Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Abraham’s Tithe (tithing, part 1)

Lately, I’ve been looking thoroughly at every area of life through the lens of Scripture. I want to follow the Lord in Spirit and in truth. Unfortunately, many of the ways that we American (and others?) Christians have picked up are based only on the traditions of men or on teachings of error. One of the teachings that I’ve examined is that of tithing. As you may know, the standard teaching nearly everywhere in America is that we are to give 10% of our paychecks, “off the top”. If one says, “But that’s the Law and we’re under grace not the Law!” the comeback is, “Abraham tithed to Melchizedek and that was before the Law.” They cite scriptures from here and there and if you only look at those few, it seems like a must to tithe. Well as it turns out, Abraham didn’t tithe everything-everything but only his spoils of war i.e., not that which he had to live off of but the windfall and he didn't keep a share.

“Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand." Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.”

“The king of Sodom said to Abram, "Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself."
But Abram said to the king of Sodom, "I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, `I made Abram rich.' I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me--to Aner, Eshcol and Mamre. Let them have their share." (Genesis 14:13-22)

“Just think how great he (Melchizedek) was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people--that is, their brothers--even though their brothers are descended from Abraham. This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. And without doubt the lesser person is blessed by the greater.” (Hebrews 7:4-7)

Abraham’s tithe came from other people’s shares before they got it. The point of the writer of Hebrews is not to admonish us to tithe, but that Abraham, by tithing, acknowledged that Melchizedek was greater than he was. The writer uses this example as proof that the priesthood Jesus is a part of (the Order of Melchizedek) is far greater than the Levitical priesthood. However, if we were to take Abraham as our example to follow (and he is a good one if you exclude tying one’s son to a sacrificial altar [yes, God commanded him to do it but He’s not commanding us to!], lying about Sarah not being his wife and “lying” with Hagar, who wasn’t his wife), then we would tithe off of things like sweepstakes winnings or bonuses--not on everyday income for living expenses.

continued tomorrow...

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