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Answering Objections to the Tithe

Via Flickr, by user david_shankbone. Used under Creative Commons License.

Does God really want you to tithe? Apparently, many people think that He does not.

We’ve said several things about tithing — the act of giving 10 percent of your income to God — in various posts. We teach, according to scripture, that the tithe belongs to God, that tithing is necessary to fund the work of the kingdom, and that God attaches a promise of blessing along with the command to tithe.

Apparently, a lot of people really, really take issue with these teachings, and have let us know in great length in the comments sections on our posts. So while we’re not looking to start a nitty-gritty theological debate, we thought we’d take this chance to answer some of their criticisms.

Here are some of the most common arguments we hear against tithing:

  • Tithing was only required of people who farmed in the Old Testament. No one else had to tithe… so neither should we.
  • Tithing was a command given to Israel under the law and the Old Covenant. Jesus replaced the law, so under the New Covenant we’re not bound to tithe anymore.
  • The command to tithe appears only in the Old Testament. Since it isn’t re-affirmed in the New Testament, the modern church doesn’t have to do it.
  • We don’t have priests anymore, so the command to tithe in order to support the priests is no longer valid.
  • The New Testament says we can just give whatever we want. We should follow the New Testament pattern of giving.

There are other arguments out there, but they tend to get pretty esoteric, scholarly and confusing. We’ll address the objections above, and then talk about some heart issues that we believe are at the root of this in an upcoming article.

1. Tithing was only required of people who farmed in the Old Testament. No one else had to tithe… so neither should we.

We find this pretty silly. Yes, Leviticus 27:30-33 does talk about tithes coming from the fruit of the land and from the livestock. But that in no way indicates that God intended for only farmers to tithe. Remember, the first tithe was not a levitical tithe; it was given by Abraham after a military victory (Gen. 14). It was a tithe of the spoils of war (not agricultural product), and was given out of gratitude, the way that all tithes should be. To make claims that “Jesus, Peter and Paul didn’t tithe” is to take enormous liberties with a relatively minor point of scripture. The historical record simply doesn’t bear that out; this seems to be a case of people who are hell-bent against tithing trying to extrapolate a historical and theological teaching out of a thin scrap of scripture.

2. Tithing was a command given to Israel under the law and the Old Covenant. Jesus replaced the law, so under the New Covenant we’re not bound to tithe anymore.

Tithing is commanded under the law, but it does not exist only within the law. As we mentioned, Abraham gave a tithe to Melchizedek, the priest at Salem. Melchizedek is a representation of Christ in the story (“You are a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek“) — a fact that some people use to support the New Testament duty to tithe. And the underpinning of tithing is the idea of firstfruits, which goes back to Cain and Able in Gen. 4. So while the command may be most explicit in the law, the heart attitude behind the tithe gifts both predates and postdates the law of Moses.

The bigger question is this, though: Did Jesus abolish the commandment to tithe? Well, we know that Jesus did set us free from the Law when He died for our sins. But the freedom he bought was from the bondage of the law, and the death that it demanded as a result of our sin. The law was powerful to condemn us, but not powerful to create change in our hearts. That heart change required the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

What we can say, then, is that we can no longer be condemned as sinners if we fail to uphold the law’s commandment to tithe. Tithing, in other words, should not be taught as a factor in one’s salvation (and we disapprove of any church that teaches it as such). But again, that doesn’t mean that God intend for the New Testament church not to tithe — it simply means we are not condemned by the law for failing to tithe, because the law has lost its power to condemn us.

3. The command to tithe appears only in the Old Testament. Since it isn’t re-affirmed in the New Testament, the modern church doesn’t have to do it.

This is a dangerous line of thought. We often see people use this kind of reasoning (along with a lot of esoteric theology and questionable historical references) to wiggle their way out of all kinds of biblical commands that are made plain in the Old Testament. Taken to its extreme, this line of reasoning is used to argue that homosexual sin is permissible for New Testament Christians — an outrage indeed.

Simply put, the absence of a New Testament affirmation doesn’t negate the presence of an Old Testament command. The New Testament doesn’t contain the prohibitions against incest that we find in the Old Testament law… but that doesn’t mean we are free to sin sexually with family members.

Besides, there is strong evidence that Jesus himself affirmed the tithe. In Matthew 22, some Pharisees are trying to trap Jesus by asking him a question about who taxes should be payed to. Jesus says “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s.” This is a statement made in the context of a financial question. And the Pharisees, who were experts in the law, knew that God lays claim to the tithe as His own in the Old Testament. So we read Jesus’ command “give to God what is God’s” as His affirmation of the tithe.

4.We don’t have priests anymore, so the command to tithe in order to support the priests is no longer valid.

Some people claim that the since the tithe was used to support the Levites, the necessity of the tithe vanished when the Levitical priesthood ended. That doesn’t make much sense, though, because even though the genealogical requirements have been loosened from the time of the Old Testament, God still calls people into full-time work in His service. The basis of the tithe is that God owns it all (Ps. 24:1), God gives us all that we have (Deut. 8:18), and that He requires 10 percent of those resources be given to support the work of ministry (Num. 18:21). Even though we now live under a New Testament priesthood, none of that basis has changed. God still owns everything; He still gives us everything that we have; and He still uses the financial resources of His people to support the lives of those whom He has set apart for full-time ministry. The fact that those people are not Jews or Levites does not change the way that God intends for us to meet their needs.

