And The "Tithe"
Christians Required To Keep The Old Testament Tithe?
Timothy S. Morton
article is intended
to show how the concept of tithing is misused and misapplied in many
It is not meant to be some sort of "justification" for a Christian
to give to God's work. Christians should give liberally ("Freely ye
have received, freely give," Matt. 10:8) and cheerfully ("It is
more blessed to give than to receive," Acts 20:35) because of what
Christ has done for them and because of the need of others.
Pay Or Else?
Christian, have you heard words
similar to these
from a church pulpit? "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse"
(Mal.3:10). A tenth of your income belongs to God and if you don't give
it you are a God robber according to the Bible (Mal. 3:8). If you are
faithful in giving your tithe, God will curse you (Mal. 3:9) and not
the devourer" (Mal. 3:11)." "You WILL pay a tithe one way or the other,
possibly through sickness, hardship, lost job, lost home, or other
if you don't give it to God." "You cannot expect God to bless you if
do not tithe." "No matter who else you owe or how much you are in debt,
God's tithe must come first." All your tithe belongs here in the local
church." Will a man rob God and get by with it"? "Never, never, YOU
PAY!" etc., etc.
Words like these have echoed in
your author’s ears
from certain Fundamentalist preachers ever since he became a Christian
in 1980. They deliver these words with a fiery zeal that rivals many
leaders. Their words leave the poor believer with the impression that
most heinous sin a Christian could commit (besides divorce, of course)
is to neglect to tithe (usually to their ministry). God may be
with other "sins," but failure to tithe will bring swift wrath and sure
retribution. One would think murder, adultery, stealing, etc., pale in
More than once your author has
say, concerning a brother who was hospitalized and believed by them to
be a non-tither, "He is probably in the hospital to have his "tithes
extracted." That is, God struck him with an illness only so he
have to spend the money his should have tithed (usually to their
How do they know why the brother is in hospital? How do they
if he is in God's will or not concerning his giving? The
may faithfully give as the Lord leads but just not give to them! These
self-righteous, pharisaical rascals are quick to judge anyone who
adhere to their legalistic beliefs about tithing and speak of God as if
He is a money hungry dictator who is ready to pounce on any soul who
to pay Him what He demands.
What does the Bible really say
about tithing? Are
Christians under the law of the tithe? Is tithing and Christian giving
the same? In the following we will examine the tithe in relation to the
Christian, and you will see why this is truly a "Taboo Topic."
Is The Tithe
Taught In The New Testament?
Although the tithe is almost
in Fundamentalist churches, it is a concept found nearly exclusively in
the Old Testament. It is only mentioned in three different contexts in
the New Testament. Twice in connection with Jews (Matt. 23:23; Luke
18:2), and once in connection with Abraham (Heb. Ch. 7). That the
is not mentioned in connection with any Christian, church, or New
practice should cause any believer to strongly question its application
to born again believers. One can find a considerable amount of
on "giving" in the New Testament, but absolutely nothing linking the
with the Old Testament law of tithing. Don’t believe me, open
and check it out! Get a concordance and look up the words "tithe"
and "tenth" (and variations) and you’ll find the Bible
even suggest a Christian should tithe, let alone command him to.
Peter, John, etc., could have easily mentioned the "tithe" when
matters of giving, but they knew it had been nullified by the cross
of Christ and was no longer valid. One would think just the
opposite was the case from attending many "Bible believing" churches,
The tithe is erroneously applied to
by pulling the Old Testament law of tithing across dispensations
and placing it as doctrine in the New Testament. This is how most
doctrines originate. When doctrines which are valid in only one
(time period) are forced into another dispensation they become false
(see our book, "The Difference Is In The
for a fuller treatment of this issue). For example, many preachers
Malachai 3:10 ("Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there
may be meat in mine house") as if a New Testament church is the
but the church is never spoken of as a storehouse for God’s
Churches were not intended to store crops and livestock (or even money)
as the passage refers to. This is one area where otherwise sound and
preachers will spiritualize and compromise the Bible to promote their
doctrine or traditional belief. Could it be because it deals with their
income ($$$)? Apparently, they cannot get their people to give
the motivation of fear and retribution. If these preachers were
and jumped dispensations to teach doctrine in other matters they would
have Christians becoming circumcised, observing Jewish feasts and
days, offering animal sacrifices, shunning unclean meats, keeping the
(Saturday), etc., under the pain of death!
