Thursday, May 31, 2012

Was The Widow's Mite A Tithe?

*NOTE: When the author renders the word 'Church' as shown here, he is referring to today's Main-Stream, Business Entity Institutional 'Church' System. When he renders the word church in all lower case lettering, he is referring to Christ's Authentic assembly a.k.a. house church, or an ekklesia, which He created and continues to build.

Mark 12:42-43, "And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. 43 And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:"

Deuteronomy 14:29, "And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest."

Deuteronomy 16:1, "And thou shalt rejoice before the LORD thy God, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are among you, in the place which the LORD thy God hath chosen to place his name there."

Deuteronomy 16:14, "And thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within thy gates."

Deuteronomy 24:19, "When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field, and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow: that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hands."

Deuteronomy 26:12,  "When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase the third year, which is the year of tithing, and hast given it unto the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled;"

Deuteronomy 26:13, "Then thou shalt say before the LORD thy God, I have brought away the hallowed things out of mine house, and also have given them unto the Levite, and unto the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all thy commandments which thou hast commanded me: I have not transgressed thy commandments, neither have I forgotten them:"

It has been been recently brought to my attention that there are those who believe that the widow mentioned in Mark 12:42-43 and Luke 21:2-3 was tithing when she threw in her two mites. The argument was that not only did she tithe, but the mites she cast in was a tithe of money. In our day and age, it is thought that no matter how poor an individual is, he or she is commanded to tithe. As we'll see further in this piece, the widow held a special place in God's view of one who is to be shown great favor. That being said, I'd like to observe several points which will show that the widow was exempt from tithing and what she was doing was giving all she had into the Temple treasury. Part of the treasury was set aside to be used to offset the expenses of constructing Herod's Temple.  This clearly wasn't part of a tithe for several reasons.

First: After witnessing the widow's generosity, the Lord was impressed enough to record this event in Scripture. He even gathered together His disciples to use her example as a lesson. But, was she tithing, or did she simply give an offering? An offering and a tithe are two distinctly different animals. The treasury and the storehouse, although virtually the same thing, had two distinct applications and purposes. The treasury bins in the temple courtyard, where all people gathered, were displayed so that the public could give an offering unto God without restriction. They believed that when the Temple was finished, perhaps God would come back down to Earth and deliver them from the iron fist of Rome.

The storehouse was a closed in area where no one but the Levite could enter in under the supervision of a priest. Malachi 3:10, "Bring ye (the priests) all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts,..." Nehemiah 10:38-39, "And the priest the son of Aaron shall be with the Levites, when the Levites take tithes: and the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes unto the house of our God, to the chambers, into the treasure house. 39 For the children of Israel and the children of Levi shall bring the offering of the corn, of the new wine, and the oil, unto the chambers, where are the vessels of the sanctuary, and the priests that minister, and the porters, and the singers: and we will not forsake the house of our God." Notice that the tenth of the tithe was distributed to the priest's chambers. But that tenth was always food. When the LORD God said, "that there may be meat in mine house," He wasn't talking about shekels. It was lamb chops and Matzo Ball soup. It wasn't treasure or money. It was food to be consumed by the priests. The treasury had different chambers for money.

The treasure house and storehouse are used interchangeably in the sense of storage, but when the priests got involved, only they could enter inside of the chambers, treasury and storehouse of the temple. The word chambers is used in the same manner. Actually there are only two Scripture that mention the word storehouse, the second being Luke 12:24. The word storehouses shows up only six times. These words are used within the context of storing something. In the case of the tithe, the storehouse and treasure house have the same application (storage) but held different manifests. One held money and treasures and the other stored food, a.k.a. the tithe. The treasury application is different once we see the intent of what is being stored. Unto and Into are different descriptive words telling us that one means outside and the other means inside. The average Israeli national was not allowed inside the storehouse or treasury. That was the Levite's and the priest's domain.

Notice here that the children of Israel did not go INTO the treasure house, but UNTO it. The Levites were the ones who shouldered the responsibility of actually entering inside. The priests watched as the Levite brought the tithes inside the chambers and treasure house. It's like if we brought donated clothes to the Starvation Army. We'd bring it unto one of their bins and drop the clothes into it and then leave. But, only the Starvation Army workers are allowed to bring it inside the Processing Storage Center where the clothes could be laundered and Processed to be placed on the rack inside one of their retail stores. The widow women couldn't cast in a money tithe since, in Israel at least, a money tithe was unheard of. The tithe was food and livestock, of which she possessed neither. So, based on our current understanding of the treasure house, were her two mites considered a tithe? Absolutely not!

Second: Apparently there are those who feel that I do not believe in 'giving.' Nothing could be further from the truth. Giving is an essential part of any Christian's life. The Scripture tells us that we are to give from what we have, not from what we have not. Also, giving and tithing are two separate activities. In Israel, anyone can give, but not everyone could tithe. Tithing had restrictions of what could be tithed and who could tithe. The tithe could only be Produce or livestock. These two items had to come from the seed of the land of Israel. For instance, fish could be given away as an offering, but not as a tithe. Why? Because fish are not derived from the seed of the land. An obvious point, but in case it hasn't occurred to us, fish swim in waterways. But, if a fisherman wanted to give a portion of his catch to the Temple, he'd be giving an offering. The same applies to a blacksmith who made special armor, weapons or tools. He could bring in a shield he made to add to the temple treasure. But, breastplates and bucklers could never be categorized as a tithe.

