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Tithing

By Peter Pellerin, 25 February 2012 · 1,193 views

In all of the practical exhortations the apostles gave to us in the epistles, do you know how many times they encouraged Christians to tithe?  Do a search for this word.  The results might surprise you.

I wonder why we feel like we need to use this word in Christianity when the apostles never once used it the context of Christian giving.  The truth is this is not applicable to the church age.  

However, most of us should be giving far more than 10% of our income.  Jesus has offered us the opportunity to lay up treasure in heaven.  If we were wise we would heed His Words and give us much as we possibly could.  This is a retirement investment that will last forever!

In 2nd Corinthians, Paul called the desire to give the "grace of God" in our lives.  I pray that God will increase this grace my life.  I do not deserve to be able to give to His work and get rewarded in eternity for it.  Jesus became poor so that we could become rich.  If we sow bountifully, we will reap bountifully.  Giving causes praise to go up to God!  Paul described the results of giving as an indescribable gift!  

We should always also keep in mind that our giving must be as anonymous as possible.  We need to be careful to make sure our reward comes in eternity and not in this life.

Pastors and teachers, please start teaching these things accurately.  Paul, Peter, and John did not feel the need to use the word tithe in their exhortations to Christians.  The concept of Christian giving is so abused today.  I know that God will bless you if you teach these things correctly.  

Those young in the faith do not need to hear a sermon on tithing one out of every five sermons when they come to your church.  I believe your church will grow even more and people will give even more if you follow the example of the apostles.  It would be better if the word tithe was never used at all in you exhortations to your church.  The apostles did not do it, so why do we?

The question is, do we trust God enough not to try to plant specific percentages in people's minds?

I liked what J. Vernon McGee said in his commentary on 2Cor 8:12:

Here is something very important to note. Each should give according to "that a man hath," and he is to do it with a willing mind. No one is to give according to what he does not have.

In the section on 1 Corinthians, I gave an illustration which I will repeat because it is a very fine example of this principle.

When I was pastoring a church in Texas, one of my officers owned several Coca-Cola plants, and one of them was in our town. He was a man of means, and he owned a ranch where we used to go out to hunt and fish. Often he would ask me why I didn't preach on tithing. One day I said, "Why should I preach on tithing?" He said, "Because it is the Bible way of giving." I agreed, "Yes, it was the Old Testament way of giving, but under grace I don't believe tithing is the way it should be done." So he asked me, "How do you think it ought to be done?" I took him to this verse: "As God has prospered him." Now this was during the Depression. If you are as old as I am, you will remember that the Depression in the 1930s was a very serious time. So I said to him, "For some strange reason, Coca-Cola is selling, and you are doing very well. However, there are some members in our church who couldn't give a tithe right now. I don't believe God is asking them to give a tenth. There are a few people who are doing well, and they are to give as they have been prospered—and they are not to stop with a tenth. Probably they ought to give a half." Do you know that this man never again suggested that I preach on tithing! The reason was that he found out that a man is to give according to what he hath, not according to what he hath not.

The tithes were a basic measurement in the Old Testament, and I cannot believe that any Christian today who has a good income should give less than one tenth. In this time of great abundance Christians should be giving more than a tenth.

Blessings,
Peter




I really like what you have to say Peter. My own testimony is the Holy Spirit, after many years, showering me with a revelation of Joy. Before that I was very critical, full of cold analysis.

What a Joy it is to give & pray freely to God's work! Give & pray for the little one's learning their Bible verses in jungle lands, give & pray for missionaries in urban wastelands, give & pray for the local body! Give & pray - there is a place for me! What a JOY! Honestly, I delight in praying for the saints just as much as I delight in giving to their works. Thank you brother for speaking the truth!

I think Joy is the fragrance of a thankful grateful heart set free to love our Saviour!
Hi Pete,
Great little blog on giving, mate.

Whenever I read Philippians, and look at the way they gave, it actually brings me to tears. I've never gotten emotional over giving before, but whenever I read about what this Church went through in their giving to Paul it show me a love that they had for him. You know, the characteristics this church showed was that they would go to any extent for one of God's own, and because of that, they were blessed beyond what anyone could think.

You've really touched my heart on this post, bro, and I really appreciated it very much.

Blessings,
Autograph.png
Very interesting blog. I do agree with you that many christians can give more than 10% of their income. We are a nation that has been richly blessed. Though if you look around you see the blessings we have are slipping away.

I have to disagree with your theory that the tithing requirements are done away. Christ was a tither, else he would have been a sinner. I think we need to follow his example.




.

