Tithing Is So Old Testament

Corey —  March 30, 2010 — 28 Comments

       If you’ve read my articles on tithing, you might begin to think that I hate tithing. (In fact, I almost titled this article “I Don’t Hate Tithing”.) Or maybe you think I’m just stingy. Although that conclusion would be difficult to reach after reading my thoughts about New Covenant giving. But the truth is there’s a deeper reason behind why I teach against tithing as a giving standard for Christians.

       Tithing is the Old Testament example and standard for giving. It was part of the Law of Moses given specifically to the Israelites through the Old Covenant. But Christians today are no longer under that covenant. We’re under the New Covenant. And you see an interesting trend when you look at what the early Christians were taught about giving.

       Keeping in mind that the New Covenant began after Jesus’ death on the cross, consider the teaching you find in the New Testament about giving. Can you find any passages where tithing is used as the example that Christians should follow for giving? I’ll wait while you look.

       I can already tell you that you won’t find any. I know because I’ve looked. I’ve searched long and hard to find all the verses in the Bible that talk about personal finance. And you know what I’ve found in the New Testament about giving? The only example ever used to explain how much Christians should give is Jesus. Not tithing, not the Old Testament offerings – only the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

       That’s a significant statement. We’re supposed to give like Jesus did?! That sounds so difficult. How can I ever be that generous? How do I even calculate that for my budget??? But He is our example for giving as Christians who want to honor God. No, it’s not as easy to figure out as 10% of your income, but there are some general giving guidelines we can glean from the New Testament. New Covenant giving requires a deep, intimate relationship with God and demands that you spend time in His Word and in prayer seeking His will.

       Recently, I did a personal finance Bible study at my church for our winter Sunday school elective. When we started talking about tithing and giving, one person brought up the statistic that Christians only give about 2-3% on average. I also brought up the fact that only about 6% of Christians tithe to their churches (though about 27% of evangelical Christians give at least 10% of their income to charities). With statistics like that, why would I even try to teach something beyond giving 10%? We can’t even get to a tithing standard. How can I expect Christians to give generously and sacrificially???

       But I think that’s our first mistake. We think that by teaching tithing we’re giving Christians a simple, straightforward guideline that they can follow for their giving. It’s clearly taught in the Old Testament and even comes with curses and blessings. Surely that will motivate people to give generously. And that’s the problem.

       The reason I teach so strongly against tithing is because we have a much greater example and motivation for giving. Tithing never suffered for us. Tithing did not die for our sins. Tithing will not grant us eternal life. Tithing does not love us.

       But Jesus did suffer and die for our sins. Jesus will give us eternal life with God in Heaven. Jesus does love us – extravagantly, generously, sacrificially – even to the point of death!

       Brothers and sisters, why would we choose to continue using a lesser, weaker example for giving? We wonder why no one is motivated to tithe. Why don’t we teach giving based on Jesus’ life and sacrifice? How can our response to His gift be anything other than love, which will then produce generous, sacrificial giving in us? We can dismiss tithing and come up with excuses why we can’t afford it right now. But we cannot dismiss the gift of Jesus – the gift of His death for our sins so that we can have eternal life. The Holy Spirit will compel us to give if He is our focus.

       So if you wonder why I teach against tithing, that’s it. I don’t care if you disagree with my thoughts about why tithing no longer applies to Christians. I’m not here to debate the Law versus Faith (or Grace) ideas with you. But can’t we agree that teaching a giving standard based on Jesus’ gift to us will result in more generous, more sacrificial, and more cheerful Christian givers than teaching based on tithing? Let me know in the comments.

Corey

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Corey is currently pursuing a Master of Arts degree in religion. While he enjoys learning and writing about Christianity, another one of his new passions is writing about personal finances in order to help others make wise decisions with their money.

28 responses to Tithing Is So Old Testament

  1. Paul, Amen brother! I too searched for this. Your teaching is so right to the point. I have learned to let the Holy Spirit direct me as well. Keep up the great articles.

  2. Thanks, Donna! Too often we just accept a teaching within the church without actually searching the Scriptures to see if it is true. I’m glad to hear you’re seeking God’s Word primarily and letting the Holy Spirit teach you. Thanks again for your encouragement!

