What would it be like if unscrupulous Bible experts admitted that they were unfairly fleecing the sheep?
Pink curls bouncing, Gigi Conway did a girlish jig as the magic drum stopped rolling and revealed a new total for the semi-annual Give-a-thon. “O-o-oh. thank you Jesus! We’re up to two million, six hundred thousand dollars! Can you shout ‘amen’, everybody?”
Frenzied whistles and cheers split the air. Gigi giggled and jiggled her tamborine.
Rich Conway, President of the worldwide Hallelujah TV Network, cried, “Praise God for another MIRACLE! After our next song, sung by our incomparable Susie Sweet, we have a special treat in store for you. Bill Blessing manages our studio in Tomahawk, Texas, and he’s the earth’s most expert expositor on Biblical economics. He hosts our daily program Reaping Richly. He hasn’t been feeling up to par these past few months, but I do believe the Lord is healing him. Still, he serves the Lord with all he’s got. And man, has he ever got a message for you that’ll knock your socks off! Now, Susie, we’ll just sit back and let you minister to us all in song.”
Her voice velvety, and her smile angelic, the winsome young soprano sang the hymn “I Surrender All”. Scattered sniffles broke out in the studio audience. Many wondered whether they’d really given their all to Jesus.
The telecast shifted to a subsidiary station in Tomahawk, where a lanky Texan stood behind a pulpit, his trademark grin subdued. “Thank you, Brother Conway,” he said in his lazy drawl. “Now before I begin, I’ve got a confession to make. The Bible exhorts us ministers of the Gospel to faithfully share the full counsel of God. Now, this’ll surprise many of y’all, but I’ve failed y’all in this area. For years I’ve withheld certain precious truths that would have set your lives free from financial bondage.”
“And why did I do this? ‘Cause I was afraid some of y’all watchin’ might not be able to bear the deeper truths of the Word of God. Remember, the Word of God pierces through the joints and marrow like a two-edged sword. Will you please forgive me, Brother Conway, for the way I’ve failed God’s people?”
Back in Hallelujah TV’s home studio in California, Brother Conway said, softly and tremulously: “Praise Jesus for such humility in one who has suffered so greatly in his body, after so many years of faithfully breaking the Bread of Life to us all. Brother Bill, if there’s anything at all to forgive, all I’ve got to say is this: Step boldly out in faith. Never fear to speak the truth in love. Our precious brothers and sisters have a right to hear the inspired exhortations of Scripture, however difficult they may be to receive. The Bible says in Hebrews 12: ‘Now no discipline from God seems to be joyful, but painful. But in the end it yields the good fruit of righteousness to all who receive it’.”
Brother Conway brushed away a timely tear.“Father,” he prayed, “in the Name of Jesus I ask that You would soften many hardened hearts today through the words Brother Blessing is about to share. Help me and all our viewers around the globe receive the sincere milk of Your Word into our souls, that we may grow thereby. Amen and amen.”
“Thank you, Brother Conway,” Brother Blessing said, lifting his eyes to the overhead monitor. “Brothers and sisters, we’re all fixin’ to have a ‘Hallelujah good time’! Can you shout ‘amen’ everybody?”
Whistles and shouts, and rousing ‘amens’ shot back at him from the jam-packed TV studio.
A curious grin played at the corner of his lined mouth. “Let’s get down to business, then, praise God. I’m gonna speak tonight on The Fruits of Tithin’.”
Moans of mortal agony.
“Hey now, y’all, don’t look at me like that, like you’re fixin’ to git a whippin’. This’ll be the best message you’ve heard in a long time, and I guarantee you’ll never hear another cow-pokin’ pulpiteer preach it with the pizzazz I’m gonna give it.”
Sprinklings of applause, and a few guarded smiles.
“For years I’ve said that if you give your all to Jesus, it’s a package deal, and your wallet goes to the foot of the Cross with you. Nobody can argue that, now. And I also said, if God don’t have your 10%, He don’t have your 90% either. Fact is, He owns us lock, stock, and barrel. Everything we’ve got is His too, and He’s the One Who entrusts us as good stewards to wisely use the money in our pockets. Tonight,” he said gravely, “I’ll show y’all how to pay a proper tithe, ‘cause I want y’all to benefit from wisdom I gleaned from my personal Bible study.”
He turned his head and called: “Honey, bring all the tithes into the storehouse of God!”
From the side exit came his wife, leading a caravan of calves, muzzled and roped together. A cowpoke in denim duds followed sheepishly, pushing a wheelbarrow piled high with equally odd offerings: squash, beans, onions, melons, okra, tomatoes, corn, cucumbers. Presiding over the pile was a squawking hen in a chicken wire cage.
The already deafening ruckus increased when the man tripped and banged his wheelbarrow against a chair, toppling the cage. When it hit the floor the bird flew out, squawking. Crazily it ran around, exulting in its liberty.
“Hank!” cried Sister Blessing, “catch it!”
Hank ran round and round, finally cornering the hen against a showy floral display. He carried it to Brother Blessing, who shoved the bird back in its cage. He held it up for all to see and shouted: “Even a dumb chicken’s got enough sense to know when it’s in bondage! Tonight I’m lettin’ y’all out of your cages! Can you shout ‘hallelujah’, everybody!”
Effervescent joy filled every Hallelujah Network studio which didn’t catch a sudden “technical difficulty”.
Back in California, Brother Conway frantically dialed his cell phone. He didn’t want to make a scene in front of all these people. After all, he had publicly pledged to receive the Lord’s admonitions in a spirit of meekness.
No one answered. Ignoring all the merriment, he slipped away to the Control Room.
Heart hammering wildy, he pummeled the ponderous door. Its sole window was shaded over. Again, no answer. He yelled as loudly as he dared: “Let me in! NOW!” No one replied.
“I’ll fire all of you if you don’t open right now!” he barked.
No luck. He paged Security on his cell phone.
“Arrest the Control Room engineers!” he yelled. “Break the door down if you have to!”
“No need to, sir, “ a voice droned back at him through a loudspeaker.
“And why not!”
“We’re interrogating them right now, Brother Conway. Relax. Everything’s under control.”
“Oh, Jake, please,” the preacher pleaded, “make them scramble that signal from Tomahawk!”
“We will, Brother Conway, when we’re done questioning them.”
The offering cleared away, Brother Blessing’s sermon was in progress.
“That’s right, folks, that’s the kind of tithe people in the Bible really paid, the kind I never did preach on. I own a big spread fifteen miles west of here, the Big Blesing Ranch. We raise cattle, hens, hogs, and organic produce for the yuppie market. Only reason I didn’t tithe on the hogs,” he sniffed, “was they ain’t kosher enough. Which triggers off a powerful point: If money-hungry preachers hung onto Moses’ dietary regulations like they hang onto tithin’, they wouldn’t have their fingers stuck in the pork barrel all the time.”
Deafening laughter, claps and whistles. At length Brother Blessing said, “Now I’m gonna tell y’all why I’ve done this about-face, and truthfully, part of my reason is selfish. For months now I’ve been mighty sick of a blood disorder, and short of a miracle, I’ll be meetin’ my Maker in a year or so. Even after I found out, I still kept God’s truth secret, hopin’ they’d find a miracle cure so I could keep livin’ high on the hog off your money!”
“Y’all probably know, ‘cause I recognize a lot of your faces, but when I’m home from all my travels, I serve as a lay preacher at Green Harvest Assembly, here in Tomahawk. Our pastor, Brother Wiley Butcher, is the one with the cemet...er, I mean, seminary degree, but he lets himself decrease, so I can man the pulpit and make his funds increase. After tonight, I expect he’ll cross me off his list, but I’ve always been top man in his inner circle of cronies. He says I’m the one who put Tomahawk, Texas on the map.
“I remember after one tear jerkin’ sermon at our church, one unhappy guy shoved his way through our entourage of ushers and yelled: ‘Brother Blessing, you’ve just gotta help me! They just laid me off at the plant! I lost my health insurance and everything! Yesterday my boy fell off his skateboard and broke his arm. He ran up a big emergency bill at the hospital. Not only that, there’s no food left in the house’!”
“ ‘I’m awful sorry to hear about your boy’,” I said, “ ‘and have you tried the local food bank’?”
“His head hung low and he said, “ ‘I’ve always been a hard-workin’ man, Brother Blessing, and I’m just too ashamed to go over there’.”
“All I could contribute was: ‘Well, Brother, maybe you oughta review your personal givin’ record. Have you kept current with your tithes’?
“ ‘Well’,” he said, “ ‘I did borrow the tithe a couple of times to pay the rent, and patch up my old pickup so I could get to work’.
“Now, y’all can guess what came out of my mouth next: ‘Did you ever pay God back’?
“He shook his head ‘no’. ‘I couldn’t, Brother Blessing. They closed the plant’.
I put that poor man to shame, right there in front of a whole crowd of church bigwigs, dressed in their sharp suits and gold jewelry. He looked like he could’a crawled into a hole. NOT ONE of us fancy kingpins offered him any kind of help, except I said: ‘No wonder your life’s under a curse. You broke faith with God, so you paid the piper. Doesn’t the Bible say: ‘God whups every believer who disobeys Him’?
“I’ll never forget the look in his eyes as he slunk away. Then he straightened up and said: ‘My Billy didn’t deserve that accident, and you know it! All of y’all have got a right to talk, when now you’re about to take a rich tour group to the Holy Land,to get closer to Jesus! Well, let me tell y’all somethin’! If y’all can’t see Jesus, Who had no place to lay His head, in the poor folk here in Tomahawk, Texas, y’all might just as well go blow all your excess money in Las Vegas’!
“Needless to say, folks, that guy grabbed the attention of a gang of ushers who looked a lot better-fed than he did. But as they gave him a polite escort out he turned round and left a bombshell to eat at my conscience, loud enough to hush up all the noisy chitchat of folks leavin’ the sanctuary: “If you’re like Jesus, I’m through with Him!
“That softened me up just enough to interest me in helpin’ him, but in a way that saved his dignity. I took him on at the ranch as a hired hand, on condition he’d start tithin’ each pay day and set aside a little extra to pay installments on his past due tithes he owed ...ahem!... ‘the Lord’ from the job he lost at the plant. He didn’t sound too thrilled about that idea, but as he had a family to feed, he swallowed his pride and accepted. I gave him an advance on his wages, but I let him know he was on probation, and he’d better put in a man’s day.
“Brother Len,” the preacher choked, “I’m so glad you come tonight, and thanks for lettin’ me tell the story. I truly value you now, not just as an employee, but as a wonderful friend and brother in the Lord. You showed me a lot more about the real Jesus than I learned from most anybody else. Would you please stand up? Everybody give our brother a big ‘love clap’.
A tall, lean man in the second row rose up,acknowledging the commendation with a shy smile and a quiet “thank you”.
