- DOES THE BIBLE INSTRUCT THE NEW COVENANT PERSON TO TITHE?
- IS THE CHRISTIAN WHO DOES NOT TITHE ROBBING GOD?
- DID THE EARLY CHURCH TITHE?
TITHING AND THE LAW
Leviticus 27:30, 32: And all the tithe of the land…is the Lord’s:
it is holy unto the Lord.
And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock…the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord.
Tithe means a tenth part. When one says he tithes, it is generally understood he regularly gives a tenth of his income to his local church, probably in obedience to the above verses.
For one to say, “I tithe ten percent” indicates a lack of understanding of the word tithe because it is impossible to tithe anything except ten percent. One cannot tithe fifteen percent, twenty percent, etc.
It is most important that the student of the Word does not confuse the words tithe and tenth with the words donation, offering, gift, etc. if you hope to comprehend the logic of this chapter and this book. Tithing is not a donation, tithing is a demand.
Tithing is a holy regulation of the holy Law. Everything God decrees is true, right and holy, and tithing was certainly no exception. In the light of that, however, there are two questions for the student of the Word to consider:
- Did God decree or intend tithing be applied to the New Covenant person [i.e., is tithing a part of, or compatible to, “the new testament in my blood” that Jesus spoke of]?
- If the conclusion is ‘no’ [or ‘yes’], how will it affect my own spending?
Malachi 3:8-10: Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed me. But you say, Wherein have we robbed you? In tithes and offerings.
You are cursed with a curse; for you have robbed me, even this whole nation.
Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in my house,
It was a serious offense to hold back part of the tenth that God’s Law demanded. By so doing, one actually brought a curse upon himself. The question for the student of the Word to consider is: Would God speak those same words to the New Covenant person who does not tithe?
Many [most?] would argue that the Christian who neglects or refuses to tithe is indeed robbing God. It is a widely accepted supposition that tithing belongs on both sides of the cross. Some even suggest that such a Christian is “cursed with a curse.” This chapter challenges these suppositions.
PETER AND PAUL
Galatians 2:14: I said unto Peter before them all, If you, being a Jew, live after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compel the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?
Peter, although “being a Jew”, no longer conformed to Jewish practices, but rather lived “after the manner of Gentiles.” It is common knowledge the Jews tithed and the Gentiles [non-Jews] did not tithe. It is very difficult to come to any but the following conclusion: Peter did not tithe.
At one time Peter was a devoted Jew. Acts chapter 10 verifies this. When the Lord commanded Peter to “kill and eat” that which was not permitted by the Law to eat, Peter replied, “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.” But now Peter no longer adhered to the Law. If Peter really did observe the Law, whether it be in matters concerning foods, circumcision, the Sabbath, tithing or whatever, Paul could not have made the statement that Peter no longer “live after the manner of…the Jews.”
Paul challenged Peter: “why compel the Gentiles [the Gentile converts] to live as do the Jews?” The same question could be asked of those in leadeship today: “Why do you compel Christians to live as do the Jews?”
2 Cor. 8:12-15: For it there be a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man has, and not according to that he has not.
For I mean not that other men be eased, and you burdened:
But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there might be equality:
As it is written, He that had gathered much has nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.
These words reveal that Paul did not endorse, and was not sympathetic toward, the tithing system. Paul never speaks of a tenth or a percentage, but rather a principle of equality and generosity.
Now Paul was “a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee.” He was raised with a ‘tenth’ mentality. Tithing had been ingrained in him as a lifestyle since childhood. And yet there is not the slightest hint in all of his letters that ‘tenth’ or ‘percentage’ had a place in his born-again persuasions.
TITHING AND THE EARLY CHURCH
Acts 15:28, 29: For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;
That you abstain from meats offered to idols, and that from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication:
This was the situation: “The apostles and elders came together” to discuss whether or not “it was needful to circumcise them [the Gentile converts], and to command them to keep the law of Moses.” After “much disputing”, they decided to write letters “unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia” to tell them they were not required to keep the Law. In those letters they wrote, “Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain [men] which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls [leading your hearts astray], saying You must be circumcised, and keep the law; to whom we gave no such commandment.” Also included in the letter were the above verses, “For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us…”
From these verses certain conclusions can be made:
- “It seemed good to the Holy Ghost” not to impose the tithe upon the early church.
