The vacillation of the Christian community, as it concerns the law of God, especially in the area of economics, money and wealth, is very much like the vacillation of Israel in the days of Elijah (1 Kings 18:21). Too many Christians are not quite sure which God to serve, the God of Scripture or the god of the state. Those who are sure, still fail in the knowledge of exactly how to serve Him, and what the ultimate goal of that service is.
The majority of Christians are extremely diligent to pay tyrannical Caesar without hesitation for fear of the state, but when it comes to paying God, supporting and investing in His work, hesitation, coupled with excuses, seem to be the order of the day. This truth is fleshed out by their stewardship practices and the prioritization of their wealth.
You can tell a lot about an individual by the way he spends his money. Individuals and institutions will invest their money according to whatsoever their hearts desire. They will invest God-ward, or self-ward, depending on their belief structure, which includes their eschatological presuppositions. They will either be present-oriented or future-oriented. Either they will be motivated for self-satisfying ends, or they will be motivated generationally for the glory of God and the building of His Kingdom.
Your Money and Your Faith
When Jesus told the disciples that He had given them comprehensive power1 to tread down serpents and scorpions (Luke 10:19) He was referring to the legitimate sovereign authority of God conferred upon Christians as His ambassadors to overcome the temporal power of natural man's attempt to subvert the Kingdom's dominion effort. David Hall, in his book Calvin and Commerce, points out that economics, money, and wealth, flow from certain theological presuppositions.2 Monetary stewardship is therefore based upon a certain value judgments.
This means that if you hold to an economic theory which is not Biblically accurate, doctrinally and eschatologically, your stewardship will be both wrong and unproductive.
It may even be destructive and in the worst case, damnable. The principle is simple. Economic stewardship is based upon theological assumptions. In other words, the way you use money is directly proportionate to your religious beliefs. If you believe that God is the owner of all things, even and especially your personal wealth and riches, then a proper stewardship practice will be evident.
John Jefferson Davis comments about this:
The Bible makes it clear that God is the ultimate and original owner of all that exists. "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein" (Psalm 24:1). This is fundamental for any proper understanding of Christian stewardship.3
Rev. John Otis notes:
A steward is one who is responsible to manage the property of another. God is the owner of every square inch on earth ... What we have is by God's gracious hand ... God watches how we use wealth. Do we view it as something that belongs to us to use however we want (lover of money), or do we view wealth as something we have been given to carefully manage for God? It is God's wealth. That is the point. It really doesn't belong to us. We must be good stewards of God's wealth; we must be faithful in having that right attitude about it and how we are to use His money for His glory. This is an area where many people terribly fail.4
In his most excellent book Tithing and Dominion R. J. Rushdoony affirms, "The failure of ‘Christians' to tithe, their dereliction from the faith and from God's law, leaves us today with cities in which not only the slum-dwellers but the rich are a menace with their lawlessness."5
Economics is all about trade-offs and the Scriptures have much to say about it. Everything in life ultimately is an economic decision. Men trade one thing that they deem less important for another that they consider of greater importance. When it comes to investing in the Kingdom, self-denial and self-government is essential. As Rev. Otis has rightly observed, if there is any discipline where the Christian community has failed, it is in the area of economic stewardship. It is in this discipline where the battle for the advancement of the Kingdom really is won or lost.
Rushdoony again comments:
In any advanced social order, social financing is a major public necessity. The social order cannot exist without a vast network of social institutions which require financing and support. If a Christian concept of social financing is lacking, then the state moves in quickly to supply the lack and gain the social control which results. Social financing means social power.6
And so, these religious and theological assumptions will reap certain consequences-either good or evil, either productive or unproductive. They will be pleasing to God or they will be judged by God, as were the actions of the unprofitable servant in Matthew 25. Moses gives us clear direction as to how Christians are to steward their wherewithal.
We read in Deuteronomy 8:
But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day. And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish. As the nations which the LORD destroyeth before your face, so shall ye perish; because ye would not be obedient unto the voice of the LORD your God. (Deut. 8:18-20)
Notice the first part of this commandment: "But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God." Israel was always susceptible to forgetfulness, especially when it came to remembering God and His commandments. Moses is telling them that they are to remember Him. What are they to remember about Him? First, that He owns them. They belong to Him by virtue of His conquest over them in the face of their enemies. He owns them because He has liberated them. Because He is King, Lord and Redeemer, they are His possession. This means that He is also their legitimate Lawgiver, and He requires universal and comprehensive obedience to His stated law.