  3. I’m surprised, but i think this is the first time i’ve come across your blog. I enjoyed your article, and i agree with what you said. I like how you stated, “The reason I teach so strongly against tithing is because we have a much greater example and motivation for giving. Tithing never suffered for us. Tithing did not die for our sins. Tithing will not grant us eternal life. Tithing does not love us.”

    I don’t understand why people still grasp onto the tithing doctrine, when they even admit for themselves that Jesus Christ is the ultimate example for giving.

    After reading some more things about you and your belief’s i am going to put your link on my blog. I have been looking for a long time for a christian financial blog that does not support tithing. Coming across your blog really makes me excited.

    - jared
    .-= steward´s last blog ..Incompatible Systems: Tithing v. Holy Spirit =-.

  4. Hey, Jared! Thanks for your comment. I ran across your blog when I was researching tithing for myself and found it very helpful. Thank you for the work you’ve been doing.

    Thanks for the encouraging comments as well. Another personal finance blog that doesn’t teach tithing is Money Help for Christians by Craig Ford. He’s just about the only other one I’ve found who doesn’t teach it. His website is http://www.moneyhelpforchristians.com/ Thanks again!

  5. Took a look at that website. I agree with his giving philosophy in a certain way. As you probably notice i focus on freeing people from the bondage of tithing. I agree with moneyhelp that we shouldn’t focus on trying to give God less, or even bargain with God about how little we can afford to give and still make it.

    But I think he kind of misses the major first step in unlocking the chains of tithing from people. You can tell someone in prison that it’s beautiful outside and they belong outside those walls, but if you don’t convince them that their chains are unlocked first, it doesn’t matter what you tell them where they belong.

    Of course this creates a challenge for me, in that my blog creates a lot of people that feel this anti-tithing message is a revolt, and they forget that their freedom gives them much more responsibility than their prison has given them. It’s a hard balance.

    - jared
    .-= steward´s last blog ..Bible Verses on Spirit Led Giving =-.

  6. Yeah, Craig isn’t as focused on teaching against tithing as I am. But I think that comes from his background. He grew up seeing tithing/giving (the kind we’re thinking of) as interchangeable terms. He’s not as familiar with those who teach it as a command (albeit with warped human influences) that Christians should continue to follow. So while he’s not focused on unlocking people from tithing, his views on giving are still compatible with what we believe. (As least I think we agree on those things. Let me know if I’m wrong.)

    It is a major challenge to make it clear that teaching against tithing is not to be teaching against giving. In fact, the New Covenant principles for giving demand so much more out of us. Maybe people realize it already and don’t want to face up to the fact? It’s much more difficult to think about your giving as generous and sacrificial than 10% of income.

  7. Cedric D’Hue April 1, 2010 at 10:34 AM

    Hi Paul

    This is a repost of my response to your comment on Money Help for Christians:

    I read your article “Tithing is So Old Testament.” Per your request for a mention of Tithe in the New Testament, please review 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.” This is Jesus speaking to the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. He states that they tithe: “you give a tenth of your spices.” He also states that they should continue to tithe: “you should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” Paul, if you would like to correspond about this scripture in more detail please feel free to email me at cedric.dhue@gmail.com.

  8. @Cedric: This is also a repost of my reply on Money Help for Christians.

    Thanks for reading my article and for your comments. However, I wanted to note that I didn’t ask for a tithing verse in the New Testament. I asked for one that appears after Jesus’ death which is when the New Covenant began. I’ve discussed the verse you mention in another article called “Did Jesus Teach Tithing?”.

    What it really boils down to is whether you think we’re still under the Law of Moses or not. That’s basically what you’re saying when you say that the tithe is a Biblical requirement for Christians today. If that’s what you believe, we need to be discussing the book of Galatians rather than tithing.

    Thank you again for your comments. I did not take them offensively, and I did not mean for mine to be offensive either. As you said, iron sharpens iron.

  9. Cedric D’Hue April 1, 2010 at 2:42 PM

    @Paul,

    Again, this is a repost of my response to your comment on Money Help for Christians.

