Thursday, 7 February 2013

Are Christians obliged to tithe (1) ?

Does Scripture mandate the tithe? Are we obliged to give the LORD a tenth of all our income? Clearly the tithe was mandatory in the Old Testament era but what about for us New Covenant believers? My answer is yes and to explain why, bear with me a moment as we take the cross-country route as we consider the first instance in Scripture when the tithe is mentioned.

The first Scriptural mention of the tithe is in the book of Genesis (ch. 14). There Abraham overpowers and subdues the pagan kings who had overcome and captured Lot. Whilst returning home with the booty, Abraham meets the mysterious Melchizedek who serves him bread and wine (the first communion meal?)  and in return, Abraham gives Melchizedek a tithe of the plunder he had won. What does all this have to do with the New Covenant believer paying the tithe? Well in the book of Hebrews Christ's priesthood is described as being in the likeness of Melchizedek:

                          you are a priest forever, 
                           after the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:15-17). 

In other words, Melchizedek's ministry and priesthood was a type and foreshadowing of Christ priesthood. What therefore Melchizedek did over 3 millenia ago in Palestine, Christ fulfilled and superseded by his priesthood. Thus if Abraham offered a tenth of his increase to a type of Christ (Melchizedek) how much more does the real deal - Jesus Christ - deserve a tenth of our increase? But there is more. Abraham is not a mere incidental character in the biblical narrative. Apart from his peculiar interactions with the Triune God (e.g. Genesis 18) we also have the special relationship he enjoyed with God, being one of a handful of people described as God's friend. Additionally the Apostle Paul calls him our father in the faith (Romans 4 and Galatians 3). All this should lead us to see Abraham as a prototype believer and someone who's life is to emulated in those things which honoured the of which giving the tithe is one such example (others being bringing up our children in the faith, husbands behaving like lords of their households, incredibly generous hospitality to strangers and so on but I digress). The point is this: Abraham is presented as an example in Scripture for us to follow and we his children are to walk in his ways, setting aside a tenth of our increase for the 'greater' Melchizedek, the Prince of Peace and High Priest over God's Kingdom. This is a sure way to enjoy the LORD's favour and blessing (Malachi 3:8-12)

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