The Unbiblical Christian Tithe
The purpose of this hub is to demonstrate from scripture that the current received wisdom on the subject of tithing taught in many sections of the Church is in error. At best, these sections have a complete misunderstanding of the whole subject of the tithe, and at worst, the tithe doctrine is used as a method for extracting money from its members.
The prophet Malachi is often used as justification for the Christian tithe. I have published a previous hub on this subject here:
I acknowledge that much of the Church does not hold to this tithe doctrine. So for the purposes of this hub, all references to the Church pertain only to those sections of the Church where this doctrine is held.
Many sections of the Church today hold to a doctrine of tithing. This doctrine states that there is a requirement on members of the New Testament Church to give 10% of their income to their local fellowship or church organisation. This requirement is usually stated as a compulsory act of worship, and in some organisations the leadership warns the members of curses that will follow if they do not comply. Other leaders will apply the doctrine by coercion teaching that it is the Christian’s duty to support their church in this manner.
Applying a 10% ‘Church tax’ on an individual is no small matter, especially when the usual commandment is that the tithe must be given on a person’s gross income before all living expenses are paid, (often referred to as the first fruits). Considering that in the UK for the average taxpayer pays 42% of their income to the government by way of Income Tax, National Insurance, Council Tax, VAT, and duty on fuel: is it right for the Church to insist on a further levy of 10%? This leaves the poor hard working individual taking home less then half the money they earn. Out of this they must pay for their bills, food and clothing. Is it any wonder so many in the Church are struggling with debt with precious little of their hard earned left over to spend on those things that bring some cheer to their lives?
So is this tithing principle valid today? Is it reasonable to expect all members of the Church to give up 10% of their income regardless of salary? Or is this nothing more than a fraudulent fleecing of the flock?
Should someone question the validity of the tithe doctrine, there usually follows a range of objections including:
Quotations from the prophet Malachi:
Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' In tithes and offerings.
While others who can find absolutely no scriptural authority for Christians to tithe, invent doctrines like this:
"Tithing was a form of worship to God, and since we still worship God, we must still tithe."
Perhaps then since burnt offerings were a form of worshiping God, and since we still worship God, must we still offer burnt offerings to God? ... This of course is nonsense.
Or perhaps we hear this one:
“Jesus acknowledged that the Pharisees tithed and stated that this act should not be left undone. Therefore as His followers, we should also tithe”.
But when asked if Jesus taught the disciples to adhere to this doctrine, we hear statements like:
“It was the accepted practice in those days that they tithed, so there was no need to talk about it”.
Other common phrases are:
“All members of the Church must tithe. It is their duty before God.”
“The tithe must be brought to the local storehouse, the local church in which you attend fellowship.”
“The tithe is God’s portion of your salary. When you tithe, you are only giving back to God what belongs to Him in the first place.”
“If you give, you are only giving after you have tithed.”
“God only blesses the tithers.”
“The tithe protects your finances. God will rebuke the devil on your behalf and prevent him from stealing from you.”
Some Biblical Truths about the Tithe
We usually receive a quotation from Malachi 3:8, and sometimes the one from Matt 23:23 where Jesus was berating the Pharisees, but why is it we don’t hear scriptural quotations on the subject from anywhere else in the bible? Perhaps this is because if we were to have a look, we might find out some biblical truths that expose this doctrine for what it is – a false teaching:
- Abraham never tithed on his own personal property or livestock.
- Jacob wouldn’t tithe until God blessed him first.
- Only Levite priests could collect tithes, and there are no Levite priests today.
- Only food products from the land were titheable.
- Money was never a titheable commodity.
- Christian converts were never asked to tithe anything to the Church.
- Tithing in the Church first appears centuries after completion of the Bible.
What is the Tithe?
Ask this question and the usual response is that the tithe is the first fruits of the harvest that must be returned to God. The harvest can be anything and so the tithe can be levied on any kind of increase. As we live in a modern society, our increase is usually financial, and therefore the New Testament Church must pay this sum to their local fellowship’s bank account.
Some TV ministries do not lead a regular church of their own, so they have adapted this teaching to state that the believer must tithe where they are fed, and thereby such ministries can claim someone’s tithe.
