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Must Christians Tithe Ten Percent?


Introduction

Before we discuss tithing, we should first define what we mean by the word "tithe." The Greek and Hebrew words for "tithe" literally mean "tenth" (according to Strong's Dictionary), so the basic meaning of tithing involves giving 10% of something. Therefore, if I choose to give 10% of my paycheck to my church then I have given a "tithe" according to the most basic definition of that word. The New Testament tells us to give generously (as we will see later), and my 10% offering would certainly qualify as generous giving.

However, many churches teach that Christians must give 10% of their paychecks to their local church, otherwise they are robbing God and shutting off the flow of God's blessings. So when Christians talk about "tithing," they're usually referring to this idea that giving 10% of every paycheck to our local church is a Scriptural requirement or a Scriptural principle which Christians should be following.


Passages on Tithing

In order to determine whether or not Christians must tithe, we should prayerfully study everything that Scripture tells us about tithing. Our job is made easier by the fact that the Old Testament Law of Moses (with its commandments and regulations) was completely abolished and canceled at the cross:
Ephesians 2:13: "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ."
Ephesians 2:14: "For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,"
Ephesians 2:15: "by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace"

Colossians 2:13: "When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,"
Colossians 2:14: "having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross."
If you're not sure that the Law of Moses was totally abolished at the cross, please see Part Three of my article called Covenants, Dispensations, and the Ten Commandments. We are not under the Law of Moses, and therefore we are not obligated to obey any of the commands in the Law (as the above article shows). So in order to prove or disprove tithing for Christians, we need to find our Scriptural support outside of the Law. Here is every passage on tithing before the Law of Moses began and after it ended at the cross:
Genesis 14:17: "After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley)."
Genesis 14:18: "Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High,"
Genesis 14:19: "and he blessed Abram, saying, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth."
Genesis 14:20: "And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand." Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything."

Genesis 28:20: "Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear"
Genesis 28:21: "so that I return safely to my father's house, then the LORD will be my God"
Genesis 28:22: "and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.""

Hebrews 6:20: "where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek."
Hebrews 7:1: "This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him,"
Hebrews 7:2: "and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means "king of righteousness"; then also, "king of Salem" means "king of peace.""
Hebrews 7:3: "Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever."
Hebrews 7:4: "Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder!"
Hebrews 7:5: "Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people--that is, their brothers--even though their brothers are descended from Abraham."
Hebrews 7:6: "This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises."
Hebrews 7:7: "And without doubt the lesser person is blessed by the greater."
Hebrews 7:8: "In the one case, the tenth is collected by men who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living."
Hebrews 7:9: "One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham,"
Hebrews 7:10: "because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor."
Hebrews 7:11: "If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come--one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron?"
Hebrews 7:12: "For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law."
Since these passages are the only places in the Bible where tithing is mentioned before the Law of Moses began or after it ended, these are the only passages of Scripture on tithing which might have a bearing on Christians. Remember, we are not obligated to obey the rules and regulations in the Law of Moses because those commandments were totally abolished at the cross.

The first passage above (Genesis 14:17-20) shows a man named Abram tithing to a priest-king named Melchizedek (Abram's name was changed to Abraham in Genesis 17:5). Since Abraham is our spiritual "father" (Romans 4:9-17), and since he paid a tithe, this seems to imply that Christians should pay tithes as well.

But why did Abraham pay a tithe to Melchizedek?


Abraham and Melchizedek

First, who was Melchizedek? Some people believe that he was Noah's son Shem (for example, see these Google search results Offsite Link). Some people believe that he was a pagan priest-king who did not worship the Lord (for a detailed discussion, see chapter 2 at Should the Church Teach Tithing? Offsite Link). Some people believe that he was a priest who did worship the Lord (for example, see these Google search results Offsite Link). Some people believe that he was an appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ (for example, see these Google search results Offsite Link). Some people believe that he was an angel (for example, see these Google search results Offsite Link).

Christians have offered various arguments to support their views concerning who Melchizedek was, but there really isn't a great amount of evidence in Scripture to prove much about him. As we examine Abraham's tithe, however, we'll see that we can disprove Christian tithing without knowing anything about Melchizedek.

