Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Truth About Tithing

By S. Michael Durham

The word tithe means nothing more than ten. A tithe is ten percent of something. To tithe one’s income is to give ten percent of his or her income to the local church. I would say most of us have been taught that tithing is God’s commandment for us today and His method of supporting the work of His kingdom. But that is not true. Tithing is not a part of the New Covenant. It was a part of the Old Covenant, which was for Israel prior to Jesus’ death.

Before I give you God’s method and command for New Covenant giving, I must debunk the lie about tithing. The truth is that tithing was not an offering but a tax, and the tax was not one but several. The Law of Moses required three different tithes for the Jewish farmer and one for the Levite. The average Jewish family did not pay ten percent of their yearly agricultural increase; they paid twenty-three and a third percent in tithes. If you added the other taxes that were imposed they paid around twenty-five percent. You can read about these three tithes in Numbers 18:21, Deuteronomy 14:22-26, 28-29, and Leviticus 27:30. Therefore, if you believe tithing is binding upon the New Testament Christian, then you are in serious trouble if you have only given ten percent. You’ve violated the very law you’re wishing to uphold.

Interestingly, the tithes were only binding upon the farmer. Anyone who did not grow a garden, tend a farm or raise livestock was not required to pay tithes. The reason is tithes were produce grown from the land. The tithes were to be paid in food. Also, the poor were exempt from paying the imposed food tax.

Often, those who defend the tithe do so by arguing that the tithe predated the Law of Moses. But that’s not true. Abraham did pay tithes to Melchizedek, but the tithes were not from his own possessions but the returned booty of Sodom and Gomorrah. Jacob’s promise to tithe was nothing more than legalistic bargaining with God. God has already promised to bless Jacob and return him to his homeland. But Jacob would not have grace and vowed in unbelief trying to earn the blessing that God freely promised.

Another argument for tithing is that Jesus commanded it. But here again, that is not exactly the truth. The only two times Jesus mentioned the tithe was to rebuke the sinful pride of the Pharisees who in their minute law-keeping violated the spirit of the law.

If tithing is obligatory under the New Covenant, it is incredible the Apostles never addressed it one time. If tithing was commanded of the Christian believer, why didn’t the Apostles mention it when they were discussing what laws of Moses the Gentiles were expected to observe? In Acts 15:28-29 the only laws the Gentiles were ordered to keep was to abstain from meat offered to idols, eating blood or anything strangled, and sexual immorality. Tithing was not required and that is why there is no mention of it.

If tithing is not obligatory of today’s Christian, how then is God’s redemptive enterprise financed? In another blog, next week, we will share God’s system for giving in the New Covenant.

1 comment:

  1. Actually, Abraham did not PAY tithes, he GAVE a tithe. Those who claim Abraham proves tithing was before the law, consider this:

    Abraham gave a tenth of war spoils. There is NO scripture showing that Abraham ever tithed on crops or animals.

    The later Mosaic law required tithing on crops and animals, NOT war spoils. In fact, according to Numbers 31, God only required that 1.1% of the war spoils be given to Him.

    Therefore, what Abraham did was NOT carried forward into the law, and what the law required was NOT carried out earlier by Abraham.