ANSWERING THE “GRACE-GIVING IS ALWAYS
MORE THAN THE LAW REQUIRED” OBJECTION
Russell Earl Kelly, PHD
November 17, 2018
1. NO TEXTS:
The Bible nowhere makes the comparison between Law-giving and grace-giving. Since no texts affirm this objection, no texts accompany it. The modern definition of tithes as “10% of one’s income before taxes” is wholly un-biblical; it is false and is an invention of modern man. There is no biblical justification for comparing an invented definition with something real.
2. BASED UPON A FALSE ASSUMPTION
The statement that “grace giving is more than Law giving” allows preachers to teach that Christians should at least begin their level of giving at 10% because (they say) those under the Law were commanded to begin their level of giving at a minimum of 10%. However, this is not true. It is a false assumption because the Law NEVER required everybody under it to begin their level of giving at ten percent! In fact, it only required such from Hebrew food producers living inside holy Israel – and only if were an increase over what they had preciously tithed. It did NOT apply to Hebrew non-food producers such as carpenters (Jesus) or tentmakers (Paul) even though they worked in Israel.
3. NOT LOGICAL
In actual practice, tithe-teachers paradoxically use the argument, “grace giving is greater than Law-giving,” as an excuse for teaching tithing!!! That is illogical and makes their own argument self-destructive. If tithe-teachers really believed their own objection to tithing to be true, they would only teach grace giving guidelines – freewill, sacrificial, generous, not by compulsion, joyful, and motivated by love for God and lost souls.
By teaching tithing instead of grace-giving, they are admitting that they either do not believe their own objection or have failed to teach their congregations the reality of hell and/or the need to sacrificially give more to win souls.
4. NOT A TRUE OBJECTION
CONCERNING GIVING GUIDELINES
While it is true that grace magnifies literal murder into spiritual hate, literal adultery into spiritual lust and literal idolatry into spiritual covetousness, it is NOT always true that grace produces more than the law commanded concerning giving. The following eight (8) exceptions are proof that grace-giving is NOT always greater than Law-giving commanded. While grace allows for super-abundant freewill giving, grace does not set limits either up or down. Sacrificial grace-giving sermons are needed today.
A. BRING TITHES TO LEVITE FARMS: The Law required Hebrew food-producers to bring the first whole Levitical tithes to the farming communities where the Levites lived (Neh 10:37b). This was a greater burden than grace-giving and makes sense because (1) the people needed the tithe for food where they lived, (2) the temple in Jerusalem did not have storage space for all the tithe of the land (2 Chron 31:1-19) and (3) God would not expect Levites and priests to travel long distances to Jerusalem every time they needed food.
B. THE SECOND FESTIVAL TITHE: The Law required a second yearly holy tithe of 10% (20% total) be brought to the three festivals of Jerusalem to be eaten by all. Grace does not command this burden. This extra ten per cent was a greater burden than modern tithe-teachers preach (Deu 12:6-7; 14:23).
C. 23% TOTAL TITHE: The Law commanded a third third-year tithe be kept in the homes and villages solely for the Levites and other poor (Deu 14:28-29; 26:12-13). This brings the total Law-tithe to 23% which is a far greater burden than that taught by modern tithe-teachers.
D. FORFEIT LAND OWNERSHIP: The Law required tithe-recipients to forfeit land inheritance and replace it with the tithe as their inheritance. This is a far greater burden than modern tithe-teachers preach (Num 18:20-21; Num 35:1-3; Josh 21:2-3).
E. ONLY LIVE ON LOANED PROPERTY: The Law required Levitical tithe-recipients to live on loaned land owned by the other tribes (Num 35; Josh 20-21). This is another greater burden than that taught by modern tithe-teachers.
F. ONLY TO LEVITE SERVANTS: The Law required 11 tribes to give food tithes to the Levites. Levites were only the servants of the priests and Levites performed most temple duties except offering the sacrifices (Num 18:21-24; Neh 10:37b). This is a far greater Law-burden than grace giving. Tithe-teachers do not teach this higher expectation and often rebel at payomg Levite-comparable ushers, deacons, treasurers, maintenance personnel and builders out of the first whole tithe.
G. THE LEVITES GAVE 1% OF THE TITHE THEY RECEIVED TO MINISTERS: The Law required Levites to give the best 1% (a tenth of the tithe) to the ministering priests (Num 18:25-28; Neh 10:38). This is a far greater burden than grace-giving tithe-teachers want to admit or teach. Tithe teachers usually want to drastically change God’s Word, change that Law-level and receive much or all of the tithe.
H. TITHE-RECIPIENTS WERE TO REMAIN POOR: The Law commanded Levites and priests who received the tithe in lieu of land ownership to remain poor -– “neither shall you have any part among them” (Num 18:20). They were expected to remain among the poor of the land and were first listed to receive from the third poor tithe. “And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee), and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest” (Deu 14:29) This is a serious greater Law-burden than grace-giving tithe-teachers preach.
5. THINGS THE TRUE
HOLY BIBLICAL TITHE WAS:
Note: None of the following is included in what modern tithe-teachers ask for today. They simply do not teach anything true about biblical tithing.
A. THE TRUE HOLY BIBLICAL TITHE WAS ALWAYS ONLY FOOD FROM INSIDE HOLY ISRAEL. While it is true that “The earth is the LORD’s and the fulness thereof” (Ps 24:1), God never approved of holy tithes from outside His holy Israel (Lev 27:30-34; Num 18:19-28; Deu 12:1-9; 14:22-29; 26:12-13; 1 Chron 31:1-19; Neh 10:37-38; 12:44; 13:5-12; Mal 3:7-10; Mt 23:23; Lk 11:42).
B. THE TRUE HOLY BIBLICAL TITHE WAS ALWAYS ONLY FROM HEBREWS LIVING UNDER THE OLD COVENANT INSIDE HOLY ISRAEL (Lev 27:34; Mal 4:4).
C. THE TRUE HOLY FIRST BIBLIAL TITHE WAS ALWAYS ONLY FOR THE LEVITE SERVANTS OF THE PRIESTS. The Levites performed most temple duties except ministering the sacrifice (Num 3:6-51; 18:21-24; Neh 10:37b).
D. LEVITES WERE COMMANDED TO GIVE THE BEST 1% (A TENTH OF THE TITHE) TO PRIESTS (Num 18:25-28; Neh 10:38).
E. THREE TITHES WERE COMMANDED TOTALLING UP TO 23%, NOT 10%. These included a 2nd yearly festival tithe to be eaten by all (Deu 12:6-7; 14:23) and a third tithe (every 3rd year) to be kept in the homes for the poor which included Levites (Deu 14:28-29; 26:12-13).
F. ISRAEL’S KINGS USED TITHES AS TAXES: Tithe-teachers do not teach that tithes were taxes under Israel’s kings; this is a sin of omission. Without objection from God or His prophets, the governments of David and Solomon began collecting tithes and using them to pay government workers such as judges, treasurers and rulers (1 Sam 8:14-17; 1 Chron 23-27; esp. 26:29-32).
G. LEVITES AND PRIESTS WORKED PART-TIME IN MINISTRY FOR GOD: Since there were far too many eligible priests and Levites to serve in the temple, they were divided into 24 courses (families) and took turns serving at the temple at least one week of 24 or 2 weeks per year). The remainder of their time was spent farming, raising tithed animals and working trades necessary for temple ministry and upkeep. Reputable church historians across denominations agree that both priests and Levites boasted of working trades while not at the temple and teaching trades to their children. Although there is nothing either right or wrong about full-time ministry, it is wrong to teach that ministry in the temple was a full-time occupation to be mimicked by full-time preachers today.
6. THINGS THE TRUE HOLY BIBLICAL
TITHES WERE NOT (PER MOSES,
NUMBERS, MALACHI AND JESUS):
A. THE TRUE HOLY BIBLICAL TITHES WERE NOT FROM OUTSIDE HOLY ISRAEL. Abram (Gen 14:18-20) and Jacob (Gen 28:20-22) were not examples of holy Law-tithing. Both gave freewill sacrificial vow offerings.