“We’re so happy you came to help out on the ranch, Brother Len, and you’ve blessed us here as well. Thanks, brother. We really love you in the Lord.”
“It wasn’t long after that the doctor told me why I’ve had all those blackout spells, and have lost so much weight. Then last week, I had the scariest dream of my entire life. I dreamt I was standin’ before Jesus. Thought I’d passed away in my sleep.Wasn’t too thrilled to see Him, either. ‘Uh-oh,’ I thought, ‘the jig’s up! This boy’s in BIG trouble now’!
“But Jesus didn’t look mad, just sad. He came closer and asked me: “What do you have to show for your long life, Bill Blessing? What treasures did you bring to lay at My feet?
“Everything I ever loved and worked for appeared before me in a sort of vision. My very first Cadillac. My first Rolex watch. My big wardrobe full of Armani suits. My gold rings sparklin’ with diamonds. All those jaunts to the Holy Land, always first class, of course. The Caribbean cruises. My two Lear jets. My luxury yacht. The Social Security income bilked out of old ladies who ate cat food, and could barely keep their lights on. All the five-star restaurants. My summer cabin in the Rockies. My winter home in Palm Beach. My condo in Hawaii. All the fancy cocktail parties. The heady power I wielded over fearful saints who swallowed my lies hook, line, and sinker and were suckered into tithin’ out of their poverty, while all along I half-suspected the truth: The Scriptures only commanded Old Testament saints to tithe! Even then, they were to bring their tithes to a place of worship presided over ONLY by priests of the Tribe of Levi, and even that tithe they brought the Lord was to be ONLY ON THEIR FARM YIELD! Paul the Apostle says in I Corinthians 16:2: Let everyone give AS GOD HAS PROSPERED HIM! God doesn’t demand a dime if you’re destitute! He wants to give to you first! God ain’t so broke He needs your children’s milk money! Can you shout ‘amen’, everybody?”
There was an explosion of rejoicing. Tamborines rang. My, the crowd was in a real good mood.
His voice breaking, Brother Blessing said, “All those things I set my heart on in this life got thrown in a big bonfire and burnt up. And Jesus said, “Is there nothing left for Me, Bill? I poured out My lifeblood on the Cross of Calvary to save your soul from hell, and all you labored for was things which perish.”
“Oh, how the tears rolled down my face. I’d gotten saved when I was barely seven. My, how I loved Jesus back then. But what a wily old fox I’d grown up to be. I was scared stiff as I faced my Righteous Judge. All I could think was: ‘If only I’d gone home to Glory before I learned enough street smarts to turn Jesus into a big con game’!”
“Jesus’ voice shook me to the depths of my being, yet it was oh, so sorrowful. ‘Why,’ He asked me, ‘did you rob My little lambs and lead them down the path of covetousness?’”
“At that point I saw another vision. It was like I was transported to somebody’s kitchen back down on earth. A heated argument was in progress, and guess who was responsible for it? I saw a woman yellin’ at her husband. Her eyes were wild. He was coverin’ his head, and her fists were a-flyin’ at him. Their words are branded in my mind to this day.”
“You numbskull!’ that angry woman yelled at him. ‘Why’d you send our rent money to that clown on TV? They’re gonna throw us out on the street! I just lost my job, so I can’t take up the slack for your stupidity!”
“But dear, Brother Blessing said faith without works is dead!”
“Your brain must be dead to fall for that one!”
“But sweetheart,” he said, “ it’s in the Bible!”
“So is this one: Judas went out and hanged himself! So why don’t you go out and do likewise!”
“Now, saints, here’s the whole dirty psychology of religious racketeerin’ in a nutshell. He said to her, and I quote: ‘But Brother Blessing made me feel like a stingy jerk, the way he laid it on thick about givin’ by faith even when I can’t afford to. He said if I really loved Jesus I’d give till it hurts. After all, He died for me, didn’t He? So what’s a little money? The preacher promised the Lord would pay it back 100-fold. It might just take Him a little time, that’s all. Now calm down, dear. I’ll think of somethin’ to bail us out of this mess.”
“I’ll never forget what that woman said next: ‘Joe, I just give up! First, it was the dog track! When you got tired of that, you got mixed up in a pyramid scheme and that fell through! Then you blew all our savings on lottery tickets! I guess you got those screwy ideas from the Bible too!”
“Folks, that man was speechless. And you won’t believe what she said to him: ‘Joe, I might not be a Christian, but I find it incredible that Jesus runs a protection racket!”
“Then I was lifted up out of their kitchen, back into the presence of the Christ Whose Holy Name I’d dishonored. By then I was flat on my face squallin’ like a baby and pleadin’ for mercy. Jesus raised me to my feet and looked me square in the eye. His eyes were shinin’ with such love for me, though I felt lower than a snake’s belly. How my heart broke, just to see how bad I’d hurt Jesus by usin’ Him to get rich. Just so I could enjoy a life style my TV viewers could only dream about.
“It was then I remembered I was a mighty sick man. “I asked Jesus right then and there: ‘Lord, will I get well so I can mend my ways and serve You like I should?”
“He only said: “My child, learn to number your days so you might apply your heart to My wisdom. What you do to the least of My children, you do also to Me. Consider in your heart that mortal life is not forever.’ Then I woke up with a start and knew I had to tell y’all the truth, and hang the consequences.
“Folks, anybody with a mind to study the Scriptures and take ‘em at face value can learn the real truth about givin’ and tithin’, irregardless of what any slick preacher might say to pull the wool over your eyes. Now I’m gonna reiterate what I said earlier: Among the sons of sinful men, only the sons of Levi were ever authorized by Moses to collect tithes! I’ve read the Bible through several times, and not once did Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles ever command his converts to pay tithes! And if any preacher alive today, especially someone who can’t claim an unbroken line of descent way back to Aaron the High Priest, lays a guilt trip on you for not coughin’ up 10% of your salary, he’s either ignorant of what God really says about tithin’, or if he does know the truth about it, he’s just takin’ advantage of your ignorance!
Amid shocked gasps, Brother Blessing continued: “If y’all have your Bibles, turn with me now to Deuteronomy chapter 12, verses 17 to 21.
“Don’t eat the tithe! Now you’ve heard me hammer you over the head with that line thousands of times. Now for a real bombshell of a sermon, one you’ll remember the rest of your life!
The viewers could hardly believe what their ears were hearing or their eyes were reading. Scriptures glossed over or ignored by ministers over the centuries sprang to life. God had commanded the Israelites to bring in tithes of grain, wine, oil, and livestock to their place of worship. Not money!
“And that’s not all, folks! Now let’s go to the fourteenth chapter, and examine verses 22-29.” Excitedly he read the passage, amid shouts of “Thank You, Jesus”, and “hallelujah!”.
“Now, here’s a heart-stopper for preachers who try to slap Old Testament ordinances on God’s people who are under the New Covenant of Grace. Not only is the tithe an edible product,but it was levied on the yield of the land, not on people’s paychecks! Furthermore, it was to be EATEN by the tither as well as the Levite, fatherless and widow. And if the journey to the tabernacle was too long to haul all that produce, it was to be converted into...ah! CASH MONEY, to use to buy substitute farm produce when they got there, so they could consume it before the Lord! That, folks, is the ONLY time in all of Holy Scripture that money is ever mentioned in conjunction with tithin’!
“So what did the people do with that money once they got to their place of worship? Yee-haw! Here’s where the fun begins! In verse 26 it says: You shall spend that money on whatever food or drink you desire; for oxen, or for sheep, for wine, or strong drink, or whatever you (not some religious dictator) desires!” Even the Prophet Malachi, so often misquoted by modern Pharisees, tells us the reason for tithin’ was to keep food in God’s House!”
“Child of God, listen! If any preacher insists on saddlin’ you with Old Testament Laws, let ‘em go whole hog and tell you to go buy a six-pack of Bud with your so-called tithe! Just kiddin’, of course. Though we’re under grace, we’re constrained by the Love of Christ, and no true believer would ever use that scripture as an excuse to go out and get plastered. We are to give ourselves, not just 10%, but 100% to the Lord. Everything we do, even partakin’ of food and drink, is to be done to the glory of God. You’ll read that in I Corinthians 10:31. Some people say only fastin’ can make you more spiritual, but there you have it. But that’s a tangent I won’t take time to go off on right now.
“Turn with me now to Leviticus 27, verse 30: And all the tithe OF THE LAND, whether OF THE SEED or OF THE LAND, or OF THE FRUIT OF THE TREE, is the LORD’S. It (not money) is holy unto the Lord. And it’s the tithe OF THE LAND, not your paycheck!
“Verse 31 says: And if a man will at all redeem ought of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof. Now, how can filthy lucre, which probably passed through the hands of dirty-dealin’ sinners before it got to you, possibly be redeemed as a holy thing? How can you redeem money with money? Let me put it this way: Is God’s Church supposed to be a Savin’s and Loan, chargin’ the saints 20% interest? Are preachers supposed to be loan sharks for Jesus, then?
“Have I ever got a surprise for y’all now! Another trick preachers use is to say: “You’ve gotta tithe on your first tenth to God. But, child of God, I can prove right out of this Bible that it just ain’t so.
Loud gasps of sheer shock.
What a rousing roar filled the room. Brother Blessing said: “I can’t wait, y’all will love this one: Verse 32 says: And concernin’ the tithe OF THE HERD, OR OF THE FLOCK, even of WHATSOEVER PASSETH UNDER THE ROD (Y’all ever seen a twenty-dollar-bill walkin’ by on two legs to be counted by the preacher)?” Sheer pandemonium before he could go on: “Anyhow,the verse goes on to say: the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord.
“Hang onto your hats, saints: Verse 33: He shall not search whether it be good or bad, neither shall he change it: and if he change it at all, both it and the change shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.
Brother Blessing rocked back on his boot heels and clapped. “Who-o-o! man, am I ever havin’ fun tonight, I hardly feel sick anymore! You’ve heard this a lot of times, now: “Put your best tithe , the very first 10% of your hot-off-the-press paycheck, into the offerin’ plate, before you pay any other bill. But these verses show that it was every TENTH cow which was counted holy unto the Lord as a tithe, not the first one passin’ under the rod. Even if a rancher counted nine prize heifers walkin’ past him, and then a sickly, scrawny runt turned up as the tenth in line, the cowpoke wouldn’t be allowed to pass that poor lil’ critter over for the honor of bein’ the Lord’s tithe, even though he might feel to ashamed to call it a tithe. If he did decide to substitute his prize bull for the runt, he’d be charged 20% of its value for doin’ so. Occasionally it would be the least desirable animal which constituted the tithe. And, by the way, “tithe” means ‘tenth’, not ‘first’!