- “It seemed good” to the apostles and elders to likewise not impose the tithe. [There is nothing in Scripture to indicate either the Holy Spirit or the apostles changed their minds at a later date.]
- Those who try to impose the Law upon Christians are guilty of “subverting…souls.”
2 Cor. 9:7: Every man according as he purposes in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.
The saints in Jerusalem are encountering hardship. The church of Corinth has already indicated a readiness to help. In this second letter Paul encourages the Corinthians to follow through on their good intention. In chapters eight and nine Paul gives the student of the Word much insight into God’s will concerning finances.
From the above verse we learn:
- Each person was free to decide for oneself the amount to give for the cause of the saints in Jerusalem.
- A tenth was not requested, suggested, or mentioned.
- They were not to give “of necessity” [under compulsion]. No one was to apply pressure or demand a set amount or a percentage. [Tithing is a demand.]
- Whatever the amount, large or small, the sacrifice was to be pure – no reluctance or self-pity.
- God loves a cheerful giver, one who shares what one has even though not compelled to give, and does so with a cheerful heart.
Paul didn’t give instructions to take [or not take] this contribution from the tithe funds. Why? Why did Paul not say one way or another? The answer is obvious – there was no tithe money. There is no other conclusion. After studying Paul’s instructions regarding the collection, it must be apparent to the student of the Word that if the Corinthians really did tithe, Paul would certainly have given instructions to either use or not use this tithe money. To not do so would cause confusion.
1 Cor. 16:2: Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God has prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.
It was not conventional to have collections on Sunday. If that were the practice Paul would have written something like this: “Save the money you receive from your weekly collections for the saints in Jerusalem so that you do not have to have a collection for this cause when I am with you.” Sunday was, it is generally understood, the day Christians gathered. If at this time there was no regular collections, when did they collect the tithe money? No, there was no tithe money.
THE NEW COVENANT
Hebrews 10:16: This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord; I will put my law into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them.
There are many of God’s laws imprinted on the heart and mind of each Christian at rebirth. These laws could be termed New Covenant laws. Tithing is not one of them.
A Christian may have been quite adept at overlooking the needs of others before meeting Christ, but now finds himself caring and responding. Why? Because of the laws that God has “put…into their hearts” and wrote “in their minds.” That same Christian, however, would never think of giving ten percent because God never put a percentage in his heart or mind. Tithing is taught by man. Therefore tithing cannot be a New Covenant law.
Hebrews 8:6: now has he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.
The Christian has a much more superior covenant [agreement] with God than any other person in the history of man. Who else but the Christian can say, “Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God” (1John 3:1)? Can an angel? Could Adam? Abraham or Moses? No. Only New Testament believers have been made sons through the “better covenant” of which the Lord Jesus Christ Himself is mediator.
This “better covenant” is not based on percentages, portions or numbers. Tenth mentality is foreign to the heart and intent of this agreement.
Percentages, days, and numbers belong to the Old Covenant. “In that he says, a new covenant, he has made the first old. Now that which decays and waxes old is ready to vanish away” (Hebr. 8:13). Every feature of the New Covenant is either zero percent, one hundred percent or comparative. For example:
Zero percent. “Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more” (Hebr. 8:12).
“Fornication, and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not once be named among you” (Eph. 5:3).
“There shall in no wise enter into it [New Jerusalem] any thing that defiles, neither whatsoever works abomination, or makes a lie” (Rev. 21:27).
100 percent. “Having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Hebr. 7:25).
“Whom he called, them he also justified (100%): and whom he justified, them he also glorified (100%)” (Rom. 8:30).
Comparative. “Whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7).
“Every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour” (1 Cor. 3:8).
“According to your faith be it unto you” (Mat. 9:29).
Gal. 4:5-7: that we might receive the adoption of sons.
And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
Wherefore you are no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
A Christian is a son or daughter, adopted by the Father at rebirth. Sonship is eternal. Today he is a son residing on planet Earth, tomorrow he will be a son residing in the New Jerusalem in heaven.
