Archives For Personal Finance Bible Study

       If you spend much time reading personal finance advice for Christians (either on Provident Planning or somewhere else), you’ll probably start to realize that it’s not all that different from other personal finance advice. Most of the good advice for Christians applies equally to non-Christians as well. Stick to a budget, spend less than you earn, avoid excessive debt, keep an emergency fund, minimize your taxes, don’t buy insurance you don’t need, save for the future – none of those things are particularly Christian in nature.

       There may be some points in which Christian personal finance and secular personal finance will differ, but, generally speaking, good personal finance advice is the same regardless of your religion. The difference – and this is a major difference – is in the ultimate purpose, the final goal, of following that good advice.

       As far as the world is concerned, it makes sense to make smart personal finance decisions because that’s what is best for you. Good money management will help you meet your goals, maximize your wealth, and get the most out of the money you’ve earned. And according to the world, that’s what you should do with your money. Use it for the things you want. Use it to meet your goals and fulfill your dreams.

       But for Christians, making smart decisions in our finances is not important just so we can maximize our wealth and meet all our desires. Our purpose is not to find fulfillment in this world and the things it offers. Our purpose is to honor and glorify God – to serve Him with our entire being in everything we do. Our goal is to do His will. And part of God’s will for us is to share His love by caring for those in need through generous giving. We don’t try to maximize our wealth for our own use. We try to maximize our wealth for God’s use.

       I want you to remember this as you read the articles I write. Many times there won’t be a Bible verse in a post. Personal finance in the Bible is more about the principles that should govern our decisions – not specific applications (like how to get out of debt). But it’s very important that we remember the purpose of seeking and following good financial advice.

       When I talk about spending less, it’s so we’ll have more to give. When I talk about earning more money, it’s so we’ll have more to give. When I talk about making smart financial choices, it’s so we’ll have more to give. It all comes back to giving – giving motivated by love that flows out of our response to God’s Gift to us.

       Yes, making good financial decisions will have benefits for you personally. But our focus as Christians is on the benefits those decisions will have for the Kingdom. In our efforts to follow good financial advice, let’s keep our eyes focused on Christ and our minds focused on how we can serve Him fully.

       The advice we follow may not be all that different from non-Christians. But the motivation, goals, and results should be very, very different. And that difference will serve as a witness for the power of God’s love working in our lives.

       What do you think makes Christian personal finance different? Let me know in the comments!

Not for Itching Ears

Corey —  December 31, 2009

       If you want to hear how the Bible can make you a millionaire, you’re in the wrong place. If you want to hear that you can give 10% and you’ve done your duty to God, you’re in the wrong place. If you want to hear how easy life is going to be as a Christian, you should go do another Google search because you’re not going to find that here.

       Provident Planning is not a place for people with itching ears.

       But if you want to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, you’ve come to the right place. If you want to know what the Bible – not man – teaches about money, you’ve come to the right place. If you desire to be a lover of God rather than a lover of money, then I invite you to join me as I seek God’s Truth for personal finances.

       3 For the time will come when they will not listen to the sound doctrine, but, having itching ears, will heap up for themselves teachers after their own lusts; 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside to fables.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 (WEB)

       A lot of the most popular teaching about personal finance for Christians emphasizes how Biblical financial principles can make you rich. This naturally appeals to many people because the love of money is so prevalent in our society. Those who teach how the Bible can make you rich while putting little emphasis on God’s true purpose for those riches are doing nothing but scratching the itching ears.

       God’s Word is not a guide on how to get rich and enjoy all the fine things of the World. God doesn’t want rich Christians to splurge on luxuries while their brothers and sisters die from hunger and thirst. The Gospel is not about how you can prosper in this life. Jesus didn’t die on the cross so you can retire early.

       Jesus warned us of the dangers of greed. He taught us to give generously to anyone in need. He taught us to seek God’s Kingdom first – to make it our top priority in life. All of God’s Word testifies to the fact that our best life will be an eternal life in Heaven – not here on Earth. He has warned us that this life will be full of trials, tribulations, hard times, and difficulties. But He has promised us the most wonderful blessing – eternal life with Him for anyone who believes in His Son, Jesus Christ.

