Tithing is a fundamental doctrine of the Church of God
Mr. Walker is a member of the United Church of God, an International Association, serving as an elder and director of the church's Spanish-language operations and member of the council of elders. He and his wife, Reba, live in East Texas. This article is based on a sermon Mr. Walker delivered in Gilmer, Texas, the Sabbath of May 8. This is the second article in The Journal's series on tithing. For the first, see Garry Pifer's article beginning on page 3 of the April 30 issue.
By Leon Walker
BIG SANDY, Texas--Tithing is one of the fundamental beliefs of the Church of God. In fact, it's part of the constitution of the United Church of God, an International Association. We included it in the constitution along with other fundamental beliefs because of certain events of recent years. We felt that certain fundamental beliefs and doctrines of the Word of God deserve a particular degree of protection.
However, some are questioning the doctrine of tithing. I haven't seen the material that has circulated recently, but I'm well aware of the arguments presented in the past. I understand them well, and I doubt there is anything new in the recent discussions.
In this article I would like to examine the scriptures that deal with tithing with the goal of reestablishing, reconfirming and resolidifying our belief in this fundamental doctrine of the Church of God.
Let's begin with Genesis 14, which is the first place in the Bible where tithing is mentioned. This chapter tells of the capture of Abraham's nephew, Lot. When Abraham heard of Lot's capture, he led a company of soldiers to rescue him.
Genesis 14:18 speaks of Melchizedek, king of Salem. The verses in this section of Scripture do not give much detail. The book of Genesis deals with about 2,000 years of man's history, so it doesn't give many specifics. We find a brief description of Melchizedek, that he was the priest of the Most High and that he "blessed . . . Abram of the Most High, possessor of heaven and earth."
The account, therefore, establishes that God is the possessor of heaven and earth.
Then Abraham "gave him [Melchizedek] tithes [a 10th] of all" (verse 20).
The account here mentions little other than that Abraham gave Melchizedek tithes of all he possessed.
Some people argue that Abraham's giving of a tithe to Melchizedek was a one-time event, that no statement is made that he tithed before, and no mention is made that he tithed afterward. Yet, for some reason, it occurred to Abraham to give to Melchizedek a 10th of the spoil mentioned here.
I find it interesting that some people are more interested in what Abraham did not do (or may not have done) before and after this instance rather than what he did do. What interests me is that he gave tithes of the spoils he had taken here.
Of course, Scripture does not say Abraham had never tithed before; it does not say he did not tithe afterward. It simply doesn't say one way or the other.
The point is you cannot prove that he did or did not tithe at any other time simply by this one section of Scripture.
I believe it is important to take a positive approach to the Word of God. We should use the Bible to prove, not to disprove. We should be like the Bereans.
When Paul traveled to Berea and preached Christ--that Jesus was the Messiah--the Bereans did not adopt the attitude of trying to disprove Paul's affirmation that Jesus was the Messiah. They did not say, "Let's find something to show this is not the case."
Rather, the attitude of the Bereans was that they wanted to prove all things: whether these things were so, not whether they were not so.
We must therefore seek to understand what God says to us in His Word rather than to seek to nullify and determine that the message could not have any application for us today. There is a difference in the two approaches.
We find little in Scripture about Abraham and the other patriarchs. For example, do we find that Abraham kept the Sabbath? No scripture says that he kept the Sabbath. We read no mention of the Sabbath from the time of Genesis 2 to the Exodus. Are we to assume, therefore, that Abraham did not keep the day simply because no scripture says he did?
Neither are we told that Abraham observed the laws of clean and unclean meats. Are we to assume he did not keep specific laws simply because the Bible does not say one way or the other?
What is increase?
Another argument relative to this section is the word increase. An argument is made that an increase was not involved here because these were the spoils of war, and Abraham did not keep any of the spoils (Genesis 14:21-23). Since Abraham didn't keep the spoils, he experienced no increase.
Furthermore, the argument is advanced that, since the tithe in Moses' time was based on the increase of the land and animals, Abraham would not have been obligated to tithe on these spoils.
In these arguments, however, the point is missed that Abraham did tithe. Therefore he must have thought an increase was involved. Obviously, he had these possessions, these spoils; it was up to him to do what he wanted to do with them.
He had the right to keep them if he wanted to. His attitude was that these goods were what we would call tithable, because he did tithe on them.
The question is why did Abraham feel he should tithe? Verses 19 and 22 say that God is "possessor of heaven and earth." This was stated both by Melchizedek and Abraham. Is there not an association in Abraham's mind between the recognition of God as "owner" of the universe and his giving a tithe? Is this not a message for us as well?
