THE BIBLE ON TITHING
by Alec M. Haapala
Note: All scripture references are from the New King James version of the Bible.
Gen. 14:20- The first mention of the tithe in the Bible. Abram gave a tenth of the spoils of the battle to Melchizedek, the priest of God Most High. We never read of Abram tithing after that (which doesn’t necessarily mean he did not).
Gen. 28:22- In verse 20 Jacob made a vow saying “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will surely give a tenth to you.”
-In both these cases, the tithe was a voluntary act of gratitude. God did not command it. Jacob probably gave his to God by supporting the widow and fatherless in the land. There is no record that he ever gave God the tithe. It was also conditional. “If” God would supply his needs and bring him to his father’s house in peace then Jacob would tithe the tenth of all God had given him. This is quite unlike the modern teaching of tithing, which says you must tithe first before you can ever expect God to bless you with success in your endeavors.
Lev. 27:30-33- God says the tithe of the land, whether the fruit of the tree or the seed of the land, is the Lord’s; it is most holy. If a man wanted to keep the seed or fruit, he could pay the market value plus 1/5. If it was of the herd or flock, every tenth one was the Lord’s; it could not be exchanged or replaced with cash. If one tried to exchange it, both it and the exchange animal became holy. This has no application to us today. This is tithing by the law of ordinances which we have been redeemed from. There is no way we could duplicate it and to try would be to put oneself back under the bonds of “righteousness by the works of the law” rather than by simple faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Num. 18- In this chapter God gives to Aaron and the Levites the tithes of Israel. The tithe of Israel is the Levites inheritance because they had no land of their own. Aaron received a tenth of this tithe from the Levites.
Deut. 12- Gives further instruction about tithes and offerings. Mainly that they are to be offered only where God had put His name.
Deut. 14:22-28– Every year the people were to take their tithe of the field and flock to the place where God put his name. There they were to eat it before the Lord and to rejoice before Him. At the end of every third year, they were to store up the tithe in the city they were in and give the whole thing to the Levites, the fatherless and the widows. A tithe of this tithe was given to Aaron by the Levites
Deut. 26 “When you come into the land which the Lord is giving you and you possess it and dwell in it…” It goes on through verse 11 describing how the people were to take the first fruits of the first harvest they had in the Promised Land to the high priest and say the history of God’s dealings and faithfulness.
Verses 13-15 describe the third year tithe given for the Levite, fatherless, widow and stranger. This is the tithe, which the tither is not supposed to eat or give for the dead or use for any personal use. The regular tithe was used to feast before God to celebrate his goodness. The first part of Deut. 26 has nothing to with tithing at all, for the “first fruits’ are not the tithe.
-If we tithed biblically we would save it up for a year and have a feast with it. Every third year we would divide it among the church, the widows, the orphans and the homeless on the streets.
II Chron. 31- Describes how Hezekiah re-established the priesthood and the Levites to the service of the temple. When this was done, tithing was re-instituted for the support of the Levites in the work of the Lord.
Neh. 10:35-38 –Describes the people’s commitment to bring the tithes and offering as instructed in the law for the support of the house of God as commanded by the law of Moses.
Amos 4:4 –God is rebuking Israel for bringing their tithes to Bethel and Gilgal instead of His house in Jerusalem.
Mal. 3:8,10– Again the people are not bringing the tithe to the temple so the Levites are forsaken. God considers the tithe to be his, which he gave as a gift to the Levites. If the people did not tithe or make the required offerings they robbed God. None of the old covenant offerings are required of us, they were all fulfilled in Christ’s sacrificial death, burial and resurrection.
Since tithes and offerings are linked together for the express purpose of supporting the old covenant priesthood, and since this Priesthood has been taken out of the way and the new High Priesthood of Christ with the lesser priesthood of the believer now established, why do we take these Old Testament scriptures out of their context and force them onto ourselves today? Is it possibly due to fear by those in ministries which always seem to require large amounts of cash that if we are not forced to tithe we will not give of our own free will? It is a sad state of affairs in the church if this is so. I hope it is simply a misinterpretation of the scriptures with purely innocent motives.
–The “opening of the windows of heaven” is always reference to abundant rain of a droughted land, or, as in the case of Noah, torrential floods of water. It has nothing to do with increased cash flow from God due to our “obedience” in tithing.