       3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine, and doesn’t consent to sound words, the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, 4 he is conceited, knowing nothing, but obsessed with arguments, disputes, and word battles, from which come envy, strife, insulting, evil suspicions, 5 constant friction of people of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. Withdraw yourself from such.

1 Timothy 6:3-5 (WEB)

       Many false teachers talk about how God will bless you if you’re a Christian. Or they tell you to send them a love gift or plant a seed and God will pour out miraculous financial blessings for you. These people do not teach the whole Word of God! We are to have nothing to do with those who twist the Scriptures for their own financial gain or teach a gospel different from the one Jesus taught.

       As Christians, we are rich – but you can’t measure our wealth in dollars. We have eternal life with God as our promised reward for faith in Jesus. That reward outweighs anything you can imagine for yourself in this life – and that reward is why contentment and giving should be our primary concerns when it comes to money. Reflect on these words from the Bible:

       6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we certainly can’t carry anything out. 8 But having food and clothing, we will be content with that.

       9 But those who are determined to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful lusts, such as drown men in ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some have been led astray from the faith in their greed, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

       11 But you, man of God, flee these things, and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith. Lay hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you confessed the good confession in the sight of many witnesses. 13 I command you before God, who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate testified the good confession, 14 that you keep the commandment without spot, blameless, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ; 15 which in its own times he will show, who is the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; 16 who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and eternal power. Amen.

       17 Charge those who are rich in this present world that they not be haughty, nor have their hope set on the uncertainty of riches, but on the living God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy; 18 that they do good, that they be rich in good works, that they be ready to distribute, willing to communicate; 19 laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold of eternal life.

1 Timothy 6:6-19 (WEB)

       So if you want to learn what God says about money and what the Bible teaches about personal finance, then please sign up for free updates to Provident Planning. And if you ever find me teaching anything contrary to the Scripture or the Gospel of Jesus Christ, please contact me and let me know.

       But if you just want someone to tell you the things you want to hear, you’ll have to go somewhere else to get your ears scratched.

       You may have noticed that most of the Bible verses I quote on this website are from the World English Bible (WEB) version. Not too many people are aware of this Bible version, so I thought I should take a couple minutes to let you know why I use it.

What Is the World English Bible?

       The World English Bible is an update of the American Standard Version of 1901, which is in the public domain. It has been edited to conform to the Greek Majority Text New Testament. The World English Bible is also in the public domain, which sets it apart from other revisions of the American Standard Version (like the New American Standard Bible, the Revised Standard Version, and the Amplified Bible) which are under copyright.

Why Does Copyright Matter?

       All modern translations of the Bible are currently under copyright, which means that I cannot post verses from those translations which violate the fair use requirements. Because this website has advertisements, I can’t use any of the modern translations without paying licensing fees.

       I’d run into the same problem if I ever want to publish any books with Bible verses in them. The copyright restrictions would require me to pay licensing fees plus royalties to the translation publishers (like Zondervan). Those fees are quite high and would make it very expensive for me to publish anything.

       The solution is to use a Bible translation that’s in the public domain, meaning there are no copyright restrictions. Generally, only older, out-dated translations are in the public domain – like the King James Version or the American Standard Version. The archaic language of these versions makes it difficult for modern readers to understand the Bible.

       Thanks to the people working on the World English Bible, I can quote all the Bible verses I want from that version without any fear of violating copyright rules. The World English Bible is a modern translation that can be freely copied without written permission from a publisher or payment of royalties.

Is the World English Bible a Good Translation?

       Since it’s relatively unknown, you may wonder if the World English Bible is a good translation. If you’ve read many of the Bible verses I’ve quoted, you’ll realize that they’re quite similar to any other translation you’ll read – especially those based on the American Standard Version (ASV). If you usually read the New American Standard Bible (NASB) or the Amplified Bible, you’ll find that the World English Bible is a very close translation since they’re all based on the ASV.

       The American Standard Version is considered to be a literal translation, and the World English Bible follows suit. It’s not going to read like The Message or the New Living Translation, but you can rely on it for a literal interpretation of the original Bible languages.