Another argument is that this was strictly a voluntary action on Abraham's part, that it was not based on a law.
Indeed, all true worship of God is voluntary on our part. No one forced me to be baptized. No one made me attend church. No one makes me go to the Feast of Tabernacles. No one compels me to tithe.
Obviously, God defines what we should do. He gives His laws, which show how we should conduct ourselves. But God does not make us do those things; they're all voluntary. They should be voluntary. They should come from the heart. They should spring from a desire to serve God because we believe in His ways.
We must choose whether we obey God's laws or not. But we do not decide how we will worship God. God tells us how to worship Him. He tells us what to do. We decide only if we will worship Him. There's a difference between the two approaches.
Abraham did voluntarily tithe. We should voluntarily keep the laws of God. We should choose to do so. Indeed, God commands us to choose.
Next let's look at the example of Jacob's dream in Genesis 28. During his dream, in which he saw a ladder reaching to heaven and angels ascending and descending it, Jacob saw God standing above the ladder and heard Him saying:
"I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed" (verses 13-14).
In verses 18-20 we read that Jacob rose up early the next morning and poured oil onto a stone he had used for a pillow. Then he made a vow to God: "If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, . . . of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee" (verses 21-22).
Once again critics will say the account of Jacob shows a strictly voluntary act: Jacob didn't tithe before this time, but at this time he said he would do so.
But was it strictly a voluntary act? Did Jacob not tithe before this time?
We can't answer that question; there's no way to know one way or the other. But an aspect of this account is not usually brought out by the critics: We should look upon what happened here in Jacob's life as a turning point in his life.
Before this time Jacob was anything but converted. He was a selfish man; he was manipulative. He had by deception taken the birthright from his brother Esau. He had also taken the blessing away from Esau by trickery and deceit.
As a matter of fact, that's why he was here. He was fleeing for his life. He'd taken some things that weren't his; they weren't promised to him.
Therefore we should recognize in this context a change taking place in the life of Jacob. Perhaps he had never tithed before. But there were many things he should have done before that he hadn't done, and there were a lot of things he did before that he should not have done. But we read in verse 21: "Then shall the Lord be my God."
Jacob began to recognize something he had not recognized before. He was changing. We have to understand that.
Yes, tithing was voluntary, as all actions of the converted are voluntary. It's interesting that Jacob chose to give a 10th. Where did that figure come from? Why not a fifth or a 20th or a 12th? Abraham and Jacob came up with the same figure: a 10th.
Also, instead of tithing, why didn't Jacob mention some other act of obedience?
God was offering Jacob material, physical blessings. It makes sense that Jacob would think in terms of giving back a portion of those blessings. That's just what he does. He says: "I will give the tenth back to You."
This is not talking about a one-time event. His attitude was: "Of all that You will give me from this day forward, I will surely give the tenth to You."
Maybe Jacob hadn't tithed before. Maybe he hadn't been obedient to God in that way as in so many other ways. But he does say, "From now on I will tithe; I will give the tenth of all that I possess."
It is interesting that, even though we find not one mention of the observance of the Sabbath by Abraham, Isaac or Jacob during this time, tithing is mentioned twice in this period.
It's also significant that tithing should be mentioned before the time of Moses because it establishes a connection between the Melchizedek priesthood in Genesis and the Melchizedek priesthood in the book of Hebrews.
Whether a universal law was understood and obeyed by the holy and righteous men of God before the time of Moses is, in one sense, irrelevant. The fact remains that these two men gave a tithe to God as a voluntary act of worship, appreciating the blessings God gave them.
Rather than trying to find ways around these scriptures, the correct approach is to ask what are they teaching us? What are we to learn from them? Perhaps a lesson is that God is the possessor of heaven and earth and the owner of all and that we should express our gratitude, worship and respect toward Him by giving Him the 10th, as Abraham and Jacob did.
Tithing in Egypt?
Let's go to Genesis 47, a scripture used by some to show that tithing is not a universal principle and was not a law before the time of Moses.
We read the story of Joseph and the famine in Egypt: the seven years of abundance, then the seven years of famine. We're familiar with Joseph's recommendation to Pharaoh.
Here is the argument: Joseph did not command tithing of produce. Therefore tithing must not have been known about and observed; it must not have been a law. Otherwise Joseph would have commanded that the tithe be given of the produce of the land, either to the Egyptian priests or, somehow, to God.
