Exposé on Tithing
By: Deborah Kirby
(Copyright 2011, All rights reserved /Reprinted 2020)
The tithe is a hot button topic within The Church, particularly the American sector. I am not unaware of this point, but I want you to take a deep breath, understanding that my desire is to educate – to get you to evaluate what you do and why you do it.
I'm going to approach this essay in a bullet-point presentation format. Hopefully this will help minimize this complex subject so that it is easier to evaluate.
Understand, it is the misuse of the word tithe that is to be addressed here.
At the core of my being, I wholly support The Gospel's edification of generous giving. The rub is how many churches today misuse an Old Testament ordinance and overlay it on believers in The Church today.
So, let's do a little digging, shall we? (Though I cannot cover everything on this topic in this short essay, it is my prayer that what I do share provokes you to explore the topic for yourself. We must stop the blind acceptance of what we have heard or perhaps what we were taught from an early age. To those who truly desire truth and growth, in-depth study of the Word is a must!)
Let's begin with the point that if one adheres to the precept of the application of the tithe today, does it not stand to reason that ALL aspects of the tithe must be adhered to? Meaning:
Tithes are to be food (NOT money) produced from the physical land of Israel.
Only priests/pastors can enter the church.
The ministers can only receive one percent of the total tithe.
Ministers cannot own land.
The ministers must kill anyone who attempts to worship God directly.
The Levitical tithe had two parts. Both parts were food tithes from inside Israel (or another way to say it: from the physical land of Israel, even though money was present in Genesis). For over 1500 years, the Levitical tithe was never money, nor did it come from outside Israel, nor did it come from man's increase nor his ability. (Take a moment and read that again.) It only came from within Israel based on the increase gathered from what God produced from His holy land of Israel. Tithes were not permitted from Gentiles nor their lands. But as for the two parts: The first was for the support of the Levites. (Lev 27:30, Numbers 18:20-32) The second was for the Lord's feast (Deut 14:22), however every third year this particular part was kept 'at home' to be used to supply food to the poor. To begin your exploration of food as the approved currency by God, I'll list the following: Lev 27:30, 32; Numbers 18: 27-28; Deut 12:17; Deut 14:22-23; Deut 26:12; Neh 10:37; Neh 13: 5. There are others.... see if you can locate them!
According to Numbers 18:20-28, those who received the Levitical tithes were not allowed to own or inherit property. (Can you take a part of the regulation and not take the other parts, and yet still call it valid?)
A tithe (or portion) (note I did not say “the” tithe) was customary by many religions and people groups before it was used in the Levitical Law. War-spoils were routinely tithed to kings/leaders and to gods. Some religious leaders today erroneously attempt to take what Abraham did in Genesis 14, as was customary for the day, and imply a pre-concept to a spiritual tithe worthy to be continued post-Cross.
We know from Galatians 3: 10- 14 that those under the works of the Law were under a curse. Why would anyone support putting another person back under a curse when Christ “redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us?”
We know too that Jesus and Paul did NOT qualify as tithe-payers. Contrary to popular thought, NOT every Jew was required to pay the tithe. Only farmers and herdsmen paid the tithe based on what God produced as the increase. (Is this fact new to you? If so, DIG, dear ones.)
Malachi's passage is often used to encourage paying of the tithe. To read it in context, though, one discovers it was a judgment against the nation of Israel. It had nothing to do with The Church whatsoever. How in error it is that some leaders take a judgment against one entity (the nation of Israel) to imply manipulation of gain to a completely different entity (The Church) not even around at the time the judgment was passed. Think about that for a moment.
Hebrews 7 mentions tithes, and it is in the context of stating the Levitical priesthood was insufficient and replaced with Christ. Read carefully Hebrews 7: 4-12.... note the words in verse 12: “for when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also.” Kingdom Law entered and in essence became the greater fullness of Temple Law. Verse 19 goes on to say, “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.” No one is saying Abraham did not give a tithe prior to the Law, but one has to place his act in the context of customary – not exceptional – for the day. In other words, his act was not a precursor for Temple Law nor was it something that was “outside” of the Law that was to be carried forward to today. The point being made is that the noblest of acts – be it any tithe, the Law, the Leviticus priesthood --- the whole ball of wax --- was inadequate then, as it is inadequate now. ONLY Christ satisfies God's redemption and restoration of the believer to Himself. Period.
Only once does Jesus Himself mention a tithe, and that one occasion is recounted twice, once in Matthew and once in Luke. "'Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, 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.'" (Mathew 23:23) Take note Jesus directly calls out the tithe in what form? Money? No. FOOD, just as the Law regulated it to be. Jesus' mention here must be read in the light of the fact it was BEFORE His crucifixion and resurrection, and so therefore the Jews were still wholly under Temple Law. Of course Jesus, a recognized rabbi of His day, is going to edify His people to follow Temple Law until His death ushers in Kingdom Law.
The Word teaches that anything mixed with the Gospel message is leaven and must be cast out or it will corrupt the purity of the Gospel message. It would be wise to remember 2 Corinthians 9:7 where Paul states, "Each man should give what he had decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."
Charles Spurgeon wrote in 1880, "But you are not under a system similar to that by which the Jews were obliged to pay tithes to the priests. If there were any such rule laid down in the Gospel, it would destroy the beauty of spontaneous giving and take away all the bloom from the fruit of your liberality! There is no law to tell me what I should give my father on his birthday. There is no rule laid down in any law book to decide what a present a husband should give to his wife, nor what token of affection we should bestow upon others whom we love. No, the gift must be a free one, or it has lost all its sweetness."
Well said, Mr. Spurgeon; well said!
Just to name a few Biblical scholars, both past and present, who agree the tithe has NO business being taught nor practiced in the churches today are Charles Spurgeon, Dr. Martin Luther, Dr. DavidA.Croteau, John MacArthur, and J. Vernon McGee.
By no means do I claim to be an expert in this area, but I have done a lot of studying on the subject for many years, weighing through Jewish life, Old Testament Law and practices, and the beauty of The Gospel. When put together, God's tremendous love and grace are revealed in such a manner that it truly boggles my mind that anyone would dare to continue propelling the tithe teaching today as something that should be practiced within The Church.
As I stated at the beginning, I completely support The Gospel message of generous giving, but I do not support tithing as it is being taught today.
My hope is that you have learned a thing or two through the reading of this article and have been encouraged to study for yourself. I know I won't stop exploring and learning! Just please don't allow anyone, myself included, to spoon-feed you! “Study to show yourself approved!” (2 Tim 2:15)