Now a son is a son. One cannot become more or less of a son. One will not be more of a son when he moves to heaven. Now the way the Father relates to His child will be the same in heaven as on earth. It will not change because of a change in location. The demands He makes on His son here, He will make there. If God really did require a tenth here on earth, He would also require it in heaven.
Imagine what a huge storehouse He must have!
Hebrews 10:9: He takes away the first, that he may establish the second.
The old era is gone. The regulations on which it is built are gone. “The second” era has arrived and is in effect. “Old things are passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). The Christian does not have to obey [and is not supposed to obey] the regulations of the Law. Here are just a few verses to emphasize this truth:
Rom. 6:14: You are not under the law.
Rom. 7:6: Now we are delivered from the law.
Rom. 10:4: Christ is the end of the law.
Gal. 3:24, 25: The law was (past tense) our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
Gal. 4:5: To redeem them that were (past tense) under the law.
Gal. 3:10: As many as are of the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, Cursed is every one that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
Rom. 8:14: as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
The most exciting and most fruitful way to live is to be led by the Spirit. A friend was about to drop a certain amount of money into the collection plate at his church one Sunday when the Holy Spirit suddenly stopped him. A short time later, the Spirit prompted him to give it to a person he met in his business affairs. The amount met the need exactly, an assurance he really was led by the Spirit.
Had this friend been enslaved to the tithe mentality, he would have dropped that sum of money into the plate regardless of what the Spirit was saying. A Christian who tithes to his church is not being “led by the Spirit of God”, not in the amount he gives or the place he gives it.
Gal. 3:2, 3: This only would I learn of you. Received you the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh?
The “foolish Galatians” were turning from a life in the Spirit to a life governed by the Law because of the subversion of certain Jews. Paul writes, “There are some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ” (Gal. 1:7).
Paul presents to the Galatians simple logic: “Having begun in the Spirit [having entered the family of God through a supernatural happening that can only be attributed to the Holy Spirit], are you now made perfect by the flesh [do you really think the sanctification process will be completed by adhering to certain outward observances]?”
Paul writes to these people, “if righteousness came by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Gal. 2:21). Today many are still trying to impose the Law upon those who have “begun in the Spirit.” That is why some attend church on Saturday. And that is why so many tithe. Those who impose or in any way perpetuate or condone these conditions are those who “pervert the gospel of Christ.”
TITHING VERSUS CIRCUMCISION
John 7:22: Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;)
There is a saying among some advocates of the tithe system: “That which comes before the Law comes after the Law.” This aphorism is meant to explain why the regulation of tithing is brought over into the New Covenant while all other regulations are left behind. The fact that tithing was Lawful is in itself no reason to believe that it should traverse the Crossline [Crossline is a term I use to define the fact and time of Calvary]. If that were so, all other regulations of the Law should come over as well, i.e., honoring the Sabbath [Saturday], purification and diet requirements, circumcision, sacrificial rites, etc. But, it is argued, tithing came before the Law and that sets it apart from the other regulations of the Law. Thus the saying, “That which comes before the Law comes after the Law.”
The fact of circumcision, however, blows that hypothesis to pieces. Circumcision, like tithing, is not “of Moses [did not originate with Moses], but of the fathers [patriarchs previous to Moses],” and yet circumcision is not brought over the Crossline.
Paul wrote some very categorical statements regarding circumcision: Circumcision is nothing” (1Cor. 7:19), “neither circumcision avails any thing” (Gal. 5:6), “let him not be circumcised” (1Cor. 7:18), “if you be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing” (Gal. 5:2).
Circumcision therefore proves a regulation in effect before the Law does not necessarily come after the Law. If tithing really was meant to be the only regulation to be part of the New Covenant era the New Testament writings would most certainly declare it. They do not. On the contrary, there is much evidence that tithing, like all other regulations of the Law, did not pass over the Crossline.
EVERY NEW TESTAMENT REFERENCE TO TITHING
Matthew 23:23: Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matter of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these you ought to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
Luke 11:42: But woe unto you, Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these you ought to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
Luke 18:12: I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
Hebr. 7: 1-10: For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him;
To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of Peace;
Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginnings of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abides a priest continually.
Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.
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:
But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises.
And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better.
And here men that die receive tithes; but there he received them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives.
And as I may so say, Levi also, who received tithes, paid tithes in Abraham.
