We must not put new wine in old wineskins.

By Femi Aribisala

When the Pharisees insisted that divorce was lawful because it was sanctioned by the Law of Moses, Jesus pointed out that Moses authorized divorce because of the hardness of Jewish hearts.  But from the beginning, it was not so.

This same principle applies to the issue of tithes and offerings.

God says in Malachi: “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this, if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground.” (Malachi 3:10-11).

This scripture was written because of the hardness of the heart of the Old Testament Jewish priesthood.  God knew the priests did not have the heart to give.  Therefore, he enticed them with blessings and threatened them with the scourge of the devourer.  But this is not God’s preferred way of getting people to do what he wants.

New creation

God enables righteousness in His people by giving them a new heart; a giving heart.  Therefore, if pastors continue to rely on Malachi to provoke members of their congregation into giving, it must be because they are convinced they do not have the new heart to give.

The new creation in Christ Jesus naturally knows the right thing to do because he loves God and his neighbour.  Nobody should have to arm-twist a Christian to: “Honor the LORD with (his) possessions, and with the firstfruits of all (his) increase.” (Proverbs 3:9).  Nobody twisted even Abraham’s arm to make him give a tithe of his spoils of war to Melchizedek.  He did it of his own free will.

The establishment of a law implies the existence of lawbreakers.  Paul says: “The law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners.” (1 Timothy 1:8).  Therefore, when so-called pastors make it a law to pay tithes and give offerings, they spoil the members of their churches for the gospel.

It means they have already determined that their members are lawbreakers.  They have already concluded that they are hard-hearted and have not been redeemed into the righteousness of Christ: “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:4).

Christians are not under the law but under grace. (Romans 6:14).  Those under grace do nothing by compulsion but naturally: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10).  Those under grace are moved by the Holy Spirit; and: “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (2 Corinthians 3:17).

In the beginning

“It was not this way from the beginning.” (Matthew 19:8).  In the beginning, it was clearly stated that God is only interested in free will offerings.  He told Moses: “Take from among you an offering to the LORD. Whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as an offering to the LORD: gold, silver, and bronze.” (Exodus 35:5).

“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.” (Exodus 35:21).

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With this free will approach, the bible testifies that the people brought so much that they had to be restrained: “They spoke to Moses, saying, ‘The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work which the LORD commanded us to do.’ So Moses gave a commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, “Let neither man nor woman do any more work for the offering of the sanctuary.” And the people were restrained from bringing.” (Exodus 36:5-6).

Cheerful givers

This tradition of freewill offerings continues with the redeemed of the New Testament, making the threats and intimidations of Malachi inapplicable.  Accordingly, Paul says concerning offerings: “If there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.” (2 Corinthians 8:12).

Observe here that it is only accepted if there is first a willing mind.

Tithe refers to a tenth.  This is limiting.  Should I only plough a tenth of my field?  Should I only sow a tenth of my crops?  It is now up to the believer to decide.  How much you sow is determined by how much you want to reap.

So, Paul counsels: “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).

Someone who gives because he is afraid the windows of heaven will be shut against him if he does not, or that the devourer would be unleashed on him, can hardly be regarded as a cheerful giver.

Rather, he would be a fearful giver.  But the fearful are not of God: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18).

New wine

We must not put new wine in old wineskins.  The believer in Christ is not blessed because of his tithes.  He is blessed because of Christ.  He is blessed: “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3).

The gifts and the calling of God are without repentance.” (Romans 11:29).  That means they cannot be revoked.  The man who God has blessed cannot be cursed: “No curse can touch Jacob.” (Numbers 23:23).

“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” (Galatians 3:13-14).

Jesus says: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38).

This means the blessings that come from giving are now in the domain of men.  When you give, God causes men to give unto your bosom.  In which case, this dispensation is one in which men are required to sow into other men’s lives.  When you supply my needs, my God will cause others to supply your needs.

I once gave a Nigerian journalist hunted by Sani Abacha’s goons all the dollars I had to facilitate his escape out of the country.  When I did, the Lord said to me:

“Femi, I will make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8).

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