Should New Testament Christians Tithe?
By Rod Nichols (Rod@RodNichols.com)
I’ve noticed a very disturbing trend in the body of Christ; the lack of tithing. On May 19, 2003 the Barna Research Group published a study showing that tithing is down a whopping 62%. I believe this is the result of two things: First is all the begging by men of God in our churches and on television. Second is all the erroneous teaching about tithing that is out on the internet. I can’t do anything about the begging men of God, but I would like to deal with the erroneous teaching.
Before I begin, I want you to know that I am an Associate Pastor; however I don’t receive income from the church. I earn my income through business, writing, and speaking. I have absolutely nothing to gain financially if people tithe. Whether you tithe or not, will not affect me one iota. However, God has given me some revelation knowledge that I have an obligation to teach. One day I will stand before the Lord and make an account of what I did with the knowledge. I want to hear “Well done good and faithful servant.” Also, this is all straight from the Bible, so don’t shoot the messenger, go to God and inquire. Ok, here we go.
The first argument is usually that the tithe was part of the Jewish law. On the surface this seems right and makes sense, but Satan loves to confuse Christians with twisted truths. Yes, tithing was part of the Jewish Law; however it also pre-dated the creation of the law. We see the first mention of the tithe in Genesis 28:20-22, when Abram tithed 10% of his increase (spoils of battle) to the high priest Melchizedek. Clearly Abram was moved by the Holy Spirit to give this holy man a tithe of what God had given him. As followers of Jesus, we should have this same attitude.
A second version of this is saying that the tithe is part of the old covenant, which was replaced by the new covenant. The new covenant is primarily a covenant of salvation. Prior to Jesus dying on the cross, Jewish people sacrificed animals for atonement of their sins. Jesus was the perfect sacrificial lamb, whose blood atoned for the sin of mankind past, present, and future. Jesus himself said “"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” The “Law” refers to the Mosaic Law given to Moses by God, so for the Jewish people, the law was never removed. However, the Gentiles were never under the law (Romans 2:13-14), so if you are not Jewish by blood, then you are not required by the law to tithe – it’s a choice; a choice with two BIG blessings (discussed later).
Another argument is that the tithe is not mentioned in the New Testament. This is incorrect. Jesus mentions it in Matthew 23:23, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices--mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” Jesus was saying that we should tithe, but not for recognition and not at the expense of justice, mercy, and faithfulness. Although the Apostle Paul does not use the word tithe, he too appears to address it in 1 Corinthians 16:2, “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.” He says that we are to set aside a sum of money in keeping with our income. This sure sounds like a tithe to me. As Paul said, if all Christians would tithe faithfully, there would be no need to take collections in church. By-the-way, the Corinthian church included both Jews and Gentiles, so we aren’t back to that whole “under the Law” issue.
The one I really love is when people say that the tithe is un-scriptural. This would mean that either the scriptures do not mention the tithe or do not support it. I don’t know what scriptures they are reading, but my Bible mentions the tithe in many places and in both the Old and New Testament. No, the Bible doesn’t come right out and say that New Testament Christians must tithe, but that is because tithing is a choice for us. I do agree with those who are tired of ministers and television evangelists telling Gentile Christians they must tithe. This is not true. However, God tells us (in Malachi 3:10) to “test Him” by tithing. It’s the only place I’ve found where God tells us to test Him. He follows that up with two blessings, if we do tithe. I for one am all for testing God and believe in the blessings listed in verses 10-12. I have been tithing faithfully for a number of years and God has always been faithful to those promises.
Another of my favorites is that ministers are “fleecing their flock” by telling their congregation they should tithe. For many years I didn’t understand the principle of tithing and so I didn’t tithe. I also didn’t receive any of the blessings promised in Malachi. Then I heard a pastor share a solid, biblical teaching on the tithe and God turned on the lights. From that point on, I have been faithfully tithing and have never once felt that I was being fleeced by my pastor. In fact, I am excited to tithe and grateful for the teaching, which has dramatically changed my financial life for the better.
Next are those who say that tithing only referred to “food products from the land.” In the days when the Mosaic Law was given to man, the tithe represented the “first fruits” from the land or from animals. That was the culture of the time. Culture changes over time and we see this change in the days of Jesus, as he observed the giving of coins (Mark 12:42, Luke 21:2). Paul referred often to the giving of money and as I mentioned above even alluded to what appears to be a tithe. We are living in a time when most people work and earn money. God gives us the ability and opportunity to earn income, so because of the change in culture, logically God would expect us to tithe and give money, not grain, fruit, or animals.
