Tithing is a system by which people are required to donate, usually one tenth, of their gross or net income to the church. By doing this many suffer real hardship for themselves and their families, sometimes they are unable to pay the bills which come in, or feed and clothe their family properly. Is this really what God wants from us?
Tithing from the Exodus
Tithing was a system brought in following the exodus from Egypt and the forming of the children of Israel into a nation of their own. Their nation was divided into 12 tribes, and 11 of these tribes grew crops, had animals, inherited land etc. The twelfth tribe, Levi, were the priests and administrators of the nation, and had no land, animals, crops etc, so the 11 tribes had to give the tribe of Levi one tenth of their income (who in turn provided one-tenth as an offering to God). From this part which was given to the tribe of Levi, they still had to make their own offering to God, the same as the other tribes had to from their remainder, which mathematically works out that they were then all very nearly equal.
“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
"Speak thus to the Levites, and say to them: 'When you take from the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them as your inheritance, then you shall offer up a heave offering [present, gift] of it to the LORD, a tenth of the tithe.
'And your heave offering shall be reckoned to you as though it were the grain of the threshing floor and as the fullness of the winepress.
'Thus you shall also offer a heave offering to the LORD from all your tithes which you receive from the children of Israel, and you shall give the Lord's heave offering from it to Aaron the priest.'”
The tithe given to the Levites was equivalent to the part played by taxes today — our taxes pay for the
everyday administration of our country. The Levites did everything from attending the tabernacle/temple, judging disputes, diagnosing illnesses, being the judicial system etc. The Levites also operated their ‘social welfare’ system from the tithe money when necessary.
Tithing was part of the old law, or what is often referred to as 'the law of Moses'. It was given specifically to the nation of Israel, who were God's chosen people:
" "Therefore I made them go out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness.
"And I gave them My statutes and showed them My judgments, 'which, if a man does, he shall live by them.'
"Moreover I also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them.." (Ezekiel 20:10-12)
And again in verses 19 & 20:"I am the LORD your God: Walk in My statutes, keep My judgments, and do them;
hallow My Sabbaths, and they will be a sign between Me and you, that you may know that I am the LORD your God.' "
“He declares His word to Jacob, His statutes and His judgments to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any nation; And as for His judgments, they have not known them.” (Psalm 147:19,20 )
Under the New Law
The law of Moses was a law of sacrifices and offerings to God for the atonement of sins. This was looking forward to the time when the one true sinless Lamb, Jesus Christ, would be offered to atone for the sins committed by Adam and Eve. When Jesus came, and as a sinless sacrifice for our sinful nature, he completed the old law and brought in a new one, referred to as 'the law of Christ'. The old law was then fulfilled, and consequently obsolete.
“Then I said, 'Behold, I have come; In the volume of the book it is written of Me; To do Your will, O God.'"
Previously saying, "Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them" (which are offered according to the law),then He said, "Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God." He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:7-10)
"For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.." (Hebrews 7:12 )
After his death and resurrection, Jesus himself became our high priest to intercede with God on our behalf — the priests under the old law had been superseded, there was a complete change of the law and the old one was obsolete.
" For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." (Romans 10:4)
Tithing was part of the old law which was done away with. We cannot continue with parts of the law which we choose, since the old law has gone. The Jews continued with the old law because they refused to recognize the true position of Jesus Christ, that he was God's only son. So if we keep on with parts of the old law, we are doing the same. We have never been under the old law, for it was only following the rejection of Christ by the Jews, that others as 'Gentiles' were given the opportunity to be part of God's plan.
Giving in the New Testament
Money was definitely donated for the purpose of supporting very poor members in Jerusalem, but never to pay to a leader so that became his income.
“Now concerning the collection for the saints [members], as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem.”(1 Corinthians 16:1-3)
Paul is saying monetary gifts are voluntary but should be done regularly and their amount to be in keeping with one's income i.e. those who were poor were not expected to donate to give to other poor people.
The apostle Paul supported himself:
“And when I was present with you, and in need, I was a burden to no one, for what I lacked the brethren who came from Macedonia supplied. And in everything I kept myself from being burdensome to you, and so I will keep myself.” (2 Corinthians 11:9 )
Voluntarily helping someone, as the Macedonian brethren did for Paul, is quite different from tithing. We should be aware of others needs, and when we see the opportunity to help privately, then we should do so. The message of the New Testament is that our offerings in God's service should be voluntary and that no amount is set, and that the accumulation of wealth by a church, is not right. Rather we should give to the poor.
Jesus himself said:
"Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 'for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 'I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.'
"Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 'When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 'Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?'