    @Paul Williams,

    Thank you for your response and additional article referencing Matt 23:23 and Luke 11:42. They are well reasoned. I am no biblical scholar. As a Christian (whether initially Jew or Gentile) I seek to follow Christ in everything including His spoken word. The bible is full of examples where Christ tells His disciples and others to follow Him, including what He says. For example, Luke 9:23: “Then He [Jesus] said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”" Matthew 7:24-27: ” 24″Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”"

    I do believe tithing is a biblical requirement which first occured in Genesis 14 between Abram and Melchizedek (approximately 400 years before the laws of Moses). I believe tithing predates the laws of Moses. I saw in your second article the discussion of Jesus being born under the law as discussed in Galatians. For me, that Jesus was born under the law doesn’t change my belief to follow all of His teachings including His spoken Word. I noted your perspective that the tithe was food. That is very perceptive and I see where you are going. For a largely agricultural society, giving food makes sense. We are no longer largely agricultural and I think there are examples where the tithe was likely not all food. For example, in Genesis 14 I don’t think that all of Abram’s spoils of war were food.

    Anyway, I’ve enjoyed our discussion. I am happy to see that your perspective takes into consideration very relevant scriptures from God’s Word. Blessings upon you and your household, Paul Williams.

  10. @Cedric: (Again, also on Money Help for Christians)

    Thanks for your thoughtful and kind response. I have two comments to make in reply to yours.

    1. If Abram’s example of tithing to Melchizedek is the reason we should tithe, then why are we to tithe off of our income while Abram only tithed from spoils of war (which contained nothing of his own earnings/possessions)?

    2. The fact that the tithe was only food and never money has very little to do with Israel being an agricultural society. There were many Israelites who would not have been farmers (Jesus and his disciples for instance) and would not have tithed (unless they were doing it on their garden spices like the Pharisees). The tithe was specifically from food produced within the Promised Land and was a reminder to the Israelites that God gave them the land. Money was an available and widely used object during that time, and God could certainly have explained the tithe in those terms if He had wished. But you will never find a passage in the Bible where the tithe was supposed to come from monetary income. I think we need to stop, think about that, and research it in light of all Scripture rather than dismissing it as a convenience factor for an agricultural society.

    *Additional note: I only prompt you to consider these issues because it is important to back up what we teach in the Church with a Biblical foundation.

  11. Cedric D’Hue April 1, 2010 at 3:18 PM

    @Paul Williams,

    Again, a repost based on Money Help for Christians:

    I believe that the tithe is based on all increase. See Genesis 14:20: “Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” (NIV) “Then Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the goods he had recovered.” (NLT). I also don’t believe in the whole back tithe thing where if you were not tithing you have to “catch up.” I think Genesis 14 is a good example to just start tithing today.

    I also believe that God owns all (Ps. 24:1: “1 The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;”). I also believe that Jesus teaches us to give to God what God owns whether it is food or money. For example: Matt. 22:21, Mark 12:17, and Luke 20:25 all basically state: “Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”" Whether we see financial increase through growing crops or raising animals or paychecks, the tithe is a way for us to honor God first by giving a portion back to Him before considering anything else.

    Hopefully I’ve adequately responded to your comments. I’ve enjoyed our discussion immensly. You have helped me put some of my beliefs into words. I respect your perspective and hopefully this discussion was beenficial to you as well.

  12. Cedric D’Hue April 1, 2010 at 3:19 PM

    @ Paul Williams,

    I definitely agree that as Christians we should back up our words with the Word of God.

  13. @Cedric:

    I agree that everything is God’s. I also agree that it is good for us to give. But my concern is with teaching tithing as the giving standard all Christians must follow. We are given better principles and examples in the New Covenant and in the life of Jesus. The 10% tithe can too easily become another box to check off on our Christian worksheets. Giving under the New Covenant requires more time and prayer than simple formulas.

