OT Tithing and NT Giving

The Tithe and New Testament Giving

 This may shock most Christians, but the law of tithing is nowhere exampled by the 1st Century assembly (church).   Though tithing is based on sound Biblical principles, and is a good guideline for NT believers to follow (a minimum of 10 percent of income to the Lord), the Tithe as it's reflected in the law (specifically Malachi 3) is a legalistic requirement which also carries a curse with it if not obeyed.  Unfortunately, some preachers use (abuse) Malachi 3 as justification for the Tithe and also state that a person is under a curse if he doesn’t pay tithes based in that scripture.   Some teach that tithing to the local church determines a person's spirituality and have gone as far as to suppose that tithing is a requirement of salvation and if one does not give 10% they are not a true Christian.   The fact is, the Lord Jesus came to deliver us from the curse of the law...He became a curse for us....Galatians 3:13…also see Colossians 2:14.  The closest thing to a curse involving one's lack of giving in the NT that I've found is "he that sows sparingly will also reap sparingly"...in other words the principle is that "we will reap what we sow".   The concept of offerings and giving of the first-fruits goes all the way back to Genesis and is an established principle of giving a portion of our increase back to the Lord...the one who gave us all things.   Giving a tenth was first exampled by Abraham when he gave a tenth of his booty (spoils) to Melchizedek, the priest of the most High God.  This of course occurred before the Law of Moses was instituted and is an example of Abraham’s devotion and faith in God, which he determined to give, which we should definitely seek to emulate...by freely giving a portion of our increase back to the Lord…not out of obedience to a legalistic commandment.  Jacob also vowed to give a tenth to the Lord if the Lord blessed him…again, this was a decision Jacob made (not by commandment) and was conditional on God blessing him.  Visit the following link for more info:  http://www.askelm.com/tithing/thi005.htm

 But to say that NT believers are under the same curse as the OT law keepers is simply not supported by the scriptures...and frankly it diminishes the Lord's sacrifice for us and essentially places us back under the law.  There are definite blessings associated with giving in the NT and implied consequences if one is not generous in their giving (we reap what we sow), but the curse found in Malachi 3 is most certainly misapplied if carried over into the NT. 

 Someone might ask…”but what about what Jesus said in Matthew 23:23”…doesn’t this mean that He is in favor of tithing?

  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.

First of all, we understand from this passage that Jesus was talking to religious leaders of the day that were still living under the law and the law required the tithe.  Since the Pharisees were known for their meticulous obedience to the law, they made it a point to tithe even on these seemingly insignificant things.  Jesus did not chastise them for tithing these things, but for neglecting the more important matters of the “law”.  He knew that under the “law” they were required to tithe and therefore he didn’t disapprove of their setting aside 10 percent of their anise and cumin (which incidentally are agricultural and not a set amount of money). 

Another example of the Lord advising to obey the Law of Moses can be found in:

(speaking to the leper who was healed) And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.
 
In both cases, Jesus is dealing with the Law of Moses and what it required...and since the Law of Moses was still in affect before His death, burial and resurrection, Jesus did not tell them to do otherwise. (Note explanation of difference between moral law or 10 Commandments and Law of Moses found in "Sabbath Day Study" tab)

The point is if we were still under the law of Moses we, like the Pharisees, would need to have the same zeal and meticulousness to obey the whole law (i.e. law of Moses) which included the 10 percent rule.  If we didn’t we would be breaking the “law” and would need to give account for every time we fell short of the 10 percent commandment.   Basically, we would need to determine the value of everything we received as a gift, or from our gardens, or our livestock etc, etc, etc.  The probable result would be that all of us would be falling short of what the “law” required.  And we know from the Bible that Jesus came to deliver us from this type of legal bondage.   In reality we’ve already transformed the tithe to fit under grace which has no scriptural backing whatsoever.   Most of us usually find a way to excuse ourselves when we miss the mark...and very few of us would even think of tithing on the variety of things the Israelites were required to tithe on.  Also, if you take a closer look at the tithe or tithes in the law, there were actually multiple types which when compiled together would add up to well over the 10 percent mark we generally recognize today.