Abraham And His Tithe?
When these "tithers" are charged
Old Testament doctrines in the New Testament they usually claim
and Jacob paid tithes before the law so believers should pay tithes
the law," or something similar. But this is forced, illogical reasoning
and doesn’t consider the facts. For that matter circumcision
the law with Abraham also, does that mean all male Christians must
be circumcised to be saved or in God's will? Of course not. This was
error of the "law-keeping" Judaizers who were quickly corrected by
(Acts 15: 1-11).
Don’t get us wrong, many
preachers who teach tithing
as a law have no ulterior motive and are sincerely convinced of its
main fault is they don’t study. Unfortunately (especially for
who hear and believe them), many preachers don’t learn (or at
their doctrine from personal study. They learn it from hearing other
or teachers. But what if their teachers are wrong? They will never know
it if they don’t study. Sincerity is no substitute for knowledge
Let’s take a closer look at
Abraham’s case and
see what those who appeal to him fail to mention. In Genesis 14 Abraham
does pay tithes of the spoils of battle to Melchisidek, but notice
1. Abraham was not commanded
to tithe by
God or Melchizedek.
2. Abraham was not even asked
by God or Melchizedek.
3. Abraham did not tithe to keep
from happening to him, but because God had already blessed him in
4. It is recorded Abraham only tithed
time in all his 175 years.
5. And what is most shocking, Abraham
even saved when he tithed! Not saved according to Moses (Gen.
Paul (Rom. 4:20-22), and James (James 2:23)!
Obviously, the account of Abraham
is no help to
those who compel the tithe on Christians. Either they can’t read,
of the Scriptures, or intentionally deceptive.
As for Jacob, by his own accord he
offers to give
God a tithe after he has the dream of the ladder (Gen 28:22). Like
though, he is not commanded to tithe (there is no record he
did), he offers it of his own free will. A little Bible study can clear
up a lot of legalistic, pharisaical ignorance and Scripture wresting.
Under The Mosaic Law
The majority of references to
tithing in the Bible
are found in the Mosaic law. Under the Law a voluntary, freewill tithe
like Abraham’s is unheard of. To the Jews the tithe was
essentially a compelled
national income tax for the upkeep of the tabernacle and support of
the Levites. Refusal to pay it COULD lead to the destructions of the
mentioned in Malachai 3:11.
Furthermore, from careful
examination of the Scriptures
there appears to be not one but THREE tithes under the Law,
given at different times:
1st Tithe: The annual tithe
for the maintenance
of the Levitical Priesthood (Num. 18:21-24). Since the tribe of Levi
no inheritance (Num. 18:20; Deut. 12:12, Deut. 14:27), and was
from the rest of Israel in order to serve the Lord (Num. 3:5-10,
8:14-19), the first tithe was necessary for their support.
2nd Tithe: Another tithe was
Jerusalem for festival purposes (Deut. 14:22-27).
3rd Tithe: The third tithe
every third year to assist the poor (Deut. 14:28-29). This year was
"the year of tithing," (Deut. 26:12-14). When the Israelites had
tithing of the increase of the land, they were to give this tithe to
Levites, strangers, orphans, and widows.
All the tithes put together would
consist of around 23%
of a persons income per year. Far short of the single 10% many call a
and boast of paying.
For the most part the tithes of the
were of crops and livestock. Each Jew was to separate out his
from his labors for God’s use, but notice what the scriptures say
27:31. If a Jew redeemed his tithe (sold it for money) then he was to add
20% more to it totaling 12%! This shows God would rather
the goods than the money. How many times have you heard that preached?
