Friday, June 24, 2011

father adam or father abraham - consuming vs. tithing

I have a little ritual here in Ensenada, Mexico while on vacation. In the mornings, while the family is still asleep I get up and go across the street from where we are staying to a little pavement cafe' for a cappuccino, the scriptures, some prayer. Okay, I also check twitter and facebook, I admit. But I've been blogging what I've been reading and thinking from the Cafe'Tu Taozo. All before my family surfaces!

Jesus redeemed us from the curse of our first father Adam by becoming a curse in our place. He was forsaken by His Father so that we could be adopted by Him. And he left us a better earthly model of a father in Genesis. Abraham, the father of our faith.

Abraham has feet of clay for sure, but the contrast between the two is stark. Yesterday we looked at Adam's doubt and disobedience versus Abe's faith and obedience. Here's another one. Adam took and consumed what was not his, while Abraham gave back what was not his. That Adam consumed the forbidden fruit is iconic. Abraham's generosity is less renown.

In Genesis 13 Abraham and Lot his nephew have a business disagreement.Their flocks and herds have prospered and there's not enough room in town for the both of them. Abraham ignored seniority, and lets Lot take the choice pasture. He takes whatever his nephew leaves. Lot considers the goodness of the land but ignores the wickedness of the Sodomites who kidnap him.His uncle has to go and rescue him and win back the stolen goods.

It is here that a mysterious figure named 'Melchizedek' appears to him, and breaks bread with him. Abraham gives him a tenth of the spoils of victory. It is from here that we get the idea of the tithe. In Hebrews 7, Jesus is called a high priest in the order of Melchizedek. It makes sense. We break bread with Jesus, and we still give him a tenth of what we earn. People have tried to disregard the tithe as law, but this was pre-law. Even Jesus affirms the tithe in Matt 26, adding that we are to keep our hearts in it, not allowing ritual to creep in.

But can I tell you a story that has brought the tithe alive in me? My wife and I have been married for almost 18 years. As far as I can remember, we have never missed a month of tithing. We simply settled it as a biblical conviction at the start. It is both stewardship and worship for us. This last month for the first time ever, though, I think I was tempted not to tithe.

Our elders had insisted we take two weeks vacation, which I appreciated, but we had nowhere to go, and no money to pay for a place. I honestly asked the Lord if he would let me off the tithe for once so that could have a nice vacation. I wrestled with God, asking him to prove Himself to me show Himself faithful. So we tithed. A few days later we were given 7 days at a house on the beach in Northern California. On the morning that we were to leave, someone came and gave us a financial gift that paid for another week of accommodation, plus spending money. The total value of what we received was about 4 times what we tithed. A powerful reminder that God is faithful. I am sitting typing this in a place I did not pay for. Not even the coffee!

Adam is such a common figure of consuming what does not belong to him. Abraham gives us a model of generosity that flies in the face of the rampant individualism and unbridalled consumerism of our day and age. Jesus empowers us to follow the model of our second father, not our first.


  1. Let’s look closely at Abram’s tithe. First, the goods that Abram gave the tenth from didn’t even belong to Abram:

    Genesis 14:21 (KJV) - And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself.

    Notice in verse 21 the king of Sodom didn’t ask Abram if he would give back to him the people, but rather said GIVE ME the people and keep the goods for yourself. The way that is worded indicates that the king of Sodom was claiming that the people and the goods belonged to him, but he offered the goods to Abram.

    It would normally have been the custom that the victor owns the spoils, but normally the spoils would have belonged to the enemy. In this case, Abram was RECOVERING goods belonging to the King of Sodom.

    NOTE: The king of Sodom had an original right both to the persons and to the goods, and it would bear a debate whether Abram’s acquired right by rescue would supersede his title and extinguish it; but, to prevent all quarrels, the king of Sodom makes this fair proposal (v. 21).
    --Should the Church Teach Tithing by Dr. Russell Earl Kelly, pages 24-25

    Genesis 14:22-24 (KJV)
    22And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth,
    23That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich:
    24Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.

    Notice in verses 23 and 24 Abram also acknowledges that the goods belonged to the king of Sodom. But the king of Sodam offered that Abram could keep the goods for himself. Abram declined the offer. He didn’t want man to take credit for his wealth. By not accepting any of the goods for himself, Abram was putting all his faith in God to provide for him rather than man.

    Therefore, it is clear that both the king of Sodom and Abram acknowledged that the spoils of war did NOT belong to Abram, yet he gave a tenth of the spoils to King Melchizedek. This would seem that Abram did something wrong, if not even illegal, but Biblical historians agree that it was custom in Abram's day to give the king a tenth of the war spoils. Had Abram not given the tenth, he would have gone against custom.

    Conclusion: Abram did NOT give a tenth of his income, or his wealth. Abram gave a tenth of the spoils of war that didn’t belong to him and declined to keep the goods offered to him. That is NOT an example of tithing for Christians to follow today. By declining to keep any of the goods for himself, Abram showed his faith that God would provide. That is the example of faith that Christians should be following. Furthermore, the law did NOT require a tenth of war spoils to be given, so to say that tithing was before the law and then in the law is not true. What Abram did was NOT even codified into the later law.

    Hebrews 7:7 (KJV) “And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better.”

    Abram, the lesser, was blessed by the King-Priest Melchisedek, the better.

    Abram gave the tenth to the better.

    1 Peter 2:5 (KJV) “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”

    1 Peter 2:9 (KJV) “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:”

    1 - According to the scriptures, priests do not tithe.
    2 - As priests, all born-again believers are equal. There is no better or lesser among us. God has not designated any born-again believers to collect His tithe.
    3 - To try and “tithe” today is denying that you are a part of a Royal Priesthood.