To find out whether the above statements are valid, the we must look further than Malachi.
The following sections list all scriptural references to tithing with commentary following each:
Gen. 14:20, “And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand." Then Abram gave him[Melchizedek king of Salem, the priest of the most high God, Ver. 18] a tenth of everything”[all the goods of war, Ver. 16]."
This same event is recorded in the book of Hebrews:
Heb. 7:1-10, “This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means "king of righteousness"; then also, "king of Salem" means "king of peace." Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever. Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people—that is, their brothers—even though their brothers are descended from Abraham. This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. And without doubt the lesser person is blessed by the greater. In the one case, the tenth is collected by men who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living. One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.”
There are a number of things that can be learnt concerning tithing from these sections of Scriptures:
- This is the first mention of tithing in the Bible. Abram (Abraham) gives to Melchizedek (a priest of God who was also the king of the City of Salem)
- The tithe is of the plunder taken in war. Notice that this was not wheat, corn, wine, oil, or cattle from Abram’s personal possessions, but rather possessions taken from conquered nations.
- The tithe cost Abram nothing.
- There is nothing stated here that would cause us to conclude that Abram ever tithed on a regular basis 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.
- In this same account recorded in Hebrews, we learn that the priests of Levi, from the family of Aaron (although far inferior to the priestly order of Melchizedek) also receive tithes from the people according to the law. This tells us little more about the actual tithes other than they received tithes.
Gen 14:20-24. Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand." Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything. The king of Sodom said to Abram, "Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself." But Abram said to the king of Sodom, "I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, 'I made Abram rich.' I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me—to Aner, Eshcol and Mamre. Let them have their share.”
So Abraham also went to war on behalf of Sodom to rescue his nephew Lot. He then gave 10% of these spoils of war to Melchizedek, and allowed Sodom to keep 90%. He himself kept NOTHING!
The Church often claims that Abraham’s tithing of the spoils of war predated the Law of Moses, and therefore even if the Law of Moses is done away with, tithing is still binding on Christians because Abraham predated the Law of Moses. Is this true or just an assumption?
How can these two individual one-off events be Scriptural proof that Christians should give 10% of their regular annual salaries (not the spoils of war, but their money, their salaries), not once, but year after year after year, not to Melchizedek, but to their local church or favourite TV ministry? There is absolutely no similarity here.
Gen. 28:20-22, Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father's house, then the LORD will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth."
Jacob is the grandson of Abraham, the father of the faithful, whom God also blessed tremendously. Not only did God approve of Jacob’s tithing proposal, but, He made it the foundational principle upon which all future tithing would be based.
This one Scripture pretty much contradicts many sermons on the subject of tithing! This is the very first Scripture in the Bible that gives an account of someone giving a tenth or tithe of his personal possessions back to God. Notice how it is very different from the teachings of many churches:
- First Jacob begins to proposition God. He states that "IF" God will do this and "IF’ God will do the other things, "THEN" Jacob says, "shall the Lord be my God."
- Should God meet all of his requirements, by saying that of all the things that God will first give to Jacob, Jacob will give God back a tenth.
- God honoured Jacob’s proposition, and furthermore, God continued to honour this same principle of tithing all through Israel’s history.
This is another example showing that Israel was not to tithe on what they did not first possess, unlike those today who teach that it is required to tithe on that which one does not already possess – the requirement to tithe before all stoppages for example.
This proves that God doesn’t expect a tithe until He blesses the tithe payer first.
Just how did Jacob actually give a tithe to God? Did he personally hand it to God? No, no one has ever even seen God. Did Jacob tithe to an angel? No, angels do not need and can’t use tithes. Did he take it to the local church? No, there was no local church. Did he take it to the Temple? No, there was no temple. Did he give it directly to one of the Levitic priests? No, there were no Levites as yet. Well how then did Jacob tithe to God? Was it even possible? Yes, there were actually two different ways that Jacob could tithe to God:
Deut. 12:5-7 “But you are to seek the place the LORD your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the LORD your God has blessed you.”
Deut. 14:29 “so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.”
