2 Corinthians 9:8-10 “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; 9 as it is written, “He scattered abroad, he gave to the poor, His righteousness endures forever.” 10 Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.”
Introduction: Today’s post is going to deal with answering a long standing and debated question: does the New Testament cancel out the practice of tithing? In the above text we see what is perhaps one of the central passages used to describe stewardship in the New Testament church and Christian life. The above passage is often used to show that the giving standard in the New Testament is a personal preference, rather than a defined amount as communicated in the Old Testament. The one detail that is overlooked among interpreters holding such a viewpoint is Paul’s quotation of Psalm 112. It will be shown that based upon the argument of Psalm 112, Paul is not doing away with the tithe, but rather is instructing his readers on their responsibilities to the Lord beyond the tithe.
Psalm 112 – the blessings associated with fearing the Lord
The Apostle Paul quotes Psalm 112:9 in 2 Corinthians 9:9 – “as it is written, ‘He scattered abroad, he gave to the poor, His righteousness endures forever.’ When you read the entirety of Psalm 112, the main point of the Psalm is stated in 112:1 “Praise the LORD! How blessed is the man who fears the LORD, Who greatly delights in His commandments.” From that main thought we see four main benefits that run from Psalm 112:2-8:
1. Preservation of a godly legacy 112:1-2 2. Prosperity 112:3 3. Power for Goodly living 112:4-5 4. Protection of the believer’s faith 112:6-8
It is then we come to Psalm 112:9 that the focus shifts from David or the believer fearing the Lord to the Lord Himself. The Lord is portrayed as the One who is behind the four blessings listed in Psalm 112:2-8 that flow from Psalm 112:1. The Hebrew text of Psalm 112:9 begins with the verb פִּזַּר (Piz-zar), meaning “to distribute freely, lavishly scatter” (Reader’s Hebrew Bible). The Hebrew verb is in a Hebrew stem form responsible for bringing about or causing a state of affairs (called by the grammarians the “Piel” stem).
God is the great Causer of all things -directly and indirectly through secondary agents or events. (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28) It is He who brings about conditions and events that enables whatever is needed to be distributed freely to those who are in need. Therefore the whole point of the Psalm is that for the one who fears God, He has no need to fear anything, being that God brings about what is needed regarding legacies (112:2), financial needs (112:3), godly living (112:4-5) and faith itself (112:6-8). Sadly the wicked do not enjoy the same blessings and will be jealous, and yet not avail themselves of what comes from fearing the Lord (112:10).
Focusing particularly upon how the believer who fears the Lord is materially blessed
Psalm 112:3 states – “Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures. forever.” Note what the text says again: “wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures”. The Old Testament ascribes the chief way in which one can enjoy blessing from God in the realm of their finances – tithing. Malachi 3:10 states: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, ‘if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.'”
Furthermore, the Psalmist points out that the one who fears God evidences His reverence and desire to bring God pleasure by “delighting in his commands” (112:1). Certainly Jesus himself spells out that the One who loves Him will obey what He says. (John 14:15,21) Tithing and stewardship were set centuries and millennia before the giving of the law (as seen in Abel, Abraham and Jacob in Genesis 4:4, 14:20 & 28:22 respectively). The law of Moses simply reaffirms and spells out specifically how the general principle of tithing and stewardship are to be applied, along with attended blessings for those who heed it and sanctions for those who ignore it.
In short, Psalm 112:9 communicates that a believer has received from God’s abundant scattering to the spiritually needy relational, spiritual, material and protective blessings. In the material realm, tithing and stewardship is the believer’s way of opening the door for God to bless and empower one’s resources and to develop a vision for using those resources to bless others. Is this subjecting oneself under a yoke of legalistic bondage? Not at all. If anything, the principle of tithing was revealed pre-law, was spelled out more clearly in the law and is how we express our thanks to Jesus Christ Who has fulfilled the law.
How the background of Psalm 112 factors into Paul’s statement to the Corinthians and us in 2 Corinthians 9:9
So why would Paul quote an Old Testament scripture in 2 Corinthians 9:6-10? Roy B. Zuck in his book: “Basic Bible Interpretation” (Victor Books. 1991, page 260-267), lists ten purposes for why the New Testament utilizes the Old Testament. Below are listed those purposes from his list that best explain how Paul is using Psalm 112 in 2 Corinthians 9:9:
a. To confirm that a New Testament incident is in agreement with an Old Testament principle. b. To support a point being made in the New Testament c. To apply the Old Testament to a New Testament incident or truth d. To use Old Testament terminology
Paul’s quotation of Psalm 112 assumes that his readers have already been giving their tithes, and that what he is asking of them to do is give an amount beyond the tithe – i.e an offering or sacrificial gift. In studying the over 100 passages of scriptures that speak on the matter of stewardship, we can recognize three levels of financial contribution to the Lord’s work:
a. Tithing – the starting level b. Offering – whatever amount one chooses to give beyond the tithe c. Sacrificial giving – Giving that requires an alteration of one’s finances. The assumption is of course that person is already tithing.
Conclusion: 2 Corinthians 9:6-10 is not abolishing the tithe, but assumes that readers are already tithing. The quotation of Psalm 112:9 is used to recognize the fact that God had already blessed the Corinthians because of their faith in the giving of the tithe, and now He is calling them to go beyond that and complete what they promised.