|Appendix 2: Should Christians Tithe? Introduction
I’m not on one hand against tithing; if that’s what a believer
wants to do, sure, let them do it. But I was amazed by some conversations
I had with some friends in Texas recently. They were telling me of churches
with thousands of members, who all tithe. The pastors are fantastically
wealthy; I heard of one who has a helicopter with which he flies between
his two congregations, each with about 4,000 members. And he quotes himself
to his congregations as an example to them- of a man who got so rich because
earlier he used to tithe. I just can’t believe that intelligent, high
income earning people could fall for this kind of thing. And yet many
of those thousands of members are not wealthy people. They put themselves
into poverty, leaving their kids without food at times, just so they can
pay their tithe- into the pockets of fabulously wealthy pastors. So I
figured it was time to Biblically investigate all this, as it sounds to
me like abusive Christianity at its worst.
Thousands of people are being taken on a guilt trip which
they need never embark upon if they search the Scriptures for themselves.
If we do this, we will never be made to feel that we are stealing from
God if we do not tithe. True Christianity is a call to shoulder the cross
of Jesus. The " law of reciprocity" [that if you give tithes,
you’ll get rich] is taught by many TV Evangelists including Jerry Falwell
of the Old Time Gospel Hour and Pat Robertson of the 700 Club. But in
Christ there is a law of temporary loss, so that when He returns
we may receive the spiritual blessings of life. We die, that we might
live. We sow, that we might in the future reap eternal life (Gal. 6:7-9).
We don’t give now that we might get rich now. That would be selfish and
not spiritual. And such motivation would surely not be pleasing to the
Lord Jesus, who became poor that we through His poverty on the cross might
be made rich- spiritually rich.
In fairness to the pastors, they’re trapped. They’ve gone
so far that it’s hard to find the humility to admit they made a big big
mistake. And their whole church structures are built around the requirement
to have huge inputs of cash every Sunday. The Lord’s work doesn’t require
this; but their structures do. One minister admitted to a friend of mine
that if I she were to teach against the payment of the tithe,
the church would collapse. ‘ But that’s not what the Bible says’, she
answered. He replied: " But that's not the point...how are we going
to run the church and get an income?" .
God's way of financing His Work today is for the believers
to give freely in any way they can, motivated by their Lord’s death. There
is nothing abusive in this. But there is a lot of abuse in statements
- failing to tithe nets death.
- failing to tithe is stealing directly from the LORD.
- failing to tithe means being sentenced into the Lake
There was one well known television evangelist who recently
stated publicly: " [You ministers need to] preach those Scriptures
[tithing texts] fearlessly and remind people that [paying the tithe] is
an absolute obligation that can keep them out of the kingdom more quickly
than practically anything else if they neglect it - that you can lose
salvation through neglect [of the tithe] just about more quickly than
any other way."
Salvation by grace has gone out of the window in this theology.
And the salvation there is in the sacrifice of Jesus has become replaced
by salvation for money. It’s just Catholicism dressed up in a Protestant
guise. Give the church your money, and we’ll see you right with God.
The Law Of Moses Is Finished
The only commands to tithe which we find in the Bible are
in the context of the Law which God gave to Israel through Moses. Yet
that Law has been finished. We are now under the New Covenant and not
the Old. Once this point has been established, then it becomes apparent
that we are not required to keep any one part of the Mosaic Law [such
as tithing] for our salvation. Paul points out that if we keep part of
the Law then we must keep it all, as disobedience to just one part of
it brings condemnation. Thus it is fatal to keep the Mosaic Law partially,
because this will result in our condemnation (Gal. 3:10; James 2:10).
That’s how important this topic is. Again, I’m not saying ‘don’t tithe
at all’; but rather, ‘don’t tithe because you think it’s a command which
you have to keep because it’s in the Bible’.
The Change In The Law
Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for sin and the ideal High
Priest who could truly gain forgiveness for us. Therefore the old system
of animal sacrifices and high priests [including the tithing system that
supported them] was done away with after his death (Heb. 10:5-14). “The
priesthood being changed (from the Levites to Christ), there is made of
necessity a change also of the law” (Heb. 7:12). Therefore, “there is
verily a disannulling of the former regulation (i.e. the law of Moses)
because it was weak and useless. For the law made nothing perfect, but
the bringing in of a better hope (through Christ) did” (Heb. 7:18,19 A.V.
with N.I.V.). This means that it is irrelevant to argue that any command
system of God cannot be changed and is eternal- for clearly there was
a change made.
