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IS TITHING REQUIRED IN THE CHURCH AGE?
Throughout the entire age of the Church, numerous individuals have attempted to incorporate elements of the Mosaic Law into the Christian faith, such as circumcision, which the Judaizers attempted to impose in the time of the Apostle Paul.
Today, there are some who believe that tithing is a requirement under the New Covenant, and seek to mandate it in the Churches that they serve.
There is also some confusion on the definition of tithing, it's history and origination, and whether it truly is obligatory under the New Covenant.
It is the position of this author that tithing is no longer necessary and should be avoided, and Christians should give of their time, money, and spiritual gifts as they determine in their own heart, and not be coerced into giving a set percentage of their income. In this document we will review the definition, history, purpose, arguments for, and arguments against tithing. Also, we will sift through much of the false doctrine on this subject and determine what the New Testament actually teaches about giving.
definition: Simply a tax or assessment of one-tenth of one's produce, (Lev 27:30-32).
Lev 27:30 And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD'S: it is holy unto the LORD.31 And if a man will at all redeem aught of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof.32 And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord.
Under the Mosaic Law, tithing is a command, not something which is voluntary (Lev
Lev 27:32, Deu 14.22-23, Deu 14.28).
Tithing was well established in ancient times in the Middle East, where the tithe was basically income for the king and the nobility, so it was not unique to Old Testament Israel, where tithing was instituted by God to support the theocratic state. This indicates that tithing was basically Old Testament taxation. To those who insist that tithing was never abrogated as a Scriptural legal requirement, it should be noted that under the Mosaic Covenant, 3 tithes were required, not just one.
|...most of the Levites kept their 90% of the tithes in the rural towns, where they lived, for their own food...|
1st TITHE: Annual tithe for the maintenance of the Levitical Priesthood (Num 18:21-24).
The tribe of Levi received no inheritance (Num18:20, Deu 12:12, Deu 14:27). This tribe was segregated from the rest of Israel (Num 3:39-45, Num 3:5-10, Num 8:14-19) in order to serve the Lord in the Temple, and in the Tabernacle in the wilderness. So the first tithe was necessary for their support, since they had no other means of subsistence.
2nd TITHE: A second tithe was brought to Jerusalem for festival purposes (Deu 14:22-27).
3rd TITHE: A third tithe was required every third year to assist the poor (Deu 14:28-29).
Every third year was known as "the year of tithing," (Deu 26:12-14). When the Israelites had completed tithing of the increase of the land, they were to give this 3rd tithe to the Levites, the strangers, the orphans, and the widows. When this was completed, they were to declare unto the Lord that they had performed to the best of their ability in obeying the divine commandments. All the tithes mutually would consist of 23.3% of one's assets.
Tithing was an annual event, not weekly. Tithing also consisted of giving a portion
of one's crops and herds, not money. 20% is added to the appropriation if converted
to cash (Lev 27:31).
At this point it should be clearly evident that what transpires for "tithing" in the modern Church is not consistent with the Biblical definition.
Arguments in favor of tithing in the Church age can usually be summarized by the following:
1. Tithing is a biblical standard enforced in the Old Testament, so therefore it is also a standard that should be enforced in the New Testament. For example, an exhortation to tithe is found in Malachi 3:8-10 (written circa 400 B.C.), and tithing was still practiced when Jesus walked the Earth (Mat 23:23, Luke 11:42).
2. Abraham tithed to Melchisedec (Genesis 14:18-20, Hebrews 7:1-4), and Jacob pledged to give a tenth if God would prosper and protect him (Genesis 28:11-22). Both of these events occurred long before the Mosaic Covenant was given. Therefore, by this reasoning, there is an unwritten standard that existed before Moses, was codified by the Mosaic Law, and was never annulled.
ARGUMENTS AGAINST TITHING
1. There is no mandate anywhere in the New Testament for tithing. The word tithe or tithes appears eight times in the New Testament, and each time it is used is in reference to an Old Testament event or a concurrent Jewish practice. This in of itself is not conclusive of course, since many theological definitions and concepts do not occur in creedal form in the Scriptures. For example, some individuals do not believe in the Trinity because the word "Trinity" does not exist in the Bible. The doctrine of the Trinity is a product of systematizing different portions of Scripture that deal with the nature of God, the deity of Christ, the person of the Holy Spirit, etc.
