By Ross Gilbert
Traditions vary from country to country and culture to culture. Sometimes we don’t even know why we do these things and this is especially true in the church. Traditions by definition are not bad; they’re powerful motivators, often bred deep into our thinking, almost like a reflex. Traditions can be helpful aids to us if we remember that it’s not the tradition itself that’s important, but the reason the tradition exists in the first place.
Hebrews 13:8 tells us to remember those who led us and taught us about God, to consider how they lived, and to imitate their faith. We might expect the writer to encourage us to follow the traditions and behaviours of those leaders, but instead, we are encouraged to live in dependence on God as they did.
Traditions are to remind us to trust in God.
The danger comes when we instead begin to put our trust in the actions of the tradition, and believe that if we follow a certain set of commands or traditions we will be fine, but if we don’t, then God won’t be pleased with us and will withhold His blessings from us. Perhaps, the teaching in the church where we see this most is with giving; when Christians are instructed to tithe ten percent of their income to the church.
Much of the teaching in the church today on the subject of tithing, is carryover from the Old Covenant. The book of Malachi tells us that the nation of Israel was not trusting God to provide for them as He had promised, and therefore, were taking matters into their own hands. God challenged them to trust Him by following His command to bring their tithes for the Levites and watch how He would provide for them.
The Old Covenant was dependent upon man’s ability to keep the commands, whereas the greatness of the New Covenant is that Jesus Christ came to live inside us to fulfill the requirements of it. The Old Covenant had six hundred and thirteen commands; the New Covenant has only one. 1 John 3:23 tells us, “This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.” You see, on the matter of tithing, any possible obligation ended when you were crucified with Christ and died to the Law. And, if tithing supersedes the New Covenant, meaning it exists today above and beyond the New Covenant, then it leads us to ask what else we need to do? It means we are left with a covenant agreement with God that is not defined, and therefore, we have no assurance that our standing before God is secure. God can only require of us what He has included in the New Covenant, and what He requires is that we trust Him and love others.
Scripture teaches us two reasons to give. First, we’re to help others who are in financial need. In 2 Corinthians 8:8-14, Paul asked the Gentile churches to help support their Jewish brothers who were suffering for their faith in Christ. For us today, I believe this means helping our friends and family, neighbours, and even someone living across the ocean who we’ll never meet.
Father has provided for us,
which allows us to be a part of His
provision for others.
Secondly, we’re to share with those who teach us the word of God. Galatians 6:6 says, “The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him.” And 1 Corinthians 9:11-14 tells us that those who teach you the word of God serve a role that is similar to those of the Levitical priests, and it is proper for us to bless them in response to how they have blessed us. Today, I believe this is best expressed through giving to your local church and those who teach you. You come to church each Sunday, and are faithfully taught the powerful and beautiful message of the New Covenant which leads to healing, freedom and hope. But it does not come without a financial cost, and those costs are to be paid for with the free will donations of those who attend the church. The key being “free will”.
There is also a beautiful blessing that comes with giving. Writing to the Philippians to acknowledge their gift to him, Paul shares that he was excited about the gift, not because of what it meant to him but what it meant for them. By giving to Paul they were sharing in his ministry and had become partners in ministering together, meaning what was credited to Paul as a reward for his faithful service, was also being credited to the church in Philippi.
When we give, we are joining a work that is bigger
a work that is changing countless lives.
We see from Scripture that we are to give financially, but we can’t forget the difference between tithing and giving. Tithing was a mandated amount required to be given under the Old Covenant, whereas the New Covenant is about free will giving, void of obligation and given in any amount that Father leads. Galatians 5:1 tells us that it was for freedom that we were set free, which means in this case, we are free from the Old Covenant tithing system, and are now free to give with an attitude of cheerfulness, not compulsion; we give as Father leads.
Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; as it is written,
“He scattered abroad, he gave to the poor,
His righteousness endures forever.”
Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God. 2 Corinthians 9:7-12