Tithing Questions and Some Answers
By COGwriter , Church of God in Christ (Worldwide Church of God break-off)
Rebuttal by Russell Earl Kelly, PHD, Jan 15, 2011
Anonymous COG inChrist Defender:
It is important to understand that there is not one scripture that says tithes are limited to agricultural produce.
Russell E Kelly: The legal empirical description of HOLY biblical tithes appears 16 times from Leviticus 27to Luke 11. HOLY tithes are always only FOOD from inside God’s HOLY land of Israel Which He had miraculously increased. Lev 27:30, 32; Num 18:27-28; Deu 12:17; 14:22-23; 26:12; 2 Chron 31:5-6; Neh 10:37; 13:5; Mal 3:10-11; Matt 23:23; Luke 11:42. On the other hand, there is not a single text which expands true biblical holy tithes to anything else. Tithes could not come from what man manufactured, from Gentiles or from outside Israel. Not even Jesus, Peter or Paul qualified as a tithe-payer.
Anonymous: Very few in Western societies are farmers. Thus the work of God would not be able to be done if tithing was limited to agricultural produce in this age.
Kelly: The statement is irrelevant because it is based on false assumptions about the nature and purpose of the tithe. It ignores the biblical use of the word “tithe.” The gospel flourished in pagan Gentile land during the first century under Paul without teaching tithing to support gospel workers.
Anonymous: "And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD's. It is holy to the LORD" (Leviticus 27:30-31).
This says that all the tithe of the land is the LORD's, it says it includes fruits and seeds but does not say that is all that it includes.
Kelly: It DOES say “all the tithe OF THE LAND is HOLY to the LORD” – and adds nothing else! If the tithe consisted of anything other than FOOD from inside Israel, God would have certainly said so. You ignore what the text specifically says and argue for something it does not say. Old Covenant tithes could not come from Gentile land outside Israel.
Anonymous: Also notice the following: “Honor the LORD with your possessions, And with the firstfruits of all your increase; So your barns will be filled with plenty, And your vats will overflow with new wine” (Proverbs 3:9-10).
Kelly: Your conclusion using these texts is based on the false assumption that tithes and firstfruits were the same thing. In fact, firstfruits were only very small token offerings. See Deut 26:1-4; Neh 10:35-37a and numerous other texts. Tithes were tenth-fruits and not first-fruits. See Neh 10:37b-38. And Levitical tithes were NOT given to priests; they were only given to servants of the priests per Num 18:21-25 and Neh 10:37a. Priests only received one tenth of one per cent per Num 18:25-28 and Neh 10:38.
Anonymous: Does it also include mined and manufactured items, or other wealth that derives from substantial human activity?
Kelly: No. Not according to God’s Word. If the tithe were the product of human activity, then man could claim that God owed him a blessing. The “increase” always came only from God’s hand. Even if it did include other wealth from “the land” (which it does not), that “land” was only the HOLY land of Israel (Heb: eretz).
Anonymous: Does not gold and silver come from the land? Is not wine manufactured? Do not our possessions include non-agricultural items?
Kelly: “Our” Gentile possessions outside Israel do not fall under the category of FOOD from inside Israel. Again you are attempting to change to definition given by God Himself and insert your own definition.
Anonymous: Well notice,
"'The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,' says the LORD of hosts" (Haggai 2:8).
Kelly: The context of Haggai is to stimulate the Hebrew people to give freewill offerings and rebuild the Temple. Levitical tithes could not be used to build or maintain the Sanctuary or Temple. The gold and silver used to build those came from freewill offerings in the Bible.
Anonymous: Furthermore, tithing included manufactured items such as wine and oil (Nehemiah 13:5,12), which do require substantial human labor to produce beyond planting and harvesting.
Kelly: The grapes and olives must only come from trees miraculously increased by God Himself inside His HOLY land of Israel. All other land is defiled pagan dust. Since you referred to Neh 13:5 – read it closely along with 1 Kings 6:6. The small (10x20 ft max) storeroom could not possibly hold all the tithes of a nation. Something is fundamentally wrong with your explanation – the whole tithe was brought to the Levitical cities where 98% of those who needed it for food lived per Neh 10:37b.
Anonymous: The Bible also makes clear, "The earth is the LORD's, and all its fullness" (Psalm 24:1).
Kelly: The text has no bearing on tithing. While this was also true even in the Old Testament, true HOLY tithes could still only come from inside God’s HOLY land of Israel.