Matt. 23:23– Christ rebukes the Scribes and Pharisee for being so legalistic they would tithe of their spices, yet they neglected the important matters of the law: Justice, Mercy and Faith. “You should still have tithed but not left these other things undone.” Here again we do not have a command to the church, but a rebuke to those living under the Mosaic code.
Luke 11:42– see above.
Luke 18:12 –The picture of a man boasting of his tithes, (Is this standing on the “rights of a tither”?)
Heb. 7:5,6,8&9 –The discussion is about the greatness of Melchizedek. How he received tithes from Abraham, in effect Levi paid his tithes, being in the loins of Abraham, so the Melchizedek priesthood is greater than the Levitical priesthood. If Melchizedek is the pre-incarnate Christ, as some believe, then we as children of Abraham have already paid our tithes through him. V 9 is commonly used to say that Jesus receives our tithe. “Of whom it is witnessed that He liveth.” Could this also be a reference to the living God? Not specifically Jesus the High priest? Compare the Old Testament verses where God reckoned that he was receiving the tithe while it was the Levite receiving them. So it is my understanding that vs 9 is saying that on Earth, the Levitical priesthood receives the tithe, at the same time God is receiving it in heaven. (Also realize the old priesthood was still in operation when Hebrews was written) Again, this does not even intimate that tithing is something we must do because we owe God. The temple was still standing and Levites were still receiving tithes when Hebrews was written.
Part II WHAT DOES THE NEW TESTAMENT SAY ABOUT TITHING & GIVING?
Luke 6:38– Jesus said, “Give and it shall be given unto you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over will’ be put in your bosom. For with the measure you use it will be “measured back to you.”
–See previous verses for which this applies. Jesus is summing up the principles of Kingdom Living.
Acts 4:32-5:4 –Describes how the multitudes of believers shared all things in common. Those with property sold it and brought the money to the Apostles. There is no “tithing” going on here. Even Barnabas, a Levite, who would have received the tithe, gave all the money to the Apostles. Peter told Ananias, “Wasn’t it your property before you sold it? And didn’t you have full control of the money afterward?’! Ananias could have said, “Here is 1/2 the money from our house, Sapphira and I are going to Ceaserea for vacation with the rest.” It would have been perfectly ok. God wasn’t angry because he kept back part of the money, but because he lied about it, to make he and Sapphira look good and get the praise of men.
I Cor. 16:1-2 –Paul speaks here “concerning the collection for the saints.” Paul is gathering a huge offering from the Gentile churches in Macedonia, Galatia and Asia to bring to the saints in Jerusalem because the latter are suffering persecution and famine. (They did sell all their property, what happened when the money ran out? Paul had to take a collection for them.)
In vs 2 he instructs them to lay some aside, storing up as he may prosper, so there would be no collection when he came. He elaborates on this in II Cor chapters 8 & 9.
II Cor. 8&9– Thessalonians –Their giving was born out of their abundance of joy and deep poverty. They were willing to give beyond their ability. Giving is a grace. (vs 7) As is faith, inspired utterance, knowledge, diligence and love. Giving is a motivational gift (Rom 12)
–vs 8-: Giving is not by commandment. It is a test of the sincerity of your love, He that will not give, does not love.
–vs 9-: Christ is our example in giving: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich.” This is how our attitude should be, willing to be made poor to enrich the lives of others. (see Philippians 2:5)
–vs 10-15-: The Corinthians were desiring to give a year ago and had begun preparing the gift. (see I cor. 16:1)
–vs 11-12-: You must complete what you started out of what you have. If there is first a willing mind, the gift is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have, for I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened. Now you supply their lack from your abundance, and they will do the same for you, that there may be equality. As it is written: “He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack.” Paul is referencing the manna given in the wilderness. Our money and other gifts from God are like the manna. We can do nothing to earn them in God’s sight, He freely gives to us all that we need. If we gather much, in the end we will have nothing left over. If we gather little, in the end we will have no lack. The modern way of saying it is, “He who dies with the most toys wins…nothing!”