Some believe that the tithe was originally given to take care of the Levites and since they no longer exist, there is no need for the tithe. Again, more twisted truth. Yes, the Law did say that the tithe was to be given to the Levites and part of it would be used to take care of them (since they received no outside income and had no inheritance). Yes, to my knowledge the Levites no longer exist. However, the Levites were the priests of that time. Just as Abram gave a tenth to the high priest Melchizedek and the Jews gave a tenth to the Levites, we are to give a tenth of our income to our high priest, Jesus Christ. The Jews brought their tithes to the temple (the place where God chooses to have His name honored – Deuteronomy 14:23); today we bring the tithe into the church.
Along the same lines, a few believe that since there is no more temple or Levites, there is no more tithe. First, let’s remember that Abram (later Abraham) tithed to Melchizedek from his increase (before the Law was written). If you examine Hebrews 7:11-16, the writer associates the priesthood of Jesus with that of Melchizedek, not Aaron or the Levites. Verse 12 even says that when there is a change in priesthood, there will be a change in the law. Unlike the Jews who were under the Law, we are no longer required to pay tithe, but rather give it willingly, as Abram did. Also, the temple did not cease to exist; it just changed according to the new priesthood. No longer is the temple used for animal sacrifices and burnt offerings to atone for sin; rather it is now used for God’s people to meet and worship. In the Old Testament, God’s presence dwelled in the temple, but through the death of the Christ, we became the temple for God’s presence (Holy Spirit). This change is part of the change in priesthood, but does not eliminate the tithe, it just changes the reason for tithing.
Next we find those who think that the tithe should be used to throw a big party each year. Yes, God did have the Jews bring the tithe and eat it in His presence at a feast. Again, this was part of the Jewish Law. If you are part of a traditional Jewish church, you may still partake in this practice. However, if you are a Gentile, it is not right for you to use your tithe for a party. Now, if your church chooses to have a big party and celebrate God’s greatness (as our church often does), I’m sure God would be pleased. God clearly loves a party, as there were more feasts than fasts mentioned in the Old Testament and some day God will throw the biggest party of all time – the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Again, as with previous points, just because the Law changed, doesn’t mean that the tithe was eliminated..
Ok, now we have to deal with the people who say that if we are going to still uphold the tithe of the Old Testament (whether it be Abram’s tithe or that of the Law), should we not uphold all of the listed tithes? My question back is: “Since that time also required animal sacrifices and burnt offerings to atone for sin, should we bring those back as well?” Of COURSE NOT! Jesus atoned for all sin, for all time. His priesthood also changed the Law – it did not get rid of the Law – just changed it for the better – a new and better covenant. Tithing is part of that new covenant and comes with blessings.
Let’s switch gears and talk about what the tithe is and what it is not:
First, the tithe is not giving. According to 1 Corinthians 10:26, everything belongs to God. That means all the money you receive belongs to Him. We do not own it, but rather are stewards. So, 100% of your money belongs to God. He could take it all if He wanted, but rather He asks you to set aside His 10% (which is what the word tithe means) of the 100%. If that 10% is already God’s, how can you give it to Him as gift? Ok, some of you aren’t getting this, so let’s use a real world example. Let’s say you loaned me a $20 bill. I happen to know that the next day is your birthday and so I give you back your $20 as a birthday gift. How would you feel? That’s how God feels about saying that the tithe is giving. Anything above the tithe is giving (or offering) and I’ll address that another article.
Second, the tithe is Holy. It belongs to God and is not to be used by you for ANY purpose. If you use it, then you are stealing that 10% from God and I don’t imagine that is going to make Him very happy. Back to our real world example: If I just kept your $20 and claimed it as mine, I would be stealing. It’s the same with God’s money. In fact, if you look at Malachi 3:8, it talks about people who were using the tithe for their own selfish purposes. He said that they were robbing Him and were cursed. I believe many Christians curse their finances every month by not giving God His part.
Third, tithing is not about the money! God is walking on streets of gold and could get money from a fish’s mouth; He doesn’t need our money. Tithing is about Lordship. If you are a born-again believer, then you have accepted Jesus as your Savior (redeemer of your sins) and Lord (master) of your life. Can you truly say that Jesus is Lord of your life, if you are robbing Him by using God’s part (tithe) for your own purposes? He wants to be Lord over every part of your life, including your money. So, the tithe is about obedience. I’ve heard it said that God wants 100% of you (salvation and Lorship) and 10% of your money (tithe). Anything you give beyond the tithe is a gift and is given out of love, as the heart (spiritual heart) directs.
Fourth, tithe means 10%. Again, since 100% of your money belongs to God and He wants 10%, it’s 10% of your gross income. If you tithe on your net income, then God is not getting His full 10%. Plus, you are making it very evident that those deductions for taxes, insurance, and 401K are more important than God. Ouch! When I get paid, the first payment that gets made is the tithe. I don’t go get some cash for a movie or buy groceries or pay the mortgage, because that would be saying to God that those things are more important than Him. I received this revelation from studying Cain and Able (Genesis 4). Cain brought “some of the fruits of the soil to the Lord; whereas Able brought the fat portions from the firstborn of his flock. God found Able’s offering more favorable, because it was a firstfruit offering. It was the first and best. God gave His first and best (Jesus), why shouldn’t we give our first and best? Write the tithe check before you spend a penny on anything else.
