to tithing. None of them remotely suggest that tithing would carry forward as a requirement upon the NT church.

To me, if the law of tithing were still in effect for Christians, God would have seen to it that we were given a clear statement to the end. Especially since God knew there would be controversy over it. But God HAS given us much teaching that absolutely shows that as part of the Old Covenant, it is no longer required. In other words, our understanding of the Truth revealed in Christ is supposed to show us God’s mind on these things.

I have found that many controversies – and errors -- over NT doctrine are over those things which God does NOT mention. The controversy arises because people establish as doctrine those things which are OMITTED from NT teaching. And because people don’t understand basic overall Truth, they stumble on these matters that ought to be easily grasped. People don’t realize that when God is silent, there is a reason He is silent. He doesn’t make mistakes. This matter of tithing is a case in point. If you understand the New Covenant, and understand the new birth, and KNOW Jesus, you cannot possibly believe we are required to tithe today. God knows that – He knows these matters are covered and explained if we grasp basic NT Truth, and KNOW HIM. That is why there is not one mention of tithing as a requirement in NT teaching.

But there is mention of GIVING. Yet even this is distorted by teaching today. Today many people have turned GIVING into as much of a LAW TO KEEP as some teach tithing. But LAW has nothing to do with giving. Indeed, if GIVING were a LAW we are commanded to keep, it would not BE giving. By definition, GIVING is voluntary, and is outside of any consideration of LAW – it cannot have attached to it rewards or punishments.

Now, of course, someone will cite the passage where Jesus says, "Give, and it will be given unto you." If there are no rewards or punishments attached to our giving, then what does this statement teach? Well, let’s paraphrase, and in doing so, go back to what we saw earlier about the need to give without any expectation of reward. This is really what Jesus is getting at. He is essentially saying, "Give without any expectation of getting. Cheerfully and voluntarily give – and if you do, then your freedom in giving makes God free to give to you."

Can’t we see that if we obey God for a reward that there is something in us that makes God unable to trust us? Absolutely. For if we are giving to get, or serving to earn a reward, this is because self interest in the things of God is governing us to one degree or another. And where there is self interest, there is danger. God cannot bless us too much in that case because if He did, our self interest would take charge, however subtlety, and it would be harm to us spiritually. But if we allow God to set us free from self interest in these matters, then we can truly GIVE FREELY – we can give without any strings attached whatsoever. And God can then say, "There is no self interest in this person. Therefore, I can trust Him all the more with My possessions because I know he will revere me, and prosperity in material things will not do him harm."

Law-keeping such a tithing cannot touch such a Truth. In fact, the entire concept of tithing, as is the case with all legalism, has little to do with a relationship with God. This is why the issue is not even address in the NT – it cannot fit into the New Covenant of CHRIST IN US.

Giving in the NT

GIVING in the NT is voluntary, and is, in fact, a part of FELLOWSHIP. We need to see this. Giving is not a COMMAND – if it were, it would not be giving. Once you COMMAND giving, it is no longer giving, because it is neither voluntary, or from the heart. But the giving that is preached in the NT is both voluntary and of the heart. It is, in other words, truly GIVING. And as I said, it is considered to be a normal part of fellowship between Christians.

Tithing, on the other hand, was always COMMANDED. Some people might try to argue that God COMMANDS that we obey Him by tithing from the heart. But here is the problem: Obedience from the heart – as already noted – is voluntary. In other words, by definition, obeying from the heart means we WANT to obey, and we will do so no matter what. So why attach incentives to obey – such as the promise of blessing and the threat of curses? These were always attached under the Old Covenant, and certainly were attached to tithing – and many NT preachers continue attaching them today. This is error. This is utterly contrary to the gospel of grace, and to the real essence of NT obedience. NT obedience is absolutely independent of any thought of rewards or punishments – this is the Truth even if we obey God for a reward. In that case, we are deceived. It doesn’t change the Truth. The point is, once you say that God commands something, and attach rewards and punishments, you are no longer talking about the new birth. You are back under the law – this is a fact.

According to the NT, a Christian who knows Jesus Christ is going to want to obey Him to the complete disregard of rewards and punishments. We have seen this again and again. Indeed, this is the only kind of obedience that is truly of FAITH, is truly HOLY, and it is the only possible outcome of revering God and walking in Truth. We are here talking about what happens through the new birth. But unfortunately, millions of Christians today have not frame of reference for such a miracle of the heart.

