The basic principle of New Testament giving is seen within the Old Testament, but the church does not take its pattern from the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, the tithe went to the priesthood. In the New Testament, every believer is a priest. We are a holy priesthood because we are in Christ. He is our High Priest, so does He get the tithe? If that is the pattern, do the priests get the tithe? Where should we bring our money? The Old Testament said to bring it into the storehouse. Where is the storehouse today? You can't be honest with the Word of God and say that the church is the storehouse. These are all questions without answers if we try to bring Old Testament order over into the New Testament.
We cannot find Jesus or any of His disciples or the writers of the New Testament speaking to the church about tithing. Any time tithing is mentioned, it is associated with the old order and never with the new way of life. Some try to bring tithing over into the "church" with its memberships, so that its program might be supported. Most people want to belong to something, so they satisfy that desire by joining a group, rather than realizing they must be born into the family of God. We must know our place in the body of Christ by faith, and then go on to move in life. We can never satisfy God's heart in the dead letter of the law. The law was never designed to give life, but to bring us to a knowledge of our need.
Circumcision was not a part of the law, and neither was tithing. They were a pattern for a time, to reach fulfillment in Christ. The Christian is not required to be circumcised, nor is he required to tithe, because both of these were types that foreshadowed realities to come, and Christians live in these realities today. God did not bring any of the old over into the new. The law or "the letter" was never given to bring life, so it is important for us to see the truth which will set us free, allowing us to move out of the letter, out of types, into God's life. We don't need a program taken from God's old working to build God's kingdom in the new. Even though the old may seem better for a moment, it can never take the place of moving in the reality of love, out of the life God has given us in Christ. The old could make nothing perfect (Hebrews 7:11), but the new covenant brings us to fullness in Christ Jesus. We now have a Mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises (Hebrews 8:6).
Let us look briefly at the principle of giving in the Old Testament. In Exodus 35:21, we get a glimpse of what God later set forth in the New Testament. "And they came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing, and they brought the Lord's offering to the work of the tabernacle of the congregation, and for all His service, and for the holy garments." A spirit made willing is what we want to see today. God is not building a natural building in this day; He is building a spiritual building out of spiritual members. The so-called "church" has fallen a long way from what God designed it to be. There still is only one way to build in God, and that is God's way. There is a spiritual principle in this, if God's children want to find it. We cannot look to man; we must look to God. We can't look to the Old Testament; we must look to the New.
Jesus did give us direction for our giving, if we have ears to hear it. Mark 12:42-44, containing the story of the widow's mite, gives us insight into the life (or love) principle of giving. Jesus called His disciples to Him and pointed out that it was not a tithe that pleased God or satisfied His command, but the all that the widow gave. Just as God gave all, this same life working through and in us will never find peace in the Holy Ghost except when we give all as He directs us. Luke's account of this same widow's mite gives further witness to the equality of God. Jesus drew attention to His principle of giving, and He never set forth or mentioned the tithe as the New Testament pattern. You may question as many do, saying, "Has God ever done away with the tithe?" We must answer, "Yes." In Christ all things are new.
Luke 5:36-39 (NASV) says, "And He was also telling them a parable: No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment, otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins, otherwise the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new, for he says, The old is good enough." This is enough to tell us that the old will not work in the new. Life is altogether different from the law, and only the spiritual person can comprehend God's demands. They are spiritually discerned; they are withheld from the natural mind.
The Spirit brings us back, through the writings of Paul, to one of the life principles in giving. It is the Lord's divine law of sowing and reaping. II Corinthians 9:6, "Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully." Also, God's equality of return is different from man's. II Corinthians 8:14-15, "At this present time your abundance being a supply for their want, that their abundance also may become a supply for your want, that there may be equality; as it is written, 'He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little had no lack.'"
II Corinthians 9:7 plainly tells us how to give, and the amount to give--this being in the life principle: "Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give, not grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver." God's life principle has always been a freewill offering from the heart. Paul could never have given this exhortation if God's pattern was giving a set amount or a certain demand such as a tithe. He goes on in verses 8-12 to show us God's faithfulness in multiplying His blessing to us, as we allow God to use us as a channel for His righteousness to be established. All of our expression of His life will bring thanksgiving and praise to our Father above. It will also show our subjection to Christ, who is our life. II Corinthians 8:9 shows us what real love will do. Christ is our example of God's love expressed. If we possess this life, we will give forth the same expression of that life.
Hebrews 9:9-10 speaks about the "more perfect way." It tells us that all the sacrifices and carnal ordinances, all kinds of different rites, could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience. Verse 10 tells us that all of these were "until the time of reformation." We see in Hebrews 10:5-9 that the old was not what pleased God (verse 6). From the beginning, God's purpose was to indwell man and express His life in and through man. Verse 9 tells us that Jesus had a body prepared that He might do the will of God. Jesus "taketh away the first, that He may establish the second." Verse 20 plainly tells us that we have a new and living way. Then in verse 24, the living way is to "consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works."
In the new, all is by faith. There is no other way to please God or to be a partaker of God's promises. The Word tells us that without faith we cannot please God, and that faith comes by hearing God. As with all else, giving must be in our walk of faith--and walking by faith means hearing God. Faith in God is life. With God, "to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams" (I Samuel 15:22). Obedience to what? To a set of rules, or to God's voice? Even the children of Israel wanted God to instruct them through someone else, and did not want to hear God for themselves. Could this be why most of the "church" has fallen back on the old order to support its program? It uses tithing as a crutch, relieving its members of the necessity of hearing God for themselves.
Jesus said He did not come to destroy the law; He came that the law might be fulfilled. Every demand of the law has been met by Christ. So we can see that to try to bring any of the old over into the new will only bring death. Again, the one principle in the new order is life--that which is born out of our relationship with God in the Spirit. One of the important reasons for settling this matter of tithes is that if we try to put new wine into old bottles, both will be lost. Giving of tithes works death rather than life. We must always remind one another that the way of the church is life.