If you want a base scripture for the tithe, I like Malachi 3:8-12 (NIV):
“Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse-the whole nation of you-because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit," says the LORD Almighty. 12 "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.
Note that this is the Lord God talking. He is upset with the Jewish nation because they didn’t understand tithing and giving. God never changes, so why would He expect the Jews to tithe and not His blood bought children? In fact, in Luke 12:48, Jesus says, “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required.” The Jews were given the Law and were required to sacrifice animals and burnt offerings for the atonement of sin. We were given complete atonement and eternal life with God as a gift. To who much is given, much will be required. The Jews were required by the law to give tithes. Shouldn’t we be required to give much more? Yet all God asks for is the tithe (His 10%). Most people don’t even think twice about giving a waiter or waitress 15% to 20%. Why do those same people complain about giving God 10% of His own money?
I’ve been in business for many years and have had several partnerships. In every case they were equal share partnerships. In other words, we each put in an equal amount of money, took an equal amount of risk, and received an equal part of the profits. According to Malachi 3:10-12, God gives us 100% and only wants 10%. That means we get to keep the 90% (of His money) that is left. By far that is the best business deal I’ve ever seen.
God goes even further by saying (Malachi 3:10-12) that if we are obedient to His Word and tithe, He will open the “floodgates of heaven” and pour out so much blessing we don’t have room enough. One day when I was meditating over this scripture, I heard the Lord telling me that He used that same floodgate to pour water on the world during the days of Noah. The water covered all the land – that was a lot of water. God has a lot of blessing He wants to pour out on you and me, but He needs to see that He is truly Lord of our money and that we are ready for the abundance.
God doesn’t stop there. Beyond the overflowing blessings (which will come in the form of money, relationships, health, etc.), God promises to protect the other 90% from the devourer (Satan). Jesus warned us that the thief (Satan) came to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10), so it should not surprise us that the devil is trying to steal the money that God has given us. Imagine it this way. If you tithe, God sends warrior angels to keep the devil and his bunch away from the other 90%. However, if you don’t tithe, God allows Satan to have his way with your mind and money. Read Job if you want to know what Satan can do when he gets the ok from God.
Lastly, in verse twelve, God says that if we tithe, we will be considered blessed by others. It is part of our obligation to God to be attractive to the non-believer. Who would want to serve a God whose children are always poor? It’s not God’s fault you have debt or are struggling financially. You made the decisions; you planted the seeds and now you must eat the harvest. We are children of THE KING and need to start living the part. We are going to attract a lot more people if we are living in God’s prosperity, than if we are struggling financially, with our health, and in our relationships. The tithe has the potential to affect all of those areas and many more.
I spent many years not believing in the tithe and so I didn’t do it. On paper it seemed like we made a lot of money (over $100,000 a year) and yet we were constantly going into debt and struggling to get by. We had a budget, but it seemed like surprise expenses would blow the budget every month. Finally, God was able to get through the earwax in my spiritual ear and taught me the importance of tithing. Even then we still didn’t tithe consistently. Many months we felt we couldn’t afford to tithe. That’s because we were looking at the bills first and then tithing.
Again, God showed me the error of our ways and we began writing the tithe check before looking at the bills and even though our income didn’t increase and our expenses didn’t decrease, there was money left over at the end of the month. Plus, over the last four years, God has used His divine multiplication plan to help us pay off $120,000 worth of debt. In the world’s financial plan this would have been impossible, but in God’s prosperity plan, all things are possible. Now that is the power of tithing.
Ok, a quick recap. If we tithe, we receive overflowing blessings and what we already have will be protected, which means it will go further. If we don’t tithe, our financial situation will be under a curse because Satan will have access to all we have.
Back to the question that titles this piece; “Should New Testament Christians Tithe?” As blood bought, new covenant Christians we are not required by the Law to tithe; rather we tithe out of obedience to God’s Word. However, God is a gentleman and as with salvation, He gives you a choice – to tithe or not to tithe, that is the question. Meditate over the scriptures and ask God, then decide based on the facts; not based on this piece or the writings on a web site or what a friend or relative says. Go directly to the source of your money and get the straight scoop on tithing. The truth will set you free.
Rod Nichols is an Associate Pastor at Truth and Grace Foursquare Church in Tacoma, WA. He is also a published author and accomplished public speaker and teacher. Rod’s latest articles and books can be found at www.RodNichols.com. Rod is married with five children. He and his wife Karen live in beautiful Washington State. Rod is available as a freelance writer. If you'd like to hire him, e-mail Rod@RodNichols.com.
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