Very interesting blog. I do agree with you that many christians can give more than 10% of their income. We are a nation that has been richly blessed. Though if you look around you see the blessings we have are slipping away.I have to disagree with your theory that the tithing requirements are done away. Christ was a tither, else he would have been a sinner. I think we need to follow his example. .


Mj_

Thank your for your comment. We will have to agree to disagree on this one :). Christ fulfilled the law for us. He did lots of things that we are not bound to as Christians. We are under grace.

I personally think that the apostles would have taught tithing in at least one place in there practical exhortations if this was intended for the church, but they are silent. Tithing is only mentioned in connection with Old Testament saints anywhere in all of scripture. Levi did pay tithes through Abraham and we are spiritual children of Abraham. This is the closest connection you can get of tithing and the church.

Don't get me wrong, 10% may be a good place to start, but I just do not see there is a strong Biblical case for it in the NT. I personally believe there is a reason why the apostles were silent on the matter in their exhortations to Christians.

My main point is that I think we should be more careful about the "burdens" that we lay on the saints as pastors or teachers. Is it a load we even carry ourselves? Is it really one that Jesus wants us to put on people? I think we want to teach giving for the right motivation, not out of obligation. This was what I was trying to get across. However, I would say that the majority of conservative Christian pastors and teachers probably agree with your position and not mine so I am probably wrong :).

Blessings,
Peter
Hello Peter,

You are right, we have to agree to disagree. I don't want to muck up this comment area with debate on doctrinal issues that neither of us would change our view on no matter how strong the case may seem to be on either side. I apologize for my comment if it offended you or anyone else.

If you would like to discuss this in a private message that might be more appropriate.

Thanks for your blog, I know it was intended to inspire others on a topic you are passionate about. That is great motivation and worthy of praise.
Hi Mj_

If I did not want comment on the blog, then I would not have posted it. It is ok to comment and discuss in the blogs. You were not offensive in anyway. I appreciate discussing things from a Biblical perspective. I am constantly growing and learning and you never know, you might be able to show me the error of my ways :).

I have one module with the ante-nicene, nicene, and post-nicene fathers. Maybe I am searching for the wrong words, but I am even having trouble finding comments on tithing from the church fathers.

The only thing I can find in the church fathers is many quotes of this verse when I search for the word "tithe":

Matt 23:23 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.

It does not appear to be emphasized in the epistles or in the church Fathers. I have found that is often at the top of the list of practical exhortations in many churches today. There seems to be a disconnect to me.

Blessings,
Peter

I am constantly growing and learning and you never know, you might be able to show me the error of my ways :).I have one module with the ante-nicene, nicene, and post-nicene fathers.


The Ante-nicene, Nicene and post-nicene fathers modules are an excellent collection of letters and writings, but are not set up as commentaries.

St. Thomas Aquinas' Catena Aurea is a commentary compiled by Aquinas from the writings of the Early Church Fathers and as such, might yield better results...though my quick search provided only Matthew 23:23-24 and Luke 11: 37-44, it cited several Authors including Oerigen and Jerome giving a paragraph or two commentary for those verses from their writings.


There aren't a lot of commentaries that compile the ancient fathers (the Catena is the only one I know of).
The HISTORY OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH by Philip Schaff (in the reference library) has 14 references to the tithe starting in the first century running through around 1500 .

You might also try more modern commentary modules.

The Guzik commentary offers several comments from the OT, as well as Matthew and Luke, but also includes tithe related commentary on 2nd Corinthians 8:1-24 and Hebrews 7:1-28. The AEK adds 2nd Corinthians 8:7-9:4, and Ironside has some insights as well.

Hope these will aid you in your research.

Tim
I think the difficulty in the tithing question is the limitation to the use of new testament scriptures. When tied together the scriptures reveal a guideline for tithing.


Consider: when the church was established on the day of pentecost and the holy spirit was given, The 120 disciples were all together in one place. These were jewish people gathered together in Jerusalem to keep the day of Pentecost. They were born into what the world now calls Judaism. They had been taught to tithe, among many other things that also have been discontinued. There was no need to explain the tithing system because they already knew it.

Another point to consider: the new testament books were written over a span of some 60 years after Christ was crucified. The compilation of the new testament happened over a period of many years even beyond that time. If the church were dependant on these books for basic things like tithing, as you can see in your studies, they are quite lacking in instruction and would have been much to late at reaching the members of the church.

I offer Mathew 5.17 as reference. Christ says he is not come to destroy the law or the prophets. He is come to fulfill what was written before. When he speaks of 'the law' he is refering to the writings of the old testament. He came to expand on what was already understood.

