Why Not Tithe?

In my last article under the above caption I showed that, in the language of Rev. Steigenga, “for many the tithe is an easy, cheap and arbitrary way of serving God with their abundance, and for many others it is it is unfair and difficult in the extreme.” It is very difficult, I wrote, for the father of a large family, with an income much too small, to give the tenths. Such a man should not tithe, as through his doing so he would be taking the bread out of his children’s mouths. For this man to tithe would be wrong. It is likewise wrong for the rich man to tithe, so I wrote, unless he supplements his tithing by the free-will offering. Doing so, he is not actually tithing but giving as he prospered.

Now if tithing is a wrong way of serving God with our material substance, the 6th and final argument of Rev. H. J. Kuiper in favor of tithing also falls. The argument reads:

Tithing stands the test of Christian experience since it gives great satisfaction to those who practice it. Hosts of believers have testified to the rich blessings which it has brought them. Tithing does not only lead invariably to an increase of contributions to the kingdom but it also enables one to give cheerfully. Here is a double privilege: first to give more than we formerly gave—which means that our usefulness in the kingdom has increased; second, to give with far more joy and readiness. Contributors who tithe have no intention of using for themselves the money that is set aside, from the moment it is earned, for the Lord’s work. This promotes joy and happiness in giving.

“It has often been said that if all Christians would tithe, much more money would be available for the Lord’s work than is being contributed now. We do not doubt this. We are sure especially of this, that much more would be given by those who have the best incomes. But even if the church and its various institutions would not receive one more dollar than at present if all the members began to tithe, there would still be a rich blessing in the general introduction of the custom, since it would be a source of spiritual growth and joy.”

This last line “it (tithing) would be a source of spiritual growth and joy” is expressive of the thrust of the above excerpt. With this thrust I do not agree. It isn’t true. What would be a source of spiritual growth and joy is “giving as the Lord has blessed, prospered” providing such giving be an act of true faith.” Giving as the Lord has blessed them, those members of which the reverend makes mention—the members “who have the best incomes”—would be giving what they should give, which they do not if they give merely the tenth of their “best incomes.” I repeat what I wrote in my previous article on this subject, “The error of Rev. Kuiper is that he places in the room of the free-will offering, inculcated on the New Testament Church by Christ through the apostle Paul, the giving of the tenths.” What he strives to do is to lead God’s believing people back to the “beggarly elements” of the ceremonial law.

My previous article I ended with this question: “If it can be wrong for New Testament believers to tithe, how can it be explained that the Lord by Moses placed the Old Testament Church under the necessity of tithing?”

My reply. First, from the fact that the Lord commanded Old Testament believers to tithe, it does not follow that it cannot be wrong for New Testament believers to tithe. To illustrate: the Lord commanded Old Testament believers to bring the sacrifice by blood. It would certainly be wrong for New Testament believers to bring this sacrifice. Second, as was said, the tenths were supplemented by the free-will offering. The reverend places tithing in the room of this offering. Third, the Lord commanded the Old Testament Church to tithe; and in addition, He also promised the Israelitish people—the Old Testament Church—that, if they would walk in the way of His covenant, He would make it possible, easy for them to tithe through His supplying them with material abundance. Said He to His people of old, “Honor Jehovah with thy substance, and with the first fruits of all thy increase. So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy vats shall overflow with new wine.” And again (Mal. 3:10): “Bring the whole tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and prove me now herewith, saith Jehovah of hosts, If I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”

The question is, does this promise still hold? Is the Lord still saying to His people, “Tithe and I will pour you out a blessing (material blessing), that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” Our answer must be a negative one. The promise no longer holds. It is a promise that, together with the symbolical-typical things of the Old Dispensation, waxed old and vanished away. Yet the reverend maintains that the promise does still hold. His fifth argument reads, “Scripture contains special and sweeping promises to those who give the Lord the first fruits of their income. We read in Proverbs, “Honor Jehovah with thy substance, and with the first fruits. . . . so shall thy barns be filled with plenty. . . .” The same promise is found in Malachi 3:10. Quoting this passage the reverend continued, “We can scarcely imagine any Christian taking the position that what is taught here is no longer true. The fact is that Jesus corroborates the principle which these words embody—for example, in the words from the Sermon on the Mount: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these other things shall be added unto you.” So far the reverend.

