Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Why fight about tithing?

After looking through all the comments I received on my Facebook post about the name calling surrounding the issue of the tithe, one thing was immediately apparent; everybody was actually trying to say the same thing but differed in their approach. However, in my mind, because everyone believe they are right no one is really listening to what the other person is saying and have ended up making assumptions. 

I could sense that people seemed to define the tithe in different ways:

  1. Those who apply it to giving to God and giving in the church generally
  2. Those who see it as purely the Old Testament system of taxation that doesn’t apply to the New Testament church
  3. Those who believe it is 10% of your monthly earnings
  4. Those who have combined this 10% with the law of the firstfruit to redefine the tithe as the first 10% of what you earn

Now the other side of this division are the reasons people choose to or not to tithe:

  1. Those who believe that if they do not, they will be cursed as per Malachi 3: 10
  2. Those who believe people would refuse to give if the tithe was not in place
  3. Those who believe that pastors use it to ‘fund their extravagant’ lifestyles
  4. Those who see it as an Old Testament practise and thus not applicable today

Before we consider the reasons people choose not to tithe, let us first of all try and address the rather big elephant in the room; how does the bible define the tithe? Is it:
  1. Anything you give to God?
  2. Purely an Old Testament system of Taxation?
  3. 10% of your earnings?
  4. First 10% of your earnings?
To help me with my understanding I decided to seek the Jewish view on the subject. Just how did they understand and apply the law of tithing. I visited the myjewishlearning website https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/tithing/ and got a bit more information. (All texts in quotes are from the myjewishlearning website)
“The tithes have to be given from corn, wine, and oil by biblical law and from fruit and vegetables by Rabbinic law.”
The Biblical law of tithe of corn, wine and oil is evident in scripture. Deuteronomy 14: 22 is one of such examples - Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year.

Jesus made reference to the tithe of the Rabbinic law in Matthew 23: 23 - Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Mint, anise and cumin were garden herbs of really little value.

And the first step towards tithing is in the giving of the heave offering also called the “Terumah”
 “The farmer first separates from the yield a portion (a sixtieth, fiftieth, or fortieth at the farmer’s discretion), known as terumah (‘heave offering’ or ‘gift’). This is given to a Kohen (priest) and is treated as sacred food in that it must not be eaten when the priest is in a state of ritual contamination or when the terumah itself has suffered contamination.”
This can be seen in Numbers 18: 24 -  But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer as an heave offering unto the Lord, I have given to the Levites to inherit: therefore I have said unto them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.

After the heave offering has been given, the three kinds of tithes are then given in slightly different ways:
  1. maaser rishon
  2. maaser sheni
  3. maaser ani
“A tenth of the remainder of the yield, known as maaser rishon, ‘the first tithe,’ is then separated and given to a Levite. The Levite, in turn, separates a tenth of his tithe and this, known as terumat maaser, is given to a Kohen to be treated with the same degree of sanctity as the original terumah, The portion given to the Levite has no sanctity and may be eaten by an ordinary Israelite [Numbers 18: 21 -32].

The farmer separates a tenth of the reminder of his yield, known as maaser sheni, ‘the second tithe.’ This has to be taken to Jerusalem and consumed there in a spirit of sanctity. If it is too difficult to take the second tithe to Jerusalem, it can be redeemed by substituting for it a sum of money which is then taken to Jerusalem and food and drink purchased with it to be consumed there [Deuteronomy 14:23].

However, every third and sixth year of the cycle culminating in the Sabbatical year, the second tithe is given to the poor and is known as maaser ani, ‘poor man’s tithe.’ [Deuteronomy 14:28]”
Thus tithing was a process that started with the heave offering and ended with the poor man’s tithe collected every 3 years.

