“Who Has Bewitched You?” – Part 5
The Gospel teaches that God justifies us by faith. The word ‘justify’ means to declare that someone is righteous, in right-standing, or made right with God.
“For I am not ashamed of the Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes–the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in His sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” (Romans 1:16-17)
Monetary ‘tithing’ opposes this Good News message, because it leads some Christians to feel like they have to pay 10% of their income to a religious organization in order to be justified or right with God. This can breed self-righteousness, which is an attitude that we can make ourselves right with God by doing things for Him.
God has shown us a way to be made right with Him without keeping the requirements of the law of Moses, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are (Romans 3:21-22).
If you are relying on monetary ‘tithing’ to make you righteous and justified before God, then you are not relying on God’s unmerited favor in Jesus Christ.
The tithing laws were never meant to justify anyone, but to provide food for the nation of Israel. God never intended for the tithing laws to be a means of justifying New Covenant Believers — it is not even possible for us to keep the tithing laws today.
The purpose of the Old Covenant law was to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law of Moses commands. The law of Moses simply shows us how sinful we are (Romans 3:9-20).
Monetary ‘tithing’ sometimes leads to elitism. Elitism is a prideful attitude that one is spiritually-superior to fellow Christians. I myself have been on the receiving end of Christians talking down to me as if I am “not on their level” because they practice monetary ‘tithing’ and I don’t.
In Matthew 23, Jesus used the scribes and Pharisees as an example of elitism and told His disciples not to be prideful and arrogant, but to have an attitude of humility. Yet some Christians who practice monetary ‘tithing’ have their noses in the air and puff out their chests, thinking that they are ‘more obedient to God’ or ‘more blessed’ than Christians who do not practice monetary ‘tithing.’
Whether we practice monetary ‘tithing’ or not, being a religious snob is not the mind of Christ or the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23; Philippians 2). Paying 10% of your income to a religious organization does not make you spiritually-superior to other Christians. Nor does NOT ‘tithing’ make you spiritually-superior to Christians who DO practice monetary ‘tithing.’
All of us ought to be humble and think of one another as better than ourselves. Who are we to think that we are spiritually-superior to a fellow Christian? None of us have arrived yet. For everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in His undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous by faith. There is no room for elitism at the foot of the Cross. We all stand on equal-footing before God and need His grace every hour.
Monetary ‘tithing’ nor any other practice makes us right with God. God made us right with Him through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed His life, shedding His blood (Romans 3:23-25).
Monetary ‘tithing’ often leads to self-righteousness. And self-righteousness often leads to boasting. Some Believers boast in their adherence to monetary ‘tithing.’ When they receive blessings, they pat themselves on the back and say that God blessed them because they ‘tithed.’ They give themselves the credit and the glory, rather than testifying of God’s goodness.
Romans 3:27-28 says “Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law of Moses. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law of Moses.” The blessings we receive are because of God’s gracious gift of salvation, and not because of the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it (Ephesians 2:8-9). None of us can boast in anything except the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 6:14).
What did Abraham discover about being made right with God? If his good deeds had made him acceptable to God, he would have had something to boast about. But that was not God’s way. For the Scriptures tell us, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned. But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners (Romans 4:1-5).
There are religious leaders out there (especially in the prosperity/word of faith movement) who claim that you have to ‘tithe’ in order to receive God’s promises. This is not true. God’s promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was based not on his obedience to the law of Moses, but on a right relationship with God that comes by faith. If God’s promise is only for those who obey the law of Moses, then faith is not necessary and the promise is pointless. The law of Moses always brings punishment on those who try to obey it, so the promise is not based on obedience to the law of Moses, but by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s (Romans 4:13-16).
Some may argue that if we are no longer under the law of Moses, but under faith, then does that mean we can keep on sinning? God forbid! We have died to sin, and our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. Therefore we do not let sin control the way we live. Instead, we give ourselves completely to God and live a new life by the power of the Holy Spirit. Sin is no longer our master, and we no longer live under the requirements of the law of Moses. Instead, we live under the freedom of God’s grace. This freedom is not freedom to sin, but freedom to be a servant of righteous living. Since Jesus broke the power of sin in our lives and made us alive with His Holy Spirit, we now have power to do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life (Romans 6).
We died to the power of the law of Moses when we died with Christ. And now we are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God. When we were controlled by our old sinful nature, the desires of our flesh were at work within us, and this produced a harvest of sinful deeds resulting in death. But now that we have been released from the law of Moses, we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law of Moses, but in the new way of living in the Spirit. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God (Romans 7).
Does this mean that the law of Moses is sinful? Of course not! The law of Moses showed the children of Israel how sinful they were. The law of Moses itself is holy, right, and good — but sin used what was good to bring about condemnation to death. So the law of Moses actually revealed how terrible sin really is — sin uses God’s good commands for its own evil purposes. So the trouble is not with the law of Moses, but with our own sinful desires. And so Jesus came to do what the law of Moses could not do — set us free from the power of sin and give us new life that produces righteousness (Romans 7).
The law of Moses brought condemnation, because everyone sinned. But now, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law of Moses could not do. He sent His own Son in a body like ours. And in that body, God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving us His Son as a sacrifice for our sins. And now, anyone who believes in Him shall be saved, filled with the Holy Spirit, and set free to live a set-apart life through the power of the Spirit.
If we let the Holy Spirit guide our lives, then we won’t do what our sinful nature craves. And when we are guided by the Spirit, we are not under obligation to the law of Moses. The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to His Cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives (Romans 8, Galatians 5:16-25). Living by the law of Moses brings curses and condemnation (Deuteronomy 28:15-68). But living by faith and the power of the Holy Spirit leads to eternal life!~
Since we are justified by faith in the Son of God and no longer under the law of Moses, can we be “cursed with a curse”? Absolutely not! God redeemed us from the curse of the law. And if God is for us, who can ever be against us? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for His own? No one–for God Himself has given us right standing with Himself. Who then will condemn us? No one–for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. Can anything ever separate us from God’s love? I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love (Romans 8).
In the next article, we’re going to dive into 2 Corinthians which talks about the glory of the New Covenant. Thank you for reading with me.
Click here for the next article in this series.