Can it be that what Christ here tells His disciples is that if they will seek first the kingdom of heaven, God will heap upon them material abundance, will pour them out a material blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it? If so, we have to do here with a promise that was and is not being fulfilled. The twelve apostles certainly first sought the kingdom of heaven. Paul did and so did the others. Did the Lord shower upon them material goods? Did Paul grow rich in the material sense in the service of God? Are God’s people on a whole rich? Is it true that the material substance of a believer increases in proportion as he is spiritual? Of course not. On a whole, God’s people are poor. So they appear in Scripture (I now speak of New Testament believers). Wrote the apostle, “For ye see your calling brethren, how that not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many nobles are called. . . .” The apostles did not grow rich in the service of God. But they did have their daily bread. The Lord did continue to provide in their necessities as long as He had use for them on this earth; and this according to the saying of Christ, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God. . . . and all these things shall be added unto you.” What Christ assures the seekers of His kingdom is that they shall have in this life not material abundance but their daily bread, the portion needful for them. And for this portion he also taught them to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” The fact is that the more intensely God’s believing people seek God’s kingdom, the poorer they become. And the reason is that they seek not the things on this earth but the kingdom of God and its righteousness. According to the reasoning of the reverend, a believer, who is poor in material goods, must ascribe his poverty to his failure to tithe, thus to his unwillingness to seek God’s kingdom as he should.

What the Lord now promises His believing people, who keep His covenant, is not long life in some earthy land and a large material substance in that land; what He promises them now is the new earth and a heavenly, spiritual abundance on that earth. But in this life they have many tribulations. For they are of the party of God and war His warfare. Therefore the world knows them not. And the man whom the world does not know, cannot amass riches. Nor should he want to. It is the things above, that heavenly country, the spiritual riches, on which he should have his affections set. Such is Christ’s will. And of this spiritual abundance and of this heavenly country, that material abundance that God gave to His people of old When as a nation they walked in the way of His precepts, and that earthy Canaan, was the shadow. Rut these shadows are no more. Hence it is thoroughly vain to tell God’s believing people that He will load them down with material riches, if they tithe.

The reverend may say, “True it is that the apostle Paul did not grow rich in the service of the Lord. But the apostle was no farmer, but a minister of the gospel. Hence, the promise, “Honor Jehovah with thy substance. . . . so shall thy barns be filled with plenty,” could apply to Paul only in an indirect way.” Let us reply to this. In our modern set-up of life, there are thousands upon thousands of believers who are not farmers either, but ministers of the gospel and tradesmen and craftsmen and common laborers. We live today in a highly industrialized world. Is it now so that God’s people may feel assured that even in times of economic depression, when wages are small and when work is scarce and when consequently there are millions of men out of work, they, the believers, who tithe, will nevertheless have fine jobs paying high wages? Or let us suppose that all the believers were farmers. Would it then be so that, even in times of drought, the Lord would single out His people and give them fine crops, if only they would tithe? Such was not even the Lord’s doing in the Old Testament Dispensation! Not when a few Israelites here and there tithed or, speaking in general terms, kept God’s covenant, but only when the nation as a whole feared the Lord, did the Lord send national prosperity. The prosperity was always and only national, not individual. That is to say, in times of national apostasy, the Lord did not continue to enrich the few Israelites, who remained faithful to Him, and impoverish all the others. Fact is, that the nation was impoverished, when it departed from the Lord and then the faithful, too, would have to suffer.

The reverend may say, “Just so, and for this reason we have our ‘Back-to-God-hour’ on the radio—an hour in which we seek our nation, our American nation, admonishing it to repent of its sins and to return to God, in order that material prosperity may be its portion.”

The proper reply to this reasoning is that the Israelitish people of old formed a typical theocracy, and that the entity corresponding to it is not this or that earthly state, commonwealth, or nation, but the church of the living God, Christ’s heavenly kingdom, and further that to the church only does the promise, as spiritualized now pertain, namely, the promise, “Honor Jehovah with thy substance. . . .so shall thy barns be filled with plenty.” It means, as has already been explained, that the true church, God’s believing people, walking as they do in the way of God’s covenant receive as their reward that heavenly-spiritual abundance that Christ merited for it.

The brethren err in three respects: First, they seek not the church, the elect, the people of God in their preaching, but nations, earthy commonwealths; second, they present the promises as belonging not to God’s people but to the nation, the earthy commonwealth; third, they maintain that what belongs to the nation is these promises even in their typical dress. This accounts for their saying in their broadcasts and in their writings that God will send the nation material prosperity, if it only repents. But, someone may say, wouldn’t the nation prosper materially also, if it forsook sin and turned to God? It has no sense even to ask this question. For fact is that the nation as nation is not going to repent. For we know from Scripture that the abiding resolve of God is to seek not nations but His elect in the nations.

As to that article of the Rev. H. J. Kuiper—the article bearing the title “Why Not Tithe”—it literally teems with misconceptions. Before he again writes on the subject of tithes, it would be well for him to do just a little thinking. We saw that the Lord by Moses commanded His people—the people of Israel—to tithe. The Rev. insists that tithing was not repealed and at the same time he tells his readers that the New Testament believers do not find themselves under the necessity of tithing. But how can this be, if the law of tithing was not repealed?