Myjewish learning gave this conclusion on the tithe:
“According to the Rabbis, the laws of tithing only apply to the land of Israel, and farmers in the Diaspora have no obligation to give tithes, although there is some evidence of communities outside Israel, in Egypt for example, having a system of tithing.
Again according to the Rabbis, the full tithing laws apply only when the majority of Jews live in the land of Israel and since, in the absence of the purification rites of the red heifer, everyone today suffers from corpse contamination, the terumah is inoperative in any event. Moreover the purpose of tithing, for the upkeep of the priests and Levites, has no meaning nowadays. The present practice in the State of Israel is to have only a token separation of the tithes.”
Seeing that they are unable to tithe in the way the bible’s commanded, observant Jews have resorted to donating a tenth of their annual income to charity
“Some Rabbinic sources make reference to a tithe of money as well as of produce, although it is not too clear whether this was seen as a voluntary contribution rather than an obligation. Nevertheless, many observant Jews today do donate a tenth of their annual income to charity. This is known as maaser kesafim, ‘the money tithe’ or ‘wealth tax.’”
Now that we’ve identified the tithe, it is clear that since the conditions for the biblical tithe cannot be met, a substitute can be given and this is clearly where the New Testament church is. We can see this in Paul’s message to the church in Corinth
‘11 I think you should finish what you started. If you give according to what you have, you will prove that you are as eager to give as you were to think about giving. 12 It doesn’t matter how much you have. What matters is how much you are willing to give from what you have.’ 2 Corinthians 8
The amount you choose to give is an individual decision
‘7 Each of you must make up your own mind about how much to give. But don’t feel sorry that you must give and don’t feel that you are forced to give. God loves people who love to give. 8 God can bless you with everything you need, and you will always have more than enough to do all kinds of good things for others.’ 2 Corinthians 9
Here is how I see it, clearly the amount you choose to give is your decision to make. If you are comfortable and happy to give 10% please carry on by all means however this doesn’t put you in a better position before God than the person who isn’t able to give up to 10% but is nonetheless very happy to give. As a result, I don’t think mandating everyone to give 10% is in harmony with scripture as no part of the bible says the only way your giving can be accepted is if it a minimum of 10%.

Moreover, Jesus considers judgment, mercy, and faith to be of greater importance so fighting amongst ourselves and name calling over the tithe isn’t really necessary.

Friday, 14 August 2015

A proper approach to bible doctrine

I never knew until recently that quite a number of christians consider joy and happiness to be 2 different things. And the general consensus is joy is not dependent on one’s circumstances and thus eternal while happiness is dependent on one’s circumstances and could be short lived. It seems like we were pitting one against the other.

I checked the dictionary to see the difference between the two and was quite surprised to find that they were both synonyms of each other. This was when it hit me that we tend not to look at things in the bible in the context they were used. This kind of approach to bible interpretation can be riddled with errors and give rise to faulty doctrines.

I decided to look to the bible and check the original words translated as joy and happiness and discovered to my amazement that the original word Hebrew and Greek words happiness was translated from actually means ‘being blessed’. Joy on the other hand referred to rejoicing, gladness. Both have their place and none is inferior to the other.

Paul gave a charge to Timothy and this charge was to study to show himself approved unto God, a work man not being ashamed but RIGHTLY dividing the word of truth.

Work hard so God can say to you, “Well done.” Be a good workman, one who does not need to be ashamed when God examines your work. Know what his Word says and means. 2 Timothy 2:15 (TLB)

Often times, it appears we rely on common sense and wildly held popular beliefs in our interpretation of the bible. We thus end up with doctrines that are so far removed from what the bible says. The tithe doctrine is a very popular example; its definition has been completely redefined that it’s been so distorted and bears no resemblance to anything in the bible. Even though we cannot find a single portion of the bible where a tithe of money has been commanded we still hear it being taught. And a lot of scripture are quoted entirely out of context in support.

Let us look at scriptures in the context they were used so as to better understand what is being said.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Does the bible teach a 'rapture' of the saints? Part 4

What has been termed ‘rapture’ is actually the resurrection and the book of Revelation calls this the ‘First Resurrection’. After the antichrist’s time is up, Christ shall descend and the dead in Christ shall rise first. This word ‘rise’ seems to suggest some sort of levitation but it actually means coming back to life. It has been translated form the Greek word ‘anistēmi’ which means to rise from the dead. 1 Thessalonians 4: 16. This also echoes Paul exhortation in 1 Corinthians 15

51 But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! 52 It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. 53 For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. 54 Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? 1 Corinthians 15

Another set of words that seems to lean weight to the notion that there is a rapture are the words ‘clouds’,  ‘caught up’ and ‘air’ in 1 Thessalonians 4. Even though it never mentions anything about believers being taken into heaven people just assume it does.

15 We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died.[g] 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. 17 Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.

