A Quick Look at Tithing

READ: Malachi 3:1-12 compare 2 Corinthians 9:7

There is no mandate anywhere in the New Testament for tithing. Each time the word “tithe” or “tithes” appears in the New Testament, it is used in reference to an Old Testament event or a concurrent Jewish practice.

The New Testament epistles contain numerous admonitions, exhortations, and rebukes, because of numerous sins and spiritual problems, but nothing is mentioned about tithing.

Hebrews 7:5 states quite clearly that only the sons of Levi had a commandment to receive tithes, not pastors or other religious leaders.

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. Should not pastors conduct heave offerings when they receive tithes as well?

The statements Jesus makes about tithing (Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42, 18:12 – notice the tithe of ‘goods’) are all indicative, not imperative. A plain interpretation of these passages does not reveal any command that tithing should be continued into the Church Age.

Christians who mandate tithing are making the same mistake as the Judaizers. They believed that faith in Jesus Christ is not enough, and certain aspects of the Mosaic Law needed to be retained for salvation and/or sanctification. In fact, Paul stated in Galatians 5:3 that we are a debtor to do the whole law if we get circumcised or keep any other aspect of the law with the belief that this will add to what Christ already did on the cross. Today, circumcision is not an issue in the Church, but tithing certainly is. This is a very sobering concept coming from Paul. A person who is a debtor to do the whole law describes an unsaved person seeking justification by trying to keep the law.

Undoubtedly, the Judaizers of Paul’s time used God’s command to Abraham that he be circumcised (Genesis 17:11) as a proof text to illustrate that believers in the Church Age also need to be circumcised. In much the same way, many of the modern Judaizers use Abraham’s giving a tenth to Melchizedek after the defeat of Chedorlaomer (Genesis 14:17-20) as an example of how tithing should be performed by Christians. Since the cross, however, Abraham’s tithe has no more application to Christians than his circumcision.

The Levitical priesthood has been replaced with the priesthood of believers (1 Peter 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 New Testament 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.

Those involved in ‘full-time’ ministry should be supported by the people they serve (1 Corinthians 9:7-14; 1 Timothy 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 Corinthians 16:1-3; 2 Corinthians 8:1-13; 1 Timothy 6:17-19). There was organised giving within local congregations to care for believing widows and orphans who had no other family to rely on (Acts 6:1-4; 1 Timothy 5:1-16).

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 can. NO PERCENTAGE GUIDELINES ARE EVER GIVEN. Paul had ample opportunity to use the word “tithe” or at least 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 Corinthians 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.

Love is to be our motivation, not compulsory legalism (Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:6-8; Mark 12:28-34; 1 Corinthians 13:1-7). How much consideration we have for the poor, for example, is an indication of our spiritual condition (1 John 3:17).

Those who preach the “tithe” as doctrinally applying to Christians are wresting the Scriptures to conform to their belief at the expense of the truth. They either through ignorance, from fear of ridicule of those like-minded, or from not wanting to admit what they always taught was wrong, continue to apply Old Testament practices in the New Testament, in essence, placing those who hear them under the bondage and curse of the Mosaic Law (Galatians chapter 3).

The New Testament method for a Christian

Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. – 2 Corinthians 9:7

  1. Give cheerfully,
  2. Give as you purpose in your heart, and
  3. Give as God has prospered you.

And if you do, then here God’s promise for you is in 2 Corinthians 9:8, and is one of the greatest promises outside of Romans 8:28.


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