That’s how God acknowledged a tithe from Jacob: By partaking of a portion himself and his family in communion and thanksgiving to God, and by sharing his fortune with those who were unfortunate, poor, strangers, etc.
Leviticus 27:30-33 “'A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD. If a man redeems any of his tithe, he must add a fifth of the value to it. The entire tithe of the herd and flock—every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd's rod—will be holy to the LORD. He must not pick out the good from the bad or make any substitution. If he does make a substitution, both the animal and its substitute become holy and cannot be redeemed.'”
We learn a great deal about tithing in this section of Scripture:
- The tithe comes from the "land," not the air or the sea. Fishermen were not required to tithe fish.
- It was the "seed" or agricultural products from the fields that was holy to God and titheable.
- Products from "trees" were to be tithed. This not only included the fruit, but oils, etc.
- Money is not included.
- Of "herds or flocks" it was the "tenth" that passed under the rod that was holy and dedicated to God.
Here is exposed another falsehood of modern tithe doctrine. It was not the first tenth as insisted upon today, but rather the tenth tenth that belonged to God.
Another interesting point is this. If a herdsman had only nine cattle, he didn’t tithe his cattle at all! Also notice that God did not even require the best of the cattle, just the tenth one to pass under the rod even if it was the mangiest runt of them all. This is the tithe, NOT the sacrifice where animals always had to be without blemish.
Numbers 18:24-28 “Instead, I give to the Levites as their inheritance the tithes that the Israelites present as an offering to the LORD. That is why I said concerning them: 'They will have no inheritance among the Israelites.' "The LORD said to Moses, "Speak to the Levites and say to them: 'When you receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the Lord’s offering. Your offering will be reckoned to you as grain from the threshing floor or juice from the winepress. In this way you also will present an offering to the LORD from all the tithes you receive from the Israelites. From these tithes you must give the Lord’s portion to Aaron the priest.”
Could just anyone claim to be a representative of God and therefore have Israel pay tithes to him? No, it could only be paid to the Levites. Further, in order to be a priest one not only had to be of the tribe of Levi, but he also had to be of the family of Aaron. In fact, if one could not trace his genealogy back to the family of Aaron, he could not be a priest of God. This is the whole point of Hebrews 7. Jesus Christ is a priest of the rank of Melchizedek because Melchizedek predated the law which stated that only sons of Aaron could be priests. Therefore Melchizedek’s genealogy is not given in the Scriptures, and Christ, who according to the flesh is of the line of Judah, can and will be God’s High Priest in the Kingdom of God.
With regards to the New Testament Church making a claim on the tithe:
- There is NO temple of God being officiated in Jerusalem today.
- There is NO Levitic priesthood to officiate at such a temple.
- There is NO NEED for such a temple or priesthood at this time.
- Only Levites could collect tithes at the temple.
- If one cannot historically trace back his genealogy generation by generation with no lapses to the family of Aaron, he IS NOT and CANNOT be a priest authorised of God at this time to collect tithes for the temple services and sacrifices. (Of course Jesus IS our Sacrifice, and therefore that whole system funded by the tithes of the law is no longer applicable).
- These are God’s rules with regards the law and He hasn’t changed them.
The whole system changed under the New Covenant. Jesus said the temple would be utterly destroyed.
Matt. 24:1-2 “Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings."Do you see all these things?" he asked. "I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down."”
When was this prophecy fulfilled?
The Siege of Jerusalem in the year 70 AD was a decisive event in the First Jewish-Roman War. The Roman army, led by the future Emperor Titus, with Tiberius Julius Alexander as his second-in-command, besieged and conquered the city of Jerusalem, which had been occupied by its Jewish defenders in 66 AD. The city and its famous Temple were destroyed. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Jerusalem_(70)
All theologians know that when the temple ceased, the priesthood officiating at the temple CEASED! Each individual believer under the New Covenant forms a NEW priesthood:
I Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
How then, under the New Covenant, does a believer give a tenth, when he is supposed to give his all (Rom. 12:1), to a priesthood that does not exist, but now he himself is part of a priesthood (I Peter 2:9), at a temple that does not exist (Mat. 24:1-2), but rather he himself is the temple wherein God dwells?
