Tithing 101: A Comprehensive Response to the Campaign Against Tithing
A Comprehensive Response to the Campaign Against Tithing
People who claim that tithing is an outdated, Old Testament doctrine and that Jesus only talked about tithe once and in passing, certainly do not know the Word of God the way they ought to.
Introduction & Definition
There have been arguments against tithing recently on the Nigerian Social Media and I wish to address each of these arguments. I will begin with a definition of tithe to clarify what tithe is and what tithe is not.
There is a difference between a tithe and a tenth. By definition, a tithe is a tenth of one’s income consecrated (set apart) and dedicated to God and to the service of His house. A tenth is just one-tenth (10%) of anything. The primary difference between a tithe and a tenth is the purpose behind it. A tenth of your income given to God is a tithe, but a tenth of your income given to a relative or someone else in need is not a tithe; it’s called alms giving. So, one-tenth of your income which you decide to save in your piggy bank or savings account is not a tithe. A tenth of your house rent paid to the agent is also not a tithe. These few examples show that there is a difference between a tithe and a tenth, though some people are not aware of this. Even some Bible translations make this error by using tithe and tenth interchangeably.
Every Jew was required by the Mosaic Law to give out a tenth of their income in three different ways and for three different purposes as follows:
- A tenth of their income to be given to the Levites (Tithe) – Numbers 18:21,24; Deuteronomy 18:1-5; Nehemiah 10:37
- A tenth to be given for celebration of feast in the Temple – Deuteronomy 12:17-19; 14:22-23
- A tenth to be given every three years to cater for the poor and needy in their community (Deuteronomy 26:1-3, 12)
Only number 1 qualifies as a tithe because of the purpose for which it was given.
Colossians 1:9 says “We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding.” Without complete (wholesome) knowledge of God’s will, our theology becomes a half-truth. And like someone said, a half-truth is a whole lie. We can never have wholesome, complete knowledge of God’s Word by basing our doctrine or argument on a single verse of Scripture.
So let me begin to address the different points of arguments against tithing.
One argument against tithing is that pastors are not Levites and therefore not entitled to receive tithes. The Levites were members of the Hebrew tribe of Levi chosen and ordained by God to be His priests. Hebrews 5:4 says Gospel Ministers are called by God the same way Aaron, the first levitical priest, was called. This makes them the New Testament equivalent of the Levites.
One argument against tithing is that it is an ancient African culture. Tithing does not have its origin in some African culture. The only way to convince me, or any reasonable person, about this is by supplying documentary evidence of African culture of tithing that dates back to before the time of Abraham. I don’t think such exist.
One argument against tithing is that it is an outdated Old Testament doctrine. This argument is false because tithing does not have its source in the Law of Moses; it was incorporated into the Mosaic Law. When Abraham paid tithe to Melchizedek in Genesis 15, the grandfather of Moses was not yet born. Moses was born about 500 years after Abraham paid tithe, and the Law of Moses came into being about 580 years after. Abraham neither lived nor paid tithe under the dispensation of the Law, but under grace (Romans 4:13-16).
Another argument is that Abraham paid tithe once, and as such is not enough for it to become a church doctrine. The fact that the Bible records something once does not necessarily mean it happened only once. For instance, it’s only recorded once that Jesus wept over the death of someone. So are we to assume that for the 33 years He spent on earth Jesus never wept over the death of someone else? Are we to interpret this to mean that Jesus never wept during His childhood and that He did not weep at the death of Joseph His earthly father? Such argument shows a deep ignorance of how to understand or interpret the Scriptures.
The Bible is not a chronicle of the daily activities of people’s lives, but a chronicle of important facts and historical events as the Holy Spirit sees fit (2Peter 1:21). The Bible says the things Jesus said and did which are not recorded in Scripture are much more than the things He said and did that are recorded in Scripture (John 21:25).
Therefore, Abraham couldn’t have given away such wealth (a tenth of wealth taken from 9 kingdoms) as tithe to Melchizedek if he was just meeting him and knowing him for the first time. (How many people would accept food from a total stranger and pay tithe to him?) Melchizedek gave Abraham bread and wine, which are symbolic of the Word of God and the Spirit of God. They are also symbolic of the Holy Communion. Then Melchizedek spoke God’s blessing over Abraham before Abraham gave him the tithe. This shows that Melchizedek had been a blessing to Abraham and had always performed the duties of a priest to him before that incident.
Secondly, a careful look at the tithe Abraham paid to Melchizedek would also make you know it was not the first time he paid tithe. Genesis chapter 14 tells us the spoil Abraham took from defeating the four kings was not of little value. These four kings, including King Kedorlaomer and the king of Babylonia, had defeated five other kings and took away spoils from their five kingdoms. So when Abraham defeated those four kings he took double spoils from them – spoils of their own kingdom and the spoils they had taken from the other five kingdoms they earlier defeated. These spoils were worth millions in any currency for they were spoils from nine kingdoms; they were of immense value. This shows that the tithe Abraham paid from these spoils were almost equivalent to the spoil (wealth) taken from one kingdom.