How many pay their "tithes" in goods today? If they pay in money they can’t
even call it a tithe unless they add a "fifth part" of the tithe to it!
So, essentially, today a tithe is 12% of one’s income and not 10%!
The law is an unforgiving
taskmaster and tolerates
nothing but obedience. How many of those who boast of tithing, besides
not paying 12%, don’t tithe on ALL their increase or pay three
tithes? Beware all ye who boast of tithing because the Bible will
you a liar. God could show you a thousand places where you have
failed to tithe. Do you tithe your garden crops or anything else
grow or raise? Do you tithe all interest of any form you accrue from
accounts or capital gains? Do you tithe the yearly increase of the
of your home, jewelry or other assets? Or if you sell your home or
any other property do you tithe any increase in value? (A home
in 1970 for $20,000 may sell today for $80,000, leaving the "faithful
$7200 to tithe! [12% of $60,000]) Do you tithe the value of any gifts
receive (Christmas?), the benefits you receive from your job (value of
health insurance, profit sharing, retirement, etc.) or any unexpected
extra income no matter how small from any source? And you call
a tither? Some deluded souls actually believe they are tithing if
give 10% of their income after taxes and deductions! The
comes off the top (Lev. 27:30; Deut 14:22), not after convenient
lower the "tithable" income.
It should be clear from above the Law
bondage; but, glory to His name, Christ by His blood freed us
the curse of the Law (Gal 3:13).Whether it be the Law’s
of feasts and sacrifices or of tithing, Christ has made us free. It is
amazing how many preachers will shout "Ten percent belongs to God" when
they should realize 100% belongs to God. All Christians are
property two-fold, by creation and by redemption by
God owns the believer’s person (body, soul, and spirit),
has, and everything he will ever have or become, and appeals to the Old
Testament to weaken God’s dominion over him circumvents
Christ’s work on
Some otherwise sensible and sound
so biased toward the legalistic view of the tithe they have said
to justify a questionable expenditure), "I don’t believe God
one does with the other 90% as long as He gets His 10%." Is God so
by money that He doesn’t care what a believer does as long as He
cut? Nonsense. Their "logic" is completely unscriptural and
If these fellows would stop and think a little they would realize the
of such statements and reconsider their position. But, as we said, most
only repeat what they have heard and have never fully studied the issue.
They take confidence in thinking, "Dr. So-and-so is a godly and
man and that is what he believes, so it must be right," without looking
into the matter in the Scriptures themselves. I have observed this
on many occasions concerning different subjects. They simply trust
This article is not meant to be a
Christian giving but on the misuse of the Old Testament tithe. As we
seen the tithe was primarily a tax on Israel to support Judaism and is
not mentioned in connection with the New Testament believer. The New
method of giving, however, is not under the threat of law and
but from thanksgiving and heartfelt desire (2 Cor. ch. 8-9).
"God loveth a cheerful giver" and one who is compelled to give
give in the purest sense and is seldom cheerful about it.
The simple fact is Christians
are not commanded
to tithe. The Bible strongly suggests Christians give but never
as to how much. Since 10% was the basis for giving in the Old
a Christian could spiritually use that amount as a basis for his
but he would be deceiving himself if he thought he was somehow pleasing
God by giving that particular amount. Maybe God would have him
more or sometimes maybe less! That is, the Old Testament tithe can be
before Christians, but not a law. No one can judge a
either way. The amount each individual believer should give is entirely
between him and the Lord (2 Cor. 9:7).
from an article by Dave Combs
1. There is no mandate
anywhere in the New
Testament for tithing. The word "tithe" or "tithes" appears eight times
in the New Testament, and each time it is used is in reference to an
Testament event or a concurrent Jewish practice.
2. The epistles contain numerous
and rebukes because of numerous sins and spiritual problems, but one is
mentioned for failure to tithe.
