By Jim Sparks
Now, let’s take a look at tithing. Is tithing for today? No, I believe that tithing is not for today’s New Testament churches. It was part of the law for the nation of Israel. God said it was. He said tithing was: (1) for the nation of Israel to give, (2) for the tribe of the Levites to receive, and (3) was of the Law.
(1) The Tithe was instituted by God for the nation of Israel. “And all the tithe of the land, [whether] of the seed of the land, [or] of the fruit of the tree, [is] the LORD’S: [it is] holy unto the LORD. And if a man will at all redeem [ought] of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth [part] thereof. And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, [even] of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the LORD. He shall not search whether it be good or bad, neither shall he change it: and if he change it at all, then both it and the change thereof shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed. These [are] the commandments, which the LORD COMMANDED MOSES FOR THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL in mount Sinai”(Levi 27:30-34).
Even the most famous verse used by people today to support tithing in churches says that tithing was for the nation of Israel. “For I [am] the LORD, I change not; therefore YE SONS OF JACOB are not consumed. 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]” (Mal 3:6-10). “Sons of Jacob” was another term for the nation of Israel. I am not a “son of Jacob.” The command for tithing was for the people of the nation of Israel or “sons of Jacob.”
(2) The Tithe was for the Levites “And the LORD spake unto Aaron, Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I [am] thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel. And, behold, I have given the CHILDREN OF LEVI ALL THE TENTH in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, [even] the service of the tabernacle of the congregation. Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, When ye take of the children of Israel the TITHES which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then ye shall offer up an heave offering of it for the LORD, [even] a tenth [part] of the tithe” (Num 18:20-26). It’s very clear here that the tithe was for the Levites, because they did not have part of the inheritance, so it was for their livelihood and service in the tabernacle and later the temple.
“And at that time were some appointed over the chambers for the treasures, for the offerings, for the firstfruits, and for the tithes , to gather into them out of the fields of the cities THE PORTIONS OF THE LAW for the PRIESTS and LEVITES..” (Neh 12:44). The tithe was for the priests and Levites. “And he had prepared for him a great chamber, where aforetime they laid the meat offerings, the frankincense, and the vessels, and the TITHES of the corn, the new wine, and the oil, which was commanded [to be given] TO THE LEVITES, and the singers, and the porters; and the offerings of the priests” (Neh 13:5). 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” (Heb 7: 4-5).
(3) The Tithe was of the Law The tithe was very clearly part of the Law. Even in the New Testament this is clear. “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” (Heb 7:4-5). Catch that? “According to the Law.” The New Testament says the tithe was “according to the Law.” Some more OT verses that say tithing is of the Law: “And at that time were some appointed over the chambers for the treasures, for the offerings, for the firstfruits, and for the tithes, to gather into them out of the fields of the cities THE PORTIONS OF THE LAW for the priests and levites….” (Neh 12:44). “And all the tithe of the land, [whether] of the seed of the land, [or] of the fruit of the tree, [is] the LORD’S: [it is] holy unto the LORD. … These [are] the COMMANDMENTS, which the LORD COMMANDED MOSES for the children of Israel in mount Sinai” (Levi 27:30-34). The verse says, Tithing was: 1) a Commandment, 2) given to Moses, 3) for the Children of Israel.
So, it is very clear to me that the tithe was (1) by the nation of Israel, (2) for the tribe of the Levites, and (3) part of the Law.
I have heard a good argument: “Tithing is not of the Law, because it was before the giving of the Law to Moses. And the verses just used in Hebrews 7:4-5? It says that Abraham gave tithes, and he was before the Law and before Moses, so tithing was before the Law. Jacob also tithed and he was before the Law. Thus, if tithing was before the Law then it should apply after the Law, and for our time also.” Well, dear friend, many clear verses used above clearly state that tithing was of the Law. So, now we have to explain a situation, not a verse. The Bible doesn’t say that Abraham was commanded to give a tithe. Jacob, who was before Moses and the Law, also promised to give tithes to God, but we see no command there either. Lets see if we can spread some light on this “situation”.