At this time in history Israel owes no tithe to anyone, and, we Gentiles (who are a new creation and the true Israel of God, Gal. 6:16) were never instructed to tithe in the first place. Read all thirteen books of the apostle Paul to the gentiles and find one verse where he instructed Gentiles to pay one penny of tithe money to anyone.
Deut. 12:6, 7, 11, 12, 17, 18 “there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the LORD your God has blessed you……Then to the place the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the LORD. And there rejoice before the LORD your God, you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites from your towns, who have no allotment or inheritance of their own……You must not eat in your own towns the tithe of your grain and new wine and oil, or the firstborn of your herds and flocks, or whatever you have vowed to give, or your freewill offerings or special gifts. Instead, you are to eat them in the presence of the LORD your God at the place the LORD your God will choose, you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites from your towns, and you are to rejoice before the LORD your God in everything you put your hand to.”
Who was to partake of all these tithes and good things of the herd and of the land and of the trees? Everyone (yes, the Levite was also included) was to rejoice before the Lord. Did anyone see "money" in the list of things they were to bring before the Lord to rejoice? Was it just the ministers (the Levites) who were the recipients of these tithes and offerings, or was not everyone to partake of these things? Rejoicing and eating one’s own tithe before the Lord was a very personal and reverend act of worship and communion with God. Not unlike prayer. Others may share and profit from our prayers, but we offer them to God, not to men.
The following verses deal with a practice initiated by God Himself to accommodate those travelling long distances to the Festival Sites where they were to eat and rejoice before the Lord to learn to fear Him. They could sell their tithes of the land for MONEY, and carry that amount of money rather than the bulky and heavy tithes themselves, to the Festival Site. There they were to purchase whatever their hearts desired and to share it with the Levites and the less fortunate.
Deut. 14:22-29 “Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always. But if that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the LORD your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the LORD will choose to put his Name is so far away), then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the LORD your God will choose. Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice. And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own. At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year's produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.”
This is the only scriptural mention of money in connection with the tithe, and the purpose of money in this regard was in order to transfer the substance of the tithe over long distances. On arrival at the location where God had chosen for the celebration, the money could not be given in place of the tithe. It HAD to be used to purchase titheable goods, and the celebration to the Lord was in the consuming of those goods.
This third year of tithing is mentioned again below:
Deut. 26:12 “When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.”
Again we notice that Israel never tithed from their poverty, but on their INCREASE.
This next section tells us the same things we have already seen concerning what products were to be tithed and who could receive them.
II Chronicles 31:5, 6, 12 “As soon as the order went out, the Israelites generously gave the first fruits of their grain, new wine, oil and honey and all that the fields produced. They brought a great amount, a tithe of everything. The men of Israel and Judah who lived in the towns of Judah also brought a tithe of their herds and flocks and a tithe of the holy things dedicated to the LORD their God, and they piled them in heaps……Then they faithfully brought in the contributions, tithes and dedicated gifts……”
Nehemiah 10:37-38 “Moreover, we will bring to the storerooms of the house of our God, to the priests, the first of our ground meal, of our grain offerings, of the fruit of all our trees and of our new wine and oil. And we will bring a tithe of our crops to the Levites, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all the towns where we work. A priest descended from Aaron is to accompany the Levites when they receive the tithes, and the Levites are to bring a tenth of the tithes up to the house of our God, to the storerooms of the treasury.”
Nehemiah 12:44 “At that time men were appointed to be in charge of the storerooms for the contributions, first fruits and tithes. From the fields around the towns they were to bring into the storerooms the portions required by the Law for the priests and the Levites, for Judah was pleased with the ministering priests and Levites.”
Nehemiah 13:5, 12 “and he had provided him with a large room formerly used to store the grain offerings and incense and temple articles, and also the tithes of grain, new wine and oil prescribed for the Levites, singers and gatekeepers, as well as the contributions for the priests…… All Judah brought the tithes of grain, new wine and oil into the storerooms.”
Again, no mention of money, only agricultural products of the fields, and only the Levites and priests could have access to these tithes and offerings in the house of God.
Amos 4:4 “"Go to Bethel and sin; go to Gilgal and sin yet more. Bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three years.”