5. The New Testament says we can just give whatever we want. We should follow the New Testament pattern of giving.

Some people like to use II Cor. 9:7 as an excuse not to tithe — “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” But that point of view focuses so narrowly on individual choice that it misses the greater point that Paul is making. Look at the rest of the passage, and you’ll see that Paul is encouraging abundant generosity. It says that in all things, at all times, having all we need, we should abound in every good work (v.8). It also says that we have been blessed so that we will be generous on every occasion.

Throughout the New Testament, we see that God constantly raises the standard for believers. Jesus raised the standard from “don’t murder” to “don’t hate;” from “don’t commit adultery” to “don’t lust.” And if we’re going to really bind ourselves to the financial pattern set in the New Testament, we better pay heed to the example of the early church, who sold their possessions and shared everything among themselves (Acts 4:32-35).

Sadly, most people who argue for the “New Testament” model of giving aren’t looking for a way to raise the standard, but seeking a way to wiggle out of the principle of the tithe. If you’re sincerely willing to follow the New Testament model, sell all your stuff, give to everyone who has need and be generous on every occasion, we’ll go there with you. We’ll even help you pack the truck. But sadly, this is not what most anti-tithers have in mind.

Closing thoughts

To sum up: Nothing about the Old Testament or the New Testament tells us that God no longer intends for His people to tithe. True, we are not bound to the law, and we are not condemned if we don’t tithe. It isn’t a matter of salvation. But even if the effect of the law has passed away, God promises a blessing to those who tithe, and that blessing remains. Because we are the spiritual descendants of Abraham, and heirs to the promises of God (Gal. 3:29). And His word endures forever.

In the end, if you don’t want to tithe, nothing we can say or argue from scripture is going to talk you into it. We’re okay with that. The bigger question, though, is where is your heart?

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Comments

  1. bnjewell,
    I think the mistake you make is to believe that the tithe was used to fund ministry under the Old Covenant. The tithe was not used to fund the temple but on the contrary was used to provide food for the Levites, the poor, the fatherless, the stragers, the widows etc. This is the reason why it constituted agricultural produce.

    But allow me to humour you. If we should tithe should we also eat the tithe before the Lord for years 1 and 2 and only donate all the tithes for year 3 to the Levites (the Church)? Of course if you are arguing that there is nothing to suggest that God did not intend for us to stop tithing then equally there is nothing to suggest that we shouldn’t practice it according to how it was done in the past.

    • You said: “I think the mistake you make is to believe that the tithe was used to fund ministry under the Old Covenant. The tithe was not used to fund the temple but on the contrary was used to provide food for the Levites, the poor, the fatherless, the stragers, the widows etc.”

      I didn’t say that tithes were used to fund the temple, I said that they were used to fund MINISTRY. Feeding the Levites, the poor, the fatherless and the widow all fall under the umbrella of ministry, and our churches do those same things today. It takes our faithful giving to perform that service successfully, and the pattern that God established for doing that is the tithe.

      Your idea of doing different things with the tithes in different years isn’t really supported by scripture — it’s one of those jurry-rigged arguments that anit-tithers have strung together to try to wiggle their way out of something that the Bible teaches. God says that the tithe is His, that it is holy unto Him. He also promises a blessing for those who tithe faithfully.

      I’m not saying that we are bound by the Old Covenant law to tithe, because the law lost its authority to condemn us. But this site is all about teaching people to handle money according to God’s plan. And even if the power of the law has ceased, the promise remains. Tithing isn’t a matter of salvation, but it is necessary for the proper funding of our church ministry. And beyond that, it is a clear part in God’s financial plan for individuals. How can we ask Him for blessing if we refuse to participate in obeying the very commands that He says will bless us?

      It sounds like you’re one of those people who is just hell-bent against tithing. That’s up to you, and I’m probably not going to change your mind. But I am sad for you, because instead of turning your heart toward God in generosity, you’ve turned it away from Him, trying to find justification for holding back a gift. The heart is the real issue here. If I were you, I’d take a good, long, honest look at that.

  2. Let me take this point by point.

    You said, “It was a tithe of the spoils of war (not agricultural product), and was given out of gratitude, the way that all tithes should be.”

    There is nothing in the scriptures to tell us WHY Abram gave the tenth. However, Biblical historians agree that it was custom during that time to give a tenth of spoils to the king. You also ignore the fact that Abram, before going to war, made a vow that he would keep nothing from the spoils for himself. Hardly an example for any Christian to follow today.

    You said, “And the underpinning of tithing is the idea of firstfruits, which goes back to Cain and Able in Gen. 4. So while the command may be most explicit in the law, the heart attitude behind the tithe gifts both predates and postdates the law of Moses.”

    Firstfruits has nothing to do with the tithe as proven in Nehemiah 10:37-38 (KJV)
    37And 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.
    38And the priest the son of Aaron shall be with the Levites, when the Levites take tithes: and the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes unto the house of our God, to the chambers, into the treasure house.

    The firstfruits went to the priests while the tithe went to the Levites. A tenth is NEVER used in scriptures when referring to firstfruits.

    You mentioned, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s.”

    Give to Caesar the coin with Caesar’s IMAGE on it. WE are made in God’s IMAGE. God wants us to give ourselves to Him. Has nothing to do with the tithe.

    You said, “He requires 10 percent of those resources be given to support the work of ministry (Num. 18:21).”

    First, what were “those resources”? ONLY food from crops and animals. Nothing else. The tithe was given to the Levites as their inheritance. ONLY those who inherited the promised land were commanded to tithe.