Moreover, as was already established, God owns everything that exists. Mankind is given permission to use God's creation, and it is for this reason that God claims His tithe as a tax for that use. God's tithe is actually a tax for the use of His earth and it is to be used for the development of a godly social order by prohibiting the state's encroachment upon the liberty of God's people. Since the state seeks to usurp the sovereignty of God, it violates its jurisdictional sphere-authority by expanding into a totalitarian messianic state. The tithe is to be used as a safeguard so that the state is forced to be limited in power and influence.
Tithing is the acknowledgement that the earth belongs to God and not to the state. It is the admission that property taxation in particular, by human government, is illegitimate since it is a claim that the state owns the land as creator and sovereign, and not God. The tithe belongs to the Lord and was commanded to be used in support of Biblical institutions, thus prohibiting the state from funding things which were out of its Biblical jurisdiction. Rushdoony explains:
The tithe was used for a variety of purposes. It supported the religious and educational institutions of Israel, and also of colonial and early America. In fact, in the United States the tithe was for many years legally binding on all men, and failure to pay it was a civil offense. The tithe supported churches, Christian schools, and colleges.7
Rushdoony goes on to explain, "State laws began to require tithes from the 4th century on, because it was believed that a country could only deny God His tax at its peril, and therefore the various civil governments required all their citizens to pay tithes, not to the state but to the church."8
In the verses of Deuteronomy 8, God commands Israel in the area of economic stewardship. He warns them to maintain their liberty, under God, by adhering to the law of the tithe. Moses says remember God "... for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth ..." (Deut. 8:18). Therefore, if an individual has any wealth, even if it is the simple widow's mite, it comes directly from God, and is placed in the individual's control, as a stewardship commission and a test of fidelity and trust.
But there is a caveat to this verse. God gives wealth for a very specific reason: "[T]hat he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day" (Deut. 8:18). Our money-and everything that we own, including intelligence, skill and knowledge-is to be stewarded for the express purpose of establishing and maintaining God's covenant Kingdom. The covenant in this case refers to land holdings so that God's people might take dominion possession over the earth for the glory of God, in conformity to the law of God.
The next verses are of particular importance.
19 And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish.
20 As the nations which the LORD destroyeth before your face, so shall ye perish; because ye would not be obedient unto the voice of the LORD your God.
Once the law of the tithe is neglected, destruction is forthcoming. In fact, it is promised. When we consider the principles concerning the tithe, we can divide them into three categories.
1. In Leviticus 27 God claims a tenth of all production as His and it is to be set apart for His use. This is sometimes called the Levitical Tithe. Rushdoony warns, "This tithe belongs to God, not to the church, nor to the producer. It cannot be given to an apostate church without being given thereby against God ... It must be given therefore to godly causes."9 This is important since we are held responsible as to how our money is used. We cannot simply give our money to a church or a ministry and think that we have done our part. We must be careful that our money is used properly by that institution in actually advancing the Kingdom.
2. The second tithe was called the "Festival Tithe" which was to be used in celebration for the goodness of God upon the people of Israel. We read of this tithe in Deuteronomy 14 and 16. The modern equivalent may be likened to yearly church conferences, or periodic celebrations of fellowship in thanksgiving to God. It was actually a ministry to the family.
3. The third tithe we might call a "carefully regulated social welfare tithe." It was not welfare as we see today in the United States. It was for the genuinely poor and needy. Funds for the poor and needy were monitored by the priests to protect God's money from being used improperly by giving aid to able-bodied individuals. Family welfare was the primary agency of welfare unless those who were poor and needy had no family affiliation. If there was no family to care for them, and they were a part of the congregation, the church would step in. As with tithes in general, this tithe in particular stripped the state of any involvement in relieving poverty, and kept a close watch on who was really needy and who simply wanted a handout as a result of laziness.