Nothing new here for the purposes of this document.
Matt 23:23-34 ”Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”
Luke 11:4 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.”
There are some who argue that these passages are proof that as Jesus acknowledged the Pharisees for their tithing, tithing still stands as a principle for us today. Clearly the tithe was not the point of His berating of them. His issue was that they did not or did not want to understand the principle of the Law. They understood the letter of the Law, but failed to see that the purpose of the Law was to bring justice, mercy and faithfulness. These things they neglected.
Was Jesus impressed with their tithe? What could tithing of mint achieve? A tenth of a mint bush wouldn’t make for many cups of tea for the high priest. Yes Jesus acknowledged their tithing and rightly so. They were the Lawgivers, and subject to the law. Mint, dill and other herbs are land produce, so technically they should be tithed. However, this tithe is insignificant, compared to the great sin of neglecting justice, mercy and faithfulness. Jesus was not concerned with their tithing but with their hypocrisy. They were straining out gnats from mint tea, but swallowing camel trains of neglected widows, the fatherless, the poor and orphans.
Jesus Did Not Tithe
Some may claim that Jesus tithed as this was the custom of His day. So did Jesus tithe or not? No, he was a carpenter not a farmer? For every ten chairs that Jesus made, did he tithe one to the temple? No, the tithe consisted of land produce only. Did Jesus sell every tenth chair and give the money to the temple? No, money is not a titheable commodity.
Jesus followers did not pay tithe to Him from farm products or herds; neither did His followers pay Him ten percent of their salaries from other sources of income. "Christian tithing" is an oxymoron - it is a contradiction of words. "Christian tithing" is about as Scriptural as "Christian burnt offerings," "Christian stonings," or "Christian synagogues." Many church leaders have managed to convince millions of unsuspecting laity into believing that "Christian tithing" is a Scriptural command from God Himself, and can easily be found and supported in the pages of Divine Scripture. Is this true?
Of the 613 laws contained in the first five books of the Bible written by Moses, why is it that aside from the Ten Commandments, "tithing" is virtually the only other law that the modern Church tries to retain? They retain it in name only, however, since there is nothing similar between Moses’ law of tithing" and "Christian tithing" except the aspect of ten percent. Christian tithing is an extra-biblical concept and doctrine - aside from the ten percent it has nothing in common with the tithing law of Moses, and was never practiced by the New Testament Church.
Not only is Christian tithing taught to be needful; it is taught as if it were a divine, binding law. But there is no such thing as a "Christian tithing law" in the New Testament Scriptures. It is a heresy, used by the Church, independent cults, and charlatans, as a club to beat and threaten parishioners into surrendering ten percent of their salaries in obedience to this phantom law. Many are forewarned that failure to pay this 10% Church tax will cause them to be "cursed with a curse!"
The Church of the Apostles Did Not Tithe
We have Scriptural proof that no such law or custom as Christian tithing was taught or practiced in the Church by the early apostles. Their epistles are totally devoid of any such tithing custom or law. Gentile converts were never taught to tithe to anyone. Although the temple and priesthood in Jerusalem remained until 70 AD, not even Jewish converts were taught to give their tithes to the Apostles rather than to the temple priests.
In the Acts 15 Jerusalem Conference we find outlined what the apostles all agreed was necessary for the newly converted Gentiles to practice, and by inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God, tithing is conspicuously missing. Some believing Pharisees wanted the apostles to teach the Gentiles to keep the Law of Moses (which certainly contained the law of tithing, Acts 15:5), but the apostles headed by Peter, James, and Paul would not hear of it (Acts 15:28-29)! Yet, what is one of the very first legislated duties taught to Gentile converts by the Church today? It is that they must tithe their annual salaries to the Church. Where did this unscriptural law of Christian tithing come from?