    You said, “Look at the rest of the passage, and you’ll see that Paul is encouraging abundant generosity.”

    I agree. And that has nothing to do with tithing. The New Testament teaches generous, sacrificial giving, from the heart, according to our means. For some, $1 might be a sacrifice, while for others, even giving 50% of their income might not induce a sacrifice. In the Old Testament, ONLY the farmers tithed, and it was equal percentage (a tenth). The New Testament teaches the principle of equal sacrifice instead of equal percentage. Equal sacrifice is much harder to achieve, if not impossible, than giving ten percent.

    You said, “God promises a blessing to those who tithe, and that blessing remains.”

    God promised a blessing to those He was speaking to IF they followed His tithing COMMANDS. They were not following His commands correctly. But you actually expect to reap the benefits by NOT following His commands but rather changing it to what you would like it to be? Who was God even talking to? It had to be the priests, because He said bring all the tithes into the storehouse, and I have already shown in Nehemiah 10:37-38 that the tithe went to the Levites who lived in the Levitical cities, and THEY, the Levites, took a tenth of the tithe to the Temple which the priests took to the storehouse.

    You water down the tithe from God’s miraculous increase of food from crops and animals to man’s income.

    Today, ALL born-again believers are priests. ALL of us are called to be deciples of the Lord. No one of us is higher

    You also error in saying, “Sadly, most people who argue for the “New Testament” model of giving aren’t looking for a way to raise the standard, but seeking a way to wiggle out of the principle of the tithe.”

    First of all, church leaders have invented “the principle of the tithe.” It’s not a principle in the scriptures. Second, those who argue against teaching the tithe are arguing for truth. It has nothing to do with trying to give less. Many of us give far more than a tenth of our income.

    I could just as well say, “Sadly, most people who argue for Christian tithing directly benefit from those tithes and thus are more interested in money than truth.”

  3. I failed to complete one of the comments above:

    Today, ALL born-again believers are priests. ALL of us are called to be deciples of the Lord. No one of us is higher than another. Our bodies are the Temple where the Spirit dwells. According to the scriptures, priests do not tithe.

    Why does your teaching miss the following scripture? Is it because it would not benefit you?

    Deuteronomy 14:22-29 (KJV)
    22Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year.
    23And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always.
    24And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the LORD thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the LORD thy God hath blessed thee:
    25Then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose:
    26And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household,
    27And the Levite that is within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee.
    28At 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:
    29And 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.

    • Gary, it’s obvious that nothing I can say is going to convince you. (I’ve also noticed, by the way, that you seem to have left similar comments on many sites around the web when the issue of the tithe comes up — nice little crusade you’re on). But convincing you is not really my concern here. The purpose of this site is to teach Christians to handle their money in a godly way, to use their finances to help further the growth of the Kingdom, and to make wise financial choices to help them grow in prosperity and blessing for their futures. I’m not really here to argue fine points of Old Testament law with someone who has a chip on his shoulder.

      I teach tithing not as a point of legalism or as a binding law, but as a solid foundation of wisdom for financial management. When young people are learning to support the kingdom of God financially, where should they start? The Old Testament tithe provides a good baseline. And the promises of God are inviolate; God promises blessing to those who are faithful to tithe. Though those promises were first given to the Israelites, we are heirs to those same promises because the New Testament says that we are the seed of Abraham. So I teach tithing as a solid baseline for Christian giving, because it meets the needs of the church, and God promises that we will reap from it more than we sow. I’m not here condemning those who don’t tithe; but I do teach that tithing is an important element in the Christian approach to financial management.

      We can argue all day from scripture. Many of our interpretations will be based on our presuppositions (your take on Jesus’ command to “give to God what is God’s” is entirely subjective, with no more shred of scriptural evidence to support it than I have for my view). We will invariably come to different conclusions, because we’re starting from different places.

      I don’t pretend to know your heart, and I’ll take you at your word that you have a heart-felt conviction from your study of the scriptures on this issue. And I’ll also take you at your word that in freely giving to the Lord, you surpass the tithe. If that’s true, I have no real issue with you. But I do worry that all of your fierce argumentation may be inappropriately appropriated by others — whose intentions are less pure than yours — and used as an excuse to withhold from God what they ought to give. The church suffers because of this.

      In the end, I will err on the side of caution, teaching people that the tithe is a wise, biblical baseline for giving. At the end of days, when I stand before the Lord, I would rather find that I have given too much than too little.

      • C.F. Wells says:

        Bnjewell,

        The problem with teaching people to tithe is that many poor are hurt by it. I don’t think you realize the damage that is done. You may not teach it this way, but it has become a legalistic and superstitious practice for many, enriching already wealthy megachurches while taking food and medicine off the table for desperate families who are trying to “handle their money in a godly way.”

        The Church has always been about followers helping each other, not paying into a tribute system. Even the church in Acts, where *everything* was given, the apostles redistributed it and did not take a significant amount for themselves. They understood how dangerous and corrosive money is to the church, and why Jesus’ one act of aggression was to make a whip of cords and use it in a Temple had forgotten its mandate, and was fast becoming a commercial enterprise, just as our churches are today.

        The tithe-teachers create a sense of compulsion and often fail to let you know that giving in Christianity is a completely voluntary act, and a cheerful one. The New Testament is clear: Give what you have decided in your heart . . . not under compulsion . . . for God loves a cheerful giver. (see 2 Corinthians 9:7)

        So the early Church understood this. Justin, a first century Christian martyr, when describing the weekly worship of Christians said: “And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit;”

        Tertullian, a 2nd century Christian apologist and fighter against heresy said this: “On the monthly day, if he likes, each puts in a small donation; but only if it be his pleasure, and only if he be able: for there is no compulsion; all is voluntary.”

        Ambrose, Bishop of Milan wrote in 384 A.D.: “For her own benefit the Church owns nothing…. These rents and these revenues … the Church gives away. The possessions of the church are expenditure on the poor. Let them [the pagans] count up how many captives the temples have ransomed, what nourishment they have offered to the poor, to how many exiles they have given resources for a livelihood.”

        Some churches today behave more like those pagan temples. Understand, tithing is a recent phenomenon that goes hand in hand with the prosperity gospel movement.

        Jesus said to “Beware of the teachers of the law . . . They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers.” –Luke 20:46-47

        And they are still at it.

      • This argument might be more persuasive if the vast majority of Christians were members of the “mega churches” you mention… But alas they are not. Most Christians belong to small or midsize churches whose pastors have small or midsize salaries. There may be some high-profile ministers out there who have made bad choices about money. But the average church down the street counts on tithes not to fund anyone’s lavish lifestyle, but simply to keep the lights on.

        In order to convince me that tithing is a “recent phenomenon,” you would have to somehow make the tithe disappear from the Old Testament. And your assertion that tithing “goes hand-in-hand with the prosperity gospel” is deeply flawed. Many churches that reject the prosperity gospel still teach the tithe.

        I’m not all that concerned with what 1st and 2nd century church leaders had to say about generosity — the witness of Scripture is clear enough already. And when we study the New Testament, we see believers commended over and over again for giving at a level that well exceeded 10%.

        The bigger picture here is that God wants us to be incredibly generous, but generosity doesn’t come naturally for most people. It is a gift that has to be exercised, built up and strengthened like a muscle. The point of the tithe is not to legislate people’s finances or to force them to fund ministry. Rather, it is to give us all a starting point in learning to exercise generosity, so that we can grow in that gift and learn to make a financial impact in the Kingdom that goes far beyond 10%.

  4. Bnjewell,
    I want to make something clear. I am not against anyone volunteering 10% of their income to the church. My objection to tithing therefore is not in the practice itself but rather to any teaching which seeks to convey a message that we are still under the Law particularly in the area of tithing. You convey a conflicting message by saying that we are not condemned by the Law if we don’t obey it yet at the same time use the Law to justify tithing. It is either we are called today as Christians to obey the Law or not – Paul addressed this expertly in Galatians 3 so I won’t expound on this here. When you say therefore that the tithe belongs to God you are indirectly saying we are to obey the Law because it is only under the Law that such a directive is brought out.

    My view is that as far as scripture is concerned we are not anymore justified by the Law but by faith in Christ Jesus. We therefore have no business returning to the Law like the foolish Galatians. Now this does not mean that one cannot draw out an example from the Law (the tithing law in this case) as their standard of giving. If we follow the principle that one may give according to as he purposed in his own heart then this means that one can give 10% of their income if that is what they purposed to do. If this is what I choose to do, I have no business trying to impose this standard on the next person because we all have “freedom” in Christ – to impose your standard of giving therefore is to return to legalism.

    You make a serious assumption concerning the tithe when you suggest are imply that one should give 10 per cent of all their income year on year to the work of ministry. Even under the Law this was NOT the practice. This is where you make a serious mistake when you contradicted me (in response to my previous comment) by claiming that different things were not done in different years with the tithe. You need to remove the blinders (the presuppositions that are clouding your interpretation) that you bring to your approach to tithing. You need to take the whole of the scriptures and not be selective in your interpretations.

    You assume that all the tithe went to ministry (the Levites and Priests). But this is not what scripture teaches. There is no scripture to support the idea of a perpetual tithe (year on year) being given to ministry. This idea of perpetual tithe being given to someone else (be it ministry or whomever) is an invention that is not supported or borne out under the Law.

    Indeed the Lord say a tithe of all the produce of the Land belongs to Him as stated in Lev 27 (today tithe teachers insert income for the word produce). But the Lord directs what we should do with the tithe in Deut 14:22-29.

    22Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year. 23And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always.

    Note here then that the perpetual tithe (contrary to your teaching which you claim is based on the principle in the Law) was eaten by tither year by year he and his household but he should not forsake the Levites but share with them also. To give this tithe away (to ministry or wherever) would be to disobey God’s commandments. And more over the tither is blessed for eating the tithe in this way (Deut 12:17-18, 15:19-23 )

    Only the tithe in the third and sixth year (in a 7 year cycle) was given to the Levites and others who were in need. The Levites in turn gave a tithe of the tithes they received to the priests. See the below verses
    28At 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: 29And 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.
    The above is further confirmed in Deut 26:12:

    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;

    The idea therefore of a perpetual tithe that is given away to someone else (be it ministry or the church) is not the principle borne out in the Law? So where doe this come from?

    Similarly the doctrine of “giving to God” what is His is a misunderstood concept because giving to God does not necessarily mean giving away what God say is His to someone else (be it ministry or whomever). Here is an example to illustrate:

    Deut16:
    10And thou shalt keep the feast of weeks unto the LORD thy God with a tribute of a freewill offering of thine hand, which thou shalt give unto the LORD thy God, according as the LORD thy God hath blessed thee: 11And thou shalt rejoice before the LORD thy God, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are among you, in the place which the LORD thy God hath chosen to place his name there.

    How did God require Israel to give this freewill offering to Him? By keeping the feast of weeks and eating the offering before the Lord.

    Let me reiterate that I have no problem in anyone choosing to give away 10% of their income to the church year by year but this practice bears no resemblance to the scriptures which instructs tithing. The tithe we have in church today is not a principle based on scripture but an invention that is read into, reflected on or imposed on the text. We must be careful that what we teach is based on scripture irrespective of our personal feelings or sentiments. If we want to follow the tithe principle then the scriptures I cited sets this principle out and it involves eating the tithe at the place where the Lord choose to put His name, in an annual feast. Only the third year tithe is given to the Levites (ministry if you like) and the poor etc. My objection to tithing therefore is not the current practice in itself but the assumption that what is practiced today is a biblical command, which it is not.

  5. Henry, let me try to clear this up for you one more time (and then I really must move on to other things). I am not teaching (as you suggest) that we are still bound under the law to tithe. I agree with you that Christ set us free from the curse of the law.

    But that doesn’t mean that the requirements of the law cease to contain wisdom. All of the law was given for the good of the Israelites, and is given to us for our good as well. Remember, ALL scripture is useful for teaching and training in righteousness (not just the New Testament). Sometimes, there are specific rules and regulations given in the Old Testament that, while they may not be binding for New Covenant believers, still give us insight into greater principles that transcend the law. I believe that the tithe is one such case. Even though the law’s requirement to tithe may not be binding for the New Testament church, the principles, wisdom and blessings revealed in the law are still available to us today.

    That’s why I teach tithing, not as a legal requirement for Christians, but as a wise and God-honoring practice for people who want to handle their money in godly ways. A person who does not want to tithe can build an argument about why they don’t have to. In the end, that will be between them and God. But as for me, I’d rather steer too close to the law in giving than steer too far away from God in selfishness. And we’ll continue advising our readers to do the same.

  6. My friend, I understood your position and what you are trying to do from the begnining of the opening post. It is you however who fails to see the point I am making. What you are saying is that though we are not bound by the law we can “pattern” our giving based on what is found in the law. That is clear to me and I accept that. To use an example, though we are not bound by the law to practice circumcission we can still do it if we want to (by the way circumcission is nothing and uncircumcission is nothing).

    But the point I am making here is that a perpetual 10% given away to ministry is not a pattern of the Law. Under the Law God required the tither to eat the annual tithe year by year before Him in an annual feast shared with the Levites poor etc. Only the tithe of the third year (or every three years) was given away to the Levites, fatherless, widows etc. This tithe was food to eat and not money. Why do you keep ignoring this simple fact? Do you aim to change God’s Law by implying or suggesting that the giving of 10% of one’s income year by year to ministry is what was done under the Law? Why is it that you are so stuck on the tithe as if that was the main or the only means of giving under the Law? The tithe under the Law did not fund ministry it was given to people to eat and the purpose was so that Israel would learn to fear God. Outside of the tithing Laws Israel were commanded to open their hands WIDE to their needy and poor brothers:

    Deut 15
    11For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.

    When it comes to tithing many people see what they want to see and ignore the scriptures. I have no problem with anyone giving 10% of their income perpetually either to the church or to the poor or wherever. But we must be careful that we are making a distinction between what we do and what God’s law actually says.

  7. Brian,

    Again, rather unfortunately, you are not arguing your case from a scriptural stand point but from personal opinion.

    Tithing was only required of people who farmed in the Old Testament. No one else had to tithe… so neither should we.

    You have not provided any scripture that proves otherwise. Trying to hinge it on Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek does not even drum up support for this practise in the New Testament. As Abraham did not tithe to God but tithed to Melchizedek. And God never commanded him to do so nor commended him for doing so.

    You postulate that the tithes not only consisted of agricultural produce, then what else did God command the children of Israel to tithe? Money? Now if the biblical tithe was anything other than food, what sense will this verse of scripture make?

    24 “Now when the Lord your God blesses you with a good harvest, the place of worship he chooses for his name to be honored might be too far for you to bring the tithe. 25 If so, you may sell the tithe portion of your crops and herds, put the money in a pouch, and go to the place the Lord your God has chosen. 26 When you arrive, you may use the money to buy any kind of food you want—cattle, sheep, goats, wine, or other alcoholic drink. Then feast there in the presence of the Lord your God and celebrate with your household. 27 And do not neglect the Levites in your town, for they will receive no allotment of land among you. Deu 14

    Since you also argue that scripture does not support the theory that Jesus, Peter and Paul did not tithe, how do you presume they did? I have never heard of a tithe of fish before.

    2. Tithing was a command given to Israel under the law and the Old Covenant. Jesus replaced the law, so under the New Covenant we’re not bound to tithe anymore.

    Here again, you have simply not looked at scripture and have resorted to personal opinion. Where is it in scripture that the underpinning of tithing is the idea of firstfruits which goes back to Cain and Abel? Nowhere in scripture do we see these two being equated with each other as one speaks of the first and the other the tenth.

    Also, no portion of scripture ever calls Melchizedek Jesus. Scriptures only say that Jesus belongs to the same priesthood order as Melchizedek i.e. a valid priesthood made with an oath and not by the law.

    It is so convenient when tithing is concerned to argue that Christ did not abolish the law. We can also apply this same line of thought to circumcision. As that too predates the law and was practised by Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and even Moses.

    You say on the one hand that we cannot be condemned for not tithing then go on and say God intends for the New Testament church to tithe, isn’t that a bit of an oxymoron? For if God’s intention is for us to tithe, then not doing do should be a sin.

  8. 3. The command to tithe appears only in the Old Testament. Since it isn’t re-affirmed in the New Testament, the modern church doesn’t have to do it.

    With this statement, you are arguing to your convenience as there are many other Old Testament commands you can also well argue are applicable today. Do you promote observing the Sabbath since it was never condemned in the New Testament? Do you promote the practise of the kinsman redeemer since this too was not condemned in the New Testament? Moreover, does our practise of tithing marry up with that of bible? You are only bringing homosexuality as a distraction as there are many other less contentious Old Testament practises which we no longer follow today that those who promote the tithe are silent about.

    Besides, there is strong evidence that Jesus himself affirmed the tithe, this He truly did along with every single Old Testament command because the law was still operational while He was alive! And moreover before Jesus spoke about giving unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, He held up a coin and asked whose image was on it. The tithe does not bear God’s image, our lives do and that was what Jesus was referring to.

    4.We don’t have priests anymore, so the command to tithe in order to support the priests is no longer valid.

    I don’t think anyone’s ever said that though as scripture clearly says that all New Testament believers are priests as per 1 Peter and the book of Revelations.

    I think you also miss the point of tithing in the Old Testament. The priests of the Old Testament were barred from owning property and doing any form of secular work while the remaining 11 tribes were barred from approaching the tabernacle hence God commanded the remaining 11 tribes to bring the tithes to the Levites and the Levites in turn gave a tithe of what they received to the priests.

    All are priests in the New Testament and no one has been barred from owning property or doing any form of secular work. And again God’s work can be funded by freewill donations of people and this can clearly be seen in the New Testament.

  9. 5. The New Testament says we can just give whatever we want. We should follow the New Testament pattern of giving.

    With this one, you have no case. If the bible clearly says “anything given will be accepted as long as it has been given willingly and cheerfully”, why do you take an issue with it?

    Does it state that giving 10% means one is giving generously? Does any portion of this verse say giving is unacceptable or does not show generosity if it is under 10%? Again, you posit your personal opinion and are trying to bend scriptures to suit your view.

    You also assume Jesus raised the standard for the New Testament church; no He did not. His audience were the Jews. His charge not to lust was given to Jews, His charge not to hate was given to Jews as well, as He was trying to explain the spirit of the law to them. For the New Testament believer, the Old Testament is not the standard, Jesus is our standard.

    And I personally do not think you have studied this tithe topic properly as you keep veering off course mixing sacrificial giving with tithing. Bu if you are trying to exhort us to be more generous in our giving, that is very, very good but it definitely has got nothing to do with tithing.

  10. Okay guys, I’m going to make one more round of comments here, and then I really must move on to other things. You’re welcome to continue commenting and posting whatever you’d like. I probably won’t be responding, though — not because anyone has “won” or “lost” the argument, but because I just don’t have time to keep at this.

    Henry:
    I think we’re coming closer to understanding each other. I understand your points about there being multiple uses of tithes in the Old Testament. And I don’t mean to suggest that tithing was the only method of giving that God prescribed in the law. But for me, the fact that there may have been multiple tithes for multiple purposes in the Old Testament doesn’t mean that we should just walk away from the entire concept. There are principles, promises and wisdom behind the commandments of the Old Testament, and even though the law has lost its legal authority to bind us today, the principles, promises and wisdom remain. A lot has changed since the days of the law, and perhaps it’s impossible to draw direct parallels between each point of Old Testament law and New Testament church life. But I find for us New Covenant believers, a tithe out of our incomes is the best way to keep with the principles, promises and wisdom behind this portion of Old Testament law. So that’s why I teach the modern tithe as a foundation of good personal financial management for Christians — not because there is some specific legal mandate for it, but because it brings us in line with the principles, promises and wisdom found in scripture.

    Incidentally, one of your points gave me a new thought. You mention that the purpose of one of the tithes was so that the Israelites would learn to fear the Lord. I agree with that, and I would add that to the list of reasons why tithing benefits New Testament believers as well. Setting a part of our income aside for God is an act of direct obedience, and it teaches us to fear Him and walk in closer obedience to Him as well.

    Thanks for an insightful dialog on this.

  11. Tony:
    I’ve already answered several of your critiques in my responses to other commenters. Either you haven’t read those very carefully, or you’re reasoning along some rather weak lines. But let me respond to a few things you said; after this, I really must move on.

    1) Just because you have never heard of Jesus, Peter and Paul tithing doesn’t mean that they did not. Similarly, just because the Old Testament scripture refers specifically to agricultural produce doesn’t mean that God intended for only farmers to tithe. I don’t need to provide a passage of scripture to “refute” your argument here; simple reasoning will do. What I’m saying is that people who try to eradicate the tithe based on this small agricultural point are reading way too deeply into the shadows of a few small scriptures. You’re reasoning things out of the text that aren’t really there. It’s a logical fallacy, and the point you’re attempting to make pales in comparison to the greater principles taught throughout the Old Testament.

    2) I have not called Melchizedek Jesus (although there are some bible teachers who may go that far). What I am demonstrating here is that we can’t simply evaluate the tithe in the context of the levitical law. The first instance we see of giving to God is the firstfruits of Cain and Abel. Later, Abraham gave a tithe to Melchizedek. Tithing was later codified in the law of Moses. But as a scriptural principle, which is what I am teaching, tithing both pre-dates and post-dates the law.

    What I’m saying about the law is not an oxymoron. I have said, as Paul says in Romans, that through Christ, the law has lost its power to condemn us. To say that God still desires for the New Testament church to tithe does not contradict that. I have not said that withholding the tithe today is a sin; if it is a sin, though, it is not a sin against the law, but against the Holy Spirit. There is no contradiction or oxymoron here.

    3) The idea that Jesus was referring to us being made in the image of God is absolutely unsupported in the text of Matthew 22 — yours is a highly subjective reading of the text that is skewed in favor of your particular views. While the concept that our lives belong to God because we are made in His image is valid, it’s ridiculous to claim that this was the only point that Jesus was making. In the context of a question about how to handle money, Jesus plainly said to give to God what is God’s. To claim that this doesn’t talk about giving money is an intellectually dishonest statement..

    I could also use Matthew 23:23 to demonstrate Jesus’ condoning of the tithe… but I’m sure you would find some loophole there too.

    5) Your argument that what Jesus said to the Jews doesn’t apply to the New Testament church is so nonsensical that I barely know how to respond to it. If we dismiss everything in Scripture that was spoken to Jews, we must shred 80% or more of the Bible. The vast majority of Jesus’ teachings were given to Jews, but they are applicable to all of us. Remember, “all scripture is God-breathed.”

    In the end, I’m not bending the Bible to fit a particular belief. What I’m saying is that I find substantial evidence in both the Old Testament and the New Testament that suggests that the principle, promises and wisdom behind the tithe are as applicable today as they were in Moses’ time. I’m not teaching tithing as a matter of legalism, but a matter of wisdom. You’re welcome to disagree. But I would challenge you, as I have challenged others, to honestly examine your heart in the matter. As I have said before, I would rather steer too close to the law in my giving than to steer too far from grace in my withholding.

  12. You said, “What I’m saying is that people who try to eradicate the tithe based on this small agricultural point are reading way too deeply into the shadows of a few small scriptures.”

    Are you saying we can make assumptions and use those assumptions as though they are part of the scriptures? Every single evidence available in the scriptures shows God commanded a tithe of ONLY food from crops and animals. When you go beyond that, you are adding to the scriptures. What you are doing is taking man’s tithing tradition which started in 1870 and trying to justify it using the scriptures.

    You said, “In the context of a question about how to handle money, Jesus plainly said to give to God what is God’s.”

    Show me one verse where God ever said a tenth of your money, or income, belongs to Him. Since everything belongs to God, why only a tenth?

    You said, “I could also use Matthew 23:23 to demonstrate Jesus’ condoning of the tithe… but I’m sure you would find some loophole there too.”

    Notice that Jesus condoned tithing of herbs (FOOD) but never said anything about them tithing on their income from their professions as teachers and lawyers. They were still under the Old Covenant laws when Jesus condoned tithing.

    You said, “What I’m saying is that I find substantial evidence in both the Old Testament and the New Testament that suggests that the principle, promises and wisdom behind the tithe are as applicable today as they were in Moses’ time.”

    Just what is that “principle” of tithing? Just what was the “wisdom” behind the Biblical tithe?

    You said, “I’m not teaching tithing as a matter of legalism, but a matter of wisdom.”

    So you think it is “wise” to give a tenth of one’s income to the church. Amazing!!

    You said, “Setting a part of our income aside for God is an act of direct obedience…”

    Obedient to what?

    You said, “…it brings us in line with the principles, promises and wisdom found in scripture.”

    You use this “principles, promised and wisdom” several times in your comments. Sounds good, but I don’t think you understand the real principles of the tithe at all, and I see no wisdom in acting like a robot in giving away a tenth of your income. Wisdom would be to seek the Holy Spirit in your giving, not following some Old Testament law.

  13. I don’t need to provide a passage of scripture to “refute” your argument here; simple reasoning will do

    You’ve proven my point exactly; you are not basing your premise on scripture but on personal opinion obtained through “simple reasoning”.

    Brian, there is nothing absolutely wrong with giving God 10% of one’s earnings but calling that the tithe and claiming it is some God given mandate is not biblical.

    I think I too will stop here. God bless.

  14. bnjewell,
    On the contrary you have not even begun to understand me yet. I do not seek for you to understand me though but rather for you to understand the scriptures that you claim to teach. Some of what you teach concerning the tithe is heresy but will you not know it. You have resorted to undermine the credibility of those who oppose your doctrine by attacking their hearts when you simply have no idea about the condition of their heart. You cannot use this as your cover for the errors you teach and you (being a servant of the Lord) have a responsibility not to deal deceitfully in scriptures. Failure to see the errors of your ways therefore suggests that you are unable to correctly handle the word of truth particularly in the context of giving in the church.

    You keep emphasizing that there are promises of blessings if one tithes (citing Mal 3:8-11) but you lack a clear understanding of what Mal 3 was about. The Law was a curse to Israel if they failed in one part of it and it was a blessing to them if they obeyed all of it (Deut 11:26). The promise of blessings in Mal 3 therefore was not simply attached to the singular ordinance of the tithe, nor was the curse mentioned attached to this ordinance alone but rather to the whole Law. To claim therefore that anyone can adopt this single ordinance of the tithe and realise the blessings (supposedly attached) is fallacy. The Law was given as a matter of covenant (a binding contract) to Israel and Israel alone and so too were any blessings attached to the Law. To say then that you who were not party to the covenant can hijack it, place yourself under it and beholden God to honor it is grave error – especailly when we consider that Christ replaced the old covenant with a new one in His blood (Jer 31 and Heb 8).

