Hi, I was after some feedback on my views on tithing ...
[b]Should Christians Tithe?[/b]
By Harri Korhonen
The bible talks a lot about giving, for some people as soon as a preacher mentions giving, their blood begins to boil thinking that someone is trying to swindle their hard earned cash, or they feel great guilt at their lack of giving, while for some its easy to give, as they do not care about worldly riches, but are focused on the joys of serving God.
So whats the go with tithing, what does the bible teach about this topic? Obviously there mention of tithing in the bible, but should we still tithe? In this study we will first examine what tithing is, before investigating whether tithing is required of Christians. Then we will look at other types of giving discussed in the New Testament.
What is tithing?
Firstly, what you probably already know, the word tithe literally means a tenth part. But what was it a tenth part of and who gave it and to whom was it given. These are the bits that are not understood by most, and become blurred by our traditions of men.
In Genesis 14 we read about Abraham giving a tithe to Melchizedek, this is the first reference to giving some type of tithe in the bible. Gen 14:20 And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand. And he gave him a tithe of all.
What Abraham gave was goods taken after the battle against the armies who captured Lot (Abrahams brother). Abraham did not keep anything for himself, all possessions captured went back to the king of Sodom, and a portion to Abner, Eshcol and Mamre.
What happened here does predate the law of Moses, but you could not use this as an argument to say someone should tithe. This is a one off event and if someone was to base there tithing on this, they should also teach to give the remaining 90% away and not keep it either.
The next reference to tithing in the bible is found in Gen 28:20-22 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.
Has anyone ever recommended conditional tithing? Normally we hear people saying you need to tithe so you are blessed, give in advance, but where is that in the bible? What about Jacob, he said If God will
then he would give him a tithe.
Ok when Jacob gave a tithe, how did he give it to God? There we no Levitical priests, no temple, no local church and no postal service direct to God. Well in the verses in Genesis is doesnt explicitly say. Maybe he enjoyed a portion of the livestock and produce with his family, friends, the poor, the strangers with thanksgiving and in communion with God, as was done after the Law took effect (See Deut 12:6-7 and Deut 14:29).
After the laws of God were introduced through Moses to the Israelites, regular tithes were given. But what was actually given, who were they given too and when was it given?
Who were tithes given to?
1. A tithe to the children of Levi
Numbers 18:20-24 : Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting. Hereafter the children of Israel shall not come near the tabernacle of meeting, lest they bear sin and die. But the Levites shall perform the work of the tabernacle of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity; it shall be a statute forever, throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance. For the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer up as a heave offering to the Lord, I have given to the Levites as an inheritance; therefore I have said to them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.
2. A tithe (the best of) from the Levites tithe above, to be given to Aaron.
Numbers 18:25-32 : Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak thus to the Levites, and say to them: When you take from the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them as your inheritance, then you shall offer up a heave offering of it to the Lord, a tenth of the tithe. And your heave offering shall be reckoned to you as though it were the grain of the threshing floor and as the fullness of the winepress. Thus you shall also offer a heave offering to the Lord from all your tithes which you receive from the children of Israel, and you shall give the Lords heave offering from it to Aaron the priest. Of all your gifts you shall offer up every heave offering due to the Lord, from all the best of them, the consecrated part of them. Therefore you shall say to them: When you have lifted up the best of it, then the rest shall be accounted to the Levites as the produce of the threshing floor and as the produce of the winepress. You may eat it in any place, you and your households, for it is your reward for your work in the tabernacle of meeting. And you shall bear no sin because of it, when you have lifted up the best of it. But you shall not profane the holy gifts of the children of Israel, lest you die.
3. The Israelites gathered together with those who belonged to their household ate/drank of the tithe. The Israelites had 3 festivals each year for which they travelled to Jerusalem, for which scholars believe this tithe was used/consumed. (See Exodus 23:14-17)
Deut 14:22-26: You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. And you shall eat before the Lord your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the Lord your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the Lord your God has blessed you, then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the Lord your God chooses. And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household
4. At the end of each 3rd year, gather a tithe of the third years produce given to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, the widow who are within your gates.
