For most of the church age there has been a question: “How much should I give?”. On one side of the debate is the “tithe” group, which states that a minimum of 10% of one’s income must be given as a tithe. If the individual does not do this, they are seen as “robbing God” (Malachi 3:8). On the other side of the debate is the crowd who believes the tithe is no longer a measuring stick for giving, that it, like the sacrifices and burnt offerings, was nailed to the cross of Christ.
At AHF, we believe in “freewill giving.” We believe in giving above and beyond your means…but most importantly…we believe in giving what God lays on your heart to give (2 Corinthians 9:7). We do not believe the church is the “Store-house”…and we do not believe in giving 10% to a priesthood. We believe giving is a spiritual matter…not a legal matter. If you believe God is guiding you to send a certain amount of money somewhere besides AHF…we rejoice in that! If the Lord is saying to you: “Give 10%”…we believe you should give 10%. If it’s 5% one month and 3% the next….be obedient. If its 30%….then give 30%. Whatever God lays upon your heart…be faithful and obedient!
At AHF…you will have the option to give privately…or to your local house fellowship….whatever God leads you to do. If you do decide to give to the house fellowship. you will have the option to give your offering to the general fund…the supply fund…a designated offering…or an honorarium (which is a fancy word for financially supporting your house church shepherd) to the leadership of AHF.
If you give to the general fund of AHF, your giving will be combined with the giving of other believers to further God’s Kingdom. All of those who are giving will then prayerfully consider what God would have each house church do with those offerings. Examples are: Support a ministry or missionary team, support an outreach effort by the house fellowship…or however the Lord leads the group….through prayer…to designate their giving. A small portion of the general fund will automatically be given to the AHF operating budget, which will be used to support training of new leadership, technology costs and new home fellowship start-ups.
At AHF, we trust you to be led by the Lord in what you give. As the leadership team of AHF, we will not draw a salary…a paycheck…like ordinary pastors do at institutional churches. We will be supported by your giving directly…as God leads you. We trust the Lord to provide for our needs…just as the early church Apostles trusted the Lord to provide for their needs (2 Cor 4:18; 1 Corinthians 9:3-14; 2 Corinthians 11:7-9; Philippians 4:15-16; Acts 18:1-3)
If you wish to know more about why we feel the tithe is no longer valid for the believer, please take the time to read the study below. It goes into great detail concerning the history of the tithe in the Old Testament, New Testament and church history.
Above all…PRAY! Ask God to guide you so you are giving according to His will!
This study seeks to examine the New and Old Testament scriptures, along with Jewish interpretations of the Old Testament scriptures, and come to a conclusion on this matter. It is written from the viewpoint that the “tithe” has been abolished and a new principle for giving is in effect for the New Testament saint. This view has caused some controversy among the brethren and has been a source of contention in the past. Those who do not teach the tithe view the tithe as legalistic. Those who teach the tithe think not tithing is robbing God. Calling one legalistic, while the others make claims of robbery is very common in this debate.
This is not meant to be an in-depth thesis on the matter of tithing or New Testament giving. It is intended to be a guide for those who seriously have questions about the tithe.
Another intention of this study is to help those who believe in the tithe understand the “other side” of the issue. The study is not designed to persuade those who tithe, only to provide scriptural information as to why some teach the tithe is abolished. It is the goal of this study to bring understanding and to demonstrate the scriptural principles and interpretations by which the “tithe is abolished” section of Christianity holds their particular views.
Before we consider the question “What is the Tithe?” some guidelines must be established. The first guideline for scriptural interpretation that will be used in this study is the “Principle of Supremacy[i].” It states: “God’s Laws are supreme and founded upon His word. Mankind does not have the authority to change the Laws of God. Doing so is changing the Word of God.” The “Principle of Supremacy” is very appropriate to this debate and is also a Biblical concept.
In Mark 7, Jesus and His disciples were confronted by the Pharisees about their failure to wash before eating. In verse 9, Jesus responded: “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your own tradition (ESV).” Jesus confirms here the supremacy of Scripture over our traditions and points out the tendency of religious leaders to place “extra-scriptural” restrictions as part of worship. God’s Word is God’s Word. It settles all issues and means what it says. Let me expound upon it in the light of the current topic as to assist the reader in understanding its role in this article.
All New Testament theologians and pastors agree, even those who teach the tithe, that the New Testament is largely silent on the issue of the tithe. It is also universally accepted that there are no new commands that redefine the definition of the tithe in the New Testament. All guidelines for how to implement and collect the tithe (not giving in general, but tithing “10%”) are found in the Old Testament. As such, if an individual is going to teach “tithing,” then the Principle of Supremacy states that they must do so under the established guidelines found in scripture. In other words, since we do not have the authority to change the scriptures, and given the New Testament is silent on redefining the tithe, we must tithe according to the rules found in the Old Testament.
Most will agree with the above statement, even those who teach the tithe. It is similar to the rules of a football game. There are rules and referees that enforce those rules. The rules cannot be arbitrarily changed during the course of the game for any reason. The same is true with God’s word in general and specifically the tithe. If individuals teach tithing, they must do it according to the guidelines laid out in the Old Testament. We have no authority to change the laws that govern the tithe. If it is taught, it must be taught according to the guidelines provided in scripture.
The second guideline that will be used in this study is the “Rule of Contextual Interpretation.[ii]” It states: “Scripture is best interpreted when viewed in both the scriptural and cultural context in which it was originally written, delivered and received.” Simply put, those who wish to interpret the fullest meaning out of a passage of scripture should read the scripture in the original language, as if they were the original recipients. Most scripture is universal in its appeal and interpretation. There are, however, scriptures that can only be fully understood when they are read in the original language and in the context of those to whom it was written. An example of this is “The husband of one wife” qualification found in Titus 1:6. In the Greek, it literally reads a “one woman man.” To a 1950’s Baptist Church, the phrase “The husband of one wife” has a certain meaning. However, to the first century Cretians (to whom this letter was written), the phrase “one woman man” takes on an entirely different meaning, given their culture (“Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, idle gluttons[iii]”). Therefore, to truly understand what Paul was trying to tell Titus, we must read the passage as if we were in first century Crete when this letter was received, not from a 20th Century Southern Baptist interpretation. This passage is best understood in the context of the people (their culture and what the phrase meant to them) to whom it was written, not by any predisposed ideas we may or may not have.
This principle is important to remember when examining the tithe issue as we all come into this debate with pre-conceived ideas. Using the “Principle of Supremacy” and the “Rule of Contextual Interpretation” will assist in determining the true nature of the tithe as it was received in the Old Testament (which is our only source of guidance in the administration of the tithe).
WOULD A MAN ROB GOD? ARE YOU?
This next section is written for two reasons: 1) to establish “who” really tithes and 2) to establish the Old Testament’s view of the tithe. This section is written for those who believe they “tithe” according to the scriptures. Certainly everyone who teaches that tithing is still required would tithe correctly. This is what we will examine.
The passage that is most often used to preach on tithing is Malachi 3:8-10. It says: “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye [are] cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, [even] this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that [there shall] not [be room] enough [to receive it]. [iv]”
From this passage, it is then defined to the congregation that the tithe is 10% of your paycheck, before taxes. If you make $4,000 per month, then you should be tithing $400 per month. If you do this, then you will not be seen as one who robs God. Those who teach the tithe will probably agree with this statement as it is a tradition that goes centuries. The question is: Is our tradition based on the practices of the Jewish people and the early Christians, or is it just tradition?
Instances of the tithe are found in the following scriptures:
Numbers 18:21, 24, 26, 28
Deuteronomy 12:6, 11, 17
Deuteronomy 14:22, 23, 28
Post-Exilic History and Prophets:
2 Chronicles 31:5, 6, 12
Nehemiah 10:37, 38; 12:44; 13:5, 12
Malachi 3:8, 10
Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42
Hebrews 7:2, 4-6, 8, 9
In keeping with the “Principle of Supremacy,” the above scriptures are the guidelines to tithing for all generations. They are not negotiable nor are they changeable.
You may be asking, “I tithe 10%…how does this affect me?” It affects you by the fact that the tithe is not 10% of your income. Certainly all will agree with the statement: “If you teach the tithe, then you have to tithe as directed by the scriptures and not by the traditions of man.” A tithe of 10% of one’s paycheck is a tradition of man.
This is where the question: “What is the Tithe?” is important. As you can see by the above scriptures, the tithe was the first fruits of the harvest. To the Jew, there was a tithe on everything, whether it was money, herds or harvests (“Rule of Contextual Interpretation,” Nehemiah 10:37). Given this, the first question one could ask a “tither” is: “Do you have a garden or have you had one since you began tithing?” If the answer is “yes”, then consider the following question: “Did you tithe a portion of your crops and bring them to the church?” If the answer is “no”, then you have not tithed according to the scriptures because Leviticus 27:30-32 states:
“Ten percent of everything you harvest is holy and belongs to me, whether it grows in your fields or on your fruit trees. If you want to buy back this part of your harvest, you may do so by paying what it is worth plus an additional twenty percent. When you count your flocks and herds, one out of ten of every newborn animal is holy and belongs to me…[v]”
According to the scripture, correct tithing involved giving of ALL your increase, not just 10% of your paycheck. This includes your garden, for that is an increase or profit. You may say that this is very legalistic of me. I agree! It is legalistic. However, this is the Old Testament principle of tithing. There are no New Testament scriptures that say, “OK, now the tithe is 10% of your paycheck-forget all that other stuff. All the laws on tithing in the Old Testament are obsolete.” Given the “Principle of Supremacy,” we do not have the authority to change how the tithe is to be taken or what it entails. Therefore, if the tithe still exists we are compelled to tithe as the Old Testament instructs us. Arbitrarily saying, “Well, in the Church era we just give 10% as a tithe” is not an option. God has never changed the rule of the tithe and we have no authority to change it ourselves. There are no new instructions on what is subject to the tithe. If we believe in the tithe, then we must tithe according to the scripture.
Leviticus 27 does give you other options if you do not wish to take your vegetables to the church. We see this in verse 31. We can buy back a part of the tithe if we wish. The way to do this (again, this is scripture’s definition) is to set aside the amount you were going to tithe (Lev 27:30), then figure out the dollar amount of that tithe and add 20% (Leviticus 27:31). Therefore if 10% of your garden crops would amount to a value of $100 if sold, you must give $120 to the church as a “redeemed tithe.” It is doubtful any tithing gardeners have ever done this (and I certainly have not). These are the rules if we are to tithe according to the scriptures. If you use the Old Testament to teach the tithe, you must abide by the Old Testament rules of tithing. You do not have the authority to change the laws of God. Just as you must drive according to the laws established, so you must tithe by the established laws found in the Old Testament. Included in these are the laws which govern the redeeming of your tithe if you do not wish to give a tithe of any agricultural increase.
You may be thinking “So far, so good” because you may not garden or if you do, you certainly give more than $120 above your tithe to the church. Again, however, the “Principle of Supremacy” will come into play. If you tithe 10% (and assuming you have no other increase during the year), it is likely that you still do not tithe according to the scriptures.
According to Deuteronomy 14:22, the tithe is to be collected once per year. The tithe was also not to be collected during the seventh year of the sabbatical cycle (Leviticus 25:1-6). It is highly doubtful than any have ever heard a sermon on not tithing during a sabbatical year. However, if we are to tithe according to the scripture, we are not to take a tithe every seventh year. Again it is the “Principle of Supremacy.” We do not have the authority to change the rules of God. There is some indication of receiving an offering every week in 1 Corinthians 16. We will discuss this in more detail later.
So, as you can see, it is very unlikely that anyone who claims to tithe actually does so according to the scriptures. There is one final question that must be examined when considering the tithe. It goes to the very heart of the tithing issue and it has been left for the end of this section. So, “What is a tithe? Is it 10%?”
The answer to the question is: “No.” Before you stop reading, please ask yourself one question: “Why do I think the tithe is 10%?” What is your answer? Is your answer “Because that is what I’ve been taught (I suspect even graduates of seminary would have to honestly answer this way)? Is your answer “Because the word “tithe” means tenth”? Is your answer “Because the bible says you must give a tenth, or a tithe”? If these are your answers, then all three are wrong according to the scriptures, no matter how good your intentions are.
While it is true that the word “tithe” does mean “a tenth,” it is not true that the tithe is only 10% of one’s income. A close examination of the scriptures in Deuteronomy and Leviticus prove otherwise. If you examine the subject carefully, you will find that the Jews had at least two tithes each year during the 6 years of the sabbatical cycle.
The first tithe, or the first 10%, was for the Levites:
“And [that] we should bring the firstfruits of our dough, and our offerings, and the fruit of all manner of trees, of wine and of oil, unto the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and the tithes of our ground unto the Levites, that the same Levites might have the tithes in all the cities of our tillage. [vi]”
This is the taking of the first tithe. This tithe goes to the storehouse for the Levites and the Temple service. This is also the tithe that is most commonly referred to by New Testament teachers of the tithe, except today the storehouse is supposedly the church and the Levites are the Elders and Deacons. The problem with this, however, is that scripture never equates the storehouse to the church, nor does it now define the Levites as the New Testament church leadership. A storehouse is just that…a place to STORE things. We are ALL priests. Saying the storehouse is the church is a supposition. However, for the sake of the debate, let us assume that this supposition is correct and this tithe is to be taken to the church and received by the leadership (even though this violates the “Principle of Supremacy”). What is the percentage of this tithe, which is now received in the New Testament church?
The Old Testament method of giving was actually comprised of three different tithes, two of which were taken during any given year. The “second tithe” is found in twelfth and fourteenth chapters of Deuteronomy and is called “The Festival Tithe.” This tithe was used to sponsor the religious festivals. The people of Israel were to use this tithe to eat in the presence of the Lord in Jerusalem (the place where He chose to establish His name[vii]). If it was too burdensome for them to bring their tithe all the way to Jerusalem, they were permitted to sell it and bring the money to Jerusalem where they could purchase goods for the festivals. God expressly encourages them to spend their money on “whatever their heart desires,” including strong drink (Deuteronomy 14:26)! The purpose was so that the people of Israel would learn to fear the Lord their God and rejoice before Him.
Notice the difference in the two tithes. The first tithe is taken directly to the Levites at the Temple and is for them, since they do not have an inheritance[viii]. The second tithe is for each person’s own use in religious festivals. It was taken during the first, second, fourth and fifth years. It is still a tithe and is commanded to be observed.
“But thou must eat them before the LORD thy God in the place which the LORD thy God shall choose, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that [is] within thy gates: and thou shalt rejoice before the LORD thy God in all that thou puttest thine hands unto.[ix]”
The children of Israel are also instructed in this verse to not leave the Levite out of this second tithe. Their portion (the Levites) was 10% of the second tithe or 1% of the total.
Up until this point, we have seen that the first tithe, or 10%, was collected for Temple use. The second tithe, or Festival tithe, was an additional 9% of a person’s increase (10% of the remaining 90% after the first tithe). This makes the total yearly tithe 19%. 11% of these two tithes (10%+1% [10% of the second tithe]) were to be given unto the Levites. 8% was to be used in religious festivals. There is, however, an additional tithe, the third tithe, to consider.
The third tithe was given to the poor, widows and orphans and is known as “The Benevolent Tithe.” It is found in the fourteenth and twenty-sixth chapters of Deuteronomy. It was taken every third year[x]. In Deuteronomy 14:28-29 we read:
“At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay [it] up within thy gates: And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which [are] within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest. [xi]”
There is some debate among scholars as to whether or not this tithe ran concurrently with the second tithe during years three and six of the sabbatical cycle or if it replaced the second tithe (the Festival Tithe) during those years. If the third tithe did replace the second tithe, then the total tithe for the year would have still have been 19%. However, if the third tithe ran concurrently with the second tithe, then the total tithe was 27% (the first tithe plus the second tithe plus the third tithe, or 10%+9%+8%). This tenth was taken from the remaining 90% (the remaining increase after the first tithe) or the remaining 81% (the remaining increase after the first and second tithe).
Due to the unknown nature of the third tithe (as to if it was taken in conjunction with the second tithe), the person who has vowed to tithe according to the scripture should give at least 27% of their income to the church every third year in order to be sure they are tithing correctly. Due to the fact that we do not have festivals in the New Testament church, the tither should give the first 19% of their income to the church and the last 8% to missions or other benevolent organizations. If you are convinced, however, that the third tithe did not run concurrently with the second tithe, then your tithe should total 19% every year and 9% of your tithe should go to benevolent causes every third year. This is the law of the tithe. God has not changed this law.
In Deuteronomy 26:12-13 we also read of the third tithe: “When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase the third year, [which is] the year of tithing, and hast given [it] unto the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled; Then thou shalt say before the LORD thy God, I have brought away the hallowed things out of [mine] house, and also have given them unto the Levite, and unto the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all thy commandments which thou hast commanded me: I have not transgressed thy commandments, neither have I forgotten [them]:[xii]”
There are a couple items of interest in this passage. First is the idea of eating this tithe within the gates of the city. This confirms what is found in Deuteronomy 14, that this is a separate tithe. We know it is separate because, again, 100% of the first tithe is taken to the Levites and the Temple, while this tithe is taken to the city gates and only 10% of this tithe is available to the Levites.
A second item of interest in the passage is the phrase: “When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase” found in verse 12. Notice the word “tithe” in the verse is plural. The phrase literally reads, “When you have made an ending of giving a tenth of all your tenths…” This is further confirmation that there were multiple tithes. The children of Israel are instructed here on what to do when they have completed ALL the tithes. This refers to the first and third tithe, certainly, and could possible refer to the first, second and third tithes (if they ran concurrently).
By now might be thinking this is slightly insane. However, there is a way to create more confusion. Let us suppose that a tithing member of your church is in the ranching or farming business. They derive all their income from these endeavors. In order to tithe correctly, they must either give the church 19% (or 27%) of their harvest or herds each year OR they must give the equivalent amount of money to the church, plus 20%. Remember, the rules on the redeemed tithes involving agricultural gains are found in Leviticus 27:30-32. Any tithe that is being redeemed (in other words, you could have tithed the herds or harvest but you choose to keep those for whatever reasons and want to give money) cannot be redeemed at face value. It must have a 20% increase placed upon it. For example, if a rancher sells $40,000 worth of cattle each year and he wished to give a money tithe instead of the cattle, his tithe is not $7,600 (19%). The rule on redeeming the tithe states you must add 20% of what the value would have been and that number is your tithe. In this case it would be $7,600 + ($7,600X20%), or $9,120. This is God’s rule on redeeming the tithe. We do not have the authority to change it. Did Jesus give a new definition of the tithe? Did Paul or any other Apostle say that tithing is now just 10%? If the answer to both of these questions is “no,” then this law is still in effect (if you believe in tithing). If tithing is preached as mandatory using Malachi 3 as a guide (and we’ve all heard the “Will a Man Rob God” sermon), then the Law, which was in place at the time Malachi 3 was written, must be enforced unless it was changed in the New Testament (which it was not).
Now you are probably totally convinced of the ridiculous nature of this argument. Again, refer back to the “Principle of Supremacy.” If we are to tithe as God has commanded, then we must tithe according to His instructions. His instructions on the tithe are found in the Old Testament. There are no “new” instructions on how to tithe correctly (using a 10% rule). Therefore, if one teaches that the tithe is still in effect, they have no choice but to teach it as scripture defines it. We do not have authority to change the laws of God. This has been stated this over and over, but it is the most important point in defining the nature of the tithe. There is not one instance in the New Testament where any writer states, “The tithe is now 10% of your paycheck. Forget all the Old Testament principles on the first, second and third tithe of ALL your increase.”
Given this, how can anyone say that a tithe is just 10% of a paycheck? That is not the scriptural definition of the tithe and I again challenge anyone who disagrees with this to identify the scriptures where the Old Testament Law on tithing were repealed and we were then placed under a pre-Mosaic tithe of 10%. This especially cannot be true if you are using Malachi 3 as a text to teach tithing. If you are to tithe correctly (as the scripture defines it), you must:
Tithe ALL your increase every year. This means a tithe on your paycheck, the increase from any gardening or the increase from any investments (how many tithe the increase in your 401K or retirement accounts every year?).
The tithe on all your increase (wherever God has prospered you) must be made yearly. If, however, you choose to do so weekly or monthly, this is your choice (this was changed in 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2). However, any increase on properties or investments should be done at least yearly. If your 401K increases by $20,000 due to interest each year (not from additional money placed in it), then $3,800 must be taken out at the end of every year for your tithe. This is the law of the tithe and there is no New Testament rules on tithing that supersede this or that place these investments out of the reach of the tithe.
You should be tithing a minimum of 19% each year. To be safe, you should tithe 27% every third year.
Every seventh year the tithe is not to be taken.
These are the laws on tithing. If you believe that you are still under the Law of tithing (or if you preach it), then you must abide by these laws when you tithe and feed the flock with these laws when you preach on tithing. If you preach that the tithe is strictly 10% of one’s paycheck, you are changing the Laws of God, although I suspect you did it ignorance. All are asked to research the verses on tithing that have been listed and learn all the rules of tithing according to the scriptures. We are not allowed to change the rules of God.
REFUTATION OF OLD TESTAMENT PROOF VERSES
Some will say that the Mosaic Laws on tithing have reverted back to the pre-Mosaic principles on tithing, which was 10%. There are several problems with this. The first is the highest hurdle with this concept is the revealing of scripture itself. Scripture must be interpreted as it reflects God’s progressive revelation; hence each passage must be interpreted in the light of its redemptive and historical setting and purpose. In evangelical circles, this principle shows up as dispensationalism. Simply put, the Mosaic Covenant was superior to the Abrahamic Covenant. It superseded and replaced the Abrahamic Covenant because it was a superior revelation from God. And the Mosaic Covenant was replaced by the FAR superior New Covenant.
There is an assumption that tithing (as a law) pre-dates the Mosaic Covenant and that we are now under the pre-Mosaic rule of tithing. Gen 14:15-16 states:
“And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which [is] on the left hand of Damascus and recovered everything And he brought back all the goods (The loot that he had taken), and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people… [xiii]”
In verse 19 and 20 we read: “Then Melchizedek blessed Abram with this blessing: “The blessing of the supreme God, Creator of heaven and earth, be upon you, Abram; and blessed be God, who has delivered your enemies over to you. And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.[xiv] “
Some pastors teach that tithing transcends the Law because Abraham tithed to Melchizedek before the Law was established. This is true…he did tithe to Melchizedek. However, Abraham did it out of free will, not as a mandate from God. From the verses above, it is clear that Abraham gave Melchizedek a tenth or ten percent of all the loot that had been recovered (verses 16 and 19) not of all that he possessed, and he only did it one time. This is NOT what is being taught in the Church today and can never be compared to the tithe of Abraham.
“The Law of First Mention” is important in this part of the discussion. It is usually used to point back to a time when the tithe was 10%, thus to place us under the same universal guide. There is a problem with this. As mentioned above, scripture is revelational in its appearance to us. We know, for instance, that many pre-Mosaic men offered up burnt offerings to the Lord in sacrifice[xv]. However, when the Mosaic Law was given, the manner in which those sacrifices were offered was made null, void and illegal. The Mosaic Law gave defined guidelines for sacrificing a burnt offering to God. It defined who should do it, how it should be done and when it should be accomplished. The Mosaic Law revealed God’s direction in which His children were to go in relation to the sacrifice. Offering a sacrifice in the manner of Abraham was no longer acceptable. It had to be made according to the law.
As God revealed His purpose throughout history, we see that even Mosaic Law’s manner of sacrifice was eventually made null and void. The tenth chapter of Hebrews states: “And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God. From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.[xvi]”
This is an example of God’s progressive revelation through the scripture. God allowed a sacrifice for sin through the blood of sheep and bulls (during pre-Mosaic times), then He made more legalistic guidelines that must be adhered to when offering these sacrifices (the Mosaic Covenant) and finally He put an end to sacrifice once and for all through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ.
This principle on progressive revelation also applies to the tithe. Before the Mosaic Law, there were no rules on tithing. We never see any instructions by God on when to tithe or what to tithe (just as we see no instructions on sacrifices). Tithing and sacrifices were made through freewill and not out of obligation. Abraham is never seen giving a tenth of his increase, only a tenth of his spoils. We never see God commanding it, only commending it. When the Mosaic Law was given, all this changed. The tithe was implemented as a law and had certain rules. We read of this Law in Nehemiah: “And on that day were men appointed over the chambers for the treasures, for the heave-offerings, for the first-fruits, and for the tithes, to gather into them, according to the fields of the cities, the portions appointed by the law for the priests and Levites: for Judah rejoiced for the priests and for the Levites that waited.[xvii]”
Notice that the text says tithes were “appointed by the law.” This giving was not voluntary as it was during the lives of Abraham and Jacob’s[xviii]. Similarly we read in Hebrews 7:5: “And those indeed of the sons of Levi who receive the priest’s office have commandment in the Law to collect a tenth from the people, that is, from their brethren, although these are descended from Abraham.[xix]”
Tithing was never voluntary under the Mosaic Law. Notice that in Nehemiah’s day men were appointed to gather the offerings and tithes into chambers designated for that particular purpose. These chambers were for the stores and later became known as the “storehouses.[xx]” Under the Mosaic Law, the tithe became part of the Law. Hebrews verifies that this was still the practice of the Jews (not the Church), even in New Testament times. It states the sons of Levi were subject to the commands of the law. It doesn’t mention anything about the Church. There are no New Testament scriptures which remove this part of the Law and place it back into its pre-Mosaic Law state.
NEW TESTAMENT GIVING – REFUTATION OF NEW TESTAMENT “PROOFS”
It is important to remember Nehemiah 12:44 when considering the “proof texts” of the New Testament. One of these so called “proof texts” is found in Matthews 23:23 (and Luke 11:42): “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the more important things of THE LAW: justice and mercy and faith. These things you should have done, and not have neglected the others.[xxi]”
Even though the New Testament is absolutely silent on the issue of tithing in the church, teachers of tithing will cite the above verses as proof that Jesus commanded us to tithe since He said, “These things you should have done.” There is a problem with this “connect the dots” approach. The first thing we need to see is that Jesus clearly says tithing is of “THE LAW.” The Pharisees were under the law, and by law, had to tithe. Jesus had to agree with that because He was not yet crucified. All people in Israel (including Jesus!!!), were still under the law.
“But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, being born of a woman, being born under the law, so that He might redeem those under the law, so that we might receive the adoption. [xxii]”
When Jesus was crucified He ushered in the New Covenant and the Old was finished.
“But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by so much He is also the Mediator of a better covenant, which was built upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been without fault, then no place would have been sought for the second.[xxiii]”
Jesus was born under the Law. The Law required tithing. Saying anything other than “this you ought to have done…” would have been a sin for Christ. He would have violated the Law and thus His perfect sacrifice would have also been nullified. He had to say what He did. He was still under the Law. We, however, are not.
It is also important to remember that since He was under the Law, Jesus is referring to the full tithe according to the Law, not the 10% from a paycheck alone that we say it is today. Jesus would have tithed according to the Law and as you have seen, it was more than 10% of your paycheck. Therefore, if you are to use Jesus’ words as “proof” that you must still tithe, you must remember that He said this while under the Law and that those principles of the tithe found within the Law are what He was referring.
Another New Testament “proof” verse is found in Luke 18:12: “I fast twice a week, I tithe on all things, as many as I acquire.[xxiv]”
Again, this fails the test of proving the tithe as the one who uttered this statement was also under the Law. Not only was he under the Law, but he vehemently observed the Law. He was a Pharisee and to him, legalism was faith. Therefore, tithing to the Pharisee was a matter of precisely fulfilling the Law on tithing. That would mean he tithed on all he acquired and gave two tithes per year, one to the Temple and one to the Festival or needy (depending on the sabbatical cycle).
WHAT DOES THE NEW TESTAMENT SAY?
It would not be proper to speak of tithing or giving without looking at the teachings of the New Testament on this subject. Perhaps the best place to begin is with the Law. As we have seen, the tithe was part of the Mosaic covenant. It was an ordinance of God. In Malachi 3 we read: “Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept [them]. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return? Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye [are] cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, [even] this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that [there shall] not [be room] enough [to receive it].[xxv]”
There are several items of interest in this passage, which is perhaps the most preached passage in all of scripture when it comes to tithing, and how it relates to the New Testament.
First, in verse 7, we read “Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances…” This again establishes the fact that the tithe is an ordinance of God (as seen in Nehemiah 12:44); a statute or a part of the Law. In Hebrew, the word used as “ordinance” literally means “a prescribed task or portion. [xxvi]” The ordinance of which God is referring is the tithe (verse 8) and it is a prescribed task as defined in the Mosaic Law. Once it was made part of the Mosaic Law, there was no going back to a Pre-Mosaic custom.
In viewing this passage in light of the New Testament we see that we are no longer subject to these ordinances that are contained within the Law. We are not bound by the Law for the scripture says Christ has forgiven “you of all trespasses, blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and has taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross; [xxvii]” Christ has literally nailed the ordinances of the Law to His cross. They are no longer in effect! Because He has blotted them out, we are to “… let no one judge you in food or in drink, or in respect of a feast, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbaths.[xxviii]” Those things are also of the Law. Just as man should not judge you for what you eat (whether clean or unclean) or whether you keep the Sabbath, neither should he judge you on the tithe. It is an Old Testament ordinance.
We also see this abolition in Ephesians 2:14-15: “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and who destroyed the dividing wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace…[xxix]”
Jesus Christ has become the peace between the Law and us. He fulfilled the Law perfectly, something no other man could do. In this fulfilling of the Law, He abolished the “Law of Commandments, which were contained in ordinances.” These ordinances, such as the tithe, have been done away with in the life and death of Christ. What was divided is now one and there is peace between God and man. The Law brought division, Christ created peace.
The second thing of interest in Malachi 3 is found in verse 8: “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. [xxx]”
The entire nation of Israel had robbed God. When viewing this passage through the revelation of God in the New Testament, we must see that tithes AND offerings are mentioned together. The “offering” here does not carry the idea of placing a little extra money into the collection plate for the building fund. It is the idea of animal sacrifices and grain offerings. When teaching the tithe, one cannot separate the concept of tithes and offerings in Malachi 3. They are intertwined. One cannot arbitrarily state, “well, the offerings are no longer required but the tithe is.” The successive revelation of scripture shows that both were made of no effect and nailed to the tree with Christ. Neither was either of them taken backwards to a Pre-Mosaic time.
Finally in verse 9 we see the consequences of not giving a tithe and offering: “Ye [are] cursed with a curse:” This is the curse of not obeying the Mosaic Law, of violating its ordinances. Galatians 3:10 states: “For as many as are out of works of the Law, these are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the Book of the Law, to do them. [xxxi]”
The New Testament has assured us that we are no longer under this curse: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone having been hanged on a tree”);[xxxii]”
We are free from the curse of the law, and thus we are free from any curse that might have been a result of failing to tithe. This passage has lost its power, as those who are redeemed saints of God are no longer under the curse of the Law.
It is also clear from the teachings of Paul that 10% of your income was never to be the goal. The New Testament church gave all, yet people today pat themselves on the back and are thought highly of by the leadership of the church when they are “faithful.” This is not the New Testament design. Giving 10% of your income does not automatically please God. God loves a cheerful giver and in the New Testament, many gave much more than 10%. It is true that in today’s church, most of the faithful stewards are giving roughly 10%. However, in the early church this was not the case. We see this principle of New Testament giving in Acts 2:45: “And they sold possessions and goods and distributed them to all, according as anyone had need.[xxxiii]”
And again in Acts 4:34-35: “For neither was anyone needy among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses, selling them, they bore the value of the things being sold, and laid them at the feet of the apostles. And it was distributed to each according as any had need.[xxxiv]”
Faithful stewards in the early church gave far more than 10%. It is only since the rise of the Roman Catholic Church and subsequent eras that the teaching of the tithe as 10% was instituted. Mainline Protestant and Evangelical Churches have carried this over as tradition. According to the Encyclopedia of Religion & Ethics, as well as other historical church documents, “In the Christian Church the need of supporting the clergy, who were early withdrawn from secular business, was recognized, but the system of tithe was not generally resorted to for several centuries. Until the 4th century, little is heard of it. [xxxv]”
Clement of Rome, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus and Tertullian all spoke out against the tithe as a Jewish tradition with no bearing on the church. Epiphanius states, along with Irenaeus, that “the tithe is no more binding than circumcision” and they believed that “freedom in Christian giving [should be] emphasized. [xxxvi]” Cyprian was the first Church Father to attempt to impose the tithe on his congregation at Carthage in the middle of the 3rd century, to no avail. It wasn’t until A.D. 585, at the Council of Macon, until the Church ordained its payment, and those who refused to pay it were to be excommunicated. However, even this did not compel tithing throughout the whole Church, but only the local Bishopric.
It was not until the time of Charlemagne, in A.D. 777, that the payment of the tithe became law. In one of his capitularies, Charlemagne ordained it to be paid to churches and clergy. While the tithe was usually paid to the bishop, who apportioned it, Charlemagne’s mandate on the tithe was regulated and divided into three parts —for the bishop and clergy, for the poor, and for the support of church buildings.
Why would one mention the history of the tithe throughout the church? To demonstrate that this is not a concept that was carried over from the Mosaic Law through the time of Christ and into the New Testament church. It was not taught by Paul or any authors of the New Testament. It was not taught in the early Church by the Apostles and the Church as a whole existed for over 700 years without it’s collection. It is an addition (although an early one) to the fabric of the church, just like many other things the Roman Catholic Church has done, which has served to “tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders” (Matthew 23:4). It was something that was not originally observed and, as in most other things the Roman Catholic Church has done ex-scriptura, it only serves to place individuals back under a legal code rather than allowing them to exist in grace.
In 2 Corinthians 9:5-8 we are taught the Pauline doctrine of giving: “Therefore, I thought it necessary to exhort the brothers, that they go forward to you and arrange beforehand your promised blessing, this to be And this: the one sowing sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one sowing on hope of blessings will also reap on blessings. Each one as he purposes in his heart, not out of grief or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace to abound toward you, that in everything, always having all self sufficiency, you may abound to every good work;[xxxvii]”
The phrase “out of necessity” in verse 7 is very important. The Greek word used as “necessity” is “anagnes” (meaning: “by law, custom or duty[xxxviii]”), so the phrase literally means that we are not giving due to some law, custom or duty imposed upon us but because God is purposing it in our heart. The Greek understanding of this word (what the Greeks defined it as and thus how the early church would have read the word) implies some cosmic constraint or some divine affliction[xxxix]. In the LXX (The Septuagint) and Josephus, the word is used in terms of constraint, something done because you have to and not because you want to (i.e.: because the law tells you to). It is basically some compulsion in which you have no control[xl].
In terms of context in this verse, we are not to give because we have to and are divinely constrained to do so or out of compulsion, but because we want to give as much as God is leading us to give as individuals. There is no hard and fast percentage. The important consideration is how much are you in love with Jesus and are you giving as He is purposing in your heart. We have a HIGHER calling and that is to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in all things, through the Word of God and the influence of the Spirit in our lives. Only those who are plugged into the Spirit and communing with Christ will do so and many are not quite willing to go everywhere the Spirit might lead. We are to give the amount that God lays on our heart, not because we are duty bound by a law or custom.
This leads us to another passage in the New Testament in which tithing is addressed. It is found in Hebrews 7. Verse 5 tells us: “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[xli]”
In verse 18, we are told that the commandments have been abolished: “For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof.[xlii]”
In verse 18, we also see the word “disannulled.” This word, which in the Greek is “athetesis,” means to be completely abolished[xliii]. Scripture is crystal clear in Hebrews 7:18 that the commandment to take the tithe is done away with completely. Now, in context of the passage, this is a total abrogation of the former law in relation to the Levitical priesthood (v .16). However, within the context of the entire chapter, it is the “sons of Levi” (v. 5) who have the commandment to take the tithe. With the carnal commandment of their duty now disannulled, so it is their duty to take the tithe, even though they (the Levites) were still taking it at the time (since they rejected the Gospel of Christ).
It is not only the Levitical priesthood which has been disannulled, but certainly the entire Law. Why? “For the law may nothing perfect.” And with that, we are given a better hope “by which we draw nigh unto God. (Hebrews 7:19)”
We can verify that outside of Jesus’ statements (which were in accordance with the law, which He was to fulfill, as were all who were under the law), there is nothing in the New Testament about the commandment to take a tithe. Also, please note that in verse five the commandment to take the tithe belongs to the sons of Levi. This is important because Hebrews was written during the New Testament time. However, even then it was still apportioned to the sons of Levi (the Priests of the Children of Israel) to receive the tithe “according to the LAW.” During the time of the writing of Hebrews this was being done by the Jews alone because Christ had done away with the command to receive the tithe and had nailed the ordinances to His cross (Colossians 2:14).
A final passage to consider when evaluating the New Testament tithe is found in the fifth chapter of Acts: “But a certain man named Ananias, together with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And he kept back for himself from the price, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and placed it beside the feet of the apostles. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart for you to lie to the Holy Spirit, and for you to keep back for yourself from the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain yours? And after it was sold, was it not in your control? Why have you purposed this thing in your heart? You did not lie to men but to God. [xliv]”
This is the familiar account of the sin of Ananias and his wife, Sapphira. Their sin was not withholding money from God, but lying about the amount they had given. The couple had a possession, most probably a piece of land, and had sold that possession for a certain amount of money. For the sake of illustration, let us say that this possession was sold for $20,000.
Ananias and Sapphira were compelled to give the proceeds from this possession to God. It was what was purposed in their heart. It was theirs to give or theirs to keep. Peter reiterates this fact when he says, “While it remained unsold, did it not remain yours? [xlv]” For example; Assume they sold the possession for $20,000 and then gave the Apostles a portion of it. Let’s say $15,000. This was not the sin. The sin was telling the Apostles that they had sold the possession for $15,000, thus giving “all” of the proceeds, when in fact they held back a percentage for themselves. They lied to make themselves look religious.
This passage is important as it demonstrates the principle of New Testament giving in full detail. Ananias and Sapphira had full control over their possessions (and Peter confirms this). They were not compelled by anyone to give anything. It was their possession to do with what they wanted. After they sold it, they were still not compelled to do anything with the profit or “increase” (remember, the Law of the tithe is on the increase of one’s possessions). Peter states very clearly that the entire $20,000 (our example) was theirs to do with what they will. “And after it was sold, was it not in your control? [xlvi]” In the Greek, the word translated as “power” here is “exousia”. It literally means: “power of choice, liberty of doing as one pleases, the ability or strength with which one is endued, which he either possesses or exercises or a thing subject to authority or rule. [xlvii]”
All of the money from this increase in wealth was under their control. They had sole authority to do with it what they wished and this authority extended to all $20,000, not just a part. This is important because if the tithe had still been in effect, Peter could NOT have made this statement. It would have been a lie. The Law of the tithe is such that 19% of this increase, or $3,800 in our example, would have been subject to mandatory tithing. The selling of possessions was subject to tithing, as was any increase[xlviii]. Peter’s statement that all of this increase in wealth belonged to Ananias and Sapphira would have been false if the Law of tithing was still in effect.
Even if there were some unknown New Testament rule that has reduced the first, second and third tithe to just 10%, this statement would still be false. If tithing is mandatory, the selling of the possession would not be under the total “exousia” control of Ananias and Sapphira, only 90% of it would. 10%, or $2,000 would belong to God, not Ananias and Sapphira. They would not have total freedom in giving or keeping all of the increase. That is not what Peter is teaching here, however. He confirms the principle of giving what God lays on your heart and being truthful and faithful to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
The practical applications of this study for the clergy and church leaders are just as important as the study itself. One practical application to church leaders would be “don’t judge another’s giving.” Referring back to Acts chapter 5 we see that Peter readily confessed that Ananias and Sapphira were well within their legal rights to keep every dime of their increase (contrary to the Law of tithing). He really didn’t care what they did with their money. His concern was their heart.
We have no idea what God is doing in a person’s life or how they are giving. We cannot judge the intents or purposes of the heart. That is God’s job. It is His Son who will judge the secrets of men [xlix] and it is only the Son, through the Holy Spirit and Holy Scriptures that has the authority to discern the thoughts and the intents of the heart [l]. It does not fall within the realm of responsibility to judge this matter in any individual. There is no scriptural authority to do so. All judgments on matters of the heart are left up to God alone.
Another recommendation to church leaders would be to not seek out the giving habits of members within your congregation for any reason. The simple reason behind this is our shared human nature. It is human nature to see someone who gives large sums of money to the church as more “faithful” than someone who gives little. Take a look at most deacon boards in evangelical churches and you will see it made up primarily of “faithful stewards.” More attention is paid to this aspect of a person’s life than are the real qualifications as outlined by scripture. Matter of fact, many churches has added a qualification: “The deacon candidate must be a faithful tither (giver/steward).” However, a close examination of 1st Timothy 3:8-13 reveals that the amount the candidate gives should bear no consideration. If Paul thought this was an important consideration, don’t you think he would have added it to the list (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit)? The consideration of “tithing,” however, has surpassed the real qualifications such as “are they blameless?” “Are they grave and not double-tongued?” “Do their wives gossip? [li]” These very real qualifications are often overlooked if the candidate is “a very faithful member of the church” (this is “church-speak” for someone who gives a lot of money).
It is human nature to equate giving with faithfulness to God. Our modern society engrains these tendencies even more today than ever because of check writing. In the early New Testament church, and indeed through most of church history, there were no records kept of who gave what. 1 Corinthians 16, verses 1 and 2 tell us that each person was to lay up at home the money that God has prospered him/her during the previous week. When they came together for public worship, they were to bring it with them. This was usually the first day of the week (or Sunday). The collection of the week’s offerings was accomplished by placing the money in a collection box. There was no record of who gave what. It was anonymous. There were no receipts kept for tax deduction purposes and the church had no record, and actually no way of knowing, of who had given what amount of money.
In today’s society almost all offerings are made by writing a check or putting it on your credit card (that’s a separate discussion). The church cashes that check and records are kept on each individuals giving for tax purposes (and the culling process to determine who gets to serve where). This gives elders and deacons an easy means of determining who gives what. There is a grave danger in this.
The first danger is the church leaders have no way of knowing to whom other checks have been written. You do not know if Brother Joe is actually giving 20% of his income to help out a mission overseas.
The second danger in this is: “What if they give cash?” Your records will not show cash receipts attributed to any individual. An individual may be giving 15% in cash, but your records show no giving at all because it was they did not write a check. You have no idea what the individual is truly giving because cash placed in an offering plate is anonymous (just as it was in the early church).
The final danger in this is you set yourself up to judge the intents of one’s heart without all the proper information. Since you will never have all the information, judging someone’s heart should never be done by you. Giving in the early church was anonymous and with cash. As stated above, there were no records kept of who gave and how much they gave because it was a purely cash society. The only means of determining exactly how much an individual gave was if they told you how much they gave, but this would nullify the act of giving with a gracious and cheerful heart.
Given all of these dangers, it is wise for church leaders to not evaluate the giving of members in the congregation. You simply do not have all the facts and human nature dictates you are likely to make decisions based on what a person gives and to assign a higher value of service or faithfulness to a person who gives (or at least a person’s whose giving shows up on your records) than someone who does not appear to give as much. This is simply not the New Testament model for judging the saints.
New Testament giving is a heart matter. When church leaders judge the intents of someone’s heart, they take the authority of God away from Him. Nowhere in the New Testament are we ever instructed to scrutinize someone’s giving and make decisions based on it. Please avoid this temptation. It will be a terrible thing on judgment day to look back upon someone who you believed was not faithful and find out that they were the sole supporter of some missionary in Africa. Don’t allow yourself to be placed in that position. We are not given that authority.
The idea of the abolishment of the tithe is not just held by a few “fringe” individuals. There are noted scholar’s within Christianity that hold to the “tithe is abolished” teaching. One such individual is John MacAuther Jr. He says: “The issue has been greatly confused, however, by some who misunderstand the nature of the Old Testament tithes. Tithes were not primarily gifts to God, but taxes for funding the national budget in Israel.
“Because Israel was a theocracy, the Levitical priests acted as the civil government. So the Levite’s tithe (Leviticus 27:30-33) was a precursor to today’s income tax, as was a second annual tithe required by God to fund a national festival (Deuteronomy 14:22-29). Smaller taxes were also imposed on the people by the law (Leviticus 19:9-10; Exodus 23:10-11). So the total giving required of the Israelites was not 10 percent, but well over 20 percent. All that money was used to operate the nation.
“All giving apart from that required to run the government was purely voluntary (cf. Exodus 25:2; 1 Chronicles 29:9). Each person gave whatever was in his heart to give; no percentage or amount was specified.
“New Testament believers are never commanded to tithe. Matthew 22:15-22 and Romans 13:1-7 tell us about the only required giving in the church age, which is the paying of taxes to the government. Interestingly enough, we in America presently pay between 20 and 30 percent of our income to the government–a figure very similar to the requirement under the theocracy of Israel. [lii]”
In his commentary on the book of Romans, MacAuther again states: “…Christians are not under obligation to give a specified amount to the work of their heavenly Father. In none of their forms do the tithe or other Old Testament levies apply to Christians. [liii]” He is not alone in his analysis. Nelson’s Bible Dictionary gives the following information on the tithe:
“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). [liv]”
I suppose the real questions are: (1) Will we once again be subject to the Law and tithe as it is defined by the law? (2) Do we just say “well it means 10% today” with no authority to do so? Or (3) Do we give what God purposes in our heart, thus following the New Testament example? The latter seems to be the case, not only because the commandment and ordinances have been nailed to the cross but also because we have a higher calling than just tithing 10%, 19% or 27% of a paycheck.
A high jumper will only strive to make the bar, never to go far beyond it. A high jumper who can clear the 7’level will only clear 6’2” if that is where the bar is set. They rarely clear 7’. This is human nature. We aim at the standard that is set. If you tell the congregation the bar is 10%, then this is what you will get from some. Most will not clear that bar but fall several % short. When you show people that giving is a heart matter and if you are not giving until it hurts you have a relationship problem, the bar goes much higher and so do the gifts of those who give.
How much should we give? What is the percentage? The answer to how much we should give seems to be found in the phrase: “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, [so let him give]; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” [lv]
I hope you will prayerfully consider what has been offered. The intent was to prod you (for those who believe in tithing) to search the scriptures and see what God is telling you through His Word. It has been stressed that we do not have the authority to change the commands of God. The law of the tithe is very clear: It is not 10%, but a minimum of 19% and possibly as much as 27% of ALL your increase: Your paycheck, your 401K interest, your garden, EVERYTHING! If you are truly going to tithe and this is what you believe scripture is saying, then you have no choice but to tithe according to scripture. We have no authority to “reject the commandments of God in order to establish our won tradition.”
We are in the age of grace. This grace covers the tithe and allows those who are being led by the Spirit of the Living God to give according to the purpose in their heart, not by a legalistic definition. This is what the early Church believed, taught and practiced. This is why you do not see the tithe redefined in the New Testament scriptures. It was “give until it hurts” and as your heart purposes, not according to the law of the tithe.
If God has placed on your heart that you are to give 10% of your income, then do so cheerfully, not because you are compelled to do so by the Old Testament or because someone tells you to. Do it because you want to do so with a gracious and benevolent heart. God promises that those in the former group (those who give out of necessity or because of some law or custom)[lvi] will receive a reward of straw and hay that will be burned up at the judgment seat of Christ because it was not cheerfully given but given out of compulsion. Those who do give out of a strong desire to see the Kingdom of God furthered will receive the reward that they have laid up: Gold, silver and precious stones. [lvii]
Please examine this paper in light of the scriptures. If there is to be disagreement, let that disagreement be based on scripture alone and not based on long-held beliefs or traditions. If you disagree with its contents, that is fine. We are allowed to have disagreements. Please consider the passages on tithing, especially regarding what the true tithe is. Also examine 1 Corinthians chapter 9 and Hebrews chapter 7 and then draw your own conclusions. Above all, remember that we do not have the authority to change the rules of God or judge the intents of another’s heart.
As Rupert Meldenius so wisely stated centuries ago: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, grace.” May we remember this as we learn together.
Quick Reference Chart Concerning the Various Tithes
1st Tithe – The Levite’s Tithe
Numbers 18:21-24; Nehemiah 10:37; 12:44
2nd Tithe – The Festival Tithe
Deuteronomy 12:6-17; 14:22-27
3rd Tithe – The Benevolent Tithe
Deuteronomy 14:28-29; 26:12, 13
The Redeemed Tithe
Redeemed from the Curse of the Law
Galatians 3:10, 13; Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:14
New Testament Giving
Acts 2:45; 4:34, 35; 5:1-5; 2 Corinthians 9:5-8; Hebrews 7: 5-19
[i] Lee, Nelson W., Hermeneutical Principles, 2000
[ii] Lee, Nelson W, Marriage, Divorce and the Ministry, 1995, 2003 (Second Edition); Thesis: The Twenty Four Elders, 1998
[iii] Titus 1:12, EMTV
[vi] Nehemiah 10:37, KJV
[vii] Deuteronomy 14:24
[viii] Numbers 18:21, 23; Deuteronomy 14:27, 18:1
[ix] Deuteronomy 12:18, KJV
[x] Deuteronomy 26:12
[xv] Genesis 22:13, 31:54; Exodus 3:18, 18:12
[xvi] Hebrews 10:11-13, KJV
[xvii] Nehemiah 12:44, ASV
[xviii] Genesis 28:20-22
[xx] Malachi 3:10
[xxv] Malachi 3:7-10, KJV
[xxvi] Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Definitions, “Ordinance”, c.ref. “ehoq” Strong’s Hebrew Word #2706
[xxviii] Colossians 2:17, MKJV
[xxxii] Galatians 3:13, MKJV
[xxxv] Religion & Ethics: Vol.12, under the title “Tithes”
[xxxvi] Zondervon. Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 5, “Tithe”
[xxxviii] Thayer’s Greek Definition, “anagnes”, Strong’s Greek Word #318
[xxxix] Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, “anagnes”
[xl] Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, “anagnes”
[xliii] Thayer’s Greek Dictionary, “disannulled”, Strong’s Greek Word #115
[xliv] Acts 5:1-4, EMTV
[xlv] Acts 5:4, EMTV
[xlvi] Acts 5:4, EMTV
[xlvii] Thayer’s Greek Dictionary, “power”, Strong’s Greek Word #1849
[xlviii] 2 Chronicles 31:15
[xlix] Romans 2:16
[l] Hebrews 4:12
[li] 1 Timothy 3:8-13
[lii] John MacAuther Jr., Tape Series: “God’s Plan For Giving”
[liii] John MacAuther Jr., Commentary on the Book of Romans 9-16, Moody Bible Institute. P233
[liv] Nelson’s Bible Dictionary, Tithing
[lv] 2 Corinthians 9:7, KJV
[lvi] 2 Corinthians 9:7
[lvii] 2 Corinthians 3:12-15