Tithing & The New Testament Church — Part 2

When someone tries to tell you that tithing is commanded of Christians today, first ask where in the Bible Jesus or the apostles ever commanded tithing in the Old Covenant sense. In fact, I challenge you to find one place in the New Testament where the apostles paid tithe or extolled someone to pay tithe.

Some will direct you to select portions of the gospels.

One favorite is Matthew 17:24-27.

Collectors of the temple tax approached Peter and asked him if Jesus paid the two-drachma temple tax. Peter, perhaps flustered at being cornered and not knowing the answer, blurted out, “Yes.” But soon afterward, he has the following conversation with Jesus.

. . . Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?” When Peter said, “From strangers,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are exempt. However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and Me.”

“See?” tithe proponents say. “Jesus paid the temple tax.”

Well, first, it was the temple tax — not the tithe. The two are not in any way related. The temple tax involved money, whereas tithing involved food. The temple tax went toward maintaining the temple. The tithe went to the Levites and the needy.

Second, those who use this to point out that Jesus paid the temple tax are missing the entire point. Jesus just made clear that, as the Son of God, he was exempt from the tax. The only reason he paid the tax in this instance was because Peter had already told the collectors that Jesus did pay. He had Peter pay the tax “so that we do not offend them.”

Third, once we are saved through Jesus’ blood and are made one with Him, we become sons of God with Jesus. Therefore, as sons of God, Christians are also exempt from paying the tax.

Therefore, Matthew 17:24-27 is not a valid argument for New Testament tithing.

Once this passage has been explained to their dissatisfaction, tithing proponents often move on to the story of the widow’s mite in Mark 12:41-44.

And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.”

Again — this isn’t the tithe. If the widow had been giving tithe, she would have given a tenth of her two coins, not all she had.

This was also at the temple treasury. This DID involve money, but the people were giving freely, as they so chose, to the treasury. Outside the treasury were large trumpet-shaped receptacles called corban, into which donors tossed whatever amount of money they saw fit. The money was used for maintaining the temple and buying supplies such as incense. This was a freewill donation, and not something commanded by God.

So we find that this passage is also useless in defending New Testament money tithing.

Tithing was a commandment of the Old Law, the Law of Moses, which was fulfilled when Christ died on Calvary (Matthew 5:17, Galatians 3:13-14, Hebrews 8:6-13). After that, the laws of Mosaic worship were no longer needed. Jesus fulfilled them with his perfect sacrifice. Burnt offerings, a Levitical priesthood, a temple, incense, and blood were all fulfilled. Now, lovers of God and followers of His Son Jesus Christ were required to serve in spirit, and not by the letter (Romans 2:29, Romans 7:6, I Corinthians 3:6). God requires obedience over the following of rites and rituals (I Samuel  15:22), and God does not change. It is the same today.

TITHING TODAY

So what does this mean for us in regards to tithing? Has tithing been done away?

Not necessarily. Remember, Jesus said he came to fulfill the law, not destroy it. He did not destroy the practice of animal sacrifices, but rather fulfilled it. He did not destroy the practice of sprinkling blood, but fulfilled it. He did not destroy the Levitical priesthood, but rather fulfilled it. He did not destroy the need for a temple, but rather fulfilled it.

In same way, the practice of tithing was not abolished. It was fulfilled.

The question is: How?

The word “tithe” means “ten percent”, or “one tenth”. So when God told the Hebrews to tithe, they were to give ten percent of their produce — no more and no less. Everyone who raised grain or fruit or animals had to give exactly ten percent. They had to take it to specific places, and there do specific things with their tithe. They had to do it whether they wanted to or not. It was the Law.

Now, reading God’s commandments regarding tithing, we see that tithing had one purpose: To provide for the Levites (God’s ministers), and to provide for the widow, the orphan, and the stranger. Its purpose was for those who had food to provide for those who did not. All who tithed had to give exactly ten percent to this purpose.

We catch a glimpse of God’s love in this practice — His love for those who are in need, and His desire for those with plenty to give of what they have.