But commands and mandates in Scripture, both Old Covenant and New Covenant, are plain and evident, and never require decoding, spiritualization, or complex harmonization in order to be comprehended. The mandates of the Lord's Supper and Baptism, for example, are plain and simple. This certainly cannot be said of tithing under the New Covenant. When considered grammatically or conceptually, The NewTestament is totally silent about tithing being a necessity,
2. The epistles contain numerous admonitions, exhortations, and rebukes because of numerous sins and spiritual problems, but one is never mentioned for failure to tithe.
Hebrews 7:5 states quite clearly that only the sons of Levi had a commandment
to receive tithes, not pastors or other religious leaders:
Heb 7:5 And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham.
4. A survey of all the writings of the Early Church up to A.D. 600 (easy to do with computers) is silent about tithing in the Church being a necessity. In fact, it was the position of the great Church Father Irenaeus (A.D. 120-202) that tithing as a legal obligation is no longer binding. He explains this in chapter XIII of book IV in "Irenaeus Against Heresies,":
And for this reason did the Lord, instead of that [commandment], "Thou shalt not commit adultery," forbid even concupiscence; and instead of that which runs thus, "Thou shalt not kill," He prohibited anger; and instead of the law enjoining the giving of tithes, [He told us] to share all our possessions with the poor;
And again in chapter XVIII of book IV he again states:
And for this reason they (the Jews) had indeed the tithes of their goods consecrated to Him, but those who have received liberty set aside all their possessions for the Lord's purposes, bestowing joyfully and freely not the less valuable portions of their property, since they have the hope of better things [hereafter]; as that poor widow acted who cast all her living into the treasury of God.
This provides us with ample evidence that Church-age tithing (versus NT giving) is simply a pharisaic type tradition.
The Mosaic Law was given to Israel through Moses, not to the Church. If Christians
are supposed to tithe, then what about circumcision, worshipping on Saturday,
observing the holy convocations (Passover, Feast of Tabernacles, etc.), animal
sacrifices, a tabernacle, and all the other components of the ceremonial law?
Numbers 18:26-28 says that the Levitical priests are to offer up a heave offering
to the Lord when they receive the tithes of the children of Israel. Shouldn't
pastors conduct heave offerings when they receive tithes as well?
The entire book of Hebrews, a book written to Hebrew Christians who were in danger of falling back into Judaism, attests to the fact that the Mosaic Covenant with all of it's sacrifices, regulations, feast days, sabbaths, tithes, etc., have been fulfilled in the life, death , and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ (Mat 5:17, Rom 10:4).
The Mosaic Law was a shadow of things to come, as stated in Hebrews 10:1, "For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect."
Concerning the inferiority of the Mosaic Covenant and it's subsequent replacement with the New Covenant, the following Scripture quotations should be self-explanatory. But first, it should be understood that in the King James Version, the words testament and covenant are translated from the same Greek word, diatheke (Strong's 1242). The only exceptions are Heb 8:7, 8:13, and 9:18 where these particular words appear in italics. Words in italics in the King James Version are not translated from any Greek word but are implied by the text. The words testament and covenant are used interchangeably but indicate the same concept.
By Russell Kelly
Mal 3:10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be FOOD in my house, and prove me now herewith, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open to you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
(3:10) This is the most quoted text in the Bible for New Covenant tithe-teachers --- and it is also the most damaging text in the Bible which contradicts their claims for Christians.
What does "Bring all the tithes into the storehouse" mean? For over forty years I have sensed that something was wrong with the usual interpretation of this verse, but could not "put my finger on it." Although, at first glance, the superficial preacher, student, or lay person thinks that this verse is self-explanatory, it is actually very far from being self-explanatory.
The easy-to-show truth is that, beyond this single verse, God NEVER commanded anybody to bring ALL the tithes into THE storehouse in Jerusalem. This needs to be said again, "Beyond this single verse, God NEVER commanded anybody to bring ALL the tithes into THE storehouse in Jerusalem." In fact, just the opposite is true! Carefully consider the following information from God�s Word.
There were actually three different tithes required in the Old Covenant, and only a small part of the first was supposed to be brought into the storehouse. Therefore, something is seriously wrong with the normal explanation of Malachi 3:10.
The FIRST TITHE, the Levites� tithe, was NOT to be brought to the temple storehouse. God commanded Israel to bring ALL of the first tithe to the Levites (not the priests) where they lived in their Levitical cities -- and Jerusalem was not a Levitical city. The Levites did NOT permanently live at the Temple storehouse or in Jerusalem.
Numbers 18:21 "And, behold, I have given the children of Levi ALL THE TENTH in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.
Nehemiah 10:37b "And the TITHES of our ground [bring] unto the Levites, that the same Levites might have the TITHES IN ALL THE CITIES OF OUR TILLAGE"
Both of these texts make it absolutely clear that the Levites received the WHOLE tithe, ALL of the tithe, in their cities -- and not the priests in the Temple. The Levites were NOT the priests who ministered at the altar or entered into the holy places. The Levites were originally only servants who were supposed to perform all of the non-worship tasks of the sanctuary. Over the centuries many of the unpleasant tasks of the Levites were unlawfully transferred to the descendants of Solomon�s servants and the Nethinim who were either slaves or prisoners of war. Numbers 18:21 and Nehemiah 10:37b clearly point out that Malachi 3:10 cannot possibly mean ALL of the tithe including that which belonged to the Levites.
Neither was the SECOND TITHE, the festival tithe, brought into the temple storehouse. You can read all about this tithe in Deuteronomy 12, especially verses 6 and 7 and in Deuteronomy 14, especially verse 23. This festival tithe was brought to "the place," that is, "Jerusalem," as a national "pot luck." Since the tithe was always food, it was either eaten or drank by all in the streets as Israel celebrated during festive times of the year. Therefore, the second tithe was not brought into the storehouse.
Nor was the THIRD TITHE, the poor tithe, brought to the temple in Jerusalem. You can read about this tithe in Deuteronomy 14:28-29 and 26:12-13. This tithe was paid every third year and God specifically commanded that it should be kept "within the gates" of the tithe-payer for use by the Levites and all other needy. Therefore the third tithe was not even brought to Jerusalem, much less to the storehouse.
The real meaning of Malachi 3:10 is revealed by the word, "storehouse," and what God commanded to be brought to the storehouse in Jerusalem. The storehouse in Jerusalem was only to be the storage place for items belonging to the priests, and not to their Levite servants. If you really want to know exactly what Malachi 3:10 means when it says "bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, then carefully read and study the following two sets of texts. Nehemiah 10:35-38 and Numbers 18:9-32 list the priests� portion of Israel�s gifts and offerings which were commanded to be brought "into the storehouse."
First, Nehemiah 10:35 (repeating Numbers 18:12-13) commands that the "firstfruits" of harvest from the land were to be brought "to the HOUSE of the LORD yearly."
Second, Nehemiah 10:36 (repeating Numbers 18:15-18) commands that the "firstborn" of all clean animals were to be brought to "the HOUSE of our God."
Third, Nehemiah 10:37a commands that the "first" and best of dough, fruit trees, new wine and oil be brought to "the chambers of the HOUSE of our God."
Fourth, Nehemiah 10:37b (repeating Numbers 18:21-24) clearly commands that the tithes were to be brought NOT TO THE STOREHOUSE, but to the Levitical cities, the farming communities, or rural towns, where the Levites lived while not taking their turns "waiting" as singers or gatekeepers in the temple. "And the tithes of our ground [bring] unto the Levites, that the same Levites might have the tithes in all the cities of our tillage." This fact reveals a fatal flaw in the usual interpretation of Malachi 3:10!
Fifth, Nehemiah 10:38 (repeating Numbers 18:26) commands "the tenth of the tithes," that is, the "tithe of the tithes" to be brought "to the HOUSE of our God, to the chambers of the STOREHOUSE," or treasure house -- not the "whole" tithe, or "all" of the tithe, but only the priests� porion of the tenth of the tithe!
Therefore, it is clear from comparing all of these texts that the ONLY part of the tithe which was commanded to be brought into the temple storehouse was the "tenth of the tithe," again, the portion which belonged to the priests. Nehemiah 12:44 and 12:47 add one small necessity to the above texts without contradicting 10:37b. "And at that time were some [Levites] appointed over the chambers for the treasures [storerooms], for the offerings, for the firstfruits, and for the tithes, to gather into them out of the fields of the cities the portions of the law for the priests and Levites: for Judah rejoiced for the priests and for the Levites that waited. ... And all Israel in the days of Zerubbabel, and in the days of Nehemiah, gave the portions of the singers and the porters, every day his portion: and they sanctified holy things unto the Levites; and the Levites sanctified them unto the children of Aaron."
Nehemiah 10:35-38 says that Israel "year by year," or "annually" brought all of the priests� portions, except their tenth of the tithe, directly to the temple storehouse. It also says that they brought ALL of the tithe directly to the Levites in their rural towns. Nehemiah 10:39 and 12:44-47 tell us "when" and "how" the priests and few Levite singers and gatekeepers working (KJV: "waiting") in the temple were sustained. While most of the Levites kept their 90% of the tithes in the rural towns where they lived for their own food, 12:47 says that they sent "daily" food for those who were working their rotation in the temple. This still means that the bulk, the greatest part of the WHOLE tithe REMAINED in the Levitical cities.
2 Cor 3:6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
7:11 If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under
it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another
priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the
order of Aaron?
Heb 7:12 For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
7:17 For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order
18 For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof.
19 For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.
8:7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should
no place have been sought for the second.
8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.
Heb 8:13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.
Heb 9:15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.
A repeated theme throughout the Book of Hebrews is that the New Covenant is superior, better, and a replacement for the Mosaic Covenant. In Heb 7:12, it explains that if the priesthood is changed, then there is also a change of the law. In Hebrews 7:18, it says that there is a disannulling of the commandment (again, the Mosaic Covenant), because it was ineffective. This includes tithing, since it has been revealed that it is an integral part of the Mosaic Covenant and not the New Covenant. In Heb 7:19, it says we draw near to God on the basis of a better hope, that being the shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Law could do nothing to bring us closer to God or enable us to attain a righteousness
of our own. We draw closer to God on the basis of faith (Hab 2:4, John 3:36, Rom
1:17, Rom 10:4, Gal 2:16, Gal 3:11-12, Heb 10:38, 1 John 5:10-12), not on our
adherence to Mosaic regulations. The Law was intended to be our schoolmaster (Gal
3:24), and could never bring us to salvation (Gal 2:16), and
3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified
in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
in all ages has always been by God's grace through faith (Gen 15:6, Hab 2:4, Gal
At this point, some may ask, "what about the Ten Commandments?" Christians are not bound to the ceremonies, rituals, sacrifices, etc., of the Mosaic Law, but the moral law is still in effect. Of the Ten Commandments, nine of them are repeated in the New Testament, with the commandment dealing with the sabbath no longer in effect, since we don't worship on Saturday, but on Sunday. Christians have always assembled and worshiped on Sunday because this is the day our Lord Jesus Christ was resurrected. The Apostle Paul says in Colossians 2:16, "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:"
Our obedience as Christians is not to the Jewish ceremonial law, but to the Law of Christ (Acts 5:29, Acts 5:32, Romans 6:16, 1 Pet 1:22, 1 Pet 4:17, Gal 6:2). The Galatians who were paying heed to the Judaizers were not obeying the truth, "O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you" (Gal 3:1). Our Lord Jesus asks a question to those who claim to know Him but didn't really know Him in Luke 6:46, "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?"
6. Matthew 23:23 (and it's parallel passage, Luke 11:42) cannot be used to argue for tithing in the Church. This passage says, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone." Mint, anise, and cummin were plants that were grown in homes and in gardens. The seeds of these plants were used as kitchen spices, and the seeds of the cummin plant were also used in medicine and were crushed for use in perfumes. The Mosaic Law required a tithe of the produce of the land (Lev 27:30), but the legalistic scribes and Pharisees extended this definition to include leaves and seeds of these household plants.
They would count out all the leaves and seeds of these plants and reserve one out of ten for a tithe. In other words, in this discourse in which Jesus is condemning the legalistic self-righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, He simply states that they tithe leaves and seeds of these household plants, He neither affirms or disaffirms the tithing doctrine.
The statements Jesus makes about tithing (Mat 23:23, Luke 11:42, Luke 18:12) are
all indicative, not imperative. A plain interpretation of these passages doesn't
reveal any command that tithing should be continued into the Church Age, which
began at Pentecost.
During the life and ministry of Jesus, until His crucifixion, the Mosaic Covenant
was still operational (Mat 11:13, Mat 12:5, Luke 2:22-24, Luke 2:27, John 7:19,
John 7:23, John 8:5, John 8:17).
9:8 The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all
was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing:
9 Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;
10 Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances (this includes tithing), imposed on them until the time of reformation.
Lord Jesus Christ inaugurated the New Covenant at the Last Supper, one day before
His crucifixion. The following verses illustrate this (NKJV).
26:28 For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for
many for the remission of sins".
14:24 And He said to them, "This is My blood of the new covenant,
which is shed for many."
Luke 22:20 Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you."
The actual work of atonement
was accomplished on the cross, and it is upon this divine work on which the New
Heb 13:20 Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,
Heb 13:21 Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen.
7. Malachi 3:8-10 also cannot be used to argue for tithing in the Church, because in this passage God was rebuking Israel for not tithing properly to support the Levitical priesthood. The Mosaic Covenant-New Covenant distinction must be maintained or otherwise we make serious errors in our interpretation of Scripture.
Whenever a discussion of tithing takes place, it seems that Malachi 3:8-10 is always quoted. Unable to draw any requirement from the New Testament for tithing, the Old Testament is then quoted, usually out of context. Old Testament passages have often been quoted as a sort of proof text for various aberrant theologies, and tithing is certainly no different. A particular passage will be quoted without any exegesis, and because it is "in the Bible" it is supposed to be self-evident that a particular ritual or formality should be observed. As demonstrated earlier in this document, tithing as it is practiced today in the Church is not of the Biblical (Old Testament) model.
There were three tithes, not just one. Tithes consisted of marketable farm produce, such as animals, grain, olive oil, etc. Tithing did not customarily consist of money, but on those occasions when it did 20% was to be added to the financial disbursement. Numbers 18:26-28 says that the Levites are to offer up a heave offering when they take the tithes from the children of Israel. This is in the Mosaic Law and was a part of proper worship in Israel, so shouldn't pastors offer up a heave offering (which was a tenth of the tithe) when they receive tithes?
Malachi 3:10 says that the tithes are to be brought into the storehouse. Since this verse is also "in the Bible," shouldn't Christians bring their tithes into a storehouse instead of dropping them into an offering plate? The storehouse was a set of rooms in the temple that was used to store the tithes (2 Chr 31:11, Neh 13:4-5). Since all of this is "in the Bible," shouldn't Christians have temples with a complete Levitical sacrificial system. The absurdity is apparent. That is why good and proper exegesis is so important.
The Bible is a unified whole, but if we don't make legitimate distinctions, we can end up in an abyss of doctrinal error. This is a void where anything goes, a place where Scripture can be twisted to mean anything you want it to.
The Apostle Peter, in 2 Peter 3:16, speaking in reference to the epistles of the Apostle Paul, gives us a very serious reminder about interpreting Scripture properly, "As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction."
8. Christians who mandate tithing are making the same mistake as the Judaizers. The Judaizers claimed to be Christians, and certainly much of their belief system could be labeled as orthodox. They affirmed that the Lord Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah and the value of His sacrificial death on the cross. But the one prevalent distinctive among them was their doctrine that faith in Jesus Christ is not enough, that certain aspects of the Mosaic Law needed to be retained for salvation and/or sanctification.
Make no mistake, this is an extremely important issue, since we are in no way justified by the works of the law (Gal 2:16, 2:19-21). In fact, the Apostle Paul stated in Galatians 5:3 that we are "a debtor to do the whole law" if we get circumcised with the belief that this will add to what Christ already did on the cross. Could the same also be said for the practice of tithing? If we interpret Scripture plainly and do not impose an external theological system on our interpretation, the answer is an emphatic yes!
Today, circumcision is not an issue in the Church, but tithing certainly is. In fact, many churches have been split over this issue. If the Apostle Paul were alive today, he might very well have written Galatians 5:2-3, substituting the word "tithe" for "circumcision, "Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye [tithe], Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that [tithes], that he is a debtor to do the whole law." This is a very sobering concept coming from the Apostle Paul. A person who is a "debtor to do the whole law" describes an unsaved person!
Galatians 2:16 also says, "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in 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." And again in Galatians 2:21, "I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain."
Just from these select verses, we can ascertain that those who advocate tithing or any other part of the Mosaic Law as works to be accomplished within the Church are frustrating the grace of God, are fallen from grace (Gal 5:4), and are seeking to attain a righteousness of their own, apart from Christ.
The Apostle Paul wrote an entire epistle to deal with this issue of the Judaizers. The epistle to the Galatians is the only one of Paul's letters where there are no words of commendation to the readers. Even with all the chaos, immorality, and carnality in the Corinthian congregation, he did not hesitate to give the Corinthians praise and commendation (1 Cor 1:4-7). In Galatians, after a brief salutation, he immediately launches on the issue that prompted him to write the letter (Gal 1:6), "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:" The word marvel in the Greek text is the word thaumazo.