My point is that, it would only take someone addicted to tithing to give away such wealth as tithe. If Abraham did not know the importance of tithing and was not used to tithing, he would never give away such wealth as tithe. This is because a person who is not faithful with little cannot be faithful with much (Luke 16:10). A person who cannot pay N10, 000 tithe can never have the presence of mind to give away N1million as tithe. Therefore, by paying such amount of tithe Abraham proved that he had been faithful in tithing lesser amounts of income before that incident.
It’s also important to note that as at that time, this was probably the biggest amount of wealth Abraham had ever acquired (Genesis 14:23) and the biggest amount of tithe he had ever paid. Like I earlier said, the Bible mostly records events that are of significance. This particular event is significant in the sense that shortly after paying this tithe to Melchizedek the Lord visited Abraham in a dream and made a covenant with him to give him the land of Canaan and an heir by his wife Sarah to inherit his wealth and carry on his legacy.
This shows that one of the blessings of practicing the tithe principle is that it moves God to bless you with things that people cannot give and things that money cannot buy. The problem with some people is that they think the blessing of tithing is only limited to money. No matter how rich a person is, there are things that he cannot buy with money; things that only God can give. God mostly gives His blessings to those who give to Him, even as Jesus taught that if you give it will be given to you.
It’s hypocritical and self-serving for people to claim the blessing of Abraham but do not want to practice the principles he practiced.
Another argument against tithing is that Jesus only talked about it once and in passing. But they fail to understand that anything written in the Book of the Law, even in passing, is still part of the Law and is legally binding. A law is not inconsequential because it appears once and in passing in the constitution. Whatever law and instruction is included, even once and in passing, in the constitution is constitutional and valid before any court of law. So this argument is bogus and invalid.
Jesus said “For most assuredly, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not even one smallest letter or one tiny pen stroke shall in any way pass away from the law, until all things are accomplished.” (Matthew 5:18, WEB) So if a full stop or comma in God’s Word is of significance and importance and stands valid forever, then whatever Jesus said, even once and in passing, is of significance and importance and stands valid forever. There are many things Jesus never mentioned, even in passing, yet there are underlying principles in God’s Word to guide us on them, example child pornography.
Furthermore, Jesus may have talked about tithing only once and in passing, but the truth is that He never condemned it. It’s a well known fact that, just like John the Baptist, Jesus rebuked and condemned many of the things done by the religious leaders of His time on several occasions and at any given opportunity. However, there isn’t a single record of Jesus or John the Baptist or any of the prophets condemning the religious leaders for receiving tithes. This is simply because they knew that speaking against tithing would be against God’s ordinance. Therefore, anyone who condemns tithing is invariably saying that Jesus was wrong for not condemning it, which of course is a sin.
Throughout the Bible, the only time Jesus said something good about the Pharisees was when He acknowledged their faithfulness in tithing in Luke 11:42. This shows that people who do not tithe can never claim to be more righteous than the Pharisees (Matthew 5:20).
The question is this: the people who heard Christ talk about tithing that day in passing, what do you think was their perception and understanding of what He said? Did they leave that place discouraged from paying their tithes or encouraged to do keep on tithing?
The simple truth is this: if Jesus never wanted His hearers and followers to continue paying tithes He would have clearly condemned it that very day, just as He clearly condemned other practices of the religious leaders. So, I would really appreciate it if someone were to show me a single place in Scripture where Jesus, or any of the prophets, condemned the paying of tithes, despite the many failings of some priests throughout Bible history. This shows that the failings of some priests and the proliferation of false prophets does not invalidate God’s ordinance.
The truth is that Jesus did not talk about tithing once and in passing. He also talked about it in Luke 20:25. Jesus was asked if it was right to pay taxes to Caesar or not, and He replied: "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." The things that are due to Caesar (the government) is the tax and the things due to God (the Church) are the tithes. This is Jesus clearly endorsing paying of taxes and paying of tithes, showing that people who pay their taxes but do not pay their tithes are in violation of God’s command.
If Jesus could pay tax and encourage His disciples to do same (Matthew 17:24-27) then He must have also paid tithes before urging His hearers to do same, for the tax He paid was a Temple tax. This is because Jesus was never a hypocrite; He preached what He practiced and practiced what He preached. Acts 1:1 says Jesus practiced everything He taught the people before teaching it to them.
