Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Tithing and 2 Corinthians 9:6-7

6But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. 7Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
– 2 Corinthians 9:6-7
To begin, the comments made in this lesson support neither the traditional argument for the tithe (tithers) or the traditional argument against the tithe (non-tithers); and the reason for this is because they’re both wrong; and they’re both wrong because they both fail to focus on the purpose of the tithe, which was to meet the personal needs of people.  Traditional tithers are wrong is because they use tithe money to support their building programs – thus nullifying the purpose of the tithe, which was to meet the personal (not corporate) needs of the Body.  And this they do despite the fact that tithe money was never used in the Bible to build man-made structures.

But traditional non-tithers fare no better, and are actually much worse.  They teach that there’s no place for tithing today, that it died with the Law, and that all giving in the New Testament is based solely upon freewill offerings – an interpretation they derive from 2 Corinthians 9:6-7.  And this they do despite the fact that Paul’s main doctrinal lesson on giving in 1 Corinthians 9:3-18 was taken from Numbers 18, a tithing passage, which proves that tithing is a New Testament ordinance.  To this they add that nowhere in Scripture will you ever see an example of the New Testament church tithing nor any direct command to do so.  But again, Paul's main lesson on giving was taken directly from Numbers 18 – a tithing passage; so by pattern and principle and as found in 1 Corinthians 9 tithing is a New Testament command.  But non-tithers can't find the word and so they don't believe that the doctrine is there either.[1]  But let’s take a closer look. 

Both traditional positions use 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 to justify their arguments.  Traditional tithers teach that we should tithe, and that when we do, we should do so with a merry heart.  And that if we do, then God will bless us (Mal. 3:10).  But if we don’t, then we’re under a curse (Mal. 3:9).  This is actually correct, with one major caveat – they don’t use God’s tithe money according to his purposes, which was to minister to people and their personal needs.  So as a result of their little “addition” (Dt. 4:2), they’re actually leading God’s people into sin.        

Traditional non-tithers take it a step farther and teach that all giving in the New Testament is based solely upon freewill offerings – with each man giving “as he purposeth in his heart.”  So if someone wants to give, that’s fine; and if not, that’s fine too – they’re not sinning if they don’t.  The logic is that a man can’t give as he purposes in his heart if he’s required to do so by Law (“grudgingly” or “of necessity”); and since tithes are seen as mandatory and freewill offerings as voluntary, then they naturally conclude that this passage is about freewill offerings and not tithing; hence, tithing is no longer required for today because, after all, God loves a cheerful giver – and you can’t be a cheerful giver if being required to give.    

But they’re wrong: the context of the passage doesn’t allow for that interpretation.  In short, in the first five verses of the chapter, we find Paul reminding the Corinthians of a commitment they’d made to support the saints in Jerusalem (1 Cor. 16:3).  But they’d been slow to fulfill their obligation and so he was gently reproving them to make good on their “promises.”  So when he pens verses 6-7, it’s done in the context of a people who’d been “long on talk but short on action.”  And so he’s not teaching that all giving in the New Testament is based solely upon freewill offerings, he’s merely addressing the motive behind our giving whether it be tithes and\or offerings.  In other words, he not addressing the type of giving – tithes or freewill offerings – he’s only addressing our motive when we give them.

ALL giving in the Bible was to be done with a merry heart, even tithing (a point of which tithers and non-tithers are loathe to discover: Dt. 12:12, 14:26; 16:14).  And so the simple lesson here is that if you say you’re going to do something, especially when not required to do so, then do it, but do it for the right reason.  And that if you’re giving for the wrong reasons, then it’s of no value to you.  So this passage isn’t doing away with the tithe, it’s emphasizing the attitude in which it’s to be given.  Selah.   

[1] A more thorough analysis of this is found in another article written by this author entitled, Is Tithing for Today? A Close Examination of 1 Corinthians 9:3-18

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