So why is the tithe so important and how does it relate to liberty? First, the tithe is an essential part of God's economic law structure. All law is covenant law, in that it has a certain structure to it. God's covenant model states that He alone is supreme, sovereign, and personally involved in His creation. It establishes His ownership and Lordship. It declares the Lord as transcending everything. The covenant model also shows that there is a hierarchy which places man under God and makes him directly responsible to God as his Lord. All covenant models have a law standard identifying good and evil, right and wrong, ethically acceptable or ethically unacceptable. Since God is the supreme King over all nations, these are the ethical values whereby men and nations must abide. God also attaches sanctions to His law stipulations. This is vital for us to understand. Whenever the covenant law structure is obeyed, there are blessings and benefits, but whenever the law structure is violated there are penalties. Blessing and cursing are all a part of God's covenant structure.
What Happens When Christians Tithe?
The law of the tithe is important because whenever it is neglected it essentially is negating God's claim of sovereignty. The result is God's curse which brings economic bondage and political tyranny upon society. We are facing a time where we have been sold into bondage as a result of Christendom's tithe violations. Whenever God's people fail to financially support the Kingdom's advancement, by way of faithful institutions, God sells them into bondage, and strips them of their wealth through oppressive statist taxation. Faithful tithing liberates a society. Rushdoony concurs.
If every true Christian tithed today, we could build vast numbers of new and truly Christian churches, Christian schools, and colleges, and we could counteract socialism by Christian reconstruction, by creating Christian institutions and a growing area of Christian independence.10
Christian reconstruction requires a substantial financial foundation. Rushdoony is correct when he states that if the Christian community fails to finance the work of God, the state will finance the work of humanism, at the expense of Christendom. On the other hand, proper giving of the tithe restores the necessary economic and spiritual basis for the social order to prosper. Proper giving is not, however, emotional giving. There are too many well meaning Christians who give emotionally or unknowingly to causes that are not Kingdom focused. To be Kingdom focused not only means having a faithful focus but also a generational focus. Kingdom focus is a targeted vision for something that is going to grow and strengthen throughout the next 100, 200, or even 500 years.
Rushdoony sets forth a very practical strategy: "What we must do is, first, to tithe, and, second, to allocate our tithe to godly agencies."11
I am often asked, "Should I give the entirety of my tithe to my church?" The answer to that is simple. If your church is faithfully teaching for the Kingdom's advance and if she is also establishing Kingdom-centered agencies with a generational impact then, yes, tithe to the church. In fact give over and above the commanded tithe by giving offerings and gifts. But if your church has failed in her commission, then you need to reconsider where you place your tithe and offerings. You never want to fund a godless agency no matter what it calls itself outwardly. Rushdoony warns, "Tithing in itself is not to the Lord if the tithe goes to ungodly, wasteful, or indifferently effective agencies. Thus, the Lord holds us accountable for our use of His money, just as He holds the receiver thereof fully accountable also."12
In order to prioritize our giving, Rushdoony gives one other very important piece of advice. He says that we must first care for our own families, and for our aged parents. If we are remiss in these things, then we are no better than the unbeliever:
The family is the world's greatest welfare agency, and the most successful. What the federal government has done in welfare is small and trifling compared to what families of America do daily, caring for their own, relieving family distresses, providing medical care and education for one another, and so on.13
One careful note here. We must never make the excuse that we cannot give what is due the Lord because we are caring for our families. This smacks of theft and the idolization of the family.
Perhaps these questions will assist in recalibrating Christians to become more diligent in funding the Kingdom Biblically.
1. Do you want to live under God's law or man's tyrannical law?
2. Do you want to live in a society that is every day becoming more and more wicked and more and more intolerant of anything holy, good, and just?
3. Do you want to live in a culture which forces its immorality on you and your children to the point where it becomes illegal-not only to worship God-but even to think His thoughts after Him?
All of this is guaranteed if the Christian community fails to take action in financing the Kingdom in order to usurp the usurper.
What Shall We Do?
So what are we to do? How can we change the is to what ought to be? What we as Christians need is a total commitment, and a total dedication, to a totally comprehensive and systematic, Biblically-based economic plan to finance the Kingdom's work. That plan finds its teeth in the law of the tithe. This means (dare I say it?) a practice of self-sacrifice, self-resignation, and consistent selflessness for a cause that is greater than any individual Christian. We all must relinquish ourselves to doing without some of the finer things in life for a greater godly good that we may never see or experience in our own lives since it will be for a generation beyond us. Perhaps you may wish to forfeit one year's vacation and put that money to a godly use. Or perhaps you can dine out fewer times in the year and put that money toward a godly purpose in support of a godly institution. There are a thousand ways to reallocate your finances.
