By: Mikella Van Dyke
This time of year, I love to look at the Christmas lights. My family has a tradition where we all pile into the car and go to different neighborhoods to see what displays they have for Christmas. One time I saw the most beautiful lights on a house. It was magnificent. I began to think about the members of the household. Did they do their light display with Jesus in mind? Was their reason for the season Christ? It reminded me that people could light up their homes in extravagant ways for Christmas and not even know Jesus. We can do the right things and perform all the religious rituals and not have an actual heart change or a heart of repentance. We have no idea what is going on inside someone's actual house or their actual heart. Although God is concerned with our outward displays of obedience, He is much more concerned with our hearts. Outside the house, we might be brilliantly lit up, giving our money to the poor or volunteering our time. But what is our heart's posture? Tithing is a heart matter.
Whenever I tell my son Paxton a rule, he wants to know WHY. I assure him that the laws in our house have reasons behind them and explain to him that they are not void of meaning. It's tempting some days to brush him off in exhaustion and say, "just because." But, I typically want him to understand that my rules protect him, keep him safe, and are for his best. The rules in my house are indeed a benefit to him, just like the law was a benefit to Israel because it helped them know how to interact with God and others.
To understand the OT law, we must first understand what the law meant to an ancient Israelite. The law was given to Moses as instruction for the ancient Israelites under the Mosaic Covenant. The Israelites sought to obey these laws as they fled from captivity to the promised land. Many different types of laws were given to them, including the Israelite moral laws (10 commandments), and the civil and ritual laws, which are no longer binding for us today.
Many people are familiar with the ten commandments; God gave them to Moses on Mount Sinai. The ten commandments served as a guide to the Israelites for moral integrity. It helped the Israelites lead upright lives, and was part of the Covenant God made with the Jewish people. Moral laws are still applicable today because they show us the heart of God and His desire for holiness.
The civil and ritual laws were a gift to the ancient Israelites because, under the Old Covenant, it was the only way they could have a relationship with God. The people of Israel had to perform ritual sacrifices to receive atonement for their sins. These blood sacrifices were offered as a substitute for their sins, requiring a priest as their mediator. The law is still applicable for many reasons, but a primary reason is that: The law was given to reveal to us that we are sinners in need of a Savior.
But we know that the law is different today because we are under a New Covenant. We know that when Christ came, He fulfilled the law, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them (Matt. 5:17-20). He became the once and for all sacrifice for our sins. We are no longer under the Old Covenant, where we must make ritual sacrifices for our sins. It is by grace through faith that we are saved. Under the New Covenant, the Spirit leads us and helps us to follow God's heart in different matters. The Spirit helps us obey and changes our hearts to want what God wants.
In the New Testament church in Acts, we see people giving (Acts 20:35), and throughout the New Testament, it talks about the heart of a giver. (2 Cor. 9) Our offerings please the Lord. In the Old Testament, they had to give their first fruits and the best of whatever they had, crops or livestock, to the priests. We know the burden of the law does not apply to us anymore, but God talks about the heart in the New Testament. When we understand everything we have is God's, and we are just stewards of our resources, it changes what we do with our money. We received a new Heart by the power of the Holy Spirit. We joyfully respond to Christ in the pattern that was given to us with our best, our first fruits to God in tithe.
Tithe means 10 percent. This idea of "tithe" comes from the Old Testament and is a principle showing us that God loves a heart that gives.
The New Testament has a lot to say about giving, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matt. 6:21). We can follow the path of money spent to find where our hearts have been residing.
We understand throughout scripture that God loves a giving heart. We see passages all throughout the NT that allude to this, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill, and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former." (Matt. 23:23)
So although we are no longer under the burden of the law, and Christ has fulfilled the law, this is still a critical practice for us as New Testament believers. The scripture says that "for with such sacrifices God is pleased" (Heb. 13:16).