Last updated on October 10th, 2019
I thought I’d switch things up today and figured this might be an interesting topic to discuss. We’ll continue with Romans in my next post discussing chapter 6. I’ve kind of had my own curiosities about tithing growing up, so I thought it would be good to address this and share my conclusions based on the Scripture. Growing up, I was always made to believe from probably watching most televangelists that tithing was something that every follower of Christ had to do. I didn’t necessarily understand why, but I thought when I became an adult, that was something I was going to have to be finanically prepared to do as well. So it was just something I was going to be set on doing as I think my parents did as well, though I never actually asked if the exact amount they were giving in the collection plate was a tenth.
As I began to study the issue of tithing, I discovered many interesting verses that made me change my understanding of tithing as a necessity of the body of Christ. Now as much as this is a common argument, it is factual according to the Scripture, that tithing was instituted as an ordinance of the Law (See Deut 14:22, 2 Chr 31:4-5). It is also true that the act of tithing occurred in parts of Genesis before the institution of the Law, as one could say the same of sacrificing as well, which also came to be instituted as an ordinance of the Law (See Lev 6:24-30). If it’s the suggestion as I’ve seen from some preachers that because tithing was conducted before the law, it’s some kind of long held principle of God that man was always supposed to do, then it would seem you would have to say the same of animal sacrificing as well, because that was something conducted before the Law too.
As I’ll point out later, Scripture seems to show that Jesus became the cover for this act of conduct towards God under the Law. Another thing to consider, were that there were lots of instructions about tithing in the Old Testament. It was never 10% of your monetary income every Sunday as is commonly understood by Christians today. It was a tithing at the end of every three years (Deut 14:28), a tithe of oxen and sheep (2 Chr 31:6), a tithe of corn and new wine (Neh 13:12), and many other concepts of the tithe specifically commanded of the people at that time. So if one must be required to tithe, then this is the way one is supposed to tithe if they believe in following it accurately.
There are other verses on tithing in the Old Testament that are also worth looking at and considering in understanding the tithe, but the key thing here is, none of these instructions involve money, and none of these instructions are instructed to the Body of Christ. Now, let’s move on to the New Testament and see if there are any direct instructions at all for Christians to tithe. There are only four chapters in the entire New Testament where the tithe is mentioned. I would gander this is likely true of most translations of Scripture, but at least for the one I’m using, that’s the case. So significantly less than the number of chapters the tithe is discussed in the Old Testament. Let’s look at these four instances.
Mat 23:23 states, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. Luke 11:42 states, “But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” Essentially these two verses are saying the exact same thing. Jesus is chastising the Pharisees for focusing on the minute details of the law over more virtuous acts of God such as justice, mercy, faithfulness, and love. Now Jesus doesn’t specifically say to these Pharisees don’t tithe, which let’s keep in mind that the Pharisees were a sect of Judaism (again, not the body of Christ), but that they (the Pharisees) were not supposed to neglect the greater virtues of God along with the tithing they (the Pharisees) were doing.
Luke 18:9-14 states, “And He (Jesus) also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Now Jesus was pointing out that one who exalts themselves in their perceived righteousness in works such as fasting and tithing was not going to be justified, and the person who was humble in recognizing their flaws as a sinner would be justified and exalted. This seems to suggest that to choose to fast or to tithe, does not make one better in the eyes of God than one who chooses not to tithe or fast.
Finally, the tithe is mentioned in Hebrews 7, and this is the chapter that seems to point out that Jesus being our new hope has ended the former requirement of tithing in the Old Testament. The whole chapter does a really good job of explaining how the tithe seems to not be an act that the Christians need to perform like the Jews did. I would highly recommend reading all of it, but let me just highlight a key passage that particularly illustrates the point.
Heb 7:4-22 states, “Now observe how great this man was to whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth of the choicest spoils. 5 And those indeed of the sons of Levi who receive the priest’s office have commandment in the Law to collect a tenth from the people, that is, from their brethren, although these are descended from Abraham. 6 But the one whose genealogy is not traced from them collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed the one who had the promises. 7 But without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater. 8 In this case mortal men receive tithes, but in that case one receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives on. 9 And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes, 10 for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.
11 Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? 12 For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also. 13 For the one concerning whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests. 15 And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek, 16 who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life.
17 For it is attested of Him, “You are a priest forever, According to the order of Melchizedek.” 18 For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. 20 And inasmuch as it was not without an oath 21 (for they indeed became priests without an oath, but He with an oath through the One who said to Him “The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind:
‘You are a priest forever.’”
22 Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant.”
Ok, let’s summarize what we read carefully. The author references Genesis where Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils of war. The author then chooses to mention the sons of Levi who obtained the priest office had commandment in the law to collect a tenth from the people. So as we move further, the author asks if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood, which brought the law, what need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and NOT be designated according to the order of Aaron, who was of the Levitical priesthood. Pay attention very closely to this next part. So the author states, when a priesthood is changed, referring to the Levitical Priesthood, of necessity there takes place a CHANGE OF LAW. What specific aspect of the law has been talked about this whole time? The tithe. So these things (the taking place of the change of law) are spoken of the tribe of Judah which our Lord descended from, which Moses spoke nothing of their priests. The author states next that another priest (referring to Jesus), did not become such on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life. Then we see it stated, there’s a setting aside of a former commandment (the tithe) which is weak and useless, and the bringing of a better hope (Jesus), through which we draw near to God. Jesus has become the priest forever, and the curator of a better covenant.
One last thing of note, I see sometimes that preachers suggest that the collection of the saints in 1 Cor 16:1-2 as alluding to the tithe, but looking at the meaning of the Greek word used for collection in that verse, which is logeia, it means money collected for the poor, and mentions no specific tenth amount given whatsoever. Certainly we’re supposed to be very giving as the Body of Christ. In debunking the false teaching of a tithe commanded of the Body of Christ, this is not to debunk giving at all. Everything about Christianity is striving for selfless goodwill to God and selfless goodwill to others. It’s kind of fascinating when you think about logeia meaning money given to the poor, when some churches tend to often use their collection for building bigger buildings and funding other outlets apart from giving to others. Nonetheless, collection is something that is established for the church to do in the New Testament, and there is no tenth of income required of members of the body of Christ to give.
As always, any questions, comments, or thoughts feel free to leave a response for further understanding. Peace to all those who are in Christ.