So how is the tithing practice fulfilled?

Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. —Romans 13:8

Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. — Romans 13:10

For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” — Galatians 5:14

If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.” — James 2:8

Tithing was God’s way of MAKING people take care of each other through LAW. They had to do it whether they wanted to or not.

Paul says to the Christians in Rome, “You are not under law but under grace.” (Romans 6:14). Christians are not in need of law, because they do the work of God gladly — in spirit, and not by letter. Remember Jesus’ condemnation of the hypocritical Pharisees? “For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.” God never cared about tithing nearly as much as He does about love. He hated the meticulous tithing of the Pharisees because they were more concerned about the letter of the law than they were about the spirit of the law. Paul says in Romans 3:20:

. . . by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

He goes on to say in verse 28,

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law.

The Pharisees sought justification through the works of the law. Jesus only called them “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew 23:27) — clean on the outside, but dead and filthy on the inside. In Galatians 5:4, Paul says,

You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

We of today are no different. If we seek to be deemed righteous by following the acts of the law, according to the letter of the law rather than the spirit, we only condemn ourselves. We have rejected, and thus fallen from, God’s grace through Christ. Also consider the following passage:

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. — James 2:10

In other words, if someone observes tithing in the Old Testament sense then they should not only do it God’s way for starters (giving food rather than money, giving it to the Levites, taking it to Jerusalem), but also observe the feasts, the sacrifices, the Passover, the Sabbath, and other points of the Law, else God will hold them accountable for failing to observe any of it. Think about this!  The avid churchgoer who declares that all should observe the tithe and give ten percent is condemning himself by not observing the rest of the law! Why would a person do such a thing, when the grace of Christ is sufficient?

Remember what we uncovered above — that tithing was God’s way of MAKING people share from what they had with others who did not. Now, however, Christians having been brought to grace apart from the law, follow in the spirit. We give of what we have to God by giving to those in need as we can. Jesus summed it up in Matthew 25:34-46, where he speaks of the final Judgment:

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ ”

God also does not want us to give anything because we must — because if we do according to the spirit of the law, we will desire to. Paul wrote to the Corinthians thanking them for a freewill gift they donated to his ministry:

Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; as it is written, “He scattered abroad, He gave to the poor, His righteousness endures forever.” Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply you seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God — II Corinthians 9:6-7

Notice now, that the Corinthians had not given to their “church”, but donated to Paul’s ministry so that he could bring the gospel to other places and minister to them. Notice also that this donation did not go into Paul’s pocketbook as income. He used it only to bring the gospel and “fully supply the needs of the saints”.

Also notice the similarities between Paul’s statement here and the one in Malachi 3: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.” Hebrews 3:6 identifies Christians as God’s house. If we see to it that there is food (spiritual and physical) in God’s house (in other words, take care of one another) that same blessing applies to Christians today that God mentioned in Malachi 3.

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. — James 1:27

We must also give willingly and freely, through true love, else our gift counts as nothing.

And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor . . . but do not have love, it profits me nothing. — I Corinthians 13:3

So in a word, New Testament tithing is not a mandated tithing, a perfect ten percent of food. New Testament tithing consists of giving freely of whatever one has to the poor and needy and supporting the ministries of preachers spreading the gospel to others.

Do you remember the old Communist saying, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need”? Under Communism, the government takes from those who have and give what they take to those who do not. In essence, Old Testament tithing was Communistic — you gave ten percent, by law, whether you wanted to or not, to those who needed it.

The New Testament is not Communism, but rather, Commonism. Under Commonism, everyone is willing to share what they have with those who do not. There is no law dictating that they do so, or that they give a specified amount. Rather than saying, “What is yours is mine”, as Communists do, Commonists say, “What is mine is yours.” This is living according to the spirit of the Law, rather than the letter. There are no Pharisees who follow Commonism.

This — gladhearted freewill giving to the needy and to ministries — is New Testament tithing. One can give 1% or even 100%, however much he wishes. And God has no desire for it if it is not given with a willing spirit. We are under grace, not law. While Moses brought the Law, Jesus set us free from it by bringing grace (John 1:17).