“Yes, child of God, it was the land which produced the tithe, not the Federal Mint! And it was wheat plants, grape plants, and olive plants which produced the tithe, not the plant where Brother Len worked! If you weren’t a landowner, you didn’t tithe, plain and simple. If locusts gobbled up your barley patch, you didn’t tithe on it! And nowhere do you read that God ever taxed poor wage slaves one-tenth of their income! Can you shout ‘praise the Lord’, everybody! Brothers and sisters, God is settin’ His people FREE!”
It was several minutes before the joyful din subsided. Brother Blessing glanced down at his notes.
“Child of God, there were four types of tithe paid in any given seven-year period, three of ‘em by the people, and one by the Levites. On the seventh year no tithe was collected at all, ‘cause the land was to be allowed to lie fallow. Now have you ever heard of any so-called ‘spiritual Levite’ stoppin’ his fund-raisin’ every seven years to give God’s people a break?”
More deafening pandemonium.
“It worked like this: One tithe, the Festival Tithe, was eaten by the worshipper, as well as the poor and the Levites. “Another tithe, the Poor Tithe, was just for the poor and the Levites. Did you know, saints, the Levites were considered poor because God didn’t assign ‘em a share of the Promised Land? One special tithe was reserved just for them. It was given to them as compensation. The Levites assisted the altar priests by takin’ care of humbler tasks, and they served as Israel’s health inspectors and policemen. Still another tithe was paid by the Levites themselves out of what they received, and they gave it to the Priests, a tenth of their tithe, or one percent. All priests were Levites, of the Tribe of Levi now, but not all Levites were priests. None of ‘em ran big dude ranches like I do, either.
Brother Blessing grinned. “Saints, I know quite a few ‘spiritual Levites’ who own very real real estate. They not only own their own land, but big sprawlin’ mansions sittin’ on ‘em free and clear, while some of you tithe-payin’ slaves pay rent on rabbit hutches with what’s left of your shriveled-up paychecks. Now if they’re gonna be consistent, it’s the landownin’ ‘Levites’ who oughta pay tithes to help you out, don’t you think?
“Amen, brother!” shouted a man in the front row.
“Saints, the Bible is clear about this, and you can’t just pick and choose what parts you like and toss out the rest. Most wage slaves don’t have an Old Testament-style inheritance to pass on to their future generations! Some people can’t even afford to own a dog, much less a herd of cattle! How can people be taxed on crops they don’t possess the land to grow, and what right do preachers have to substitute slave wages, produced by human sweat in Gentile territory, for crops springin’ up from the soil of Israel! How in Sam Hill can they yield the tenth of their non-existent crop to men who aren’t descended from Levi in the first place, men who disobey God’s commandment to ‘Levites’not to have any inheritance in this world?”
Shouts of “Preach it, Brother!” “Glory!” “Hallelujah!” “Thank you, Jesus!” “Praise the Lord!” and “Amen!” mingled with wild applause. More than a few leaped for very joy.
The preacher shook his head and whistled. “Man alive, have I got one for you now. I have yet to hear any televangelist lay claim to this New Testament Scripture: 3 John 7...here, now...it’s a little hard to find, way in the back, just before Jude and Revelation, the end of the story. Maybe those preachers had already found so many other Scriptures to make money from, they didn’t bother to go on to this one ...now... let’s see if I still know how to read. Y’all found it yet? It says...ahem! Because that for their fame’s sake, they went forth, takin’ filthy lucre of the Gentiles.”
What a buzz broke out. “Just tryin’ to catch y’all off guard, like those wily Prosperity foxes do, but now y’all are learnin’ fast. Now to get the cobwebs outa my eyes and I’ll try again: Because that for His Name’s sake they went forth, takin’ NOTHIN’ of the Gentiles. See? Now, those preachers were perfectly within their rights to take up freewill offerings, though tithe-takin’ was strictly taboo. But they gave up the right to collect donations from poor Gentiles and ministered to them free of charge. Now, I know a few of y’all might be of Jewish origin, but I know my listeners are predominantly Gentile. When was the last time a TV preacher was in a hurry to claim 3 John 7 as the foundation of his ministry?
“Know somethin’ else, child of God? I’ll bet if I got hungry and went out to some prosperity ‘Levite’s’ vineyard to stand around and eat my fill of grapes, he’d call the law down on me; although that same Old Testament Law he uses to get extra cash contains a provision in Deuteronomy Chapter 23: 24-25 that says if you’re hungry, it’s okay to go onto your neighbor’s property and eat some of his grapes, provided you don’t haul any away in a container. Saints,” he sniffed, “you oughta see the big buckets makin’ their rounds at some of these so-called miracle crusades. Those ‘spiritual Levites’ don’t have any compunction about carryin’ your money crop away to consume somewhere else...in Hawaii, maybe?”
Riotous laughter. My, but the viewers were enjoying “God’s correction”.
“The biggest miracle in those services, saints, is that folks would rather shut up and pay up than make waves when they smell a rat as some fisher of funds makes a fishy sales pitch for prosperity! Whooo! I’m on a roll tonight! Can y’all shout ‘amen’!”
Brother Blessing was grinning from ear to ear from all the jubilation. “The other side of the coin is to tell poor folks that God is gonna disinherit them if they don’t measure up to some preacher’s standards of generosity and prove their love for Jesus by tithin’ ‘by faith’ even if their kids have to go hungry or do without decent school clothes! What right have they got, anyway, to tell you God can’t be pleased with you unless you’re sufferin’ in that way? Well, I sure don’t see many skinny, raggedy TV preachers!”
Laughter, swelling to hysterics when he added: “Yeah, child of God. Where is that money-hungry preacher when you take a big leap of faith off the cliff, and end up in the fryin’ pan? Man, you’ve just landed on his plate, and he’s havin’ you for lunch! He’s like that Pharisee who devours widows’ houses!
“A lot of Pharisees encouraged their disciples to take money which could have eased the sufferin’ of elderly parents and consecrate it to God. Jesus rebuked them for it, too. Believe me, brother, you don’t rack up Brownie points with God when you treat your family that shabby, especially the ones who borned you and put clothes on your back and food in your belly. But that’s just like what’s happenin’ today, when shifty televangelists tell you a ‘vow of faith’ will get you out of a jam. In my book it’ll only get you deeper into the doghouse with your Maker. Woe unto those who railroad spiritual babes into makin’ stupid vows they can’t finance. It says in Ecclesiastes that it’s better not to make a vow, than to vow and not pay. If you’ve tangled your life up like that, humble yourself before God now and pray: ‘Father, forgive me my debt, and accept instead the sacrifice of a contrite heart sprinkled by the Blood of the Lamb.’ Saints, Jesus taught us to pray that our Heavenly Father would forgive us our debts. How dare anyone undercut the mercy and grace of God by tryin’ to get you to jump the gun and get into bondage, carried away on a wave of hyped-up, pre-orchestrated carnival emotion!
“I’ll let y’all in on another secret too,” said Brother Blessing. “In Malachi 3, the chapter most used as a crowbar to pry tithes out of churchgoers, you’ll see the word ‘hireling’ spoken of in the very same breath as the orphans, fatherless, widows, and strangers, which means foreigners. Now, let’s see here...” he flipped open his Bible...verse 5. And I will come near to you in judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, AND AGAINST THOSE WHO OPPRESS THE HIRELING IN HIS WAGES, THE WIDOW, AND THE FATHERLESS, and that turn aside the stranger (or alien) from his right, and fear not Me, saith the Lord of Hosts.”
“Saints, it just don’t make sense. Ever since I was knee-high, I’ve heard preachers use this chapter to heap condemnation on humble folk who struggle from paycheck to paycheck, even against some who don’t even have a steady income. But how in the world can this verse, which happens to be in the same chapter as the Tithin’ Scripture, be aimed at poor wage-earners, who were clearly classed as bein’ among the needy who had no inheritance in the Land to tithe on? How can the hireling be accused of oppressin’ the hireling? it’s very clear to me that the hireling was classed with the poor, the fatherless and the widows because people dependin’ on meager wages are just as vulnerable to exploitation as they are.
“And just how would they ‘turn those poor people from their right’? By denyin’ ‘em access to the food in the tithin’ storehouses, that’s how! The tithe for the poor, which just happened to include the landless Levites, was collected on the third and the sixth year of the seven-year tithin’ cycle, then stored up in storehouses in all the cities of the Children of Israel. Those were, by the way, the very same storehouses pastors condemn the saints for not fillin’ up with bigger bills. Now if we’re gonna compare apples with oranges, we oughta be a bit more consistent, don’t you think? When I told Brother Len to to go to the food bank, I should’a just passed him the offering plate, and told him to help himself to some of the tithes, so he and his family could eat! Can you say ‘amen, everybody!”
The people stood up, clapped, and clamored for more. This was one sermon on finances that didn’t feel llike a shakedown. “Now,” Brother Blesing continued, “I’ve got another question, folks. Just who is this Book of Malachi addressed to in the first place? Granted, its bedrock principles of righteousness ought to have been observed by all the people, but I think it was primarily aimed a thievin’ priesthood. If you’ll bother to read the whole book, you’ll unearth some hidden worms about the Priesthood which tithe-hungry preachers have whizzed past for a long time, those ‘spiritual Levites who are so eager to claim all the financial perks of that office, but who sure as shootin’ wouldn’t be so quick to claim the rebukes of that chapter. The not-so-fun stuff like the rebukes they’ve reserved for the peons out in the pews, can you say ‘amen’?”
When it was quiet enough he continued: “You’ll discover that corrupt priesthood rebuked by God for some heavy-duty sins: profanin’ His holy offerings, neglectin’ the care of orphans and widows, adultery, corruption, and for causin’ the other Israelites to stumble out of the way of holiness. Just to be brief, we’ll look at some key Scriptures which prove it’s for the priests Malachi 1, verse 6 to 8. A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master. If then I be a father, where is Mine honour and if I be a master where is My fear? saith the Lord of Hosts unto you..unto whom, saints? Let’s go on. O PRIESTS that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we (THE PRIESTS!) despised thy name?
“The Lord goes into detail about how those crooks palmed off the worst of their animals on the Altar of Sacrifice, and as if that wasn’t bad enough, they made the Table of the Lord contemptible. And God asks them whether they’d feel it was okay to present such sacrifices to their earthly governor.
“Again in Chapter 2, verse 1: And now, O YE PRIESTS, this commandment is for YOU! This chapter denounces the dirty-dealin’, adulterous ways of that Old Testament Priesthood modern preachers are so eager to identify with.
“Ah, but maybe Chapter 3 is for the laity. Not so fast, folks. In verse 3 we read: And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the SONS OF LEVI, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.
“Why was that necessary, saints? Because God had just rebuked the priesthood for profanin’ His holy offering, and they had to be purified before their work could be pure before God.