"And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'” (Matthew 25:34-40 )
Paul wrote to the Galatians: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10)
Should a church ask for money
God wants a humble and willing and generous heart from us instead of tithing. The Bible would indicate that a church has no right to ask for a tithe. One of the very great dangers of churches demanding tithes is the perceived threat or fear that acceptance by God depends on the amount of money given. I have heard the following stated on TV in an endeavour to gain donations:
“When you release the seed in your hand, God will release the harvest in His hand”
“Sow your $1000 seed and receive a Boaz anointing”
“There is a telephone number on the screen, don’t go against the Holy Spirit”.
Often pastors of churches who tithe are very wealthy people - at the expense of their congregations, yet they often claim that it is because they have been blessed by God! And they claim that you will be blessed by God if you give generously to the church! Money donated as tithes are used to support church buildings, some of them being huge auditoriums. Yet in New Testament times, there is no record of any church buildings.
I am aware of of a church which announces the names of who gave the most and who gave the least, the previous week! That is quite wrong.
Jesus said: “"But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing that your alms [deeds of compassion to the poor] may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.’ (Matthew 6:3,4).
Our acceptance by God is something money cannot buy.
"Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk, Without money and without price.” (Isaiah 55:1 )
“ Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts?” (James 2:5,6)
We can and should use collected money for helping poor members and for paying for church expenses, but it was never intended that a church or pastor should become rich from it, as unfortunately many today are. Paul could say, "I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well......I have not been a burden to you." (2 Corinthians 12:16).
In Revelation chapter 18, the people whom God hates and will destroy, 'Babylon the great' is identified by characteristics; those characteristics are ones of trading and gaining great wealth from those with whom they trade (verse15) but note from verse 13 that they have traded in "bodies and souls of men". This is a very sobering thought.
Malachi 3:8-10 is often quoted to support tithing in our time:
"Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, 'In what way have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this," Says the LORD of hosts, "If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.”
These verses are taken out of context and made to mean something they don't. The book of Malachi was addressed to the nation of Israel, and in particular to the priesthood, who had drifted away from worshipping God to including idol worship. Malachi 1: 7,8,10 shows the subject of the book:
"You offer defiled food on My altar. But say, 'In what way have we defiled You?' By saying, 'The table of the LORD is contemptible.' And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?" Says the LORD of hosts…. "Who is there even among you who would shut the doors, So that you would not kindle fire on My altar in vain? I have no pleasure in you," Says the LORD of hosts, "Nor will I accept an offering from your hands.?
When God said that they were robbing Him, He is referring to the priests offering reject animals; in other words they were keeping the good animals for themselves. God had said that they were to offer the best animals of their flocks, those without the slightest flaw, because they were symbolical of Jesus offering himself as the Lamb, completely sinless and without flaw. These verses from Malachi are not speaking of paying tithes at all; once Jesus had died as the perfect sacrifice, there was no more need for sacrifices. So that is another reason why Malachi does not apply to us.
The Pharisees were still under the first law and as such, they still had to pay tithes to support the priesthood of that time. Jesus constantly criticized them because they increased the heaviness of the law, in the verse in question they enforced the giving of herbs but forgot about compassion, fairness, etc. This is also what Jesus was referring to when he continued: " Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion
and excess." (Matthew 23:24,25)
Jesus endeavored to explain the point. Remember the occasion when Jesus and the disciples walked through a corn field and were hungry and picked some corn to eat (Matthew 12:1-4). The trouble was that it was the sabbath. The narrative states, " At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, "Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!" But He said to them, "Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: "how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? By giving the example of David which he did, Jesus was showing them that keeping the letter of the law was not the priority. If we look at the episode involving David we can see that the reason he could eat the showbread was that it was just going to be replaced by new bread.
We need to bear this in mind with Jesus and the cornfield. He was using David as a type of parable, because the old law was about to be done away with and replaced with the new. Jesus knew he was going to die as the sinless passover lamb, and that this would complete the old law and bring in the new.
" then He said, "Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God." He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.. " (Hebrews 10:9,10)
The whole system of the old law—sacrifices, offerings, tithes, sabbath-keeping, and the priesthood which required tithes for its upkeep, etc were fulfilled in Jesus and came to an end with his death and resurrection. We can really only understand this if we understand why the people had to offer sacrifices and how and why Jesus' death replaced them completely so that they never had to be done again The letters from Paul in the New Testament show that the Jews took some time to let go of their first-law practices and accept that they were no longer valid.
We are now under the law of Jesus Christ, which is one firstly and most importantly, of obedience to Christ's commands; voluntary offerings, 'circumcision of the heart' as Paul described it: love, compassion, fairness, honesty.... These are what God wants from us, but most of all, true belief and obedience.
(all quotes are from the NKJV)