I have to give myself a "Duh!" rating of 10 for a statement I made in the last Shoveletter, where I wrote: "Why is the tithe not even once mentioned after Jesus rose from the grave?". The fact is that there IS a reference to the tithe in Hebrews 7. Not only did I know about those verses, but I had planned to use it in the continuation of this subject, for the passage actually helps to ESTABLISH my point regarding the tithe. What I'm saying is that there is STILL no mention of tithing as if it is a carry-over into the reality of Christ. How I came to word it as if maybe these verses didn't exist is beyond me, especially in view of its significance! Please accept my apologies. DUH!! :)
The whole chapter of Hebrews 7 (included at the bottom) is a historical commentary of the only recorded instance (that I know of) where a tithe - or tenth part - was given before the Law. The real question here is: WHY was this story about Abraham's tithe brought up at this point in the letter? Another question, just as interesting, is: Why did God have this strange account inserted into the record in the first place? Check it out.
And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said, 'Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.' And he gave him a tenth of all. Genesis 14:18-20
[In case you didn't know, "Abram" was Abraham's original name before God changed it.]
If you were to read through the story in Genesis, this short piece seems to come out of nowhere, and then disappear just as quickly. I'll bet it was somewhat of an oddity among the rabbis as they debated and argued their various interpretations of the Scriptures, especially in view of this verse written by David:
The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind, 'You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.' Psalm 110:4
Do you realize how the writer of Hebrews must have shaken many of the Jews by capitalizing upon this mysterious little piece of info? I think it would be akin to discovering years later that the irritating bump in your mattress was actually a hidden stash of money.
Keep in mind that everything written in Hebrews is a comparison/contrast between Christ and the Law. The whole letter was written to show that Christ is SUPERIOR to the law in every way possible. Now, ask yourself this question: What is the significance of the meeting of Melchizedek and Abraham? Or you might better ask: How does what Abraham did show the superiority of Christ over the Law?
You see, it's in Hebrews that we get the clearest understanding of how the things of the Law are but a SHADOW of the reality that came through Christ (see Hebrews 10:1). The fact that tithing is discussed in Hebrews lends credence to the reality of its passing. Why? Because the whole narrative was designed to show the inferiority of the priesthood of the old covenant in comparison to the priesthood of Christ. For the point of Abraham's 10% gift to Melchizedek is found in the fact that since Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek, the priesthood of the old covenant also paid these tithes.
Consider it like this. If your family had gained control of all the commerce in the city and forced everyone to pay 10% dues, your power over that city would be unquestioned. Now, if it had been discovered that YOUR grandfather had honored MY grandfather with a 10% gift BEFORE your family power was established, then MY family would be shown to be the superior. Got it?
You see, the "shadow" priesthood may have RECEIVED tithes, but the fact that they had already PAID tithes to another priesthood OUTSIDE their "ordained by God" system proves that Christ is far superior in mediating between God and the people.
You know, the more I read this I can't see any kind of a reference to the assumed basis of a continued practice of tithing after the manner of Abraham. Of course, if one were to insist upon it then we have a little bit of a conflict. I mean, the one and only mention of Abraham's giving of a tenth has to do with the spoils of a justified, but very violent war with the armies of 5 kings. So, if there is a pattern here, does that mean we should go out and wage a war so that we can give a tenth of the booty? Do you see the problems with the misapplication of Bible verses?
Why was the writer of this letter making every comparison possible between Christ and the Law? Isn't it obvious by how the letter was written, that the Hebrews - who considered themselves to be following Christ - were actually falling back to the Law in every way possible? The point of Hebrews (all the way through it) is that if the Law had been unalterable, then FAR GREATER attention was due to the one who FULFILLED that Law.
Do you understand that using Christian terminology, observing Christian practices, or taking a stand for Christian principles might only be a facade of the desperate struggle to live by your performance? Should you think that I am suggesting something unusual, I would simply draw your attention to the reasons why most of the letters in the New Testament Bible were written in the first place. There is only one rationale behind what has been brought to pass in Christ, and it is Christ Himself. Why do we keep trying to establish Christian reasons to replace Christ? The truth of the tithe is simply this: in Christ, WE are the tithe!
Next time I'll have something to say about "the giving of our substance".
For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham apportioned a tenth part of all the spoils, was first of all, by the translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace. Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually. Now observe how great this man was to whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth of the choicest spoils. And those indeed of the sons of Levi who receive the priest's office have commandment in the Law to collect a tenth from the people, that is, from their brethren, although these are descended from Abraham. But the one whose genealogy is not traced from them collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed the one who had the promises. But without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater. In this case mortal men receive tithes, but in that case one receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives on. And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him. Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also. For the one concerning whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests. And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life. For it is attested of Him, "YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK." For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. And inasmuch as it was not without an oath (for they indeed became priests without an oath, but He with an oath through the One who said to Him, "THE LORD HAS SWORN AND WILL NOT CHANGE HIS MIND, "YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER"); so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever. Hebrews 7 (New American Standard Version)