    In reference to what the tithe was designed for and how it was to be instituted, I’d ask that you consider all the verses about tithing in the Bible and consider them in their proper context. The problem with saying we should tithe because Abram did it is that it was Abram’s choice – not a commandment from God. Same goes with Jacob’s example. Consider the verses where God commanded a tithe from the Israelites, look at them in context, and then see how that fits with all the Scriptures we find in the New Testament about giving. We’re under a much higher standard than 10%, and it’s foolish to keep putting ourselves under a lesser, weaker law when we have something better.

    I appreciate the discussion as well. Even though I disagree with you, I still respect you. My comments are not an attack on you but rather an attempt to base teaching about giving on the Bible rather than man’s ideas.

  14. Paul. Thank you for writing this article. I am currently working on an article about tithing as part of a larger series on giving. I agree with your points, and your writing is definitely helping me gain a better understanding on giving. Those statistics that you list also put things into prospective.
    .-= Khaleef @ KNS Financial´s last blog ..KNS Financial Weekly Twitter Updates for 2010-04-25 =-.

  15. I’m glad you found the article helpful, Khaleef. I’m still learning about God’s will for our giving, but the specifics depend on each person’s situation. Let me know when you write your articles on giving. I’d be interested in reading them.

  16. Great discussion guys! I believe in the principle of the tithe, but not as an amount to drop in the plate and call the box ‘checked’. The principle of the tithe has more to do with the heart than it does with the checkbook.

    The tithe was supposed to come from the first fruits. Giving to God before taking care of anything else was a way to show trust in God that He would provide for the needs of His people.

    I also agree that the tithe should be the starting point not the endgame. In some ways the tithe is the minimum requirement that we as believers should be trying to reach. I like the idea that we are no longer under the law, but the Ten Commandments were part of the law, and pretty sure we would all agree that we should still work to obtain that level of commitment.

    One of the greatest New Testament ideas regarding giving comes from Jesus’ teaching of grace. In the Old Testament we are taught not to commit adultery. In the New Testament, Jesus says that if we lust after a women in our heart that is the same as committing adultery.

    If 10% was the ‘command’ in the Old Testament, how much more should we give now that we are under grace? Awesome discussion.
    .-= Greg´s last blog ..Your Tax Refund that isn’t =-.

  17. Greg, I appreciate your comments and the time you took to share them. I agree with you that it’s about your heart – not whether you’re sticking to a legalistic percentage.

    However, some of your comments on the what the tithe is and the Law in general are a bit off. The tithe is very different from the first fruits. In fact, the tithe that went to support the Levites was not the first 10% and didn’t allow the option of choosing the best to give to God. Read Leviticus 27:30-33 to find this.

    As far as working to attain the level of commitment found in the Ten Commandments, that’s still a legalistic view. No, we’re not under the Law of Moses. We are under the Law of Christ – grace and love. We don’t need the Ten Commandments to tell us that it’s wrong to murder – we have the Holy Spirit to guide us. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount was designed to show people that it wasn’t about keeping the letter of the Law. The Law was misunderstood by the Jews. Jesus explained that the commandment against murder was also against anger (which can lead to murder). It comes back to having an undivided loyalty to God – not wishing to only honor him in the external things we do but also internally with our thoughts and our heart.

    How much we should give depends not on topping 10% from the Old Testament. The Law prescribed 23 and 1/3% in “tithes”, so if we want to be really serious we should be topping that. How much we should give depends on what God guides each of us in our individual situations to give.

    Again, I do appreciate your thoughts and don’t mean to attack you. But you speak of the principles in the mindset of Grace while continuing to cling to the letter of the Law. We must let go of the Law, the “rules”, and the guidelines and instead cling to God and seek the guidance of His Spirit.

  18. Oh, I forgot to mention that I am working on the 4th article in the series that looks at the Pre-Law occurances of tithing in Geneses (Abram and Jacob).

    Then my next article will take a closer look at the book of Malachi.
    .-= Khaleef @ KNS Financial´s last blog ..KNS Financial Weekly Twitter Updates for 2010-05-20 =-.

