Tithing: Bird's-Eye View of a Heavy Albatross
By Patricia Backora
Sunday after Sunday preachers preach: "God will get you if you eat your tithe!" But what was the original purpose of the true Biblical tithe, and what did it consist of?
Curious as to why the early apostles never reminded New Testament believers to pay their tithe on time, I did an exhaustive study on Biblical tithing. This article is condensed from a much larger paper I wrote. Here are some of my conclusions:
1. Unqualified religious leaders (Gentiles) should not be taking up tithes.
2. God's tithe NEVER consisted of money!
3. NOWHERE in either Testament are Christians commanded to pay monetary tithes.
4. Tithes consisted only of agricultural produce.
5. Biblical tithes were sometimes EATEN by the worshipper himself!
Deuteronomy 14: 22-27 deals with the Festival Tithe, one of three tithes paid by the laity of Israel. I've been a believer for many, many years, and NOT ONCE have I ever heard this Scripture passage expounded on by any tithe-taking preacher. I wonder why!
Verse 22 Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase (harvest) of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year.
Verse 23 And thou (the tithe-payer!) shalt EAT before the LORD thy God, in the place which He shall chose to place His name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thy olive oil, and of the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always. Tithes were EDIBLE things! Pottery makers and sandal makers didn't tithe on their products. Unless you raised crops or livestock, you didn't owe any tithes.
Verse 24 introduces the only context in the whole Bible where money is mentioned in conjunction with tithing! And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the Lord thy God shall choose to set His Name there, when the Lord thy God hath blessed thee;
Verse 25 Then thou shalt turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the Lord thy God shalt choose:
Verse 26 And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after; for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and THOU SHALT EAT there before the Lord thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou and thy household,
Verse 27 And the Levite that is within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee (in the Promised Land).
Israelite worshippers could even buy beer or wine to drink at their holy feasts! If anyone claims that their church traditions are supported by the Word of God, they ought to take a closer look at what their Bible really says.
Numbers 18:21-24 says makes it plain that only the sons of Levi were ever authorized by God to collect tithes, and only from the children of Israel. No other tribes of Israel were ever supposed to collect tithes, and certainly not Gentiles! Any Gentile who takes tithes today is violating Godís Word. Today the wrong people (Gentiles) are collecting the wrong kind of tithe (money) from the wrong people (poor landless people) in the wrong period of history( the Levitical priesthood ended in 70 A.D. when the Temple was destroyed). And theyíre doing it in the wrong land (God only commanded tithes to be taken from the produce of HIS land of Israel, not Wazoo City, Michigan). Old Testament tithes were never used for building projects, so why is that being done in the New Testament?
Nowhere in Scripture is any Christian authorized to waive the Old Testament precondition of being a physically perfect male member of the Tribe of Levi in order to fill his offering bag with his favorite Old Testament ordinance, while excusing Christians from all other Mosaic ordinances.
As for this loophole of "spiritualizing" the sons of Levi to be analogous to modern pulpiteers, you would have to be consistent and "spiritualize" all the other eleven tribes of Israel too. I Peter 2:9 makes it plain that every New Testament believer is part of Christ's Royal Priesthood. Paying tithes to some professional minister denies your own priesthood in Christ.
Most members of the Tribe of Levi were NOT priests. Subordinate Levites but served the priests. All priests came from the Tribe of Levi, but not all Levites were priests. Priests could only be sons of Aaron (Ex.28:1). The Levites would present the Heave Offering, a tithe of all the other tribes' tithes, to the High Priest (Numbers 19: 25-28). Jesus is the only High Priest of our New Covenant (Hebrews 4:14-16). Jesus did not finance His own ministry with tithes. If He had, He never would have had to say: The Son of Man hath nowhere to lay His head (Matt.8:20).
Even the prophet Malachi, blamed for inventing the church tithe, says the purpose of the tithe was to keep FOOD, NOT MONEY, in Godís House (Malachi 3:10). Why? Our Heavenly Father doesn't need farm produce to sustain His life. The Levites (priestly tribe of Israel) were denied an inheritance (of real estate) in the Promised Land. The tithe was their compensation for this, and their reward for their Tabernacle service (Numbers 18:21-24). Still other tithes were set aside to be consumed by worshippers and the poor at their yearly festivals (Deut.12:17-18; 14:22-27) . Every third year, a special tithe was stored up for the poor within the city gates (Deut.14:28-29).
Tithing was done six years out of every seven. Every seventh year the Land was to lie fallow, to give the land a rest (Lev.25:1-4). No tithes would be collected that year at all. Have you ever heard of any churchgoer getting a rest every seventh year from paying tithes?