Deut 14:27-29: You shall not forsake the Levite who is within your gates, for he has no part nor inheritance with you. At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.
Deut 26:12: When you have finished laying aside all the tithe of your increase in the third year the year of tithingand have given it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be filled.
Note that the Levites didnt completely live off the tithe, they were given land around cities which they could farm.
Num 35:4 The common-land of the cities which you will give the Levites shall extend from the wall of the city outward a thousand cubits all around.
Note that Jesus did not receive a tithe as he was from the tribe of Judah. The apostle Paul did not receive at tithe, as he was from the tribe of Benjamin. None of Jesus disciples received a tithe either.
When was it tithed?
There is some conjecture as to how to interpret when tithes were given. Im not talking about what time of year, but which years, and hence how much on average it equates to. When adding up the amounts tithed on a 3 year average, it may either be 3.33% or 10.33% or 23.33%, with the later figure (23.33%) being the most common I found doing a search on the internet.
Ok so where do we get these figures
3.33%: 10% given every third year (of only the third years produce) to the Levites and to the poor.
10.33%: 10% annually for feasts of worship, and 10% every 3rd year (of only the third years produce) for the Levites and the poor.
23.33%: 10% given annually to the Levites, 10% annually for feasts of worship, and 10% every 3rd year (of only the third years produce) for the Levites and the poor.
Note the above figures are worked on a 3 year average, but every 7th year there was no tithing as that was a Sabbath year of rest in which there was no sowing nor reaping (see Lev 25:1-7). This means the figures should really be 2.89%, 11.43% and 20%.
What was tithed?
Leviticus 27:30-33, "And all the TITHE of the LAND, whether of the SEED of the land, or of the FRUIT, of the tree, is the Lords: it is holy unto the Lord. And if a man will at all redeem ought of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof. And concerning the TITHE of the HERD, or of the FLOCK, even of whatsoever passes under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord. He shall not search whether it be good or bad, neither shall he change it..."
We read in Leviticus 27:30-33 what was actually tithed. It consists of any of the following:
1. The seed of the land
2. Fruit from trees
3. Animals from his herds or flocks that pass under a rod.
This means that fish, money, houses and any other possessions were not tithed.
Money only came into the equation when, they had to travel long distances to provide their tithes. In these cases they could convert their tithe to cash, then travel, and then buy stuff for the tithe again when they got there. (See Deut 14:24-26)
Another interesting point to note is that it was the last tenth of livestock given to God not the first tenth. So if you had 99 cows, then the 10th, 20th,
, 90th (9 cows in total) would be given as a tithe.
I have heard preachers say to always give the first 10th of your money, and sometimes they will go so far as to say to give of things you havent yet received in faith. Firstly money wasnt tithed in the bible (try putting your pet dog in the offering basket next week), and secondly, what happened to giving the last tenth instead?
Note that there are scriptures which mention giving first fruits or first born, these are not actually the tithes, but a different set of laws instituted under the mosaic covenant.
Well as we have already discovered, it was only grain, fruit and animals from flocks and herds. So how would a servant, a shop keeper or a builder tithe? Well they didnt. It was only the owner of the land and animals that tithed. This means even Jesus the carpenter didnt even tithe.
The other people that tithed were the Levites themselves who gave a tithe from the tithe they were given to the priests (from the line of Aaron) (See Numbers 18:25-32).
So in Luke 14:12, when Jesus said the Pharisees were said to tithe of their mint, rue, herbs and Matt 23:23 mint, anise and cumin (note they are agricultural products), they were Jews living under the old covenant (Mosaic law) and Jesus had not been crucified.
Also note the gentiles did not tithe, they were considered unclean and were not permitted to tithe.
What do Jews do today?
Well Jews dont actually tithe anymore. They know that the Levites were the only ones that could receive the tithe. There are no official Levitical priests ministering at the temple in Jerusalem, which makes it totally non scriptural to pay a tithe. In fact they consider it a sin to give or receive a tithe in any other manner other that what is defined in scripture. As those requirements cannot be done Jews do not tithe today. I also read that the proper genealogical records of the Levites were destroyed in the temple in 70 AD, and the true Levites cannot be determined. So even if the temple in Jerusalem was rebuilt for the Jews, do hold your breath that they would recommence tithing any time soon!
