The primary purpose of scripture is to reveal to us the spiritual things of God, to those who are given the faith to receive them.
Joh 6:63 It is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.
Rom 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
The literal things also have a place in God’s work, but they have a temporary and limited function. For example, God uses the natural and visible things in this creation to prove that there is indeed an invisible creation:
Rom 1:20 For his invisible things are clearly seen from the creation of the world in his works, even his eternal power and godliness, so that they have no excuse.
However, the invisible creation of God and His spiritual things are not fully understood by the natural thinking in man. Therefore, spiritual things are foolishness to the natural thinking person.
1Co 2:14 But the natural man accepteth not the things of the Spirit of God; For it is foolishness to him, and he cannot understand it, because it is judged spiritually. 15 But the spiritual man judges all things; He himself is not judged by anyone.
So if the natural man reads the words of God in the Scriptures, he receives it and understands it according to his natural way of thinking. The same words in scripture are understood quite differently for those to whom God gives His spiritual insights. This is demonstrated in the pillar of cloud in the wilderness (during Israel’s exodus from Egypt). This cloud brought darkness to the Egyptians, while it provided light for the Israelites. This is one example written down in the Scriptures to help us understand how God uses His Word (the Angel of God) to ensure the separation between the literal application of the Word of God versus the spiritual application of the Word:
Exo 14:19-20 And the angel of God, who went before the army of Israel, departed there and followed them. And the pillar of cloud went before them, and stood behind them. 20 So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. And the cloud was there with darkness, and it lightened the night, so that one did not come near another all night.
Only God can “cover” His Words for some (obscuring the deeper spiritual meaning), while He is “unveiling” it to others. This is His choice. God brings His light to some, and others are left in darkness – that is His decision:
Joh 12:36-40 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them. 37 But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, 38 that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT? AND TO WHOM HAS THE ARM OF THE LORD BEEN REVEALED?” 39 Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: 40 “HE HAS BLINDED THEIR EYES AND HARDENED THEIR HEARTS, LEST THEY SHOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, LEST THEY SHOULD UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEARTS AND TURN, SO THAT I SHOULD HEAL THEM.”
When we can see the spiritual things of God, it is called coming to “repentance”, which means a renewing or a change in our mind and our walk in this life. Again it is God’s goodness that leads us to repentance!
Rom 12:3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.
Rom 2:4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?
We all start off our Christian walk focusing on the literal things in the Word first, and later our focus shifts to the spiritual things, as God Himself leads us in this conversion process. Everyone is where God wants them to be and we should be patient with each other and not judge or despise the others’ measure of faith. Those who are more mature in the faith of Christ must lead the way and not allow the immature in faith to dictate:
Rom 14:1-4 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. 2 For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. 3 Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. 4 Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.
In order to enter into God’s spiritual thinking, we must give up our earthly way of thinking. God’s thoughts and His ways are not the same as the thoughts and the ways of our natural man:
Isaiah 55:8-9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
1 Cor 2:9-13 But as it is written, What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, and what has never come into a man’s heart, is what God has prepared for those who love Him. 10 But God has revealed them to us by his Spirit, for the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For which of men knows what is in a man, except the spirit of man which is in him? Even so no one knows what is in God except the Spirit of God. 12 Nevertheless we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we may know what God has graciously given us. 13 Of these we also speak, not with words that teach human wisdom, but to those who teach the Holy Spirit, so that we compare spiritual things with spiritual things.
In this study series, we look at both the literal and spiritual understanding of tithing as it appears in the Scriptures: