Is Tithing Commanded in the New Testament?

15 07 2014

Question: Is tithing commanded in the New Testament?

Answer: No

Now this answer will make a lot of tradition bound people angry so let me turn to the Bible to explain it. First of all there is no command in the New Testament to tithe. The tithe was a command of the Jews in the Old Testament and there were many tithes. This was how they paid for their nation. In fact if Christians today tithed like their Old Testament counterparts then they would tithe off more then their pay. They would tithe off their spices, furniture, vegetable gardens and so on. Let’s ask a few questions about the tithe shall we and answer them from the Bible.

Question 1: What is a tithe and where did it come from?

The word tithe means a tenth. We see it first practiced by Abraham. He did it not out of obligation but the overflow of a thankful heart. God did not give any command from the beginning for man to bring an offering. Looking now to father Abraham.

“And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.” (Genesis 14:18-20)

We see a tithe again from his grandson Jacob.

“And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God: And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.” (Genesis 28:20-22)

This is all we see of tithing until the law of Moses. Notice that Jacob was not saying 10 percent was God’s and 90 percent was his to do with as he pleased. He recognized that all was God’s and gave back a tenth as a thank offering thus showing where it came from. Too many times I have heared hopefully well meaning preachers say that all God wants is 10 percent and the rest is yours. This is blatantly false.

In the law of Moses the Israelites were to give 10 percent of the crops they grew and the livestock they raised to the tabernacle/temple. The Old Testament law required multiple tithes. There was one for the Levites, one for the use of the temple and the feasts, and one for the poor of the land. This would have pushed the total to around 23 percent. Some understand the Old Testament tithe as a method of taxation to provide for the needs of the priests and Levites in the sacrificial system.

Is tithing mentioned in the New Testament?

Some would say that tithing is mentioned in the New Testament. The only references to the tithe in the New Testament are in the Gospels during a time before Christ died when worship was still done through Old Testament means and in Hebrews when referencing the Old Testament. There is no command given concerning it at all. In all of the writings of the apostles, and all the instructions given to the church wouldn’t tithing take at least an honorable mention? One would think but alas it isn’t so. What does the New Testament say about giving?

1. We are to give as God prospers us.

“Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.” (1 Corinthians 16:1-2)

There were no overhead expenses in the Bible times since they all met in homes so offerings were given for the relief of the poor. The same principles apply in our modern day I believe. We are still to give as unto the Lord.

2. We are to give of what we have not of what we don’t have.

“For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.” (2 Corinthians 8:12)

So we are to give of what we have, not of what we don’t have. I always find it interesting that when people ask pastors if they should give off their gross or net income the answer is always gross. This maximizes the amount given. The problem is that Scripture says that we give from what we have and what we have been prospered. I don’t have that money nor have I prospered from it. When tax returns come in and the money is given back from the government people ask if they should give from that money since it has already been tithed off of and the answer is always yes because after all, “you don’t want to short change the Lord.” It is often given both ways without a solid Biblical argument. Now When I get my tax return I give from that prospering.

3. We are first to give of ourselves.

“And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.” (2 Corinthians 8:5)

The purpose of giving is not that God wants or needs our money but that He wants us. If we don’t give of ourselves first then our offerings bear no fruit. I have heard the joke that God wants cheerful givers but if your not cheerful He will take it anyway He can get it. This is one of the most unBiblical jokes I have heard. That concept is not found in the Bible. God wants us above all and we demonstrate outwardly that He has us inwardly by giving back to Him recognizing 100 percent is His.

4. We are to give sacrificially.

“Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.” (2 Corinthians 8:1-4)

These believers gave so much away that they were trusting the Lord to meet their needs. It wasn’t a giving where they saw themselves as owners of 90 percent. They gave in such a way that if the Lord didn’t take care of them then they would die. They begged Paul to let them give. It wasn’t a burden because they had already given themselves to the Lord. Letting go of the money He had given them was no problem at all. They considered themselves as stewards and not owners of all that God had given. To some people 10 percent hurts but others who have much can write a check for 10 percent and never miss it. This was not God’s plan. His plan was for all of us to give in such a way that we relied on Him to provide for us.

This was the greatness of the widow that Jesus spoke of. The others cast in of their abundance and didn’t miss it. They were greedy even though they gave God 10 percent. This widow cast in all of her living and cast herself onto the care of Almighty God. Jesus should have condemned her as irresponsible and said to her: “Woman don’t you know I only want 10 percent and the rest is yours?” He didn’t say that because her giving reflected what true giving should, a recognition of her position as a steward. This is New Testament giving.

5. We are to give as we purpose.

“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

I believe this verse repeals the required tithe of the law of Moses. We are to give as we purpose in our hearts. It says to give “not of necessity.” This is important because if there was a required percent then there would be a necessity. Some may only have the faith to give 5 percent then so let them give and as their faith increases so should their giving. We are even given a warning that the more we sow the more we will reap.

“But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.” (2 Corinthians 9:6)

Tithing is nothing more then a middle class way of robbing God. We give a 10 percent check and feel good about ourselves while hoarding the rest and putting it into savings, and retirement accounts that demonstrate our lack of faith in God. We sink it into houses, cars, clothes, hobbies and trinkets that have no eternal value but believe we are doing God a favor. I know a man whose heart is not turned towards God but believes that as long as he goes to church every now and then and gives God His 10 percent then God will bless him. God has become his paid helper at that point.

To convince people to give we retreat to the Old Testament and tell them they have robbed God and God will break their car or refrigerator to get what’s coming to Him. God is now reduced to a thug who breaks knee caps to get His pay out. Is this our view of the God of Scripture? How then should we encourage people to give? The way Paul did by letting them know that God will always provide for them if they give.

“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever. Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness.” (2 Corinthians 9:8-10)

We should give and I don’t believe anyone should give less then the Old Testament minimum of 10 percent but shame on us if we are saved 10, 20, or 30 years and we are giving 10 percent while stocking our bank accounts and garages. Shame on us for letting people believe this is okay. Give yourself first, then give bountifully of what God has given you looking to Him to supply more seed so that you can give yet more again. This is New Testament giving.

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