Okay, let's look at Abraham's tithe again:
Genesis 14:17: "After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley)."
Genesis 14:18: "Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High,"
Genesis 14:19: "and he blessed Abram, saying, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth."
Genesis 14:20: "And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand." Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything."
Genesis 14:21: "The king of Sodom said to Abram, "Give me the people and keep the goods [spoils of war] for yourself.""
Genesis 14:22: "But Abram said to the king of Sodom, "I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath"
Genesis 14:23: "that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, 'I made Abram rich.'"
Genesis 14:24: "I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me--to Aner, Eshcol and Mamre. Let them have their share.""
Now, consider that there are no Scripture passages which say that God told Abraham to pay a tithe. There are no Scripture passages which say that anybody at that time had the custom of tithing to God (the Law of Moses did not begin until four centuries later - see Galatians 3:16-17). There are no Scripture passages which say that Abraham ever tithed before or after he tithed to Melchizedek. There are no Scripture passages which prove that Abraham was tithing to God through Melchizedek (there is actually a different reason why Abraham tithed, as we'll see in a moment). Throughout the entire Old Testament, there is no Scriptural evidence concerning Abraham which justifies a doctrine of Christian tithing.

So why did Abraham pay a tithe to Melchizedek? Consider that throughout history, people in many different cultures had the custom of paying a tithe from the "spoils of war" that they won in battle. Here are some examples:
"In the same manner the Greeks too, the Carthaginians, and the Romans devoted a tenth portion of the spoils of war to their deities." (On the Acquisition of Territory and Property by Right of Conquest Offsite Link, emphasis added)

"The Greek League against Persia, founded in 481 vows a tenth of the spoils of war to the shrine (7:132), and this happens, after Salamis and Plataea." (Herodotus on Greek Religion Offsite Link, emphasis added)

"During the twelfth century, evidence points clearly to the growing significance of warfare in the life of the towns, especially in Portugal, Leon, Castile and Aragon. Precise indications of this development are demonstrated in the increasing concern demonstrated by the makers of the municipal charters in three areas closely related to booty. The first is the royal demand to collect the one-fifth tax on the spoils of war, a tax the Christian rulers inherited from the Muslim practice of laying aside a portion of the gains of the jihad for Allah." (Spoils and Compensations Offsite Link, emphasis added)

"For his courageous role in helping to take the Volscian town of Corioli, Caius Marcius, declining to accept one-tenth of the spoils, was named Coriolanus" (Roman Expansion to 133 BC Offsite Link, emphasis added)

"In the days of Abu Bakr much wealth came to the state on account of the spoils of war. The movable property won as booty on the battlefield was known as "Ghanimah". Four-fifth of the spoils of war was immediately distributed among the soldiers who had taken part in the battle. The remaining one-fifth went to the State. The State's one-fifth share was further divided into three parts. One part went to the family of the Holy Prophet, one part went to the Caliph, and one part was spent for welfare purposes." (Political, Social, Economic and Military Organization Offsite Link, emphasis added)

"TITHES, a form of taxation, secular and ecclesiastical, usually, as the name implies, consisting of one-tenth of a man's property or produce. The tax probably originated in a tribute levied by a conqueror or ruler upon his subjects, and perhaps the custom of dedicating a tenth of the spoils of war to the gods led to the religious extension of the term, the original offerings to deity being "firstfruits."
The custom was almost universal in antiquity; for Greece and Rome see Pauly-Wissowa, Realencyclopädie, iv. 2306, 2423; for Babylon, M. Jastrow, Religion of Babylonia and Assyria, p. 668; for China, J. Legge, Chinese Classics, i. 119; for Egypt, G. Maspero, Struggle of Nations, p. 312.f The general notion of tax or tribute often prevailed over that of "the tenth" part, so that in Dion Halicarnassus (i. 23) and Philo (Dc mutat. noin.~. 607) hirapxai and &thTat are synonymous, and in Mahommedan law the "tithe" is sometimes only -510th or ~f'eth." (1911 Encyclopedia Offsite Link, emphasis added)

