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Food, Water, and Money

Must Christians observe the Lord’s Supper? Must we practice water baptism? Must we tithe? Tradition says one thing, and scripture says another. There are two so-called ordinances of the faith: water baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and tithing has been mandated by churches since a few hundred years after the time of Christ (see this source). As a general principle, to call something a command for Christians, there must be a clear statement about it, such as rules to perform it or penalties for not performing it, and it must be directed at the Body of Christ specifically. Let’s study this in the light of scripture.

The Lord’s Supper

This event is described in Mat. 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:14-20, 1 Cor. 10:16, and 1 Cor. 11:20-34. Jesus said that it was to be a memorial, but he left the details up to us; no specific year, day, or time, no presiding official, no instructions on how to conduct it or even what to eat or drink beyond bread and wine.

Even so, there is clearly more support for this being an ordinance than for water baptism, yet we still don’t have a command for when, where, and by whom this is to be done, nor a penalty for not doing it at all— though there is one for doing it disrespectfully. It cannot save us, or make us more spiritually mature, or give us better standing in the Body of Christ. Failure to practice it should never be grounds for disfellowshiping or shaming any believer.

The habit or tradition of the earliest believers was to break bread in each other’s homes, but it simply refered to sharing meals. We have a description of a particular memorial meal in 1 Cor. 11, but the only difference seems to be that the people celebrated some meals as the memorials. All the Apostle Paul states is that those should be done with dignity.

For a study on general dietary questions, see Is Eating Meat A sin?

Water Baptism

Take a look at Mat. 3:11, Acts 2:41, Acts 8:38, Acts 10:48, Acts 11:16, Heb. 11:29, and 1 Peter 3:20-21. Yes, in various places it shows people getting water baptized when saved, but there’s nothing about a command for all Christians for all time to perform it, nor a penalty for not performing it. In fact, the point in some of those passages was to not get into the water, and our baptism is by fire instead of water. As with the Lord’s Supper, water baptism cannot save us, or make us more spiritually mature, or give us better standing in the Body of Christ.

Tithing vs. Giving

There were three tithes in the Old Testament that totaled 23-1/3% annually, as seen in Num. 18:24 and Deut. 14:22-29:

  1. the Levitical tithe for the priests who had no land
  2. the Festival tithe for a great national party
  3. the Poor tithe for supporting the needy

All tithes were of food (not cash), specifically the best food, for the nation of Israel, and for those without the means to feed themselves. But what about Gen. 14:17-20, Malachi 3:9-10, and Mat. 23:23? Abraham tithed once to a priest, on the spoils of war, not as a regular habit and on everything he owned. Malachi presents a scathing denunciation by God against the people of Israel for breaking the terms of their covenant. There is simply no command given to the Body of Christ for this, which is why any and all sermons on tithing come from the Old Testament.

Now let’s look at what the New Testament actually says to followers of Jesus about giving. In Rom. 6:14, 1 Cor. 16:2,8, 2 Cor. 8:12-15, 2 Cor. 9:6-7, and Col. 3:17, we see that the church is not the storehouse, the preachers are not the priests, we’re already supporting the poor, and it’s impossible to give without compulsion when we’re being given guilt trip sermons on not tithing on our gross income and every little bit of cash we get to live on.

We’ve all heard testimonies from people who tithed and were blessed. But that’s not giving, it’s investing, because we’re paying to get something in return. And do we really think God withholds blessings because we didn’t fork over 10% of our gross pay to a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization? Giving must be free and voluntary, from the heart and not the calculator. The principle behind it all is in Col. 3:17: Whatever we do, it should be with pure motives, to honor God.

We need to clarify a passage that’s frequently mistranlasted: 1 Cor. 16:1. The Greek phrase there is not the first day of every week but the First of Sabbaths. This refered to the first Sunday in the Feast of Weeks, as indicated in verse 8 when the last Sunday, Pentecost, is mentioned. It was a one-time collection for the people suffering famine in Jerusalem, not a regular skimming of everyone’s salary or wages. Tithes were always on increase, meaning profit, which was from the yield of crops and herds.


We often say that our faith is not a religion but a relationship. Yet by our actions we say that it is indeed a religion. We ignore Gal. 4:10-11 and Col. 2:16-17 which specifically reject any sort of liturgical calendar or religious rites, we put up buildings with a sanctuary and altar (?!), and we usually require memberships for those already a part of the Body of Christ by virtue of faith in the risen Jesus. The tune and the lyrics need to match.

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