Brother Blessing did a little dance. “Come on now, you ‘spiritual Levites’! You who strain at a gnat and swallow a camel! You can dish out rebukes, but you can’t take ‘em! I’ve been set free! Glory hallelujah!
“Saints, even in the secular workin’ world, it’s usually the department bigwigs who get chewed out first by the company president when company profits nosedive, and there’s lots of consumer complaints. And I know God lays much more responsibilty upon blind leaders of the blind than He does upon the so-called ‘lay people’ they’re layin’ a big guilt trip on with their baldfaced lies. Yes, child of God, Malachi was addressed primarily to priests whose sins led the whole nation astray. They were the ones to blame for why the whole nation stopped bringin’ in tithes and offerings. The tithe wasn’t bein’ used to care for the widow, the poor, and the fatherless, and the priests were givin’ God only those animals they wouldn’t miss anyway. We can only speculate about what they did with the best of the beef. Maybe they were runnin’ an illegal butcher shop on the side.
“Now, how can anyone worship a Holy God in the midst of such greed and corruption? And, after makin’ it clear that it was the priests who were bein’ dealt with, why should God suddenly decide to switch his focus to the lower-rankin’ Israelites? That tithe was brought to the storehouse ‘to keep meat (food, not money!) in God’s House’, not only for landless Levites, but for all the truly vulnerable people of that society---even the hungry hireling who’s been beat over the head with that very same Scripture!
“Child of God, can you see how ridiculous those religious bigwigs are bein’? Why don’t they latch onto all the rebukes aimed at the Levites of the Book of Malachi, if they want all the exaltation of bein’ one? Why don’t preachers claim the curses laid on those Levites for the miserable ways they sinned against God, if they’re so eager to be the New Testament counterparts of those varmints ? Why on earth don’t they go the whole nine yards and keep all the less lucrative rules and regulations of playin’ their Levite game; a game they play just to make you think they’ve got the God-given right to garnish 10% of your paycheck by threatenin’ you with God’s retribution!”
His eyes flashed fire. “God is sick and tired of prayer peddlers preyin’ on poverty-stricken saints with empty refrigerators and emptier bank accounts! And He ain’t gonna hold His peace about it no more! Thank God I repented while there was still time! Y’all pray for me that God’ll let me live long enough to be a blessing in deed as well as in name, so I can spread a little of His Love around before I’m gone.”
Warm-hearted ‘amens’ resounded. Brother Blessing smiled. Talk about miracles. No hecklers to speak of, just a few disgruntled folks leaving the studio. He felt both forgiven and revitalized.
“What few times Christ mentions tithin’ in the Gospels, it is ALWAYS in conjunction with rebukin’ the scribes and Pharisees for their ugly attitude toward the Love of God; the way they robbed poor widows and misrepresented God to the people, and were really blind guides of the blind. Turn with me now to Matthew 23:23-24. Christ is in the middle of chastisin’ some high-and-mighty hypocrites for shinin’ off on the weightier matters of the Law: justice, mercy, and faith, even while they meticulously tithed mint, anise, and cumin out of their gardens (again, no mention of money!) Every archaeologist worth his salt knows that money was minted in the time of Christ, so wily preachers can’t wiggle out of this one by sayin’ that in Moses’ time, cash money didn’t exist, and that’s why they had to tithe on commodities instead!”
“Ah, you might say, but Christ still told the Pharisees they were supposed to tithe on those herbs. But don’t forget now, Jesus and the Pharisees were still livin’ in the Old Testament when He rebuked them. After Christ’s resurrection, the Old Law got replaced by the New Covenant of Grace. Now, praise God, Gentiles could enter the Kingdom of God through faith in Christ alone and not have to worry about keepin’ hundreds of Old Testament ordinances. Lots of preachers wish y’all were to stupid too know that!
“In Acts Chapter 15, the apostles were convenin’ in Jerusalem to settle once and for all a long, drawn-out dispute over whether Gentiles should be obligated to keep the Law of Moses after conversion, and if so, how much of it were they supposed to observe. The Holy Spirit led the Council of Jerusalem to a simple resolution of the whole matter. The Apostle Peter, chief spokesman for the council, reaches this conclusion: “Seein’ that God has saved those Gentiles by faith even as he did us, why should we provoke God by layin’ a yoke upon their necks which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear?’
“God sure don’t like it when some preacher tries to put a yoke on your neck that He never told him to put there!
“In verses 19 and 20 James says: ‘Let’s not burden them with the Law of Moses. If they’ll just abstain from four forbidden things, they’ll do well. These four things are: idolatry, fornication, eatin’ strangled animals, and consumin’ blood.’”
Brother Blessing cackled. ”Oops! Did they forget somethin’? What about compulsory tithin’? If it’s so all-fired important for Church Age saints to tithe on somethin’ which Old Testament saints never tithed on, why on earth didn’t the Big Fisherman give James a jab in the ribs and say: ‘Hey, buddy, wake up! You forgot the most important part!’ Incidentally, folks, Peter never paid tithes on his smelly fish, neither.”
Roars of good-natured laughter, and surging applause.
Another rousing ovation. Meekly Brother Blessing lowered his eyes.“Folks, Paul the Apostle became the Apostle to the Gentiles because the Jews wouldn’t listen to him. Read all of his epistles to these non-Jews who never were under the Law of Moses to begin with, and that includes me too. Not once will you ever find Paul puttin’ the screws on these people, demandin’ one-tenth of everyone’s earnings. Man, if that dude had gotten his hands on that kind of loot, he never would have had to do without or say: At this very hour we are hungry, and thirsty, and goin’ in rags. Saints, anybody with half an eyeball can see Paul never took one penny of tithe money from anybody. In fact, some congregations were so stingy with love offerings they would have made Scrooge look like Santa Claus. Amazingly, Paul continued to minister, even when he suffered need. Now that testifies to the Love of Jesus in that preacher.”
“Now let’s talk about Jesus Himself. NOT ONCE did He ever charge His followers 10% of their wages to finance His earthly ministry! And if anybody had a right to, He surely did. Jesus could have feasted on the fatted calf single night if that had been the case, and He and His disciples never would have had to forage from fig trees or pick through other people’s grainfields to kill their hunger pangs; especially that day they were caught red-handed pickin’ a few measly grains of barley on the Sabbath, which raises still another point: Why on earth hadn’t they bought a few groceries the day before the Sabbath; if, as a lot of scripture-twisters claim, Jesus and His disciples lived and preached earthly prosperity?
“If Jesus was loaded, folks, He sure didn’t flaunt it. And He never would have said: Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests. But the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head. I say to every ‘faith’ preacher out there who claims to follow Christ: It takes more faith to live without money than with it! Can you give the Lord a big hand-clap offering, everybody!
“Paul the Apostle said that legalizers would try to keep you under the Old Law. If you back ‘em into a corner, they might concede that God’s people are no longer under the 600-odd ordinances of Mosaic Law, which were later added to the Ten Commandments. Yet they’ll latch onto their favorite one_tithin’_because it ain’t very lucrative for them to let God’s people go.
There’s way too much gravy to skim off of other people’s misery.
“Paul did, however, encourage Christians to give liberally to support God’s work. Don’t forget, folks, God owns you, and every cent you have, and it’s only by His permission you may spend any of it on your own needs, and you’d better not be a Scrooge with Him and withhold that portion He clearly tells you to set aside for His Kingdom. But, I would stress, Paul directed each individual to give only what he was truly able to give, out of a willin’ heart, not out of constraint, or legalism. II Corinthians 8: 11-12 tells us that God wants us to give what we can out of what we have, not what we don’t have! Saints, I ask forgiveness for every time I badgered y’all into puttin’ God to the test by sendin’ in a big ‘love offering’ beyond your means. How unlovin’ of me! Jesus Himself said to satan: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God; that is, put God to foolish tests of so-called ‘faith’! God knows how many saints I’ve put in such a bind that they had to take an extra job just to pay Uncle Sam’s 30% AND ‘the Lord’s’ 10%, on top of all the ‘sacrificial love offerings’ which gave me a little taste of heaven on earth! God forgive me!
“Some of y’all are wonderin’: What about the widow who gave her very last penny to God? My, but preachers have milked that story for all it’s worth. Her contribution was a freewill offering, not somethin’ forced out of her by law. She simply didn’t want her poverty to rob her of the joy of givin’. She gave ( not paid, as some would have you think! )her all, because she was rich in faith. She believed that God, the Defender of orphans and widows, would surely provide for her. How it breaks my heart, to think how I’ve badgered God’s children into givin’ beyond their means, and way beyond their level of faith! It sure wasn’t faith that drove my ministry, and whatsoever is not of faith is sin!” For an eternal moment he hung his head, amid softly whispered prayers. He shuffled and cleared his throat.
“Jesus’ heart went out to that poor little widow. He knew that corrupt religious leaders were skimmin’ the fat off a system which had been intended by God to be a safety net for poor people. Rich priests were oppressin’ the people of God by enforcin’ their own traditions on the needy, like so many do today. No wonder Jesus got so hoppin’ mad He drove the money-changers out of the Temple with a whip!”
“Preachers, you’ve got not right to hang onto an ordinance of a legal system which was nailed to the Cross of Christ, and Christianize it by substitutin’ money for farm produce! Nor does God authorize just any old Tom, Dick and Harry to dun any man for 10% of his wages, especially if he ain’t a Jew from the Tribe of Levi, and especially since the Jewish Temple got burnt to rubble long ago. It grieves God to see some Levite-wanna-be chain Christians to laws Jesus died to set them free from!
“My, but preachers worm out of that one. Know how they manage that? By sayin’ they’re the New Testament counterparts of the Old Testament Levites. So that’s their ticket to ride on the gravy train.
“Wow, have I ever got news for them! I Peter 2:9 says: But YOU are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. Just who did Peter write this epistle to? Ordinary, everyday Christians, like you and me. Now if professional pulpiteers have a right to collect tithes, so do you!” Brother Blessing said, pointing to one grinning man. “You too, Sister!
“When I get through talkin’, I’m gonna SHOW my repentance the same way Zacchaeus the tax-collectin’ crook showed Jesus he was sorry. I’m gonna liquidate all my extra fat and use the proceeds to help brothers and sisters in need. After the service, my associates will get the names of those of you who need our help to recover from any onslaught of satan which has left you destitute.Besides preachin’ the true Gospel of Salvation, we’ll concentrate on helpin’ to feed and clothe needy people. As God enables, we also hope to provide emergency rent relief for those who need it. Our trust fund will will be called the ‘Blessing Bank’. But this time, we’ll be doin’ the givin’! Whatever comes in is gonna go right back out to bless others. I’ve discussed this plan with Jeremy and David, two of my fellow laborers in Christ. They also have forsaken the love of Mammon for the Love of Jesus, and wholeheartedly support me in this work.”
