The Sabbath and tithing – are they applicable today?
Are keeping the Sabbath and tithing applicable in the New Covenant? What is the spirit in these commandments?
Jesus did not abolish the law, but fulfilled it
Many people have strong doubts about whether they should continue tithing in the New Covenant. The same applies to keeping the Sabbath, Saturday the seventh day holy, or if it was only meant for the Jewish people in the Old Covenant. No one can deny the fact that the commandment to keep the Sabbath was very important for Moses and the prophets. The seventh day was sanctified by the Lord from the time of creation. Yet it is strange that this is precisely the commandment that Jesus was accused of breaking the most.
It has been said that Jesus has abolished the commandment to keep the Sabbath. But that doesn’t agree with His own words when He says, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” Matthew 5:17. In other words, Jesus did not come to abolish the Sabbath commandment, but to fulfill it.
We read further how Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder,’ and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment … You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:21-22,27-28.
This is how Jesus regarded all the laws. He fulfilled them. The Law was not perfect. The Sabbath law was no exception. We can take this law in the same spirit and say, “You have heard that it was said: ‘You shall keep the seventh day holy.’ But I say to you that all days are holy.” We read about the Sabbath: “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways , nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words …” Isaiah 58:13. When we consider what they should not do on the Sabbath, we must ask this question: Were they then allowed to do their own ways and speak empty words on all the other days?
The spirit of the Sabbath vs. the letter of the law
In the Old Covenant they had six days during which they could do their work; then they did their own works. But the seventh day belonged to the Lord; then they should do what the Lord wanted them to do. Is this how Jesus behaved? In Isaiah we read that they sanctified that day by not doing their own ways or speaking their own words. Jesus fulfilled this commandment. He sanctified each day by always doing what the Lord wanted Him to do and not seeking His own. In the new covenant we have become servants of the Spirit and not of the letter. (Romans 7:6) The Pharisees did not understand this, and they accused Him of transgressing the Sabbath commandment. Yet Jesus never transgressed against the spirit of the Sabbath, even though He plucked ears of grain. (Matthew 12:1-14; Mark 2:23-28) This is also how He kept the other commandments, such as when He did not condemn the woman who was caught in adultery. (John 8:3-11)
Even though the Jews in the Old Covenant kept the Sabbath according to the letter, many of them did not keep it in spirit. They were in the wrong spirit, and they had no rest. They only waited for the Sabbath to end so they could sell grain, reduce the ephah, inflate the shekel, and falsify the scales. (Amos 8:5) In our days there are many people who can be called “Sunday Christians.” They live in the spirit of the world, but on Sundays they go to church or to meetings, hold devotions and look pious. However, when Monday rolls around, they return to seeking their own interests.
The apostles had entered into a totally different life when they wrote, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3:16-17.
This doesn’t apply just to Saturday or Sunday, but to every day. Being very zealous to keep the Sabbath – the seventh day – comes from being a minister of the letter and observing days and months and seasons and years. However, it is different with those who have become sons. God has sent the Spirit of His Son into their hearts, and they live and walk in this Spirit – not just one day, but each day and at all times. (Galatians 4:6-11)
Impossible to enter into rest under the Law
God said to Israel that the Sabbath was a sign between Him and them. They had no rest in Egypt, or in the desert; yet God had given them the commandment concerning the Sabbath as a testimony that He would lead them into rest in the Promised Land. However, Joshua did not manage to give them rest. (Hebrews 4:8) They were disobedient and made a covenant with the. (Judges 2:1-4) But now the good tidings are proclaimed to us. “For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.” Hebrews 4:10.
“Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. … And He rested on the seventh day.” Genesis 1:31; Genesis 2:1-3. God could not have rested if everything had not been very good. With Christ came the time of the restoration of all things so we can be perfect according to our conscience and rest from our works. (Hebrews 9:10) Those who do not have a good conscience know all about this. They don’t have any rest, whether it be Saturday, Sunday or Monday. But those who live in the Spirit of Christ and give their body as an acceptable sacrifice to God enter into this Sabbath rest by faith each day. They rest from their works as God did from His. (Hebrews 4:1-11)
All these discussions about whether we should keep Saturday or Sunday come from a lack of spiritual understanding. God rested when His work was done, and we do not read that He began to work again. Under the law they labored, struggled, and toiled, but they didn’t get anywhere. They simply could not keep the law and enter into rest. Therefore Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30.
The Sabbath rest began with Jesus. He was raised up on the first day, and a new time began. He gives rest; therefore it is quite fitting to keep the first day as the day of rest. People need one day on which they can be free from earthly obligations, so they can have time to gather around God’s Word. It doesn’t matter at all to the person who has spiritual understanding which day is used for that purpose, for he gives his body as a sacrifice to do God’s will every day. If he earns any money, it is not in the spirit of ambition or miserliness, but he earns that money in the Spirit of Christ and is a steward of it. (Acts 4:32; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; Ephesians 4:28) He enters into rest by faith.
Tithing – 10 percent or 100 percent?
Tithing is also a problem for many, simply because they serve the letter and not the Spirit. But on the basis of the above explanation, we also understand this matter of tithing. In the Old Covenant, which was only a shadow of good things to come, they were to give 10 percent to the Lord, and so they could use the other 90 percent according to their own understanding. Was this how Jesus did it? Did He abolish the tithe? No, He came with that which is perfect; He gave Himself 100 percent to the Father. Therefore, He could come with this message that no one can be His disciple unless he forsakes everything! (Luke 14:33)
When did the apostles say anything about tithing? They said, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7. (Read 2 Corinthians 8 and 2 Corinthians 9.) Yes, you say, but this concerns voluntary gifts, which are over and beyond the tithe. When you speak like that you certainly reveal that you are under great bondage. Tithing is not voluntary; it is more or less required of the members. By limiting themselves to paying a tithe, they have not entered into the spirit of the commandment.
New Covenant giving
It says about Jesus that He made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and did not consider it robbery to be equal with God. (Philippians 2:5-8) It was of His own free will that our Lord Jesus Christ became poor for our sake though He was rich, so that we through His poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9) If we are to be members of the body of Christ, we must come into the perfect law of liberty. According to this law tithing and a few voluntary gifts are inadequate; we must give ourselves first to the Lord and to the church according to God’s will. Once we have given ourselves, we have also given everything we have.
Perfection comes through the Spirit of Christ. It is better to have fellowship with one person who, by the Spirit of Christ is a member of the body of Christ, than with a hundred thousand who slave away according to the oldness of the letter. It is better to receive one cent that is given heartily than 100,000 dollars that are given merely out of a sense of duty or for the sake of appearance. (Mark 12:41-44)
Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest. (Hebrews 4:11-13)
This article has been translated from Norwegian and was first published under the title “The Sabbath and the tithe” in BCC’s periodical Skjulte Skatter (Hidden Treasures) in October 1943.
© Copyright Stiftelsen Skjulte Skatters Forlag
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Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.