  19. Great posts, I wanted to respond to the agriculture/money discussion, in Deuteronomy chapter 14 it bears out that tithe was produce and if the tithe that they were to carry to the place where HaShem placed HIs name was too far it says they could turn the tithe into money and spend the money and buy what they wanted and their household was to rejoice before the Lord in doing so, i won’t post the verses, read the whole chapter; so in that chapter HE doesn’t tell them to tithe off of the money HE tells them to spend it. The tithe was to be eaten just like you eat a meal, so i say if folk want to tithe then when you go grocery shopping take a 1/10 of your groceries and take it to the food bank and feed to hungry or help a poor widow or orphan child as it is written, and the Levite doesn’t doesn’t even exist today so we won’t even discuss them, but if someone wants to include them as being the pastors or church leaders of today then it says the levite didn’t have any inheritance, that meant land and houses, so any one pastors or church leaders that are receiving tithes should give up their land and houses because they actually should be in a needy position to recieve tithe..

  20. Thanks for sharing your links, Khaleef. I’ve examined those same ideas in my series on tithing in the Bible. I’ve read your articles and it seems like you’ve done some good work on the subject.

  21. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Gordon. It’s clear to me that you’ve read the Bible to see what it actually says about tithing. You can check out the link in my comment above if you want to learn more about it. It’s very obvious that tithing as it is taught today (as a command/requirement) is not a reflection of God’s ideas – it’s all man’s ideas.

    However, this article was not meant to argue about the tithe on the technical points. The bigger picture of what Jesus did for us and how that affects our relationship with the Law is much more important. I prefer to focus on Jesus’ love and what that should compel us to do rather than the details of the law of tithing. Those who teach tithing as a command/requirement for Christians today are hanging on to the Law and only by very thin threads. I could cut those threads one at a time by pointing out the true Biblical teaching on tithing – or I could cut them all at once by pointing to the Cross and Christ’s teaching.

  22. haha wow.. I love your effort, but this is so demonic teaching man. Hear me correctly-Im not calling you a demon, you have great intentions.. but you have bought into a lie. Before i go biblical, with many “New Testament” references of why you should give under the New Covenant, let me tell you why you should even if it wasn’t in the bible.

    1. How do you expect a church to impact people with out the means to financially provide for those families going to that church. (and how does a non-profit org get money? donations..)

    2.There are bills that the church has to pay for, the toilets you flush, the air you want conditioned, the musical instruments you want to listen to for worship, the speakers that provide the ability to hear that music, the paint you want your church to look good in, etc.. i can keep going.

    3.All events and sponsored kids things cost a heck of a lot. Where should the money come from? The congregation.

    To begin Biblically from the mouth of Jesus.

    Mark 10:17-25 (Can a rich man enter heaven) Give all you have to the poor.
    Correct, as he is not saying give it to a church, but he is talking about giving to help the poor, who helps the poor? (*CHURCH*)

    2 Corinthians 8 & 9
    Paul is writing about the generous giving of a poor church, to help other poor people. The windows of heaven open on your life when you give.

    those are just two and for the sake of reading bloggers , email me for more scripture.

    As in many cases it doesn’t say- Give to your church! one reason, The first Church didn’t start til about 30 years after the crucifixion. And another Jesus was still trying to pry peoples hands off of their money by saying, Just Flipping Give and stop being so Stingy..
    Money is only money, but in the Hands of God and his Body(the church) it is a seed of faith into something so much more. People getting their lives changes, a church who can provide finically for people in need is a very effective power against this world.

    Do we need money, no. Do people need to give to the church, no. Do people need to ask Jesus for salvation, no. There is this thing called Free will that prevents God from controlling us and allows us to choose between the Tree of Life, or of Knowledge and Death. We get to decide that everyday.

    With Love
    -Adam

  23. Adam, thanks for your comment. But I’m not sure where you’re coming from. I have never once said or implied that Christians have no responsibility to give. Those who can should give generously and sacrificially. The Bible is clear on that, and I’m pretty sure I have been clear about it in my writing as well.

    On another thought though, I would challenge you to rethink your idea of “church”. The Church (the body of believers) does not need to have a building (church) to impact people. It needs no toilets, no paint, no air conditioning, no speakers, and no musical instruments to worship God or help the poor.