The Problem Of Trying To Keep The Law
To trust in tithing for justification means that we do
not accept the fullness of Christ’s victory. Such beliefs mean that we
do not accept Christ’s sacrifice as completely successful, and that we
feel that works are necessary to bring about our justification, rather
than faith in Christ alone. “No man is justified by the law in the sight
of God...for, The just(ified) shall live by faithĒ (Gal. 3:11
cf. Hab. 2:4). Our own effort to be obedient to the letter of Godís laws,
however determined, will fail and will not bring us justification; surely
every reader of these words knows this already.
If we observe the Law of Moses, we must attempt to keep
all of it. Disobedience to just one part of it means that those
who are under it are condemned. “As many as are of (i.e. rely on) the
works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every
one that continueth not in all things which are written in the
book of the law to do them” (Gal. 3:10).
The Victory Of Jesus
The weakness of our human condition means that we find
it impossible fully to keep the Law of Moses, but due to Christ’s complete
obedience to it, we are freed from any obligation to keep it. Our salvation
is due to God’s gift through Christ, rather than our personal works of
obedience. “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through
the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and
for sin, condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3). Thus “Christ hath redeemed
us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13).
Because of this, we are no longer required to keep any of the ordinances
of the Law of Moses. The New Covenant in Christ replaced the Old Covenant
of Moses’ law (Heb. 8:13). By his death, Christ blotted out “the handwriting
of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us (by our inability
to fully keep the law), and took it out of the way, nailing it to his
cross...Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink (offerings),
or in respect of a religious festival, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath
days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the reality is Christ”
(Col. 2:14-17 A.V. with N.I.V.). This is quite clear - because of Christ’s
death on the cross, the law was taken “out of the way” so that we should
resist any pressure put on us to keep parts of it, e.g. the tithes and
the Sabbath. Like the rest of the law, the purpose of these things was
to point forward to Christ. After his death, their typical significance
was fulfilled, and there was therefore no further need to observe them.
Warnings against keeping any part of the Law of Moses in
order to gain salvation are dotted throughout the New Testament. Some
taught that Christians should be circumcised according to the Mosaic Law,
“and keep the law”. James flatly condemned this idea on behalf of the
true believers: “we gave no such commandment” (Acts 15:24). Peter
described those who taught the need for obedience to the law as putting
“a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor
we were able to bear. But we believe that through the grace of the Lord
Jesus Christ (as opposed to their works of obedience to the law) we shall
be saved” (Acts 15:10,11). Paul is equally outspoken: “A man is not justified
by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ...that we might
be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law:
for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified...no man is justified
by the law...by (Christ) all that believe are justified from all things,
from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Gal. 2:16;
3:11; Acts 13:39).
What The Tithe Really Was
If we are supposed to tithe, and our salvation depends
upon it, then we had better do it properly. I submit that those who tithe
in churches today don’t do it in a way that is obedient to the Old Testament,
Biblical tithing commandments. Take two quite simple points:
1. Most Western citizens pay 30% or so of their wages in taxes etc, so
on what is the 10% calculated? On the actual salary, or, on what you actually
get to spend? The tithing churches are trying to force a precept aimed
at the agricultural society of Israel onto other cultures and peoples;
and it just doesn’t fit.
2. Many churches ask members to sign an agreement to give 10% weekly-
or else you can’t belong to the church and get disfellowshipped. Yet the
Bible commanded annual tithing. Not weekly. And there was no
tithing every seventh year. But the tithing churches conveniently forget
Three Types Of Tithe
It must be understood that there were three separate tithes
commanded under the Law of Moses. Yet the tithing churches have simply
said: ‘There’s something about tithing in the Old Testament. So, hey,
give us 10% of your money!’. The first was the Levitical tithe of 10%
on 100% of the produce for the first six years and was destined for the
Levites and priests (Dt. 14:27 , 12:19). The second tithe was the Festival
tithe of 10% on 90% remaining produce after the Levitical tithe. This
tithe had to be eaten in the presence of the Lord and was collected on
the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th
years only. The third tithe was the tithe of the poor to be collected
on the 3rd and 6th years only (Dt. 14:22-29, 26:12-15;
Am. 4:4-5). No tithe was collected on the 7th year or Sabbatical year.