Giving is voluntary. It is a part of Christian fellowship. NT giving is, in fact, one of the things that emerges from a right relationship with God. Several passages teach this Truth:

Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; Praying us with much entreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God. Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also. Therefore, as ye abound in everything, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also. I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love. For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich. (2 Cor. 8:1-9)

I want to look at this passage very closely, because in it we find so many basic Truths about giving. In the first sentence, we see that the giving of which Paul speaks is said to be the result of, "the grace of God bestowed." Get that. These people gave, not because of a command they had to obey, nor because they wanted a reward for their giving – no. They gave because God has bestowed GRACE upon them and it resulted in giving.

What we see here is that GRACE defines giving – it did in this case, and it does define all true and honest giving. Grace never carries giving under threat of punishment, nor promise of reward. Indeed, if there were one verse to describe the grace of giving it would be the words of Jesus, "Freely you have received, freely give." Now, what does it mean to FREELY GIVE? The answer ought to be more than obvious – it means exactly what I mentioned earlier – to FREELY GIVE means that you give with NO expectation of reward, nor fear of punishment. It means that you do so from your heart, rather than to keep some law. That is what it means to FREELY give – it is GRACE IN ACTION.

Any doubts about this are cleared up once we see how GOD – the God of all grace – gives to us. He FREELY gives – Jesus said so. And we are supposed to do the same.

Now, along the line of giving being a part of fellowship, we begin to see how this is so. Christians are supposed to fellowship in Christ, and certainly one of the dominant characteristics of this fellowship is going to be a, "sharing in common," the grace of God. Isn’t this the basis for forgiveness? Sure. And it is the basis of GIVING.

The saints at Macedonia are said to have actually begged Paul to accept their gift. Note that this church wanted Paul to, "take upon him the fellowship of the ministering to the saints." Get that – here giving is called, "the fellowship of the ministering to the saints." So right here GIVING – which is the ministering to the saints spoken of – is called FELLOWSHIP. Why? Because it has emerged, first, from fellowship with God, and secondly, from fellowship with each other.

Paul then makes a statement that states clearly the root of all God-ordained giving. He says that these people, "First gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God." Can we see FELLOWSHIP here? And that all GIVING is supposed to be the result of our FIRST being rightly related to God? This giving was the result of FIRST belonging to God. Then, because of that, they were able IN THE WILL OF GOD to give to others.

So many today teach the opposite. They teach that you must give IN ORDER to get right with God, or IN ORDER to keep right with God. But this is error. It is exactly what it means to be under the law. No. Paul says that if you give yourselves to God – and thereby become right with Him – that it will result in you doing the will of God, which, in this case, was giving.

God wants US – He wants us to give ourselves to Him, yes, in the overall sense, but regardless specifics. If there were a law that mandated that these saints give, it would not have been necessary for them to first give themselves to God. They could have just obeyed the law.

You will notice that Paul makes sure they understand that he is not demanding that they give to follow a law. He says, "I speak not by commandment." Could anything be clearer? Do we think that God has this passage as part of His inspired Word for no reason? Is it possible that this passage which reveals so much Truth could say what it says if TITHING were still commanded, or if we were under any law about giving as NT saints? No.

There are other passages which affirm these Truths about giving in the NT:

But this I say, He which sows sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which sows bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposes in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: (As it is written, He has dispersed abroad; he has given to the poor: his righteousness remains forever. Now he that ministers seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;) Being enriched in everything to all bountifulness, which causes through us thanksgiving to God. For the administration of this service not only supplies the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God; While by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men; (2 Cor 9:6-13)

From this passage, we are able to glean a number of Truths. First, we are never to give, "grudgingly," that is, we are never to give all the while resenting it. So another words, we see once again that true giving is from the heart – we give because we WANT to give. Closely related, Paul says we are never to give, "of necessity," which means we are never to give BECAUSE WE HAVE TO GIVE. No. Again – real giving is voluntary, and not to obey a commandment. All of this is wrapped up in the term, "cheerful giver."

Now, let’s face it, if this passage is about tithing, or any other commanded giving, we WOULD give because we have to! But no. Paul not only says that God loves a voluntary, cheerful giver, but he says NOT to give resenting it, or because you have to give. To do so would be contrary to the Truth of God.

Now, there are those who try to say that, yes, this passage is talking about giving, but that tithing is nevertheless commanded. They say that Paul takes for granted that we know we must tithe, and so this passage is talking about giving that is beyond that. Well, it’s nice to make the Bible mean what you want it to mean. The entire spirit of this passage ought to prove to anyone with any sense of the Truth that tithing cannot possibility be a requirement upon NT Christians.

