See Christian Tithing, August 12, 2018
[Portions of Original omitted.]
DH: Christian tithing refers to giving a minimum of 10% of one’s income to the Lord through one’s local church.
REK: No texts are quoted because none exist. Although money was common, the O.T. tithe was always only ceremonially clean food from inside God’s holy land of Israel; 16 texts affirm this and the description never included money.
DH: The Church has debated the concept of tithing throughout its history …
REK: The early church fathers rejected tithing as a strictly Jewish law. Tithing did not become enforced church law for almost 800 years in Charlemagne’s time. It’s current form in the U. S. did not begin until 1875-1895 and, even then, was rejected by most churches.
DH: Yet overall, [the church] has affirmed the Old Testament tithe as the basis of Christian giving.
REK: The O.T. tithe was actually three food tithes totaling about 23%. The first whole Levitical tithe went to servants of the priests and the priests only received one per cent, or a tenth of the tithe (Num 18:21-28; Neh 10:37-38). This is not taught today. Those receiving tithes were expected to be among the poorest and were not to own or inherit property in Israel or amass wealth (Nm 18:20+). This is also ignored today.
DH: The Christian tithing discussion has focused upon the Lord’s tithe in the Old Testament, not festival giving, giving to the poor, or other tithing, or even freewill offerings above and beyond the Lord’s tithe.
REK: The tithes in Deuteronomy were all three: the Levitical tithe, the festival tithe and the third-year poor tithe --- about 23%. They were all the Lord’s tithe.
DH: The concept of tithing itself permeated ancient near eastern cultures prior to the giving of the Law to Moses. Pagans would offer tithes from their property, produce, and currency to their gods.
REK: This was not the same as the “holy” biblical tithe from inside holy Israel. However, it was food from land owned by their gods.
DH: The first recorded example in the bible of a follower of Yahweh offering tithes is that of Abraham.
REK: He was still an uncircumcised and his name was “Abram” until Genesis 17.
DH: “And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!’ And Abram gave him a tenth of everything. (Genesis 14:17–20 ESV).
REK: (1) The Bible does not tell us WHY Abram tithed. The most likely reason is that he was obeying the common tradition which required tithes of spoils of war to one’s local king-priests (Heb 7:4). (2) His tithes were from pagan lands such as Sodom and were never considered holy tithes under the Law. (3) His example was never used as a reason to tithe under the Law.
DH: Jacob, in Genesis 28:18-22, offered to give the Lord a full tenth out of all that the Lord would give him.
REK: Read the whole text. Jacob bargained with God; he told God what to do before he would tithe. This was a poor example. Also, Jacob’s tithes from pagan sources were not considered holy tithes under the Law (Lev 27:30-34).
DH: Tithing actually pre-dates the Mosaic Law and both of the examples of Abraham and Jacob are examples of voluntary giving motivated by grace.
REK: “Holy tithing” of food from inside God’s holy land of Israel did not predate the Law. Holy tithes were never money and never came from outside God’s holy land (Mt 22:19-21). Paul did not teach Gentiles to tithe because Gentiles never were “under the Law.” There is no biblical evidence that grace motivated either Abram or Jacob. Abram was probably obeying Semitic law customs and Jacob was motivated by greed to set the terms for God to bless him.
DH: This reality served as the background for when God gave the Law to Moses.
REK: Abram and Jacob’s tithes not once are quoted as the basis for holy tithes in the Law.
DH: In the Law, God systematized tithing for his worship and maintenance of his new nation of Israel (Leviticus 27:30-32; Numbers 18:21-32; Deuteronomy 12:5-19; 14:22-27).
REK: (1) The tithe was only for Israel (Lev 27:34). (2) The tithe was always only food from inside holy Israel (Lev 27:30-34). (3) The whole Levitical tithe was only for the servants to the priests (Num 18:21-24; Neh 10:37b). (4) The priests only received 1%, a tenth of the tithe (Num 18:25-28; Neh 10:38). (5) Tithe recipients were to remain poor, not inherit property in Israel and not amass wealth (Num 18:20). (6) The tithes of Deuteronomy 12, 14 and 26 included the festival tithe eaten by all and the poor tithe shared with Levites and other poor.
DH: Later, the prophets would frequently exhort the people of God regarding the practice of tithing, often due to their neglect of it (e.g., Amos 4:4-5; Malachi 3:7-12).
REK: None of the major prophets mention tithing. Amos’ mention is a mockery of the false idol worship of Northern Israel. The only prophets to mention holy tithing are Nehemiah and Malachi. The key passage of Numbers 18:20-28 is not obeyed by any modern tithe-advocate.
DH: The historical writings recorded the renewal of the practice of tithing after returning from exile (e.g., 2 Chronicles 31:4-12; Nehemiah 10:34-39).
REK: The events of 2nd Chronicles 31 are pre-exile and demonstrate that the tithing laws had been forgotten. If Nehemiah and Malachi are listed as “historical writings” (as the Jews do), then NONE of the prophets mentioned holy tithing for Judah.
DH: In the New Testament, the Gospels have recorded a few discussions of tithing, for example in Matthew 23:23-24. But, overall there remains an absence of instruction on tithing in the rest of the New Testament because of the impact of the New Covenant.
REK: True. Most of the gospels are in the context of the Old Testament before Calvary and do not concern post-Calvary doctrines.
DH: Instead, the Apostles put forward other reasons for giving (see 2 Corinthians 8-9; Hebrews 7-8): (a) personal motivations, such as giving sacrificially, voluntarily, joyfully, thankfully, generously, and the list goes on; and (b) New Covenant considerations, because of the greater covenant including the Holy Spirit and the need to support churches on mission.
REK: Not one tithe in the O. T. was used to support missions or evangelize Gentiles. It’s limited priesthood and Levitical system was replaced by the “priesthood of every believer” and sacrificial giving.
DH: Under both the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, giving has been presented as a matter of grace, though administered differently.
REK: O. T. tithing was always a matter of law, not grace. At this point the author of this article has a long discussion of his experiences. Though praiseworthy, experiences can never replace God’s Word as reasons for doctrine – no matter how appealing!
DH: Would you dare suggest less than 10%? Shouldn’t believers under the full blessings of the New Covenant in Christ give more than those under the Old Covenant? And prior to the Law?
REK: This argument that New Testament post-Calvary giving should at least begin with 10% sounds good --- but it is based on a false presupposition! The false pre-supposition is that “everybody in the Old Testament was required to BEGIN their giving at 10%.”
That pre-supposition is not true because only food producers who lived inside God’s holy land of Israel were required to begin their giving at 10%!!! In fact, most Israelites were NOT food-producers. They worked numerous other occupations such as carpenters, tent-makers, artisans, teachers. Even the herdsmen and land-workers usually did not own the food they helped raise but were day-laborers.
Another false pre-supposition ignores the fact that O. T. food-producers gave less than N. T. believers. The three tithes added up to about 23% yearly. Few church pastors expect their members to give 23% today.
DH: Christian tithing shows that we really believe:
REK: If Christians really have a burden for lost souls and want to see our churches grow, the theme should be “sacrificial giving” and not a giving program grounded in O. T. Law.
Russell Earl Kelly, PHD