The farmers were to let the land rest in that year.
This is confirmed even outside of the Biblical record. According to New
Unger's Bible Dictionary, Josephus, the Jewish historian, states
distinctly that there are three tithes. Hesays that "
one-tenth was to be given to the priests and Levites, one-tenth was to
be applied to feasts in the metropolis, and that a tenth besides these
was every third year to be given to the poor (cf. Tob. 1:7-8).
Thus the true Biblical tithe commanded of Israel was performed
on a Seven year cycle called the Shemittah Cycle. Three Ma’asers (Hebrew
for tithe) were conducted and their timing is illustrated in the following
Levitical (Ma'aser rishon)
10% of 100%
10% of 100%
10% of 100%
10% of 100%
10% of 100%
10% of 100%
Festival (Ma'aser sheni)
10% of 90%
10% of 90%
10% of 90%
10% of 90%
Poor (Ma'aser ani)
10% of 90%
10% of 90%
Total Tithe %
The tithe consisted of fruit, grain, wine and later animals
that are typically harvested as produce from the land. It never consisted
of money. Further, it was recorded into the Law of Moses that a tithe
of everything from the land belongs to the Lord (Lev. 27:30-33). During
the Festival tithe, money or silver used as currency in ancient times
was not an allowable substitution for the tithe. Tithes were conducted
annually and were based upon one’s produce increase for the year. This
just isn’t talking about putting paper money or checks on an offering
plate each week as demanded by the tithing churches.
Various Points Of Difference Between Biblical
Tithing And Modern Practice
Notice Lev. 27:32-33 “And concerning the tithe of the herd
or the flock, of whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be
HOLY TO THE LORD. He shall not inquire whether it is GOOD OR BAD...” .
The tithes are SELECTED AT RANDOM. They are not supposed to come from
the “best portion” or the “fat portion” as you may have often heard, but
it was a randomly selected portion “whether it is good or bad”.
And consider the question: Did anyone else receive tithes
besides the priest? Pastors today teach that they are the equivalent of
the Levites under the Old Covenant and therefore should receive the tithes.
But Biblically, people other than the priests received the tithe. These
other people were the poor, the strangers, the orphans, and the widows
who had access to the tithe every third year, which was called the "
year of tithing."
The Bible describes tithing in an agricultural economy.
It does not tell us whether or how potters, carpenters, merchants, etc.
calculated tithes. The insistence that money be given to pastors as a
tithe doesn’t square with the Biblical account.
Think about Dt. 14:26 (NAS) " And you may spend the
money for whatever your heart desires, for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or
strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat
in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household."
It has been argued that for the Jews the tithe was a " party"
(or feast, if you like) and was to be " consumed in the sight of
the Lord" . God's command to tithe includes consuming "
whatever your heart desires" , including " strong drink"
! Imagine using up a tenth of your agricultural increase every year in
a single party. One could read this passage as God commanding His people
to enjoy themselves by bringing the bounty together so that " There
may be food in my house" and then feasting and enjoying themselves
in His sight. This is not the spirit of tithing found in modern churches-
10% of your money must go to the church, usually the pastors. And that’s
Lack Of Evidence For Tithing In the Early Church
It is surely significant that there is no evidence that
tithing is intended to be part of the New Covenant under which believers
now are. If God had intended to carry tithing over into the New
Covenant, then the chance was missed in Acts 15. You will note tithing
is not mentioned in the Acts 15 Jerusalem Council rulings. Indeed, tithing
is only mentioned as emerging in the Christian church some centuries after
Jesus- along with many other false practices and doctrines:
" The early Church had no tithing system. The tithes
of the Old Testament were regarded as abrogated by the law of Christ...
But as the Church expanded and its material needs grew more numerous and
complex, it became necessary to adopt a definite rule to which people
could be held either by a sense of moral obligation or by a precept of
positive law. The tithing of the Old Law [of Moses] provided an obvious
model, and it began to be taught... The Council of Macon in 585 ordered
payment of tithes and threatened excommunication to those who refused
to comply" (New Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 14, pp.174,175).
