New Testiment Believers and Tithing
- If a Christian does not tithe (i.e., give 10% of their) wage can a pastor rightly say that he/she
is robbing God as stated in Malichi 3:9?
Could an argument for tithing also be established using Hebrews 7:1-2? In other words, it
appears that Melchizedek is establishing a pattern of 10% for New Testament believers.
Thank you for your feedback,
- <profrobertsolis@...> wrote:
If a Christian does not tithe (i.e., give 10% of their) wage can a
pastor rightly say that he/she is robbing God as stated in Malichi 3:9?
Here is one take on the subject that I found fairly insightful. I'd
be interested in hearing other's reactions to it. It is taken from
Is Tithing For Christians?
by Steve Gregg
It is commonly taught in churches that Christians should tithe (a word
meaning the giving of "a tenth" of their income) to their local
church. Christians are sometimes told that they owe the first ten
percent of their income to the church where they attend, and that any
giving to other needy persons or ministries falls into a separate
category called "offerings" and should be given only after the first
tenth has been given to the church. Preachers sometimes speak as if
the Bible actually teaches such a thing, although the Bible nowhere
mentions what we today call a "local church," and the New Testament
never applies any duty of tithing to Christians.
Tithing was commanded to the children of Israel for the support of
the Levites (Num.18:21). The Levites, who were consecrated to
full-time ministry and could not be profitably employed, would enjoy a
standard of living that approximated or was slightly higher than the
national average. The Levites, in turn, contributed a tenth of their
income to the priests for their support (Num.18:26-28). The system
was designed to free-up a large number of men to minister in
things of the tabernacle/temple and to teach the law to the people.
The fraction "a tenth" was not arbitrary, but corresponded to the
needs of the number of full-time ministers requiring support.
Ever since God abolished the temple and the Levitical priesthood,
there remains no obvious reason why the tithe should continue to
define a Christian's measure of giving to God. The church generally
does not release one full-time minister for every ten families (though
this ratio would not be excessive), so there is no biblical or logical
reason why the same percentage of the Christian's income should be
devoted to the church's coffers as was required of the Israelites in
their support of the temple clergy. This is, no doubt, why neither
Jesus nor the apostles ever so much as suggested this duty to the
disciples. The tithe was for the support of the ritual system of
Israel. These ceremonial aspects of the Law were done away with in
the coming of a better covenant.
Sometimes it is argued that tithing did not "go out with the Law"
for the simple reason that it was practiced prior to the giving of the
Law, and has, therefore, a validity of its own independent of the Law.
The total evidence that tithing was practiced before the time of
Moses consists of two passages in Genesis. In Genesis 14:20, Abraham
gave a tenth of the spoils of his recent conquest against Chedolaomer
to the priest Melchisedek. Also, in Genesis 28:20-22, Jacob, awaking
from his famous dream, vowed to give God a tenth of whatever
prosperity God might give him in the time of his absence from Canaan.
Do these passages teach or even hint that godly individuals regularly
devoted ten percent of their wealth to God? Two isolated cases cannot
establish such a pattern, since we never read of Abel, Enoch, Noah,
Isaac, Judah or Joseph observing any such practice. Nor do we have
record of Abraham or Jacob ever doing so on occasions other than these
two recorded cases. We have no reason to believe that Abraham tithed
regularly.Therefore, none can establish from Scripture that tithing
was a recognized or mandated practice prior to the time of Moses.
Furthermore, even if we did have a biblical basis for such a teaching,
it does not follow that tithing continues as a duty into the New
Covenant. Remember, circumcision and animal sacrifices (both
commanded in the Law of Moses) were definitely regular practices prior
to the giving of the Law, but this does not provide an argument for
their continuance after the time of Christ.
Tithing is mentioned in the New Testament in three connections.
Hebrews 7 simply recounts the story of Abraham and Melchisedek,
without reference to any duty in this matter accruing to others. The
Gospels record the saying of Christ that the scribes and Pharisees
meticulously paid their tithes, while neglecting "weightier maters of
the law" (Matt.23:23/Luke 11:42). Jesus states that they should have
done both (i.e. paid tithes and observed the weightier matters), but
this only states what was required of the Pharisees as men living
under the Old Testament law, and tells us nothing of any ongoing duty
for Christian disciples. Finally, we have the self-congratulating
"prayer" of a Pharisee in a parable (Luke 18:12), who boasts of paying
tithes of all that he possesses, but the parable does not go on to
make this man a model for Christians to emulate.
It is not surprising that advocates of tithing do not make much
use of these New Testament verses. The preaching usually centers upon
the classic Old Testament rebuke of those who neglected to "bring all
of the tithes into the storehouse" (Mal.3:10). The argument goes
something like this:
"The storehouse is where you go to get your food. Spiritually, you get
your feeding from your local church. Therefore, God commands you to
give ten percent of your income to the church of which you are a
member. Anything over that amount that you give is not your tithe, but
One can easily speculate as to the motivation churches might have
for teaching along this line. The only thing wrong with the above
argument is that there is not one legitimate scriptural point
contained in it. First, the "storehouse" was not where the Jews went
to get their food. The storehouse refers to the storage rooms in the
Jerusalem temple (Neh.10:38) where food was stored for the priests.