B. THE TRUE HOLY BIBLICAL TITHES WERE NOT FROM PRIESTS (PART ONE). The O. T. priests represented God, the end-recipient, and, like God Himself, were not commanded to tithe but were expected to give freewill offerings. In Malachi 1:8-14 God cursed priests for stealing -- exchanging bad sacrificial animals for good ones in their freewill offerings. In Nehemiah 13:5-10 priests stole the Levites’ portion of the tithes. And Malachi 3:8-10 is likely God commanding “you” priests (from 1:6 and 2:1) to return the stolen tithes. The point is that O. T. priests (the nearest comparison to N. T. pastors) only gave freewill offerings. This is not taught by modern tithe-teachers.
C. THE TRUE HOLY BIBLICAL TITHES WERE NOT FROM PRIESTS (PART TWO). Numbers 18 (not Malachi 3) is the ordinance in the Law which details support of Levites and priests. It tells the people to tithe food to the Levites (18:21-24) and tells the Levites to give a tenth of their food-tithe (1%) to the priests (18:25-28). However, the Law never commanded priests to tithe! God’s original goal for every Hebrew to be a priest in Exodus 19:5-6 preceded actual tithing in Leviticus 27:30-34. For Gentiles, God’s plan has been partially fulfilled under grace by all believers in First Peter 2:9-10 which quotes Exodus 19:5-6. Therefore, if O. T. priests were not required to begin their level of giving at 10%, there is no biblical precedent for the N. T. post-Calvary believer-priest. One must twist God’s Word to make it say otherwise.
D. THE TRUE HOLY BIBLICAL TITHES WERE NOT FROM HEBREW INCREASE from working trades or other skills from inside holy Israel. Hebrews could not boast of benefitting God.
E. THE TRUE HOLY BIBLICAL TITHES WERE NOT FROM HEBREWS OR GENTILES from working trades or skill from outside holy Israel. Neither the pre-Calvary O. T. nor the post-Calvary N. T. teaches that anybody outside holy Israel tithed. There is no biblical precedent. Again, God did not want man boasting of benefitting Himself through his own increase.
F. THE TRUE HOLY BIBLICAL TITHES WERE NOT FROM JESUS OR PAUL. Neither qualified as a tither. Both were non-food-producers. As a carpenter and traveling preacher, Jesus did not qualify as a tithe-payer. Also, coming from the tribe of Judah, Jesus did not qualify as a tithe-recipient under the Law.
G. THE TRUE HOLY BIBLICAL TITHES WERE NOT GIVEN TO JESUS OR TO HIS DISCIPLES. Jesus never taught his converts to pay tithes either to Himself or to His disciples. Jesus commanded His disciples to depend upon freewill offerings while evangelizing (Mt 10:5-14; Lk 10:1-11. If Jesus had commanded others to give tithes to either Himself or to His disciples before Calvary, He would have been sinning (Mt 23:23)!
H. THE TRUE HOLY BIBLICAL TITHES WERE NOT MONEY (PART ONE). The Law never included money, gold, silver or anything earned or made by man as holy tithes. Only uninformed men teach that biblical food was the same as barter-money. “Money” occurs in Genesis 32 times and 44 times before the tithe is described in Leviticus 23:30-344. Money paid for slaves (Gen 17:12+), land (Gen 23:9+), freedom (Ex 23:11), court fines (Ex 21 and 22), sanctuary dues (Ex 30:12+), vows (Lev 23:3-7), poll taxes (Num 3:47+), alcoholic drinks (Deut 14:26) and marriage dowries (Deut 22:29). Most important, since money was never included in any biblical description of holy tithes. Therefore, there is no precedent for describing tithes as income increase today.
I. THE TRUE HOLY BIBLICAL TITHES WERE NOT MONEY (PART TWO). Jesus clearly taught that money with the image and language of human government was only to be returned to man’s government and not to be given to God (Mt 22:14-17; Mk 12:14-17; Lk 20:22-25). Although difficult to accept, this was Jesus’ inspired application of the Law! Tithe-teachers always ignore these texts when they refer to the Law as our beginning point of giving government money.