SO WHY DOES MY PREACHER INSIST SO STRONGLY THAT I TITHE?

Ah, now we come to one of the biggest pieces of the puzzle: Why do so many preachers insist that their church members tithe? Why do they hold the threat of a curse over their heads? And why do they insist on tithing in the Old Testament sense but change the rules so drastically by saying that tithing is of money and that it goes to the church treasury?

Perhaps one of the first steps in finding out why is to find out if that preacher is salaried. If he is, he is paid to preach. It is his means of making money. But nowhere in Scripture are we told to pay our preachers. In fact, the Word of God was never intended to be a means of financial gain to anyone. When Jesus sent his apostles out to work miracles throughout Israel, He told them, “Freely you received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8) He specifically forbade them from making money doing His work. Paul warned his friend Timothy in I Timothy 6:3-5:

If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.

Where does a salaried preacher get his paycheck? From contributions to the church treasury. From where do those contributions come? Church members who “tithe” money to the treasury. And the preacher wants a steady income for what he does, so he makes sure the collection plate is passed, urges his flock to give generously and often (promising them God’s blessings if they do and threatening them with God’s curses if they don’t), insists that everyone come to church on Sundays AND Wednesdays (which is when the collection plate is passed), and encourages them to recruit new church members. After all, the more regularly everyone attends, and the more attendees there are, the better the income.

But Jesus said in Matthew 6:24,

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted on one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

Preachers are to be shepherds over God’s flock. But Jesus also says Himself that he does not trust His flock to those who do their job for pay.

“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand [hireling], and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” — John 10:11-15

A preacher-for-hire is more worried about his paycheck and ensuring a steady income than he is about administering to the needs of his flock. Remember the story of Jesus and the moneychangers? Jesus drove them out with whips, telling them, “Stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” Now God’s house is the Christian body (Hebrews 3:6), and He feels the same way about turning this house into a place of business.

Peter gives advice to church elders in I Peter 5:1-2 about how to do their job:

Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness . . .

In short, elders (leaders within the church) are to do their job for the sake of the job itself — cheerfully and willingly, without monetary compensation. In other words, the shepherds of Christ’s flock are SPECIFICALLY FORBIDDEN to take pay for doing their job.

Paul makes an interesting statement in II Corinthians 2:17, in which he speaks of himself and his fellow apostles:

For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.

The word “peddling” in the Greek is kapeleuo, which means “to sell or retail” but can also mean “corrupt or adulterate”.

Think about this.

Preachers who rely on “tithes” corrupt the word of God in relation to tithing (among other topics) to ensure that church members continue to pay their salary. And, because they are paid preachers, they are peddling (selling) the Word — or at least a corrupted version of it. They are guilty of the very thing Peter and the apostles disdained, in BOTH SENSES OF THE WORD!

These hirelings are nothing more than imposters who twist the Word for their own pecuniary gain. They are plundering the Lord’s house, leading the flock astray and fleecing it. While striking fear into the hearts of the congregation by telling them not to rob God by neglecting to tithe, are robbing God’s people even as they speak!

“Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and you wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance.” — Isaiah 55:1-2

SO IF I GIVE, TO WHOM DO I GIVE?

Live the Christian life. Give of your time, your talents, your possessions, your money, your food, of anything you have. Give to those in need, to missions that spread the true gospel to the world, to ministers who teach the truth and need the support. Give freely, give gladly, give willingly. Don’t give in order to win the approval of men, like the Pharisees. Give to God through love.

Remember, your earthly possessions are nothing in comparison to your eternal reward. But do not give them up to false causes, to preachers who would fleece you of what would be better spent helping the needy and giving to the causes of Christ.

Loving God and loving your neighbor is the fulfillment of the Law. Loving God and loving your neighbor is fulfillment of the law of tithing. It is only that simple. Don’t let hirelings and peddlers of the Word confuse you and lead you astray.

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