“As the Lord provides, we’ll undertake that ministry in Jesus’ Name. But never again will we make appeals for tithe money, which is a man-made doctrine of bondage. And I know you won’t lie to me about your circumstances, either. God is with me and in me as never before. It’s Christ in me you’ll be approachin’ for help, and God forbid you should lie to the Spirit of God. It’s a wonder I wasn’t struck dead like Ananias and Sapphira, after all the brazen ways I filched funds prayed over and consecrated to God by Christians!
Now we’ll throw the floor open for questions. I’ll stay up here onstage, so I can sit down if I get to feelin’ weak. Brother Ray will go around with the microphone, and take just a few questions on this subject. Please speak into it so everybody can hear, and try not to interrupt me when I answer, ‘cause I know this subject makes emotions run high. Yes, you sister in the blue dress?” He pointed. Brother Ray hurried down toward her.
“Brother Blessing, one preacher told how a poverty-stricken church in Macedonia gave a big donation to Paul. Why did he take money from the poor?”
“Well, Sister, in the first place, Paul didn’t force them to give anything. In fact, they insisted he take it, despite his very human reservations. Their sacrificial offering went to provide famine relief for saints in Jerusalem, and God would bless the Macedonians for their contribution. Yes, Brother?” he pointed at a man toward the back.
“Brother Blessing, didn’t Abraham pay tithes to Melchisedek long before the Old Law was given?”
“Yes, Brother, one occasion is mentioned. It’s in Genesis 14, I believe, and it tells how Abraham took back some property stolen from his nephew Lot and other citizens of Sodom. He led his army against a confederacy of kings and beat ‘em in battle, then rescued Lot and the other captives. As a ‘thank-you’ offering to God, Abraham presented a tithe of the spoils to Melchisedek, King of Salem, who prefigures the eternal Priesthood of Christ. The tithe itself consisted of the plunder of war, not some of Abraham’s personal wealth. What sticks out in this story is this: That booty didn’t even belong to him, ‘cause it had been stolen from the people of Sodom. We don’t dare follow Abraham’s example in tithin’,” he winked. “We’d have to give somebody else’s stuff away, and we’d end up in the pokey for it!”
“Didn’t Jacob promise to pay God tithes, Brother Blessing?” called a man from the far right.
“He sure did, brother, on one occasion, and even then, strictly on his own terms. In Genesis 28: 20-22, Jacob, a natural-born wheeler-and-dealer, says: IF God will be with me, and protect me, and give me food to eat, and clothes to wear, and bring me safely back to my father’s house, THEN shall the Lord be my God, and of all that thou shalt give me, surely I will give a tenth back to thee. We don’t even know if Jacob kept his end of the bargain, and it was at least twenty years before he got back home, at which time his vow would become payable. ”
“Notice this runs contrary to to what prosperity peddlers preach. They’ll say: ‘Saints, you’ve just gotta give to God first, or He won’t give anything to you. No pain, no gain.’ But Jacob says God must give to him first, and meet his needs first, before he is able to tithe to God.”
“Yes, folks, God agreed to Jacob’s terms. He would first give to Jacob before expectin’ a tithe back from him. Paul the Apostle says in I Corinthians 4:7: Now what do you have that you did not FIRST RECEIVE? Remember, Paul exhorts His converts to give out of what they have, not out of what they don’t have yet. Not once did he ever tell his followers to go into debt to finance a $2000 vow to ‘save his ministry’. Actually, Paul disapproved of gettin’ into debt. He said in Romans 13:8: Owe no man anything, but to love one another. God have mercy upon my soul if any one of you got yourselves into hock just to keep me in Ferrari coupes! Oh, dear sweet Jesus, forgive me!”
Law vs. Liberty
One stern-looking lady was unimpressed. “Brother Bill,” she snapped, “your heart isn’t right with God, the way you peddle a cost-free Christianity, even if you do know how to play on people’s sentiments. There were times money was paid by worshippers at the Temple and you know it.”
Brother Blesing’s eyes darted a moment, then he brightened. “Sister, let’s start off by askin’ you your name, and do you have any children?”
“My name is Martha Smith. I have five children, and they’re all upstanding Christians.”
“What’s the name of your oldest, Sister Smith, and how old is that child?”
“Phil, he’s fifteen.”
“Sister,” grinned Brother Blessing, “did you remember to pay your redemption fee for your firstborn child, and if you did, where did you pay it, to whom, and what currency did you use to pay it?”
“What redemption fee?” she snapped.
“Oh, but didn’t you know? Under Old Testament Law, the firstborn of every human and animal is holy unto the Lord, and you can’t keep it unless you pay so many shekels to a Levital Priest as a redemption fee. Where’s the money, Sister Smith, and who are you gonna pay it to? It surely can’t be me.”
“But I don’t have any shekels!” protested the woman, agitatedly.
“But if you want to be under the Law of Moses, sister, or any part of it, you still owe God that money.”
“I was planning to give a $100 offering tonight, but I don’t know about that now.”
“Sister Smith, I don’t care if you were gonna give me $1000. As everybody here’s my witness, I’d rather turn my back on questionable donations than turn my back on Jesus. You’ve kept the good Lord waitin’ fifteen years now, and I can prove from Scriptures in Numbers 18 and Leviticus 27 that your redemption bill for that boy has accrued to 20 specially minted Shekels of the Sanctuary. God could care less about Uncle Sam’s money, that’s in Caesar’s domain.”
“I certainly haven’t heard that one before,” said Sister Smith. “Just why won’t U.S. currency do?”
“Well, sister, if you’re keep the Old Law, you’ve gotta do it on God’s terms. Remember how Jesus showed some people a coin with Caesar’s picture on it and said: ‘Render to God what belongs to God, and to Caesar what belongs to Caesar’? To put it bluntly, Caesar’s money just ain’t holy enough to settle Old Testament religious debts with. Under the Old Covenant, it was expressly prohibited to worship God with anything that had an image of any livin’ creature on it. In Jesus’ day, secular currency had to be exchanged for the Sanctuary Shekel before it could be offered unto the Lord. Secular coins bore the image of Caesar, a heathen emperor, just like our own money has American presidents on it.”
“Surely God isn’t that picky,” said the lady.
“Oh, but He is, sister. Back in King David’s day, a man got killed just for puttin’ his hand on the Ark of the Covenant, to keep it from fallin’ from an oxcart onto the road. That tragedy could’a been avoided altogether if only that Ark had been transported back to Jerusalem the right way, as God commanded. Levites were supposed to pick the Covenant Box up with specially made poles and carry it on top of their shoulders. Even the Priests were forbidden to touch this Most Holy object with sinful hands, a place where God’s Presence rested. But those people didn’t listen to God, and that poor guy died. Whenever we tinker around with the way a Holy God wants things done, it’s downright lethal. That’s exactly what tithe teachers are doin’ today, as they reintroduce, reinterpret, and rigidly enforce old laws nailed to the Cross of Christ.”
“Now, sister, if you still think the New Covenant’s too easy to suit you and you insist on goin’ back to the Old Law, it’s a package deal, and you’ve gotta shoulder the whole burden of it. The Bible says that whoever offends in just one point of the Law is guilty of breakin’ the whole thing. So let’s just tackle this knotty problem first. It’s enough to chew on. If you fail to find a way to keep that Law about payin’ the redemption fee, you’ll come under a curse, just like those rascally priests who robbed God in Malachi’s day. Galatians 3:10 says this: As many as are under the Law are under the curse. Now, if a professional priest who knew all the ordinances of Moses inside out couldn’t keep the whole Law, neither could you.”
“Well,” hedged the woman nervously, “I live a very commendable Christian life, considering the kind of husband I have to put up with everyday!”
“Sister, God’s gonna hold your husband accountable for his own sins, and they probably are worse than yours in some ways. But know this: Our God will settle for nothing less than absolute perfection, and if you can’t deliver that degree of perfection, you won’t inherit the Kingdom of God any more than he will. That is, unless you place your trust in none other righteousness than that of our Savior, Who alone was able to fulfill all the points of the Law in His own sinless life. Think you can do that, sister?”
“I think God expects me to stand on my own two feet,” she huffed, “as any mature person would! I’ve made a covenant with God, too. He doesn’t have to bless me unless I pay Him 10% of all the money that falls into my hands. After all, it takes two to fulfill a legal agreement. Tithing is a far more reasonable bargain than you give it credit for. After all, I still get to keep 90%. don’t I?”
“So that 90% is all yours, not God’s, and He has absolutely no say in what you do with it.”
“I never said that!” she snapped.
Brother Blessing frowned. “I think you’re missin’ my whole point, sister. If you first offer yourself up to God, as Paul says in Romans 12:1, then He owns you and everything else you have. He really owns 100%, not just 10%, but I think He might be just a bit more compassionate than we give Him credit for.”
“But if I tithe, I obligate Him to bless me!” cried the woman.
“Sister Smith, God ain’t some puppet on a string you can control with cold, hard cash. From what I gather, you think that the day you welsh on payin’ tithes, you can’t expect any further blessings from God.”
“That’s right. God promised the ancient Israelites earthly blessings, but only if they’d be faithful to observe all His Law. I certainly don’t want to be a poor church mouse who has to wait till I get to heaven before God ‘blesses my basket and my store, and I’m above and not beneath’. I want Abraham’s blessings to be mine, NOW, while I’m still on earth, and people can SEE how God rewards those who keep His statutes! And I don’t expect any favors from God unless I keep my end of the bargain. God is my Partner in prosperity, and I don’t intend to let Him down! He can count on Martha Smith to tithe to all those fine men on this Network who shed tears of tender compassion as they pray for all the Christian viewers who are bound by poverty; souls who could be set free, if only they’d keep God’s Laws of Prosperity.”
“Look what you’ve gone and done now, Sister Smith. You’ve been taken in by crococile tears shed by money-hungry sharks, I oughta know. God forgive me, I used to spend hours in front of a mirror practicin’ my Sarah Bernhardt faces to get ready for the show. Every actor knows how to turn on tears like a water faucet. It just ain’t that hard to do, once you get the knack of it. This is me doin’ my bit for the Hallelujah Telethon.”
He looked up at the TV cameras, squinched his eyes, and stretched his wide mouth into a contorted grimace. “Oh, Je-e-e-sus!” He gyrated wildly and jerked his hands heavenward. “Set your people free,” he groaned in his deepest tremolo. “Set ‘em free to sow a seed out of their need. Help’em believe so they’ll receive. O-h-h-h...JE-E-ESUS!... he shrieked, gripping his chest and swooning. “O-h-h-h. child of God!” his twiddling fingers outstretched like a hungry beggar, “you gotta GIVE, or God can’t give to you. Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy, and it’ll come back to you packed down like a cup of brown sugar, shaken together, and runnin’ over so you won’t have nowhere to put it.”
