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Are Christian's still required to Tithe?

Posted by GFNSProductions on June 4, 2021 at 11:55 PM

Likely, you may have asked yourself the same question. There are a lot of different opinions with respect to this often debated and something uncomfortable topic; however, most would be shocked when they actually find out what the word of God says on this matter. As such, we will be exploring different passages starting from the old testament and working our way to the new testament. For only then can we get a full picture on this topic.

Old Testament/Covenant: 

Apart from the few voluntary cases of tithes (i.e. Abraham to Melchizedek, Jacob to God), there are actually 4 different types of mandatory tithes in the Old Testament, namely:

Levitical tithe / Amount 10% (Leviticus 27:30-33; Numbers 18:21-24):

Often referred to as the first tithe. These were required to support the tribe of Levi who had no inheritance within the promised land. Instead only they were chosen from all the tribes of Israel to approach God in the temple which was a much greater privilege/inheritance. Given that there were 12 tribes of Israel, they were collectively able to support the Levitical tribe by each giving 10% of their produce and livestock. Depending on the total population ratio with respect to the tribe of Levi, and the faithfulness of the givers, this arrangement made sure that Levites were able to dedicate themselves fully to the work of ministering at the temple and teaching the people the scriptures without having to worry about the day-to-day demands and mundane pursuits of an agricultural society.

Festival tithe / Amount 10% (Deuteronomy 12:17-19; 14:22-27):

It was required to support the festivals. The giver and his household were actually the ones to partake of this tithe along with the Levites. Interestingly, there was even some provisions within this tithe for alcoholic beverages; thus, I personally prefer to call this the “turn up” tithe. The main purpose of it was to make sure that all of God’s people were enjoying themselves before His presence.

Community tithe / 3.3% (Deuteronomy 14:28-29):

Every 3 years, the nation of Israel was supposed to take a tithe that could be shared amongst the communities less fortunate (i.e. widows, orphans, foreigners). The priest were also allowed to partake of this tithe.

Political tithe / 10% (1 Samuel 8:15-18 ):

When a king was eventually chosen to rule Israel, the prophet Samuel warned the nation of another tithe that would be exacted by the king to support the government services much like taxes. It fed the kings household and officials and possibly the army.

Conclusion: Adding up all these different tithes, you will see that the average Israelite was actually dedicating approximately 33% of their means of living to tithes on an annual basis. Thus, those who actually wish to continue living under the law by stating the 10% mandate is still applicable to us as Christians are actually falling quite short of the mark. As the Apostle Paul wrote:

“For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are. But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. (Romans 3:20-22)

New Testament/Covenant:

Nevertheless, what implications do these tithes have for Christians? Given that we no longer live under the law, we are actually no longer subject to these tithes; however, there is still a lesson to be learned by all four of them. So let us explore them one by one.

Levitical Tithe:

Given, the elimination of the levitical priesthood, there is no longer a group that makes up ~10% of the Christian congregation and refrained from owning land thus requiring support. Interesting for us to note as well is that the levites themselves did not pay the levitical tithes. The priest didn’t need to tithe because they were sharers in the tithe of the people and sustained by it. In a sense, they actually tithed 100% since all of their possessions belonged to God as sharers with Him. And so He does with us as His royal priesthood. Thus, all we have actually belong to God and we are merely stewards of these resources until our Master returns. (Matthew 24:47)

It could even be said that we as Christians have replaced the levitical priesthood. As the Apostle Peter stated “you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9) As such, all things are now ours through Christ Jesus. (1 Corinthians 3:21-23) Yet, this should be our mindset, “ Those who use the things of the world should not become attached to them [aka not using it as if it was their own]. For this world as we know it will soon pass away.” (1 Corinthians 7:31)

In some cases though, it is appropriate to support ministers who are engaged in the preaching work. As the word says,”the laborer is worthy of his wages.” And “do not muzzle an ox as it plows the ground.” The Apostle Paul wrote,“Don’t you know that those who serve around sacred things eat from the things of the temple, and those who wait on the altar have their portion with the altar? Even so the Lord ordained that those who proclaim the Good News should live from the Good News.” (1 Corinthians 9:13-14) However, even then- there is no scriptural mandate as far as as how much that support should be as he also stated “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

In giving to support other’s ministry, we would want to avoid either of the following extremes though: 1) having a minister unable to meet their household necessities 2) having a minister buying bentleys and private jets from such support. The purpose of this giving is not for church buildings/organizations/pastors to amass endless amounts of wealth needlessly as we see in some cases in the world today but rather having the necessary provisions to allow them to focus on the more important things and fully carry out their ministry. For what soldier has to pay his own expenses? (1 Corinthians 9:17) With that in mind, we discuss the next type of tithe.

Political Tithe:

First, it is interesting to note that the kings did not pay the political tithes. This reminds me of the following account with respect to temple taxes (an alternate form of required monitory contributions instituted by the religious leaders of Jesus’ day). In the following account, we read:

 “On their arrival in Capernaum, the collectors of the Temple tax came to Peter and asked him, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the Temple tax?” “Yes, he does,” Peter replied. Then he went into the house. But before he had a chance to speak, Jesus asked him, “What do you think, Peter? Do kings tax their own people or the people they have conquered?” “They tax the people they have conquered,” Peter replied. “Well, then,” Jesus said, “the citizens are free!” (Matthew 17:24-26)

We see here that Jesus came to set us free as citizens of His kingdom from the mandates of the tithe as regulated by the Mosaic law and other traditions of man. In fact, we are inherited into the royal family itself since Jesus “has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”(Revelation 1:6)

As such, we are conscripted into God’s army and thus deserving of support from His government/kingdom as were the Soldier’s inKing David’s army. As the Apostle Paul wrote in a letter to the elder Timothy:

“Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. Athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things (2 Timothy 2:3-6).