For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchizedek met him.
Some are so desperate for a basis to justify and promote the tithe that they claim the fact the word ‘tithe’ can be found in New Testament writings is evidence that tithing is a New Testament principle. This is either very shallow reasoning or outright trickery. Actually, the words ‘tithe,’ ‘tithes,’ and ‘tenth’ [in reference to tithing] is written a sum of ten times in the New Testament. Comparatively, the word ‘sabbath’ is written sixty times, and ‘circumcision’ [including the words ‘circumcise’ and ‘circumcising’] fifty-seven times.
The above verses are the only New Testament verses that use the words ‘tithe’ and ‘tenth’. There are no more. In these verses there is not the slightest suggestion the Lord is teaching, promoting or condoning the usage of the tithe for the New Covenant person. Let us review these verses:
In Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42, Jesus is denouncing the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and shallowness. The Pharisees are not the church. Jesus is not addressing New Covenant people. He is speaking to Jews living under the Mosaic Law.
Jesus is not telling the Pharisees they ought to tithe. He is telling them [in both verses] they ought to ‘have’ tithed [past tense]. But woe unto you, Pharisees! for you tithe [present tense] mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over [present tense] judgment and the love of God; these you ought to have done [past tense], and not to leave the other undone.”
In Luke 18:12, Jesus is comparing a Pharisee who was declaring his righteousness before God with a publican who “smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13).
In Hebrews 7:1-10, the writer is relating to the greatness of the priest Melchizedek because Jesus is “a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek” (Hebr. 7:21). “Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.” Some teach Christians ought to tithe their income to Jesus because Abraham tithed to Melchizedek and Jesus is “after the order of Melchizedek.” The fact Scripture does not teach such logic means nothing to such teachers, many of whom depend on the tithe to finance their salaries.
Scripture does not record Abraham tithing his income to Melchizedek; he tithed, on one occasion, the spoils of battle.
The weightiest evidence against the tithe system [for the New Covenant person] is the fact there is nothing in Scripture to suggest such a practice. The Bible, that which is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”, does not instruct the Christian to tithe. Jesus never taught it. Nor did Paul. Nor any other New Testament writer. There is not one precedent to be found. Not one. And there is certainly nothing in Old Testament literature to suggest that tithing should traverse the Crossline.
Why then has tithing been so widely accepted?
Why is it that fundamental churches are divided over other Biblical doctrines [i.e., eternal security, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, sovereignty of God, divine healing, to name only a few], and yet seem to be in agreement on the subject of tithing?
Why have other regulations of the Mosaic Law been shunned and this particular regulation so warmly embraced?
There are no nice answers.
Tithing is not a Scriptural teaching, tithing is a convenience teaching. It has been adopted because it is so very convenient. The tithing practice helps generate a tremendous flow of money through the local assemblies, and that is the only reason it has been so readily accepted.
Tithing is the cornerstone of The System. On this cornerstone other stones of logic are added. For example, where there are tithes there must be a storehouse. (“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse” Mal. 3:10). What is the storehouse? It is assumed the local assembly is the storehouse. What else could it be?
On top of this another stone is added. Who has the authority to dispense the tithes of the people? Obviously, it must be church leadership. Who else can it be?
There are many stones of unwritten rules and mentalities regarding the allocation of the millions of dollars of tithe money collected every week [some of which are mentioned in other parts of this book]. Thus we have The System, the accepted method within evangelicalism of collecting and distributing funds, and all the logic used to justify and promote these methods of collecting and distributing funds.
Jesus taught, “The tree is known by its fruit” (Mat. 12:33). “Every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit” (Mat. 7:17). In the light on His words, some of the attributes of The System are listed for the student’s consideration.
- Almost all funds collected by the assembly are spent on the welfare of the assembly.
- The pastor is on salary. The evangelist must learn to be a fund raiser.
- The System is largely responsible for many apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teachers ‘turning’ pastor.
- The System robs from the Great Commission.
- The System seriously decreases an assembly of its passion for souls.
- The System provides the local church with air conditioning, a sound system, and an organ but does not provide tracts for the lost.
- The System is the evangelical’s alternative to being led by the Spirit.
- The System does little for the poor.
All these points are dealt with in other areas of this book.