(1) According to any Bible dictionary, tithing was popular among many nations. History shows that many nations gave different percentages of their income for religious works. The Westminister Dictionary of the Bible says “The separation of a certain proportion of the products of one’s industry or of the spoils of war as tribute to their gods was practiced by various nations at this time. The Lydians offered a tithe of their booty. The Phoenicians and Carthaginians sent a tithe annually to the Tyrian Hercules. These tithes might be regular or occasional, voluntary or prescribed by law. The Egyptians were required to give a 5th part of their crops to Pharaoh (Gen. 47:24).” Abraham and Jacob were no doubt familiar with this principle, even though it was not yet given to them by God as a command.
(2) Those who say that the command of tithing was before the Law because Abraham gave tithes, violate all the Scriptures that clearly say that it was of the Law. But, let’s look at a similar principle to make a parallel. It is interesting to note that circumcision was also given in the Law of Moses. Nobody will argue with that. But, wait a minute. Abraham and Jacob were also circumcised. And, God told them to. Then, circumcision was before the Law, so then if circumcision applied before the Law then it should apply after the Law which would be for today. But, no! The New Testament clearly says that circumcision was of the Law and not to be observed by Christians as being legal. So, just because circumcision was practiced before the Law, that does not make it right after the Law. Thus, the same would seem true for tithing.
Nowhere in the New Testament is there a command for tithing. Nowhere! You say, “Well, there is no place in the New Testament that says to quit tithing, as it does with circumcision.” True, but there is no command to keep it going. Also, I would hate to take any doctrine of the Law given to the Jews, and make it a doctrine for a New Testament church. So, what does the New Testament teach then, if not tithing. It does teach giving, but never mentions tithing, and there is a difference. Most all churches today teach that Christians ought to tithe, but you will not find it anywhere in the New Testament in any of the commands to the churches. You will find it mentioned in the four gospels, and Jesus commended those who tithed, but remember, that was not to a church. The Temple and the Levitical priests were still there. The Levites and the law were still in affect in the four gospels. Jesus had not died yet, the veil of the Temple had not yet been rent, and the New Testament had not begun. The Church was yet to come. Jesus was still fulfilling the Law of the Old Testament. Jesus lived on the earth during the Old Testament and under the Law. The New Testament began at Christ’s death and the church soon was established by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Besides the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, you will find tithing only mentioned in one other place in the New Testament and that is in the book of Hebrews, written to Jewish Christians, and it is reflecting back to Abraham and it is not even being used to endorse tithing, but rather Jesus as being the high priest. You will not find tithing or giving 10 percent anywhere else in the New Testament. Nowhere!
You would think with all these New Testament churches being founded by Paul and others, and the many epistles written to them regarding how to conduct themselves as Christians, that surely tithing would have been mentioned, especially to the many Christian Gentiles who were not familiar with tithing and other aspects of the Law. But it never is. Giving is mentioned several times to the churches, but never tithing. “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first [ day ] of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as [God] hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by [your] letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem” (I Cor 16:1-3). Tithing or giving ten percent is not mentioned or implied here; Giving is commanded in this verse, and to give as God has prospered us, putting money aside to be given and sent to the poor saints at Jerusalem. God does want us to give and to give from the heart. “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, [so let him give]; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (II Cor 9:7). Tithing not mentioned or implied here, but giving. Notice, he says “not of necessity”. Tithing would be of necessity. It was of the Law. How can you “give as you purpose in your heart” if you are to tithe? No, there is no mention of 10 percent here. You are to give as you purpose in your heart and give cheerfully, because you love God, not because you have to fulfill the Law. This freedom of giving allows a person to give in relation to how much they love God. The more you love God, the more you want to give. Yes, we are to give. God wants us to. He tells us to give, but that we should give willingly, cheerfully, and liberally. “For [I mean] not that other men be eased, and ye 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 may be equality (II Cor 8:13). Liberal giving is taught here.
Now, these are just a few of many verses on Christian giving. But, tithing is never, ever mentioned to any of the New Testament churches. There are many that feel if tithing is not taught today, then no one would give anything. That may be true for some, but I believe that real Christians that love the Lord will give and give all, if necessary for God’s work and to help other saints in need. Many verses for christians giving and churches giving, but none for tithing. So, the terms “Christians tithing” and “tithing to the church” are unscriptural. It seems to me that most churches today have gotten themselves in this mess because most operate as businesses, and when they do, they must have a source of revenue in order to operate the business, and must have an executive or businessman to run the business. But, early churches did not operate as businesses, because God did not set them up to run that way. Now, in the Old Testament, you had a different situation. You had a building and properties, the Temple, and a priesthood, and tithing was a command of God for the nation of Israel to give this ten percent (almost like a tax) for their upkeep. God promised to bless all those who did. However, the New Testament Christians were to give as they purposed in their heart from a heart of love. Many gave all they had in the first early churches. They sold their properties and gave it all, even though there was no command to do so. They “purposed” this from a heart of love. The Scriptures plainly teach that Christians serve and give their all from the heart because they love the Lord. Just because you don’t believe they will, doesn’t mean that you have to invoke a law to make sure they do.
