Summary: Most teachings about “strongholds” tend to focus on how it hinders spiritual growth. But strongholds can also be the stabilizing force in spiritual maturity.
A number of years ago the founder of a well-known Christian organization responded to a question about tithing in his blog. The man asking the question was married with three young children. The family had no savings and about $75,000 in debt. They had been tithing, but said if they stopped tithing they could use the money to pay off their debt much sooner.
“Do you think that would be biblically wrong or does God want us to suffer and pay the price for immature and irresponsible attitudes toward money? Our financial situation is a large source of tension in our marriage. I feel I have let our family down.”
“No one else can tell you what God’s will is for anything unless it is specifically commanded or prohibited by scripture,” the blogger responded. “In my opinion, tithing falls into the category that is commanded in the Old Testament and confirmed by Jesus in the New Testament at Matthew 23:23.”
Let’s read the verse. “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”
Ladies and gentlemen, Jesus was not confirming the tithe. When you leave this verse in its context, you’ll see that the entire chapter is a scathing rebuke of the religious leaders for their heartless attitudes toward God and toward the people. Giving the tithe was more “sacred” to them than judgment, mercy and faith. Sadly, this attitude still exists in many churches today.
“My advice,” the blogger continued, “is to keep tithing. I know it’s counterintuitive, but God honors those who honor Him. You’re going to get through this. Make God bless your decision.” Then he closes: “Men, I hope you already tithe. But if not, I would like to encourage you to test and see if it’s true that, by tithing, God will watch over you as He has watched over me.”
Jesus taught kingdom of God principles.
During his three and a half year ministry, Jesus never taught the law. He taught the kingdom of God and this is clearly seen in Mark 1:14-15.
(14) Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God.
(15) And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.
Matthew 4:17 repeats what we read here in Mark. “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
In John 1:17, the dividing line is identified even more clearly. “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” I like the way the Bible in Basic English renders this verse: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and the true way of life are ours through Jesus Christ.”
Tithing is a stronghold in the Body of Christ.
The purpose of this message is not to teach on tithing. My focus this morning is on the bloggers advice to the struggling father and husband. He essentially says, “hang in there and continue to struggle because God demands the tithe.” He’s telling the man and his family “your needs are secondary when it comes to God’s need for the tithe.” Ladies and gentlemen, what a damnable teaching!
The blogger’s response ignores kingdom principles. One of the kingdom principles he ignores is 2 Corinthians 2:12-13.
(12) For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.
(13) For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened.
He also ignores the kingdom principle found in 2 Corinthians 9:7. “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give, not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.”
I really like the way the Amplified Bible renders this verse.
Let each one [give] as he has made up his own mind and purposed in his heart, not reluctantly or sorrowfully or under compulsion, for God loves (He takes pleasure in, prizes above other things, and is unwilling to abandon or do without) a cheerful (joyous, “prompt to do it”) giver [whose heart is in his giving].
What is a “stronghold”?
The words “strong holds” are used only once in scripture and it’s found in 2 Corinthians 10.
(3) For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh.
(4) (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
(5) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.