A second principle we see is that any blessings that come our way because of our giving go far beyond that of money. This is all through the passage. Sure. This only makes sense because our giving is to be out of our relationship with God – we give money because we have already given ourselves to God. We are rightly related to Him with regards to money – and so He is free to give to us anything He chooses. This could include money, but any other blessing.

This goes back to the principle stated earlier: God can only trust us with MUCH blessing if we have been faithful in the LITTLE – only if we are free to give without self interest as the motive is God free to give to us, because it will be for our good, and not to our harm.

This brings us to the principle of SOWING and REAPING. There has probably been no other principle with regards to giving that has been more distorted and perverted than this one. Many today teach that if you, "plant a seed," into their ministry, that God has promised that you will reap a great financial harvest. Is this what God is teaching us in this passage?

No. First of all, even those who teach this error tell you that you must SOW into good soil. Of course, they claim THEY are good soil. But they are almost never good soil – and they prove it with their attitude towards money. So right off the bat we see that God is never obligated to bless anything expect His own Word and His Truth in Christ. You could give all you want to those who teach error and God is NOT going to bless you because of it.

It would be humorous if it were not tragic. Do we realize that every CULT on this planet uses all of the same passages of scripture to prove to their members that they must give them money for the support of the church? And do we realize that many of those members who do give, or tithe, will tell you with a straight face that God has blessed them because they have been faithful to give? But I say again – God does not bless us because we affirm or finance heresy and error. We are, in that case, helping promote that which keeps people in bondage and deception. So obviously, it DOES matter to whom we give. Yet even more, it matters WHY we give.

To truly SOW bountifully, you have to do so FREELY, and voluntarily, without any expectation of a reward. We have already seen this, and this is certainly built into the passage as a given. When you SOW a seed, you will notice that it passes OUT of your hand in the ground. You no longer own it. Thus, you are relinquishing any demand or expectation of a payback. The only thing that God says that you can expect is to REAP – in some way. And if you read the passage, while financial blessings are not EXCLUDED from this reaping, they are barely mentioned. Rather, the reaping that is mentioned is mostly spiritual. Paul mentions grace, righteousness, and thanksgiving.

But we must ask: Why is there a connection between sowing money by giving, and reaping in a spiritual way? That is really what the passage is getting at – and we are going to see that this is what many other passages teach. What is the connection, and why does it work that way?

It works that way because if we have lost ourselves to Christ, everything we are, and everything we own, belongs to God. And when we GIVE, or SOW, we are not only giving what belongs to God, but if we do it in the right spirit, we are actually FELLOWSHIPPING together. This fellowship with God, and with each other, opens the door for other blessings to flow in that same fellowship. Read the passage again. You will see that this is the Truth behind the entire issue of giving.

Now, if giving is a form of fellowship, then can we see that it can no more be governed by a law than fellowship is governed by a law? Imagine God saying, "I command you to fellowship in the Spirit, or else!" That just doesn’t fit, does it? It is nonsense. God does not offer rewards or punishments for FELLOWSHIP in the Spirit. But that does not mean that fellowship doesn’t result in blessings.

Think of the blessings of God, including material blessings, in the terms that Jesus outlined in John 15, where He said, "I am the Vine and you are the branches." If that is the case, then as we abide in Christ, there are going to flow certain blessings from Him to us. But this is not because we are keeping laws – it is because we are living OUT FROM HIM. When a branch abides in the Vine, there are LIFE results – including fruit. Thus, the blessings or fruits are NOT the thing we work for. No. We are told to abide in Him and these things will come. Or, to go back again to the principle we saw earlier, if we lose ourselves in the Vine, and simply abide in Him, we will find LIFE in Him – and IN that life will be all the provision that God has for us.

This is exactly the same principle as Jesus taught when He said, "Seek you first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you." (Matt. 6:33) Is there any room in this statement for tithing? Jesus did not say, "Tithe, and all you need will be added unto you." He did not say, "Seek the kingdom by giving money, and all will be added unto you." No. Rather, He told us to seek the kingdom of God – which means to seek God’s rule and God’s will over us regarding everything – and if we do, then because God will then be in charge of everything, God will be free to add to you everything we need.

So if you want to know what God says is the key to provision from Him, right here we have it – see first His kingdom and His righteousness. If we do, God will take care of material provision.

