Tithing vs. Grace Part 1
Pastor’s Opinion About Tithing And The Church
by Pastor Tony Butler
This paper is intended to set people free from the false or ignorant teachings of men. If you have ever been told: “You are out of the will of God if you don’t tithe.” or “You are robbing God if you don’t tithe.”, or worse yet, “You are cursed if you don’t tithe.” then this study is for you. If you wonder about tithing the net or the gross of your income then this study is for you. If you feel guilty in any way because you don’t meet the church’s giving requirements then this study is for you. In this study you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.
I want to preface my remarks in this paper by saying that the majority of preachers that teach tithing are well intentioned people. They aren't bad, they are just wrong. Most of them falsely believe if tithing isn’t preached then the bills won’t be paid, which isn’t true at all.
The people that preach and teach such ideas are successful only because of the ignorance of God’s people. God put His Word in our hands and expects us to search and rightly divide the scriptures daily to find out whether or not what we are being told is true. I encourage you to do the same with what I am writing.
Contained in this study are two primary types of giving taught in the bible, namely, “Law Giving” and “Grace Giving”. The first was for Israel and the latter is for the church. It is very important that we rightly divide the scripture so the laws of tithing given to Israel aren’t ascribed to the church.
Old Testament Tithing
The Historical Tithe
As you study the Old Testament you will discover that there are two examples of individuals tithing before God gave the Law to Israel at Mt. Sinai. We will refer to them as unique “Historical Tithes” because they predate the Mosaic Law. What sets apart the Historical Tithe from the Mosaic Law tithe is simply the fact that the Historical Tithe was voluntary with no binding commands attached to it. The Law Tithe given by Moses was mandated by God and was binding on the whole nation of Israel.
The Two Examples Of The Historical Tithe
Context is everything so it is important to read Genesis 14:1-20 to get the background for an understanding of the first mention of a historical tithe.
The first OT example of the historical tithe is Abram (who would be known later as Abraham) who faced a crisis. A war broke out between a four king coalition and a five king coalition that lived in the area around what we know today as the Dead Sea in Israel. The four king coalition was victorious over the five king coalition and looted the possessions of their people and took many captives. Lot, the nephew of Moses who lived in one of the conquered cities called Sodom was taken captive. (Gen. 14:1-12)
A man who had escaped captivity came and told Abraham that his nephew had been taken. Abraham then pursued the army of the four king coalition with three hundred and eighteen men. They engaged the enemy and were victorious, resulting in the liberation of Lot and all the captives and possessions which the four king coalition had taken from the other five defeated kings. (Gen. 14:13-16)
In celebration of Abrahams victory (with he return of all the people taken captive and all the goods that had been taken) two kings came out to meet Abraham. One was Melchizedek, the righteous King of Salem (the ancient name of Jerusalem) who was also a priest of the Most High God and the other was the King of Sodom, a man of wickedness.
Melchizedek blessed Abraham. In return Abraham gave one tenth of all the goods that he had taken from the enemy by conquest to Melchizedek. There was no command for Abraham to do this. It was strictly voluntary. The king of Sodom then offered Abraham to keep all of the goods he had retrieved in his conquest of the four kings, but Abraham refused to keep any of them and gave it all back except for the little bit of provisions his men had eaten on the journey back from the battle.
Jacob is the second example of the historical tithe in the Old testament. It is found in Gen. 28:10-22. The context is God re-affirming with Jacob the covenant He made with Abraham and Isaac. After having a divine dream in Bethel, Jacob pledges that he would give God 10% of everything God gave him in the future.
As with Abraham, there is no command for Jacob to do this. His statements flow from a grateful and worshiping heart. It is purely voluntary. Again, I want to say clearly, “If a person wants to give 10% of what they have to God voluntarily and not out of legal duty, it is perfectly acceptable. Giving to the glory of God is good giving whether it is 3%, 10% or 90%.