       One thing you might find strange is the fact that the World English Bible always translates the proper name of God as “Yahweh”. The KJV generally translates this as “LORD” or “GOD” in either all caps or small caps and the ASV uses “Jehovah”. Scholars generally agree that the tetragrammaton should be rendered “Yahweh” instead of “Jehovah”. Seeing “Yahweh” all the time just takes a little getting used to but it does not change the meaning of the Scriptures.

       If you don’t like the WEB version, you can always click the link under any Scriptures I quote. That link will take you to another website, where you can see those verses quoted in the NIV, KJV, Amplified Bible, NLT, The Message, and the NASB versions. That should just about cover everyone’s preferences.

How Can I Learn More?

       If you have other questions about the World English Bible, you’re best off checking out their website and frequently asked questions section. You should be able to find most of you questions there, and if not, you can e-mail those working on the project.

Tithing in the Bible: Summary

Corey —  December 16, 2009

       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’s Example – Genesis 14:18-20

  1. Abram gave 10% to Melchizedek only from the spoils of war – not his own money.

  3. Abram gave the remaining 90% of the spoils of war to the King of Sodom.

  5. Abram only gave a tithe once that we know of. We have no other examples of tithing as Abram’s model for giving.

  7. Abram’s example was never used in the New Testament to teach Christians how much they should give.

  9. 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 Example – Genesis 28:20-22

  1. Jacob’s promise to tithe was completely conditional. He told God that he would tithe if God would bless him.

  3. God did not ask Jacob to give a tithe. Jacob chose to promise it to Him (again, only if God would bless him).

  5. 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.

The Tithe is Holy to the Lord – Leviticus 27:30-33

  1. 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.

  3. 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.

  5. 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 Statute of Tithing – Numbers 18:20-32

  1. The tithe was instituted among Israel to provide specifically for the priests and the Levites.

  3. 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.

  5. The Levites – not the priests – received the tithe from Israel.

  7. The Levites then gave the priests a tithe of the tithes, or 1% of all Israel’s agricultural increase.

  9. 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.

Eating Your Tithe – Deuteronomy 12, 14, & 26

  1. Tithing is just one among many statutes and ordinances the Israelites were commanded to observe.

  3. 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.

  5. This could have been a second tithe (the festival tithe), which means the Israelites tithed at least 20%.

  7. 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.

2 Chronicles 31

  1. 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.

  3. 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.

Background for Malachi – Nehemiah 10, 12, & 13

  1. 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.

  3. 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.

  5. 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.

Malachi 3:8-12

  1. God required the Israelites to keep all of His commandments, statutes, and ordinances – not just those concerning tithing.

  3. 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.

  5. 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.

Did Jesus Teach Tithing? – Matthew 23:23 & Luke 11:42

  1. 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.

  3. The tithe still only contained food and never money.

  5. 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.

Boasting about Tithing – Luke 18:9-14

  1. 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.

  3. 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.

Change of the Priesthood, Change of the Law – Hebrews 7

  1. This is the only time tithing appears after Jesus’ death.

  3. Jesus’ high-priesthood is superior to and replaces the Levitical priesthood.

  5. Since the Levitical priesthood has been replaced so has the Law that was instituted under it. Christians are not under the Law of Moses.

  7. 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:

       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!

       Chapter 7 of Hebrews is the last example of tithing in the Bible that we are going to examine in this series, and it’s also the only mention of tithing that occurs in the Bible after Jesus’ death. For this reason, we should pay close attention to what is said here since it applies specifically to Christians.

       Hebrews is a book of better things. It talks about how Jesus and the New Covenant surpass Moses, the Law, the priesthood, and the Old Covenant. Chapter 7 in particular discusses how the high-priesthood of Jesus has replaced the Levitical priesthood. It also makes it clear that a change of the priesthood requires a change of law (from the Law of Moses to the Law of Christ). Since tithing was commanded to the Israelites as part of the Mosaic Law, it has been replaced by the Law of Christ which requires generous giving to anyone in need.