According to the on-line Catholic Encyclopaedia:
In the Christian Church, as those who serve the altar should live by the altar (1 Corinthians 9:13), provision of some kind had necessarily to be made for the sacred ministers. In the beginning this was supplied by the spontaneous offerings of the faithful. In the course of time, however, as the Church expanded and various institutions arose, it became necessary to make laws which would insure the proper and permanent support of the clergy. The payment of tithes was adopted from the Old Law, and early writers speak of it as a divine ordinance and an obligation of conscience. The earliest positive legislation on the subject seems to be contained in the letter of the bishops assembled at Tours in 567 and the canons of the Council of Maçon in 585. In the course of time, we find the payment of tithes made obligatory by ecclesiastical enactments in all the countries of Christendom. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14741b.htm
According to the on-line Encyclopaedia Britannica:
Despite serious resistance, tithing became obligatory as Christianity spread across Europe. It was enjoined by ecclesiastical law from the 6th century and enforced in Europe by secular law from the 8th century. In England in the 10th century, payment was made obligatory under ecclesiastical penalties by Edmund I and under temporal penalties by Edgar. In the 14th century Pope Gregory VII, in an effort to control abuses, outlawed lay ownership of tithes. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/597211/tithe
It is clear then that the doctrine of tithing money was not present in the 1st century Church but was introduced by the Catholic Church in the 6th century. As this doctrine is not ordained by God in scripture, it is unenforceable upon the Christian. If someone joins a local golf club, he is bound by the rules and regulations enacted by that club’s committee. One might therefore have an argument that members of the Catholic Church must submit to the authority of the Pope even if its ecclesiastical laws are not ordained by God in scripture. However, the member is free to leave at any time and thereby be no longer bound by its statutes.
In the same way, if other sections of the Church wish to bind its members to a law on tithing, then their leaders are duty bound to formalise this law and incorporate it into their articles of faith. However, it is also incumbent on the leadership to make it abundantly clear that such a law is not the Law of God, and has no more merit than the membership fees that one might pay to a golf club.
Paul was inspired by God's Holy Spirit to declare that "God loves a cheerful giver" (II Cor.9:7). Why was not Paul inspired by God’s Holy Spirit to declare that, "God loves a cheerful tithe-payer?" In fact, why does not Paul mention the words tithe, tithes, or tithing in any of His thirteen epistles - not once? (Paul did not write the book of Hebrews, 2 Thes. 3:17). Why does not Peter, James, John, or Jude mention tithing in any of their epistles? Why didn’t the early Christian Fathers mention tithing as a doctrine of the New Testament Church? Therefore, why are innumerable thousands of evangelists, theologians, teachers, preachers, and clergymen teaching the world that if they don’t tithe ten percent of their salaries, that God will curse them with a curse?
Here then is the bottom line: Neither, Jesus nor His apostles tithed themselves or taught tithing to others. And within a generation God pronounced to the entire world by the total destruction of both the nation of Judah, and their city of Jerusalem with its temple, to be superseded by the Church of Christ. The nation of Israel was gone, the temple was gone, the priests were gone, the Levites were gone, and concerning the very Law of Moses containing the law of tithing, we read this:
Heb. 8:13 “By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.”
A More Excellent Way
The New Testament teachings on giving are unpretentiously simplistic involving the heart and not some law:
Matt 10:8b “Freely you have received, freely give.”
Matt 5:42 “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”
Luke 6:38 “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Acts 20:35 “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”
II Cor. 9:6-7 “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
There is another very important Scripture that should go in this group and that is I Tim. 5:8,
"If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."
If the Church teaches that everyone should give 10% to their local fellowship regardless of their salary, financial commitments or personal circumstances, then there will be a significant number of people who will be hard pressed and unable to meet the needs of their families. It’s no use claiming that their lack is due to their lack of faith or sin in their lives. The bottom line is that many people simply cannot afford 10% of their gross income. If they pay this out of compulsion or guilt, then in contradiction to the verse above, they will not be able to provide for their household.
How to Pay Your Church's Bills
How are your Church bills paid if the people don’t tithe? All your Church leader has to do is ask the members to contribute something. Simple.
So why don’t leaders just ask? Because although they expect the congregation to live by faith, they themselves don’t wish to. It’s so much easier to manage the church departmental budgets, plan that extension, think about funding that outreach, if they can predict what the church income will be over the next financial year.
Or perhaps they just don’t trust the congregation to give generously out of love. They believe that by setting a minimal level of giving at 10% will result in a greater income than asking people to give what they want to give.