Can we see that to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness is exactly the same as losing ourselves in full abandonment to Him? – that this is equal to relinquishing our self ownership and self rule to Christ? Sure. We MUST relinquish self rule if we are to be rule by Jesus as Lord in HIS kingdom. Thus, this again is the same principle. In one single verse, Jesus makes it clear that if you want God to be free to add to you all that you need, you must surrender to Him as Lord of those things. If Jesus is Lord of you, and it is real, then the result is that He will bless and provide.

So again, Jesus says to abide in Him – and you will partake of Him. He says to seek Him first as Lord – and He will provide what you need. He says to lose your life and you will find it. The focus for the Christian is the Lord – to the complete disregard of any benefit or blessing. But if we do that, this ensures blessing – because how can you abide in Christ or live in His kingdom and NOT be blessed?

How ironic are the things of God. You have victory through surrender; life through death; you find by losing; and God is free to give you blessing only if you obey without the motive of one. And yet what else could possibly speak of GRACE? This is God. He is the God of all grace.

Here is another passage having to do with giving:

Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God. But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:15-19)

Notice that Paul said, "Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account." How many TV preachers can honestly say this today? Not one, I should think – although some of them try to fake it. But think about what Paul is saying here. He is saying that he wants them to give, but not so he will have the gift, but so that they will have the fruit that results of their giving. Despite the fact that some people try to say that Paul is talking about financial blessing, I don’t’ think so. He is talking about fellowship and the flow of something more than money.

Let’s put aside, for a moment, any ramifications of giving to the unsaved, and focus just on saints giving to saints. By the way, God tells us that it is His will to help the poor and needy, even if they are NOT saved – but you cannot escape the fact that it is His will for us to give to the saints FIRST. It always amazes me when Christian people easily give to a worldly charity, but ignore widows and those in their own congregation who cannot even afford to pay their light bill. It is an absolute disgrace that widows especially have to live the way they do, when their brethren have much. But that aside, let’s talk about the real meaning of saints giving to saints – including saints supporting the ministry.

When I give money to someone, or to a ministry, I am saying that I affirm and support what them, in ways that go beyond the mere act of giving. For example, if I give money to a ministry, I am entering into a fellowship with them – and my giving is an embracing of the Truth taught. Now, it is possible to do this without giving – but if you see what I’m saying, giving requires cost. You are going another step.

Even false teachers know and teach this. They teach that if you, "partner with them," that the blessings of God that are upon them will be upon you. Well, they had better be careful, because if they are teaching error, then the opposite could be true. In the very least, it is a fact that the Christian church produces as a witness exactly what they finance. The reason error prevails on Christian television today is because professing Christians have paid to keep them on – but is this not a fellowship? Sure.

I don’t believe that MONEY can substitute for the LIFE of Christ. Ultimately, God doesn’t need money to promote the gospel. He never did. But it is nevertheless a fact that the money trial does often indicate what people VALUE. Jesus Himself said, "Where ever your treasure is, there will your heart be." In other words, whatever you VALUE, there you will dedicate your heart, and often, this will mean that you will invest your money. Thus, it is a fairly accurate snapshot of the spiritual condition of the church to see what is being financed by Christians today. Christians give their money to what they believe in, and to what they value. They give, or neglect to give, in accordance with the value they place upon the message. Because ultimately, all of this is tied back to the value we place upon God Himself – it is tied back to whether we know Him.

If I know God, and have truly entered into fellowship with Him, I am going to slowly learn Christ in such a way that I will VALUE and REVERE according to the Truth. This is just another way of saying that I will exhibit the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Well, if this is so, then it must, at some point, result in works – it will result in giving or not giving. Now note: It is not the giving that produces a knowledge of God, or the fruits of the Spirit. No. It is my knowledge of God, and my relationship with Him, that results in the giving – because I will value what HE values. Thus, my giving is an extension of my fellowship with God. And so is my receiving from others – which is just as important. Therefore, giving and receiving is a part of fellowship – a part of our, "having in common." This opens up much in the way of blessing.

We saw this earlier – if I first give myself to the Lord, then it is going to result in my giving to others according to the will of God. But again, don’t misunderstand. I don’t make myself right with God, or enhance my fellowship with Him, by giving. No. I first give myself to God, and then the RESULT is often giving – as God directs, and makes possible.

This is how fellowship in the Spirit works. I cannot fellowship with other Christians if I am not fellowshipping with Christ FIRST. But if I am fellowshipping with Christ, and others are fellowshipping with Christ, then we are going to fellowship with each other IN CHRIST. This echoes down through our conduct, including giving.