Who is responsible for tithing? Whoever owns the property, whoever owns the increase, is the one responsible. Joseph was not the owner; Pharaoh was.
"And Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh; for the Egyptians sold every man his field, because the famine prevailed over them: so the land became Pharaoh's" (Genesis 47:20).
I cannot insist that the company I work for or its employees tithe. I don't own the company; I'm just an employee. Similarly, Joseph could not insist that the Egyptians tithe. He was, in this sense, simply an employee of Pharaoh and the Egyptian government. It was not Joseph's responsibility to insist that the Egyptians tithe.
Should Joseph have insisted that the Egyptian priests tithe?
Remember, this is not Israel; this is Egypt. These are idolaters. Should Joseph teach that the tithe go to pagan, idolatrous priests? Obviously not.
You cannot use Genesis 47 to show that Joseph should have commanded tithing. He was not responsible; Pharaoh was.
Tithing in Moses' day
Let's look at the first mention of tithing in the days of Moses: "And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord's: it is holy unto the Lord" (Leviticus 27:30).
It is important for us to understand to whom the tithe belongs. It belongs to God. It does not belong to man. When people tithe, they tithe to God. It may go to men as far as administration and use are concerned, but the tithe is God's tithe.
As we will see shortly in the book of Malachi, not to pay tithes is robbery. It is not robbing Levites; it is robbing God.
In fact, the subject of Leviticus 27 is not the support of the Levites or the work of the Levites. Leviticus was written in the first month of the second year of the Exodus. It was not until several months later that God chose the Levites to serve the family of Aaron the priest and do the work of the tabernacle.
The subject of Leviticus 27 is redemption. It has to do with vows and things that are holy to God and sanctified by Him and how to redeem them.
Notice Leviticus 27:3: "And thy estimation shall be of the male from twenty years old even unto sixty years old, even thy estimation shall be fifty shekels of silver." Throughout the chapter various monetary amounts are listed for the different things that could be redeemed.
Notice verse 31: "And if a man will at all redeem ought of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof."
If an Israelite wanted to retain ownership of agricultural produce that he had tithed, he could continue to own it in return for its value plus another 20 percent. The tithe is God's, but there is a way to redeem it if you want to do that.
The mention of tithing here is only in passing. There is no reference to tithing as though it's a new ordinance or law. It is not introduced as if it were unknown to people.
The use of the tithe
Now we come to Numbers 18, which gets specific in terms of the use of the tithe. Notice verse 20: "And the Lord spake unto Aaron, Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land."
The land was to be divided among the tribes of Israel, but there would be no inheritance, no land, for the priests and the other Levites.
They were allotted a certain amount of land in the 48 Levitical cities, but only a minuscule portion of land, certainly not enough to support them in the same way the other tribes would be supported.
God had another reason for not giving them that inheritance and for providing them only supplementary income:
"Neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel. And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance" (Numbers 18:20-21).
Though the tithe was God's, He gave it to the Levites to support them "for their service" (verse 21), so they could serve full time in the work of God at that time.
Notice verse 24, which shows to whom the Israelites were ultimately tithing: "But the tithes of the children of Israel . . . [are] an heave offering unto the Lord."
They gave the tithe to God, although they physically turned it over to the Levites. The Levites received it, but the attitude and approach were that they were giving it to God.
Another argument is that the priests did not tithe. The Scripture doesn't say one way or the other whether they did or not. I don't claim to be an expert in this regard, and I can give you only my personal opinion. I believe the priests did tithe. The priests were Levites, and the Levites were to tithe. Since the priests were Levites, it seems to me they would tithe.
Whom would they tithe to? They would pay their tithes to the priesthood as a body. We pay our taxes to the government. But don't government employees pay taxes? Of course they do. Simply because government officials receive our taxes doesn't mean they don't pay taxes.
We pay our tithes to the church, and the ministry receives the tithe. But the ministry tithes as well.
Did God relinquish the tithe?
Another argument based on this section of Scripture is that, when God turned the tithe over to the Levites, He relinquished all future claim to it.
That reasoning is faulty because God did not relinquish the tithe to the Levites. This scripture does not say that He did. The tithe was still the Lord's. The Levites used it for the work they did, but Scripture does not say God relinquished it or that it would not be His in the future.
The argument continues that, since the Levites and only the Levites had a right to receive the tithe, when the Levitical system came to an end in A.D. 70 it became impossible to tithe, because one can tithe only to the Levites.
But, again, that argument is based on the assumption that God relinquished the tithe, that He gave it eternally and unconditionally to the Levites.