The first century church's concept of giving is much different than our modern day 'Church's perception. Today's Main-Stream Business entity Institutional 'Church' says, "Give until it hurts, and God will pour you out a blessing you can't hold." It would do us well to understand that the LORD was speaking to the priests in Malachi 3 when He said that. It doesn't magically apply to the New Covenant assembly (church). The Believer is to give according to what he has, not what he doesn't have. 2 Corinthians 8:12-15, "For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not. 13 For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: 14 But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: 15 As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack."

In Luke 3:11 we see John the Baptist preaching the same mantra. "He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise." The idea was to give in the spirit of kindness and equality to those in need (not want), not so God would rain down blessings upon us. We might as well change our names to 'Jacob,' the Monte Hall of his day. 'Let's Make A Deal' with God! Does God bless? Yes He does; in abundance. Does God bless us even though we can be ignorant of His intentions? Yes He does. But, to give to trip God into blessing us is folly because we are trying to manipulate God to act for our own benefit. We should give because we care; not because we lust after something or want God to grant us a favorable set of circumstances. The widow woman gave of all that she had with no thought of return. If she had an ulterior motive when giving those two mites, I doubt the Lord would have recorded it in Scripture. Yes, she gave of all that she had, but she needn't have. Others should have stepped up to meet her needs as commanded by Scripture.

Third: The widow woman didn't qualify to give a tithe. Why? Because she wasn't a farmer who owned land. She had no one and nothing. She is described as a "poor widow woman." When one owns land, one is not poor. Again, only Israeli land owners were commanded to tithe from the seed of the land within the borders of Israel. Levites tithed from what they received from the land owner. The priests never tithed. They only received tithes on behalf of the LORD. Nehemiah 18:26-28, "Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, When ye take of the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then ye shall offer up an heave offering of it for the LORD, even a tenth part of the tithe. 27 And this your heave offering shall be reckoned unto you, as though it were the corn of the threshingfloor, and as the fulness of the winepress. 28 Thus ye also shall offer an heave offering unto the LORD of all your tithes, which ye receive of the children of Israel; and ye shall give thereof the LORD’S heave offering to Aaron the priest."

Nowhere does it say that God commanded the priests to tithe. I can see where a misunderstanding could be derived when we read Malachi 3:8-10. It reads that the priests robbed God of tithes and offerings. Yes they did rob God of tithes and offerings. The thing is, they're not the ones who gave the tithe. They offered the tithe, which were given from the landowners of Israel. Actually, if we read Malachi 1:6 through 2:3 we'll find that the LORD wasn't talking about tithes and offerings given by the priests, but the quality of the sacrifices supplied by the Israeli land owner to the Levites, of which ten percent of those tithes went to the priests. The choices made by the priests of which animal was to be offered up, turned out to be sub par. The Levite did give the priests the best thereof, but the priests offered sickly, lame and blind animals from those which passed under the rod, whether good or bad. When they sacrificed these inferior beasts upon the altar, they were actually mocking God! They got sloppy and disenchanted with their duty as priests. They were offering up sick, and blind animals instead of the best thereof. God wanted the best offered up because they represented the Lord Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God. When God got angry at them He refused to accept these offerings and said He would spread dung on their faces. Let's read it:

"A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name? 7 Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible. 8 And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the LORD of hosts. 9 And now, I pray you, beseech God that he will be gracious unto us: this hath been by your means: will he regard your persons? saith the LORD of hosts. 10 Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought. I have no pleasure in you, saith the LORD of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand. 11 For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts. 12 But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible13 Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the LORD of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the LORD. 14 But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing: for I am a great King, saith the LORD of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen. 2:1 ¶ And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you. 2 If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the LORD of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart. 3 Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it." ~ Malachi 1:6 ~ 2:3.

Here we can plainly see that the LORD God is not pleased with the exploits of the priests. But this doesn't mean that the priests tithed. They offered up the tithes and offerings of the people upon the altar.

Forth: The widow was in a special group of people who were supposed to share in the blessings of the tithe. The other recipients were the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless (orphan). See Deuteronomy verses above. This group was exempt from the tithe for the same reasons why the widow was exempt. They didn't own land in Israel and couldn't derive a crop from the seed of the land. In the third and sixth years in the seven year tithe cycle, this group was to partake in the tithe all by themselves ~ Deuteronomy 26:12-13 (see above). As a matter of fact, when the harvest came around, it was a three month long event. It wasn't a situation where these people had to grab what they could over the weekend. God had Provided well for them. As I said before, anyone could give an offering, but not everyone was allowed to give a tithe. Money wasn't the tithe because God wanted to show His miraculous increase upon the land for the people. Without food, money doesn't hold it's value. We can't eat money! It's worthless without food.

The widow woman was giving an offering from a pure intent and without an ulterior motive. The Lord acknowledged that. The opposing argument given for the idea behind this article is that money was given as a tithe in the N.T. by virtue of the widow's kind act. As we've seen from Scripture, she didn't qualify to tithe as the tithe wasn't money, and she was just giving an offering. It seems today, that we've been either fed false traditions and pet doctrines or have conjured up our own assumptions on what the Bible teaches. This is why we are so confused most of the time. We need to earnestly study the Scriptures to see what God actually says before we form an opinion about doctrine. The two individuals who Prompted me to write this article assumed that the widow's story in the Mark 12 was an example of a widow who tithed and that the tithe was money in the N.T. I hope that this piece has dispelled this idea and belief among fundamentalists who try and wrangle a tithe from the poor widow women in their 'Church.' The other thought they accused me of is that I was spreading a None-Giving and Hoarding doctrine, which I have not and will not. We as believer's are to give to a need from what we have, but not from what we do not have. That's Bible! I hope I have explained myself adequately to them and others who might assume the same thing my two accusers have; and that the lessons offered in this blog can be a guide to the truth found in the Word of God on other topics as well. Thanks for visiting ChurchPros.

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