Posted by: Harry Sasnowitz | November 6, 2014

Neglecting The Commandment of God Through Religion

Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”

He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”— then he need not honor his father or mother.’ (Matthew 15:1-6)

In this particular scripture, Jesus puts a dagger in the heart of the religious leaders who were exalting performance based religion over God’s commandment to love and care for one another. Worse yet, they were teaching others to do the same. What they thought was an impressive show of their religious commitment was actually resulting in the neglecting of the needy right within their midst. “You can’t give that directly to your father or mother (or whoever) to help them….that is a gift devoted to God!”

Some things never change.

When I read this portion of scripture, I couldn’t help but to think of my days as a meticulous “tither.” I bought the false teaching coming from the pulpit, hook, line and sinker…..believing that, as a Christian under the New Covenant, that I was required to give 10% of my income to the local church, and to the local church only. Only after that, if I could scrape up enough financial bread crumbs, was I free to extend an offering to people in need or other “outside ministries.”

For about the first 10 years of my Christian life, I diligently followed this apparent “tithe command.” I was the most faithful, meticulous tither there ever was! After all, I wasn’t going to be found a “robber of God” according to Malachi 3….I wasn’t going to open the door for the enemy to devour my finances because of my “shortchanging of God” by my lack of tithing…..and through my righteousness in meeting the tithe requirement, I could be assured of “great blessing” in my finances; abundant, overflowing blessing!!

Yet after many years of my incessant running on the tithing gerbil wheel, the fruit of my meticulous faithfulness was glaringly obvious. By being so focused on meeting the “tithe mandate,” I was indeed being neglectful of the needs around me; needs that the Holy Spirit was prompting me to meet. People I was in relationship with that needed a helping hand, opportunities to spontaneously give to others I hardly knew as a testimony to Jesus and the grace of God, opportunities to give to ministries outside the 4 walls of the church…all being passed over due to my supposed “obedience to God” in meeting the tithe requirement. At a heart level, something was very wrong with this picture.

Now I know that tithing isn’t necessarily a “tradition.” It’s Old Covenant levitical law. Nonetheless, one can just as much neglect the commandment of God to love one another for the sake of “keeping the law” just as much as one could neglect the commandment of God to love one another for the sake of keeping religious traditions.

So, what biblical justification is there to no longer embrace tithing as a requirement upon the Christian? Three words: The New Covenant.

Under the new covenant instituted through the finished work of Christ, we are called to live not by the letter of the Old Covenant law but by a “higher law” if you will…. the law of love which is written upon the heart of every believer in Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit:

“But now, by dying to what once bound us (the law), we have been released from the law so that we might serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” (Romans 7:6)

Walking by faith means that we are sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit within us to do what He is directing us to do, in every area of our lives. There’s a big difference between “law living” and “faith living.”

The New Covenant also makes it clear that Christ has not only redeemed us from the curse of the law (which would include the Malachi curse for “not tithing”), but that the law itself was nailed to the cross with Jesus, showing that Jesus had instituted a whole new way of relating to God….not through law, but through our union with Him by the Spirit:

“When you were dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code with its regulations that was against us and opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-15)

Also, the full blessing of God is found in our union with Christ, not through keeping law. In Him, believers are blessed with every spiritual blessing, fully accepted and lavishly loved. Out of this blessedness we live and move and have our being, becoming a blessing to others by living out of our identity in Christ and union with Him.

It’s been 8 years since I gave up on tithing and embraced giving from the heart, looking to my relationship with Christ for direction on where to sow seed. The result:

– Greater effectiveness and impact for the Kingdom of God; I’m much more sensitive to the needs around me and open to be used by God in meeting those needs. Furthermore, what I give, for the most part, is going DIRECTLY TO THE MEETING OF TANGIBLE NEEDS.

– A freedom, joy and creativity in giving that’s no longer quenched by giving out of compulsion, obligation and requirement.

– Peace. Stepping off the gerbil wheel of performance based religion and entering the rest of faith is always a good thing.

– Personally, I’ve experienced greater financial blessing as a Spirit-led giver than I ever did as a meticulous tither. Not that my motive for giving is to get, and not that I think that I “earned this” somehow; the source of my blessing is the Person of Jesus and His grace. But I just had to bring this up to expose the silliness we often here that ‘only if you tithe will God bless your finances.’

For a much more comprehensive teaching on tithe doctrine from a New Covenant perspective, see my 4 part series on this blog, entitled, “Tithe Doctrine from a New Covenant Perspective: Challenging What’s Preached from the Pulpit.”

Grace to all.

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