The Lord condemned the selfish Israelites through Haggai:
Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste?
Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD. (Haggai 1:4-8)
If you are not resolved to this commission of self-sacrifice (please forgive me) then you are not for real. Your Christianity is self-focused and idolatrous. What Christendom needs is a committed few, a committed remnant, a minority. John Knox put it this way, "One man with God is the majority."
Rushdoony expounds on this in one of my favorite quotes, "History has never been dominated by majorities, but only by dedicated minorities who stand unconditionally on their faith."14
Finally, here are some practical recommendations concerning the law of economics, money, liberty, and hope.
1. You must embrace the reality of God's supreme, universal, and comprehensive sovereignty over all things especially over all of your things. Once that reality is embraced, you will be able to consider more clearly what you are to do concerning the tithe and your free will offerings over and above the tithe. When the first fruits were commanded to be given to God it was understood that they represented the totality of all things. It was a declaration that God owned it all, but was only taking a portion, leaving the rest to Israel's stewardship. This was their test to see if they were truly committed to the cause of the dominion mandate of the covenant.
2. The principle of sovereignty is important for many reasons but in the realm of private personal property it is extremely important since the property is owned by God and not the state. Property ownership under God protects your liberty, giving you and your family security against statist encroachment. All taxation, especially property taxation, is a claim of ownership. Every tax levied is a claim by the state that they have legitimate possession of that thing taxed. As Rushdoony observes:
"Taxation is always a claim of ownership. Every tax levied is a claim that the property that has been taxed is owned by the State ... [every claim of taxation] is a claim to sovereignty ... The voice of the taxing authority within a society claims to be the voice of God."15
If you can get that message across to the general population in your local community you may be able to reverse the trend of oppressive property taxation. You will at least stir the pot and begin debate. Gary North calls these "Brush Fire Wars." Rather than being silent on these issues, Christendom must become conspicuously vocal. This will get people thinking. It may even get them talking and perhaps you can get them to act accordingly.
3. Lastly, since the banking and monetary system is flawed to the extent of being evil, you should reconsider your personal stewardship by investing your dollars in something other than a savings account, money market accounts, or the stock market. You may be able to purchase land and then sell it at a profit so as to tithe the profit (or give it outright) to a faithful ministry. You may wish to give an endowment to a faithful Kingdom advancing college or institution. Monthly financial support to faithful ministries is always helpful as so many of them depend on your support. You may be entrepreneurially minded and seek to start a profitable business with ministerial goals. You can even donate your time to some of these ministries in their operational or fundraising tasks. The list of things you can do is exhaustive. Be creative. Think Biblically-then take action Biblically. In this way Christendom can be restored to a place of cultural prominence and dominion based upon the holy standard of His righteousness, the law-word of God, the Holy Scriptures.
Rev. Paul Michael Raymond is the pastor of the Reformed Bible Church in Appomattox, VA, and founder of the Institute for Theonomic Reformation (www.hisglory.us).
1. The Greek word exousia, translated in the KJV as "power" should be translated as "authority." The word used is not to indicate a force but rather a lawfully conferred authority or jurisdiction given by a supreme magistrate.
2. David W. Hall and Matthew D. Burton, Calvin and Commerce: The Transforming Power of Calvinism in Market Economics (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing Co., 2009).
3. John Jefferson Davis, Your Wealth in God's World (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing Co., 1984), 111.
4. John M. Otis, Glorifying God with Your Wealth (Corpus Christi, TX: Triumphant Publications, 2006), 21-22.
5. Edward A. Powell and R. J. Rushdoony, Tithing & Dominion (Vallecito, CA; Ross House Books, 1979), 27.
6. Ibid., 1.
7. Ibid., 2.
8. Ibid., 3.
10. Ibid., 4.
11. Ibid., 9.
12. Ibid., 30.
13. Ibid., 9.
14. R. J. Rushdoony, The Roots of Reconstruction (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1991), 545.
15. Tithing and Dominion, 35, 36, 37.
Topics: Christian Reconstruction, Church, The, Old Testament History, Church History, New Testament History, Government, Culture , R. J. Rushdoony, Education, Economics, Statism, Charity, Biblical Law