The Bible does not say that. Those words are not there. When you tithe, you tithe to the Eternal. You're not tithing to man. Man only uses it.
Now let's go to the third chapter of Malachi.
The argument is that the book refers only to the priests in Malachi's time and to a condition that existed only in his time and that it has no application for any other time.
If that is the case, however, why is tithing mentioned in Malachi, which is a book of prophecy?
Malachi is one of the 12 minor prophets. It's in the section that deals with prophecy. Why is Malachi in a section of Scripture dealing with prophecy if it is not in fact prophetic, if it is dealing only with the historical context of Malachi's day?
Does the book of Malachi have anything to do with us? Does it include a message for Christians? Was the call for repentance and a return to God only for the Jews in Malachi's time, or is it also for us? Was Malachi merely trying to reform the religious practice of his day, or was he a prophet?
Let's go to Malachi 3:7: "Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return?"
Does he ask: "Will a man rob the Levites?" No, he asks: "Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings" (verse 8).
Notice that to neglect to pay your tithe is to rob, not the Levites, but God. The tithe is His; it is holy to Him. If you do not tithe, you fall under a curse.
Even though this section of Scripture addresses the priests, Malachi says the whole nation has robbed God, not just the priests.
"Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts" (verse 10).
Let's look at the historical background of this book. If you go back to the first chapter, in verses 7-8 you find that the priests were offering polluted sacrifices. They had become lax in their worship of God. They were even offering blind and lame sacrifices. They were not properly carrying out their responsibilities.
The priests were obviously tired of their duties. "Oh, what a weariness, we're sick and tired of this. We're fed up with this" (verse 13). The people themselves were also not obeying God. You find that in Malachi 2:8.
So the people, because of the lack of leadership, were not doing what they should have been doing. In verse 9 you find the people didn't even respect the priests--and it's no wonder.
The whole nation, we see in verse 11, was sinful, not just the priests. God said He would execute judgment on all the sinners.
"And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts" (Malachi 3:5).
Consider also the prophetic aspects of these verses. Go back and read Malachi 3:1: "Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me."
Who is this messenger? Is it Malachi? According to Mark, it was John the Baptist (Mark 1:1-4). Malachi 3 speaks in a dual, prophetic sense of Malachi and John the Baptist.
Then we read: "And the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple" (verse 1).
This has not yet happened. Christ came the first time in a different way, but He will ultimately return to earth and to His temple to purify and cleanse it. This is prophecy; this has not yet occurred.
As with so many prophecies, the book of Malachi is part of a certain historical context. The context sets the stage. It enables us to see the problems and difficulties of the day. We can understand, because of the historical context, the moral and spiritual attitudes toward God and His laws.
But these attitudes are timeless. They apply to any generation. Therefore the prophecies embedded in the historical context cannot be applied just to that time or--in some cases--to that time at all.
We see in the context of Malachi that to withhold tithes is to rob God. We see that God had not relinquished claim to His tithe. God is the one, not the Levites, who was being robbed. The tithe belongs to Him, to support His work that is going on on earth.
Mint, anise and cummin
Let's go to Matthew 23:23: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin."
Mint, anise and cummin are the smallest of plants. The Pharisees were meticulous about tithing on them; they wanted to be exact and sure they paid the tithe. But Christ here says that "you have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith."
These "weightier matters" are much more important than being meticulous and making sure you count every little leaf or grain of these plants. But notice that He says "these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone" (verse 23).
Yes, you should be meticulous; tithing is important. But don't leave the other, weightier, matters undone. They are of even greater importance. Oftentimes people will confuse the two in terms of their priority.
Here we find a positive statement by Christ that tithing is something the Pharisees should be doing. But the argument is that Jesus said this only to the Pharisees because they were still under the Levitical priesthood and administration of the law and therefore were obligated to tithe.
But (according to the argument) we are no longer under the Levitical administration; the temple no longer exists; no Levites are around to receive the tithe. Therefore this verse has no application for us whatsoever.
Yet, as we just read, no qualification is given here in Jesus' statement, and nowhere later on do we find this statement negated by any New Testament writer. Furthermore, Jesus is not speaking just to the Pharisees. Notice Matthew 23:1: "Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples."
This whole chapter is addressed to the Pharisees, but it's equally directed to the disciples and the church as a whole. In fact, the chapter is an instruction to the disciples regarding righteousness. It is not just for the Pharisees; the whole chapter is an instruction to the disciples and the church regarding true righteousness, including tithing. But we must keep our priorities straight. We should exercise judgment, mercy and faith.