Another argument is that the early church and early Apostles did not practice paying and receiving of tithes. God’s ordinance for providing for His house and His priests (ministers) was incorporated into New Testament doctrine and was practiced by the Apostles and First Century Christians (1Corinthians 9:3-14). In 1Timothy 5:17-18 the Apostles teach that workers deserve their pay, including those who work in the house of God. It says, “Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says ‘You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.’ And in another place, ‘Those who work deserve their pay!’” (NLT) This Scripture says preaching and teaching is work – one of the works God has assigned to His ministers and that we must not deny them their pay, which means we should not stop giving our tithes and offerings, because their pay comes from there.
People who do not have a problem with politicians earning their pay from government coffers but have a problem with Gospel Ministers earning their pay from church coffers are nothing but hypocrites. Everyone earns a living from where they work and if the place they work can afford to pay them enough to live well, I don’t see how that is a sin or an aberration. There are poor pastors and there are rich pastors, depending on the ministry where they work and serve God. Some churches can afford to pay them better than others can, and I don’t see why and how that is a sin.
Another argument is that the instruction to pay tithe in Malachi chapter 3 was addressed to Levites and the Nation of Israel and not to Christians. Malachi 3 is not a message to priests only, but to all. Verses 6-11 show this, and in verse 9 God says: “for ye have robbed me, even this WHOLE NATION” thereby making reference to those He was speaking to.
Furthermore, the argument that the command to tithe in this scripture verse was given to the nation of Israel and not to Christians shows ignorance of scriptural symbolism in the sense that, the Old Testament with its rules and regulations, was but a shadow of the New Testament. Under the Old Testament the nation of Israel were God’s chosen people and were symbolic of God’s people in the New Testament, which is made up of believers in Christ from every nation, tribe and tongue. We are the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16) and this instruction is for us.
This is another argument: is it not better for me to give my tithe to the poor out there than to a church/pastor that is not poor? It may interest you to know that people also used this same argument with Jesus when the woman with alabaster box poured a very expensive perfume on him. Some people, especially Judas Iscariot, disapproved of His using that expensive perfume, saying it would have been better to sell it and give the money to the poor. But Jesus insisted that the woman did the right thing by giving it and that He did the right thing by using it. (Matthew 26:7-13)
This shows that some of the people using this argument are not so sincere about giving to the poor, just like Judas wasn’t; it shows that they have a problem with paying their tithe. If you ask them the last time they gave a tenth of their income to a poor person on the street, they will hardly tell you the truth. Their argument does not show that they’re mindful of the poor, but that they’re mindful of the money. They have a problem seeing another person spend and enjoy the money they think they should spend and enjoy, Just like Judas (John 12:4-5). Because Jesus refused to sell the perfume and give Judas the money, he became angry and went and betrayed Jesus to His enemies in exchange for 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26:14-16). The same anger and rebellious mindset that Judas manifested is what we are seeing today.
God instituted the tithe principle to ensure that his priests and His house do not wallow in poverty, for it is improper for the house of prayer to be a house of poverty. The Scriptures also teach giving to the poor. Therefore, our obligation to give to the poor should not stop us from fulfilling our obligation of giving to God that which is due to Him. Even in the eyes of the law, it is never legit to rob Peter to pay Paul.
Therefore, as pious and humane as this argument sounds, we cannot be doing God’s will by robbing God to give to the poor; it is unscriptural to give to another person what you are supposed to give to God. In Deuteronomy 12:11 & 14 God says, “you must bring everything I command you – your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, your sacred offerings, and your offerings to fulfill a vow – to the designated place of worship…Be very careful not to sacrifice your burn offerings just anywhere you like” (NLT). In Luke 20:25 Jesus also said we should give to God what belongs to God. The tithe belongs to God and we are instructed to give it to Him the way He says we should and where He says we should, otherwise it is not a tithe.
Another argument is that people should stop paying tithe because pastors use expensive things and live an extravagant lifestyle. The truth is that not all pastors use expensive things and live extravagantly because not all pastors can afford to do so. People who have a problem with pastors living large need to know that Jesus also used expensive things. The alabaster box perfume the woman poured on Jesus was worth a laborer’s one year salary (Mark 14:5). From my findings where I live, the daily wage of a laborer at a construction site is about N2, 000. Multiplying this by 365 days gives you N730, 000. This is the approximate value of the perfume Jesus used; who wouldn’t refer to this as extravagance?
If someone should bless them with an expensive gift they would accept and use it with joy, but they don’t want a pastor to do same just because he’s a pastor. How hypocritical! If it was not a sin for Jesus to accept and use such expensive and extravagant perfume, then it is not a sin for pastors to accept or use the expensive things with which God has blessed them.
Just like any individual or organization has the right to become as rich as they can be, a minister or the church also has the right to become as rich as they can be. If other people have the right to live comfortably by what they do, pastors also have the same right.