What should Christians do?
How many endless times have we heard Malachi 3:8-10 quoted during a collection of a tithe. Being told we are robbing God if we do not give 10% of our finances. Being told you will be under a financial curse for not tithing, and being told God will financially blessed if you do. Is it the saints rob God by not tithing or is the preacher robbing God, and the saints, by compelling people to give 10% of their money as though it were biblical tithing? As we have discovered, the tithing discussed in the bible bears not parallel to what is taught from many pulpits. Why do they give as doctrines the teaching of men? Why do they continue to put heavy yokes on the necks of people? Why do they make the word of God of no effect by their traditions?
If you believe you still need to follow the old covenant, then you still cannot biblically tithe (ask a Jew how you could do this). If you believe that you are under the new covenant, through the blood of Jesus, then there is no premise in the bible for tithing. If you elect to give 10% to support Christian workers, then thats wonderful, but dont allude to the fact that giving 10% of your money is somehow based on the tithing of the bible, it just isnt!
What should we give?
As we have discovered giving 10% of you money is not what biblical tithing was, and there is no requirement for us to follow the old covenant method of tithing. So what is written in the New Testament in regards to giving, and what example was given us by the believers in the New Testament?
Firstly we read in Psalm 24:1 (and 1 Cor 10:26), that The earth is the Lords and everything in it, the world and all who live in it. So from the perspective that God already owns 100% of everything we have, how do we give to him what he already owns. In fact it is God who has given to us, to be stewards of his possession. He wants us to reflect his character attributes and to be generous givers.
2 Cor 9:6,7 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
(In fact you should read all of 2 Cor 9)
help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus himself said: It is more blessed to give that to receive
Matt 5:42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you
Matt 6:3 When you give to the needy,
your giving may be in secret
were pleased to make contributions for the poor among the saints
Luke 6:38 Give and it will be given to you
1 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.
Rom 12 v6 We have different gifts.., v8
if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously
In summary of the above, God wants us be happy to give, not doing it because we feel we have to. He wants us to support our families, other believers and the poor. Do not hold onto the possessions God has given to you so tightly and greedily, and do not love the world or the things of the world (1 John 2:15), but use what you have wisely and generously. Enjoy giving and blessing others.
What about giving to support your local pastors/preachers?
So what about those who work in the local church, what should we give them?
What was the example given to us by the apostles themselves? The most scripturally documented example is the apostle Paul, who worked as a tentmaker during the week, and preached in the synagogue on the Sabbath (see Acts 18:3, 4). He also used his income from what he earned as a tentmaker to support the weak, and doing this also an example for others to follow. (Acts 20:30, 2 Thes 3:7-9). Paul did not want to burden the church and take peoples money (1 Thes 2:9).
Paul did not always work while preaching, we also read that he did receive money from churches (in Macedonia) to preach to at Corinth (2 Cor 11:7,8).
Another example of what the disciples did was collecting finances to give to Christians in need, such as when there was a drought in Judea the disciples sent gifts via Paul and Barnabus to them. (Acts 11:27-30, 1 Cor 16:1-3)
What did Jesus get the disciples to do during their training with Jesus? He sent them out with nothing but the clothes on their back. But in this, he also told them to accept hospitality given to them, because workers deserve their pay. (Luke 10:3, 4:7)
Where did Jesus and the disciples get finances from? There were believers giving to them to support them (Luke 8:3).
Then we have the example in Acts 4:32-27, where people shared what they had, and even sold land and houses to give to those other believers in need. They gave the money to the apostles, who distributed it.
Of those who labour in the word and doctrine, the bible says that they are workers who deserve wages, and not to muzzle them in their work. Also that, those who preach the gospel, should be supported by those who benefit from it. (1 Tim 5:18, 1 Cor 9:9-14)
In summary of this, we should give financial support to those who teach us the word of God, that their preaching is not hindered. Support the work of the church that it would prosper. We who have should equally give the poor and needy Christians. But how much should we give? Well give whatever can, and do it with a smile, dont be greedy, but be generous.