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christian tithing - Coxwell Tithe Barn

Coxwell Tithe Barn, Oxfordshire, England, built in the 14th Century
tithe new testament - tithe barn
Tithe barns were built to acknowledge God's plenty. Now they're empty.
how to keep the sabbath
No nation has been so blessed with so much. Shouldn't our tithes reflect that?
Chick-fil-A - keeping the sabbath holy
Chick-fil-A is closed on Sunday. They honor the Sabbath, and God honors them.


Nobody wants to talk about the real problem. Well, I do.

It's time we got honest. We're fed up with Obama and his administration. We're fed up with Congress, which still has the lowest rating in history. We're fed up with big business, which has never acted more irresponsibly. We're fed up with the health care industry, which has raised our insurance premiums through the roof, and continues to do so. We're fed up with credit card companies, which play a similar game. We're fed up with the economy. Let's face it - we're fed up!

But are we fed up with ourselves yet? Because that is the real problem. Yes, you and I are the problem. Let me ask you something, you who call yourselves Christians. Do you tithe? Do you keep the Sabbath? Do you do the things Jesus said you should do to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven?

I'm not talking about salvation - that's a gift from God. I'm talking about your responsibility now that you're a Christian. You don't like the fact that Obama has said the United States is no longer a Christian nation. Well, are we? Last time I checked, Christians and non-Christians were pretty much even on issues like divorce, pornography addiction, teen suicide - you name it. Christians are as idolatrous about their jobs, their houses, their kids and their money as everyone else. They're just as in love with the sex and violence Hollywood is dishing out as everyone else. So, tell me, you that call yourselves Christians: Just what is it you are doing to change things or, for that matter, to change yourselves?

Let me go back to tithing. Do you realize that less than 5% of all Protestants and less than 1% of all Catholics tithe? Yet, tithing is one of the clearest mandates laid down in Scripture. It was initiated by Abraham (Genesis 14, Hebrews 7), continued under the Mosaic law, and was carried out pretty faithfully by the Church until recent times when our greed has talked us out of it. Nowhere in Scripture does God discontinue tithing as a requirement for a righteous life. (Not a requirement for salvation; I said a requirement for a righteous life.)

Malachi 3 is the primary source for instruction on tithing. In it, God says that His people are cheating Him. He says they owe Him the tithe and they're not paying it. Christians who think they are giving their money to the Church as an offering haven't even started until they have first paid God what they owe Him - the tithe. The tithe is a sign that we know God owns everything and that we are merely His stewards. If we cannot give God a tithe from all He has given us, and we are the richest nation in history, then we are showing by our lack of faith that we don't believe He owns everything, that we think we are in charge of our money, and that we are determined to do whatever we like with it. What we are really showing is that we are slaves to our money, that we worship it more than we do God, and that we believe slavery to money is better than freedom in Christ. Go ahead, read Malachi 3. See if that's not what he's saying.

Besides Christians' reluctance to tithe at all, the other issue involved is how much. Since the word tithe means "one tenth," that is pretty much a non-issue for a believer. But for an unbelieving Christian, it is paramount. Should it be on our net or our gross earnings? Well, let's think about that. In the past, when a farmer tithed on his crops, was he tithing on the net or the gross? His crops came in, he took the first ten percent (the first fruits) and he gave those to the Lord - meaning to the Temple storehouse, the Tithe Barn, or wherever the chuch or synagogue had provided. Then, from the nine tenths that remained, he saved some as seed for planting the next year's crop, and either ate or sold the rest. So, was he tithing on the net or the gross? The gross, obviously. But, in order to keep back as much as we can, we've decided that it is the net we're supposed to be tithing on. That is not true.

Everyone struggles with tithing. It's not supposed to be easy, nor is it supposed to make sense. God wants us to trust Him and do it out of faith. If it were easy and made sense, it wouldn't require faith. But if we do it, God promises to bless our nine remaining tenths in such a way that they will go much further that ten unblessed tenths would have gone. Not only that, He promises to open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing so great that we will not have room to receive it. If you're struggling financially right now, isn't that something you could use?