After the Order of Melchizedek

       The author of Hebrews begins chapter 7 by explaining how the high-priesthood of Jesus surpasses and replaces the Levitical priesthood. Since God declared Jesus to be a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek, the author of Hebrews uses the example of Abraham giving a tenth of his spoils of war to Melchizedek to highlight the reasons why Jesus’ priesthood is higher and better than the Levitical priesthood. You can read Hebrews 7:1-10 for the actual text, but here are the main points:

  1. The Levites only took tithes from the Israelites because of a commandment that was part of the Law that came from God. That tithe was clearly connected to the Law of Moses.

  3. Melchizedek accepted a tithe of the war spoils from Abraham and blessed him – showing that Melchizedek is “greater” than Abraham.

  5. The Levites receive tithes but die, while Melchizedek received a tithe but Psalm 110:4 testifies that the priest after the order of Melchizedek (Jesus) lives forever.

  7. We can say that Levi and all his descendants (the Levites) paid tithes to Melchizedek through Abraham.

       All of these facts indicate that a priest after the order of Melchizedek, Jesus, is higher than the Levitical priesthood. After His death, Jesus replaced the entire Levitical priesthood and became the high priest of all those who choose to follow Him. His sacrifice replaces all the sacrifices the Levitical priests made, and it is through Him that we draw near to God (where previously only the Levitical priests could draw near to God).

A Change of the Priesthood Requires a Change of Law

       This change of the priesthood necessitates a change in law, because the Law of Moses is what established the Levitical priesthood and tithing is how the Levitical priesthood was supported. If the Levitical priesthood has been abolished and replaced, then the statutes and ordinances surrounding that priesthood have also been abolished and replaced.

       11 Now if there were perfection through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people have received the law), what further need was there for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, and not be called after the order of Aaron? 12 For the priesthood being changed, there is of necessity a change made also in the law.

Hebrews 7:11-12 (WEB)

       The Law made no one perfect. If it had, then Jesus would not have needed to die on the cross for our sins. We could have simply followed the Law of Moses and received our salvation that way. But we all have sinned and no one but Jesus has kept the Law perfectly. Therefore, God chose to replace the Old Covenant with a new and better covenant through His Son. Since we now have Jesus as our high priest and we are the priesthood of believers, the Old Covenant and its rules about the Levitical priesthood (including tithing) no longer apply to us as Christians.

The Priesthood of Jesus Brings Us a Better Hope

       We no longer have high priests who are weak and just as unable as we are to avoid sin. Instead, we have Jesus as our high priest forever. And it is through Him and the hope that He brings that we can draw near to God.

       18 For there is an annulling of a foregoing commandment because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the law made nothing perfect), and a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.

Hebrews 7:18-19 (WEB)

       By so much, Jesus has become the collateral of a better covenant.

Hebrews 7:22 (WEB)

       We no longer seek righteousness through the Law but through Jesus. We claim redemption of our sins through the blood of Jesus (an eternal sacrifice) and not through animal sacrifices. These are ways the New Covenant is better than the Old.

       In the same way, we no longer determine our giving based on the Old Covenant statute of tithing. We are to be led by the Spirit to be generous, cheerful, and sacrificial givers to the poor and needy. How is Spirit-led giving better than tithing? Because we must draw near to God through Jesus under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to know His will for our giving. You can’t figure out how much you should give by using a simple calculation. New Covenant Giving requires a close relationship with God, constant prayer, and careful discernment in order to glorify Him. Giving becomes a continual act of worship – we seek God’s will through prayer, we give according to His will, and then we repeat. This is a process that draws us nearer to God and helps us become more like Jesus.

Why Go Back?

       Now that we have a New, Better Covenant, why would we choose to go back to the Old? When you choose to limit how you give by the Law of Moses you are rejecting the guidance of the Holy Spirit and God’s desire for New Covenant Giving. Allow God’s Word to teach you how He wants you to give according to the teaching of Jesus and the examples we have in the New Testament. Here are a few articles that outline New Covenant Giving principles for Christians:

       Seek the guidance of His Spirit before deciding how much you should give. His will for you may be to give much more than just 10% or it may be to give less or nothing at all depending on your circumstances. Let God determine how much you should give instead of leaving it up to arbitrary percentages.