“And,” he said matter-of-factly, “that’s where the canned organ music would come in to play people’s hearts like a fiddle. Only thing we forgot was the fake angels flyin’ around my head to go with it.”
A noisy hubbub broke out. A few shouts, a few getting up to go. Brother Blessing bowed his head. His wife rushed to his side. She took the mike and said: “Saints, my husband didn’t find it easy to come clean. We’ve got no excuse for how we’ve done y’all over these past few years. Like Jesus in the Wilderness, we were tempted by satan to seek after earthly riches and power. But the difference is, we gave in, and believe me, we’ve suffered for it. You know what trial we’re goin’ through,” her voice quavered. “All we can do now is ask your forgiveness, and for you to remember what Jesus said: ‘If you refuse to forgive your brother for his trespasses, neither shall My heavenly Father forgive you your sins’. And as Bill said, we’re gonna do our utmost to make it up to every one of y’all. Now, could y’all please give my husband the greatest blessing one child of God can give to another...forgiveness and love in a time of great sorrow?” Tears brimmed in her eyes.
The studio quieted, except for a few whispered prayers and sniffles. “Thank you, brothers and sisters,” she said. “And thanks to everyone who asked questions tonight...”
Brother Blessing took the mike from her hand. “I’d like to say more to Sister Smith, honey. Thank you for what you just said to all our brothers and sisters out there. Thank you for puttin’ up with me all these years.” He gave his wife a quick peck on the cheek. “Ain’t she wonderful?” he smiled warmly at his audience, most of whom smiled and applauded--except Sister Smith. She was determined not to let the rascal off that easy.
“Sister Smith,” he asked, “can you forgive me too?”
“For all your silly theatrics,” she said unctuously, “I’ll forgive you. But one thing that’s unforgiveable is the disgraceful attitide you’ve developed toward Christian finances.”
“So you thought my attitude was more Christlike when I robbed people blind?”
“And you attacked the anointed ministry of other preachers by calling them crooks and thieves.”
“If my memory serves me right, Sister Smith, I didn’t assign any names to those crooks or thieves, except I pointed the finger at myself; Bill Blessing of Tomahawk, Texas.”
“But what about Brother Conway, and your pastor? You mentioned those two.”
“All I said was they had much to gain by me helpin’ ‘em. God knows their hearts, and every preacher out there who knows he’s guilty of the same tricks I pulled isn’t accountable to me, but to God. And those who know they’re scammin’ the saints are skatin’ on thin ice if they claim their ‘ministry’ is anointed of God. As for me, I was crafty about it. I don’t think I ever labelled my ministry as ‘anointed’; I just hopped on the same gravy train others were ridin’ , and I told so many truth twisters that I ended up brain-washin’ myself as well as others. I wanted with all my heart to really think I had a right to get everybody else’s money. Until Christ Himself got through to me, I doubt I was even in my right mind anymore, I was so far gone. Sin had deadened me to true righteousness, and I was a blind leader of the blind.”
“Well, still,” Sister Smith shrugged, “I’ve spent years listening to Prosperity tapes and going to conferences, and Prosperity teachers seem to be bright, intelligent men in their right minds. I’ve stored a wealth of information in my heart and head I didn’t know before, thanks to those preachers you just condemned.”
“I condemn nobody,” said Brother Blessing. “People are condemned before God when they knowingly twist Holy Scripture to make an easy buck off of poor people in Jesus’ Name, and cast a shadow of reproach on His Holy Name. It was only by the sheer grace of God I’ve been forgiven.”
Her eyes narrowed into angry slits. “Unless you repent and do your first works, you are cursed with a curse! Not only are you robbing God of His tithe by teaching people their ticket to heaven is free, but you’re undermining one of the bedrock doctrines of the church! One which gives religious people a chance to put their money where their mouth is, if they expect to get anything from God!”
Brother Blessing looked so sad. “You really don’t believe in the grace of God, do you, sister?”
“Whatever gives you that absurd notion!” she snapped.
“Well, sister, out of your own mouth you’ve made a pact before God not to take any blessings from Him you didn’t earn. All our viewers, far and wide, just heard you pledge to keep all 600-odd of Moses’ ordinances, which involve ceremonial washings, dietary laws, savin’ a bit of your biscuit dough for the preacher, and offerin’ up animal sacrifices for your sins. Where do you think you’ll do that? Out on your backyard barbecue grill?”
My, what a chorus of Texas hee-haws broke out. The woman looked round, glaring. “You’re being ridiculous!” she snapped. “Those people should be laughing at you, not me!”
“Oh, they’re not laughin’ at either of us, Sister Smith. They’re laughin’ at the very notion of tithin’ today as God commanded it in the Bible. That’s what’s plum ridiculous.”
“So you’re saying it’s ridicuous to be faithful to the inerrant Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation?”
“Sister,” inquired Brother Blessing, “answer me this, if you will. Do you work on Saturday, or just rest?”
“When do I ever get time to rest?” she sighed. “I’ve got my washing to do, my meals to make, my house to clean, cakes and pies to bake to get ready for company coming the next day for Sunday dinner.”
“Aha! Then you, Sister Smith, are in violation of God’s law about not doin’ any work on Saturday, the Jews’ Sabbath Day! Did you know how terrible the penalty is for breakin’ that law?”
“But that’s different!” she cried. “God changed the Sabbath to Sunday!”
“Well, that’s as clear as mud to me,” said Brother Blessing. “No Scripture says: ‘Thou shalt switch from Saturday to Sunday’. Now I’ve heard strong cases argued for either day, but we won’t get sidetracked on that issue. Paul said in Romans 14:5: One man esteemeth one day above another; another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. But there is a spiritual sabbath we enjoy each and every day.We who enter into Christ’s finished work on our behalf also enter into God’s spiritual Sabbath of Rest, by ceasin’ from our own labors as Hebrews 4:10 tells us. But even if you are bent on keepin’ Sunday in the same way the ancient Jews kept their Sabbath, you’re still breakin’ God’s rules by not doin’ it the right way. Just like the tithin’ teachers change God’s rules on how to do that.”
“Oh, you’re just being stubborn as a mule!” she protested. “You, who supposedly represent the Lord, are making a mockery of holy things! Wait! I’ve got you now, Bill Blessing, and you’ve got no answer for this one! My Bible says this, and it’s found in the New Testament: ALL Scripture is profitable for instruction in righteousness. That must include Old Testament Scriptures as well.”
“By the works of the Law shall no man be justified,” Brother Blessing countered. “That’s in My Bible too. Still, the one you quoted is very true , sister. Now, can you remember what Scripture says the tithe was used for in the first place?”
“To provide for the priests and feed the defenseless and hungry,” she said.
“Right. Although there are no Levitical priests today, the Book of James asks us this question: ‘If ye see a brother or a sister lackin’ food or clothes, and ye say: Go in peace, be ye warmed and filled; yet give them not those things necessary to meet the needs of their body, what good does it do?’ He also said: ‘Pure religion and undefiled in the sight of God is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction’.
Despite all the cheers, Sister Smith gritted her teeth and acted like she hadn’t heard him. “One more quick point, Brother Blessing,” she said, breathlessly. “How about this one? Jesus said “Whosoever shall break one of the least of these My commandments and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven.”
“Here we go, runnin’ round the same old mulberry bush,” said Brother Blessing. “As I said earlier, Jesus never did command tithin’ on money. If y’all will all turn with me now to Matthew Chapter 5, you’ll notice Jesus sayin’ right before that verse you quoted, there in verse 17: Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I AM NOT COME TO DESTROY, BUT TO FULFILL. And in Luke 16:16 Jesus says: The Law and the Prophets were until John (John the Baptist, that is). He was considered the last of the Old Testament prophets who served under the old economy of Law, and he said of Christ: ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, Who taketh away the sins of the world.’ At that time Jesus was about to offer Himself up as an Atonement for the sins of the world, and usher in the New Covenant of Grace.”
“Now what would cause Christ to bring up the subject of destroyin’ the Law? I suspect because there were lots of times the Scribes and Pharisees accused Him of law-breakin’; like that time He healed people on the Sabbath Day, when no work was supposed to be done. He chose the way of mercy over the way of sacrifice. And Paul teaches in Romans 10: Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believeth. In other words, Christ fulfilled the Law of Moses in His own perfect Life, which was a sinless Life He could offer up as payment for our sins. And In that passage we quoted earlier Christ warns us that if our righteousness isn’t greater than that of the Scribes and Pharisees, we just can’t make it into the Kingdom of Heaven. “Saints, that’s a mighty tough challenge to undertake, to live independent of Christ’s righteousness, and goin’ about to establish our own. In Romans 10:3, Paul speaks of those who, bein’ ignorant of God’s righteousness, will try to create their own kind of righteousness; instead of acceptin’ Christ’s Gift of Righteousness, which God, the perfect Record-keeper, posts to the account of those who believe on His sinless Son.”
Sister Smith said nothing, only gnashed her teeth and furrowed her brow.
“Remember, sister, Christ came to dwell in our hearts by faith, to fill us with His own Life, and to give us His zeal for holiness. Before God’s people could be born again through the Spirit, and have the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus dwellin’ in their hearts, ancient Israelites struggled to keep a complicated legal code written on tablets of stone. They followed the letter of the Law out of fear, because the spirit of the Law hadn’t been written on their hearts yet. The Bible says: Love is the fulfillment of the Law. If you love your needy brother or sister, you’ll do anything you can to lighten their load, even if you can’t bear it altogether. I’d say since the goals of the old tithin’ Law were: to ‘rejoice before the Lord’ in a fellowship meal with God’s other people, and provide for the poor and the priesthood; it must be that you serve its purpose when you share meals of thanksgiving with every class of people in the congregation; and also, give free-will offerings to feed the poor and support the true work of God both at home and abroad, don’t you think?”
“But what about those tithing storehouses spoken of in the Bible?” Sister Smith persisted. Aren’t they analogous with the church treasury?”
“Do we have to go through all that again, Sister Smith?” asked Brother Blessing, wiping his brow. “Food was stored in those storehouses, not money. Dollar bills don’t satisfy hunger, at least not directly. They don’t grow from the soil of the land, unless you mean the trees they grew from, before they were cut up in a pulp mill somewhere to make paper for the money.”
Ripples of laughter.
“Another thing, sister. I’ve already explained that the tithin’ system was enforced by Mosaic Law, which also served as the civil law, at least so long as the Israelites weren’t under foreign occupation. Israel was a theocracy. We live in a secular democracy, and our elected leaders are accountable to the people, not to God, insofar as the carryin’ out of their duties is concerned. There’s a Separation of Church and State here in America, and in most of the world’s other democracies. God knew that people who didn’t have His Law of Love written on their hearts would not by nature keep it, and were less likely to support the Priesthood and look out for the welfare of needy neighbors. Until Christ came and fulfilled the Old Testament ceremonial ordinances, people brought in farm produce to feed the hungry because it was against the Law not to. When I was a kid, I didn’t always like doin’ what Pa said, but I knew what I’d get if I didn’t.”