If only they would be honest with the congregation, and show them how Jesus taught us how to give. There simply would be no need to invent a tithing doctrine.
What a radical solution that would be. The onus would be on the minister to find out exactly what programmes God wants his Church to be involved in, then get the buy in from the congregation. By trusting that the people will support the effort financially out of love, the minister really has to step out in faith. Perhaps some man made ideas that would be funded by tithing would fall away. Is that such a bad thing?
The Apostle Paul Versus Christian Tithing
The Apostle Paul never tithed, never taught Gentiles to tithe, never collected tithes, and never accepted tithes. Imagine what Paul would have said had someone come up to him and offered him £50 saying: "Paul, here is my payment according to the tithing law with regards to my £500 wages." We don’t know what his exact words would be, but perhaps it would be something like this:
"Sir, MONEY is not a titheable commodity and tithes can be paid to the Levitic priests only, and I am not a Levite, I am from the Tribe of Benjamin. Furthermore, as a believer in Jesus Christ, you are also freed from the Law of Moses. Jesus Christ has taught us that, ‘FREELY you have received, FREELY give." One cannot give ‘freely’ that which is demanded by law. I am sorry, but I cannot accept money that is given out of obligation to a law. Jesus has freed us from carnal ordinances, and whom Jesus has freed, ‘is FREE indeed.’"
Now give that same £50 to some Church leaders, and one might receive this retort: "Well, if this £50 is your tithe, where is your offering? Don’t you know that the tithe belongs to God and you have only given what you have to give back to God anyway? You have not really given anything until you give money in excess of your tithes"
Should be obey the commandments of Jesus or the rules of men?
An Offering for the Jerusalem Church
In 2 Corinthians 8-9, Paul was writing to the Corinthian church about an offering being taken up to aid those fellow believers in Jerusalem. He was boasting about their generosity in beginning this offering the previous year, and in order to encourage them to complete the work, he boasted about the generosity of the Macedonians. Now the Church usually teaches that this event confirms that all giving must happen after tithing. However as we have seen, tithing in the Church is unbiblical.
There are some key features in Paul’s discourse that we can pull out and use to guide our principles for giving today:
2 Cor 8:1-4 “And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.”
Notice that the Macedonians gave willingly, joyfully and entirely on their own initiative.
2 Cor 8 10b-12 “Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.”
The gift was to be in accordance with one’s means, according to what one has, not what one doesn’t have.
2 Cor 9:5 “So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given”
No giving should be given grudgingly.
2 Cor 9:6-7 “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Our level of giving will be reciprocated back to us in the level we receive, and each man decides for himself what he will give. Therefore, no one can tell the giver that he must give a minimum of 10%. As soon as we are told what to give, we are giving under compulsion, not freely.
The doctrine of Christian tithing is a false doctrine. It has nothing in common with God’s law on tithing bar the value being a tenth. The differences are summarised below:
- The OT tithe was for produce of the land only. The church tithe is money.
- The OT tithe was levied on landowner farmers only (not fishermen for example). The church tithe is levied on everyone.
- The OT tithe could be collected by Levites only and there are none left today. The church tithe can be collected by any church startup or TV ministry.
- The OT tithe was for a celebration of the Lord's goodness. The church tithe is to prop up a ministry.
- The OT tithe was consumed by the tither, the Levites, the poor, the widows, the stranger. The church tithe is consumed by the ministry.
- The OT tithe was ordained by God. The church tithe was ordained by man.
So many in the Church are weighed down by feelings of guilt because they can’t or won’t tithe. Others are puffed up with pride because they do tithe their 10%. Still others go along with it because they never hear a dissenting voice raise a challenge.
To insist that the Church tithes its 10% is to take a law of Moses, twist its meaning into something else, enforce it upon a people for whom it was never intended, then promise that they will be cursed if they disobey. This isn’t just a heresy, it’s a SIN.
If the Church really wants God to bless them in their finances, (this is a reasonable request if the blessing flows out again), then it needs to abandon the laws of men that are unsanctioned by God, and instead be obedient to His direction. Generous joyful giving, that is freely given out of love is God’s desire. It is this that He will bless.
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