This will probably be a very controversial article on “Is Tithing a Biblical Requirement Today” and because of the extensive Biblical research involved, it will be posted in 15 Parts. Although controversial, the Bible tells us to, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15). “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32).
Over the years, every church that I have visited sets aside a time to collect “tithes and offerings.” In addition to tithes and offerings, some pastors ask, or should I say “beg for” “sacrificial gifts” extra money above and beyond tithes and offerings for some “church initiative or interest.” According to the message that pastors promote, the tithe is one-tenth of the Christian’s income; some say gross; others say net. Most pastors insist that the tithe should be given as “first fruits,” off the top of one’s paycheck to one’s local church and its use should be “unspecified.” The offering, on the other hand, is a “freewill” gift, the amount being determined by, rather than imposed on, the Christian, in addition to the tithe.
The Scripture most quoted by pastors, evangelists and clergy persons to justify the tithe is Malachi 3:8-12. The clergy might also warn the congregation about the dangers of robbing God of His tenth of their income, which can result in a curse. They might also point out that this is the only occasion in the Bible where God invites His people to test Him and will probably assure the people that they cannot out-give God: if they are obedient to give their tithes and offerings to God, He will shower them with blessings beyond their ability to contain them. Let me say at the onset that there is nothing wrong with paying tithes to the local church. For some, it may be a convenient way to set aside a certain amount to give to the church on a regular basis. The question, however, is tithing a Biblical requirement today?
Probably most, if not all, church people reading this posting can relate to what I am writing. I suspect that a majority of Christians willingly accept the practice of tithing because they have been taught that it is a biblical requirement. Many Christians rarely, if ever, hear a contrary view, and many Bible passages can be cited in seemingly support of tithing. For example, the New Testament (e.g., 2 Cor. 8–9) contains many examples concerning the importance of Christians giving financially to God’s work. In fact, Paul instructed the Corinthians, “On the first day of every week let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come” (1 Corinthians 16:2). And, as previously noted, the practice of tithing is well established in the Old Testament. However, if, according to what pastors tell us, tithing was so important that to do it, we would be blessed, but to not do it, we would be cursed, why didn’t Jesus or any of the disciples teach on it? Jesus mentions tithing only three (3) times in the gospels; Luke 11:42; Luke 18:12; and Mathew 23:23, all three occasions were in the form of a reprimand to the attitude of the Pharisees about tithing. Remember, Jesus as well as the Pharisees, were still under the Law of Moses because grace had not yet been accomplished. Could it be that the prevalent teachings on New Testament tithing may run counter to the New Testament’s teaching about giving?
Before considering the New Testament teachings, it may be helpful to look at tithing from a historical perspective. We all know and probably accept the fact that tithing was taught and practiced in Old Testament times, but to justify tithing for today, many Christians are reminded by pastors about the statement in Malachi 3:10. “Will a man rob God?” Based on my research, the teaching of this verse may very well be “out of context” to justify a requirement for tithing. This verse in Malachi certainly means what it says. Someone was defrauding God of tithes and offerings, but who does God blame for this act?
During the research of this controversial subject, I learned some interesting truths about “tithing.”
Abraham never tithed on his own personal property or livestock.
Genesis. 14:20, “And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he [Abram] gave him [Melchizedek] tithes of all [all the goods of war.”
We read this same event in the book of Hebrews:
Hebrews 7:1-10, “For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of God Most High, who meets with Abraham returning from the combat with the kings and blesses him, to whom Abraham parts a tithe also, from all…Now, behold how eminent this one is to whom the patriarch Abraham gives a tithe also of the best of the booty. And, indeed, those of the sons of Levi who obtain the priestly office have a direction to take tithes from the people according to the law…And here, indeed, dying men are obtaining tithes…And so, to say, through Abraham, Levi also, who is obtaining the tithes, has been tithed, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek meets with him.”
The first mention of tithing in the Bible occurred when Abram (later changed to Abraham) gives to Melchizedek, a priest of God who was also the king of Salem, a tithe of the best of the booty taken in war. Note that this was not wheat, corn, wine, oil, or cattle from Abram’s personal possessions, but rather booty taken from conquered nations. There is no evidence that Abraham ever tithed on his own person possessions. Although Abraham gave Melchizedek a tithe of the booty of war, he told the king of Sodom that he would take none of it for himself.
It could be argued that Abraham’s tithing of the spoils of war predated the Law of Moses, and therefore tithing is still binding on Christians because Abraham predated the Law of Moses. Abraham went to war on behalf of Sodom to rescue his nephew, Lot (Genesis 14:14-16) and he brought back all the goods belonging to Sodom. He then gave 10% of these spoils of war to Melchizedek, and allowed Sodom to keep 90%, while he himself kept nothing for himself. I don’t believe that any “reasonable” member of the clergy could ever equate this one and only instance as Biblical proof that Christians should give 10% of their annual salaries, not spoils of war, forever.
PART II TOMORROW
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