Does God require Christians to give ten percent of their income to their local church? Did the Apostles bring forward the tithing commands to Israel and use them as the basis for New Testament giving?
My position on tithing is that if you read the specific commands of God regarding the tithes they were given to the nation of Israel for three specific purposes:
- To support the priestly tribe of Israel as it had no inheritance in the land of Israel. (Numbers 18:21-24)
- A forced savings to pay for your family to attend the various festivals commanded by God to the nation of Israel. (Deuteronomy 14:22-27)
- A social safety net to help the poor administered by each town. (Deuteronomy 14:28-29)
3 Reasons I oppose the teaching of mandatory tithing for the New Testament Church
Reason #1 – The tithe to support the Levites is never transferred to the Church
A quick reading of Numbers 18:21-24 reveals that the first tithe – was specifically given to the priestly tribe of Levi because they had no inheritance in the Israelite theocracy established by God. The Israelite theocracy no longer exists and the Levite tribe no longer performs their priestly duties.
The Levitical priesthood and been done away with and replaced (Hebrews 7:12). Christ is now our new high priest (Hebrews 4:14) and we as believers are now priests before God (I Peter 2:5). This tithe assigned by God to the Levites is never reassigned either to local churches or to Pastors or clergy in the New Testament. Without a reassignment of this tithe there is no place for it go and it is therefore part of the law that was done away with in the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:13).
Reason #2 – The requirement to tithe for the festivals expired with the requirement to keep the festivals
We are no longer commanded to keep the Festivals of the Old covenant God made with Israel (Colossians 2:16-17). Therefore, since we are no longer required to keep the festivals of the Old Covenant we are no longer required to set aside a tenth to pay for our family to go to these festivals.
Reason #3 – In the New Testament giving to the poor is converted from an exact percentage to a free will offering
The New Testament certainly commands Christians to give to the poor (Galatians 2:9-10). But the difference is that it converts the giving to the poor from an exact amount, a tenth, to a free will offering (2 Corinthians 9:7). Giving to the poor is never referred to as a tithe or tenth in the New Testament.
Am I against voluntary tithing?
Absolutely Not! If a person freely desires to give 10 percent or more to their local church and they are not neglecting the needs of their family in doing so then God bless them. Nothing forbids us from giving a tenth of our net or gross income to our local churches. What I oppose is the teaching of mandatory tithing for New Testament believers to New Testament churches. There is absolutely no Biblical support for such a position.
Answering the “Melchizedek argument”
A lot of pro-mandatory tithing advocates will use the “Melchizedek argument” once someone shows the them the three points that I just showed above.
Basically, the argument goes something like this. Since Abraham gave a tenth to the priest Melchizedek and now Christ is our new high priest is the order of Melchizedek we as believers should give a tenth to our new high priest Christ – by giving this tenth to our local churches.
Let’s examine the two passages that are cited as proof for this argument.
“18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. 19 And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth:
20 And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.”
Genesis 14:18-20 (KJV)
“For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; 2 To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; 3 Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually…
15 And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, 16 Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. 17 For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. “
Hebrews 7:1-3 & 15-17 (KJV)
Here are some critical questions and answers that debunk the pro-mandatory tithing position arguments based on Christ being in the order of the priesthood of Melchizedek:
- Was Abraham asked by God or Melchizedek to give him a tithe? Answer: NO. It was completely voluntary on his part and more akin to the free will offering structure established by God through the Apostle Paul for the New Testament church.
- In all the talk about tithes being given to Melchizedek and the Levites in Hebrews chapter 7 – doe we ever read that God commands New Testament Christians to give a tithe to their local churches in reference to Christ being a priest in the order of Melchizedek? Answer: NO.
Why did Abraham give a tenth then? Because this was a common custom in ancient times that predated Abraham. People often gave priests and temples a tenth. Again this was a tradition and not commanded by God except for his commands to Israel as a theocracy which we have already explained.
The fact is that pro-tithing advocates have gone “above that which is written” (I Corinthians 4:6) by making connections that do not exist from an honest reading of Hebrews chapter 7 as well as Genesis chapter 14. Therefore “the Melchizedek argument” is a false argument for the support of the teaching of mandatory tithing.
Answering the “robbing God” argument
“Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.”
Malachi 3:8 (KJV)
No discussion of tithing in the Bible would be complete without examining Malachi 3:8. Growing up in Baptist churches I heard sermons on this passage at least once or twice a year and in some churches more than that. The guilt trips that were laid by some of these preachers were just absolutely astounding and the church would see offerings substantially increase for at least the next few months and then another tithing sermon would needed as offerings decreased again.
Whenever we teach on a passage we must always make sure we are look at the entire context.
“6 For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.
7 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?
8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.
10 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.“
Malachi 3:6-10 (KJV)
This passage is written specifically to Israel as a theocracy and in reference to the covenant God made with Israel. Notice in verse 6 we read who this addressed to “ye sons of Jacob” and in verse 9 a reference to the nation of Israel occurs again. God talks about them being under a “curse” and this in direct reference to them breaking the covenant of God by holding back their tithes as he commanded them in the law of Moses. God talks about a curse for them breaking the Covenant:
“15 But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee:“
Deuteronomy 28:15 (KJV)
So no my friends, we as New Testament believers are NOT under a curse if we do not give 10 percent of our income to our local churches. That is a flat out lie and a false teaching. I am not saying that all ministers who teach this are doing this from bad motives, some are genuinely ignorant of what the Scriptures teach and they have been taught this their whole lives. But regardless it is is a false teaching.
