Giving and Tithing in the New Covenant

By: Åge M. Åleskjær
From: May - June 2014
Found in: The Gospel of Grace
In the new covenant we walk by grace and not by our own deeds. But what about tithes and offerings? Is this something that only belongs the old covenant, or is it relevant in the new covenant as well?

The generosity of the early Christians

When studying the New Testament we find several examples of the generosity of the early Christians.

“Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.” (Acts 2:44-45)

“Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.” (Acts 4:34-35)

This passage says that they had all things in common. They sold their possessions, so that the proceeds could be shared amongst the Christians according to their needs. They even sold their houses! If I sold my house or apartment and gave all the money to the Church for them to distribute according to people’s needs, then I think many would say that I was crazy – or at least irresponsible. People would say that I had to think of my children and give them a good place to grow up – and be sure to have enough money to provide them a good childhood.

They gave far beyond what most of us would dream of doing today!

In today’s society, selling our houses, apartments, and other important belongings may not be the most practical way to handle offerings to God. But it is evident that the early Christians had an attitude of giving and sharing. They gave far beyond what most of us would dream of doing today!

Grace to Give

Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians teaches about «the grace to give».
“Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.” (2.Cor. 8:1-5)

Paul tells the Corinthians about how the churches of Macedonia gave beyond their ability. They were living in deep poverty, but they still were incredibly happy. They urgently desired to be part of the fellowship of ministering to the saints. They did not just ask if they could give; they were pleading for the privilege to help!

Collection in the Church

Paul also teaches about the collection in the Church. The Church has the responsibility to help and to bring people to Jesus. This task requires money. God knows that money is important for us and that money is important in the Church.

God wants us to give out of generosity and not as a grudging obligation.

While the Bible mentions prayer about 500 times and faith about 500 times, it mentions money about 2000 times!

Here are three important principles when it comes to offerings:

1)  Delight in the Giving
“So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2. Cor 9:7)
God wants us to give out of generosity and not as a grudging obligation. God does not want you to feel the pressure or the demand to give. He does not want you to feel condemned if you don’t give. The motive for giving under the New Covenant is a cheerful heart!

2)  Because we ARE Blessed
Many of us have experienced Churches, TV-pastors and others who try to manipulate us to think that we have to give – or otherwise we will fall outside of God’s blessings. But that is a lie! In the new covenant we give because we ARE blessed. Paul concludes his teaching about offerings in 2. Cor. by saying “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2. Cor. 9:15)
God has already given everything to us, and our giving expresses our gratitude to Him.

3)  Sowing and Reaping
Although we give because we already ARE blessed, God wants to bless us even more. God loves us so abundantly! 
“But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” (2. Cor 9:6)
As a farmer sowing the seed is waiting for a multiplication at the harvest, we have a Father who wants to multiply what we give. When we sow, He will multiply our harvest – so that we are blessed and able to sow even more. 

A New and Better Covenant

Hebrews 7 through 10 focus on the two covenants and points in particular at Christ as the priest for the new covenant.
“Now the main point of what we are saying is this: we do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being.” (Hebr. 8:1-2)

Although we give because we already ARE blessed, God wants to bless us even more.

It continues describing Jesus as the mediator for the new covenant.
“But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises. For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another.” (Hebr. 8:6-7)

The New Covenant is established on better promises through Jesus Christ.

The Difference Between the Two Covenants

In Galatians 4, Paul uses Abraham’s family to illustrate the difference between the two covenants.

“For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar— for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children — but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written:
‘Rejoice, O barren,
You who do not bear!
Break forth and shout,
You who are not in labor!
For the desolate has many more children
Than she who has a husband.’
Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what does the Scripture say?
‘Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for
the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.’
So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.”
(Gal 4:22-31)

Here are two women; Hagar and Sara. Hagar, the slave woman, represents the old covenant where the children were born into slavery. The son Abraham got together with Hagar, Ismael, was born according to the flesh. Sara, the free woman, represents the new covenant. The son Abraham got together with Sara, Isaac, was born as a result of a divine promise.
Like Isaac, we are children of the promise; we shall be rid of the slave woman and her son, we shall be rid of the old covenant.

This means that we are not part of the old covenant and thereby not part of the tithing or the offerings in the old covenant! But is tithing solely in the old covenant? This is something very important to study carefully.

The Covenant with Abraham

We are Abraham’s seed.
“Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you all the nations shall be blessed.’ So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.” (Gal 3.7-9)

The promises were made to Abraham and his seed. These promises were made a long before the law was given, and were not abolished by the law!
“And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.” (Gal 3.17-18)

The covenant with Abraham is valid for us who are living in the New Covenant today.

Further down in the same chapter Paul says:
“And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal 3.29)

This means that the covenant with Abraham was established 430 years before the Law was given and it is directly connected with the New Covenant! The covenant with Abraham is valid for us who are living in the New Covenant today.

A New Covenant with a New Priesthood

Hebrews chapter 7 describes what happened when Abraham returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and his allied kings and how Jesus is a priest according to the order of Melchizedek:

“For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life. For He testifies:‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.’” (Hebr. 7.14-17)

Earlier in the same chapter Melchizedek is described as the “king of righteousness”, the “king of peace,” and “without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.”

Jesus is priest according to the order of Melchizedek, not according to the order of Aron. When Jesus died on the cross and rose again, there was a change of priesthood. It was the end of the Levitical priesthood and a new priesthood as introduced with Melchizedek was started – a priesthood with Jesus as the high priest forever!

Abrahams Tithing to Melchizedek

Long before the law was given, Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils to the priest of the Most High God, Melchizedek:

“Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said:
‘Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.’ And he gave him a tithe of all.”
(Gen 14.18-20)

HERE WE CLEARLY SEEING THAT TITHING STARTED WITH ABRAHAM AND MELCHIZEDEK, NOT WITH MOSES!

We also see that Abraham was blessed first and then he gave tithes! As described earlier, the first Christians gave because they were already blessed – not in order to become blessed. We see the same here with Abraham.

Long before the law was given, Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils to the priest of the Most High God, Melchizedek

We are the real seed of Abraham and tithes apply to us as well. It started with Abraham and continued with Isaac and Jacob. Jacob connects the tithe with the house of God:
“And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.” (Gen 28.22)

Who Shall Receive the Tithe?

The new covenant settles this in the letter to the Hebrews.
The tithing started with Melchizedek who is a picture of Jesus as the High Priest:

“Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils. And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham; but he whose genealogy is not derived from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better. Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives. Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.” (Hebr 7.1-10)

This means that the tithe is given to Him who lives. And the Church is Jesus’ body in this world; it is God’s temple. That is why offerings of money were placed “at the feet of the apostles”. The offerings of money were distributed by the leadership in the Church. This enlightens the purpose of tithing. The tithes shall bring “food into the house of God”. “Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.” (1.Cor 9.14).

This means that the tithe is given to Him who lives. And the Church is Jesus’ body in this world; it is God’s temple.

The tithe is for us today, just as it was for Abraham 430 years before the law. But do not mix it with the tithing under the law, where they were tithing to avoid being cursed. We are free and we tithe because we ARE blessed and we WANT to sow into His kingdom. As we sow the seed we have received from Him, we can trust that we will receive a blessed harvest which enables us to sow even more.

By: Åge M. Åleskjær

Former Senior Pastor at Oslo Christian Center, now spending most of his time ministering all over Norway and internationally.

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