It is a strong word, denoting astonishment and bewilderment. The Apostle Paul was astonished and bewildered that the Galatians were so soon departing from the grace of God unto another Gospel. In Corinth, the problem was not so much right doctrine (the notable exception being the doctrine of the resurrection, 1 Cor 15) but right living and conduct. In Galatia, the very heart of the Gospel was subverted by false teachers. With all of this in perspective, the mandate of tithing in the Church is nothing more than a false gospel.
Galatians 3:10 says, where the Apostle Paul is quoting Deuteronomy 27:26, "For as many as are of 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." The Apostle Paul considered the addition of legal elements from the Mosaic Law a perversion of the Gospel (Gal 1:6-7), questioned whether the Galatians were really saved (Gal 3:4, Gal 4:11), and declared accursed (accursed is taken from the Greek word anathema, which is a reference to that which is devoted to destruction) anyone who preaches a Gospel that is different from the one that was taught by Jesus and the Apostles (Gal 1:8-9).
believers are no longer debtors to do the whole law. Colossians 2:14 says, in
reference to what our Lord Jesus Christ did on the cross, "Blotting out the handwriting
of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of
the way, nailing it to his cross." But the Apostle Paul was apprehensive about
the possibility that the Galatians were not saved after all. He expresses this
apprehension in Gal 4:9-11,
But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.
The words "in vain" are translated from a single Greek word, eike. The KJV translators translated it well, for it carries the ideal of having worked on something only to see it end in failure.
9. Undoubtedly, the Judaizers of Paul's time used God's command to Abraham that he be circumcised (Gen 17:11) as a proof text to illustrate that believers in the Church Age also need to circumcised. In much the same way, many of the modern Judaizers use Abraham's giving a tenth to Melchisedec after the defeat of Chedorlaomer (Genesis 14:17-20) as an example of how tithing should be performed by Christians.
It is recorded in Genesis 14:20 and Hebrews 7:2, 7:4 that Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils to Melchisedec, and this certainly occurred before the administration of the Mosaic Law. Does this indicate that tithing is an "unwritten law" or "eternal principle" to be followed in all ages?
In Genesis 14:20, in the KJV, the word "tithes" is used, but in the synopsis of the same event in Hebrews chapter 7 the word "tenth" is used instead. In fact, both the NIV and the NASB use the word "tenth" instead of "tithes" in Genesis 14:20. The Hebrew word ma`aser is used here, and could easily be translated "tenth" or "tithe." In the KJV, this same Hebrew word is usually translated "tithe" throughout the Pentateuch, but it is also translated "tenth" in Num 18:21, Num 18:26, Ezek 45:11, and Ezek 45:14. The point is, the KJV translators used "tithes" in Gen 14:20 simply as a synonym for giving a tenth, since the word "tithe," apart from the Biblical definition and usage of the term in the Mosaic Law, basically means "tenth." Therefore, this does not indicate some mystical "law of tithing" was in operation before the Mosaic Covenant was given.
As stated earlier, tithing (as defined in the Mosaic Law) is basically Old Testament taxation. It is important to realize that Abraham gave a tenth to Melchisedec because he wanted to as a form of veneration, not because he was compelled to do so. In Genesis 14:17-20, Melchisedec came with bread and wine and blessed Abraham, at which point Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils. In Hebrews 7:1-3, we see statements such as "priest of the most high God," "King of righteousness," "King of peace," etc., in reference to Melchisedec. It would seem that Abraham recognized this and consequently honored Melchisedec with a tenth of the spoils. From this account we see that Abraham gave cheerfully, not because he was under obligation to a mystical "law of tithing."
In Gen 28:12-15, God confirms the promise (the Abrahamic Covenant) that He made with Abraham (Gen 12:1-3, 13:14-17, 15:1-14, 17:1-8). Jacob vowed to give a tenth of his produce if God would support and protect him. Again, like Abraham, Jacob was willing to give cheerfully because he wanted to, not because he was compelled by some obscure unwritten law (remember, this is before the Mosaic Covenant in Exodus 20:1-31:18).
