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Dear friends,

Welcome to my blog. I am honored to have you visit. I hope you'll find my articles a blessing. I welcome your input and especially comments and questions.

I write as a Christian from Jerusalem, Israel about Biblical subjects.

I am particularly interested in the subjects of children, families, women's issues, corporal punishment, science and nature as these subjects relate to the Holy Scriptures.

For more information, see my website: www.biblechild.com

With every good wish - Samuel Martin

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Two Churches - Part Four

The Two Churches - Part Four

 In a continuation of this series, we’re going to address the issue of tithing.

In my discussion of Church One and things that characterize it, tithing is pretty much standard throughout most churches that follow the Church One model.

Here is what I said about tithing:

"Church One members are required to pay “tithes” according to the interpretation of Church One leaders. Church One leaders are exempt from paying anything as they are the recipients of the “tithe.” Members are also expected to give sacrificial gifts to Church One and many members will often go without many basic needs to give money to Church One."

Let me say at the outset that I believe that the work of God needs to be financed. This is obvious.

The problem that many people have though is the use of the Bible by some ministers as a tool to demand financial support.

As I have said in the beginning of this series, I grew up in the World Wide Church of God started by the late Herbert W. Armstrong. My father, Ernest L. Martin, held a high position in that church until 1974, when after resigning his position as the Chairman of the Department of Theology in Ambassador College (the academic institution associated with the World Wide Church of God), he was excommunicated.

One of the issues that my father was immediately called upon to address was the issue of tithing. This was because the World Wide Church of God adhered to one of the most oppressive interpretations of the doctrines of tithing that could be found in Christendom.

Thousands of people contacted my father over this issue because of the oppression that their families faced at the hands of Mr. Armstrong and his ministers. Not only were people required to give 10% of their incomes, the World Wide Church of God added interpretations related to the second and third tithe mentioned in Scripture which required people to give more money.

On top of this were regular appeals for additional funds.

It was this system that lead Mr. Armstrong to lead a lavish lifestyle, which included a private jet, which was all administrated by the World Wide Church of God and financed with money secured through an oppressive system of tithing.

As I said, my father was in touch with thousands of people who were a part of this horrifying organization.

So, he decided to take action. 

He wrote a booklet called "The Tithing Fallacy" followed by a second edition called "The Tithing Dilemma."

Thankfully, through the publication of those booklets (more than 100,000 copies of those booklets were printed), thousands of people were released from the bondage placed upon them where ministers wrongly used the beautiful teachings of the word of God to force people to give them tithes.

So let's be clear and in this regard, I will quote from my father's work (who passed away in 2002) to be clear on this issue, which is a very serious one and deserves careful consideration.

"The Tithing Doctrine

Tithing is a biblical law that God intended Israelites to keep. But so were the biblical laws concerning the sacrificing of animals. Does this mean that Christians today are expected to sacrifice animals in their
churches (rather than on an altar in a temple at Jerusalem) because such rituals were once ordained in the Bible? Most Christians would not think those Old Testament laws are obligatory for Christians today -and the Bible shows they are no longer required.
Tithing, however, has been looked on differently, especially by certain Christian ministers who need a ready supply of money to operate their organizations. It is often argued that God still demands tithing and that a person who does not give a tenth of his income for the maintenance of a Christian ministry is robbing from God. Ministers, however, ought to know better. Any preacher who studies the Bible should be well aware that there is not the slightest biblical authority to sustain such beliefs. The tithing laws of the Bible are no more valid today for Christians than the offering of animal sacrifices. Even if the tithing laws were in force, Christian ministers would still not have any authority from God to use a penny of such tithe for their ministerial functions. This is because the tithe was ordained by Moses to be paid only to the Levites (a tribe of ancient Israel that was responsible for maintaining priestly functions in the ritual system of the nation). From the time of Moses onward, the Bible makes it clear that Israelites were to pay their tithe to a group of people called the Levites who (among other things) ministered in the temple (Num.18:21).

"And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service of the tabernacle of the congregation."

It was made abundantly evident that the biblical tithe was to be paid to the tribe of Levi. Since the time of Moses, no one else has had the slightest authority to receive that tithe. Even Christ Jesus, while he was teaching on earth, did not use (nor demand) a penny of biblical tithe to fund his preaching activities or those of his apostles. After all, our Lord was descended in an adoptive way from Judah (Hebrews 7:14). He was not a Levite. This made him ineligible to receive the biblical tithe that was ordained for Levites at the time of Moses.