“But Brother Blessing, I still think you’re supposed to keep the best of the Old Testament Laws. It’s sometimes a sacrifice to, but I want everyone here to know this: it builds character. Besides, it would be a waste to discard such noble precepts instead of making some use of them.”
Brother Blessing shook his head. “It would be a waste of good sacrifices. Hmmm.... That’s the same excuse King Saul gave when he disobeyed God’s order to ‘utterly destroy all the wicked Amalekites and everything they have’. Now, as Paul says, the Law is perfectly just and good and righteous, but the same principle applies here. King Saul spared King Agag’s life and kept the best of the animals for sacrifice. But the prophet Samuel got mad at Saul and said: ‘Hath the Lord so great a delight in sacrifice, as in obeyin’ His voice?’ Just as God would rather have mercy than sacrifice, as I said earlier, God delights more in obedience than sacrifice. And in our case, the righteous can only please God when they obey Him by remainin’ connected to the Life of Christ through faith in Him alone. It wasn’t long after that fiasco, Saul lost his Kingdom. I’ve read too many stories of cult members tithin’ themselves into utter destitution, and wonderin’ why God didn’t come through with all the big juicy rewards they were promised by their leaders. It’s just as if one of my men did a job the wrong way, then expected to get paid for it.”
“Well, maybe they are doing God’s work the right way,” said the lady pertly, “but God intends to reward them in heaven. That’s a more spiritual attitude to take.”
“Ah,” said Brother Blessing, “there’s another point. As a rule, there was much more emphasis on earthly blessings in the Old Testament. Now, if you’re gonna live under the old economy of law, you might as well set your sights on temporal rewards like wealth, perfect health, wipin’ out your enemies, length of days, descendants as numerous the stars of heaven, and prestige in the community. These things were mentioned much more often in the Old Testament than in the New, which tells us to set our hearts on things above. And,” he added, “what did you just tell me about wantin’ Abraham’s blessings in the here and now?”
“Now look who’s sassing me!” snapped Sister Smith, “after all your sermons on hundred-fold harvest blessings for giving big donations!”
“Look, Sister Smith,” said the preacher gently, “I know where you’re comin’ from, believe me. It’s hard to break with wrong ways of thinkin’, and I had the most awful struggle to get out of bondage to the Prosperity Gospel. It’s harder than breakin’ the cigarette habit. Satan sold me a lie, I swallowed it hook, line, and sinker, and turned around and passed it on to you. All my gold toys were nothin’ but chains on my spirit, and I very nearly lost my soul. I feel like I wasted the best years of my life, so I’m givin’ God back what few days I have left. I can’t do more than that to say I’m sorry.”
She frowned and bit her lip.
“What I was tryin’ to say is: If Old Testament ordinances were still in force, and could be enforced in any way we saw fit, even with no Temple and no Levitical priesthood, it seems God would have to keep His end of the bargain and bestow the Old Testament reward of material prosperity for fulfillin’ Old Testament obligations. Else, I never would’a read such shockin’ stories about poverty-stricken tithe-payers.”
“Remember what the devil said to God, Brother Blessing,” said Sister Smith. “Does Job serve God for nothing? Maybe they’re being tried in the furnace of affliction, and it will be a long time before they reap their harvest of prosperity. I certainly don’t tithe on my income expecting an immediate return. God always demands costly sacrifices of His people, because I’ve never had an easy ride. My ticket to heaven has cost me plenty. I’ve always said you get just what you pay for, and there’s no free lunch. We must pay as well as pray. You’re making it sound too easy to get to heaven.”
“Look, Sister Smith,” said Brother Blessing, looking a bit peeved, “you can’t have it both ways. Mixin’ the Old Covenant of Law with Christ’s New Covenant of Grace is just as hopeless as mixin’ oil with water. You either choose one or the other, and if you pick the Old Law to live under, you’ve gotta take the whole kit and caboodle. Why do you think the early Apostles forgot to add tithin’ to that long list of four things required of us Gentiles, in addition to walkin’ in the Love of Christ?”
“Well, for that matter,” she snapped, “they didn’t ordain Christian TV or pipe organs, either!”
Before he could reply to that, someone called: “Brother Blessing, if I can cut in, weren’t the Old Testament saints saved by faith too? That’s what I heard once.”
“Good question, brother. Even the Old Testament saints looked forward in faith to the comin’ of Christ, God’s Perfect Sacrifice for sin. As Hebrews Chapter 10 teaches, the old animal sacrifices could never take away sins. Even back then, it was really their faith toward God their Redeemer which saved them. Galatians 3:6 says: Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Take the Prophet Daniel. There he was, away off in Babylon, mournin’ because the Temple had been destroyed. He couldn’t worship at the Temple, but still he was counted as a righteous man. The angel Gabriel said he was beloved by God. Why? Not because Daniel could bring sacrifices to a Temple which didn’t exist anymore, because he couldn’t, except in his heart. No, he was justified by faith because he looked forward through eyes of faith to His Redeemer. Now, Sister Smith, if you’re dependin’ on your own ability to keep God’s Law and buy your way into heaven with sacrifices, you’ll surely buckle under that heavy load and incur His wrath for fallin’ short of His Glory.”
“But,” she cried, “JESUS helps me bear my burdens!”
“Sister, he’ll shoulder all your burdens Himself if only you’ll let Him, and if you acknowledge by faith that ‘Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believeth, as Romans 10:4 says. And, Christ took the whole body of Mosaic ordinances which, in the breakin’ of them, only served to expose us as sinners before a Holy God, us, and nailed them to His cross, as Colossians 2:14 says. I really don’t know why you’d want to go get ‘em back down, either.”
“But I’ve got to do my part to please God!” she cried.
“Sister, it’s your faith in Christ, not your donations, which keeps you in salvation. Galatians 3:3 says: Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? You can still take the hard road if you choose, but it won’t get you to Glory. Proverbs says: There is a way that seems to be right, but it ends in the ways of death. Sister, the Law never could minister life to fallen man, only death. It only served as a school teacher to show us how far short we fall of God’s perfection, and teach us our need for a Redeemer. And as for keepin’ the Law, I say again, it’s a package deal. You can either trust in Christ to be your all-sufficiency before God, or you’ll fall short of enterin’ into Christ’s perfect Rest of Faith. It can’t be part you and part Jesus makin’ you righteous before a holy God.”
“You’re leading these people down the Broad Way to Destruction!” accused the woman. “You’re making it too easy for people by telling them they don’t have to keep part of the Bible! And,” she said pointedly, if I were you, I’d be afraid to face my Maker with that attitude! ”
At that point, Brother Blessing’s right-hand-man, Brother Jeremy, took the podium. “Sister,please. you know the trial Brother Blessing is under. Just sit down, and listen, please. Brother Bill, you look tired, and I think we should wrap things up with a song or something.”
“No, Jeremy,” Brother Blessing whispered back. “I know she’s hard as nails, but there are others who need this. The Lord’ll give me the strength.”
“Sister,” he called, “it’s OKAY. Just stand up again if you will, and we’ll finish our friendly discussion.”
Pleased he was showering so much attention on her, she stood back up. Again Brother Ray held up the microphone for her. “Then I’ll just rephrase my question, Brother Blessing,” she said airily. “Don’t you think your approach to salvation is a bit lax, considering the transitory nature of earthly life?”
The preacher winced, but stood his ground.“Listen, sister, I’m sayin’ this in love, I’m not tryin’ to give you a hard time. With my track record, I’d be mighty scared if I had to face a holy God standin’ on my own merits instead of Christ’s. When He hung on that Cross, He said: “’It is finished’, and He’s the Author and the Finisher of my Faith. And: He is able to save to the uttermost those who come unto God through Him, seein’ He ever lives to make intercession for them. Now how can I possibly put in my two cents’ worth to improve on my chances of makin’ it to Glory?”
“Well,” she sniffed, “God helps those who help themselves. You just seem to have a cavalier attitude to it all.”
Brother Blessing grinned. “Sister, I’ll take back everything I’ve said up to now, if only you’ll show me that verse “God helps those who help themselves.”
A collective cry of shock broke out in the studio, and in TV Land. Pages rustled as people flipped through concordances in the back of Bibles, searching for that time-honored “scripture”.
“I’ve got news for you, Sister Smith,” her opponent finally said. “That’s the world’s most popular ‘scripture’, but it just ain’t in the Bible. Anything more you’d like to ask?”
Her face reddened. “Let me tell you this, Brother Blessing, I have set my face like a flint that I will not depart from any of God’s statutes, and you can’t charm me off my straight and narrow path with your cunning words of deceit!”
“Well, fine,” shrugged Brother Blessing, “if you’re determined to travel that hard road, instead of takin’ Jesus’ light yoke and easy burden upon yourself. But before we even start in on hundreds of other laws you’ve got to keep, let’s settle the issue about the redemption fee for your son, which is fifteen years overdue. How do you propose goin’ about payin’ it? Do you know where you can get hold of one authentic Temple shekel, let alone twenty, and even if you could, who could you pay ‘em to, and where? The Temple in Jerusalem hasn’t even been rebuilt yet, and the Levitical priesthood hasn’t been reestablished. That probably won’t even happen till after the Rapture of the Church.”
Sister Smith’s eyes darted. A well-educated woman of great refinement and dignity. she was ever one to shrink from a challenge. She must be victor in this controversy, and win over all those millions of viewers. “Well,” she said, “it’s no fault of mine the Temple hasn’t been rebuilt yet.Surely God can’t demand more of me than my best.”
“Oh, but he does, sister, and if you don’t pay your son’s redemption fee, you’re robbin’ God.”
It burst out. “But JESUS redeemed my son, eight years ago! What more does God want!”
Brother Blessing chuckled, as did lots of other people. “I rest my case. That’s my sermon in a nutshell. Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law, and He is the end of the Law to righteousness to every one who believes on Him and rests on His perfect righteousness by faith. Sister Smith, would you like to join me onstage so I can pray for you to be set free from the bondage of legalism?”
“Not thank you,” she said primly. “There are plenty of other preachers who are willing to pray a blessing on my tithe, then present it to God so I can receive my harvest. You’re the first preacher I’ve ever heard of who’s turned down a big donation and turned his back on revolutionary new doctrines that a few faithful preachers are teaching to bless millions.”