The fact that Abraham and Jacob gave 10% is simply a historical fact, and does not in any way illustrate some mystical "law of tithing" or "eternal principle" that Christians must comply with, particularly since the 10% was not commanded by God in either situation (in contrast to circumcision, which was commanded).
The Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:1-29, circa A.D. 49), was convened to deal with
the teaching of the Judaizers.
Acts 15:1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.
15:2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation
with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them,
should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.
Acts 15:5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.
Jerusalem Council issued a decree (Acts 15:23-29) that states that Jewish legalism
and ritualism are not compatible with the Christian faith.
15:23 And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles
and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the
Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia:
15:24 Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have
troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised,
and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment:
15:25 It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen
men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
15:26 Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus
15:27 We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you
the same things by mouth.
15:28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no
greater burden than these necessary things;
Acts 15:29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.
Our sufficiency is in Christ, and in Christ alone. We should allow no one to beguile us into legalistic observances taken from the Mosaic Law or from any man-made religious system.
Colossians 2:20-23 goes on to say:
Col 2:20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations-
2:21 "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,"
22 which all concern things which perish with the using, according to the commandments and doctrines of men?
23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.
11. The Levitical priesthood has been replaced with the priesthood of believers (1 Pet 2:5, 2:9). So from this perspective, all that we have, money, possessions, spiritual gifts, belong to the Lord, not just a tenth of our income. Since NT giving is discretionary, and not based on a demand of a set percentage, this should dispel the common notion that one-tenth of our income is somehow "holy," as if God is some sort of a divine accountant.
12. Those involved in full-time ministry should be supported by the people they serve (1 Cor 9:7-14, 1 Tim 5:17-18). A careful review of New Testament giving reveals to us that our contributions should not only be to support our local ministries, but also meet the basic needs of poverty stricken fellow Christians (Acts 2:44-45, 4:32-37, 1 Cor 16:1-3, 2 Cor 8:1-13, 1 Tim 6:17-19). There was organized giving within local congregations to care for believing widows and orphans who had no other family to rely on (Acts 6:1-4, 1 Tim 5:1-16).
Nowhere in the historical narrative of the very early Church (Acts) do we see Christians "tithing." In Acts 4:32-37, there were many Christians who were selling large proportions of their assets and laying the proceeds at the Apostles' feet. In Acts 5:1-11, we find that Ananias and Sapphira were condemned for deceitfully holding back part of the proceeds from the sale of some land, which had absolutely nothing to do with "tithing."
2 Corinthians chapters 8-9, and 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 state that a Christian is
to evaluate the needs of others and to give as he is able to.
NO PERCENTAGE GUIDELINES ARE EVER GIVEN. The Apostle Paul had ample opportunity to use the word "tithe" or at east mandate it as a standard to be preserved, but instead Paul gives us new rules for giving, which would supersede the Old Testament law for giving. If there is any single verse in the New Testament that nullifies the "tithing in the Church age" doctrine, it would be 2 Cor 9:7, which says, "Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give: not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver."
The Greek word behind necessity is anagke, which is very correctly translated "necessity." It means a constraint, law, or duty imposed by external circumstances, which is precisely what tithing is. A duty to give 10% of your income whether you like it or not. The Greek word behind cheerful is hilaros, from where we get the English word "hilarious." Hilaros means joyful, happy, and exuberant. In other words, when we give, in whatever we give, we are commanded to do so in a happy and exuberant manner. We should be happy and joyful to give for His Kingdom. We are told not to give grudgingly. The Greek word behind grudgingly is lupe. This particular Greek word conveys the concepts of sorrow, grief, and annoyance. Being compelled to give out of necessity which involves sorrow and annoyance has more in common with the IRS than with the true Church of God. The great nineteenth century preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, said this about tithing: "In the religion of Christ there is no taxation. Everything is of love." (Volume 32, page 213).
There are some who teach that tithing has an unconditional priority in the Christian's life. For example, if I should run into financial difficulties and am unable to feed my family or pay the mortgage, I must still pay 10% regardless. Those who mandate tithing even under such financial adversity should heed the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Tim 5:8, "But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel." Those who mandate and practice tithing despite these extreme circumstances are tampering with the doctrine of salvation!
There are still others who claim that if we tithe when financial difficulties (or other problems) arise, the Lord will reward us (as in some sort of temporal relief). Such a concept is totally foreign to the New Testament. This results in giving for the wrong reasons, which could result in wood, hay, and stubble when our works are revealed, as to what sort they are (1 Cor 3:8-15). This is a judgment of the believer's works (2 Cor 5:10), which results in a gain or loss of eternal rewards, but does not affect salvation. This should not be confused with the Great White Throne Judgment, which is the judgment of the unsaved dead after the Millennium (Rev 20:11-15).