Community Tithe:

The principle of community tithe was by far the most visible of all tithes displayed in the early church; yet, it was practiced to a much greater extent as we read in the following passage:

“The multitude of those who believed were of one heart and soul. Not one of them claimed that anything of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common... For neither was there among them any who lacked, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet, and distribution was made to each, according as anyone had need. Joses, who by the apostles was also called Barnabas (which is, being interpreted, Son of Encouragement), a Levite, a man of Cyprus by race, having a field, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”(Acts 4:32, 34-37)

Remember that Jesus Christ came to fulfill the law and help us understand the greater principles behind them much like He did in the teaching on Adultery. (Matthew 5:27-28 )  By those principles found in the community tithe, we as Christians are expected to support those who are in need or less fortunate than we are. The New Testament church wasn’t collecting tithes yet all believers were happy to support one another by means of their voluntary financial contributions. This should be our same sentiments. No one need tell you how much you should give, but what you have desired in your heart. For a heart full of God’s love and grace would want nothing more than to help their fellow brothers and sisters in need. As the Apostle John said, "If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sisterf in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?” (1 John 3:17)

We see another example of this in the book of 2 Corinthians chapter 8 & 9. In this case, one community of believers who were considered privileged in those days (Corinthians) were being encouraged to follow the example of another community of believers who were impoverished (churches in Macedonia). Despite the poor state of the latter, they were cheerfully supporting the community of believers in Jerusalem who were in more dire straits than themselves due to a famine. They were not simply giving as if it was required of them for a tithe but rather by their own volition to meet a particular need that arose. As the Apostle Paul wrote:

“Give in proportion to what you have. Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have. Of course, I don’t mean your giving should make life easy for others and hard for yourselves. I only mean that there should be some equality. Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it. In this way, things will be equal. As the Scriptures say, “Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough.”” (2 Corinthians 8:11-15)

Similarly, if there is a need in the church or elsewhere today that requires support from the congregation (whether it be electric bills, mortgage payments, staff salary, disaster relief, etc.), then those needs should be clearly communicated to the congregation for the purpose of receiving such support. Likewise, those who are in need should be able to reach out to the congregation receive similar financial support in return if warranted and meet certain criteria for aide as described in the bible (Read 1 Timothy 5:3-16; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-10). Surely, the hearts of spirit filled believers should be quickly moved to meet any needs that would arise in the Body for we are all members of that body. (Ephesians 5:29-30)

That being said, we must be mindful of this cautionary tale about a couple who gave with the wrong intentions, namely:

“But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest. Then Peter said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!”” (Acts 5:1-4)

Again, we see here that it is not how much one gives that is important, but rather what is in the giver’s heart. Even when Ananias & Sapphira got caught lying about how much they had given, the Apostle Peter never told them how much they were suppose to have given. There was no mention of 10%, 20%, 30%, or even 100%. In fact, they probably had already given far more than 10% in this case - perhaps even the majority of the proceeds from the sale; however, their actions were still shown as wicked based on their true intentions for giving (i.e. to look good in front of others). Thus, we should be careful to heed Jesus’ own words on this subject:

 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1-4)

Festival Tithe:

God shows with this tithe that it is okay for us to use some of our resources for our enjoyment. Just because all we have belongs to Him does not mean that we are not to use any of it for personal pleasures. Not to say that we should be hedonist, but God does not ask us to live a life of a stoic either. In all things, there should be balance and moderation. For the wisdom from above is indeed first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and of good fruits, impartial, sincere. (James 3:27)

Consequently, we shouldn’t feel guilty about setting aside funds to do things that are enjoyable to us. Keeping in mind though that we should always be mindful of His presence when engaging in recreational activity so as not to cause our God offense. As the Apostle Paul said, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:31)

In Summary:

Oftentimes though, there is a tendency to delegate the faithful stewardship of our resources solely to the local church. This is often popularized by the following passage from the prophet Malachi which states:

“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!” (Malachi 3:10)

Yet, many Christians forget to realize that we ourselves are God’s temple today. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) As such, giving 10% of our money to a local church does not relieves us of our obligation to devote everything to God. This is not to say that this is a bad practice in itself as church budgets often require some sort of regularity for forecasting purposes. Nevertheless, bring all the tithe into the storehouse for us though has a greater meaning for this involves submitting all aspects of our life (i.e. finances, children, relationship, time, leisure activities) to God’s will and direction.

In all, we are supposed to use all of the resources that God has provided to us in a matter fitting of His purposes. So when someone ask,”How much of our money is God’s?”, the proper response should be “all of it.” Not just 10% of our resources but all of it is His given that we are now His special possession as the Levites were. Yet, using all of it for His purposes does not negate us from using part of our resources for things that our enjoyable/pleasurable to us as seen by the Festival tithe. While others portions of it are edicated to the furtherance of His kingdom as seen by the example of the political tithe. Some portions we are to use to meet our basic necessities, while other parts are to be used to support our fellow believers as in the levitical and community tithe respectively. Knowing that none of what we have is ours as managers of God’s provisions should move us to be shrewd with respect to how we use the resources that God has put into our hands.

Although it is important to invest our resources in ministries that have shown themselves faithful, each one who is able to is also encouraged to invest into their own personal ministry. In this way, our Master Jesus may be pleased with the results upon His return. Unlike the parable involving the unfaithful servant who wasted his talent due to his lack of desire to use it fully, we should learn from this and invest our resources in places that will result in Kingdom growth. (Matthew 25:27) So that we may be able to hear Jesus say:

Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!... For “to those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.” (Matthew 25:21; 29) 

Categories: Exegetical Studies, Religion, Survival of the Faithful

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