This blog is a follow-up to one of our messages regarding whether requiring a 10% tithe is Biblical and applicable to us today. To hear our teaching on the subject, check out the recording below:
If you look up the topic of tithing you will find many different perspectives and long blog posts for and against it. Why? Because the concept is a Biblical concept. It is even a part of the Law of Moses and is therefore clearly a command. So, it’s easy to understand why some even well-intentioned teachers consider it to be still applicable.
However, there are two main errors made by those who hold this view and teach this view that we need to discuss so that we don’t fall into the same trap on this issue or others in the future. It really comes down to understanding the Word of God and making sure we apply it to our lives accurately.
Prescriptive or Descriptive?
One of the most important things we should consider when attempting to apply Scripture to our lives is the intent of the passage itself. Now we want to be careful not to ascribe intent to an author when the intention isn’t given. However, I’m talking about the grammatical structure. What is it communicating in how it is written?
All Scripture is either Prescriptive or Descriptive. Prescriptive means it is giving or prescribing teaching or commands that are to be obeyed. Descriptive means that it is describing events that occurred or the actions of others in relation to those events.
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
This verse in Romans 15 reminds us that everything in Scripture is instructive to us in some way. The context, of course, is that it gives us hope because of Christ and His work. 2 Timothy 3:16 echos this thought by telling us that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (ESV)
However, we must be careful to read and apply Scripture as it was intended. If the passage is descriptive, we can learn about God or others and the results of their actions. We can gain instruction that informs us of general truths or principles to help us in our Christian walk. However, we cannot take a descriptive passage as a command for how we should live especially when applying it to others via teaching or preaching.
On the flip side, we cannot take a prescriptive passage and simply assume that it is a suggestion that we can follow if we feel like it or discard if we disagree with it. Commands were often given to specific people for a specific purpose. However, we should carefully evaluate if those prescriptive passages apply to us today and if so, obey them.
When it comes to this issue of requiring a 10% tithe, the passages used to support the idea outside the Law of Moses are mostly descriptive passages. They describe what individuals did or they describe a theological concept without a clear command. We must be very careful not to misapply descriptive Scriptures as prescriptive.
You Assume Too Much!
The second error that is often made in improper application of Scripture is the error of assumption. We touched on this briefly in the message but I want to go through several false assumptions that drive the thinking behind the requirement of a 10% tithe for believers today. These assumptions are often in play when Scripture is misapplied, so we need to be on guard against this type of thinking and teaching to ensure we do not mishandle the Word.
These are somewhat lengthy to deal with so I’ll take the next 3 blog posts to discuss them:
Rightly Handling God's Word
It is of utmost importance that we handle the Word of God correctly. Part of that process includes setting aside our assumptions and potentially even teaching we have been given and evaluating Scripture for what it says, not what we want it to say or what we have been told it says.
In the sermon, we looked at 6 questions that we should ask when seeking to apply a passage of Scripture to our lives. I’ve listed them below in the hopes that they help guide you to a deeper and more accurate study and application of God’s Word.
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
- What does Scripture actually say?
- To whom is it written and what is the historical context?
- What is the textual context of the specific verse(s)?
- What is the stated purpose of the command/example, if given?
- Are there any Scriptures that negate our understanding of this command or example?
- If number 5 is true, are there any principles from the command/example we can find that are supported by other Scriptures?