       The Gospels only mention tithing twice: once in Matthew 23:23 & Luke 11:42 (parallel verses) and once in Luke 18:12. Both times, Jesus condemns the Pharisees who believed they were righteous because of how carefully they tithed. The Pharisees believed tithing was more important than doing justice, showing mercy, having faith, or sharing the love of God. But Jesus attacked their hypocrisy and the wrong attitudes in the held in their hearts. Jesus explained that God cares more about how you love others and what is in your heart than about how carefully you follow the tithing laws.

       9 He spoke also this parable to certain people who were convinced of their own righteousness, and who despised all others. 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray; one was a Pharisee, and the other was a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed to himself like this: ‘God, I thank you, that I am not like the rest of men, extortioners, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far away, wouldn’t even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Luke 18:9-14 (WEB)

Condemning the Self-righteous

       Jesus did not use this parable to support the idea that only those who tithe would go to heaven. Instead, He explained that those who exalt themselves above others and believe themselves to be righteous because of the things they do will not be justified before God. Rather, we are to humble ourselves and accept the righteousness that comes by faith in Him.

       The Pharisees looked down on others because they felt that they were the only ones keeping the tithe correctly. They used very strict rules about tithing and made it a point to tithe even the tiniest herbs that grew in their gardens. Since most other Jews did not observe the tithing statutes so strictly, the Pharisees believed they were more righteous than everyone else.

       I see this today among those who believe Christians are bound to tithe if they are to glorify God. Among those who support tithing as a requirement for Christians, you have some who believe you must tithe on your gross income and others who believe you can tithe on your net income (after taxes). The gross-tithers often seem to have the same attitude toward the net-tithers as the Pharisees had toward the other Jews. Tithing on your gross income is obviously more righteous than just tithing on your net…

       Again, those who believe tithing is a requirement for Christians and practice it themselves often believe themselves to be more righteous than those Christians who do not tithe. I have seen numerous comments on blogs and forums where tithers condemn Christians who do not tithe. I’ve seen people say that the church (their church) is only able to keep going because of their tithes and those who do not tithe are just “free-loaders”.

       Tell me, after reading Luke 18:9-14, what do you think Jesus would say about such attitudes? Those who exalt themselves will be humbled. I don’t care if you believe tithing is a requirement for Christians or not – if you boast in your giving and believe you are more righteous than others because of how much you give, you will not be justified before God! God is more concerned with the state of your heart than He is with how much you give. We see this reflected in Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount.

       23 “If therefore you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has anything against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

Matthew 5:23-24 (WEB)

       God desires that you offer your gifts with a humble, pure heart. The gift given with self-righteousness, unforgiveness, or neglect of God’s love will not be honorable to God.

No Support of Tithing

       As I said before, the Gospels only mention tithing twice – here and in Matthew 23:23 & Luke 11:42 (which discuss the same event). When Jesus taught about giving He never said “tithe and you’re good”. Instead, He focused on making sure your heart is right before God – humble and sharing His love. He told us to give generously and freely to anyone who asks. He told us to give to the poor – not the rich. When He taught about the Law, He rejected legalistic interpretations of God’s Word and taught us to live according to God’s nature by seeking the guidance of His Spirit.

       To understand what I mean, read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Every time Jesus teaches about the Law he starts by saying, “You have heard that it was said…but I tell you…” Where the Law says “Do not murder.”, Jesus says “Don’t even get angry with another person.” Where the Law says “Do not commit adultery.”, Jesus says “Don’t even think sexual thoughts about (lust after) another person.” This pattern of teaching shows that Jesus desires us to strive not just for some minimum standard – He wants us to seek God’s nature and conform ourselves to Him.

       Now let’s apply that same line of reasoning to giving. Where the Law says “You shall tithe all the increase of your fields and livestock.”, what would Jesus say? Perhaps He would tell us to give to anyone who is in need as much as we are able. Although He didn’t give us any teaching about tithing in the Sermon on the Mount, He often spoke of giving to poor and needy throughout His ministry. That alone should give us some indication as to the type of giving God is interested in. Yes, we may need to support our churches and those who labor in teaching and preaching the Word, but meeting the needs of the poor and showing them love are far more important to God than buildings or giving to people who have more than they need.

       Consider this, would God rather we feed, clothe, and shelter a poor, homeless person or have us go to a religious conference? Would God rather that we give water to the thirsty or build bigger churches?