I look foward to your response..
Thankyou Tim and Mj_ for your responses,

I have no problem with Christians choosing to tithe, but why stop there? There are so many instructions in the law that we no longer hold to. How many of us eat only Kosher foods? The law was our tutor to bring us to Christ. We are now to be led by the Spirit. Things are different now that Christ has come and fulfilled the law for us. We are exhorted to do many things by the apostles at the end of the epistles. Giving is one of them. Tithing is never called out specifically. Just one mention by them could have cleared this up.

Jesus taught giving in many places. The apostles encouraged us to give. As we grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior then our giving should increase.

I feel strongly that the constant use of the 10% figure does more harm than good to those who are seeking and to those who might not have much and feel guilty as there pastor preaches on his favorite "hobby horse" at least once or month, or always finds ways to mention it in passing almost every week.

Also keep in mind, that Israel was promised material blessings on earth for obedience to the law. While God certainly might bless us with materially for following Him, our blessings are primarily spiritual ones. We are blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places.

I have had one pastor in the past who would agree with my position on this, but many others who would probably not. It is not something I am dogmatic about, I just think that we use the word "tithe" a little to freely.

I really do not think that Jesus wants those on the outside to think that He is after there wallets when He is really after them! As we grow in our faith and learn what a blessing it is to be able to give to the work of the Lord, then we give not out of obligation, but out of gratitude.

Luke 6:38 Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you."

My feeling based on the scriptures is that the measure that we used should be up to the individual and be led by the Spirit in the church age.

Blessings,
Peter

The HISTORY OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH by Philip Schaff (in the reference library) has 14 references to the tithe starting in the first century running through around 1500 .


Thanks Baunllaw,
I searched Schaff's church history, but I did not find any references until volume 5, after the year 1000... There was one in the first volume, but just a verse reference.

I found this quote in the new ISBE

For several centuries in the early church there was no support of the clergy by a systematic giving of a tithe. In time the tithe came to be regarded generally after the pattern in the Jewish synagogue. The practice was supported by an appeal to some NT passages (e.g., Matt. 10:10; Lk. 10:7; 1 Cor. 9:7-14), but Irenaeus and other leaders in the church showed the arguments drawn from these texts were not valid. Rather, freedom in Christian giving was emphasized. (See further J. A. MacCulloch and W. H. D. Rouse in ERE, 12:347-51; H. Lansdell, The Sacred Tenth or Studies in Tithe-Giving Ancient and Modern [1906], 45-109, 119-80; H. Jagersma in Remembering All the Way [1981], 116-28; NIDOTTE, 2:1035-55; NIDNTT, 3:851-55.)
As you read this please understand that my tone is writing is loving and not at all combative or confrontational. If it reads that way it is unintentional and I apologize beforehand. I, and I pray all of you, am only interested in the pursuit of God's truth.

This is a very interesting discussion. I am having a little trouble following though. There is talk of 10% of income and Christ must have tithed or he would be a sinner. Quite frankly, I am not sure exactly how a person would actually be able to tithe biblically today.

In order to tithe an israelite either had to raise livestock or grow crops/fruit (however small the harvest) within the boundaries of Israel. Without going into great detail, the tithe was always food, never income. The only time it was money is if you lived too far away to transport your tithe (livestock and fruit/grain/etc) then you were to sell it and when you arrived in Jerusalem for the Fall Feast you were to purchase whatever food and strong drink you desired for the merriment of the feast.

The tithe of crops for the Israelites within the land was 10%, the tithe on the animals however was the tenth one, not 10%. If you had 19 cows, you tithed 1 cow. It was the tenth one under the gate as they came in, not the best, not the worst, just every tenth one.

God's system of provision for his people is amazing. First Fruits, Gleaning/Corners, and tithing was partially for providing for those who did not own land and/or could not provide for themselves: the widow, orphan, stranger, levite/priests.

The tithe was always eaten and most of it was eaten by the person/family tithing. It was broken into a 7 year cycle. Every third year (year 3 and year 6) the 'whole' tithe was given to the Levites, who lived near the tither, who would put it in the storehouse (context of Malachi). The Levites would give the best tenth to the priests. The tithe generally though was brought into Jerusalem during the Fall Feast so that it could be feast food for the tither, his family, those that traveled with him, the strangers, etc.

The tithe was always eaten.

It was a wonderful way of making sure that God's people had a wonderful feast as well as a means of providing for his people.

The 7th year, there was no tithe as the land rested.

