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Debating Bible Basics Duncan Heaster  

 


 

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 like:

- failing to tithe nets death.

- failing to tithe is stealing directly from the LORD.

- failing to tithe means being sentenced into the Lake of fire.

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 that.

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 table:

Shemittah Cycle

Ma'aser (tithe)

1st Year

2nd Year

3rd Year

4th Year

5th Year

6th Year

7th Year

Levitical (Ma'aser rishon)

10% of 100%

10% of 100%

10% of 100%

10% of 100%

10% of 100%

10% of 100%

None

Festival (Ma'aser sheni)

10% of 90%

10% of 90%

None

10% of 90%

10% of 90%

None

None

Poor (Ma'aser ani)

None

None

10% of 90%

None

None

10% of 90%

None

Total Tithe %

19%

19%

19%

19%

19%

19%

None

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 it.

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 so?

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 beginning?

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 Moses?

WAS there ever a universal monetary tithing law existing in ancient Israel?

WASN'T tithing purely on farm animals and agricultural products?

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 Cor. 9:9).

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.

Passages Misinterpreted

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."

Comment:

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."

Comment:

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."

Comment:

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."

Comment:

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."

Comment:

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" .

Comment:

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."

Comment:

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.

Hebrews 7

Comment:

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. 7:24).

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.

 


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