Paul’s silence on tithing for the support of ministers speaks volumes
Don’t you find it strange that if God meant for tithes to support local churches (and by extension ministers) as they were used to support the Levites and Priests that Paul would not have tied the two together?
“7 Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?
8 Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?
9 For it is written in the law of Moses, thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?
10 Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope…
14 Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.”
I Corinthians 9:8-10 & 14 (KJV)
In I Corinthians chapter 9 Paul makes a valiant defense of ministers of the Gospel being able to make their living from the Gospel and to receive offerings from churches for their support. He also talks about that he did not always take support if he felt it would be a hindrance to the Gospel, yet he defends the right of ministers to do so. Yet in this entire argument he never once draws any connection between ministers of the Gospel and the Levite Priesthood or tithing. Not once. Sometimes silence speaks volumes and this is one of those occasions.
Tithing was not on money
Also, it is worthwhile to note that tithes were on the produce of your land – not on money. If you owned no land and were simply a laborer in the field or in the mines you were not required to pay tithes because you owned no land which or livestock which produced things.
“30 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. 31 And if a man will at all redeem ought of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof. 32 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.”
Leviticus 27:30-32 (KJV)
The fact is that tithing was not only setup specifically for the nation of Israel as a theocracy as we have previously shown – but also it was setup for an agrarian based economy which is what the world was at that time. It was not designed for the money based society we have today.
God through his foreknowledge knew that the world was moving from an almost completely agrarian based economy to a more diverse economy which would make more use of money.
So for the New Covenant and Church he made two major changes to his requirements for giving.
First God removed any notion of exact percentages for giving – the amount given was now based on the free will decision of the person giving.
Secondly God changed the methodology in which people gave. In times past people tithed from the produce of their lands(crops and livestock) and now they could freely give from any source of income. This perfectly accommodated a money based economy.
History of Tithing in the New Testament Church
There is no proof of New Testament churches requiring tithing or practicing tithing toward their churches before the Catholic church introduced mandatory tithing at the Synod of Maçon in 585 and at the Council of Trent they said that all Catholics who did not give a tithe to the Catholic Church would be excommunicated.
Many Protestants and other separatists opposed the teaching of mandatory tithing to the church as an unbiblical Catholic tradition.
There is an excellent list of famous Christian teachers who have opposed the teaching of tithing here:
Should Christians support their local churches and ministries?
Absolutely we should. The New Testament tells us these principles for New Testament giving:
Give as the Lord lays on your heart to give and freely
“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 Corinthians 9:7 (KJV)
When churches compel and bully their members into giving certain exact amounts like tithes or other amounts they are directly contracting Paul’s teaching here in II Corinthians 9:7 and they are not accepting that with a change of priesthood, came a change of the law regarding giving.
Every believer should examine his finances and let the Lord lay on his heart an amount to give.
God will never tell you to give to the neglect of the needs of your family
It is common to hear Pastors who preach mandatory tithing to say things like “you can never out-give God” and “the first check you should write each week should be to your local church”. The problem with this teaching is that once again it directly contradicts the teaching of the Scriptures. Listen to the words of Christ regarding giving to the Lord’s work:
“9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. 10 For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:
11 But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. 12 And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother;
13 Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.”
Mark 7:9-13 (KJV)
The Jewish leaders were allowing young men to make rash vows where they would vow their entire estate to the temple forgetting they had family members to care for. Yes, God wants us to give to the work of the Lord through various ministries including but not limited to our local churches. But he does not want us to follow the command to give at the expense of another command to provide for our families. Paul references the importance of providing for one’s family:
“4 But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God…8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”
I Timothy 5:4 & 8 (KJV)
The first way we put our faith into practice is NOT by writing out our check to our local church. No my friends, the first way we put our faith into practice is by writing out that grocery check to pay for food for our family!
So, the point is yes, we should give to our local ministries but it is completely false to say we can never give too much to our local ministries because we definitely can. Putting God first is not equivalent to writing your offering check first as so many Preachers and Christian teachers have taught. Putting God first is caring for one’s first obligation and that is the obligation to care for one’s family.
We do not have to feel guilty about enjoying what we have earned
“Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God.”
Ecclesiastes 5:19 (KJV)
“13 And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.”
Ecclesiastes 3:13 (KJV)
What these verses mean in practical terms is this. You do not have to feel guilty for buying a new car, buying a new house or taking your children on vacation. You don’t have to feel guilty for taking your wife on a nice romantic getaway. You don’t have to feel guilty for buying that new television set.
Again, we should give to our local churches and to the poor. No doubt. But we don’t have to feel guilty about enjoying what we earn with our families either.
“17 Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. 18 Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.”
I Timothy 6:17-19 (KJV)
There is no sin in being wealthy. Contrary to false teachings about Christians having to make themselves poor the Bible tells those who are rich to be rich in good deeds toward others. When Christ told the rich man to sell everything he had he was not saying all Christians must get rid of their worldly goods. Instead he was exposing this man’s sin – that he trusted in his wealth and riches. That was his security – not God.
We as believers should be generous in our giving. If God blesses us financially he expects us to bless others with what he has given to us. Again, this is something that we must go to the Lord in prayer about let him lay an amount on our heart to give.
“1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. 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.”
1 Corinthians 16:1-2 (KJV)
The last principle of New Testament giving is that when it comes to supporting our local church and other ministries we should do so in a systematic fashion. Whatever God lays on our heart to give we should give each week as the Lord provides. If we loose our job or have a major financial set back that amount may change and that is ok. But we should give systematically.