  2. A response to Gary

    I do hope that you have a sufficiently scripted theology of giving as a counterpoint to your disagreement on the Abram story. Other wise your point comes across very legalistically (which I assume you didn't intend?).

    The story of the Kings of Sodom and Salem is much deeper than a treatise over tithing; it is actually about allegiance - either to a world system of "sell & buy" or a heavenly system of "give & die".

    Sadly, we have made too many rules one way or another over giving, mostly because our hearts are just plain consumerist instead of free and cheerful - too often we resemble Sodom rather than Salem!

    Is your giving in proportion to your earnings (and I mean in a good, godly, generous proportion - truthfully?!); do you ensure that you keep the church well supplied; that your elders (preaching and teaching) are paid twice the going rate? If you do, great, if not, then remember that all that you have was given to you by God anyway, and is not yours to haggle over.

    The best way to look at things is to consider that we are made in God's (Trinitarian) image. So... you need to be as generous with your giving as God is with His - can you do that?! The Son is eternally co-equal with the Father, yet only does what He sees His Father doing - you are 'in Christ' so do you take example of what God does and can you give like your heavenly Father does? I trust that you do.

    Lastly, and perhaps frivolously, Jesus paid the temple tax from a fish - he never earned it - so how does that fit in with your point about 'spoils'?

    By the way, Alan - if you read these comments, have a fantastic break in Mexico!

  3. @Colin. gracias. you're a gift!

  4. We are under a much higher standard that the tithe.

    The New Testament teaches generous, sacrificial giving, from the heart, according to our means. For some, $1 might be a sacrifice, while for others, even giving 50% of their income might not induce a sacrifice. In the Old Testament, ONLY the farmers tithed, and it was equal percentage (a tenth). The New Testament teaches the principle of equal sacrifice instead of equal percentage. Equal sacrifice is much harder to achieve, if not impossible, than giving ten percent.

  5. Hi Peeps...

    Grace needs to be balanced with faith...If we are under grace now, and have no need to "tithe" what is the when we can, how we can, if we can? That doesn't sound like faith to me. If we are not giving more than we did "under law" i.e. 10% are we really under grace, or is it just a platform to be stingy and live in fear of not having enough. Galatians 5:13 is a wonderful example of people being "free from the law" but falling into the flesh...

    Jesus never gave his wallet, he gave his life, by faith!

    The idea that one should give what one can, doesn't really sit with me...The woman at the temple put in ALL she had...and Jesus commended her for it...He didn't run up and say " don't do that, why not put in half, you need the rest" ... New Covenant giving should be generous, extravagant, systematic, with a large smile...:-)

    I have often wanted to ask someone who is a vehement anti-tither and who says we need to be Spirit led, if i could look at their bank accounts for the last 6 months to see how the Spirit has been leading them..I haven't but I've really wanted too :-)..

    Do i preach, not in the general sense...but i do preach giving, ie sowing generously (saying NO to fear and yes to abundant reap abundantly) i tithe, not in the general sense...but i give more than 10%...

    As a Pastor, I give to another couple who lead a local church, If i wasn't a Pastor leading a church i would give the same amount into that said local church, for the supply of what is needed there...

    Even a tithe-preacher would be happy with that revelation!

    Bless you's...

    PS...Hey Allan...sorry i "cyber-argued" with you all those months ago about "truth in tension"..I believe you can have truth in tension...Like grace and faith :-) ....Also thanks for your worship workshops...I always found them most helpful!

  6. @Craig Glenn said, "If we are not giving more than we did "under law" i.e. 10% are we really under grace, or is it just a platform to be stingy and live in fear of not having enough."

    Giving under the law didn't begin at 10%.

    Leviticus 27:30-33, Numbers 18: The First Tithe - a tenth of crops and animals and commanded to take the tithe to the Levites.

    Deuteronomy 14:22-27: The Second Tithe aka The Festival Tithe - a tenth of crops, plus add to that the firstborn animals, and take for the yearly feast.

    Deuteronomy 14:28-29: The Third Tithe aka The Three-Year Tithe aka The Poor Tithe - a tenth of crops, kept at home, and invite the Levites, widows, orphans, stranger to eat.

    So "giving" began at 23% (averaged over 3 years) not 10%, so using your reasoning, your giving should exceed 23% not 10%.

    The ONLY people in the Old Testament that were commanded to tithe were those who INHERITED THE PROMISED LAND WITH EVERYTHING ON IT. They got the land, house, animals, crops, etc. ALL FREE AND CLEAR. No mortgage payment or rent to pay. And THEY were commanded to tithe on the crops and animals and take it to the Levites who INHERITED the tithe INSTEAD OF the promised land with everything on it. No one else tithed. Wage earners did not tithe. Jesus didn’t tithe as a carpenter. Paul didn’t tithe as a tent maker. Peter didn’t tithe as a fisherman.


    There is no way to justify making some “principle” out of the Biblical facts and then apply it to Christians today. It is just flat out wrong and makes no sense at all.

    As soon as you start putting in a guideline, minimum, or references to the Old Testament law, you are ignoring the heart factor in grace giving.

    Proverbs 3:9 (KJV) “Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase:”

    2 Timothy 2:6 (KJV) “The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits.”

    When was the last time you heard a pastor say that you should spend the FIRST part of your income on yourself and your family?

    1 Timothy 5:8 (KJV) “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.”

    The New Testament makes it clear that we are to use the FIRST of our income to take care of ourselves and our family. We are talking about needs, here, not just anything we want. Then we should give generously from what is left.

  7. cool bro! Bless you Gary! I like you and I don't even know you :-)

  8. @Craig - bro, thnks for your comments on grace and faith and the worship workshops -and also the way you responded to our friend Gary - made my day!