There is fairly strong evidence that the sort of seeking for personal
wealth by pastors such as we see today was totally frowned upon in the
early church. These quotes are from the Didache (Teaching of the Apostles),
written not long after the departure of the last of the original apostles:
Didache 11:6 “And when he departeth let the apostle receive
nothing save bread, until he findeth shelter; but if he ask money, he
is a false prophet”.
Didache 11:12 “And whosoever shall say in the Spirit, Give
me silver or anything else, ye shall not listen to him; but if he tell
you to give on behalf of others that are in want, let no man judge him”.
In fact the New Testament ministry was supported solely
by freewill offerings (Mt. 6:25-34; Lk 10:4-8; Acts 4:32-35,
20:33-35; 2 Cor. 8:2-15, 9:6-12, 11:8-9; 1 Jn. 3:17-18) and not
by some tithing system. In the days of the early church, Christians
pooled their goods and shared their possessions equally (Acts 4:32-37).
The apostles were legally unable to receive tithes from the people
to financially support the Work of the primitive Church because
the Temple was still standing and none of the apostles were of the
tribe of Levi serving in the Sanctuary. Jesus himself was from the
tribe of Judah (Heb. 7:12-14) and could not therefore have accepted
tithes. Only the Levites were authorized by God and the Mosaic legislation
to take tithes from the people. Even Paul, who was certainly not
a Levite, could not have demanded or received tithes from his churches.
Yet he shows that a teacher or minister has a right to be provided
for in return for the preaching and teaching of the Gospel (1 Cor.
9)- but not by tithes. In fact he even states that such a teacher
ought to receive " double honor" or a " double gift"
(1 Tim. 5:17).
Some Logical Debating Points
HOW is it possible to reintroduce, without a shred of NT
proof, an Old Covenant financial system into the Church?
WHY is a monetary tithe apparent to ministers of various
churches when it is not expressed in the Old Covenant?
WHY is tithing not in the context or even mentioned in
the NT epistles? AREN'T all NT references to tithes and to tithing solely
concerning Pharisees, scribes, the antiquated Levitical system? WEREN'T
these references due solely to the Sanctuary, Temple, Altar, Sacrifices?
WHY do devout Jewish rabbis refuse to take, demand or accept
tithes? WOULDN'T they, not being Levites, be breaking God's law to do
WHY don't Christian deacons gather together all the tithes
of the people and then pay the ministry a separate tithe if the Levitical
analogy is to be consistently followed?
WHY are Peter, James, Paul, John and Jude strangely silent
about tithing? WHY don't they command, infer, mention, exhort or plead
the tithe from Christians?
WHY didn't Jesus establish tithing for the Church he was
WHY does Paul speak exclusively of gifts, offerings, and
contributions? WOULD not Paul have had to explain the tithing system to
Biblically ignorant Gentiles?
CAN ministers prove a universal tithing law existing before
WAS there ever a universal monetary tithing law existing
in ancient Israel?
WASN'T tithing purely on farm animals and agricultural
WHY didn't Jesus take tithes from the people? SHOULDN'T
Jesus have led the way in example by accepting tithes, or in admonition
or command? SHOULDN'T the ministry stop taking tithes to faithfully follow
Our Lord's example?
ISN'T "giving" the principle within Christ's
new Covenant? WHY have so many people been terrorized, intimidated,
disfellowshipped or " marked" by the leadership of "
Prosperity Gospel" churches for not conforming to tithing laws?
SHOULDN'T " giving" be personal and voluntary, based upon
conversion, and by how deeply moved by the sacrifice of Christ the
person is when he or she gives?
HOW can Christians ever build proper character, judgment,
compassion under a compliant regulatory system of tightly prescribed Mosaic
rules and regulations?
IF we are the priesthood of all believers, shouldn't a
monetary tithe be paid to ourselves?
Giving As God Intended
True giving is motivated by the Gospel, by the love of
Christ, not law.
The verse that most sums up the New Testament teaching
on giving is surely 2 Cor 9:7 (NAS): “Let each one do just as
he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for
God loves a cheerful giver”. Let us admit that there is something in us
that hankers to be " under the law," even if just a little bit.
But dumb legalism will never enable us to be cheerful givers.
1 Cor. 16:1,2 encourages the believers to give weekly-
not annually as under the tithing system- according as God had blessed
each person. This doesn’t sound like a continuation of Mosaic tithing.