 “It appears that there were 3 tithes mentioned in the Torah. The first, called the Lord’s tithe, consisted of the 10% of the harvest that went to support the priests and Levites since they were given no inheritance of land. (Numbers 18:21) Then there was a 2nd tithe on the remaining 90% that the people consumed themselves each year at the Feast of Tabernacles in a nationwide celebration of God’s provision. (Deut. 14:22-27) It was called the Festival tithe. The 3rd tithe was the tithe for the poor. It was given every third year to help the poor and indigent. (Deut 14:28-29)”  from “GracethruFaith” article, Oct 15, 2011.  http://gracethrufaith.com/ask-a-bible-teacher/three-tithes/

 It amazes me that most people today who discount the observance of the Sabbath (which is one of the 10) because they say it was part of the Old Testament law and not for the NT church…think nothing of preaching Malachi 3 with its associated curse from the law of Moses to justify tithing in the New Testament.  Also, most agree that circumcision (which like the tithe is part of the ceremonial law of Moses) is no longer required (see Acts 15)…why is the tithe law so different?   Please visit the following link for more info:  http://www.askelm.com/tithing/thi010.htm

 One article I stumbled upon in my studies gives the current perspective of Orthodox Judaism regarding tithing:  http://www.askelm.com/tithing/thi003.htm    What this article says is from a Jewish perspective, the tithe is no longer applicable because the Temple is no longer in operation and therefore neither are the Priests of Levites (the only ones who were allowed by God to receive the tithe) working in the temple.   Many Jews still give a substantial amount to charities and Jewish organizational funds to help other Jews.   (Disclaimer – I do take exception to the author’s final remark in the above article…I don’t believe someone is sinning if he is paying tithes today…however, I do believe the legalistic view of tithing in the NT assembly is another example of a misinterpretation (and application) of scripture that has now become a time-honored tradition (institution) in most churches).

 If this is true, does this mean we as NT believers are not required to give anything in support of the church?…on the contrary, we who have the Spirit of the Lord dwelling in us are expected to go above and beyond OT legalism and display an attitude of generosity...which springs from the heart not the letter of the law.  

Matthew 6:3 says:  "but when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing".  Does this sound like a pre-determined amount???  But someone might say this is an example of a free will offering...not the tithe...which was supposed to go to the church or ministry.  If this is so, then where is the NT scripture that shows this?  The fact is, there is no such differentiation of types of funds (tithe, free will, first-fruits) being used in the NT...it all falls under the one command to "give".

What we really need to recognize is that the law of “tithing” was an OT, legalistic requirement…"our" giving needs to reflect the love and grace of our Lord Jesus not the legal necessity of the law.  Please see the following link for more info:  http://www.letusreason.org/Doct54.htm

The truth is the NT introduced a form of giving characterized by believers no longer claiming ownership of goods and resources (see Acts 2).  It was a form of giving that went beyond Old Testament tithing and offerings.  Where all things were shared (they had all things common)…and distributed according to need … It was more of an attitude of selflessness - a form of giving that was led and inspired by the Holy Ghost.  Tithing, as depicted in the Old Testament law was based on a legalistic code that required 10 percent of their crops, first born of their livestock etc.  Nowhere does Paul or any other apostle mention a required amount.   2 Cor. 9:7 says, “Every man according as he purposed in his heart, so let him give: not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loves a cheerful giver.”  Jesus told His disciples to give and it would be given to you…He didn’t specify how much (i.e. a tenth).   Jesus also told the rich young ruler :  “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Luke 18:22)   Again, in the New Covenant the Lord is just as interested in our heart attitude as He is in what we do in obedience to Him. 