The word ‘cloud’ here is used figuratively to refer to the Old Testament witnesses. Hebrews 11 also mentions them. The dead in Christ will come to life and be transformed and those who are alive will also be transformed and both shall join the ‘clouds’ of Old Testament witnesses and all shall meet the Lord in the ‘air’. This word ‘air’ refers to inhabited part of the earth that contains the air we breathe and does not refer to the sky. It has been translated from the Greek word ‘aēr’ which means ‘the air, particularly the lower and denser air as distinguished from the higher and rarer air’.

The word ‘caught up’ has been translated form a Greek word ‘harpazō’ which means ‘to seize, carry off by force’. This same word was used by Jesus to describe how people gain access to God’s kingdom.

And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. Matthew 11: 12

It is different from the word ‘taken’ in Matthew 24 which I mentioned earlier refers to ‘associating with’

Satan will then be bound for 1000 years while Christ and the church rule during that time.

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven with the key to the bottomless pit[a] and a heavy chain in his hand. 2 He seized the dragon—that old serpent, who is the devil, Satan—and bound him in chains for a thousand years. 3 The angel threw him into the bottomless pit, which he then shut and locked so Satan could not deceive the nations anymore until the thousand years were finished. Afterward he must be released for a little while. 4 Then I saw thrones, and the people sitting on them had been given the authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony about Jesus and for proclaiming the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his statue, nor accepted his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They all came to life again, and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 This is the first resurrection. (The rest of the dead did not come back to life until the thousand years had ended.) 6 Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. For them the second death holds no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him a thousand years. Revelation 20

After the 1000 years is over Satan will be released again and shall lead his armies in a fight against God but will eventually be bound and thrown into the lake of fire. And those who were not part of the first resurrection will come to life and be judged according to all they’ve done. Death and hell will be thrown into the lake of fire which is the second death as well as those whose names are not found in the book of life.
7 When the thousand years come to an end, Satan will be let out of his prison. 8 He will go out to deceive the nations—called Gog and Magog—in every corner of the earth. He will gather them together for battle—a mighty army, as numberless as sand along the seashore. 9 And I saw them as they went up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded God’s people and the beloved city. But fire from heaven came down on the attacking armies and consumed them. 10 Then the devil, who had deceived them, was thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.11 And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide. 12 I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave[b] gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds. 14 Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. 15 And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20

After this we will have a new heaven and a new earth.

I wouldn’t claim to know the fine detail of events that will happen prior to Christ’s return such as the rise of the ‘one world government’ or who is the antichrist. I’ve often notice that those who claim to ‘know’ such granularity, then to always provide a date for His return and are always wrong.

However, in my opinion rather than try to finger out who is likely to be the antichrist and which countries will spearhead this and so on why not just focus on Christ. Why not be like Paul who decided to press on for the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let’s press on to know God more and become more like Christ as this will enable us identify any false christs however subtle.

We are currently being bombarded by false teachings anyway and it will take a discerning mind to identify them. That is enough trouble in itself.

Does the bible teach a 'rapture' of the saints? Part 3

The bible has always mentioned that Christians will always be persecuted for their faith. Jesus did confirm this and it has occurred throughout history. Also scripture clearly tells us that we are all saved by grace through faith and not of works. This makes the notion that people who miss the rapture and do not accept the mark will be saved by their own blood ridiculous. We receive salvation in Christ Jesus alone.

Paul fully clarified how the events will unfold before the end.

Now, dear brothers and sisters, let us clarify some things about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we will be gathered to meet him. 2 Don’t be so easily shaken or alarmed by those who say that the day of the Lord has already begun. Don’t believe them, even if they claim to have had a spiritual vision, a revelation, or a letter supposedly from us. 3 Don’t be fooled by what they say. For that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God and the man of lawlessness[b] is revealed—the one who brings destruction. 4 He will exalt himself and defy everything that people call god and every object of worship. He will even sit in the temple of God, claiming that he himself is God. 5 Don’t you remember that I told you about all this when I was with you? 6 And you know what is holding him back, for he can be revealed only when his time comes. 7 For this lawlessness is already at work secretly, and it will remain secret until the one who is holding it back steps out of the way. 8 Then the man of lawlessness will be revealed, but the Lord Jesus will kill him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by the splendor of his coming. 2 Thessalonians 2

The book of Revelations also says the same thing

13 He did astounding miracles, even making fire flash down to earth from the sky while everyone was watching. 14 And with all the miracles he was allowed to perform on behalf of the first beast, he deceived all the people who belong to this world. He ordered the people to make a great statue of the first beast, who was fatally wounded and then came back to life. 15 He was then permitted to give life to this statue so that it could speak. Then the statue of the beast commanded that anyone refusing to worship it must die. Revelation 13
Their entire army was killed by the sharp sword that came from the mouth of the one riding the white horse. Revelation 19: 21

The antichrist will surely be revealed while the church is still here on earth! He shall be allowed to persecute the church and martyr some.