       I’m not saying these are always either/or questions or that it’s wrong to go to religious conferences or build bigger churches. I’m simply saying that the needs of the poor hold a special place in God’s heart. We know that through His Word and through the life of Jesus. And if we are to reflect His nature and become like Him, we must approach giving with the same mindset – a mindset focused on needs and not legalistic requirements. We must look at how we can meet the needs of the poor by carefully examining our own needs and wants.

Only One More

       We have just one more Scripture to examine about tithing, and then I’ll finish up with a summary post of what we’ve learned so far. Please feel free to share your thoughts so far in the comments below!

       There are only two places in the New Testament that tithing advocates can go to find any support of the idea that Christians should tithe: Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42. However, we’ll quickly see why these verses do not apply to Christians. Both of these verses discuss the same event – Jesus declaring the woes to the Pharisees and scribes for believing that carefully observing the Law in some things would bring righteousness while they continually neglected the Law in the more important matters. Here are the verses:

       23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cumin, and have left undone the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faith. But you ought to have done these, and not to have left the other undone. 24 You blind guides, who strain out a gnat, and swallow a camel!”

Matthew 23:23-24 (WEB)

       But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, but you bypass justice and the love of God. You ought to have done these, and not to have left the other undone.

Luke 11:42 (WEB)

       Tithing advocates use these verses to teach Christians that Jesus commanded us to tithe. He clearly says that you should not have left the other (referring to tithing) undone. But interpreting and applying these verses to mean that Christians should tithe completely ignores some very important facts surrounding these Scriptures.

Jesus Was Under the Law

       The first thing we have to understand when we look at these verses is that the New Covenant did not begin until Jesus died on the cross. These verses occur in the context of the Old Covenant and were directed to people who were still under the Old Covenant. Jesus was born under the Old Covenant and under the Law of Moses, as were all the Jews who were alive during Jesus’ life. It was necessary for Jesus to be born under the Law and to keep it perfectly so He could serve as the perfect sacrifice to cover the punishment of our sins.

       4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent out his Son, born to a woman, born under the law, 5 that he might redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of children.

Galatians 4:4-5 (WEB)

       During His life, Jesus kept the entire Law perfectly and by His death He redeemed us from the punishment of the Law. Through Him we receive the adoption of children and become God’s very own children. This would not have been possible if Jesus had not kept the Law. And Jesus would not have been keeping the Law if He had not taught others who were still under the Law to keep it as well.

Jesus Was Speaking to Those Who Were Still Under the Law

       It should also be very clear to us that Jesus was explicitly speaking to those who were still under the Law when He said they should tithe. Who was He speaking to? The scribes and Pharisees – Jews who were required to keep the Law. Jesus would never have taught the Jews to break the Law, and He would have never imposed the Law on Gentiles who were not part of the Old Covenant.

       Consider all the times Jesus healed people. The only times we ever see Him command people to go show themselves to the priests and make the appropriate sacrifice are the times when He is speaking to Jews. He never tells Gentiles to do this. Why? Because only the Jews were under the Law! If we were to follow everything Jesus said, we would still be bringing sacrifices to the altar and following the cleansing rituals required by the Law of Moses. Consider these words of Jesus:

       23 “If therefore you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has anything against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

Matthew 5:23-24 (WEB)

       2 Behold, a leper came to him and worshiped him, saying, “Lord, if you want to, you can make me clean.” 3 Jesus stretched out his hand, and touched him, saying, “I want to. Be made clean.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 4 Jesus said to him, “See that you tell nobody, but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

Matthew 8:2-4 (WEB)

       Do we still take sacrifices and offerings (as required by the Law of Moses) to the altar? Do we require lepers and any others who would be ceremonially unclean to follow the cleansing rituals required by the Law of Moses? Why not? Jesus commanded those things to be done here in these verses. Why would we choose to continue enforcing tithing only and not these other things which Jesus told the Jews to do? Clearly, something is missing in such an application of Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42.