J. THE TRUE HOLY BIBLICAL TITHES WERE NOT A UNIVERSAL ETERNAL MORAL PRINCIPLE. To be an eternal universal moral principle, 10% increase-giving would have to be written upon the heart and soul of every human being (Rom 1:18-20; 2:14-16). Tithing did not even apply to non-food producers living inside holy Israel. Again, there was no precedent. Like rest and worship, “giving” is an eternal moral principle. However, like worshiping and/or resting “on the 7th day,” giving “23%” in three tithes was only known through special revelation and only to Old Covenant Israel.
K. THE TRUE HOLY BIBLICAL TITHES WERE NOT FIRSTFRUITS. Like tithes, Old Covenant first-fruits were always only food from inside holy Israel. Unlike tithes, first-fruits were the first small token harvest of the season (Ex 23:19; 34:26; Lev 23:17; Num 18:13-17; Deu 18:4; 26:1-4, 10; 2 Chron 31:5a). It is wrong to teach that Christians must bring the first 10% increase of their wages as tithes because such was true of O. T. first-fruits.
L. THE TRUE HOLY BIBLICAL TITHES WERE NOT TAUGHT BY PAUL. At the end of his three missionary journeys, in Acts 20:20 Paul wrote “I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you” and in 20:27 he wrote “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.” Yet none of Paul’s many writings even suggest that the church should practice tithing. In 20:33-34 Paul boasted “I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. … these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.” Those are not the words of a man usually supported by others.
M. THE TRUE HOLY BIBLICAL TITHES WERE NOT CHANGED FROM FOOD TO ANYTHING ELSE. Abram and Jacob’s one-time vow of pre-Law tithes from pagan sources did not qualify as holy tithes under the Law. The description of holy tithes to exclude money or man’s increase never changed. Holy tithes were only food in Leviticus 27:30-34; they were still only food 1000 years later in Malachi 3:10 and they were still only food 1400 years later in Matthew 23:23. The tithe-teacher must twist God’s Word to make them anything else.
N. THE TRUE HOLY BIBLICAL TITHES WERE NEVER USED FOR MISSION SUPPORT. Hebrews never spent anything on mission work to convert non-Hebrews. Although missionary support is valid for Christians, there is no biblical precedent for supporting it by teaching tithing.
O. THE TRUE HOLY BIBLICAL TITES WERE NOT EXISTENT IN EARLY CHURCH HISTORY. The early Church followed the example of Jewish rabbis who considered it sin to gain from teaching the Word. Not even the incorrect description of tithes appeared as a doctrine in early church history! Justin Martyr (A. D. 150) opposed tithing as a Jewish doctrine. The Didache (150-200) opposed tithing. Over 500 years after Calvary the regional Council of Tours (567) and the regional Council of Macon (585) unsuccessfully attempted to make tithing a doctrine of the whole Church. Finally, over 700 years after Calvary, in 777, French King Charlemagne allowed the Church to make tithing church law, but even that did not last in the Roman Catholic Church. The earliest Baptists of the 1640s considered paying pastors to be a grievous sin. Southern Baptists failed to introduce it as a doctrine in 1895. Although it seems firmly entrenched today, the references for tithes did not first appear in their Baptist Faith and Message until 1963 and the word “tithe” still does not appear.
P. THE TRUE HOLY BIBLLCAL TITHES HAVE NOT BEEN AFFIRMED BY SCORES OF LEADING SCHOLARS AND BIBLE DICTIONAIES. It would take many hours to read my list of well-respected theologians, Bible dictionaries, Bible commentaries and the articles which accompany them at . The following is a sampling: Believers Bible Commentary, Billy Graham Evangelistic Assoc, Encyclopedia Britannica, F F Bruce, Craig Blomberg, John Calvin, Lewis Sperry Chafer, Dallas Theological Seminary, John Nelson Darby, Alfred Edersheim, Walter Elwell, Theodore Epp, Evangelical Bible Dictionary, Irenaeus, Zola Levitt, Martin Luther, Masters’ Seminary, John MacArthur, Justin Martyr, J Vernon McGee, Bruce Metzger, Moody Bible Institute, Nelson’s Bible Dictionary, New Bible Dictionary, John Owen, Dwight Pentecost, Charles Ryrie, C I Scofield, Philip Schaff, Charles Spurgeon, Charles Swindoll, Tertullian, Merrill Unger, Unger’s Bible Dictionary, John Wesley, John Walvoord, Wycliffe Bible Dictionary
7. MALACHI AND HOLY TITHING
The use of Malachi 3:8-10 to support Christian tithing is a modern scandal and sinful abuse of God’s Word today. While ignoring Malachi 1:6 TO 3:7, tithe-teachers do not point out:
A. In 1:6 God began addressing only the priests as “you” and never switched back to the people as “you” afterwards.
B. God cursed the priests four times in 1:13-13 and 2:1-2 for stealing and breaking his covenant with Levi (1:6 to 2:10).
C. The only diversion from priests as “you” is 2:11-12 where others are referred to in the third person. It is clear that “you” refers to the priests again in 2:13.
D. From 3:1 onward God answered the priests’ mocking from 2:17.
E. Since “ye sons of Jacob” in 3:6 cannot refer to all 10 tribes, it can just as easily only refer to “you” priests who are “sons of Jacob.”
F. “Ordinances” in 3:7 refers back to God’s “covenant with Levi” in 2:4 and 2:8. The sacrificial worship “ordinances” included tithing in Leviticus 27:30-34 and Numbers 18:20-28.
G. Priests robbing God in Malachi 3:8-10 is identical to their action in Nehemiah 13:5-10. Since the priests had taken the Levites’ food (tithes), the Levites (not the priests) left Jerusalem and the temple was closed.
H. The Hebrew of “this whole nation” in 3:9 can just as easily be translated as “this whole nation – of you priests” which is consistent with the continued use of “you” since 1:6. Compare the NAS, RSV and NIV.
I. “All the tithes into the storehouse” in 3:10 only makes sense if it refers to the priests returning the Levites’ portion of the tithe they had stolen in Nehemiah 13:5-10. It is clear from 2 Chronicles 31:1-19 that Solomon’s temple did not have storage space for the tithes of the whole nation. Also, God would not cruelly expect Levites and priests to travel to Jerusalem from around the country to have food to eat where they lived.
J. Nehemiah 10:37b is clear that the ordinary people were commanded to bring the first whole Levitical tithe to the farming communities where the Levites lived. This is also seen in 2 Chronicles 31:15-19. The Levites brought the priests 1% to the temple as needed (Neh 10:38).
8. ONLY THE NUMBER “10” REMAINS
The argument that “grace-giving is greater than Law-giving” has no interest in the real O. T. tithe except to borrow the number “10” as a beginning point for grace-giving. The description of modern tithe-teachers that “tithing means 10% of gross income before taxes” has no correlation to the O. T. ordinance of tithing at all and the comparison should not even be used.
9. POST CALVARY GIVING
God has not left Christ’s body, the Church, without guidelines for freewill giving (2 Cor 8 and 9 all). Just as justification is only “by grace through faith -- plus nothing,” even so grace-giving does not mean “10% Law plus.” Grace does not need to borrow from “law” in order to boost itself to a higher level of giving. The pastor who feels the need to borrow “10%” from the O. T. tithing worship ordinance (of 23%) indirectly admits that he does not know how to encourage his congregation to give because they love God, love lost souls and want to advance God’s kingdom.
23% holy tithing of food from inside Israel was only an ordinance of the covenant God entered with Israel to replace land ownership of those Levites and priests who occasionally ministered in the Temple. According to Hebrews 7:12, that ordinance (from 7:5) was “of necessity changed” and the “change” was NOT to incorporate it into a church-support commandment. Rather the “change” was “there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before (in 7:5) for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof” in 7:18. God’s Word is clear on this.
Please join me in eradicating this vestige of Law which is hindering the Church from fully breaking free from the bondage of Law.
In Christ’s love
Russell Earl Kelly, PHD
P. S. Please visit my other web sites on Theology, Seventh-day Adventism and resurrection plays. I am more than happy to answer any questions.