Brother Blessing rolled up his eyes. “Sister, if your soul wasn’t at stake, I’d laugh. Yeah, plenty of preachers will twist God’s Word to prey on your tithe, and they’ll sure present it to their ‘god’, their bank account. And millions of gullible givers bless a few faithless preachers with millions. And you’ll get your harvest, too, just like I did. A heart full of regret in later years, when you realize how much you’ve hurt Jesus by tryin’ to manipulate him with your money. And as for Prosperity bein’ a revolutionary new doctrine’, you’re contradictin’ what you said earlier about stickin’ to what the Bible says. When it comes to sound doctrine, this adage holds true : ‘if the Bible says it, it can’t be new. If it’s new, it can’t be true ’.
“Furthermore, Sister, do you really think tithe teachers are bein’ faithful to the inerrant Word of God, the way they transfer the tithe to modern Christendom?”
She gave him a funny look. “And I suppose you’re getting ready to pull still another rabbit out of your hat? Don’t you know when to quit? Don’t you ever get tired of resisting God?”
“Sister Smith, all I’m doin’ is untyin’ a few knots that have tied up God’s people for a long time.”
“You said you’d rested your case, Brother Blessing. Long-winded as you are, I bet you can’t think of any other argument against tithing on money.”
He only grinned and said: “All y’all listeners out in the studio audience, do you want to know the biggest reason of all why I can’t preach monetary tithin’ anymore? Tell me right this minute, or I’ll quit right now.”
A rash of shouting broke out as his studio listeners rose to their feet. Soon they were crying in unison: “We want more! We want more!” as feet stomped and hands clapped.
“Praise the Lord,” he said, “praise Jesus. I got a question somebody in out my audience can answer. Now can anybody tell me what Scripture says is the earnest, or down payment of our inheritance in Christ Jesus? Think about that one a minute.”
To his delight, Brother Len, seated in the second row, rose to his feet.
“Brother Len, I believe you can answer it better than anybody here. What is the earnest of the inheritance God has promised us as believers in Christ Jesus?
“It’s none other than the blessed Holy Spirit, Brother Bill, and I’ll look it up for you right now.” He thumbed through his concordance and read Ephesians 1:13-14, to the delight of those who already had an inkling of what the preacher was driving at.
“Thank you, Brother Len,” he said. “I believe God has saved the best for the last.
“Brothers and sisters, remember how back in the Old Testament, the Israelites received an earthly inheritance from God in the land. But the Levites didn’t get any. Rather the Lord says to Aaron in Numbers 18:20: I AM thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel. And as for the other eleven tribes, the tithe was taken from the fruits of their inheritance, and shared with those who had no inheritance of farm land.
“Now New Testament believers are called a Royal Priesthood. And Scripture says we are strangers and pilgrims in the earth. Our sights are to be set on a heavenly inheritance. The Holy Spirit Himself is the down payment, or earnest, of our inheritance as born-again believers. And if He is the down payment, plain logic tells us we have yet to receive the rest of our inheritance. And even if God has deeded the entire earth to us, it isn’t yet in our hands. Besides, God only ordered tithes to be taken of the produce of the Land of Israel, and not all His people are engaged in agriculture. Now, if God had meant for tithin’ to be carried over to the New Testament, seems to me like He would’a carried over the bedrock principles of tithin’ along with it. And even if we ignore the fact that only Levites were supposed to take tithes, and that those tithes were to consist only of edible agricultural produce, that still leaves the fact that mandatory tithes were to be collected only on the Israelites’ inheritance!
“Now how on earth do you expect to tithe on the fruits of that portion of your heavenly Inheritance you’re enjoying’ right now, the Holy Spirit Himself? Can you tithe on His fruits of love, joy, and peace? Sounds plum ridiculous to me!”
Everybody laughed good-naturedly--except Martha Smith, who shut her soul to that wondrous revelation. Undeterred, she raised her hand and said: “But the Bible says this: ‘all things are ours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or life or death, or things present, or things to come. That, by the way, is in I Corinthians 3:21-22. That must include means of livelihood as well.”
“Now, Sister, I know Scripture says “all things are yours”, but at this present time we do not yet hold all things in our hands. As Paul points out in II Corinthians 6:10, ‘As having nothing, yet possessing all things.’ Now, do you think Brother Len has the title deed to a big inheritance of farm land he can grow Biblical tithes from, or is he just like me, a sojourner in this world whose treasures are laid up in heaven?”
Wild applause. Sister Smith only retorted: “Well, potentially all things are Brother Len’s, aren’t they?”
“But experientially they’re not, Sister. Even if Len did own the plant which employed him, and this supposedly constituted his personal harvest field that he was supposed to get God’s tithe from, seems to me like you’d still have to pick out God’s tithe in God’s way. Now, did the Israelite farmer present the tithe of his wheat, sheep and cattle to the storehouse, or did he just sell those things and bring money to beef up the priest’s bank balance?”
Sister Smith said, “I won’t dignify that with an answer! You’re treating me, a college graduate, like an imbecile!”
Brother Blessing’s eyes twinkled. “No, I’m not here to cut anybody down. I just asked a simple question. “Whoever gave preachers the right to rewrite the rules for correct tithin’ procedure...if they’re supposed to ask for tithes to begin with? Tithes never were presented to the priests in the form of money, but in their original form: as products of the Israelites’ inheritance of land, which was also the landowner’s harvest field.”
“Now if, as some contend, the pesticide plant where Len worked really was his harvest field, then it follows that in order to be true to the correct Biblical principle of tithin’ on the fruits of your field, he would’a had to take the tithe from the produce of that particular plant. If so he would’a had to take 10% of the fruits of that entire plant and put ‘em in the offering basket. But Len’s way to smart to do that. He knew that plant was neither in his possession nor under his authority, and he couldn’t just go in there with his pickup truck and haul away 10% of the plant’s annual output of rat poison, tick dip, herbicide and bug spray to present to the Lord as a tithe.”
“What devilish dribble!” cried the lady, struggling to be heard over the side-splitting hysterics. “How dare you call yourself a Christian, let alone a gospel preacher! I never heard such a crazy thing in all my life!”
“Because most preachers I know don’t want you to hear the real truth, Sister, that it’s crazy to pry tithes out of modern-day Christians. In Len’s case, pesticides, not grapes or grain, constituted the fruits of the plant which provided his livelihood. And if he had said: ‘All things, even this pesticide plant, are already mine by faith’, and tried to bring in the tithe of its fruits, he would be behind bars today.”
“That’s blasphemy!” wailed Smith wailed, above all the wild commotion. “Poking fun at God’s holy tithe!”
He continued: “No, Sister, it’s just plain old horse sense to know you can’t transfer a law without transferrin’ all the terms and conditions of that law too. God never took tithes off poor laborers, just off the fruits of the Israelites’ inheritance. God was very clear on that point, and He never gave anybody the right to change the stipulations of a Law He enacted under the Old Covenant. God never intended for preachers to resurrect any ordinance of the Old Testament so they could make a gold mine out of it in the Church Age. I committed that sin with my eyes wide open, and it’s a miracle God could forgive me for it.”
“But all those other TV preachers can’t be wrong!” she cried, dismayed by all the wild jubilation around her. “They make up the vast majority, and they sound so spiritual! You’re the odd man out!”
“Sister Smith, as I said before, God’s Kingdom ain’t a democracy, it’s a theocracy. Majority, minority, they count for nothin’ with God. Back in the days of Noah, only he and his family were spared, while the rest of the world drowned, though the sinners were in the majority. I expect churches to go on collectin’ tithes till the day Jesus calls His Church home, but that don’t make it sound doctrine.” Brother Blessing glanced at his watch. “Hey, I’m runnin’ way overtime, but I’d say much was accomplished tonight. I’m gonna invite all my friends out in the studio audience up for prayer. Sister, the invitation’s still open.”
The woman’s mouth trembled with fury, as she looked round at the people who sat on the edge of their seats, wondering if she’d concede the debate and go up. Nose aloft, she stalked out, muttering who was he, a semi-literate bumpkin, to dare suggest she stood in need of his prayers!
Brother Blessing shook his head, hoping the seed he’d sown would bear some fruit_spiritual, that is. He drew encouragement from all the bright smiles he saw in the studio, all the joyful people rising to their feet, and more than a few coming forward. They hadn’t really laughed at Sister Smith, just from experiencing the quiet joy of liberation from bondage.
There were no more questions on tithing.
Back in California, a frantic televangelist was practically pushing two cops toward the Control Room. Harry, the bigger one just moseyed along, munching his jelly doughnut. His comrade choked back a chuckle.
Brother Conway looked at his Rolex. “It’s been two hours since I called! Why did you drag your feet so long?”
“Can’t be everywhere at once, Reverend,” said Gus, who fumbled through a forensic kit. “A KT-UP3 was in progress, and all units had to be on the scene.”
“What the heck is a KT-UP3?” demanded the televangelist.
“Cat up a tree,” sniffed Harry. “It was a delicate mission, getting him down safely.”
“Yeah, Reverend,” put in Gus. “Poor little thing had his paw caught in a nest full of bird eggs.”
“Then it was lunch time and we got hungry,” said Harry. “You know how it is to be hungry, Reverend, don’t you, for bread cast upon the waters in green pastures?”
“Very funny,” Brother Conway fumed.
“So what’s the problem, Preacher?” inquired Harry, laconically.
“Please, Officers, you must arrest those people in there,” Brother Conway wailed. “Bill Blessing is wrecking my ministry! I’m ruined!”
“Easy now, Reverend,” said Harry, licking his fingers. “We’re here to protect and defend.”
He banged his truncheon on the Control Room door a few times, and barked: “Police! Open up now!”
“Guess we’ll have to nuke the door. It’s solid steel. Know where the blowtorch is, Gus?”
“Don’t look at me, Harry. You forgot to load it in the trunk!”
Brother Conway was sobbing. “Why don’t you force open the rear exit, then?”
With minimal effort the cops flung open the back entry to the Control Room, which had been left unguarded. No one was in there.
“Look,” Gus said, “the computer is doing a nifty job running this room. See how clear the broadcast is? Is this where you stash the cash, Reverend?”
“Watch it, smart guy!” snapped Brother Conway. “You’re just a public servant, and I pay your salary!”
“Well,” drawled Harry, “you just got your money’s worth. Case closed. They just left your studio on cruise control so they could pop out for a Danish.”
High in the sky, aboard a luxury Lear jet, a conference was underway.
“Jake,” said one of Brother Conway’s security men, “we’ve really stepped out in faith now. It’s a good thing Brother Blessing promised to meet our every need until we all find new jobs.”
“Yeah, Ricky, ” said his associate. “I told Mary and the kids we’d all be gone a few days, but not to worry. We’re paying the price for following Jesus, but God will surely provide. Did you notice, Brother Blessing’s face was positively radiant, and there was a new spring in his step?”
“To God be the Glory,” said Ricky softly. “There’s hope yet.”
“You know,” said Rufus, a Control Room engineer, “Ever since he changed, Bill Blessing is so much like Jesus, I really do hate having to take money off him.”
“Amen,” the others agreed.