Anonymous: Jacob said, "...of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth" (Genesis 28:22). This would have to include money--when Jacob said this, it was possible that God would have made him a merchant instead of a rancher, thus it seems clear to me that this supports tithing on actual money.
Kelly: Jacob’s tithe was not the same as the holy tithe for Levites and priests under God’s Law. It came from defiled pagan land and most likely was left at stone altars for the poor. Moreover, you dishonestly leave out the “if” clause from 28:20. Jacob was scheming and telling God what the conditions were -- not an example of faith.
Anonymous: The scripture in Hebrews 7:4, also shows that tithes were not limited to agriculture as it included the spoils of war. The account in Genesis 14:20 says Abraham,
"...gave him (Melchizedek) a tithe of all".
Kelly: Your own point proves you wrong. According to the statute in Numbers 31, God only requires spoils of war tithes of one per cent (1%); this proves that Gen 14:20 was NOT referring to a command of God.
Why did uncircumcised Abram tithe? God did not command it and Scripture does not say he did it freely. Genesis 14:21 suggests a pagan Arab law of the land was at work which required tithes of spoils of war to one’s local king-priest. This is not the same as the HOLY tithe of the Law.
Anonymous: Also the statement in Hebrews 7:2 says "Abraham gave a tenth part of all"--this seems to suggest that he gave him a tenth that was not necessarily related to the spoils of war--this is consistent with the rest of Hebrews 7 which says tithes were paid through Abraham (Hebrews 7:9).
Kelly: Again you have dishonestly left out Hebrews 7:4 which does describe Abram’s tithes as spoils of war.
Anonymous: It is also of interest to note that when praying, a Pharisee told God, "I give tithes of all that I possess" (Luke 18:12), thus demonstrating that he believed tithes were not limited to agricultural produce only.
Kelly: Where do you find in the Bible that the Pharisee was not a rich farmer or herdsman? Surely he tithed everything which was tithe-able and gave generous freewill offerings from everything else. Other non-biblical Jewish writings from the first century do not expand tithes beyond food.
Anonymous: If tithing were only limited to agricultural produce, then preachers could not be sent out. And preachers of the Gospel are supposed to be sent out,
Kelly: Old Testament prophets were sent out without receiving tithes. Jesus sent out the 12 and the 70 without receiving tithes.
Not a single Old Covenant tithe was ever used to send out missionaries to convert the Gentiles. That was never the purpose of the O.T. tithe and it has no precedent for the Church.
Anonymous: "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved."
Kelly: There is NOW no distinction. Why? Because that which was a “distinction,” the “law,” the “middle wall of partition” ended at Calvary. And that law included the tithing statutes which supported the Levitical priesthood as seen in Numbers 18. Also, Old Covenant Israel was forbidden to share its covenant with Gentiles by deliberately converting them.
Anonymous: Quotes Rom 10:12-15
Kelly: Irrelevant to tithing but totally relevant for freewill generous sacrificial New Covenant giving.
Anonymous: And those ministers must be paid (I Corinthians 9:13-14).
Kelly: Must be paid? No. Otherwise Paul blatantly ignored his own counsel in First Corinthians 9:12, 15-19.
Should be paid? Probably. However, there is not a single biblical text which says that gospel workers MUST be full-time workers. That is a congregation’s choice. Even then they should be paid using gospel principles of grace and faith –not law.
Anonymous: Very few in the Church of God make their living from farming today--actually at the Feast in 2001 in Australia, I asked for a show of hands of how many primarily made their living from farming--there were none!
Kelly: Irrelevant. Farmland outside O.T. Israel is NOT HOLY and dose not qualify as tithe-able land. Besides, there are no longer Levites and Aaronic priests to receive tithes. That is why the great majority of modern Jews do not teach tithing.
Anonymous: Remember that the Bible teaches, "And you shall eat before the LORD your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name" (Deuteronomy 14:23).
This scripture does not limit the Feast attendees to those who are farmers only--if it did, almost no one in the COGs would be able to keep the Feast of Tabernacles!
Kelly: Nobody in the COG can tithe or attend the Feast UNLESS (1) they are Old Covenant Hebrews (2) tithing to Old Covenant Levites (3) to support the Old Covenant Temple system and (4) bring FOOD (5) from inside Israel (6) TO Jerusalem. That is what God’s Word clearly teaches.
This is describing a national feast where everybody shares food (and not money).
Anonymous: Notice that the Bible teaches – quotes Malachi 3:8-10.
God thus expects both tithes and offerings.
