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What about Tithing!

aymon de albatrus

"For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." (1Ti 6:10)

"Every man according as he purposes in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loves a cheerful giver." (2Co 9:7)

"Take you from among you an offering to the LORD: whoever is of a willing generous heart, let him bring it, an offering of the LORD; gold, and silver, and brass," (Exo 35:5)

"13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel." (1Co 9:13-14)

A Proverb: If it is a question of money, no one else matters.

Tithing is a very touchy subject; everyone has his own interpretation. From mega-churches that have a form of financial "extortion" requiring giving 10% to that church as a condition of membership. Prospective members must sign off on a contract and are interviewed regarding their lifestyle, including tithing. To those that argue that Jesus taught He came to "fulfil" the Law, which they believe occurred at His crucifixion, and therefore Christians are no longer obligated to pay a minimum amount, but should give only as God specifically directs them to do.

Tithe means the payment of a tenth part (or 10%) of something, usually in connection with one's religion. In both the Hebrew and the Greek, the words mean the payment of a tenth part. In recent times, tough, the word tithing has develop a general meaning of giving something regularly, not necessarily 10%.

The practice of tithe first appeared in (Gen 14:18-20; Heb 7:2) linked to the giving of a tenth of Abraham's possessions to Melchizedek the king of Salem and high priest of God, a figure of Christ. Melchizedek was the king of Salem, and as such had authority over the kingdom that Abraham was passing through. Abraham was a Chaldean, accustomed to the Babylonian tradition of paying the one-tenth tax on the spoils of war. The implication is that Abraham was honouring the pagan tradition of paying taxes on his battle proceeds. This is not inconsistent with the scriptural teaching that we are to honour secular governmental authorities. Jesus had the same policy of paying taxes to Caesar. Thus the one tenth that Abraham paid was not a ‘tithing’ to God but rather a secular taxation, like ours, only that we now pay up to 50% or more.

The idea of paying taxes is to contribute to the services that the Government offers: Roads, Trains, Hospitals, Water, Defence, Police, etc. including the facility of earning a wage by living and taking advantages of the resource that the nation offers to its citizens. Taxes are not an offer to God for the maintenance of a priestly caste as in the Old Testament; this is not required anymore since Jesus is now our High Priest performing this office of intercession in Heaven Himself. (Heb 7:25)

In the Old Testament there were 3 types of tithes

The Levite's tithe, this tithe was entirely devoted to the priestly tribe of Levi who had no land allocated to him and no inheritance among the Israelites. (Num 18:24)

The Festival tithe, to be eaten at a place specified by the Lord in the land of Israel or as in the case of those living far away, in their own towns (Deu 12:18,21). The celebration of this tithe is seen as an event to foster national unity and instil a sense of "brotherhood" among the people of God. (Deu 12:11-12)

The Welfare tithe, this tithe was only implemented once in three years and it was a tenth of the year's increase. It was to be consumed not only by the Levites but also by the aliens, fatherless and widows. (Deu 14:28-29)

In the New Testament there are only two specific references to Tithing (Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42). But these references are not instructions but part of a rebuke to the Pharisees by our Lord Jesus because they were very legalistic when it came to tithing and other legal issues but they did not show the love of God in them by neglecting the more important matters of the law: justice, mercy and faithfulness. In these verses we see: "these ought you to have done, and not to leave the other undone" and many churches interpret this as Jesus endorsing tithes, which He did, but we must remember that when our Lord said that he was still under the OT’s economy with the Ceremonial law in full operation on earth.

What can be gleaned in the NT is that giving is nevertheless strongly recommended based on two principles:

  1. in proportion to the degree that God blesses a person without an obligatory figure being mentioned. "1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do you. 2 On 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." (1Co 16:1-2)

  2. from the heart in terms of free will offerings for Paul commanded us to give as we purpose in our heart. Whether it is a fixed one or variable as we are able to happily give: "Every man according as he purposes in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loves a cheerful giver." (2Co 9:7)

God loves a generous cheerful giver, but hates misers: "I have showed you all things, how that so labouring you ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Act 20:35)

If someone wishes to give tithing (i.e. 10%) of their income, he may do so, we have no objection for scripture says "as he purposes in his heart" but this should be a free choice of individuals, not imposed by the church.

However, some churches even insist that one should give 10% of the Gross. But let us stretch the argument. Engineers have a method to test if a thing holds true in all cases, they stretch the principle to the limit. For example let us assume that the taxation of a certain country amounts to 90% of the gross, then to the believer who pays 10% of the gross nothing is left for him to live on. Thus the principle does not seem valid. In Europe there are countries where when adding up all forms of taxes one pays even up to 60% of his gross income. In this case paying 10% on the Gross is equivalent of paying 25% of the Net.

In the Old Testament tithing consisted in giving to the Levites (and others) 10% of what the earth had produced, not money. (Incidentally when adding all that was required in the OT to be given it could amount even up to 33%). This was necessary for their sustenance for they had no land or other income. These tithes were taken from the produce that actually arrived to market, if some animals died on the way, or some fruit and vegetables were damaged, these did not arrive to market and the Tithe was paid on what actually arrived at the market. In our terms the goods that departed from their home would have been the Gross, and what arrived to market was the Net. Thus in our case, our Gross is diminished to a varying degree by taxation and what we are left for our living is the Net, over which we pay our tithe, as we purpose in our hearts.

