Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tyranny of the Tithe: Paul, the Law, and Biblical Ignorance

Several months ago, a local church leader asked to meet with me about my tithing articles. He was complimentary and even said it caused him to consider changing the way he teaches the subject at his church. Then he made the statement that I’ve been thinking about for quite a while.

He said that after thoroughly reading Paul’s writings in the New Testament, he observed that Paul only rebuked Christians for following the Law of Moses when they made it necessary for salvation. He concluded that Paul was okay with New Testament Christians observing the Law (including tithing) as long as they didn’t take it too far. I nodded along as he spoke, but I wasn’t sure at the time if I agreed with the statement.

Now, I’m sure I don’t. In fact, I fear that argument may reveal a grievous error of attempting to force the Scriptures to fit a predetermined agenda.

Over and over again Paul exhorted Christians to not observe the Law. In Galatians 5, regarding those were tempted to return to the Law, Paul tells them, “Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Burdened? Yoke? Slavery? Do those sound like the wishy-washy words of a guy who wasn’t all that serious about the issue?

Paul goes on to say, “. . . if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.” He even says that if a Christian chooses to obey the Law regarding circumcision, he is obligated to obey the entire Law. It’s not something to deal with lightly – there’s no pick-and-choose option with the Law.

Furthermore, to teach a congregation that it’s proper to obligate oneself to any part of the Law is to separate them from the grace of God – see Galatians 5:1-4.

Some would say, “Well, I just want to follow the Law so I can please God.”

Sorry. The Scriptures make it clear that following the Law – even if you could do it perfectly – would not please God. That kind of attitude, when boiled down to the basics, is self-righteousness. The only way to please God is to come to Him by faith through the blood of Jesus Christ.

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