"To maintain a warband a lord needed a constant supply of commodities to support the warriors and gold and silver to give out as gifts. There were two ways in which these could be obtained. If the warband were strong enough they could raid neighbouring regions and either force them to yield tribute or just carry off valuables. Cattle were a particular target of this activity, because of the relative ease of driving them from one area to another. Since raids would often lead to battles, another type of booty would be the wargear of vanquished opponents. The pillaging of the dead is frequently mentioned in poetry; Ongentheow's body is stripped of his sword and helmet (Beowulf line 2986) and a Viking warrior attacks Byrhtnoth with the intention of taking his sword, armour and rings (Battle of Maldon line 160). It is not clear how these spoils of war would be divided, but it is likely that the majority would have been distributed among the participants in the raid with a proportion being retained by the lord." (The Social Context of Warfare in Anglo-Saxon England Offsite Link, emphasis added)

"The inscription on the base reads: "The Messenians and Naupactians dedicated this to Olympian Zeus, a tithe from the spoils of war. Paionios of Mende made this, and was victor [in the competition] to make the akroteria for the temple"." (The Nike of Paionios Offsite Link, emphasis added)

"Through the spoils of war, Edward was able to refill the bankrupt treasury. Heavily ransomed prisoners, brought fortunes in gold coin to their noble captors--who, in turn, paid a handsome tithe to the King." (Edward III: King of Illusions Offsite Link, emphasis added)

"It was traditional to give the Byzantine Government a set percentage of the spoils of war." (Chapter III: Eastern Expansion Offsite Link, emphasis added)
So throughout history, people in many different cultures had the custom of paying a tithe from the "spoils of war" that they won in battle (Numbers 31:25-30 shows a "spoils of war tribute," for example). The 1911 Encyclopedia (above) says that tithing on the "spoils of war" was almost a universal custom. With this in mind, go back and look at Genesis 14:17-24 again. Notice that Abraham defeated Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, and therefore the "spoils of war" rightfully belonged to Abraham. Next we see Abraham paying a tithe to a local king (Melchizedek) from the "spoils of war." The Bible never says that Abraham had a custom of tithing to God, because this is the only passage where Abraham paid any kind of a tithe. Instead, the Bible shows Abraham paying a one-time "spoils of war" tithe to a local king, which was a common practice throughout history.

When I was a tither, I felt that Abraham had tithed on his "increase" (the plunder), just as Christians today are taught to tithe on our "increase" (our paychecks). But in Genesis 14:21-23 (above), notice that Abraham did not accept any spoils of war for himself. This means that Abraham did not view these spoils of war as an "increase" for his personal wealth. So when Abraham paid a tithe to Melchizedek, Abraham was not trying to follow a principle of tithing on his increase!

Furthermore, Abraham became a wealthy man (see for example Genesis 13:2), yet we can't show any place in Scripture which says that he ever tithed on the "increase" as his wealth grew. I used to believe that it was appropriate for Christians to tithe on our "increase," but then I realized that I couldn't find anybody in the entire Bible who ever did such a thing (except under the Law of Moses, which has been canceled in Christ). Some people believe that "tithing on our increase" is a principle for Christians to follow, but there is absolutely no Scriptural support for this principle outside of the Law of Moses.


Was Abraham Ever Influenced by the Customs of His Day?

Some people argue that Abraham was a man of great faith in God, and therefore he would not have been influenced by people who did not worship the one true God. According to this argument, it is unlikely that Abraham would have followed the customs of his day by paying a "spoils of war" tithe. Rather, it is more likely that he was paying his tithe to God. Therefore, we should pay our tithes to God as well.