    The central fact was this: Only members of the tribe of Levi were commissioned in the Bible to receive the tithe (the tenth). The Levites in turn were to give one tenth of the tithe to the priests (Numbers 18:25-28) who did not tithe at all. In this modern time, however, even Levites and Priests are disqualified from receiving any biblical tithe for their use because there is no official body of men functioning as Priests or Levites in a temple at Jerusalem." (The Tithing Dilemma, Ernest L. Martin - Foundation for Biblical Research: Pasadena:CA:1974)

This was exactly how the Pastor General and the ministers in the World Wide Church of God looked at tithing and this is exactly how hundreds of ministers today who open up Malachi 3 in pulpits all over the world and tell their flocks that they are thieves is they do not tithe.

"Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions." (Malachi 3:8)

This is a powerful text used in the hands of a religious authority. However, when we look at the whole counsel of God, we find that this issue is not so easy to understand.

This is what my father came to discover in his academic pursuits. He relays one story how after contacting three Rabbis, they independently of each other, informed him that adherents to Judaism today, who have the Old Testament (the Hebrew Bible) as their sacred scripture, DO NOT TITHE!

If modern believers in Judaism are not required to tithe, one wonders how Christian preachers have come to believe something else? Here is what my father noted concerning his learning the truth of this point.

"Jewish theologians are well aware that only Levites have the right to receive the biblical tithe from the people. After all, they have the Old Testament as their Scripture and that is what it commands. In regard to
this, it may be profitable to relate an event that happened to me over thirty years ago. A letter had been given to me for answering. It was from a woman who heard that modern Jews were not tithing. She wanted to know whether the information was true, and if so, why the Jews violated the plain laws of the Bible which spoke of tithing as a law to be obeyed?
Having read her letter, I began to share her concern. To resolve the matter I telephoned three different rabbis in the Los Angeles area for their explanation. Much to my dismay, all three of them, independently of each other, informed me that no religious Jew should tithe today. I was startled at their replies. ...     By the time I spoke with the last rabbi, my youthful indignation was beginning to show at what I considered to be their flagrant violation of biblical law. But the rabbi very wisely began to show me my ignorance -not his -in the matter of tithing. First, he admitted that none of his congregation paid one penny of tithe that was demanded in the Old Testament. He said: "If any member of my synagogue paid tithes in the scriptural manner, he would be disobeying the law of God." I was staggered by his answer. He went on to inform me that since the Bible demands that the tithe be paid only to Levites, it would be a sin to pay them to anyone else. Further, because there is now no official Levitical order of Priests ministering at a temple in Jerusalem, he said it was illegal in this modern period to pay any biblical tithe. He went on to say, however, that the moment a temple is rebuilt, with a consecrated altar, and with the priesthood officiating at that altar (with Levites there to assist them), then every Jew who lives in the tithing zones mentioned in the Bible would be required to tithe according to the biblical commands.

    This teaching was a revelation to me (as it may be to some of our readers). The rabbi gave the proper biblical answers. There is no ordained Levitical priesthood in existence today. To pay the biblical tithe to anyone else but the Levites, or to pay it to Levites and Priests without them functioning in their regular ordained offices, would be sin both to the giver and the receiver of the tithe. The rabbi told me: "If we are to obey the law, we cannot pay tithe unless we pay it to the ones ordained by God to accept that tithe when they are performing their sacred duties."

    The rabbi explained that though he was the chief rabbi of his synagogue, he was not a Levite. He said he was descended from the tribe of Judah and was thereby ineligible to receive tithe. This same disqualification applied even to Christ Jesus while he was on earth since he was reckoned as having come from the tribe of Judah. This same restriction was applicable to the activities of the apostle Peter (because he was also from Judah) and the apostle Paul (because he was from Benjamin). Neither Christ nor those apostles were Levites so they were disqualified from receiving any part of the biblical tithe. It is just that simple.

    The rabbi went on to say that the activities of his synagogue were financially supported through the  adoption of the "patron system by its members. That is, families would buy seats in the synagogue for various prices each year. The rabbi mentioned that many of his congregation paid more than a tenth of their income to get the better seats in the synagogue. The money to buy those seats was not, however, the biblical tithe. ... This is because the money is paid to the synagogue and not to an ordained Levitical priesthood.

