Last post explained that food is amoral or spiritually neutral. There are no foods that – at least for spiritual reasons – Christians should avoid.
In determining how much to give some some Christians say, “God expected ten percent under the Mosaic Law, so that’s the guideline I use.” That’s fine (except that God expected much more than 10%), and many apply a similar principle to food: “God is wise. He forbid certain foods under the Mosaic Law, so it’s best to avoid them.” Again, nothing wrong with that. Pork is the most well-known prohibited food, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone saying, “Bacon is healthy. You should eat it.”
If you do choose to avoid certain foods, please accept these encouragements…
Don’t let your restrictions lead to self-righteousness. When people think they shouldn’t eat certain foods, sometimes they look down on others who don’t share the same convictions. Interestingly, 1 Corinthians 8:9-11 describes people who feel like they can’t eat certain foods as being “weak.”
Don’t neglect the the Law of Christ trying to keep the Mosaic Law. Twice Paul said the Law is fulfilled in the word “love” (Rom 13:8-10, Gal 5:14). People’s view of food makes them unlike Christ when they become contentious and hostile.
Are there any foods Christians should not eat? The New Testament is overwhelmingly clear in answering this question.
Consider the following verses:
Matthew 15:11 Jesus said, “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth.”
The Greek word for “defile” is koinoō. It means, “to make common, or unclean, or profane.” No food can make you unholy.
Mark 7:18-19 Jesus said, “Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus, thus purifying all foods.”
Jesus said all foods are pure.
Romans 14:17 The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
“Righteousness and peace and joy” are the weightier matters. People obsessed with food are missing the focus of the Kingdom of God.
1 Corinthians 8:8 Food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse.
People are not “better” if they don’t eat certain things.
Colossians 2:16 Let no one judge you in food or in drink.
Last post discussed that the New Testament doesn’t command giving a tithe, but it does command giving! So how much should Christians give? Here are three New Testament principles to make that determination.
First, Christians give according to their income.
Two New Testament verses make the point that the amount Christians give relates to the amount of their income:
1 Corinthians 16:2 On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income.
2 Corinthians 8:12 For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.
Neither verse states how much Christians give, but they do say that giving should be according to our income.
Luke 12:48 For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required.
Although this isn’t speaking directly of finances, the principle applies. If God gives you more, He expects you to give more. It’s completely reasonable that some people should give much more than a tithe (10%).
Second, Christians give sacrificially.
This is another reason it’s not a good idea for Christians to feel bound to a tithe. For some Christians that would require very little sacrifice.
This principle is important – not just because of what it teaches us about giving – but because of what it teaches us about our relationships with the Lord in general. God doesn’t need our money. His will is accomplished with or without our help. But God allows us to worship Him through giving, and the only way our giving is worshipful is if it involves some sacrifice.
I was asked whether Christians have to give a tithe or tenth.
You might notice the title is worded, “Do Christians have to…” versus, “Should Christians…” or “Can Christians…” If you want to give a tenth, that’s fine. I know Christians who say, “God expected a tenth in the Old Testament, so I want to give a tenth in the New Testament.” Many people look at the Mosaic Law for principles to apply today, including in the area of giving, and that’s fine. But if you think Christians have to give a tenth, that’s different and you should keep a few things in mind.
First, Christians are not under the Mosaic Law
Giving a tenth was commanded under the Mosaic Law. Christians are under the Law of Christ, which carries forth the morality in the Mosaic Law: “Do not lie…steal…murder…commit adultery.” You see all these commands confirmed in the New Testament. But the ceremonial commands – including those related to giving a tenth – are not maintained.
One of the more common questions I receive relates to the ceremonial commands in the Mosaic Law. People will ask, “Why did Israel have all those weird rules in the Old Testament?”
The simple answer is so Israel could be a holy people. Now the longer answer…
The Mosaic Law contains 613 commands divided into two categories:
The moral – or “common sense” – commands. You shall not murder, commit adultery, steal, or lie. These commands are based on God’s holy nature. God doesn’t change, so these commands are unchanging as well and carried into the New Testament. They are part of the Law of Christ and are still binding for Christians today.
The ceremonial commands are not obvious or common sense:
Killing a perfectly good animal for a sacrifice. All the sacrifices and offerings are ceremonial commands.
The feasts and festivals.
Abstaining from certain foods, such as pork and rabbit.
Farming a certain way.
Wearing – or not wearing –clothes a certain way, including not mixing certain fabrics together.
The purpose of the ceremonial commands causes the most confusion. Nobody wonders why God told Israel not to murder, commit adultery, steal, or lie. But people wonder why Israel wasn’t supposed to eat certain foods or combine certain fabrics.
The ceremonial commands deal with holiness, not morality.