I do not understand how Jesus would have tithed, what would he have tithed? He had no produce that I know of, he did not raise cattle that I am aware. I am not aware that any of the disciples that fished would have tithed, you can't tithe fish. It is not a blessing from the land of Israel.

I agree whole heartedly that we are to give of all of our resources for the Kingdom of God. Time, money, talents... I just do not understand how tithing is even talked about as a means of Christian giving today honestly. It is literally only food, only from the land of Israel, to be shared with the Levites and the less fortunate, but mostly eaten by the actual family tithing.

Do most people who tithe today get the money right back to spend on feast?

Do they get every seventh year off from tithing their income?

I am sorry to be a bit long winded, yet manage to be still very vague with my response. I just felt a need to join into this discussion.

May God bless each and every one of us as we seek to better understand Him and his truth as revealed in scripture. May we pray that he reveals to us what he expects from each of us.

P.S. the giving of 10% from Abraham was mentioned, but keep in mind that he gave nothing of what he possessed, only what he gained in spoils through combat, including people. He gave 10% to Melchizedek, then turned around and returned the 90% to the original owners.
crompies,

Thanks for your comment. This adds a lot to this discussion. I had a pastor make the same points when Iived back in Maine a few years back. Over time the Jews generalized tithing to all types of income in their other writings. However, this was never done in the Bible. The church eventually did this as well. However, the early church seems to be largely silent on the concept of tithing. It seems to only be viewed in a negative light. There was freedom in Christ to give cheerfully without any specific measure used.

Blessings,
Peter
I believe tithing is very relevant today, Jesus did not condemn it
Crompies,

You bring up a very relevant point about multiple tithes. Please let me share my understanding of the tithes as it is outlined for us in the bible.

When we analyze the scriptures deeply we will see that there are three separate tithes spoken of in the old testament. The first tithe, that is our commitment to God, year by year, taken of the best of what we have. In todays society, we do not live an agrarian lifestyle so we use money to fulfill that obligation - not live stock or crops.

The second tithe is also year by year and is to be dedicated to observing the 7 annual festivals as outlined in the book of Leviticus and other places in the bible. This tithe is the one spoken of as one that is eaten because it was used on the holy feast days that were observed, and are also observed today. Christ is the one who inspired Moses to outline these days for us before he became flesh. He lived by them from his childhoold until he died on passover as the pure sacrifial lamb.

As it relates to the 7 year cycle, a third tithe is set apart for the poor in the church that are financially unable to provide for themselves. This tithe is based on a seven year cycle in which every third year the third tithe is observed. Thus on the third year and on the 6th year a tithe is offered. The 7th year being a year of release. In an agrarian society the land is rested on the seventh year so there are no crops other than what grows of itself. This resting of the soil in the seventh year is still a valid requirement for those who farm the soil today.

There are many scriptures that support this practice of first second and third tithe. Most denominations reject this guideline as something done away. That is very unfortunate for the individual, for feeding of the poor and for the celebration of the days as outlined in the old testament.

So does this system work? Absolutely yes! I have observed this system for years.

There are other things that must be understood in order to more deeply understand the principles here. Without an understanding of the annual holy days, (that reveal the entire plan that god laid out for bringing man into eternal life) the second tithe becomes pointless, we then have a situation where there are no festivals to observe or travel to.

Without a central church there is no way to observe the third tithe requirement either.
The early church spread out in the very early years and many of these teachings were eliminated. Men like Polycarp, who was a minister trained by Paul, and Polycrates were persecuted for keeping things like the Passover and other days mentioned in the scriptures.

Christ admonished that we should live by every word of God. When he was alive and for many years after his death, all that there was for the 'word of god' was the old testament writings. We do live in age of grace as is commonly stated. Grace is extended for our sins. We no longer have to bring an animal to the priests to sacrifice for our sins. Christ did that for us, and in so doing he fulfilled the meaning of the very first commanded holy day: Passover. He never said stop tithing, stop the holy days, stop keeping the seventh day sabbath. Those things were slowly and methodically removed in the first 3 or 4 centuries of the church. In John’s epistles there was already trouble in the church and true ministers were being forced out. 2000 years later the church Christ established is unrecognizable in it’s beliefs.

Well, I'm starting to get a little deep into it. The point being, if you don't have the entire package, the holy days, the sabbath, a central church teaching and adhering to all the principles, everything unravels.

When we analyze the scriptures deeply we will see that there are three separate tithes spoken of in the old testament. The first tithe, that is our commitment to God, year by year, taken of the best of what we have. In todays society, we do not live an agrarian lifestyle so we use money to fulfill that obligation - not live stock or crops.