 Additional point 1:  Even with what Acts 2 demonstrates, the Lord does not expect us to give to the point that we are in need.  In other words, if the believers in the book of Acts sold the only house they had and gave to the poor…then they would be in need of somewhere to live and would be in want.  As Paul explains in 2 Cor 8:12-15, this would not be the will of God either…an equitable re-distribution of goods is what the Book of Acts demonstrates so the poor have enough and the wealthy don’t have an over-abundance.

 Additional point 2:  one area that is often overlooked by those that teach/preach that one should tithe no matter what circumstances they may find themselves in, is the area that I Timothy 5:3-8 addresses…namely, that a person’s family should come first when administering Christian charity and resources.  The church should pick up the responsibility only when there is no family available to provide the required support.  Accordingly, a person who puts church tithe or any type of giving above his own family’s needs to the point that they cannot adequately provide for their own family, I believe according to I Tim 5 is in “error”.  Of course God will bless sacrificial giving but it really comes down to the matter of taking responsibility for your own to relieve the burden on the assembly (church).

 Additional point 3:  it should also be noted that nowhere in the book of Acts or the Epistles do you hear of collections for expensive building programs etc, the emphasis was instead on human needs.   The collections were primarily to relieve the poor (Matt 19:21, Mark 10:21, Romans 15:26, Galatians 2:10) widows/orphans who had no other family to rely on (Acts 6:1-4; 1 Tim. 5:1-16) and other believers who were in need (Acts 2:44-45, 4:32-37; 1 Cor. 16:1-3; 2 Cor. 8:1-13; 1 Tim. 6:17-19).   Also, those who are involved in full-time ministry are to be supported by the people they serve (1 Cor 9:7-14, 1 Tim 5:17-18), and those who do ministry and mission work need to be supported by those who are home with the goods.  This does not mean the NT supports an “automatic”, "mandatory" tithe to those who hold a ministerial position…Paul encouraged believers to support those that minister based on their dedication in preaching and teaching the Word and sound doctrine.  Again, this would be a “free-will” offering rather than a tithe.

I Timothy:17-18 says: 17 Let the elders who perform the duties of their office well be considered doubly worthy of honor [and of adequate [a]financial support], especially those who labor faithfully in preaching and teaching. “For the Scripture says, You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain, and again, The laborer is worthy of his hire.”

Point of interest:  Paul himself largely supported himself with his own hands…this was of his own choosing.  Acts 20:28, 33–35

In summary, let me make it perfectly clear that I am not saying that if you are tithing you should stop…giving a tenth is a good guideline to follow as part of our relationship with the Lord and to support His work in this earth; however, we should recognize that New Testament giving is as high above the OT form of giving as loving our neighbor is above all the OT rules concerning how we are to treat one another.  In other words, instead of labeling our giving to the church as tithing, it would be more in line (I think) with NT revelation to label our contributions as “free will” offerings for the assembly or ministry.  Our giving should always be motivated by love (from the heart) rather than by the “necessity” of obeying the letter of the law in giving a pre-determined amount.  (Note:  If giving is a necessity or legal requirement then we are no longer following 2 Cor 9:7). 

I Cor 16:2 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. 

Note there is no mention of a tenth, Paul in a sense leaves the door open for giving any percentage of what God has blessed you with during the week...!

So if a preacher ever tells you that you are cursed with a curse if you don't tithe...ask him to show you where that is stated in the New Testament (Covenant)…and also gently remind him that Jesus was made a curse for us (Gal 3:13) so we could be delivered from the bondage of the law and experience the abundance of His mercy and grace.  Let us know what kind of response you get. 

 Some supporting quotes:

 Hasting’s Dictionary of the Apostolic Church states,

"It is admitted universally that the payment of tithes or the tenths of possessions, for sacred purposes did not find a place within the Christian Church during the age covered by the apostles and their immediate successors."

Likewise the Encyclopedia Britannica records, "The Christian Church depended at first on voluntary gifts from its members." And the Americana says: "It [tithing] was not practiced in the early Christian Church."

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXMylPcsAdo

 

 

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