Let the Sermons Begin
The biblical narratives above are used constantly by preachers to promote tithing to Christians. Especially the narrative of Abraham who is the father of all who believe (Rom. 4:16; Gal. 3:7). Abraham tithed to Melchizedek who is an OT type/picture of Christ as seen in Hebrews seven. Many pastors teach it is only natural that we Christians (the children of Abraham through faith in Christ) should follow our spiritual daddy (Abraham) and do likewise. They love to quote the book of Hebrews to prove NT tithing because Jesus is our Great High Priest after the order of Melchizedek and we should tithe to Him as Abraham did the Earthly Melchizedek. (Read Hebrews seven)
However, preachers who teach tithing don't mention that tithing isn’t the emphasis or the point that is being made in the Book of Hebrews. The whole mentioning of the Genesis account in Hebrews chapter seven was intended to demonstrate the superiority of Christ and His priesthood over the priests and priesthood of the Levitical priesthood. To use this portion of scripture to prove tithing is hermeneutics (the science of interpretation) at it's worse.
There are some very important things one should notice before accepts tithing as a New Covenant teaching because of the Abraham’s example:
1. Abraham and Melchizedek both lived more than four hundred years before the Law was ever given to Moses.
2. The tithe was completely voluntary on Abraham’s part.
3. At no time was any command given to Abraham by God or any other authority to tithe.
4. At no time did Melchizedek in any way suggest or solicit a tithe.
5. Abraham didn’t give one dime of his own money to Melchizedek.
6. Abraham only gave 10% of the goods that he had captured from the enemy.
7. Abraham never tithed to Melchizedek again. It was a one time event.
8. The purpose of Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek is explained in Hebrews chapter seven showing Melchizedek’s superiority over Abraham and Levi who was still in Abraham's loins.
9. Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek is totally unrelated to Israel’s tithe under the Mosaic Law.
10. Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek has no bearing at all on New testament giving as a doctrine.
11. The Christian should not tithe just because Abraham tithed. Abraham has never been used as an example by God to show Christians how to give financially.
12. For pastors to impose tithing upon the Church because Abraham tithed to Melchizedek shows total ignorance or a total disregard as to why Abraham tithed to Melchizedek.
13. The historical mention of this tithe can be applied to a believer’s own heart as a voluntary basis of giving but never as a binding legal decree as coming from God.
The Law Tithe
1. Tithing Was Given To Israel Alone
What we will call the “Law Tithe” never took place until more than four hundred years after Abraham and Melchizedek met. The Law was given to Israel alone by God at Mt. Sinai after He delivered them from the bondage of Egypt under the leadership of Moses. To prove this I will list several references to show the unique relationship of the law to Israel alone: Deut. 4:5-8; 32-36; 9:13-14; 5:15; Ex. 31:16; Acts 15:5-20. (Many more scriptures could be listed but this should suffice)
Any attempt whatsoever to apply the Law or its Tithes to the Church or to any Christian individually is as ridiculous as an English policeman walking up to an Alabama driver and issuing him a ticket in Alabama for driving on the wrong side of the road (The English drive on the left side of the road). No where will one find a driving law in England that applies Alabama or anyone who lives in the U.S.. No where will one find a law.command in the New Testament that requires Christians to tithe because of what God said to Israel alone at Mt. Sinai.
2. Tithing Was A Theocratical Tax on all Twelve tribes
There are some unique things concerning Israel and tithing you should know and understand before you accept that tithing is a NT command. Israel was a theocracy. (A nation ruled by God and His laws) Tithing was something God used that was similiar to an income tax for Israel. It was never considered any kind of a spiritual giving. It was a demanded duty required of each Israelite.
Eleven of the twelve tribes of Israel were commanded by God to tithe 10% of their vegetables, fruits and livestock to the tribe of Levi.(Christians, have fun trying to find the tribe of Levi and better yet if you deliver those things to your pastor see what the he does. Animals don’t sit the collection plate well. The tithe in Israel wasn’t a monetary tithe.
