From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. (Malachi 3:7-9, ESV)
Part 1, last month, closed with two questions, the first being the subject of this article:
Have taxes taken the place of the tithe?
If taxes are fees imposed by governments and if tithes are God’s will for giving and support of the church as revealed in Holy Scripture, do taxes and tithes overlap in some way leaving the scriptural foundation for the tithe on shaky ground? After all, during the time of the writing of the books of the law (c. 1450 bc), where God reveals the tithe as His standard for giving, the wandering Hebrew people do not have a government apart from their religious leaders, or taxes as we know them today. In those days, the people were overseen by appointed judges, a practice begun under Moses (Exodus 18:1-26), and God was their king.
Later, in the last days of the judge Samuel (c. 1050 bc), the people of Israel demanded that a human king be appointed over them so they would be like other peoples. Along with stern warnings that kings will fleece the people, God instructed Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.”(1 Samuel 8:7) Thus we learn that for the Hebrew people, their government, its taxes, and other demands go back to a choice made by the people.
Finally (c. 435 bc), we read in the last book of the prophets, God exhorting His people to, “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” (Malachi 3:10) Through this brief review of selected scriptures we may discern that taxes are probably best thought of as an ordinary cost of living in a particular jurisdiction, the result of a choice, and not a substitute for the tithe which God has consistently asked of His people.
For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. (Malachi 3:6)
Stay tuned for the final installment next month, where I will address the question:
Are taxes the same as ,“the portion the locust have eaten?”