7 And the beast was allowed to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. 10 This means that God’s holy people must endure persecution patiently and remain faithful. Revelation 13

The working of the antichrist is definitely not going to be so blatant but will be quite subtle. The mark of the beast is not a physical mark either and has got nothing to do with chips and implants as taught by end time scaremongers. All the events laid out in the book of Revelations are figurative. The beasts are not physical beasts; Jesus is not a physical lamb either. The Father’s name is not written physically on the foreheads of the saints so why do we then believe the mark of the beast will be physical?

John used the Jewish tradition of tying portions of the Torah on parchments on one’s arm and forehead as the illustration. It signified that your thoughts and heart were God centred. The thoughts and heart of those who receive the mark of the beast are carnal. Scripture says in the book of Romans that to be spiritually minded is life while being carnally minded is death.

Does the bible teach a 'rapture' of the saints? Part 2

Of what relevance is this history lesson to the issue of the rapture? Plenty! It sets the backdrop for Jesus’s discussion with His disciples in the book of Matthew 24.

As Jesus was leaving the Temple grounds, his disciples pointed out to him the various Temple buildings. 2 But he responded, “Do you see all these buildings? I tell you the truth, they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!” 3 Later, Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives. His disciples came to him privately and said, “Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will signal your return and the end of the world?” Matthew 24

One often overlooked fact in the above verse is that Jesus’ disciples asked him 3 questions. One of the questions was on the destruction of the temple, the second was centred around His return and the last was about the end of the world. All 3 were linked.

Jesus proceeded to answer all of these questions and His answers have been collaborated in all of scripture.

The first part of the question was with regards to the destruction of the temple. This was significant in establishing the New Testament and was part of a long series of events which would herald Christ’s Second Advent. Jesus summarises the events in Matthew 24: 4 -14 and then goes a bit in-depth from verse 15. He warned the disciples that if they saw the abomination of desolation (referring to the book of Daniel) and they should flee from Judea. This was fulfilled in AD66 when the Roman army besieged Jerusalem. The Christians remembered Jesus’ words and fled to a town beyond the Jordan. Not one of them was hurt.

History has it that this was one of the worst times the Jews had ever seen. A lot of the Jews died out of starvation with some mothers resorting to cannibalism; they killed and ate their babies to survive. This lasted for 3 and a half years, shortened just as Jesus had said or none of the Jews would have survived. In AD70, the Romans entered and put a lot of the Jews to the sword. Some ran to take refuge in the temple and a fire broke out and burnt it to the ground. About 1 million Jews lost their lives and only about 100,000 people survived.

If this referred to the ‘rapture’ of the saints why would winter or Sabbath make any difference? This was obviously a physical flight which could have been hampered by adverse weather conditions and the Sabbath because of the restriction on the distance one was allowed to travel.

The other verses begin to talk about Christ’s return; the mention of false messiahs & prophets which shall deceive many and Christ will come when no one expects. Verse 40 is something that is used in support of the doctrine of the rapture

“Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left.

The word that has been translated ‘taken’ is from the Greek word ‘paralambanō’ which means ‘an associate, a companion.’ It implies ‘to accept or acknowledge one to be such as he professes to be.’ This simply illustrates that salvation is personal and cannot be gained by association and confirms Jesus’ words in the book of John that we are now His friends.

Even though no part of the bible ever mentions the word rapture, it was coined to describe the ‘catching up’ of the saints at Christ’s return. What I have been told of Christ’s return is as follows; when the trumpet sounds the dead in Christ will rise and be caught up along with believers who are still alive to be with the Lord in heaven. Once this happens, the antichrist will be revealed and will unleash the great tribulation on upon the earth. People will be forced to accept the mark of the beast in order to buy and sell.

Afterwards, Jesus will come back again (3rd time now apparently) and judge the beast, Satan and all those who received the mark of the beast. And those Christians who missed the rapture and did not receive the mark of the beast will be saved by their own blood.  The problem is this cannot be substantiated from scripture.