Each gives “as he purposeth in his heart”- not as a tithing programme
demands. God loves a cheerful giver; and it is freewill offerings which
come from a basis of joy, rather than those automatically given because
of a duty to tithe, which so touch His heart. 2 Cor. 9:6 speaks of reaping
sparingly if we sow sparingly in our giving. This sounds as if the amount
we chose to give is fixed by us. But the ‘reaping bountifully’ sure refers
to our reaping of the ‘reward’ in God’s Kingdom, as; not present material
blessings. It is at “the end of the world” that the Angels come forth
and reap the harvest (Mt. 13:30,39; 25:26; Rev. 14:15). And then we will
“reap life everlasting...if we faint not [in this life]”(Gal. 6:8,9).
Paul told the Corinthians that they had a duty to give
something in response to what they had been given. He makes a great play
in 2 Corinthians on the similarity between the Greek words for “grace”
and “gift / giving”. Because of God’s grace, they were to give. This response
comes in terms of morality (6:14-7:1), which the Corinthians had done
(7:8-13), and in terms of affection, which the Corinthians had also done
(7:2-7), and in financial generosity, which Paul addresses in chapter
8. But Paul did not make a command (8:8). Instead, he asked first for
a turning of the heart. He wanted the Corinthians to give themselves to
the Lord first, and then to support financially. He wanted their gift
to be done in sincere love, not from compulsion (8:5, 8). Paul reminded
them that Christ had become poor for their sakes on the cross; the implication
is that the Corinthians should make financial sacrifices in return. But
then Paul reduced the pressure, reminding the Corinthians that they could
not give more than they had (8:12). Nor did they have to impoverish themselves
to enrich others; Paul was only aiming for equity (8:13-14), in that he
was appealing for donations for the poor brethren in Jerusalem. Yet the
tithing churches seem to be taking money from the flock in order to pay
huge salaries to their pastors... which is the very opposite of financial
giving by the flock leading towards equality amongst the wider body of
Christ. Paul repeatedly noted that the offering must be done willingly,
not from compulsion or given grudgingly (9:5, 7).
The theme of equality also recurs in Acts 2:44-47 "
Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and
sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone
had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking
bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity
of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people”. The way
of dealing with poverty was not by tithing, but by the rich sharing what
they had with the poor.
And the repeated teaching of the New Testament is that
our giving should be to the poor, just as the tithes were partly to enable
the poor to be helped. Jesus repeats this: " If you want to be perfect,
go, sell what you have and give TO THE POOR, and you will have treasure
in heaven; and come, follow Me" (Mt. 19:21); “Sell what you have
and GIVE ALMS [to the poor]; provide yourselves a treasure in heaven..
for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Lk. 12:33,34)"
. What is Jesus saying here? Give to whom? Give TO THE POOR and you will
have treasure in heaven! Not to wealthy pastors and churches. All this
is a reflection of God’s generosity; and He doesn’t heap up wealth upon
certain pastors. Rather: " As it is written: 'He has dispersed abroad,
He has given TO THE POOR; His righteousness endures forever'" (2
Let 2 Cor.9:12 sum up: " For the administration of
this service not only supplies the NEEDS OF THE SAINTS, but also is abounding
through many thanksgivings to God" . Such praise and glory to the
Father is through our freewill generosity; not through parting with 10%
of our wages regularly because we think we are commanded to do so.
Genesis 14:18" Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought
out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram,
saying, Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.
And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.
Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything."
It is true that Abraham gave a tithe to this priest.
But he in no way " paid" that tenth. Nowhere in the Biblical
record is there any reference that Abraham was required by God nor by
any law to tithe. This is a specific one-off account of how Abraham gave
Melchizedek a tenth of the spoils obtained from warfare. It wasn’t
a regular gift of 10% / year. Nowhere else in the Bible do we read of
Abraham paying tithes ever again. Abram gave voluntarily, whereas under
the Mosaic Law, tithing was mandatory. Clearly, then, this passage is
not related to tithing as practiced by the nation of Israel under the
Mosaic covenant. The reference to the tithe occurs in a narrative. The
important thing to ask is: what is the purpose of this particular narrative
section (Gen. 14), especially in relation to chapters 12-13 and chapter
15? Note in particular how Abram drove the kings out of the land (14:15),
which must be seen in the context of God's promise to Abram (12:1) concerning
the land. Abram's act of giving a tenth was a very common practice in
the ancient Near East as a token of respect and honor, or in response
to a blessing. Archaeological discoveries (e.g. the Ugaritic texts) show
that the practice of " tithing" was a widespread custom of the
times; 10% of the produce of the land was given to the landowner. And
Abraham recognized that the landowner was God. He didn’t want it to seem
that he had gotten the land for his own personal possession. He knew God
had given it to him.