    Giving in the new testament comes of faith and not by enticement. The truth for most people who cling to the old testament scriptures however is that these were littered with promises of material blessings but there is a shortage of such promises in the new testament. In the new testament we are called to give or lend expecting nothing in return because we will receive our reward in heaven (Luke 6:30,35; Matt 5:42). It is therefore those of you who insist on trying to follow old covenant theology who need to examine your hearts and your motivation for doing things in direct opposition and disobedience to Christ’s teachings – the same Christ who you all claim to follow.

    I guess I will also leave the matter from here on.

  15. Leanne M says:

    Excellent thoughts bnjewell!!! Sick of reading negative anti-tithing reports all over the internet. So your thoughts are helpful, encouraging and from a good heart. Thank you!

  16. C.F. Wells says:

    bnjewell,

    I wanted to address your response to my message, but the [reply] button is somehow missing there.

    So you said: “This argument might be more persuasive if the vast majority of Christians were members of the “mega churches” you mention… But the average church down the street counts on tithes not to fund anyone’s lavish lifestyle, but simply to keep the lights on.”

    So your assertion might be more persuasive if most of the churches I attended needed tithes to survive. They did not. The small church that I attend now does not teach tithing. We have a pastor, youth pastor, music minister and secretary.

    Later, you wrote: “In order to convince me that tithing is a “recent phenomenon,” you would have to somehow make the tithe disappear from the Old Testament.” For sure, tithing hasn’t disappeared from the Old Testament, but what you call “tithing” now is nowhere to be found there. Who is to give tithes has been changed. The recipients have been replaced. The substance has been changed. And the conditions placed on those who receive tithes have been mysteriously removed.

    Who gave tithes? The landowners, who were relatively wealthy. In addition, landowners living outside of Israel proper were not under the tithe or festival laws. They were encouraged to visit Jerusalem once in their lifetime. By the first century B.C., there were an estimated four and a half million Jews living in the Roman Empire, with only about one half to three quarters of a million living in Palestine itself. That means the vast majority of Jews were not tithing then.

    Who received tithes? Not the local synagoge, but the Levites who served in the national Temple and also did some civil service in all the cities. Most people don’t realize that the Temple was actually an enormous complex about one mile in perimeter, which also housed their version of the IRS, Congress, and Supreme Court. The Temple also provided civil defense and had a fortress attached which could simultaneously hold the Temple guards, city guards, and a full Roman legion. Since they were in a theocracy, the Temple was not cut off from the government. It was a very big part of it. And as I mentioned before, there were other scripturally mandated receivers of tithes – that is orphans, widows and aliens.

    What was tithed? Food, grown by the landowners, fruit from their orchards and animals from the ranchers (I hesitate to say “herders,” since a hired hand could not tithe what did not belong to him. Now the ranchers tithed not from increase, but from their assets. Of course animal populations grow exponentially. Does your money do that? And when I say food was tithed, if one tried to pay money instead, there was a 20% penalty. And they couldn’t substitute money at all for a tithed animal. And when I say “animal” that excluded hunted animals, work animals like donkeys and camels, fish and fowl.

    And those conditions placed on the tithe receivers? Scripture says they were to to have no property (land) inheritance as all the othe Jews had. And they were to be responsible for their own sins. See what a mess we make when we try to ignore the New Covenant?

    You cannot change every aspect of the tithe law, and then complain that people are not following something that was completely made-up. No one is honoring the tithe law. Not in substance. Not in form. Not in principle.

  17. John W Reed says:

    I could just have a cup of tea and discuss this issue with you. I know I could make you think but I am not here to change your mind, yours is like cement. Thoroughly mixed and well set. Let me say this though concerning a ten percent. Go back to 2 Cor 8 and 9. It is all about money and our heart. But what many fail to see and often overlook is one portion where Paul basically says God is only looking for what you have NOT what you don’t have.
    Jesus isn’t a La Cosa Nostra hit man seeking to break your legs when you don’t make the exact to the penny ten percent payment.
    I note you’re in Lexington KY in a decent size church. When have you traveled to Rwanda and taught this message? I wonder if you’re going to teach the Christians slaves over their to just keep tithing and one day if their heart is right God will prosper them….
    easy to preach in the comfort of America dude…
    I’ve been to third world nations I have seen poverty. You’re preaching an American entrepreneurial gospel. It’s seed faith prosperity gospel principles that Leroy Thompson and others preach on TV but just sanitized a little for people to swallow it…

Trackbacks

  1. […] last post in this series answered objections to the tithe that have been raised by some readers. That article dealt with a lot of biblical teachings about […]

  2. […] is the practice of giving 10 percent of your income to God (via the church), based on patterns established in the Old Testament and confirmed in the New Testament. Similarly, the Sabbath is one day each week that is set apart before God for rest and worship. […]

  3. […] idea that God has any right to dictate how they spend their money. They fight the commandment to tithe, forget the teachings about giving to the poor, and generally ignore the rest of the Bible’s […]

  4. […] There are some people who try to invent reasons why tithing doesn’t apply to us today (and those people will probably berate me in the comments section of this article). But they’re wrong. […]

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