You may feel that there is no difference in tithing and giving, that it is just a difference in terminology. But, it appears that the teaching of tithing could be very detrimental to the New Testament Christian. “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord [is], there [is] liberty” (II Cor 3:17). Tithing is not “giving” and not of the Law of Liberty but of the Law of Moses. Tithing is of the Law and would therefore place the Christian under the Law in one respect. The Bible clearly teaches that we are not to put ourselves under the Law in any respect. Paul rebuked those in that day for trying to get Christians to be circumcised by the Law. He would also rebuke those who put themselves under the Law of tithing. Give, yes. Tithe, no.
You say they are really the same. No, friend, they are not. It is very dangerous to teach that God commands tithing in New Testament churches today, when He nowhere said in His word that He wants Christians to tithe to a church. We should obey God and not men. Men today command tithing, but God has nowhere commanded New Testament churches to tithe. “…. let God be true, but every man a liar;….” (Rom 3:4). Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for teaching that you can’t do anything on the Sabbath, even good things. They twisted this Law to be a burden to others. They made it appear as God’s word and Jesus said, no, you are “Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition” (Mk 7:13). It seems that tithing has also become a tradition or commandment of men in today’s churches. “Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth” (Titus 1:14). This verse says that when you follow commandments of men rather than what God says, you will turn from the truth. More and more, you will turn from the truth. Tithing today, what tomorrow?
I tell people that I give a lot more than 10 percent of my income to the Lord, but I do not believe in tithing. I still get persecuted. You see, the fact of the matter is, they probably don’t really care how much you give, they just want you to be under their law of tithing. They don’t want you to have liberty in your giving. “But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised: And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage (Gal 2:3-4). You see, here Paul is saying that their real purpose or motive was not to get Titus circumcised, but to put him in bondage. So, it seems true with tithing. They don’t care how much you give as long as you are under the bondage of tithing. Why? Maybe so they can glory in your flesh. “For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh” (Gal 6:13). But, the Bible teaches that we “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Gal 5:1). We are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free, so do not put yourself under bondage in any way, shape, or form. We are to be the Lord’s bondman. We are to do what He says to do. And if He nowhere says that we should tithe to a church, then we should not teach such.
It almost appears that instead of New Testament churches today, we seem to have Old Testament temples instead. Paul had a great deal of trouble trying to keep the Jewish legalizers away from the churches of his day, especially in the churches of Galacia. There have always been people around who don’t like other people having democracy, freedom, or liberty, to serve God. Satan wants to bring Christians and churches into bondage. It has always been that way, and it is that way today. They have really had their effects on today’s churches as well. Instead of a church, we have more what resembles OT temples. Many call it the “house of God”. They make it like a sanctuary and even call it that. The building is called the church. But, Jesus said our body is the temple of God. Saved people are the church, not a building. We have also gone back to the Old Testament, and pulled out a position and called it the office of the pastor, but it is more like that of an Old Testament priest than a Scriptural New Testament elder. It was the priest’s job to run the house of God, and to be the mediator between God and man. Now, the pastor is hired to run the church building/organization, and he also tries to be the mediator between God and his congregation. And, now we have gone back and pulled out tithing from the Old Testament Law and imposed it on New Testament churches, and said that it is the same principle, when the Bible clearly states otherwise. So, don’t tell me it is only terminology. It’s probably much worse than you might think.
In conclusion, tithing was clearly 1) for Israel to give, 2) for the Levites to receive, 3) and commanded by the Law. It is not for today’s New Testament churches or God would have informed us in His Word.
Furthermore, in summary, tithing is not for today because: The Facts 1) Tithing is of the Law, and Jesus fulfilled the Law, 2) There is no command in the New Testament for tithing, 3) There is no example of a Christian tithing, 4) There is no example of a church receiving tithes, 5) The New Testament does give specific directions on how Christians are to give to the church, but tithing is not included.