The Levites were the priestly tribe of Israel and received tithes from the other eleven tribes. However, the tribe of Levi also had to tithe 10% of what they received from the other eleven tribes of Israel. Their tithe went to support of the priests serving at the temple in Jerusalem. There was a storehouse where the tithes were kept so the assigned priests would have food during the time of their responsibility to serve at the temple.
Throughout each year groups of levitical priests were assigned at a particular time to minister the things of God at the temple in Jerusalem. The temple was the place where God dwelled among His people. The priests had the responsibility to care for all the temple furniture, all the temple instruments used in sacrifices and to oversee the slaying of thousands of animals as well as offering up all kinds of special offerings to God. It was no light or easy task.
3. Mosaic Tithing Was More Than 10% - The Mosaic Law demanded three tithes, not one.
· 10% of their food and livestock for supply of the Levites who ministered at the temple. - See Numbers 18:21,24
· 10% of their food and livestock for the supply needed for the feasts and sacrifices - See Deut. 12:17-18; 14:22-24 Leviticus 27:30-33
· 10% of their food and livstock at the end of every third year to take care of Israel’s poor people - See Deut. 14:28-29
If pastors are going to use the OT Law to teach tithing as a duty of every christian, then they need to be honest with their congregations and teach them that every year they are to give 20% and every third year 30%.
4. The Mother Of All Tithing Passages used By Pastors - Malachi 3:7-12
This passage is why many preachers will tell their congregations they are robbing God, lacking blessing and some will even declare non-tithers are cursed. Oh the accusations, guilt and shame! What manipulation and condemnation has been used to prey on the ignorant! Perhaps you that are reading this have had heard these kinds of things spoken by pastors.(Note – This isn’t to condemn pastors. Most of them are just ignorant and are parroting what they have always heard but have never really studied tithing out honestly for themselves.)
The Book of Malachi was written about 400 B.C.. A primary purpose of the book was to indict Israel and the Levitical priests for their many sins and to call them to repentance in Malachi’s day. It had nothing to do with NT believers. At that time the church didn’t exist. Anyone who slightly meditates on context, history, and scriptural statements made in Malachi will understand this is a rebuke against Israel alone.
Only Israel as a people came into covenant with God at Mt. Sinai to obey all His 613 commands. They were obligated by oath to tithe. To use scare tactics, accusations, guilt, condemnation and shame to promote tithing in the New Testament is false and foolish. May God’s people be set free from such verbal and mental abuse.
I invite you to read Malachi 3:7-12 and use some common sense while asking the following:
Who are those being asked to return to God in repentance? (Israel)
Who are the culprits God is addressing? (The people of Israel and the priests)
What was their crime and the result? (Robbing God and being cursed and devoured)
Where were the priests to put their tithes? (In the storehouse)
What is a storehouse? (A place in the temple area to store food)
Where was the temple and storehouse? ( Jerusalem)
What would be the result of repentance and obedience? (National prosperity and blessing)
The principle of tithing under the Mosaic Law was never given to the church. No one has any right to apply what is plainly stated to Israel and force it on the church. It is like trying to put square pegs through round holes. Malachi is rebuking backslidden Israel alone for disobeying their covenantal duty of tithing. God doesn’t indict Christians of robbing Him in Malachi. God doesn’t bless Christians or curse Christians on the basis of tithing in Malachi much less send a devourer because they fail to tithe. Remember, the people tithed their fruits/vegetables and their livestock. Most Christians don’t have livestock to tithe. Never do pastors ask christians to tithe their vegetables and fruit.
The church is a universal body of believers from all over the world who have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. They are not a particular nation of people as was Israel. They can’t claim national blessing and protection merely because they tithe. Malachi teaches that Israel alone as a nation will be prospered/protected for obedience to the Mosaic Law.