Genesis 28:20-22 " Then Jacob made a vow saying, If
God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking
and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely
to my father's house, then the LORD will be my God and this stone that
I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give
me I will give you a tenth."
Nowhere in the account was Jacob required to give
or to pay that tenth. Claims that there was a tithing law in force before
Moses is clearly a nonsense without substantiation. This vow made by Jacob
was personal in nature and was uttered by him as some kind of rather unspiritual
" bargain" or " deal" with God. However, notice that
Jacob says that if Yahweh is his God, then he will give Him a tenth. This
tradition of giving a ten percent amount had its roots in the ancient
landlord/tenant/king relationship. Jacob was recognizing God as his king
by doing it, and was treating Him how people at the time treated their
king or landowner. But later on, when Jacob wrestles with Esau, and comes
to realize how God is indeed his king, there is no reference to him actually
giving a tithe to God. He surely came to grasp that God demands our all,
and not just a mere fraction.
In light of understanding the cultural and social expectations
in which Abraham and Jacob lived it must surely be accepted that the tenth
given by Abram and Jacob was not equivalent to the tithe as set forth
by the Law of Moses. The tenth of the spoils paid by Abram was for his
victory and Jacob’s tenth was for God to watch over him and for a safe
journey. There is no evidence in the Bible to assume that Abram or Jacob
intended to give an annual ongoing tenth of their future produce increases.
These were surely one off payments of a tenth which are referred to. Note
that nowhere do we read that Jacob was commanded to give a tithe (tenth).
Jacob's promise to " tithe" was conditional - " If
God will be with me …" (vs. 20), but under the Mosaic covenant,
tithing was compulsory.
Leviticus 27:30-33 " A tithe of everything from the
land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to
the LORD; it is holy to the LORD. If a man redeems any of his tithe, he
must add a fifth of the value to it. The entire tithe of the herd and
flock - every tenth animal that passes under the shepherds rod - will
be holy to the LORD. He must not pick out the good from the bad or make
any substitution. If he does make a substitution, both the animal and
its substitute become holy and cannot be redeemed."
Two things stand out in this section of legislation. (1)
God commanded Israel to tithe on agricultural or farming produce
and (2) every tenth animal of their flocks and herds. God never
commanded them to tithe on fish they caught. He never commanded them to
tithe on all the copper they mined. Nor on the milk they received from
their sheep, goats and cows. Nor were they required to tithe on the sale
of wool, or the money they made in their professions of selling pottery,
designing and making furniture or clothing, creating carvings, writing
literature, or on construction work. According to this section of God's
law, if a shepherd had 18 sheep in his flock only the tenth animal would
be considered holy to the LORD. The tithe in this case would be 1/18th
or 5.6%, not 10%. And yet the tithing churches twist this to mean that
10% must be given to them- because the Old Testament says something about
giving a tithe. But the tithe wasn’t always 10%... So, a “tithe” doesn’t
mean ‘10% of your money’. It means ‘the tenth’- and there is a difference.
Numbers 18:20, 21, 24 " The LORD said to Aaron, You
will have no inheritance in their land, nor will you have any share among
them. I am your share and your inheritance among the Israelites. I give
to the Levites all the tithes in Israel as their inheritance in return
for the work they do while serving at the Tent of Meeting... I give to
the Levites as their inheritance the tithes that the Israelites present
as an offering to the LORD."
Numbers 18:25-28 " The LORD said to Moses, Speak to
the Levites and say to them: When you receive from the Israelites the
tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that
tithe as the LORD's offering. Your offering will be reckoned to you as
grain from the threshing floor or juice from the winepress. In this way
you also will present an offering to the LORD from all the tithes you
receive from the Israelites. From these tithes you must give the LORD's
portion to Aaron the priest. You must present as the LORD's portion the
best and holiest part of everything given to you."