    The rabbi (in everything he said) was correctly interpreting the teaching of the Holy Scripture. While many Christian ministers today teach that Christians may be in danger of missing salvation itself if they do not pay tithes to the church, Jewish rabbis know better than to say such a thing. They realize that it is biblically improper (actually, it is a blatant disobedience to the laws of the Bible) for anyone to pay or to receive the biblical tithe today. And any minister or ecclesiastical leader who uses the biblical tithe today is an outright sinner in the eyes of God." (ibid.)

These are strong words, and they are as needed today as when my dad first wrote them in 1974 because I have been in many, many churches in my life and most of them demand tithing.

These are just several of the most relevant points raised by my father and he comprehensively addressed every point about tithing and showing that there is great abuse among Christian ministers today concerning this issue. For interested parties, this book, "The Tithing Dilemma" is available through most bookstores.

So, how would Church Two be different?

1. There would be no legal system for giving, it would be based on love.

2. Those who were blessed more with financial means would give more.

3. Those who were poor or in need of assistance would be helped by the community in a way that was dignified and designed to help them in a family oriented way. Of course, assistance would be given with the expectation that someone being helped would also need to do their part to seek a more sustainable circumstance. In some cases, this might not be possible, but most situations of this case also allow for the introduction of social assistance from the governmental sector to which the Christian community could also offer assistance.

4. The religious institution would be accountable for the funds and strict checks and balances would be in place not allowing decision making over funding issues to be centralized under the decision of one person ever!

We'll continue this series talking next time about "Church Doctrinal Committees." 

Postscript on Tithing

I got this from a close friend who was well experienced in the whole tithing system of the World Wide Church of God.

The 1st tithe was 10% of gross, not net and was sent in to 'headquarters' read that... Herbert's private pocket [Rader said he was later classified as a 'corporate sole' (similar to the structure of the Catholic Church for example), so it indeed, go into his private pocket].

The 2nd tithe was to be privately saved for the individual in their account and used to attend the FOT [Feast of Tabernacles]

The 3rd tithe was every seventh year. This too, was to be sent into HQ supposedly to support needful widows and others. You may read 'and others' as those in HQ to spend as they wished. I know of one friend who had his toddler fall behind a car backing out of his driveway and had a goodly portion of her head crushed. When he went to the local minister for a few bucks, he only offered $50.

So much for 3rd tithe in that instance. [The toddler didn't die and ultimately came through as though nothing had happened].

I know of another case where a lady and friend whose husband had died. She could not afford heating for her small apartment and would come home from work to near freezing temps [he lived in NorthDakota at the time]. To survive, she simply crawled into bed soon after getting home and would stay there until ready to go to work the next day.)

Often missed in 'write ups' about church giving are the pleas by their ministers to 'give all you can'. WCG was great at that con. I personally know people who gave a house, generous portions of money from sales of their farms and other assets. Also, regarding the land Sabbath, I know of one 'prosperous' (and he was) farmer who lost his entire operation. He even had built a new house on his property and eventually that went down the tube as well. They lost all.

Regarding not working on the Sabbath, I know of one dear friend who waited to milk his cows until the sun went down on the Sabbath evening. He lost his entire herd of milk cows. This same man literally gave a large portion of his farm to WCG (I think 80 acres, maybe more... 160?). I personally flew to Pasadena and had a couple meetings with members of their legal staff to get the land back. That, of course, never happened, but they were considering it. (As a follow up corollary, the same man and family had an uncle die, and he inherited from him the same amount of land that was given away in addition to other financial benefits.)

I'd love to hear your comments on tithing


Brenda K. said...

Thank you so much for this. It answers numerous questions I have had about tithing. I am loving this series!

Anonymous said...

Another problem I have with churches who teach tithing is the wrongful use of the widow's mites - they rip it out of context in order to use her as an example of how to give, rather than an example of how the scribes were devouring widows' houses. George W. Greene did two videos on this topic ("The Truth About the Widow's Gift") You can find the links at the In Your Bible website. John MacArthur has also done a teaching on it called "Abusing the Poor".
It never ceases to amaze me how the church has so twisted the widow's mites and tithing issue when the rest of Scripture testifies of His love and concern for the poor...sad to say that the church is doing the very thing Christ condemned in the Scribes and Pharisees.