5. Another Scripture Pastors Use To Teach Tithing To The Church (Matt. 23:23)
In this passage many pastors will say that Jesus encouraged the Pharisees to tithe so we also should tithe as Christians. To use this kind of logic we can then say that if a leper goes to the elders for healing as prescribed in James five and is healed, he should then go sacrifice an animal to God. After all, after healing a leper, Jesus told the leper he should go to the priest and offer up to God the prescribed offerings (Mark 1:44 - Two birds, and cedar-wood, and scarlet, and hyssop; and after eight days, two he-lambs, without blemish, and one ewe-lamb, and fine flour, and oil, Lev 14:4, Lev 14:10.) Every pastor knows those kinds of offerings are completely relegated to the OT and would never be recommended as a practice in the church. And yet, this is exactly what they do with the Mosaic tithe.
Once again, context is everything. In the majority of the gospel narratives (Mathew, Mark, Luke and John) Jesus is still in His earthly ministry and hasn’t yet been crucified. By scripture we know that Jesus came to the lost house of Israel. Jesus was born under the law of Moses and and spoke to his people, the Jews, who were still under the law (Gal. 4:4). His words about tithing in Mathew 23:23 were spoken to self righteous Pharisees and scribes of His day who were still under the Old Covenant and not to the church/Christians who are under the New Covenant.
Since the scribes and Pharisees were Jews ministering under the Mosaic Law, of course they would have been tithers because they were bound to it. They had no part or place in the post resurrected realities relegated to the church. In Matthew, Jesus is rebuking priests and scribes for performing the perfunctory duties of Mosaic the Law but at the same time were neglecting the weightier matters of the Mosaic Law, such as justice and mercy.
Since this passage in Matthew deals only with Jews operating under the Mosaic Law, there is zero reason to put the yoke of the law on any Christian’s back. The church wouldn’t even be created until after the death of Jesus until the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit would be given to Jews and Gentiles.
It is important to rightly divide the scripture so we can properly apply it’s truths to the right people at the right time (II Tim. 2:15). Though Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are found in what we call the New Testament, the majority of what is written in them was still during the time of the Old Mosaic covenant. In actuality, the church begins in Acts chapter two on the day of Pentecost. However, the mystery and the doctrine of the church wasn’t explained until the apostle Paul through divine revelation informed the church through his earthly ministry and epistles. (see http://www.fountainofgrace.us/index.php?page=pauline-theology/)
NEW TESTAMENT GIVING
How Then Should We Give? Grace Giving!
1.The Church Was Never Commanded To Tithe
The only way that the church would be commanded to tithe would be if the church is Israel and Israel is the church which just isn’t biblical. The church is a unique mystery revealed in these last days consisting of Jews and Gentiles who have become one through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and baptized by one Spirit into the Body of Christ (I Cor. 12:13).
The church was given no covenant at Mt. Sinai. Because the Law of Moses was never given to the church there isn’t a single passage of scripture in the NT where any command is given for a Christian to tithe.
If you examine the scriptures comparing teaching on Tithing in the OT versus teaching on Grace Giving in the New Covenant you will discover something amazing. Tithing was very specifically taught as a binding duty on Israel in the following verses: (Lev 27:30-33; Num 18:21-28; Deut 12:5-19, 14:22-29, 26:12-14; Neh 10:34-39) The teaching was clear, concise and binding on the Jews of the OT.
However, any such teaching on tithing is absolutely missing in the NT. The most amazing thing to me is that the Apostle Paul’s teaching on Grace Giving in II Corinthians 8 & 9 contains far more information about spiritual giving than all the OT verses combined that teach tithing.
On top of that there is never the first rebuke, curse, accusation or anything else connected with the failure of payment concerning NT giving. New Covenant giving is always seen as voluntary and is always connected with blessing, grace and the glory of God. In the OT, not to pay tithes was always met with reprimand. (Click here to go to Tithing vs. Grace Part 2)