The New Testament Teaches Tithing pt.1
Perhaps you have grown up being taught that you should tithe, that is, give the first ten percent of everything you earn to the church.Â As much as I have ever heard, men say that we’ve been wrong, that the New Testament doesn’t advocate tithing.Â One man who maintains an entire website against tithing, Russell Earl Kelly,Â endorsed his position in a comment here at Jackhammer.Â Â He and I exchangedÂ emails and heÂ sent meÂ a pdf of aÂ book he wrote in opposition to the tithe.Â With eagerness I read it to find out where I might have gone wrong all these years, hoping to have any of my misunderstandings of Scripture exposed.Â I didn’t want to, as one man has accused, fraudulently fleece my flock.Â Â Kelly’s book didn’t persuade me.Â By reading it, as is sometimes the case, I became stronger in the position I already believed.
Some state or imply that a pastor might need to recuse himself from a conversation about tithing because of conflicting interests.Â Russell Kelly advertises his work by saying, “[I’m] bringing you the other side of the story, the side a portion of Christian leaders would rather you did not hear.”Â Sounds sinister, doesn’t it?Â Like pastors have beenÂ orchestrating this tithing conspiracyÂ all these years just so they will get a paycheck from the church?Â They don’t want you (hush, hush) to know that Scripture doesn’t actually teach tithing.
If you compared the number of people who didn’t like tithing to those who did, which side would be the bigger group?Â Barna researched people’s giving in 2004 and found that those who gave to churches averaged 3% of their income.Â Only 4% who gave to churches actually tithed.Â Â Out of those who claim to be “born again,” only 9% tithed.Â Announcement:Â the tithing conspiracy is failing!Â If tithing is actually being preached by churches, it seems that the conspiracy actually is against tithing.Â Is that because the New Testament doesn’t teach it?Â Are people striving to regulate their lives by God’s Word so that they don’t tithe?Â Scripture teaches tithing and I’m going to show you that at least 91% of those who claim to be born again, according to Barna’s research, are living in disobedience to God.
1.Â THE NEW TESTAMENT DOES NOT DO AWAY WITH OLD TESTAMENT STANDARDS
Tithing is taught in the New Testament, but that doesn’t mean that if something is taught only in the Old Testament, we don’t practice it today.Â Tithing was taught and practiced in the Old Testament.Â It was the standard proportion for giving as an act of worship of God in the Old Testament.
We first see tithing with Abraham giving tithes to Melchizedek in Genesis 14:18-20.Â Melchizedek is a clear type of Christ in Scripture (Hebrews 7:1-11).Â Abraham’s grandson Jacob also paid tithes (Genesis 28:22).Â Both of these examples were hundreds of years before the Mosaic Law.Â Â Once God established worship of Him through the tabernacle, He expected the people to supportÂ the Levites, those who maintained the tabernacle worship, and the worship itself by giving a tithe of all their increaseÂ (Numbers 18:24; Leviticus 27:30).Â The Levites themselves gave a tithe of their tithe to the Lord (Numbers 18:26).Â Not tithing in this manner was considered to be robbing God, indicating that the tithe belonged to God (Malachi 3:8).Â The place of worship in the Old Testament, the tabernacle or the temple, was the storehouse of the tithe (Malachi 3:10).Â Besides being individual, worship was corporate and God designed corporate worship to be supported and maintained by means of the tithe.Â Not tithing would essentially be a vote to discontinue corporate worship.
The tithe portion of the increase was rendered from the first harvest of the crop (Exodus 23:16, 19; Deuteronomy 26:10).Â The principle of the first fruit was that everything belonged to God, but that God’s people would give a representative proportion of the increase to God to communicate to Him that they believed He owned all things.Â At the root of tithe teaching is that everything comes from God.Â We confess to Him that He is the Source by returning to Him at least ten percent of what He has provided.
When Israel entered Canaan, God gave them Jericho.Â They marched round and round and God knocked the walls down.Â They were not to spare anybody or anything in the city.Â Nothing was to be taken.Â Of course, Achan took some items from Jericho, so that when Israel went to Ai for battle, Israel lost.Â God taught them that he must receive the first of all the increase.Â Israel stoned Achan and his entire family per God’s instruction.Â A few dozen men had died because a portion of the first fruit was taken.Â Do you think God likes it when we don’t tithe?
The underlying principle begun in the Old Testament is proportional giving.Â We don’t give an arbitrary amount to God but a proportion of our increase.Â We might give to God out of impulse, but our giving is not merely impulsive.Â Neither do we give Him what is left over.Â By giving Him the first of what He has given us, we honor Him with our substance (Proverbs 3:9).
Jesus did not come to destroy the law (Matthew 5:17).Â The greatest of His kingdom will keep the least of His commandments (Matthew 5:19).Â The law is good if a man use it lawfully (1 Timothy 1:8).Â Certain Old Testament practices ceased especially with the death of Christ—not all of them.Â Â God didn’t institute the New Covenant as a means of doing away with law.Â The New Covenant enables the law by giving a man a changed heart.Â Now he can honor God because of that change and the forgiveness of sins.Â Â The New Testament did not rescind tithing; it enabled it.
2.Â JESUS TAUGHT TITHING
For purposes of pride and self-righteousness, the Pharisees kept the laws that they could keep and that would make a good impression to others.Â In Matthew 23:23 (cf. Luke 11:42), Jesus declares:
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
Granted, Jesus was scolding the hypocrisy of the religious leaders.Â They should have been obedient to God in the matters of judgment, mercy, and faith.Â However, at the end of the verse, Jesus says that they were not to leave tithing undone.Â Â It looks clear to me.Â “Ye ought not to leave tithing undone.”Â Â Positively stated:Â Do tithe.Â Tithing was still something that He wanted them to do.
3.Â JESUS TAUGHT PROPORTIONAL GIVING
In Mark 12:41-44 Jesus watches the giving in the temple.Â He notices the rich people giving much.Â However, He especially sees the giving of a certain widow.Â She had two brass coins and she threw both of them into the treasury.Â The widow gave less than the rich men.Â However, Jesus says that she “cast more in,” because her proportion was higher.Â She gave 100%.Â That was more than what they gave.Â In this narrative Jesus affirms the kind of giving that we already saw in the Old Testament, proportional giving.Â A tithe was just a measurement.Â It was the percentage or proportion that someone gave.Â Jesus supports that.
The widow also gave money, not crops.Â One of the arguments against tithing is that in the Old Testament, the tithers gave ten percent of their crop production—it wasn’t money.Â Of course, they had a different kind of economy in that day.Â In an agrarian society, their earnings were crops.Â They would most often trade their crops for other things they needed.Â Today our increase comes in the way of money, so we tithe in the way of money.
(to be continued)