No other Israelite tribe apart from the Levites could accept
Israelite tithes. This was a stipulation that was very plain indeed. The
Levites in turn had to give a tenth of the tithes which they received
from the people directly to the priests who attended the altar. Where
is this by pastors etc today? There was to be no deviation from this command.
Yet today we have Gentile ministers who have arrogated to themselves this
right to receive tithes from the people.
The Lord further states that the Levites would have no
inheritance of land but would be given the tithe instead (Num. 18:20-32)
To summarize, the purpose of the biblical tithe was 1) to care for the
Levites who were denied land , 2) to provide subsistence for the priesthood
whose function was to preach the Torah and 3) to care for the poor in
general. Not to pay big wages to pastors.
Deuteronomy 12:5-6,11 " You are to seek the place
the LORD your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name
there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; there bring your burnt
offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have
vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds
and flocks... Then to the place the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling
for his Name - there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt
offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice
possessions you have vowed to the LORD."
Deuteronomy 14:22-29 " Be sure to set aside a tenth
of all that your fields produce each year. Eat the tithe of your grain,
new wine and oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence
of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his
Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always. But if
that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the LORD your God
and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the LORD will choose
to put his Name is so far away) then exchange your tithe for silver, and
take the silver with you and go to the place the LORD your God will choose.
Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other
fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall
eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice. And do not
neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or
inheritance of their own. At the end of every three years, bring all the
tithes of that year's produce and store it in your towns so that the Levites
(who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, and
the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat
and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the
work of your hands."
It was to the Temple or the Tent of Meeting (the Tabernacle)
that Israelites forwarded their tithes. That is why Moses instructed that
tithes must be sent to the place God had put his Name (Shiloh and later
Jerusalem). Every third year in a cycle of seven they retained their tithes
in their own cities for the use of the poor, strangers, widows, Levites
etc. There is no doubt thatDeuteronomy 14 is referring to the Second Tithe
as contrasted with the tithe of the produce that was to be given for the
maintenance of the Levites (see Dr. J.H. Hertz, The Pentateuch and
Haftorahs, 1961, p.810). This Second Tithe, or its monetary equivalent,
had to be consumed in Jerusalem but in the third and sixth years of the
seven year cycle what would have been the Second Tithe was to be retained
at home for the poor and the destitute to consume. The third year is called
" the year of tithing" (Dt. 26:12). Yet again, the tithing churches
have just made a surface-level connection with the Old Testament passages.
Part of the tithes was to be eaten before the Lord in His temple. Where
and how is this done in the tithing churches? Aren’t they rather arrogant
if they presume their church to be the actual and only temple of God?
For the tithes could only be consumed in one place on earth.
Malachi 3:6-12 " I the LORD do not change. So you,
O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your
forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them.
Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD Almighty. But you
ask, How are we to return? Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you
ask, How do we rob you? In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse
- the whole nation of you - because you are robbing me. Bring the whole
tithe into the storehouse that there may be food in my house. Test me
in this, says the LORD Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the
floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have
room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and
the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit, says the LORD Almighty.
Then all the nations will call you blessed. For yours will be a delightful
land, says the LORD Almighty" .
Firstly, Malachi is not writing to Christians today.
He is writing to the Jewish nation which had returned from Babylonian
captivity during the days of Ezra-Nehemiah. His commands were concerning
native Israelites of his own day. Secondly, the tithe under discussion
is agricultural in nature. This can be easily established by looking
at verse 10: " Bring the whole tithe into the STOREHOUSE that
there may be FOOD in my house" . This tithe of Malachi was
stored in a temple storehouse (2 Chron 31:4-12; Neh 10:38). One
cannot escape the conclusion that in Malachi's day the Israelites
(not the Gentiles) were still commanded to bring their tithes to
the Levites (as Moses had legislated) who then placed these tithes
in the storehouse of the Temple. We cannot escape this conclusion
because it is clearly written in this very section which modern
ministers wish to ignore while emphasizing certain verses to their
own financial advantage (Neh. 10:35,37,38).
The " tithes" are presented to be the tenth portion
of your income which is given away and deposited into the " storehouse"
. The " storehouse" is presented to be your church's account.