Christians are no longer under the Mosaic Law, but we are under the Law of Christ.
“What is the Christian’s relationship to the Old Testament, or Mosaic Law?”
Not only is this one of the most common questions I receive, it’s also one of the most confusing. Since we’re under the New Covenant instead of the Old, this makes some people think we’re under no law whatsoever. This practically implies license to sin.
As much as the Old Covenant contained a Law, the New Covenant contains a Law
Galatians 6:2 If we bear one another’s burdens, we fulfill the Law of Christ.
In 1 Corinthians 9:20-21 Paul said he was not under the [Mosaic Law], but under the Law of Christ.
The Law of Christ is summarized in a few passages:
Matthew 22:37-39 Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
Romans 13:8-10 He who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Galatians 5:14 All the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The Law of Christ is a more concise version of the Mosaic Law. Rather than try to remember 613 commands, Christians focus on loving God and loving others. In doing so we fulfill the Law of Christ.
The Law of Christ sets a higher standard than the Mosaic Law
Six times Jesus quotes the Mosaic Law saying, “You have heard that it was said…”, then adds, “But I say to you…” In each instance He sets the bar higher:
Matthew 5:21-22 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder (Exo 20:13; Deut 5:17) But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment.”
Matthew 5:27-28 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ (Exo 20:14; Deut 5:18) But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Matthew 5:31-32 “Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ (Deut 24:1) But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery.”
Matthew 5:33-34 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ (Lev 19:12; Num 30:2; Deut 23:21) But I say to you, do not swear at all.”
Matthew 5:38-39 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ (Exo 21:24; Lev 24:20; Deut 19:21) But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”
Matthew 5:43-44 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor (Lev 19:18) and hate your enemy.’ (Deut 23:6) But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”
The Law of Christ looks to sin in the heart
What was previously sinful physically – murder and adultery – is now sinful when it takes place in our hearts.
What was previously allowed – divorce, oaths, and retribution – is now forbidden.
What was previously not commanded – loving our enemies – is now commanded.
We couldn’t keep the Mosaic Law which had the purpose of revealing our sinfulness (Rom 3:20, 5:20, 7:7). How much less can we keep the higher Law of Christ?
Thank God for His love and mercy in giving a Savior. By grace through faith we receive forgiveness and righteousness we could never obtain on our own (justification). “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His grace mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet 1:3).
Do you have any questions on the Mosaic Law or the Law of Christ? As a Christian did you see yourself under Law? If so, which one?
You can listen to a sermon I preached on this topic here.
From the administration of the sacrifices to the setting up and tearing down of the tabernacle, the precision of the Mosaic Law was really amazing. With 613 commands (365 negative, telling people what not to do, and 248 positive, telling people what to do), the question was never, “What should or shouldn’t we do?” the question was, “How perfect can we be?” and the answer was, “Far from perfect.” Romans 3:23 All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. As a result, God graciously provided the New Covenant, so we areno longer under law but grace (Rom 6:14). We breathe a deep sigh of relief and it’s like, “Ahhh…grace.”
The problem though – and truthfully I almost feel a little bad saying this – is we lose the exactness of the Law. With the New Covenant comes the responsibility for each man to be fully convinced in his own mind (Rom 14:5). We have to decide for ourselves what our consciences allow (1 Cor 8:7, 10). There are times I almost wish I didn’t have the liberty afforded under the New Covenant; I wish I had a tutor in the language of Galatians 3:24 telling me what to do and not do. I wish I had the clarity of the Old Covenant helping me navigate certain situations. The Law might have felt like an “unbearable yoke” in the words of Paul in Acts 15:10, but I bet people didn’t walk around saying, “Hmmm…how do we handle this grey area?”
I know the New Covenant actually calls us to a higher standard than even was found under the Old Covenant. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus repeatedly said, “You have heard it was said not to _____ but I tell you not to EVEN _____” (Matt 5:21-22, 27-28, 31-34, 38-39, 43-44). The Law forbids physical murder and physical adultery, but Jesus forbid committing those sins in our hearts…the Law was an eye for an eye, but Jesus said turn the other cheek; He was setting an almost exponentially higher standard. A verse I’ve really been meditating on is: Hebrews 12:14Without holiness no one will see the Lord. I read this and think: “I can’t see God without holiness? No salvation without holiness? Holiness is pretty serious.” I don’t take the verse to mean our salvation is earned by being holy, as that would conflict with the Gospel; however, I do think it means holiness is a byproduct of salvation; it’s something salvation produces. Saved people strive for holiness. The absence of holiness would seem to be evidence of being unsaved. Jesus called His disciples to a higher level of obedience, but what I’d say He really called us to is a higher level of holiness…higher than even the Law commanded.