The Blurred Line – Part 4
“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.” Proverbs 4:7
Where many people are confused about not being under law but under grace is in matters of daily living, relationships, moral/ethical behavior, spiritual acts of tithing, giving, church attendance and participation in ministry.
The commentary usually goes something like this. “I don’t have to tithe because tithing is under the Law and I am not under Law, I’m under grace. I don’t need to be in a church because that is legalism. The problem with that logic is it’s not sustainable, because worship is also under the law. Does grace excuse us from worship because we are not under Law.
On the matter of tithing and active involvement in ministry, these were specifically addressed by Jesus.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.” Matthew 23:23
Tithing was referenced as a priority with weight and significance, exceeded only by the weightier matters of justice, mercy and faith. Each goes hand in hand with the other. Moreover, the practice of tithing as an act of worship began not with the Law, but with the covenant of Abraham long before the Law was given. The word tithe means a tenth.
“For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace…” Hebrews 7:1-2
Melchisedec, King of Salem and Priest of the Most High God, is a type of Jesus. That is, He appears to Abraham as a pre-incarnation of Christ. So, Abraham honored Him by giving Him a tenth (a tithe) of all that they had received in the war.
The event that occasioned this action by Abraham is recorded in Genesis 13 and 14. Abraham and His nephew Lot had separated from one another to establish places for their families and servants to dwell in relative peace without the tensions that were creating strife between them. Abraham went inland to the plains and Lot went to the coastal cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. In the course of time the kings from surrounding regions banded together to come against the Kings of Sodom and Gomorrah. They plundered the cities and took the people to be their slaves including Lot and his family. When Abraham heard of it, he gathered three hundred and eighteen of his servants and went out against the kings who had taken his nephew and his family. He defeated them and brought back the people and the goods. While He was returning to his home the King of Salem met Him with bread and wine, a type of the Lord’s Supper. They communed together and Melchisadec blessed Abraham and blessed God as the source of Abraham’s victory. Abraham then responds by giving Melchisedec a tithe (a tenth) of all.
The Law had nothing to do with it.
Tithing is simply giving back to God a portion of what is His for the sake of the work of ministry. The storehouse is the place of spiritual resources for you. For most Christians it’s the local church. Where is your place of regular weekly worship? Where are you primarily instructed in the Word and work of the Lord? Where are you in communion with other believers on a regular basis for spiritual growth and service to God? That place is the storehouse. That is where you are to bring your tithes.
Tithing is a matter of grace in that it is God who provides the means from which we are commanded to tithe. The income we receive from our work, from gifts, from investments, inheritances and so forth, all comes from God. So by grace we are entrusted with His resources. And of that which is His own, which comes to us from Him, He only asks 10% from us, so that we get to participate in the works of ministry He is doing in the world to bring good news to the poor, to bring the lost to salvation, to preach healing to the sick, to deliver the captives, to free the oppressed and to manifest His glory to all.
The squeak point for most people are the matters of money in church life and being indistinguishable from the world in social life. Grace for them means they have no responsibility to give to God (by way of tithing to their church) any portion of their income and they have no responsibility to live differently from the manner of the world in the manner of their dress, their conversation, their choices of entertainment, their level of exposure to indecency, prurience, degeneracy in the company of those who mock and deride the faith they claim to believe.
The Scriptures ask, what fellowship or communion has light with darkness? But those who claim to be under grace and not Law see no conflict between their lifestyles and the clear prohibition of or commandments concerning those things in the Word.
“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” 2 Corinthians 6:14
Grace is not a license to sin.
“For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!” Romans 6:14-15
Sin is still sin no matter if we are under law or under grace. Thanks be to God, we no longer have to sin, we don’t have to be in bondage to it. And we don’t justify it by claiming grace.
Our defense against the temptation to live in the ways of the world is to learn to love God more than our passions, desires and frailties. We do this by the transformational practices of worship and prayer.
More on this tomorrow.