What about Paul?
Some people argue that, if tithing is a law and was a practice in the New Testament church, why does Paul not mention tithing in 1 Corinthians 9 when he talks about the support of the ministry?
Context is the key. The context of 1 Corinthians 9 does not concern the means to support the work of God. The context is Paul defending his apostleship.
In 1 Corinthians 9:1-2 Paul asks: "Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord? If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you. For the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord."
Much of 1 Corinthians deals with Paul's defense of his ministry and his apostleship, starting in chapter 1: "Some say I'm of Apollos, some say I'm of Cephas, some say I'm of someone else. And there are divisions."
Chapter 4 talks about the brethren judging Paul. In 1 Corinthians 9:3 Paul gives his "answer to them that do examine me."
Paul establishes his credentials: "You're my work. You're the evidence. You wouldn't even be in the church if it weren't for the fact that I was the one that was there and brought you along. You are proof; you are the seal of the fact that I am an apostle."
To those who would "examine" him he says: "Have we not power to eat and drink?"
The word power here is exousia, which is translated "power," "authority" or "right."
I think the word right is a better term to use in the context of 1 Corinthians 9. In America we talk about having constitutional rights. That's what Paul is talking about. "Don't we have the right to eat and drink?"
Paul was a tentmaker, yes. But he should not have had to make tents. As an apostle, he had the right to be supported by whatever you want to call it: the tithes, offerings, contributions, whatever, of the church.
The church in Corinth had no objection to other apostles and other ministers benefiting from its financial support (verse 12), so the means of support is not the issue. It's whether Paul had the same right to access that means of support.
That's what the context is. There's no need to mention what that support is. That was not the issue. That support was provided to the other apostles and ministers, including the physical brethren of the Lord, James and Jude and others.
Paul continues in verse 12: "Nevertheless we have not used this right."
Some people say that, if tithing were a law, Paul was derelict in his duties not to have enforced it.
Nevertheless, he didn't demand his right. This was a carnal church, as we see in chapter 3. Paul treated the members as babes. He had to be careful and patient with them.
Tithing to Melchizedek
Finally, let's look at Hebrews 7. Here Paul talks about "Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace" (Hebrews 7:1-2).
Verse 3: "Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; [Melchizedek] abideth a priest continually."
Obviously (although I will not take time to prove it here), Melchizedek was Christ.
"Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils. And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham" (verses 4-5).
Verse 8: "And here men [Levites] that die [they were mortal human beings] receive tithes."
Verse 9: "And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, paid tithes in Abraham."
Several arguments are cited regarding this section. Some say the Levites, as evidenced by the present tense (men who "receive" tithes), could take tithes only in their day, therefore it would have been wrong for Paul, writing in the book of Hebrews, to tell Christians to tithe to him or to the church. After all, he was not a Levite. Only the Levites could receive tithes.
But let's notice what the Scripture says and what it does not say. It simply says these men received tithes. And they did. The Levites received tithes in the first century. But it does not say they received tithes of the Christian church. It does not say gentiles paid tithes to them.
If the people were still under obligation to tithe to Levi, they should have still been offering sacrifices. They should have been circumcising. They should have been carrying out all the rituals, because that was part of the Levitical priesthood.
But they weren't doing those things. These matters were settled in Acts 15.
The book of Hebrews makes it abundantly clear that the sacrifices ended with Jesus Christ, because He is our sacrifice. So that argument does not hold water. It's reading something into Scripture that is not there.
A major theme of the book of Hebrews is the priestly office of Christ and its greatness compared with the priesthood of Aaron. Hebrews 4 shows we do not have a High Priest who cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities (verse 15).
We also see in this chapter that Melchizedek was a tithe-receiving priest. Again, that's the connection between Genesis and Hebrews. Both accounts mention the matter of Melchizedek receiving tithes.
We also know, as we have seen, that the Levitical priesthood received tithes. That's an aspect of the priesthood: the receiving of tithes.
But in Hebrews 7 Paul goes to great length to contrast the priesthood of Christ with the priesthood of Aaron. He shows perfection could not come by the human limitations of an Aaronic priesthood.
At the same time he showed how Christ could be a priest. As I mentioned earlier, the priest could come only from Aaron, who came from Levi. But Christ was of Judah. He was not from Levi.
Notice verse 12: "For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood" (Hebrews 7:12-14).
For Christ to become the priest, something had to happen. As Paul explains here, a change had to take place in the law. The law said the priest could come only from Aaron, from Levi. If you're going to change the priesthood, you've got to change the law.