We need to understand that people and corporations become rich by being a blessing to many people, via their products or services. If it’s not a crime or sin for Apple Inc to earn money from their products sold to a million people, it’s also not a crime or sin for a pastor to be blessed by a million people whom God has used him to bless. Such a pastor cannot be poor. A person who has been a blessing to at least a hundred thousand people cannot be poor, whether he is a pastor, a marketer, an author, or a blogger like Linda Ikeji who has millions of visitors to her blog every month, including myself. If you doubt me try and be a blessing to at least a thousand people.
It’s pertinent to note that the tithe Abraham paid to Melchizedek enriched him and made Melchizedek wealthy. So the rich pastors you see today are not the first priests of God to be rich. Hebrews 5:10 says Jesus is a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek who received tithe from Abraham. If Melchizedek was a priest who lived in violation of God’s principles and ordinances, Christ would never be likened to him.
It may also interest you to know that the early Apostles did not spend their whole life in poverty; they also experienced the blessing of abundance. For instance, Apostle Paul said, “I know both how to live in humble circumstances and how to live amid abundance. I am fully initiated into all the mysteries both of fulness and of hunger, of abundance and of want. I have enough of everything – and more than enough. My wants are fully satisfied now that I have received from the hands of Epaphroditus the generous gifts which you sent me – they are a fragrant odor, an acceptable sacrifice, truly pleasing to God.” (Philippians 4:12, 18, WNT). His blessing of abundance, as made possible by the financial blessings of the believers of the church in Philippi, was acceptable and well pleasing to God.
God has clearly stated in His Word that He wants His priests to live in abundance when He said, “I will satiate the soul of the priests with abundance, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness” (Jeremiah 31:14, NKJV). So, it’s not a sin for a Gospel Minister to live in abundance. Anyone who has a problem with this has a problem with God’s Word.
If you are not comfortable with the way your pastor goes about his ministry, change church, instead of trying to invalidate God’s Word. Changing church does not alter your faith and relationship with God, but changing, judging, and criticizing God’s Word and principles certainly will.
11. Sheeple for Live! (#Sheeple4Live) Every organization has a means of generating income for their programmes and vision, including the church. Anyone with insight would understand that giving to God through tithes and offerings is God’s means of generating income for the work of His house and for those who have been ordained to work therein. This is why He said, “No one shall appear before Me empty-handed” (Exodus 23:15, AMP).
So, how do they expect the church to generate income to foot its bills and sponsor its programmes? By begging from the government or from those with manifest hatred for gospel ministers and derogatorily refer to Christians as sheeple? Such arrogance is unbecoming of someone who claims he wants to sanitize the church. No organization can continue to exist or function without money. Therefore, anyone who says the Church is not supposed to generate income is invariably saying that the Church is not supposed to exist and function. If this is not an antichrist ideology, then I don’t know what it is.
So, if living by God’s principles makes me a sheep of God then so be it, for only the sheep can enter the Kingdom of Heaven. After all, Psalm 100:3 says “we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” I guess this makes it clear and scriptural that we are God’s sheeple. Mocking us for being sheep(le) of Christ is like mocking us for making the best decision anyone can make, which is to be a follower of Christ and a practicer of His principles.
A campaign in Futility. I must say that this latest campaign against tithing has achieved nothing. This is because by carefully following people’s reaction on social media I have observed that those who have bought into it are mostly those who were not faithful tithers in the first place, but have been looking for reasons and excuses to justify their reluctance to tithe. People who have accurate knowledge and conviction of the Word and have experienced the blessings of tithing have mostly refused to buy into this anti-tithing campaign.
Conclusion. Some people speak so confidently about tithing yet they know little or nothing of what they speak about. 1Timothy 1:7 says, “…they don’t know what they are talking about even though they speak so confidently.” (NLT) Confidence is one way to fool people and is a strategy commonly used by swindlers. That is why confidence does not determine truth, for people can be confident in ignorance. Truth is not determined by eloquence; knowledge is not determined by phonetics. The ability to quote some Bible verses is no proof of proficiency in Scripture. Proficiency in Scripture is not just about knowing the Bible but knowing how to apply it (or how it applies).
Finally, Colossians 2:8 says, “Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.” (NLT) We must not let people capture us with their high-sounding nonsense just because they appear confident and speak with a foreign accent. Truth is not a function of phonetics. No matter how phonetically beautiful you verbalize it, a lie is a lie; and no matter how poorly you verbalize it, truth is truth. No matter how smart a Smartphone is, it can never be smarter than its maker. Similarly, no matter how intelligent or learned a person is, he can never be smarter or more learned than his Maker – the One who designed his brain.
The plain truth is this: a man who questions or argues with his Maker is trying to prove superior intelligence. If this is not a sin, then nothing else is.
Copyright © 2017 Maikhael Etto. All Rights Reserved! Maikhael Etto is a Bible Teacher & author of Scripture Romance – Enhancing Your Sex Life with Verses from the Holy Book, available on amazon & okadabooks
© 2017 Maikhael Etto