But this just isn’t what the passage is talking about. The key to understanding
this is in the preceding verse: " Yet from the days of your fathers
you have gone away from MY ORDINANCES and have not kept them..."
(Mal. 3:7). But now we are not under the Law of Moses; those “ordinances”
have been taken away. Jesus “abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the
law of commandments contained in ordinances...blotting out the handwriting
of ordinances that was against us, nailing it to his cross...If ye died
with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in
the [Jewish] world, do ye subject yourselves to [Mosaic] ordinances?”(Eph.
2:15; Col. 2:14,20 cp. Heb. 9:1,10).
In Malachi's day, tithing was required (Mal. 3:8-10), and
physical blessings were promised for obedience, just as physical blessings
were promised for obedience to the old covenant. But New Covenant blessings
are not physical. No longer do we receive long life for obedience and
many children and fruitful fields. Our blessings are in “heavenly places
in Christ”, and relate ultimately to the “blessed hope” of eternal fellowship
with the Father in His coming Kingdom.
Matthew 23:23 " Woe to you teachers of the law and
Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices - mint, dill
and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law
- justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter,
without neglecting the former."
Certainly they were correct in their fulfilling of the
legal requirements of the Mosaic law, for they were tithing on agricultural
products, not items of monetary increase. And, of course, they were
still under the Mosaic law for the Temple still stood, and all the
rituals performed by the Levites and the priests were to continue
until the Temple was destroyed. What verse 23 really tells us is
that the scribes and the Pharisees had gardens of herbs on which
they were required to tithe. Remember, only shepherds, cattlemen
and farmers were to tithe according to the Law. Because they grew
herbs they were considered " farmers" .
If Jesus taught that Gentiles should practice tithing,
and that the Church ought to levy a tithing system onto its members, then
it is surely strange as elsewhere pointed out, that there is no reference
to tithing in the early history of the church.
We now come to the teaching of Hebrews 7. It is suggested
by some that Christians today are part and parcel of the " Melchizedek"
Priesthood, not the " Levitical" of the Mosaic dispensation.
And therefore, they reason, they have a right to collect the tithes of
the people, even of Gentiles. If this is the case then why not reintroduce
into the church the Jewish annual holy days, purification rites, vows,
tokens of virginity, land Sabbaths, eye for eye compensation, landmark
and restitution laws, first fruits, firstborn redemption, firstlings,
worship customs, the year of Jubilee, phylacteries, fringes, mixed fabrics,
washings, ablutions, circumcision, refuge cities, leprosy tests, Temple
furniture, divorce laws, year of release, slavery laws, warfare rules,
robe and ephod etc.? Why not revive all the other Mosaic laws, regulations,
statutes and judgments especially those not specifically rescinded in
the pages of the New Testament?
According to Heb. 7:24 Jesus is the only member of the
Melchizedek priesthood. There was a change in the law (Heb. 7:12) but
the is to the priesthood being changed, not tithing being transferred.
The example of Abraham giving tithes to Melchizedek was cited to illustrate
the awesome superiority of the Melchizedek priesthood over that of the
Levitical priesthood. Indeed, the Letter to the Hebrews makes no suggestion
that the New Testament ministry IS the Melchizedek priesthood. There is
only ONE priest who occupies that position and that is Jesus Christ (Heb.
Hebrews 7 is not instructing Christians to follow the example
of Abraham in tithing, but rather, expounds the superiority and eternality
of Christ's priesthood and the finality of his sacrifice. The Hebrews
were reasoning that Jesus could not be a High Priest because He was of
Judah and not a Levite. Hebrews 7 is replying that actually Melchizedek
was of unproven genealogy, therefore he would not be a priest under the
Mosaic system as he couldn’t prove his genealogy. And yet even Abraham
considered him his superior, by paying tithes to him. Christ alone is
our Great High Priest forever " who loves us and has freed us
from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom and priests"
(Rev. 1:5,6; cp. 1 Peter 2:5,9). Melchizedek was a type of Christ-
not of the pastors of the tithing churches.
Summing up, there was a change of the priesthood from the
Levites to Jesus Christ, and this implies a change in the law that assigned
the Levites to be priests. How much has been changed? Hebrews says that
the old covenant is obsolete. The package of laws that commanded tithes
to be given to the Levites is obsolete.