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Monday, May 5, 2014

54. Why I Don't Believe Christians Should Tithe - Part 1

When I tell people that I don’t believe Christians should tithe, I’m often met with shocked and sometimes horrified expressions. Within the Evangelical world, it seems that tithing is equated with spiritual maturity. Not tithing is often presented as “robbing God”. Tithing is generally understood as returning 10% of one’s income back to God or God’s work, i.e. the local church. Many Christian leaders support tithing using the following verses: (For reference when I say the term “Believers” I mean Christians and use the terms interchangeably.)

1. Abraham, Melchizedek, and Jacob (Gen. 14:17-20, Genesis 28:20-22)

1a. Wait what about Abraham and Melchizedek?
This is a common example used to try to argue that the tithe is “pre-law” given to Moses and applies to Christians today. For the first 13 chapters of Genesis there is no mention of the tithe. That is until Abraham and Melchizedek’s story in the Bible. There is no record of Adam, Abel, Cain, Job, or any of Abraham’s predecessors tithing.  Abraham in Gen. 14:17-20 gave a thanksgiving offering to God of what he plundered on behalf of the people who had been miraculously rescued.  In other words Abraham gave away 10% of other people’s captured goods. From the passage we can see Abraham didn’t tithe on what he already owned but on the spoils of war. 

Of note:

A) Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek was a free will act without any request on God’s part that he should do it.

B) The tithe to Melchizidek wasn’t brought into a storehouse or sanctuary.

C) Abraham was 80 years old when he tithed and there is no record of him tithing ever again.  

D) Abraham wasn’t given any promise of blessing for his tithe to Melchizedek.

1b. What about Jacob?
Tithing too was not a conditional act as referenced in Genesis 28:20-22. Jacob made a vow to God for safe passage, food, and clothing. Notice the term “If God will be with me… then” Jacob uses in the passage. It’s an “if… then” proposition. Of note I don’t believe Jacob ever tithed before or after this occurrence.

As far as Hebrews 7 I don’t know that this passage is pointing to tithing for the Believer.  However, it does point to Abraham’s generosity towards Melchizedek. And subsequently our generosity in giving as Believers. This passage more importantly points to Christ who is our High Priest.

The tithe, different from what is mentioned in Genesis 14, Genesis 28, and Hebrews 7, was given as instruction (command) to Israel and was from what a person earned: See Lev. 27:30; Deut. 14:22-23,28; 2 Chron.31:5-6  

2. Tithing was Given to Israel for the Purpose of Providing for the Temple and Levites, Not to the Church (Numbers 18:21-24, Lev. 27:30-32, Deut. 14:22-23, 2 Chron. 31:5-6, 1 Cor. 10:32)

Numbers 18:21-24  shows that the tithe was given by the Lord to the Levites, a tribe of Israel. The Levites served God and were not expected to work the land. The tithe was a tax if you will for the nation of Israel to support the Temple (precursor was the tent) and the workers of the Temple. In Lev. 27:30-32  the Jews were told to give a tithe to the Lord according to Levitical law. In Deut. 14:22-23 the tithe was given as instruction to Israel (Jews) based on what the land yielded (their earnings). Particularly the wine, grain, oil, and flocks. In 2 Chron. 31:4-6  the people of Israel gave in abundance to the Levites (Temple Priests) of the first fruits of grain, wine, oil, honey, the produce of the field, and their flocks.

The OT Law required multiple tithes from Israel as shown for example in Deuteronomy 12:5-6 

But you shall seek the place that the Lord your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there. There you shall go, and there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, your vow offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock.

So the three tithes were: 1) one for the Levites and Temple paid yearly, (see Deut. 14:22-27)) 2) another one for the use of the feasts paid yearly (see Deut. 16:16, Deut. 12:6-8)  and 3) one for the poor of the land to be paid every 3 years (as well as orphans, widows, and foreigners (see Deut. 14:28-29).

This would result on average to a 23.3 percent tithe of seed and flocks from
one’s annual produce from the landSo if we wanted to follow tithing as Believers we would need to follow this set of rules and it would only apply to land owners. 

In Antiquities of the Jews, we find the following statement summarizing and paraphrasing God's commandments given through Moses: "Let there be taken out of your fruits a tenth, besides that which you have allotted to give to the priests and Levites . This you may indeed sell in the country, but it is to be used in those feasts and sacrifices that are to be celebrated in the holy city: for it is fit that you should enjoy those fruits of the earth which God gives you to possess" (Book 4, chapter 4, section 8, emphasis added).

We are told in 1 Cor. 10:32 that there are Jews, Gentiles, and the Church.  The law of the tithe was given exclusively to the Jewish people as observed in the passages above. Of note no Gentiles were given the law of the tithe. Also of note the Church was not given the law of the tithe either. The Jews are those who descended from Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the twelve tribes of Israel. 

Since this post has become longer than I expected I’ve decided to divide it into several parts. This is part 1 of at least 3. Other points coming up in later posts:

Click for Part 2
3. Malachi 3:9-10 – The Nation of Israel was robbing God and not providing for the Levites
4. Matthew 23 – Woes to Scribes and Pharisees (Specifically Jews)

Click for Part 3 The Bible also has a lot to say about giving:
5. We are not under the Law, but under Grace
6. 2 Cor. 9:7 and Matt. 6:3 Believers Give Joyfully and Secretly
7. Eternal Rewards and Who to Give to?

I’d like to say too that I do believe there is a clear command in Scripture to give joyfully to God’s work (which is primarily the local Church) as people are led by God and are able – whether that’s 1%, 10%, 15%, or more.

I understand that there are differing viewpoints on this topic. In my extensive study of Scripture on this topic, these are my conclusions. I am open to feedback and know that I still have much to learn. I think we should be Bereans, searching the Scriptures for ourselves instead of blindly accepting what other people teach. That said, this is not a salvation issue, and I can agree to disagree if someone sees it differently.


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