“Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished severely.” –Luke 20:46-47
One of the greatest signs of lawlessness in the present visible church is its ignorance and inconsistent application of the Law. One of the clearest areas is the tithe. “Good Christians,” or at least those who proclaim themselves the mature experts in the “local church,” consistently reinforce the tithe as “off the top” of earnings. Of course, for such devout supporters of a human institution which has invested heavily in political clout, they are very comfortable with ignoring the Scriptural definition of the tithe and the context of the tithe.
Most sanctimonious windbags who occupy “positions of authority” in the visible church operate on three assumptions:
1) that the tithe is entirely for church ministry
2) that the taxation and living expenses of the modern age are comparable to those of ancient or first century Israel.
3) that positions or people actuall have authority
As to the first assumption, a brief perusal of the Law lands us in Deuteronomy 14, where the Scripture plainly states that only a portion of the tithe goes to the Levites. The rest goes to support two other categories:
1) Sojourners/aliens (who could not own land)
2) The poor, especially widows and orphans who could own land, but lacked sufficient power to cultivate it and were often disadvantaged
Given that there was but one temple, and millions of Israelites, it ought not escape us that the portion of the tithe committed to the maintenance of the temple building itself was not only comparatively small, but also that non-food gifts (silver and gold) were rare in comparison with the ongoing gift of animal and grain offerings to feed the levites, the poor, and aliens (proselytes) residing in Israel. The tithe itself was thus primarily what we would now call a means of ensuring social welfare.
I have yet to visit an American church which even discusses this requirement in budgetary overview sessions. Pie and bar charts discuss every type of ministry a vain imagination could must except this plain requirement–a requirement which was the primary focus of budgetaary discussion in the early Church, as evidenced by Acts 6, I Corinthians 16, II Corinthians 8-9, and Galatians 2:10.
The tithe, within the context of the Law, though a matter of religious observance and obedience, was social in nature, being there as a matter of sustenance to Levite, sojourner, and poor alike. Maintenance of the temple was by either special decree or freewill offering. Thus the tithe is meant to support basic needs, not the expansion of ministry platforms. In our own day, the “church” clearly does not fulfill this role except to provide pay and retirement for pastoral staff. The use of the tithe primarily for building maintenance expansion is Biblically unsound, even downright disobedient.
Much of the social support role having been taken on by the civil magistrate, the laiety in American churches typically pay between 12-34% of their income in taxes and another 5-8% in social security so that the poor will not be neglected. The civil magistrate being God’s servant as much as the “pastor,” and it being unreasonable for the church to duplicate the magistrate’s efforts, how is it that the church claims 100% of the tithe when it fulfills less than 33% of the functions for which the tithe is intended? Given that the demographical comparison of poor to pastoral staff is likely to be higher than 50 to 1, a reasonable basis for determining the church’s portion of the tithe would be less than 1/50th of 10%.
With regard to earning comparison of modern society versus ancient and traditional societies, the primary contrast we must consider is that traditional societies did not commodify all their assets. One needed little money not only because there was less product to buy, but because the average family was mostly self-sustaining. They often bought very little of what they consumed, their lives being predominantly sustained by what we call “home economics.” They paid no property tax: corvee labor sustained common infrastructure and was certainly not considered income and expense. No clothing tax. No food tax. No alcohol tax. No mortgage payment or mortage interest. None of these factored into the lives of the people as they do in our age, because they did not live in a liquidified economy where everything was considered “off the top” such that it could be counted in the 100% from which the 10% was gathered.
In other words, subtract property tax, income tax, clothing tax, food and clothing expenditures, mortgage payments, life insurance, home-owners insurance, medical insurance, liability insurance, and all other non-negotiable basic protections from one’s earnings and you will have the harvest and the birthed animals of ancient Israel. Will the church which clearly neglects its own poor help the widow and orphan if you don’t pay life insurance? Will it help your family should you lose everything to a lawsuit in this litigious society?
Reasonable as this is, yet those who proclaim themselves authority will inevitably pull their sanctimonious trump card. A church which has prostituted itself to the beast of modern progress, materialism, and dehumanization has little knowledge of and no respect for the particular commandments of the Law. If those in the visible church cannot deceive you by using portions of the Law to distort the whole Law, they simply appeal to your salvation being “apart from the Law,” canning the Law altogether and telling you to give as the early church did. This is precisely where Christ and the Law intersect to expose their greedy, malicious madness.
Genesis 1, Psalm 8, Jeremiah 31, Matthew 20 & 23, and I John 2 all coincide to properly define authority and dominion. Genesis 1, Psalm 8, and Matthew 20:25-28 clearly teach that while both men and women have been given dominion over creatures of the land, sea, and air, they have not been given dominion over one another. Matthew 23, I John 2, and I Timothy 2 clearly teach that this lack of dominion includes Biblical teaching: that no man or woman is an authoritative teacher, but that Christ has reserved and kept this authority for himself, never delegating teaching or baptizing to others, but only allowing them to participate in His authority. My argument is not a new or strange argument. Augustine recognized this truth with regard to baptism, expounding on it in his Tractates on the Gospel of John. Men and women never have authority, they are either in or out of authority insofar as they abide in Christ’s teaching. A lawless church, which is one and the same harlot riding the beast in Revelation 18, is certainly out of authority.
Please do not interpret the above as a sanctioning of maverick authority to do whatsoever you will. If those who proclaim themselves teachers and authorities do not have authority, neither do you or I have authority. In the age of the man of lawlessness, who is one with the harlot and the man of Deuteronomy 29, the elect find themselves in a similar position with the wandering patriarchs and the early Church diaspora, who also wandered, having been thrown out of the synagogues. We are in a position that necessitates a wisdom beyond our own, and therefore a greater vigilance in crying out to Lady Wisdom and the Father like the Psalmist in Psalm 119 and Agur in Proverbs 31.
There is yet a need to sustain those in full time ministry, just as there is an ongoing need to support the poor and alien among us. My point is that the visible church has no right to claim the full 10% tithe, being now but the minister of a small percentage of the total social burden for which the tithe is collected. The overwhelming portion of the Scriptural burden is now shouldered by the magistrate, who also being God’s appointed servant, now taxes the common people heavily at between 12 and 34% (in the US).