When the early church began, you will remember that one of the first things that God did was bring them into a time where, "they did not consider anything as belonging to themselves." It says, "they had all things in common." This was not merely a religious ritual to follow, or a law that was commanded. In fact, you will find NO command that they do this. Rather, this entire perspective was the result of these people SEEING JESUS CHRIST. They saw Christ, and had experienced Him, and all of a sudden, none of these things mattered anymore.

Since then, many people have tried to duplicate this as a pattern to follow. You cannot. You cannot duplicate the results of seeing Christ if you have not seen Christ. If you try, it will be of the flesh. This event in the book of Acts is not a command to give everything away and go live in a commune. Rather, it is a revelation of God’s mind, and of what happens to people who actually see the Truth.

Front and center in this matter was COMMUNION or FELLOWSHIP. They had fellowship in Christ, but now it had come to govern their everyday living and possessions. This was a completely voluntary and free expression of God’s grace. In fact, even when Ananias lied and stood before Peter, he was told, "The land, and the money, were always yours to keep. You were never required to give a nickel of it to the church. So why did you LIE about it?"

If we learn nothing from this event in the book of Acts, we certainly learn that the result of seeing Jesus Christ is GIVING. Not a mandated giving. But a voluntary giving. It is not only the act of giving, but the fellowship that is behind it. Fellowship with God means everything belongs to Him and not me. And at some point, the spirit of that is going to be seen in my relationships with others.

Back to Paul. He said that he wanted fruit to abound to the Philippians. This would happen because they GAVE. And that fruit involved more than material provision. It involved fellowship and spiritual blessings. In fact, you cannot find a single passage in the NT with regards to giving that does not in some way mention that the result is going to be SPIRITUAL blessings.

Give Until It Hurts?

There are a lot of clever, catchy phrases used today on Christian television – if we dare still call it Christian – phrases intended to get people to send money into the ministry using them. "Give until it hurts," is one phrase. Aside from the fact that this phrase is totally unbiblical – a fact we will see in a moment -- it is probably one of the less clever ones used today. Some of the better ones are, "You cannot out give God," meaning if you give everything to me, God will out give you and give to you. Another one is, "God cannot let go of what is in His hand, until you let go of what is in yours." I especially like that one, because it exposes so much about the corrupt minds of those who state it. I mean, if God has all this stuff for you, but won’t let go of it until you give money to a ministry, then what could be a more clear definition of buying a blessing from God? Furthermore, if we really understood our own heart, we would realize that if we give in order to get, we really haven’t let go of ANYTHING. We are just, "trading up."

The fact is, God isn’t in any of these things, phrases, or gimmicks. He doesn’t play psycho games with people to try to get them to give. He doesn’t need to beg, borrow, or steal. Millions of souls aren’t going to go to hell unless I write that check. Can you imagine it? A poor soul, say, in Africa, stands before the Lord at the last judgment, having never heard the gospel, and God condemns them to hell for all eternity. They ask why. And the Lord says, "Because David didn’t write a check and send it into Benny Hinn, so that he could come and preach to you!!!" Well, at least I’m saved, even if they aren’t, right? I’m being a bit sarcastic, I know, but think these things through and you will end up seeing the utter nonsense in them.

The most powerful time the church has ever had came when there were no computers, televisions, books, or mechanical transportation. The gospel was spread because it was LIFE. Indeed, we are told that the Truth turned the world upside down. But you see, then people lost their lives for Christ – and so there was no profit or gain to pretending you were a Christian. Today, Jesus is big business. It does not yet cost much to be a Christian for many people – in fact, for some, they get rich calling themselves one.

Not only did the gospel spread on the basis of resurrection life, and the gates of hell could not stand against the Truth, but God waited 1500 years to allow the printing press to be invented. Does this sound like God was in a hurry – or that He needed those things? I’m simply pointing out that there is something wrong with the claim that money gives us the power to preach the gospel. The fact that God grants money to do so, and can use modern technology, doesn’t take away from what the gospel is – eternal Truth in Jesus Christ.

Has it ever occurred to us that GIVING to support ministry, or to the needy among us, is more of a privilege for the giver than it is a blessing for the recipient. I know that most of us cannot grasp this. We don’t really believe it. But isn’t this what Jesus said? He said, "It is more blessed to give, than to receive." Now, that is quite an amazing statement. How can it be the Truth? Can we see that in order for this to be the truth that it must mean that there really ARE spiritual blessings involved with giving? What do we think it means to be BLESSED? If we give, we are obviously NOT receiving what we are giving. And yet we are MORE blessed than the one receiving. None of this makes sense unless all of it is hooked into God, His grace, and the fellowship of believers.

