Monday, March 14, 2011

Is Tithing Applicable Today?

A reader posted a response to my article on tithing this morning, but by the time I got off work and logged in to respond, he had apparently had a change of heart and deleted his comment.

His comment, however, was emailed to me at the time of the post. When I got home from work, I read it with interest, looking up each scripture cited by the writer in support of his belief that tithing is not meant for us today.

I was raised in a church that believed in tithing. The thought never occurred to me that this would be a controversial subject, and that there were Christians who strongly believe that tithing is no longer required. But, apparently that’s the case.

So, I thought I would respond to the rebuttal anyway since others may find this information interesting.

The rebuttal started out with the emphatic statement:  NO ONE, absolutely NO ONE pays the Biblical tithe today. In support of this comment, he used the following scriptural references: Leviticus 27:30-33, Numbers 18, Deuteronomy 14:22-27, and Deuteronomy 14:28-29.

He’s right. None of us bring in fruits and vegetables or lambs and goats anymore; then again, none of us are wandering in the wilderness. We have jobs that pay wages. Our wages are our increase today, not our crops and herds. 

The rebuttal further stated: Wage earners did not tithe. Jesus didn’t tithe. Paul didn’t tithe. Peter didn’t tithe.  For these statements, no scriptural reference is provided. In fact, I don't believe any scriptures exist that support these statements. Although there are scriptures in the New Testament that would indicate that Jesus and his followers did, in fact, tithe.  But, I’ll get to those in a minute.

Next, the rebuttal says that I have
taken the Malachi verses out of context and need to determine who God is speaking to, the priests, or the people. And while he doesn’t clearly state that Malachi does not apply to anyone who isn’t a priest, it seems that is what he is suggesting.

Based on that logic, I have to question what part of the Bible applies to me at all. The Old Testament was written to the children of Israel. Much of the New Testament was written to specific groups of people: the Corinthians, the Ephesians, the Hebrews… Does that mean that the epistles also don’t apply to me?

The rebuttal goes on to suggest that anyone taking God’s tithe to their local church must also be robbing God since the Levites are not the ones getting it.

I could be splitting hairs here, but the Levites were the priests. God expected the priests to be taken care of by the people so that they could minister to the people rather than having to provide for their own food, shelter, etc. I don’t find it a far stretch at all to believe that would also apply to today’s ministers.

In fact in 1 Corinthians 9:13-14, Paul states that those who work in the temple are supposed to get their food from the temple, and those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.

This indicates to me that Paul did, in fact, believe in and teach tithing.

Finally, the rebuttal ends with him quoting Galatians 3:13 “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us…” 

First, let me point out that tithing actually predates the law. The first reference to tithing is found in Genesis 14:18-20. In this passage Abram tithes (or gives a tenth of) his battle spoils to Melchizedek. The next reference we find is in Genesis 28:22 where Jacob vows to give a tenth of his increase to God.

But, even if tithing were under the law, Jesus himself said that he didn’t come to do away with the law, but to fulfill it.  If the law has been done away with, does that mean that it is now perfectly acceptable to kill, steal or commit adultery?

Being under grace instead of under the law doesn’t mean the standards have been lowered. In fact, if you read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 4-7, it would appear that Jesus raised the bar quite a bit! Here he doesn’t just tell us not to kill, but to not even speak words of contempt toward another.

While I can’t find a specific scripture in the New Testament that says we must continue to tithe, I can find support both from Jesus and his disciples on the issue of tithing.

In Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42, Jesus doesn’t tell the Pharisees that they don’t need to tithe, but instead says that in addition to tithing (which they ought to do) they shouldn’t neglect the weightier matters (judgment, mercy and faith).

To me, the implication here is that Jesus tithed. Jesus was Jewish. He was a rabbi, a teacher, in the Jewish faith. I find it difficult to believe that he didn’t tithe—especially since he tells the Pharisees that they should—and can find no scriptural evidence to support that Jesus was not a tither.

My belief is that tithing is still valid today. I can find nothing in the Bible that tells me otherwise. To me the Bible indicates that tithing is actually the minimum standard for God’s people and that generosity over and above the tithe brings blessings.

I believe that when you accept Jesus as the Lord of your life, you are saved. You can stop there. You have your fire insurance. But, I believe that God wants more for his children than that. I believe that when you make God your financial partner through tithing, it gives him the open door to work miracles in your life—and it provides the financial means for the gospel to be spread into all the world.


  1. May I please lend my 2 cents if you do not mind?

    To tell the truth, the way tithing is taught in today’s church bears no resemblance to the way it has been taught in scripture. I could actually borrow a leaf or two from the comment you spoke about.

    In scriptures tithing was never used in relation to money. It was always used in relation to crops and livestock. The tithe in the bible was always the TENTH part of crops and livestock, a concept that cannot be applied to money. Let me illustrate with this example. If for instance I have a piece of farm land which I let out and the payments I decide the tenant should pay me is 10% of the harvest. If for illustrative purposes, the tenant harvests eleven apples, how is he going to determine my rent which is 10%? Would he have to cut the apples in half so that he could give me my due?

