Last week, I finished my series on Tithing in the Bible where we looked at every single Bible verse that talks about tithing. The purpose was to see what God’s Word says about tithing and to compare that with what is taught in the church today. What we found was that men have twisted the Bible’s teaching on tithing and giving out of ignorance or ulterior motives. They’ve added to the Bible’s definition and explanation of tithing to make it fit their own ideas. This post is a summary of what we learned from the Scriptures about tithing. You can click the titles of each heading to read the entire post relating to those verses.
- Abram gave 10% to Melchizedek only from the spoils of war – not his own money.
- Abram gave the remaining 90% of the spoils of war to the King of Sodom.
- Abram only gave a tithe once that we know of. We have no other examples of tithing as Abram’s model for giving.
- Abram’s example was never used in the New Testament to teach Christians how much they should give.
- The Bible does not say that Abram was commanded by God to give the tithe to Melchizedek.
Conclusion: Abram’s example of tithing to Melchizedek does not set a precedent for Christians to follow.
- Jacob’s promise to tithe was completely conditional. He told God that he would tithe if God would bless him.
- God did not ask Jacob to give a tithe. Jacob chose to promise it to Him (again, only if God would bless him).
- Jacob would not have had a local temple (church) to give his tithe to. Neither would God have taken the tithe directly from Jacob – He does not need it. Jacob would most likely have given his tithe directly to the poor and needy or in showing hospitality to strangers.
Conclusion: Jacob’s example of tithing is not taught by tithing advocates because it was completely freewill, conditional, and would not support the idea of giving your tithe to your local church. It also does not set a tithing requirement for Christians to follow because it was Jacob’s choice – not God’s commandment.
- Many other aspects of the Law were considered “holy to the Lord”, including: grain offerings, sin offerings, trespass offerings, the feasts, holy days, the sanctuary, the high priest’s crown, the priests’ clothes, and the fruit a tree produces in its fourth year.
- The tithe only came out of increases from the land, flocks, and herds – not income the Israelites earned in any other way. The tithe was only food and never included money.
- The tithe was not the best tenth. The tithe of the herds and flocks was the tenth animal to pass under the shepherd’s rod, and the shepherd was not allowed to change it. The tenth animal could have been the best or the worst.
Conclusion: These verses do not establish the tithe as an eternal statute for all who follow God merely because it was considered “holy to the Lord”. There are several other Old Testament statutes we should be keeping if that is our method of discerning eternal statutes. Also, modern tithing advocates twist the Scriptures to include money in the tithe instead of just food and to teach that the tithe should be your best 10%.
- The tithe was instituted among Israel to provide specifically for the priests and the Levites.
- In exchange for the right to receive offerings and tithes, the priests and the Levites had to give up all rights to inheritance or land ownership.
- The Levites – not the priests – received the tithe from Israel.
- The Levites then gave the priests a tithe of the tithes, or 1% of all Israel’s agricultural increase.
- The tithe was still only food items and never included money.
Conclusion: The tithe does not apply to Christians because it was specifically for the Israelites to support the Levitical priesthood. Christ’s death abolished that priesthood and replaced it with a priesthood of believers with Christ as the high priest. Tithing advocates do not teach that those who receive the tithe should give up inheritance and land ownership rights or that the priests should only receive 1%. Again, the tithe only contained food items and not money.
- Tithing is just one among many statutes and ordinances the Israelites were commanded to observe.
- The Bible talks about eating your tithe before God which is never taught today. It also means the tithe was only food and not money. Israelites were only allowed to use money if the journey to the Temple was too long for them to carry their tithe. Once they arrived at the Temple, they had to use that money to buy food and drink so they could celebrate before God.
- This could have been a second tithe (the festival tithe), which means the Israelites tithed at least 20%.
- The Bible also talks about tithing every third year (the poor tithe). This tithe was kept within each Israelite city to care for the poor. It did not go to the Temple.
Conclusion: Tithing advocates do not teach that Christians should observe all of the statutes and ordinances of the Law – only tithing. They also don’t teach about eating your tithes or giving your tithes directly to the poor. They usually teach that you should give it directly to your local church. These are not Biblical teachings.
- The tithe was still only food items from Israel’s agricultural increase. That’s why the tithing stopped after the seventh month – the harvest was over for that year.
- The Temple was not the storehouse for all the tithes – reinforcing the fact that only 1% went to the Temple and the Levites kept the other 9% in the Levitical cities where they lived.