Certainly it's true that Abraham had great faith in God, but notice that this argument is based on an assumption about what Abraham would have done or would not have done. To see why this is a false assumption, let's look at some events in Abraham's life. First, Abraham (who was originally known as "Abram") received his calling from God in chapter 12 of the book of Genesis:
Genesis 12:1: "The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you."
Genesis 12:2: ""I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing."
Genesis 12:3: "I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.""
Genesis 12:4: "So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran."
Genesis 12:5: "He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there."
Genesis 12:6: "Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land."
Genesis 12:7: "The LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your offspring I will give this land." So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him."
Genesis 12:8: "From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD."
Then Abraham and his wife Sarah (who was originally known as "Sarai") traveled to Egypt:
Genesis 12:10: "Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe."
At this point, Abraham was already a devout believer in God (Genesis 12:1-8, above), but watch what happened when he and his wife arrived in Egypt:
Genesis 12:11: "As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, "I know what a beautiful woman you are."
Genesis 12:12: "When the Egyptians see you, they will say, 'This is his wife.' Then they will kill me but will let you live."
Genesis 12:13: "Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.""
Genesis 12:14: "When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that she was a very beautiful woman."
Genesis 12:15: "And when Pharaoh's officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace."
Genesis 12:16: "He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, menservants and maidservants, and camels."
Genesis 12:17: "But the LORD inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram's wife Sarai."
Genesis 12:18: "So Pharaoh summoned Abram. "What have you done to me?" he said. "Why didn't you tell me she was your wife?"
Genesis 12:19: "Why did you say, 'She is my sister,' so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!""
Notice that Abraham was afraid for his life in Egypt because Sarah was so beautiful. Rather than trusting in God, Abraham deceived Pharaoh by saying that Sarah was his sister, which resulted in Sarah being taken to become Pharaoh's wife (Sarah actually was Abraham's step-sister (Genesis 20:12), but this doesn't change the fact that Abraham deceived Pharaoh). In this incident, Abraham was swayed by concerns for his personal safety (instead of trusting his life in God's hands) based on his knowledge of the local customs in Egypt where the will of Pharaoh was law. As the Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary Offsite Link puts it, Abraham's deception "showed a reliance on worldly policy more than a trust in the promise." (verses 11-13, emphasis added). This commentary also says that "Eastern kings have for ages claimed the privilege of taking to their harem an unmarried woman whom they like. The father or brother may deplore the removal as a calamity, but the royal right is never resisted nor questioned." (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary Offsite Link, verse 15, emphasis added). Abraham is not shown resisting this royal custom, and Sarah was taken to become Pharaoh's wife. Fortunately, God intervened! Notice in verse 16 (above) that Abraham's wealth increased, yet we don't see Abraham paying any tithes. In every case where Abraham's personal wealth increased in the Bible, Abraham is never shown tithing on his increase. There is no Scriptural evidence that Abraham ever had the custom of following such a principle.

Here's another example of Abraham being swayed by the customs of his day. God had promised Abraham that he would have a son, but Abraham assumed that one of his servants would become his heir according to the customs of the time:
Genesis 15:1: "After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.""
Genesis 15:2: "But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?""
Genesis 15:3: "And Abram said, "You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.""
As the Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary Offsite Link puts it, "According to the usage of nomadic tribes, his chief confidential servant, would be heir to his possessions and honors." (verse 3, emphasis added). We can see that Abraham intended to follow the local customs concerning an heir, and therefore it is erroneous to argue that Abraham would not have been influenced by the customs of his day.

After God specifically said that Abraham would have his own son, Abraham was persuaded by Sarah to take Hagar (Sarah's slave girl) as his wife according to the customs of the time:
Genesis 16:1: "Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar;"
Genesis 16:2: "so she said to Abram, "The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her." Abram agreed to what Sarai said."
Genesis 16:3: "So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife."
Genesis 16:4: "He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress."
As the Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary Offsite Link puts it, ""Wife" is here used to describe an inferior, though not degrading, relation, in countries where polygamy prevails." (verse 3, emphasis added). Abraham followed the local custom of polygamy, and therefore it is erroneous to argue that Abraham would not have been influenced by the customs of his day.

Here's another example of Abraham observing the customs of his time. When three "men" appeared to Abraham, we see him following the common hospitality customs:
Genesis 18:1: "The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day."
Genesis 18:2: "Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground."
Genesis 18:3: "He said, "If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by."
Genesis 18:4: "Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree."
Genesis 18:5: "Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way--now that you have come to your servant." "Very well," they answered, "do as you say.""
Genesis 18:6: "So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. "Quick," he said, "get three seahs of fine flour and knead it and bake some bread.""
Genesis 18:7: "Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it."
Genesis 18:8: "He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree."
As the Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary Offsite Link puts it, "When the visitor is an ordinary person, the host merely rises; but if of superior rank, the custom is to advance a little towards the stranger, and after a very low bow, turn and lead him to the tent, putting an arm round his waist, or tapping him on the shoulder as they go, to assure him of welcome." (verse 2, emphasis added). Abraham followed the local hospitality customs, and therefore it is erroneous to argue that Abraham would not have been influenced by the customs of his day.