The basic principle here is that if we are an expression of the grace of God to others, then we will be blessed by that same grace. In other words, be a vessel through whom God’s grace flows and you cannot help but be impacted. If I give, God is giving through me. How can I not likewise BE blessed by God in spiritual ways, if not in material ways?

Well, back to the phrase, "Give until it hurts." Is that the way to get blessed? Well, why don’t those who preach this practice what they preach? Why don’t THEY give until it hurts? No. This is not biblical, as seen in the passage below:

For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man has, and not according to that he has not. For I mean not that other men be eased, and you burdened: But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack. (2 Cor 8:12-15)

Rather than tell people to give what they don’t have – to give until it hurts -- Paul states clearly that acceptable giving is, "according to what a man HAS, and not according to what he has NOT." He then follows that up by saying, "It is not my intention for you to give so much to others that YOU are then the in need."

You see, Paul knew that it was GOD who was the source of all provision. So if God prospers someone, part of the reason is so that they can give to others. (see Eph. 4:28) Likewise, if someone is left in need, this is so that others may GIVE, and thus be blessed by that giving.

If you read the NT, you will see much direction given as to the care of widows. You will see that God tells us to give to those in need. Well, can’t God just bypass us and someone provide for people? Sure. But often He does not. Why? Because He wants the fellowship of GIVING. He knows that it is more blessed to give than it is to receive. There is something in that which speaks of God’s grace, and the love and fellowship in the Spirit. This is about MORE than the passing of money or goods from the hands of one to another. It is about be an extension and expression of God’s own grace TO US.

Of course, it is entirely possible to give much, but to do it completely outside of the grace of God, or to do it out of the will of God. There are times when it is the will of God to NOT give – even if it is so I can get my own perspective and heart right before the Lord. Ultimately, however, God is a giving God, and we will at least WANT to give what we are able to give. Again – this is not a law or a command. It is the character of God.

But if we read the above passage, it is clear that is not the will of God for you to ever give what you cannot afford. Why? Well, two reasons. First, if you give more than you can afford, then YOU will be in need, and someone will then have to give to you. Secondly, if you give more than you can afford, then you are exceeding what God has provided TO YOU so that you CAN give.

So the notion that we ought to give money that we don’t have to give – that ought to be used to support our own family – is contrary to scripture. God says "But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel." (1 Tim 5:8) Our FIRST responsibility – and the first reason God provides for us – is so that we might take care of our own household. If I am giving at the expense of the needs of my family, I am WRONG. No. It is God’s will for us to support our own family FIRST – otherwise someone might have to support us. Then, once we get that done, we can help those of the faith. After that, we might want to help someone who is not a believer. This is the basic priority – although we don’t want to set up a law. It is a simple principle or rule of thumb.

You will also notice that Paul says he wants, "equality." The word means, "fairness." This affirms what we are saying. God would not create hardship upon someone because they GAVE more than God supplied for them to give. But He does say we ought to ease the hardship of others as He directs and provides. If we have abundance, one of the REASONS God has given it to us is so that we might give. If we do not have abundance, then perhaps God has allowed this so that others can give to us.

Of course, I do realize that life is a bit more complicated than can be covered by laying down foundational principals. For example, there are people who won’t work or help themselves, and so, rather than just give to them, Paul said, "If a man will not work, he should not eat." (II Thes. 3:10) There are also NEEDS, and there are WANTS. And above all, there are times when God will withhold provision from people – not because they have sinned – but because for a season He wants to teach them the Truth, and build in them the faith to walk with Him in these matters.

But if you read passages like this one from II Corinthians 8, it becomes clear that once again fellowship stands behind much of this giving and receiving. Fellowship in Christ ends up touching many practical matters.

The Support of NT Ministry

So far we have looked mostly at passages that speak of giving to other saints who are in need. But the Bible does teach that Christians are supposed to support those who are called to Christ for ministry. Not that the one is more important than the other. Both are equal as to importance and impact. It is somewhat amazing to me that Christians will send millions of dollars to keep the worst televangelists on the air – because of their promise of God’s blessing – but that relatively few of these same people will help widows and the needy in their own church.

