Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts? If I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it (Mal. 3:10).
Without access to a growing quantity of economic resources, Christians will not be able to exercise dominion. If a person cannot afford to buy or lease the tools of production, he will remain a salaried worker in someone else’s enterprise. He will remain, economically speaking, a second-class citizen.
The passage in Malachi makes it clear that if Christians refuse to pay their tithes to the local church, God will bring negative sanctions against them. “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation” (w. 8-9). But if His people obey God in this pocketbook affair, they will receive His economic blessings in history. Building personal wealth begins with tithing, and not just tithing as such — the whole tithe delivered to the local church: a single storehouse.
Tithing and Dominion
There was a time, well over three centuries ago, when the Puritan merchants of London exercised national influence far out of proportion to their small numbers. They were the English capitalists of the seventeenth century. They were also the source of almost half of the charitable giving of the nation. This gave them considerable political influence. Cromwell’s militarily successful revolution against the crown added to their influence, 1650-1660, but they had not gained this influence militarily; they had gained it economically and charitably, beginning in the sixteenth century. W. K. Jordan has discussed the influence of Puritan businessmen in his book, <i>Philanthropy in England</i>, 1480-1660 (Russell Sage Foundation, 1959).
In this century, the State has replaced private charity as the primary source of money and support for the poor. The State is perceived as the primary agency of healing. For as long as its money holds out — and still buys something — the State will continue to be regarded as the healer of the nation. But this ability to heal rests on political coercion and bureaucratic control. The State is now reaching the limits of its ability to confiscate the wealth of nations, all over the world. If its ability to exercise dominion by creating dependence by means of continual grants of money is ever interrupted by economic or other social disruptions, there will be a temporary void in society. That void will be filled by something. Power flows to those who will exercise responsibility. Who will that be?
Who should it be? Christians. But Christians are ill-prepared today to exercise such responsibility. They are themselves dependents of the State. They, too, send their children to public schools, collect Social Security checks, and plan their lives on the assumption that the State will serve as an economic safety net. The State’s wealth-redistribution system has steadily eliminated competition from private charitable and educational associations. When the State’s safety net breaks, as it surely will, most Christians will find themselves as economically unprepared as everyone else. They have been taught to trust that which is inherently untrustworthy: the modern messianic State. When this trust is finally betrayed, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth in churches, Christian college classrooms, and other supposedly sanctified places.
In that day, there will be a shift in local and national leadership, as surely as there was during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Regarding this coming shift in leadership, the question today is: Who will inherit authority? The answer is: those who bear the greatest economic responsibility in the reconstruction of the economy.
Will this be the Church? If not, why not?
Redemption: Definitive, Yet Progressive
The basis of biblical dominion in history is the redemption of the world. To redeem something is to buy it back. This process of long-term repurchase began at Calvary.
At Calvary, Jesus paid God the full redemption price. He did not pay it to Satan. Satan had occupied the world only as a squatter occupies it: until the owner comes to evict him. When Adam fell, he lost title to everything, including his own life. God, by grace, granted Adam an extension of his temporal lite. But by having subordinated himself covenantally to Satan through his act of rebellion, Adam had brought whatever God had granted to him under the temporary domain of Satan. While Satan did not gain lawful title over the earth, since Adam had forfeited title back to God, Satan has gained administrative control for as long as Adam’s heirs remain alive and also remain under Satan’s covenantal authority. Satan would have lost administrative control had God executed Adam in the garden, tor Satan’s legal claim was dependent on Adam’s legal claim. Adam’s claim was null and void except through God’s common grace in history: life, knowledge, authority over nature, and capital.
Jesus definitively paid God the full redemption price. This did not authorize His heirs the right to collect immediately on their inheritance. The world redemption process is a process. It is progressive, although grounded legally in a definitive act. In this sense, it mirrors sanctification. At the moment of his redemption in history, the redeemed person receives by God’s judicial declaration the moral perfection of Christ’s perfect humanity. But this moral perfection, while definitive and judicially complete, must be developed over time. Sanctification is progressive: a working out in history of the moral perfection of Christ. This is why Paul wrote of the Christian way of life as a race with a prize at the end:
Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway (I Cor. 9:24-27).
(For the rest of my article, click the link.)