Friday, August 23, 2019
Spiritually, traditions of men kill. Jesus said “For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men…making the word of God of no effect through your traditions which you have handed down. And many such things you do” (Mark 7:8, 13). That being true in Jesus’ day, it’s even truer today. For 2,000 years churches have advanced traditions that make the Word “of no effect” resulting in spiritual death because traditions replace man’s need for God.
While I concede that not every tradition of men leads to spiritual death, traditions in fact lead away from God. And when Jesus said “many such things you do” (Mark 7:13) it applies to post-Calvary churches. Today’s Letter discusses just one of many false traditions, the traditional tithe that deceptively leads away from God by making it a man’s-empire-building performance.
A condition precedent of membership in good standing often requires adherence to traditional tithing. Tithing is perpetually preached on the guise that the church needs our tithes in order to fulfill the great commission (Matt. 28:18–20), tying that effort to money. But God said exactly the opposite. Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be, because that’s what tradition does.
For our benefit-preview of the great commission, Jesus said “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves. Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road. But whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house’…And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages” (Luke 10:2–7). Note that that commission is needless of money!
God only needs obedience for “His own special people” (1 Peter 2:9) to fulfill their commission, but tradition teaches otherwise. God calls every true believer to be willing vessels, asking Him in prayer, believing His Word, and trusting His Spirit to accomplish what we cannot. But that, not satisfying man’s tradition, the unjust tithe is preached and collected, then spent in ways that benefit and glorify men’s empire-building and sensory-stimulating religious experiences.
Upon new birth faith one’s relationship with God is a process for which the biblical tithe is essential. It increases and matures one’s faith, trust and love for God. From Deut. 14 beginning at verse 22, “You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year.
23 And you shall eat before the Lord your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always…. [This is the trust process]
26 And you shall spend that [tithe] money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household… [In this process one learns to trust God]
28 At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. 29 And the Levite, [the equivalent of the N.T. pastor] because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do”. This creates equality in the church, for “it is written, ‘He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack’” (2 Cor. 8:15). The biblical tithe was not given for the Levite / pastor to have an exorbitant excess.
As shown in the three preceding Letter’s, the O.T. law of the tithe was not rescinded, but rather reinforced in the N.T. Notice how God allocated the tithe: 2/3 for you and your family, and 1/3 for the pastor, stranger, fatherless, and widow. But today’s traditional tithe is nothing like the biblical model. And remember that God said “I am the LORD, I do not change” (Mal. 3:6).
It’s the “wide gate and broad way” (Matt. 7:13–14) of tradition that tithes ten percent to the church and then thinks one’s duty in the great commission is satisfied. But in biblical truth, our great commission to “make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19–20), has nothing to do with the tithe, but has everything to do with our obedience and dependence upon God by faith. The biblical tithe is primarily about building your faith and trust in God, for which God then gives 2/3 to you and your family to enjoy, that you learn to trust Him even more!
For two consecutive years the tithe goes to you and your family “that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always” (Deut. 14:23). Then every third year the tithe goes to your pastor, and “the stranger, and the fatherless and the widow [that they] may come and eat and be satisfied, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do” (Deut. 14:29). One of the benefits is “that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints” (1 Thess. 3:13).
Religious traditions are hard to defeat, but can be IF one loves God’s Word more than traditions. But many are afraid to rock the boat of tradition because church leaders quickly silence so-called trouble-makers who refuse to tow the line of tradition. But Jesus was known as a trouble-maker as religious leaders were incensed that He taught truth and reviled their traditions. And in these perilous end-times we’ve nearly come full circle as apostate Rome’s influence dominates.
We often pray the Lord’s Prayer that “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). But God’s will on earth begins with “His own special people” (1 Peter 2:9) believing, confessing, and teaching, and walking in His Word by faith. But what’s often become the church norm is to walk according to our own will or tradition, and then self-centeredly expect the favor and blessing of God in the midst of rejecting His Word. That does not work.
If you’re watchful, you know the departure from the Christian faith is rampant. Many, including pastors today, feel empty, confused, unfulfilled and spiritually sick. That’s the fruit of traditions. But truth in Christ satisfies, fulfills and gladdens the heart even in the midst of tribulations. Don’t you think it’s time to invest in the biblical tithe and learn to trust and rejoice in the Lord our God for His love, mercy and grace? That’s what God commanded who said “And try Me in this, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour out for you such a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it” (Mal. 3:10).
Marlin J. Yoder