There are a number of extended passages on this matter:

Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Tim 6:5-10)

According to the Word of God, if I teach that godliness is going to result in financial gain, or if I say that financial gain indicates godliness, I am a person that has a CORRUPT MIND, and I am DESTITUTE or void of the Truth. Do we see what this means? It means that anyone who teaches that GIVING – which is a godly act – is going to result in financial gain from God, this person has NO Truth in them. And rather than have the mind of Christ, they have a corrupt mind – because only a corrupt mind could embrace and teach such heresy.

This is so serious a thing that Paul actually commands that we WITHDRAW from such a one. Instead, Christians today keep sending them money. As I said earlier, the Christian church is producing a witness. We are funding and affirming what we believe. And in the end, we are going to get exactly what we have paid for. I can only suspect that if someone is sending money to Kenneth Copeland – who is the very definition of the corrupt mind described in this verse – I can only suspect that many of the people who support him are LIKE-MINDED.

Incidentally, if God has set up a system whereby we can GIVE TO GET, then He is violating His own passage – for that kind of thinking is exactly what is being condemned in this passage. But the question might then arise, "Doesn’t God provide for His people?" Sure He does. We already read the primary passage on that matter: Seek you first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added." If we seek first the RULE of God, then God will RULE us, and included in this, God will rule our money – i.e., we will be given exactly what God determines is good and right for us according to His present purpose in our lives. The notion that we can GIVE ourselves into some purpose that circumvents this is nonsense.

By the way, I have come across people who will tell you that God has made them rich, or blessed them, because they tithed, or gave money to their church. They are wrong. There are many reasons why people have money, and many reasons why they don’t have money. But according to the Word of God, gain and godliness are not linked. God wants US. He wants to give to us according to His purpose.

For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treads out the corn. Does God take care for oxen? Or says he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that plows should plow in hope; and that he that threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? (1 Cor 9:9-11)

Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine. For the scripture says, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treads out the corn. And, The laborer is worthy of his reward. (1 Tim 5:17-18)

Many years ago, when I did a study on tithing, it jumped out at me that in both these passages, Paul is talking about the support of NT ministers. In both passages, he quotes the OT – indeed, he quotes the same verse from the OT – you shall not muzzle an ox that is treading your grain. THIS verse is THE verse Paul chose, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to show that Christians ought to support ministry. Doesn’t that seem strange? Actually, it seems impossible that he would use that verse for his teaching if, in fact, TITHING were a law that was still in effect under the New Covenant.

If there was ever an opportunity for Paul – for GOD HIMSELF – to make sure that everyone understood that tithing was required under the New Covenant, it was here. Paul is teaching on the exact subject of the support of the ministry. Yet he never even mentions tithing. Not a hint. As I mentioned earlier, always notice things like this – always notice what God does NOT say when He is talking about a particular subject. The blank spaces mean something – and we are to fill them in with the revelation God has given elsewhere.

In addition to this glaring omission, we also have a general principle given in this passage for giving to NT ministers. Paul says, "If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?" The principle is this: It is good and right – and certainly approved by God – that we give to those who have fed us, and sown into us, spiritual Truth. Note that this is NOT a command or a mandate. All of this is governed by the principle of voluntarily giving, as we saw taught earlier. But Paul is saying, "We have taught you the Truth. Indeed, we have SOWN into you that which is of God. So it is perfect acceptable to God that you share with us material things."

Here once again we see fellowship. But we also see another facet of the law of sowing and reaping – one that was not mentioned when we read II Corinthians 9. The SOWING is not merely MONEY GIVEN – and the REAPING is not merely MONEY received. No. Sowing is TRUTH TAUGHT. And REAPING is all of the fruit that comes about – including both spiritual and material blessings.

The focus here is once again fellowship. It is not that people are to PAY for the Truth taught. No. But Paul is saying, "We are all in this together. Thus, it is right that those who forfeit the right to work for a living should be supported by those for whom they have forfeited that right. This is the mind of God, and it is a part of practical fellowship."

Now, once we begin to see the Truth about this, we see that a teacher of Truth should not be preaching FOR the money. Neither should people give to PAY FOR the Truth. Rather, all of this ought to be unto the Lord. Those who preach ought to do so because of the Lord, and those who give ought to do so because of the Lord. This is fellowship.