Kelly: (1) Malachi is addressed to Old Covenant Israel (1:1-5). (2) It is then addressed to dishonest priests of Israel (1:6 to end) (3) who are cursed 4 times for stealing from God (1:13,14:2:1,2). (4) The tithe is still only FOOD 1500 years later (3:10-12). (5) Gentiles never were under the formal Law. (6) Jesus removed the curse of the Law (Gal 3:10-13). (7) Christians serve a New Covenant God (Heb 8:8-13) who writes His laws in our heart and (8) tithing is not a natural law of the conscience.
Anonymous: Jesus warned "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21)--non-tithers may wish to mediate on this.
Kelly: Irrelevant. This can also apply to New Covenant Christians who do not give freely, generously and sacrificially.
Anonymous: Christ was not a Levite, and the provisions of tithing did not change until after His resurrection when He became our high priest (Hebrews 7).
Kelly: First, the law said absolutely nothing about a priest coming from Judah and, therefore, does not stipulate that a priest from Judah must be paid with tithes (Heb 7:13-17). Second, according to Hebrews 7:12, the law (including tithing from 7:5) must be changed. And, according to 7:18 that “change” was an “annulling” of the “commandment going before” (including tithing from 7:5).
Anonymous: Jesus taught that tithing was to be done on even the most minor increase (Luke 11:42).
Kelly: Does your church receive tithes from garden herbs? The full quote in Matthew 23:23. Jesus was discussing “matters of the law” before Calvary. It would have been sin for Jesus NOT to teach tithe-support of the Temple system. It would have also been sin for Jesus to accept tithes. Plus, it was illegal for uncircumcised Gentiles to tithe.
Anonymous: Paul was entitled to be paid by the Corinthians and specifically wrote, "If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more? Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ.” [1 Cor 9:12]
Kelly: You are manipulating God’s Word by being selective. Yes, Paul had a “right” to be paid for his work but he refused that “right.” Neither did he mention tithes because tithes could not come from outside Israel. His “right” to be paid was NOT a “command” because he chose to forgo that “right” in verse 12 and verses 15-19.
Anonymous: Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? [1 Cor 9:13]
Kelly: Notice that this text includes far more than tithing. It includes ALL sources of Temple support. Therefore it is self-defeating. Paul certainly was not teaching that all sources of Temple support should now go to gospel workers.
Anonymous: Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel" (I Corinthians 9:14).
Paul is thus stating that he had a right to their money, but felt they would not have been able to accept that understanding when he was with them.
Kelly: Again you are selective. In fact 9:14 refers back to 9:7-13. The principle is that “each calling provides for its own”: soldiers get spoils (they also get paid); farmers eat grapes (they also get paid when they sell their crops); herdsmen drink milk (they also get paid when they sell their herds); ox grinders eat what they grind; Temple workers ate of everything provided by the Law. Again, if 1 Cor 9:14 only refers back to 9:13, then EVERYTHING used to support the OT Temple system should be brought into the church. And that is not the correct interpretation of 9:14.
Anonymous: Paul later wrote Hebrews 7 to further show that the money the Church was entitled to included the tithes that previously had been paid to the Levites.
Kelly: Acts 21:20-21 strongly suggest the Jewish Christians were still paying tithes TO THE TEMPLE SYSTEM and not to the church because they were “zealous of the law.” By comparing Hebrews 7:5, 12 and 18 it is clear that tithing was annulled along with the priesthood it supported under the Law.
Anonymous: There is no scripture that says ministers are supposed to be poor. The Levites, on average, were better off financially than the other tribes of Israel--this is also consistent with the records of secular history--the high priest was also probably the wealthiest man in all Israel.
Kelly: Part of the 2nd Festival tithe and all of the 3rd Poor tithe went to the Levites BECAUSE they were expected to remain among the poor. Num 18:20-26; Deu 12:12; 14:27, 29; 18:1, 2; Josh 13:14, 33; 14:3; 18:7; Eze 44:28). This was distorted by later generations.
Anonymous: However, if the Levites only received 10% of the net growth in agricultural wealth, after people ate what they needed as some who have departed from the faith now teach, the Levites would not have been able to survive.
Kelly: God wanted to keep his workers humble. First, the prophets arose to do the teaching work which Levites and priests did not perform; the prophets were usually quite poor. Second, the Levites and priests were forbidden to own land in Israel. Oddly, this does not seem to fit into discussions since so many pastors own much land and many houses today.