–The basic principle of giving is that the giver is not to be burdened, in the sense of not having enough to meet his own living expenses, but should give out of what he has readily available. First, there must be a willing mind. If the giver is willing, the size of the gift is not important. Whether a penny or one thousand dollars, it is accepted according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. So much for “giving out of your need” in order for God to especially bless you. That is sheer manipulation. We cannot earn anything from God. Whatever we receive from Him is a gift freely bestowed upon us. About the most He requires of us is that we ask Him.
PART III PRINCIPLES, PROMISES AND RESULTS
II Cor. 9:5-15 vs 5– “prepare the bountiful gift beforehand…that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as grudging obligation.”
–Here Paul reveals the principle of planned giving. Sit down with your budget and determine how much you can afford to give, then make up your mind how much you are willing to give. When the time comes to give it, you can do it cheerfully and without feeling forced. Also, since you budgeted the giving, it will not put a strain on your finances. This is especially a good idea if some guest minister is coming to your church. A special offering is usually taken. If you have already made up your mind on your gift, you again will give it cheerfully, because it will be according to what you have, not what you don’t have.
vs 6-7: “He who sows sparingly will reap sparingly, He who sows bountifully will reap bountifully.”
–What you sow you reap. This does not refer to amount given but the attitude with which it is given. It is related to giving what is right in any given situation. (see Prov. 11:24,25)
vs 7: Let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity (sparingly), for God loves a cheerful giver (bountifully).
-Giving is on purpose. You make up your mind how much you can afford to give, then get willing and give. Do not withhold more than is right, that will lead to poverty. But, if you know how much you can give and have already established this between you and the Lord, you will avoid the trap of giving in response to an emotional appeal from some preacher or cause. Many have gone broke by listening strictly to their emotions instead of their intelligence and the Spirit of God.
vs 8: “God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”
–Our good works, or meeting the needs of others, comes out of our abundance, God will cause all grace, (faith, hope, love, kindness, mercy, peace, spiritual gifts) to abound to us. This abounding grace is what supplies our every need and then gives abundance. This grace is what brings in our harvest of what we have sown. But it is not us, or any effort or confession on our part which causes these things to come to pass but “God (who is) able…”
vs 9: Dispersing abroad, giving to the poor causes your righteousness to remain forever.
vs 10-11: “God, who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food, will supply and multiply the seed I have, and increase the fruit of my righteousness, while I am enriched in everything for all liberality which causes thanksgiving to God.”
–God is the supplier of the seed and the bread. He not only supplies my seed, He multiplies what I have. This increases the fruit of my righteousness. God enriches me in every area of my life so I can be liberal in every area.
vs 12-15: The result of giving is an outpouring of thanksgiving to God; both for the gift and the obedience of the giver in walking in love.
PART IV OTHER NEW TESTAMENT INSTRUCTIONS
Gal. 2:10– Paul explained his gospel to Peter and James. “They desired only that we remember the poor.”
–Here is giving. Paul never preached or taught tithing to the gentile converts. He taught them to give as we saw previously.
Acts 15:28-29 –: “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things:
1. Abstain from things offered to idols
2. Abstain from blood
3. Abstain from things strangled
4. Abstain from sexual immorality
“If you keep yourselves from these you will do well.”
–These were considered the necessary things from the law that Christians would do well to follow for the conduct of their lives. Please note the conspicuous absence of the tithe.
Philippians 4:15-19 –: They shared with Paul in giving and receiving. They were the only Macedonian church that did so. Paul did not seek the gift, but the fruit which abounded to their heavenly account which the gift produced. Because they gave, God promised to supply all their needs.
vs 12: “Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” Paul learned to be content in whatever circumstance he found himself. When he had plenty of money, he stayed hungry for God. When he had nothing, he rejoiced in the fullness of Christ.
Titus 3:8b- “Those who believe in God should be careful to maintain good works.
I Tim. 6:17– The rich are commanded not to be haughty or to trust in those riches. They are to put their trust in the living God, who gives all things richly to us to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share. This stores up a foundation or account for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.
CONCLUSION: Not one command or suggestion in all the New Testament that tells a Christian he “owes” God 10% of his income. Everything points to freewill offerings given out of love.
Ephesians 4:28– “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give to him who has need.”
–Meeting each other’s needs, not getting our needs met, is the goal and purpose and character of the Christian life of good works.