    I’m still not sure where you were coming from in your overall comment. I hope you’ll take some time to read what I’ve written about giving. I think you’ll see that I’ve never said we shouldn’t give. I’ve tried to challenge myself and other Christians to give more if anything. I’m always open to reproof and correction, but I’m not sure that applies in this case. Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts. Blessings to you!

  24. I believe that the obligation to give is done away with. I however believe the responsiblity to give is there. All things are lawful, just not expedient. We are not under obligation. However, if we don’t give the world will be in trouble.
    Until a mess finds its owner it never gets cleaned up. The word says the heavens even the heavens are the Lords, but the earth he has given to man. Psalms 115:16 The earth is ours and now He has even gave us the keys to the kingdom.
    Sons and daughters realize we are co-heirs with Christ and that the Holy Spirit wants to partner with us to bring as much heaven as we can to earth. It is not God’s fault that the world has so many problems. It is the people on the earth’s fault. We create the world we live in for the most part.
    It is much to easy to have a slave mentallity where we say, “I gave my tenth now it is up to the pastor what he does with it.” We need to realize that this thinking is why dead churches that do nothing but pay for airconditioning can still operate. This thing is our responsibility and God is behind us.
    We got the best good news in the world, and all of heaven is behind us. We need to take responsibility for the lot God has given us. Bring love to every occassion. Our salvation is not at stake, we got Jesus, the world’s salvation is.
    A man that works on a house for someone else will not have the same urgency to fix a problem as the one who owns it. I get a leak at 3 in the morning I’ll be up fixing it. I try to call a plumber they probably will get mad for me waking them up.
    Church life without ownership and vision have to rely on laws of fear and punishment to make ends meet. Church life with ownership and vision allow love to drive people to willfully sacrifice for the purpose of extending God’s kingdom.
    Fear and punishment have no ability to effect inward heart change. They merely produce an outward obedience that appear as righteousness. However, remove the law and the heart is exposed. The word clearly states the law has never produced righteousness. It merely creates the appearance.(self-righteousness)
    I could take a gun and tell someone they better not stand up or I will shoot them. They will stay there as long as I’m there with a threat. However there heart is never set on staying there. Actually the threat will provoke them to do the opposite. Just like law provokes sin.
    Love and freedom bring people to the place of responsibility. I realize all things are lawful just not expedient. Love make boundaries to protect relationship. Love says I will self restrain myself from things to protect those I love, and the things I value and others value. The self-control and love are supernatural they are fruits of the Spirit. That is heaven behind us.
    Love says I value gathering with other believers and I see the need for others and myself to hear the word so I will sacrifically give. I see the greater purpose and I’m willing to do without to see the greater good done. This whole walk now has nothing do with laws of righteousness, but with love.
    Valuing God and man. Relationship defines this new covenant. A big God that loves us no matter what. We however will never be able to give away something till we recieve it. You can’t give away what you don’t have. When the church finally realizes God loves them despite their failures she will enter rest and function out of love instead of for it.
    Thank you for this most awesome blog. Thank you for standing for God’s word in the face of insurmountable pressure. Grace to you and peace through Jesus Christ.

  25. Showing the tithe is a shadow and type and part of the law is what will show people the light, if they are looking for it. Adam is just feeling the responsibility of love and can’t define it in new testament terms. The law is wrote on our hearts. So when people don’t have a grid for their new found zeal sometimes they place it back on a law. Since something in them, God, is impressing them to give. Bad teaching is to blame. They believe that everything would fall apart without the tithe. The law doesn’t require faith it requires fear. Notice his statements of how everything would fall apart without the tithe. That is not faith but fear. Truth is God wrote his law on our hearts. The true church will survive and grow without a law. In fact till the law is removed it has just become a selfrighteous band-aid that has not let peoples hearts be exposed and healed. Fig leaves. When the law is gone people will have to become responsible sons and grow up. Love you in the Lord. Christ is the substance. The old testament is a type and shadow of the Christ. Being overly fascinated with the shadow would be akin to me kissing a picture of my wife and ignoring her.

  26. Thank you for your comments, Matt. I agree with what you’ve said and you gave some good analogies. Blessings to you.

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