So what we have is this: A minister should preach the Truth to the complete disregard of whether he is given money as support. Indeed, any minister who is truly devoted to Christ is going to preach the Truth even if it LOSES him his position, or living. All the while, he must trust God. This is the only way possible to obey the exhortation of Christ, "You have freely received, now freely give." (Matt. 10:8) Look it up – Jesus is speaking directly to PREACHING. But on the other hand, people should give to those who preach the Truth. Not because it is a command, and not because of something they will earn. They should give because they value the Truth, and because fellowship with God will tend toward giving as a means of expressing affirmation of the Truth and of fellowship. This is all free. It is all of grace. And it is GOD’S BUSINESS to look after it. It is our to believe and obey.

Serving God OR Mammon

The Bible is filled with teaching and revelation on this matter of money, and giving, and we have touched upon only SOME of these Truths. There are many other scriptures that God has given. But perhaps at the end of the day, we will eventually be led back to a passage from the sermon on the mount – from the mouth of Jesus:

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Mat 6:24-33)

All of these Truths about giving ultimately take us back to the words of Jesus Christ. He told us, "You cannot serve God AND mammon." (Matt. 6:24) Rather, He said that we would either serve God OR mammon. He was talking about the motivation behind our living – indeed, behind everything we do. You will recall that this declaration is part of the same passage that is concluded with the statement, "Seek you first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added." (Matt. 6:33) In effect, Jesus was saying, "Serve God by seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness, and if you do, then everything you thought you would earn by serving mammon will be added unto you free of charge."

It is a tragic irony that it is entirely possible for a professing Christ to tithe, and give money, but for the tithing and giving to be nothing more than the means by which they SERVE MAMMON. Sure. If I am giving in order to get – if my giving is something other than free of charge, voluntary, and by God’s grace – then it is because I have some self interest in mind. In that case, rather than seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness, I may be seeking first a reward FOR my giving or tithing. In that case, I am actually serving mammon – because this is the motive behind my giving. I am linking GAIN with GODLINESS.

Jesus outlines the mind and heart of someone who has seen Jesus Christ, and knows the Truth on these matters. They GIVE – but not out of duty, or out of any command to keep a law. They don’t give to earn a reward, or to avoid a curse. They don’t give to keep right with God. Rather, their giving is because they KNOW GOD – their giving is a voluntary act of their free will – they FREELY give because they have FREELY received. We are here talking about the fact that something has changed their entire thinking and motivation – the Truth of Jesus. In short, the fact they have freely received translates into them wanting to freely give. It just does – and no law can make this happen. This is the result of being set free by the Truth.

People can set up laws and principles that mandate supposed giving, and usually these mandates WILL produce a certain amount of prosperity for the one to whom money is given. Entire churches can become rich and prosperous if they demand that their people tithe – and those same churches might even, "give God the glory," for this prosperity. Television ministries can become rich if they promise people that God will greatly bless them if they sow a seed of money into their ministry. Jesus never said that if you serve mammon that you would not become rich. Nope. You CAN get rich serving mammon. Those of a corrupt mind can become wealthy. Jesus never said that mammon was NOT a master that would prosper you. I mean, when the Roman church used to sell indulgences it made them rich. These things work. Serving mammon may PAY. But none of this is of God.

It is also a fact that if you freely give that most people will not give to you. But nevertheless, God says to freely give. At some point, you have to trust Him.

The issue of whether we are serving God or mammon is one that MUST be resolved if we are to go on with Jesus Christ. We are here talking about basic provision – and who we are living for in this world. Do we live FROM above, or do we live FROM below? What do we value?

If you want to know what is the key to financial freedom within the will of God, we can now state it: Serve God, and not mammon. Repent of serving mammon, and seek first His kingdom and righteousness. (You will notice that I did NOT say the key to financial freedom was to have lots of money!) In other words, the key to freedom is to know the Truth about this issue, and then to be rightly related to God over it. And the Truth is this: Everything belongs to God. That doesn’t mean you give it all away – I am talking more about where your heart is, and about your relationship with God. It is a great freedom to finally realize that if you own nothing, you need protect nothing, or worry about anything. God is able to look after that which is given into His hands.

So regarding giving: For giving to be real, it must voluntary, from the heart, and within the will of God. It must be done without any expectation of a reward. This kind of giving is the result of having received from God in that same Spirit. So we must LOSE ourselves in this matter into the hands of the Lord, and leave any blessing to Him. He is just, fair, and knows what we need.

The New Covenant is the covenant of GRACE. Tithing is not part of it. Giving – which is grace -- is front and center. These matters are not matters merely of theology or of Bible doctrine. They speak directly to the kind of God we serve, and whether we know Him, and how we must walk with Him.

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