Conclusion: Again, those who teach tithing today twist the Scriptures to make it include money even though the Bible says it was only food.
- The blessings promised by the Law required the Israelites to keep all of God’s commandments, statutes, and ordinances. Breaking any one of those meant you were cursed under the Law.
- Again, the tithe went to the Levites and then they gave a tithe of the tithes to the priests. It didn’t all go to support the priests – only 1% did while the remaining 9% went to the Levites.
- During the time of Nehemiah and Malachi, the priests were often guilty of breaking the Law and stealing the tithes by not giving the Levites their portion while they were serving at the Temple. This gives us some background for what we read in Malachi.
Conclusion: Christians are not under the curse of the Law because Christ has taken away that curse. This is important to understand before reading Malachi 3:8-12. Many have misinterpreted those verses and told Christians they will be cursed if they do not tithe.
- God required the Israelites to keep all of His commandments, statutes, and ordinances – not just those concerning tithing.
- If the Israelites failed to keep all of the Law, they were cursed with “the curse” – even if they only failed in one point of it.
- The tithe was still only food.
Conclusion: Teaching Christians that they will be blessed if they tithe or cursed if they don’t completely ignores Christ’s sacrifice. We are no longer under “the curse” of the Law but have been freed from death by Christ’s blood. Therefore, Christians will not be cursed if they do not tithe, and the promise of blessing in this passage does not apply to us. It was for the Israelites only.
Note: I did not include Amos 4:4-5 in this study because it barely mentions tithing and is not relevant in our study.
- Jesus was under the Law and so were the Pharisees He was speaking to. The New Covenant did not begin until after Jesus died, so He would not have taught the Pharisees to break the Law. However, Jesus never taught Gentiles to keep the laws or statutes that applied specifically to the Israelites (like tithing and ceremonial cleansing rituals). Christians are not under the Law of Moses; therefore, we are not required to tithe.
- The tithe still only contained food and never money.
- You can tithe and still be sinning. God held justice, mercy, faith, and sharing His love as higher and more important than whether or not an Israelite tithed. He still feels that way today. God would rather have us actually live a holy life than to have us tithe and feel holy even though we neglect the more important things.
Conclusion: Jesus was not advocating tithing for all of His followers for all time. He was speaking to a specific group of people who were under all of the Law of Moses. He used this time to teach us that love trumps giving every time. It is foolish to think that tithing will save us or that failing to tithe will condemn us.
- Jesus used this parable not to support tithing but to condemn the self-righteous. God will humble us if we boast in the things we do, and He will exalt those who humble themselves.
- Tithing is only mentioned twice in the Gospels, but Jesus takes many occasions to teach about generous giving to the poor.
Conclusion: We should look at all of Jesus’ teachings about giving to determine God’s will for Christian giving. He spoke more about generous giving than tithing. Even when He talked about tithing it was not in a positive light.
- This is the only time tithing appears after Jesus’ death.
- Jesus’ high-priesthood is superior to and replaces the Levitical priesthood.
- Since the Levitical priesthood has been replaced so has the Law that was instituted under it. Christians are not under the Law of Moses.
- We have a better hope through the high-priesthood of Jesus and His sacrifice. We have a better hope for salvation that comes through faith in Jesus – not in keeping the Law of Moses. And we have a better hope for giving that’s based on a close relationship with God through prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit – not on percentages.
Conclusion: God has created a better covenant with Christians that allows us to draw near to Him through Jesus. We shouldn’t place ourselves under the statutes of an inferior Old Covenant when God desires a deeper relationship with us through His New Covenant.
New Covenant Giving
In our study of tithing, we’ve seen that modern tithe teachers have grossly misrepresented what the Bible says about tithing. Tithing is not a requirement for Christians, and God has a better plan for Christian giving than tithing. If you want to learn more about giving under the New Covenant, check out these articles:
- Give Yourself to God First
- Give in Response to Jesus’ Give
- Give with Sincere Desire and Love
- Give Under Grace Not Commandment
- Give As Much As You Are Able or Even More
- Give So That There May Be Equality
- Give Joyfully and Cheerfully
I’ll also be spending more time in the future looking at Jesus’ teaching on giving and what the New Testament teaches about giving. So make sure you’ve signed up for free updates to Provident Planning if you want to learn more. If you have any questions or comments about tithing in the Bible, feel free to leave them below!