Anonymous: Paul specifically wrote, "Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain," and, "The laborer is worthy of his wages" " (I Timothy 5:17-18).
The expression double honor refers to salary/wages. Thus Paul was not saying ministers are supposed to be poor, but actually wealthier, on the whole, than the membership.
Kelly: First, First Timothy 5:1-18 is in the CONTEXT of DISCIPLINE, not wages. When disciplining a shepherding-elder, the church is to be double-cautious because he has double-honor in his position. Second, since Paul boasted that he worked to support both himself and his crew, he would not tell Timothy to receive double wages (compare Acts 20:29-35). Third, the phrase “the laborer is worthy of his wages” comes from Matthew 10 and Luke 10 where Jesus told his workers to remain as poor-humble-needy as possible while evangelizing. In no way can this be a reference to double wages and great wealth!
Anonymous: Jesus praised the poor widow who paid all her cash (Mark 12:42-43). If you give a minimum of 10%, you are doing well.
Kelly: Jesus was not teaching on tithing. The poor widow was giving a freewill generous sacrificial offering.
Anonymous: As far as being poor/low income, I have been that at least two times since coming into the Church, but am doing fine now. Either way, we paid tithes (1st tithe to the Church, 2nd for the Feast, and 3rd 2 of 7 years) irrespective of our income.
Kelly: You may call it a tithe but it is not a true HOLY biblical tithe unless it comes from inside God’s HOLY Old Covenant land of Israel. Our God is a New Covenant God and blesses under New Covenant principles. God will bless you for sincere sacrificial giving, but God will not bless you for obedience to the Old Covenant which is not relevant today.
Anonymous: I believe it is an act of faith, and no matter how difficult it seems at times, God has always allowed it to work out--even when on paper it did not look possible.
Kelly: Old Covenant tithing was totally of Law, not faith. A farmer or herdsman was to tithe regardless of faith. And, since all sincere “tithers” do not receive “overflowing blessings” today – such is proof that tithing does not apply as a New Covenant principle.
Anonymous: Whether or not you tithe is your decision. But as far as the Bible goes, tithing on all is clearly scriptural.
Kelly: If you are a New Covenant Christian and have not been instructed to tithe, then you cannot decide to tithe from FOOD inside Israel to an Old Covenant priest.
Anonymous: Ministers are entitled to be paid. While it is true that some in the New Testament gave larger offerings than they needed to, it was not required (e.g. Acts 5:4).
Kelly: While Paul argued that ministers are entitled to be paid, he did not teach tithing from Gentiles living in Gentile lands. The Bible does not teach that ministers MUST be full time; it is silent about such. The decision is to be made by each individual congregation.
Anonymous: Tithes and offerings are the biblically correct way to support the Church (Malachi 3:8).
Kelly: The law which Malachi uses is the whole Old Covenant law of over 600 commands given only to Israel. Obedience to all 600 was required for blessings; disobedience to one brought O.T. curses per Galatians 3:10-13.
Anonymous: The terms 'tithe', 'tithing', or giving a 'tenth' occur ten times in the New Testament (NKJ), thus it is a New Testament subject.
Kelly: The New Covenant formally began when Jesus shed His blood on Calvary. Some say it began at Pentecost 50 days later. Jesus lived and preached while the Old Covenant was still in full force. The only mention of tithes beyond Calvary is Hebrews 7 where 7:5, 12, 18 clearly annul the “commandment going before” (7:5) to tithe according to the Law. When the Levitical priesthood ended, it was “necessary” to “change the law” of tithing from 7:5 and that “change” was its “annulment” in 7:18.
Anonymous: Jesus taught, "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" (Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42).
Kelly: Jesus was discussing “matters of the law” and placing woes on “you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites” who “sit in Moses’ seat” (23:2-3). It would have been sin for Jesus NOT to teach tithing to support the Temple system before Calvary.
Anonymous: If you are still not sure on whether you should tithe, you might also ask yourself, does God expect Christians to give less than the carnal Israelites?
Kelly: This is based on the false assumption that everybody in the Old Covenant began their level of giving at ten per cent. It only applied to food producers who lived inside Israel. The diaspora Jews living outside Israel brought freewill offerings. Except for food producers inside Israel, there was no “minimum, standard, beginning place” for giving. Freewill offerings can be much more than ten per cent.
Anonymous: There is no scripture that ever says to not proclaim the Gospel.
Kelly: True, but the Old Covenant tithe was never used to proclaim the gospel to non-Hebrews. There is no precedent.