3. Hebrews 7:5 states quite clearly
the sons of Levi had a commandment to receive tithes, not pastors
other religious leaders:
4. The Mosaic Law was given to
Moses, not to the Church. If Christians are supposed to tithe, then
what about circumcision, worshipping on Saturday, observing the holy
(Passover, Feast of Tabernacles, etc.), animal sacrifices, a
and all the other components of the ceremonial law? Numbers 18:26-28
that the Levitical priests are to offer up a heave offering to
Lord when they receive the tithes of the children of Israel. Shouldn't
pastors conduct heave offerings when they receive tithes as well?
5. The statements Jesus makes about
23:23; Luke 11:42, 18:12) are all indicative, not imperative. A
plain interpretation of these passages doesn't reveal any command that
tithing should be continued into the Church Age, which began at
6. Christians who mandate tithing
are making the same
mistake as the Judaizers. They believed that faith in
Christ is not enough, and certain aspects of the Mosaic Law needed
to be retained for salvation and/or sanctification. In fact, the
Paul stated in Galatians 5:3 that we are "a debtor to do the whole
if we get circumcised or keep any other aspect of he law with the
that this will add to what Christ already did on the cross. Today,
is not an issue in the Church, but tithing certainly is. If the Apostle
Paul were alive today, he might very well have written Galatians 5:2-3,
substituting the word "tithe" for "circumcision, "Behold, I Paul
unto you, that if ye [tithe], Christ shall profit you nothing. For I
again to every man that [tithes], that he is a debtor to do the whole
This is a very sobering concept coming from the Apostle Paul. A person
who is a "debtor to do the whole law" describes an unsaved person
justification by trying to keep the law.
7. Undoubtedly, the Judaizers of
Paul's time used
God's command to Abraham that he be circumcised (Gen 17:11) as
proof text to illustrate that believers in the Church Age also need to
circumcised. In much the same way, many of the modern Judaizers use
giving a tenth to Melchizedek after the defeat of Chedorlaomer (Genesis
14:17-20) as an example of how tithing should be performed by
Since the cross, however, Abraham’s tithe has no more
Christians than his circumcision.
8. The Levitical priesthood has
been replaced with
the priesthood of believers (1 Pet 2:5, 2:9). So from this
that we have, money, possessions, spiritual gifts, belong to the Lord,
not just a tenth of our income. Since NT giving is discretionary, and
based on a demand of a set percentage, this should dispel the common
that one-tenth of our income is somehow "holy," as if God is some sort
of a divine accountant.
9. Those involved in full-time
be supported by the people they serve (1 Cor. 9:7-14, 1 Tim
A careful review of New Testament giving reveals to us that our
should not only be to support our local ministries, but also meet the
needs of poverty stricken fellow Christians (Acts 2:44-45, 4:32-37, 1
16:1-3, 2 Cor. 8:1-13, 1 Tim. 6:17-19). There was organized giving
local congregations to care for believing widows and orphans who had no
other family to rely on (Acts 6:1-4, 1 Tim. 5:1-16).
10. 2 Corinthians chapters 8-9, and
16:1-4 state that a Christian is to evaluate the needs of others and to
give as he is able to. NO PERCENTAGE GUIDELINES ARE EVER GIVEN.
The Apostle Paul had ample opportunity to use the word "tithe" or at
mandate it as a standard to be preserved, but instead Paul gives us
new rules for giving, which would supersede the Old Testament law for
If there is any single verse in the New Testament that nullifies the
in the Church age" doctrine, it would be 2 Cor 9:7, which says, "Every
man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give:
grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver."
11. Love is to be our
motivation, not compulsory
legalism (Hosea 6:6, Micah 6:6-8, Mark 12:28-34, 1 Cor 13:1-7). How
consideration we have for the poor, for example, is an indication of
spiritual condition (1 John 3:17).
12. Those who preach the "tithe" as
applying to Christians are wresting the Scriptures to conform to
belief at the expense of the truth. They either through ignorance,
from fear of ridicule of those like-minded, or from not wanting to
what they always taught was wrong, continue to apply Old Testament
in the New Testament, in essence placing those who hear them under the
bondage and curse of the Mosaic Law (Gal. Ch. 3).