The epistle of 1 Peter, which was written to suffering and persecuted believers and instructed them on how to deal with affliction, not once mentions tithing as a way to deal with tribulation and suffering. However, the New Testament does tell us that giving to His Kingdom in this life will result in eternal rewards for us.
Matt 19:21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
12:33 Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax
not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth,
neither moth corrupteth.
34 For where your treasure, there will your heart be also.
2 Cor 9:6 But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
The following Scripture quotations tell us that trials and tribulations will be an integral part of the Christian life.
15:19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because
ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the
world hateth you.
20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
21 But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me.
Acts 14:22 Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.
Rom 8:38 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
1 Thess 3:4 For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know.
2 Tim 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
1 Pet 5:9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.
When it comes to financial disbursements to a ministry, we are commanded to give cheerfully (joyfully) as we purpose in our heart (whatever amount we want), and not grudgingly (annoyance), regardless of the amount or percentage of our income. The issue is primarily between God and the Christian.
Tithing is compulsory, because it is a form of taxation, and quite often it is performed grudgingly. The Apostle Paul also says in 1 Cor 16:2, On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come." (NKJV). Again, nothing mentioned about "tithing," only giving as one has purposed in his heart and as one has prospered.
14. Love is to be our motivation, not compulsory legalism (Hosea 6:6, Micah 6:6-8, Mark 12:28-34, 1 Cor 13:1-7). How much consideration we have for the poor, for example, is an indication of our spiritual condition (1 John 3:17).
Much of the finest scholarship in the Church affirms that tithing has no place
in the Church Age. This includes: Unger's Bible Dictionary, International Standard
Bible Encyclopedia, all of which detail the purpose and function of tithing
in the Old Testament but say nothing of tithing being a necessity in the Church.
The outstanding John MacArthur New Testament Commentary series affirms
that tithing has no place in the Church. The Nelson's Bible Dictionary has
this to say about tithing:
the Old Testament the purpose of the giving of a tenth was to meet the material
need of the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless (the orphan), and the widow <Deut.
26:12-13>. The tithe was an expression of gratitude to God by His people. Basic
to tithing was the acknowledgment of God's ownership of everything in the earth.
In the New Testament the words tithe and tithing appear only eight times <Matt. 23:23, Luke 11:42, 18:12, Heb. 7:5-6, 8-9. All of these passages refer to Old Testament usage and to current Jewish practice. Nowhere does the New Testament expressly command Christians to tithe. However, as believers we are to be generous in sharing our material possessions with the poor and for the support of Christian ministry. Christ Himself is our model in giving. Giving is to be voluntary, willing, cheerful, and given in the light of our accountability to God. Giving should be systematic and by no means limited to a tithe of our incomes. We recognize that all we have is from God. We are called to be faithful stewards of all our possessions <Rom 14:12, 1 Cor 9:3-14, 16:1-3, 2 Cor 8-9>. (Emphasis added)
Christians should not be coerced or compelled to give a set percentage of their income, but should give willingly of whatever they possess. Christians who don't give anything to the Church should examine themselves to determine if they really are in the faith. Tithing in the Church is not a minor issue or theological hair-splitting, but is actually a distortion of Scriptural truth. It is the Galatian error revisited, and this time it is facing very little resistance from an increasingly apostate Church.
How tithing as a legalistic standard crept into the Church is not entirely certain, but it is definitely not a standard that is commanded anywhere in the New Testament, but is in fact replaced by new rules for giving under the New Covenant as I have documented.
Frequently, Church leaders mandate tithing because they believe that most Christians, if left to their own motivation, would give very little. So to maximize the Church's revenue (from their perspective) they decree tithing as the standard for giving. Other Church leaders teach tithing because it's a tradition they learned by rote. Jesus says this about rote tradition in Mat 15:8-9, "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." There are still others who hold to the belief that if you don't tithe (as opposed to giving cheerfully) then you are somehow ignorant, a low-wattage Christian, or not really saved at all.
As this issue is dealt with, we should remember the words of the Apostle Paul in Galatians 3:3, Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? and again in Galatians 5:1, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage."
This document was written by Dave Combs.
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