Time and again, I've had to choose between paying all my bills, or tithing first and paying only part of them with what was left. And, time and again, God has opened the windows of heaven and given me the means, not only to pay all my bills, but to have some left over for other things. Never, when I've tithed, have I come up short. When I haven't tithed, I've almost always come up short. I don't know how that works. I can't explain it. All I can say is that God is faithful. When He says that we are to prove Him by tithing, He means it. That is the only command in the Bible where God tells us to prove Him. There must be a reason.

Now I want to talk briefly about keeping the Sabbath. This is another command we've talked ourselves out of. Just as tithing protects our finances, keeping the Sabbath protects our time. The weeks when I haven't kept the Sabbath, I do not have enough time to get everything done. The weeks when I have, I do. I cannot explain that one either. But I do know that my attitude toward God is different in those two situations. If I have a project due on Monday, and I use God's Sabbath to work on it, I won't get finished and I may even get in trouble with my client. If, on the other hand, I keep the Sabbath, somehow God covers for me. He has my client change the deadline or something similar. That has never failed. Like tithing, keeping the Sabbath is a supernatural law.

As with the tithe, there is confusion over what it means to keep the Sabbath. Do you realize there is probably more Scripture about the Sabbath than any other topic, other than money? And, again, God says we are cheating Him when we don't keep it. There's almost no point in listing Scriptures to look at because references to the Sabbath occur throughout the Bible, but Isaiah 58 is particularly interesting. It really puts the Sabbath and all we do to honor God in proper perspective. Honoring the Sabbath began in Genesis when God resting on the seventh day, it was codified for the Children of Israel in Exodus 16, and it was listed as one of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:8-11. Keeping the Sabbath is one of the major themes in the Bible. It must be important.

Jesus kept the Sabbath, regardless of what the scribes and Pharisees thought. What He didn't keep were all the petty rules and regulations they added to it. He said that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27). That certainly puts it in the right perspective. The greatest distinctive of the Sabbath is that it was made for rest and not work, unless that work is of a charitable nature, such as visiting the sick, helping the poor, etc. It was not made for sporting events and other earthly pleasures. God is very clear that it is His pleasure we are to pursue, not our own. Family get-togethers and other activities that build godly relationships are included. And, of course, worship is the perfect Sabbath activity.

Let me say a word about the "ox in the ditch" concept. A lot of Christians use that to get out of keeping the Sabbath. It is true that God's Law indicates that if our ox falls in the ditch, we should not leave it there - more for the ox's benefit than our own. But many Christians act like their "ox" is continually falling in the ditch. Just because we are poor planners, poor managers of our time or lazy doesn't excuse us from keeping the Sabbath. If we would make ourselves keep it, we might become better planners, better managers and more productive. As a matter of fact, I'm sure we will. In the mean time, we are losing the blessings that come from keeping the Sabbath - primarily, a relationship with the Lord of the Sabbath.

If we are not tithing or keeping the Sabbath, I would say our relationship with Christ is relatively new or, if we've been a Christian for a while, stunted. If we are not reading the Bible or praying on a regular basis, I would say our relationship is non-existent. To those who think we are no longer obligated to keep the Law, I would say, go ahead and murder someone, commit adultery or steal someone else's property. See where that gets you. Besides, both the tithe and the Sabbath were instituted long before the Law of Moses. They are both part of the overarching Law of God which will continue throughout eternity, as will the Law of Love, or Law of Christ. Of course we're still obligated to keep the Law - we're just not to look to it for salvation. That, as I said, is a gift from God. Our obedience to His will is our gift to Him.

If we want to see our lives turned around, if we want to see things change in this country, we need to start living the Christian life. We can begin with reading our Bibles and praying every day, but we need to follow that up with tithing and keeping the Sabbath. What we will notice is that we have time and money enough to do everything God wants us to do each week. And we will also notice that Christ is more real to us than He has ever been before. Maybe then we really will be a Christian nation. No matter. I'd much rather see God's will being done on earth as it is in Heaven than the United States being called a Christian nation, although there's no reason we can't have both.


Waitsel Smith, April 27, 2009

Text © 2009 Waitsel Smith. All Rights Reserved.

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