Once again we see Abraham deceiving a local ruler by saying that Sarah was his sister:
Genesis 20:1: "Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar,"
Genesis 20:2: "and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, "She is my sister." Then Abimelech king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her."
Genesis 20:3: "But God came to Abimelech in a dream one night and said to him, "You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.""
Genesis 20:4: "Now Abimelech had not gone near her, so he said, "Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation?"
Genesis 20:5: "Did he not say to me, 'She is my sister,' and didn't she also say, 'He is my brother'? I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands.""
Genesis 20:6: "Then God said to him in the dream, "Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her."
Genesis 20:7: "Now return the man's wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all yours will die.""
Genesis 20:8: "Early the next morning Abimelech summoned all his officials, and when he told them all that had happened, they were very much afraid."
Genesis 20:9: "Then Abimelech called Abraham in and said, "What have you done to us? How have I wronged you that you have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should not be done.""
Genesis 20:10: "And Abimelech asked Abraham, "What was your reason for doing this?""
Genesis 20:11: "Abraham replied, "I said to myself, 'There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.'"
Genesis 20:12: "Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife."
Genesis 20:13: "And when God had me wander from my father's household, I said to her, 'This is how you can show your love to me: Everywhere we go, say of me, "He is my brother."'""
Genesis 20:14: "Then Abimelech brought sheep and cattle and male and female slaves and gave them to Abraham, and he returned Sarah his wife to him."
Genesis 20:15: "And Abimelech said, "My land is before you; live wherever you like.""
Genesis 20:16: "To Sarah he said, "I am giving your brother a thousand shekels of silver. This is to cover the offense against you before all who are with you; you are completely vindicated.""
So again Abraham was deceptive about his relationship with Sarah for fear of his life. Just as in Genesis 12:11-19 (above), Abraham is not shown resisting the local custom in which a ruler can choose whomever he desires, and Sarah was taken to become the king's wife. Fortunately, God intervened again! And once again we see Abraham's personal wealth increasing (Genesis 20:14-16, above) without any mention of his paying any form of tithes on his increase. There is no Scriptural evidence that Abraham ever had the custom of following such a principle.

When Sarah died, Abraham followed the common practice concerning mourning:
Genesis 23:1: "Sarah lived to be a hundred and twenty-seven years old."
Genesis 23:2: "She died at Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her."
Genesis 23:3: "Then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites."
As the Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary Offsite Link puts it, "He came from his own tent to take his station at the door of Sarah's. The "mourning" describes his conformity to the customary usage of sitting on the ground for a time" (verse 2, emphasis added). Abraham followed the local mourning customs, and therefore it is erroneous to argue that Abraham would not have been influenced by the customs of his day.


Sometimes people assume that Abraham would not have been influenced by the customs of his day, such as paying a "spoils of war" tithe to a local king. However, this argument is based on a false assumption because the above examples show that Abraham did follow various customs of his day. Furthermore, when we see Abraham's personal income increasing we never see him "tithing on his increase." The only time that we see Abraham tithing is after he won the "spoils of war" in battle. We have seen that tithing on the "spoils of war" was practically a universal custom, and we have seen that Abraham followed various customs of his time. All of the evidence is consistent with Abraham paying a one-time "spoils of war" tithe, and there is no evidence that Abraham ever "tithed on his increase." Abraham's "spoils of war" tithe does not justify any form of tithing by Christians.


Hebrews 6:20-7:12

In the New Testament, the author of the letter to the Hebrews confirms for us that Abraham tithed from the plunder (not from his personal wealth):
Hebrews 7:4: "Just think how great he [Melchizedek] was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder!"
So Abraham specifically gave a "plunder tithe" or a "spoils of war tithe" to a local priest-king named Melchizedek. If Christians win some plunder by defeating an enemy in battle, then perhaps it might be acceptable for them to follow Abraham's example by tithing ten percent from their "spoils of war." But beyond that unlikely scenario, Abraham's one-time "spoils of war" tithe has no similarity to the way that Christians are tithing today. People who believe in tithing will usually teach (as I used to do) that we should tithe one-tenth of our personal income to our church (based in large part on the example of Abraham's tithe to Melchizedek), but notice that Abraham is never recorded as tithing any of his personal property or his personal possessions or his personal money or anything that he owned. He specifically tithed from the "spoils of war," and nothing else, and we have seen that this was a common practice throughout history (recall that Abraham did not consider any of the spoils of war as being an "increase" to his personal income). Therefore, comparing ongoing Christian tithing of our personal income with Abraham's one-time tithe of the "spoils of war" is not comparing "apples to apples." Abraham's tithe does not justify Christian tithing.