They ate it there, and any surplus was given to the poor (Deut.26:12),
but the idea was not that of a private pantry from which the tithing
worshipper provided for his own sustenance. Further, it is not a
given that every Christian gets his primary spiritual feeding from his
local church. It is the very negligence of such feeding by the
churches that has led to the proliferation on non-ecclesiastical
ministries (sometimes called parachurch ) to make up for this
deficiency. Finally, nothing in the passage is addressed to New
Testament believers. The Christian's standards for giving are defined
in entirely different terms.
Those terms are found in the teaching of Christ, that one who
would follow Christ must forsake "all that he has" (Luke 14:33/ cf.
Matt.13:44-46). The ceremonial law served as a foreshadowing of the
Christian revelation. The latter teaches that all of God's people,
having been "bought with a price," are not their own, but are owned
lock, stock and barrel by Jesus Christ (1 Cor.6:19-20). All of the
believer's time and all of his possessions belong to Godâ"a fact
foreshadowed in ceremonial law by the requirement of giving Him a
representative token of each (one day of his week, and one tenth of
In place of "tithing" the New Testament teaches "stewardship"
(Luke 12:42; 16:1ff; 19:12-13/ Matt.25:14/ Titus 1:7). The Christian
is a "steward", or "manager," of somebody else's (God's) possessions.
He is not in a partnership with God in which God holds 10 shares and
he holds 90. In coming to Christ, the repentant sinner surrenders
everything to God, and claims ownership of nothing (Acts 4:32). From
the moment of his conversion, the believer becomes responsible to
manage every asset (monetary or otherwise) in the interests of his
Master's profit. Those seeking to reserve a share of their lives for
themselves need not apply (Luke 9:23).
What, then, is the steward's responsibility? He must discharge
his trust in exactly the manner that his Master would do if He were in
His steward's shoes. What would God spend His money on? Well, the
Scriptures give us all the guidance we need on this matter. Throughout
Scripture, God expresses His concern for the plight of the helpless
poor and the support of those who minister the Word of God. A timely
gift to the poor is a gift to God Himself (Prov.19:17/Matt.25:37-40),
and is the prescribed method of depositing treasures in heaven (Mark
10:21/Luke 12:33). Giving to the needy is merely an expression of the
mandate to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Luke 10:27-37).
The support of the Kingdom's ministers is similarly an expression
of our duty to love God, to seek first the Kingdom of God (Matt.6:33).
These ministers include those who teach the Word of God (as the
Levites were to doâ"Gal.6:6/1 Cor.9:11/1 Tim.5:17-18). This would
include the pastor of one's church (if he teaches God's Word) as well
as others from whom one receives spiritual direction and nourishment.
It also would include traveling ministers and missionaries (Luke
8:2-3/Phil.4:16-18/3 John 5-8). There is such a variety of
ministryâ"some more- and some less-needy, and some more-, some
less-worthy of supportâ"that a conscientious steward will do a bit of
prayerful research before committing the Master's funds to a given
appeal for assistance. In the end, the discharge of one's stewardship
requires a great deal of prayer and leading of the Holy Spirit. It is
nothing like such a simple matter as writing a check to the local
assembly (which might be looking to replace the carpeting for the
third time this decade) for a tenth of one's paycheck.
We must also acknowledge that God would provide for the needs of
His servants and their families. Therefore, a certain amount of our
income must be devoted to the feeding, housing and clothing of our
families (1 Tim.5:8). Nor is there any forbidding of a few things for
enjoyment alone (1 Tim.6:17). How many such things? That is between
the steward and his Master, and is not for another to judge
(Rom.14:4). However, we must be on our guard against our own
pervasive tendency to judge our own actions (and expenditures) more
favorably than the facts would suggest. In eternity, our rejoicing
will be proportionate to our self-denial in this life and our
generosity to the poor and to the work of God.
In the century following the apostolic age, the Christians
understood that tithing had been replaced by full surrender to God. In
Against Heresies, Irenaeus wrote, "[The Old Testament saints] offered
their tithes; but those who have received liberty set apart everything
they have for the Lord's use, cheerfully and freely giving them, not
as small things in hope of greater, but like that poor widow, who put
her whole livelihood into the treasury of God." The Didache (early
second century) certainly has Scripture on its side when it counsels,
"Do not hesitate to give, and do not give with a bad grace; for you
will discover who He is that repays you. . .Do not turn your back on
the needy, but share everything with your brother and call nothing
- WOW Daniel,
You provide an incredibly well thought out answer to
the issue. I am not entirely sure that I agree with
you regarding the Hebrew concept of tything.
Honestly, my understanding was a little different, but
honestly, the scripture is not real clear on a lot of
points in either direction and I can say that many
perceptions could be said to be scripturally sound.
Yours is as good as any.
I do not believe that either the Christian or Hebrew
Scriptures make a crystal clear definition of tything.
Certainly, neither are anywhere as plain as my old
Pastor would have one believe. The concept, at least
as currently practiced and expounded, is one of those
things that evolved more from wishful thinking on the
part of ministers and clergy than from the word of
I have done a fair amount of reading and
soul-searching on the issue, mostly from the Hebrew
Scriptures (of course), and I must say that I am more
confused on the issue than enlightened. I can only
say that, from the reading I have done on the subject,
I think your views are as good as any and probably
better than most.
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