We argue then that as a general reference rule, if one is wanted, the 10% should be paid out of our Net income, and this principle does holds true to the extreme.

But the problem in paying "tithes" is not only a legalistic one but also the state of the heart: "See, this only have I found, that God has made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions." (Ecc 7:29) Therefore we argue that churches that impose on its members tithing are not performing under the New Testament practices but are demonstrating a ‘love of money’ that is condemned by Scripture (1Pe 5:2-3; 1Ti 6:10)

Jesus definitely commanded that we have to give to God, not in the sense that God needs anything but as devotion, recognising who He is and a discipline of living for us: "…... Then said he to them, Render therefore to Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s." (Mat 22:21) This giving to be effective has to be "from the heart" and proportionate to the degree that one is blessed and definitely not under "compulsion".

Then there is a practical side to giving, for if a church decides to have full time ministers, these have to be kept DECENTLY by the congregation, i.e. these ministers must receive a sustenance comparable to the well being of the congregation and it stands to reason, how can a pastor give full attention to his flock if he has to worry about the next morsel of bread for his family??? Scripture confirms this as a command of the Lord: "In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel." (1Co 9:14) This also validates that giving is required of believers and giving regularly, otherwise how can the pastor feed his family every day and still look after the flock if worrying if next daily bread will be there for his kids or not? He would have to get a secular job, but then he will not have enough time for the congregation.

For our guidance we have the example of Paul, that even though he claimed for himself the responsibility of the congregation to support him and for all those that labour for the Gospel (1Co 9:13-14) he did all he could not to be a burden to the people by earning through the work of his hands a sustenance in making tents (Act 18:3): "For you remember, brothers, our labour and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God." (1Th 2:9) (Act 20:34)

Of course Paul was a single man and his requirement would be low, whilst a Pastor with wife and kids would have higher needs, therefore the godly command stands: those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

This of course does not justify pastors or televangelist to live in huge mansions or castles with luxurious cars, all supplied by the congregation. Their just support has to be comparable to the standard of living of the congregation they serve, so that their families may live honourable lives without lacking anything, without extravagance. On the other hand, if the members of a congregation keep their pastor and his family on the bread line, they demonstrate little love for their pastor and also show themselves as misers.

There is a difference between "Tithe" and "Giving".

Tithe = is a mechanical compulsory payment as a duty of fixed regular amount.

Giving = is the principle of giving whatever we feel moved to give from our hearts, with joy and without compulsion.

One pays the tithe as demanded, and one gives from the heart with freedom.

It is a fact that when it comes to money most people are rather reticent in separating from their 'treasure', and that is why many churches put people under the burden of "robbing God" (Mal 3:8). This is a manipulation that should not be done. I fear that those churches that impose tithing on their members one day they would have to render an account to the Lord of Grace for their love of money.

It is far better to teach the people that EVERYTHING we own belongs to God, including our souls (1Co 4:7), i.e. not ours, and that it is to be used for God's glory: "Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1Co 10:31) So when we give to the Lord’s work we are simply returning to Him what has always been His. With this truth well planted in mind it is easier to separate from our "Linus’ blanket".

A Biblical promise is that God will reward those who give generously: "Bring you all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in my house, and prove me now herewith, said 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 3:10) One of God’s attributes is that He is Faithful and true to His promises. We can relay on this promise, but we cannot keep God to ransom in saying "I gave, now you give me" for He is Almighty God and Sovereign.

If our motivation to give is that we may receive more, i do not think that God will satisfy our concupiscence. But, believe it or not, there are many churches that use Mal 3:10 as a bait to encourage the people to dish out more money.  It does not look to me a righteous thing to do.

Well one may say "why then God does not give directly to these people, why should I?"   Because God wants us to grow into mature men and to grow out of our miser selves, into the fullness of the man Christ: “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:” (Eph 4:13)

Our attitude on this issue should be like that of John Wesley who asked the Lord to increase him more so that he could give out more. 

Our deduction from reviewing the New Testament scriptures is that although there is clear support for the sharing of material wealth with the ministry, (i.e. those receiving the message should financially reward those involved in preaching the gospel) there is no conclusive proof in the New Testament to support the inclusion of the Old Covenant tithing practice in Christian teaching.

By the amount we give we demonstrate how much we love God and how much we appreciate the sacrifice of Christ on the cross to gain His free salvation to us: "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Luk 12:34)

In Conclusion:

  1. Tithes are demanded whilst Giving is a free action

  2. Tithing was part and parcel of the Ceremonial Law that is not performed in the New Testament, not carried out on earth anymore, but by Christ Himself in Heaven

  3. Nevertheless the principle of supporting those who labour for the Gospel is obviously still required by necessity and confirmed by Paul in the NT

  4. Giving in the NT is governed by two factors: according to what the Lord has blessed you and donate cheerfully, without regrets

  5. The figure of 10% on your net income may be used as an ambit initial figure, but one should aim to give more than that as the Lord increases

  6. The Lord loves a generous giver and hates a miser, this is a true Biblical principle, and we cannot out give God

  7. Giving generously demonstrates the Kingdom of God, proving that we are truly His people (2Co 13:5).