Now let's look at what the author of Hebrews wrote concerning Abraham's tithe:
Hebrews 6:20: "where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek."
Hebrews 7:1: "This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him,"
Hebrews 7:2: "and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means "king of righteousness"; then also, "king of Salem" means "king of peace.""
Hebrews 7:3: "Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever."
Hebrews 7:4: "Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder!"
Hebrews 7:5: "Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people --that is, their brothers--even though their brothers are descended from Abraham."
Hebrews 7:6: "This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises."
Hebrews 7:7: "And without doubt the lesser person is blessed by the greater."
Hebrews 7:8: "In the one case, the tenth is collected by men who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living."
Hebrews 7:9: "One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham,"
Hebrews 7:10: "because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor."
Hebrews 7:11: "If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest [Jesus] to come--one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron?"
Hebrews 7:12: "For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law."
In the entire New Testament, this is the only passage after the cross which says anything about tithing, so let's look carefully at what this passage says and what it doesn't say. Notice that there are no commands here for Christians to pay any kind of tithes, and there are no examples here of any Christians paying tithes. There is no principle at all here concerning "New Testament tithing." Notice that there are two types of tithes mentioned in this passage: Abraham's tithe (which we have already examined), and tithing under the Law of Moses (which has been canceled, as we saw earlier). In fact, this is not even a passage on tithing, it is a passage which is demonstrating the high priestly office of Christ using Melchizedek as a "type" or a "foreshadowing" of Jesus. Sometimes people assume that all of Abraham's descendants (including Christians in a spiritual sense) should pay tithes since Levi is mentioned as paying a tenth through his ancestor Abraham (Hebrews 7:9-10, above). But what they are missing is that the author of Hebrews was not referring to all of Abraham's descendants, he was specifically referring to Levi the priest and his descendants (Hebrews 7:5, above) in order to make a point about the Levitical priesthood (Hebrews 7:11-12, above), and his point was that the Levitical priesthood came to an end through Jesus (Hebrews 7:11-12, above). This passage is not trying to teach any Christian lessons on tithing, nor does it command anyone to tithe, nor does it give any examples of Christians paying any tithes. It does not justify Christian tithing.


Jacob's Bargaining with God

We have now looked at two of the three passages which mention tithing outside of the Law of Moses, and we have seen that they have no bearing on Christian tithing. The only other passage is Genesis 28:20-22:
Genesis 28:20: "Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear"
Genesis 28:21: "so that I return safely to my father's house, then the LORD will be my God"
Genesis 28:22: "and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.""
Here we see Jacob promising to give a tenth of his possessions to God, but notice that this promise is conditional. Jacob tried to bargain with God by setting certain conditions in which God must first bless Jacob, which is hardly a good example for Christians to follow! There is no Scriptural evidence that God ever required or commanded Jacob to pay a tithe, nor is there any Scriptural evidence that God commanded anyone to pay any tithes before the Law of Moses began. There are no Scripture passages which say that anybody at that time had the custom of tithing to God (remember, the Law of Moses had not yet been instituted). There are no Scripture passages which say that Jacob ever tithed in any way either before or after he made this vow. There are no Scripture passages in the New Testament which use Jacob's vow as an example for Christian tithing. In other words, there is no Scriptural evidence at all concerning Jacob's vow which supports a doctrine of Christian tithing.


To summarize, these are the only passages in the entire Bible which mention tithing in any way outside of the Law of Moses. As we have seen, none of these passages has any connection with a tithing doctrine for Christians. The Scriptural support just isn't there.