The law being changed is not the tithing law. We thought that many years ago, but that is not the context of what Paul is talking about. The law he is talking about is the law that establishes who the priest will be. The law says the priest has to be from the family of Aaron, from Levi. But now Christ, of the family of Judah, is our Priest, so for that to be true there must come a change in the law.
If I sell my house to one of you, obviously there must be a change in ownership. The transaction has to be carried out legally. Official documents have to be filled out and filed before the sale can take place.
So the change in the priesthood was done legally. The law relative to the priesthood had to be changed.
But that's the only part that was changed. Nothing was annulled or abolished. Paul doesn't say here that the priesthood of Levi was done away with. It was changed from one to the other. If I sell a house to you, I don't abolish the house. We transfer ownership; that's all. Here the change in the law is not about abolishing tithing; it's not about doing away with the priesthood; it is not even talking about abolishing sacrifices. That's not the point.
It's talking about the change, the transfer, of the priesthood from Levi to Melchizedek (or Christ).
Notice verses 13-14 again: "For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe [Judah], of which no man gave attendance at the altar."
Our Lord sprang out of Judah, therefore that's why this change had to take place.
Let's look at Hebrews 8:1: "Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens."
We don't have a human high priest with human limitations and weaknesses. We have an unchangeable, eternal priesthood occupied by Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 7:26: "For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens."
These words describe our High Priest. But notice an aspect about our Priest in Hebrews 8:2. He is "a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man."
Remember, the Levitical priesthood was charged with serving the tabernacle.
Christ does the same thing. But His is the spiritual tabernacle, the spiritual sanctuary.
The priesthood was not abolished in Hebrews 7; it was simply transferred, merely changed. Everything concerning the Levitical priesthood is now under Christ. Christ is the High Priest.
Does Christ offer sacrifices? He does; He offers Himself. Christ is the High Priest and the sacrifice. These things are clearly explained in Hebrews 7-10.
The Melchizedek priesthood, which existed in the time of Abraham, was restored. It was changed. We can say it was with Levi only temporarily, albeit for quite a span of time. It is back with Melchizedek. All the laws that applied to the Levites apply to Melchizedek, who is Jesus Christ.
Here are a couple of principles I'd like to mention before I conclude. When you and I tithe and give offerings, of what are we thinking? To whom do we give our tithe and offerings? Are we paying them to the church, to an organization, to men?
In my mind I give my offering, my tithe, to God. I may envision the needs of the church, the work that's being done, its needs and difficulties. But the concept I hold in my mind is that I'm giving to God. The church comes into it, but the direction in my mind is God.
When Ananias and Sapphira lied to Peter, Peter said, "You haven't lied to men; you've lied to God." And that was the case. Christ is the head of the church. Christ is Melchizedek. When we give to the church, we are actually giving to Christ, the head of the church. We're giving to Melchizedek.
Who governs whom?
The issue of tithing is not just tithing itself; it's also a matter of governance. Who governs the church: God or the people? Who determines how we will worship God? Does God determine that, or do we the people determine that?
If giving is strictly voluntary--if we give whatever we feel like giving when we feel like giving it--then the responsibility is with us. We are governing; God is not governing. If the people determine how much they will give, they will do so based on their analysis of who is doing the work, how it is done and whether they agree with it or not.
Some might say: "I like the way this work is being done; I like what it is producing. Therefore I'm going to give this amount."
Another might say: "I don't really care for the way they're doing things. I'll give some, but I'm not going to give much."
It becomes a matter of governance. But nowhere in the Bible do we find we are the ones to determine how we will worship and serve God. God tells us how to worship and serve Him. It's up to us, then, to decide whether we will worship Him or not, not how we will worship Him.
Many of us went through this a few years ago. We were being told there is no day that's holy. If you want to worship God on the Sabbath, you can do that. If you'd rather keep Sunday, that's fine too. If you don't want to keep any day, that's fine as well. You make the decision as to what you will do. When it comes to the festivals, you decide what you will do. You don't want to keep this day? You want to keep it another time? You want to keep it in part? Fine. You do what you want.
It's the same thing with tithing. God has never allowed His people to do things that way. God says keep the Sabbath day. God says keep the festivals at a certain time and a certain way.
We choose whether we will do that or not. But God is the one who tells us how to worship him. It's up to us whether we will worship Him.
We worship Him voluntarily, but God tells us how to worship Him. He governs, not we.
© The Journal: News of the Churches of God