    But if I told him that every tenth fruit would be mine that is a whole lot easier to determine. So he knows that if he has ten apples, the tenth is mine, if he has 11, the tenth is still mine and if he had 20, the first tenth and the second tenth (the twentieth) are my rent. This was the way the tithes were determined in scripture and it cannot be applied to money. The only time money was ever mentioned in association to the tithe was in regards to the tithing banquet where the children of Israel held a feast to eat their tithes and invited the priests, strangers, widows and orphans to come and eat. God instructed the children of Israel to convert their tithes into money if the place they are to eat their tithes be too far. If money could be tithed, this would have been totally unnecessary.

    With regards to the book of Malachi, the audience could have been the priests or the entire nation. Either way, the message was still the same. Malachi 3: 8 -10 was simply a reminder of Deuteronomy 28 where the curse for disobeying the law was spelt out. If you line both chapters up side by side, you will see that they are the same. We in today’s church are definitely no longer under the law. So this can never apply to us.

    With regards to Jesus’ statement in Mathew 23, that can hardly be used to justify promoting the tithe doctrine in today’s church. For one, Jesus was addressing people under the law, the Pharisees to be precise and was not commending their tithing habits neither was he recommending tithing to His gentile listeners but used it to show the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. They were meticulous in tithing worthless garden herbs all at the expense of the weightier matters of the law – judgement and mercy. And this happened before the death of Jesus, so the Old Testament was still in full effect.

    In 1 Cor 9, Paul was not referring to tithing at all because tithes were never offered on the altar. All other kinds of offerings were offered at the altar and the priests were allowed to eat from some of them while others were to be burnt up. So this hardly builds a case for tithing.

    In the New Testament, we are not given any minimum percentage we all must give instead we are told in 2 Cor 9, that anything we give is acceptable as far as it is given willingly and cheerfully. And in today’s world any amount we give will always be a fraction of what we earn. So if you decide you want to give 10%, that is exactly what you are doing, giving 10% not tithing. You can give any percentage as you are led and God accepts it as far as it has been offered up willingly and cheerfully.

    God bless.

  2. Dear Saved by Grace,

    Of course you can lend your 2 cents! All comments are welcome, opposing or agreeing.

    Just as with the previous poster, I agree to the letter of some of what you have said, but not with the spirit. Scriptures asked for a tenth of the increase. Since the children of Israel were farmers and shepherds, their increase would have been crops and livestock.

    I work in an office and get paid in U.S. Dollars. That is my increase. So, that is what I give God a tenth of.

    In your apple example, yes, keeping the first nine and giving God the tenth would still be tithing. So why do I (and so many churches today) suggest you give God his tenth first? Because it's human nature to spend what we have.

    I can tell you that when I wasn't tithing, I was giving very little to the Lord. After I had paid my bills and bought groceries (and a few things I truly didn't need, but that felt like needs at the time!) I didn't have a tenth left.

    I agree, if I had to pay my tithe in apples, it would be difficult to cut that 11th apple up into 10 slices to give God his tenth (although, it could be done. Not ALL the apples would have to be cut, just the last one). However, with money, giving a tenth off the top is incredibly easy.

    As for grace vs. law, yes, we are under grace. However, that does not mean the law no longer applies. Jesus himself said he didn't come to destroy the law but to fulfill it. Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not commit adultery... don't all of those laws still apply to us?

    The difference is, since Jesus fulfilled the law, when we mess up, we can ask for forgiveness and his sacrifice atones for our sins. What his death did away with was the need for animal sacrifice, which was a temporary salvation until the Lamb of God came.

    Also, as stated in my post, tithing predates the law. Abram tithed. Jacob tithed. Both were before the law of Moses.

    Can you give any percentage you want? Yes. The principle of tithing doesn't earn or lose you your salvation.

    But there are two types of salvation spoken of in scripture -- one is the eternal salvation that is a free gift from God through grace. The other salvation, from temporal evils, is the one we have to work out ourselves while we are here on earth.

    I believe that tithing is one of the principles God has given us to help us work out our salvation from circumstances. God promised Abram wealth. Abram tithed. Abram became wealthy.

    God promised the blessings of Abraham to his seed. If I read my Bible right, when I accepted Jesus as Lord of my life, I became part of the seed of Abraham and heir to the promises.

    Tithing to me is about honor, it isn’t about fulfilling an obligation or obeying a law. I love God, therefore I give to God as an acknowledgement that everything I have is his and comes from him.

    Unless someone can show me a scripture that says: "Thou shalt no longer be required to tithe" I will continue to do so. I think the burden of proof rests with those who believe God changed his mind.


I would love to hear your thoughts... please share.