Thank you MJ_ for your response. I think I understand the First tithe slightly different. The First Fruits is a 'select' offering, the first of the crops, but the tithe is not a specific grade, best or worst. It is simply 10% or the tenth, food or animal. The First tithe I would agree is for God, but all we give is for God. The recipients of the first tithe were the Levites and Priests as an inheritance. The other tribes were given land by God which brought forth food for them, they in turn gave a portion (10%) to the Levites who had no land that could bring forth food. This was for the service they provided, it is outlined in Numbers 18:20-21.

I do not quite understand the agrarian reference as they were not a food/service bartering society. They were an agricultural society, yes, but most people's occupations were not farmers, meaning most never tithed (perhaps mint or dill or something else small in comparison.) Money was the main currency. God could simply have commanded the people to give money to the poor and the Levites, but his provision in the tithe, First Fruits offering, and gleaning of the field was for food, not just anything money can buy.

The second tithe was the feast tithe, also included freewill offerings, first fruits and vows. Deut. 12 and 14:22-26. It was brought by farmers to the feast. Not by Israelite farmers who lived outside of the boundaries of Israel and traveled to Jerusalem, only the produce from the actual land. This tithe was eaten entirely by the tither and those with them.

The third tithe was the poor tithe, given to the widows, orphans, Levites in the tithers town, the strangers, even gentile strangers. Deut 14:28-29, 26:12-13.

As it relates to the 7 year cycle, a third tithe is set apart for the poor in the church that are financially unable to provide for themselves.



I am not sure biblically where 'church' specifically fits into this. This tithe is for all of the poor. Not just those within a group, whether it be a church, synagogue, or local shelter. This was a tithe that was kept locally in a storehouse, not Jerusalem. It was for all of the poor in the tithers town.

I will not go into my opinions now on the effect men have had on the Word of God, through their own biases, racial prejudices, pride and tradition, perhaps on another thread. It is an important topic that I believe we would agree on a great many things.

With regards to keeping the high holy days, I believe that too would best be served in another post, I would love to discuss that as well.

To sum up tithing, I believe it to simply be a beautiful system set up by God to provide for the poor and those who serve him that were not given a land inheritance (Levites/Priests.) We can learn so much from the way God expects us to provide for the people, not just his people. We should do all we can to see that people do not go hungry, that people are provided for.
Have much to say on this subject but brief is sweet and as with all things spiritual, it's about revelation and conviction.
Patterns are easy enough to see, but principles require greater insight.
Consider the following questions and more as you seek understanding:
The tithe was given as statute/law to the Israelites...is this the case for the new creation?
If the tithe is applicable to the new creation, how does the tithe/first fruit etc law differ from e.g. the sabbath commandment in principle and practice...or any of the other laws/judgements/statutes/commandments the 'churches' do not observe?
In relation to tithing, now that we are made a nation of kings and priests, does the pattern of the priesthood (service/sacrifices/offerings/tithes etc)apply? to what extent?

I believe the new creation has the nature of Yhwh - being born of him - we all know he is a giver (Jhn3:16 etc) and once we have dealt with our flesh, we are no different to him in the area of giving...True givers do so not out of law/compultion but love.
I have came to this conclusion in my walk with Christ: If you do not want to live by the precepts that are written out in the Old Testament, due to their irrelevance for the church, then stop claiming the promises that are in the Old Testament for if the precepts are irrelevant for the church so are the promises.
Two concepts that are very important in Biblical interpretation are the fact of progressive revelation and interpreting in context.

Many serious areas are made by Christians today because they do not interpret the scriptures in context.

Deut 7:13 He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers. He will bless the fruit of your womb, the crops of your land--your grain, new wine and oil--the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks in the land that he swore to your forefathers to give you. Deut 7:14 You will be blessed more than any other people; none of your men or women will be childless, nor any of your livestock without young. Deut 7:15 The LORD will keep you free from every disease. He will not inflict on you the horrible diseases you knew in Egypt, but he will inflict them on all who hate you.

Many Bible teachers today will take this verse out of context and teach that Christians should not get sick and all Christians should walk in divine wealth if they have enough faith.

In context, these promises were earthly promises to God's earthly chosen people if they were faithful to Him.

The church has been blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ. Our primary blessings are spiritual, though God can certainly provide for our needs and can heal if He chooses to do so.

All of the scriptures are for us, but they are not all about us.

Blessings,
Peter

Two concepts that are very important in Biblical interpretation are the fact of progressive revelation and interpreting in context. Many serious areas are made by Christians today because they do not interpret the scriptures in context.


Never was there a more accurate statement.

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