Christians Are Not Under the Law of Moses

       The reason this command does not apply to Christians is because we are not under the Law of Moses. We have received the adoption of children and have become the children of God – and this is through faith in Jesus. We live under grace and not the Law. We are justified by faith – not the Law! Any who choose to receive justification under the Law have rejected Jesus as Lord:

       1 Stand firm therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and don’t be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. 2 Behold, I, Paul, tell you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will profit you nothing. 3 Yes, I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. 4 You are alienated from Christ, you who desire to be justified by the law. You have fallen away from grace. 5 For we, through the Spirit, by faith wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision amounts to anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith working through love.

Galatians 5:1-6 (WEB)
emphasis mine

       What good was Christ’s sacrifice if we still seek to be justified based on how well we keep God’s Laws? If you believe that Christians who do not tithe will be under “the curse” (which, by the way, is death), then why do we need Christ? All we’d need to do is tithe (and keep the other 600+ commandments in the Law) and we’d have eternal life. If you desire to live under the Law, then you’re really desiring to live a life apart from faith in Christ. Your faith is in the Law and its ability to save you.

       But we are not called to live under the Law of Moses. We are living under the Law of Christ. And the Law of Christ is a law of freedom from the punishment that is due to us (the curse, death, eternal separation from God), grace to be led by the Spirit, and justification that comes through faith in Christ (not through the Law of Moses).

       Does this mean that I’m saying Jesus abolished the Law of Moses or that the Law was not good? Does this mean we’re free to sin as much as we want? No! Jesus fulfilled the Law by calling us to serve under the Spirit and not the letter. He covered the debt of death that we owed to God for our sin and freed us to live the Law of Love.

       13 For you, brothers, were called for freedom. Only don’t use your freedom for gain to the flesh, but through love be servants to one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Galatians 5:13-14 (WEB)
emphasis mine

       You see, there’s no need to require Christians to give a specific percentage of their income to the poor because we are called to love each other as we love ourselves! Following that Law of Love will meet the needs of all people and truly make God happy. Tithing because you want a blessing from God or because you fear a curse from God are not the ways to please Him. But giving because you love your neighbor will bring joy to His heart as He sees His children loving others.

       The New Covenant began at Jesus’ death when His blood was shed. After that point, all who believe in Him live by faith in His name and are called to be led by His Holy Spirit. We are called to live out the love of God and show it to those around us. And if we have faith in Christ and we are led by the Spirit, then we are under grace and not the Law of Moses.

The Tithe Was Still Only Food

       It may seem ridiculous to bring this up (again), but even here the tithe still only contained food. In the Bible, the tithe never contained money. But those who teach tithing today tell Christians to tithe on any and all income and only want Christians to give money in the offering plate – not food. You’ll see that Jesus noted the Pharisee’s focus on tithing their garden herbs – the least of all agricultural produce. The did not tithe money because it was not required by the Law of Moses.

       And we cannot say it is because they did not have money. Consider the numerous times Jesus discussed money or used money in His parables. The Jews had shekels, denarii, and other forms of currency available to them, but they never tithed their money. (Yes, there was money available when the tithe was enacted in the Law of Moses as well.) The addition of money as an object to tithe is a modern twist in an attempt to get as much money into the churches as possible. It is not Biblical and cannot be supported by any Scriptures at all.

You Can Tithe and Still Be Sinning

       Finally, the most important point in these verses is that tithing is less important than living a life that’s right before God. Even under the Law of Moses, God counted justice, mercy, faith, and sharing His love as more important than tithing. Even now, God does not desire your gifts if your heart is not right before Him. He loves a cheerful giver – not someone who is giving because of compulsion. He desires that you ask forgiveness of your neighbor before you try to give anything in His name. Your relationship with money has a huge impact on your relationship with God, but your relationship with other people is far more important.

       Jesus cursed the Pharisees even though they were keeping the tithing statutes as literally as possible. They were even tithing the tiniest of their garden herbs. But they did it with a wrong heart and neglected to do the things God desired most (justice, mercy, faith, and love). You can be tithing today and still be sinning. You can be giving 90% of your income, and God will still desire that you repent if you’re not doing justice, showing mercy, having faith, and sharing love. Love trumps giving any day.

Only Two Left!

       We only have two more Scriptures on tithing left to examine. Make sure you’ve signed up for free updates to Provident Planning if you don’t want to miss them!