IS TITHING BIBLICAL IN THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH?
Is tithing biblical in the New Testament church? Wow! What a subject. You talk about a hot topic! So what's the answer? In a word, "NO!" I can see it now - some of you may have just spit whatever you was drinking or eating right at your computer monitor. Now you have a mess to clean up.
I want to address this issue in a serious manner. Tithing does appear in the Bible. So one could say tithing is biblical. While tithing is biblical it is certainly not Christian. You see, tithing was an Old Testament law that belonged to Israel. It was basically like an income tax. You don't find New Testament Christians tithing.
Let's take a look at what the Old Testament tithe was. The word "tithe" means "tenth part". God actually instituted three tithes for Israel as part of their taxation system. First, there was a tithe of the produce of the land that was to support the tribe of the Levites. The Levites had no inheritance in the promised land. This was God's means of provision for them. Secondly, there was a tithe of produce to sponsor the many religious festivals in Jerusalem. If the produce was too much for the family to carry to Jerusalem they were permitted to convert it to money and give the money in place of the produce. Thirdly, there was a tithe of the produce of the land that was collected every three years for those in need. These tithes consisted of crops, livestock and/or flocks, not money (except as previously mentioned). When you add all these tithes up they average 23.3 percent of their income every year, not just the 10 percent we hear preached about today.
All these ceremonial laws of the Old Covenant were nailed to the cross at Jesus' crucifixion. That's why we don't see Christians tithing any more than we see them sacrificing animals to cover their sins. We're under a new covenant - a better covenant! I praise and thank God for it!
Giving is taught and encouraged, but there is no mention of the tithe in the early church. When it comes to giving, we see the New Testament Christians giving cheerfully according to their ability to give. It wasn't a duty to them (2 Corinthians 8:1-13, 9:5-13). They didn't give out of a command. They gave voluntarily to help other believers as well as to support the apostolic workers who were planting churches.
Some today believe we should tithe to support our clergy system. Of course, most who believe that are the so called clergy! The argument they use is that the tithe should be used to support the ministers today just as it was used in the Old Testament to support the Levites. Here’s a newsflash – today the Levitical system has been done away with! We are all priests now. Remember the priesthood of the believer? Do you realize that ministers were unsalaried for the first three centuries? The elders (shepherds) in the New Testament church were men with jobs. They had their own vocations. They gave to the church rather than taking from it. So paying pastors really has no foundation in the New Testament.
The Bible does teach we are to give to support the Lord’s work and to give generously to the poor. Beyond that, there is no support in Scripture for salaries, operational costs and building overhead. And there is certainly no support for tithing in the early church. Now if a Christian chooses to give ten percent or more out of a personal decision there is certainly nothing wrong with that. You are free to give unto the Lord as you see fit. The problem comes when tithing is taught as a commandment of God for the New Testament church. That’s just plain wrong.
What about the poor? Under the Old Testament system of tithing it was good news for the poor. They benefited from the tithes. In our day, however, mandatory tithing oppresses the poor even more as they are thrown into deeper financial debt as they strive to give their tithe. The gospel shouldn’t be a heavy burden to the poor and needy – or anyone else for that matter.
In some institutional churches, today, if the church records don’t reflect that you tithe you cannot hold a ministry position in that church. Never mind your love and commitment to God and the things of God.
Tithing has nothing to do with your devotion to God. It was never reflected that way in the early church. If tithing was an indicator of one’s devotion to God then the New Testament Christians must have not been devoted to God because all the biblical evidence we have shows they did not tithe.
God loves a Cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). I've often told people, "Don't give if you're going to want that money back. Don't give if you do so grudgingly."
Saying these things from the pulpit makes church leaders cringe! That's good for them though. It's fun to watch them. At least I'm entertained by it.
Let's be givers to God and His work. Let's be givers to the poor and needy. Give as you feel led to give. You certainly won't hear me say anything about tithing! I haven't believed in the tithe for many years.
Let's enjoy the journey in the freedom Jesus means for us to have.
This blog post is another in a series looking at the practices of churches today and how they line up with the New Testament. Perhaps this series could be better called, "Kicking Over Sacred Cows". For further reading and research, I recommend the book "Pagan Christianity?" by Frank Viola and George Barna.
I want to thank those of you who are sharing this blog with others. I so appreciate it. It's my desire to encourage and challenge believers everywhere to be the church Jesus has called us to be. Leave the baggage of organize religion and serve Jesus in freedom following the leading of the Spirit as we gather in His name. Please feel free to continue to post a link to this blog on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or even email it by using the icons below. Let's see what God will do!