The "Jerusalem Conference"

After the Church was born on the day of Pentecost, many Jews put their faith in Jesus as the Messiah, but it wasn't until Acts 10:1-11:18 that the first Gentiles (non-Jews) converted to Christianity. There was a certain amount of friction when the Gentiles started coming into the Church because some of the Jews felt that the Gentiles needed to bring themselves under the Law of Moses. In Acts 15, the apostles and elders in Jerusalem met to consider this issue, and they wrote a letter to the Gentiles:
Acts 15:22: "Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers."
Acts 15:23: "With them they sent the following letter: The apostles and elders, your brothers, To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings."
Acts 15:24: "We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said."
Acts 15:25: "So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul--"
Acts 15:26: "men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Acts 15:27: "Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing."
Acts 15:28: "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements:"
Acts 15:29: "You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell."
Consider that the Jews understood the Law of Moses, and therefore they were familiar with the idea of tithing to God. The Gentiles, on the other hand, were not familiar with tithing to God because they did not follow the Law of Moses. So if the Gentile Christians needed to tithe then this letter to the Gentiles from the Jewish apostles and elders would have been a perfect time to urge the Gentiles to tithe. Yet the apostles and the elders of the Church did not mention anything at all about tithing. In fact, none of the books of the New Testament ever teach Christians anything about tithing. Granted this might be considered an argument from silence, but silence is all we have in the Bible concerning Christian tithing! The weight of Scriptural evidence shows that tithing is not a New Testament principle for Christians to follow.


Did the Israelites Use Money?

Before we look at all of the tithing passages under the Law of Moses, let's first determine whether or not the Israelites ever used money. It is easy to assume that the ancient Israelites were an agricultural people who were not very familiar with using money, but it turns out that money was in common use hundreds of years before the time of Moses.

According to Strong's Hebrew Dictionary, the Hebrew word keseph means:
"silver (from its pale color); by implication money: - money, price, silver (-ling)" (emphasis added)
The first place where tithing is commanded in the Bible is in Leviticus 27:30-32 (under the Law of Moses). Abraham lived centuries before the Law began (Galatians 3:16-17), and here are numerous passages which refer to the use of money from the time of Abraham up until the first tithing commandment was given by God:
Genesis 17:12: "For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money [keseph] from a foreigner--those who are not your offspring."
Genesis 17:13: "Whether born in your household or bought with your money [keseph], they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant."

Genesis 17:23: "On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money [keseph], every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him."

Genesis 20:16: "To Sarah he said, "I am giving your brother a thousand shekels of silver [keseph]. This is to cover the offense against you before all who are with you; you are completely vindicated.""

Genesis 23:9: "so he will sell me the cave of Machpelah, which belongs to him and is at the end of his field. Ask him to sell it to me for the full price [keseph] as a burial site among you.""

Genesis 23:13: "and he said to Ephron in their hearing, "Listen to me, if you will. I will pay the price [keseph] of the field. Accept it from me so I can bury my dead there.""
Genesis 23:14: "Ephron answered Abraham,"
Genesis 23:15: ""Listen to me, my lord; the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver [keseph], but what is that between me and you? Bury your dead.""
Genesis 23:16: "Abraham agreed to Ephron's terms and weighed out for him the price [keseph] he had named in the hearing of the Hittites: four hundred shekels of silver [keseph], according to the weight current among the merchants."

Genesis 37:28: "So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver [keseph] to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt."

Genesis 42:25: "Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, to put each man's silver [keseph] back in his sack, and to give them provisions for their journey. After this was done for them,"
Genesis 42:26: "they loaded their grain on their donkeys and left."
Genesis 42:27: "At the place where they stopped for the night one of them opened his sack to get feed for his donkey, and he saw his silver [keseph] in the mouth of his sack."
Genesis 42:28: ""My silver [keseph] has been returned," he said to his brothers. "Here it is in my sack." Their hearts sank and they turned to each other trembling and said, "What is this that God has done to us?""

Genesis 42:35: "As they were emptying their sacks, there in each man's sack was his pouch of silver [keseph]! When they and their father saw the money pouches [keseph], they were frightened."

Genesis 43:12: "Take double the amount of silver [keseph] with you, for you must return the silver [keseph] that was put back into the mouths of your sacks. Perhaps it was a mistake."

Genesis 43:15: "So the men took the gifts and double the amount of silver [keseph], and Benjamin also. They hurried down to Egypt and presented themselves to Joseph."

Genesis 43:18: "Now the men were frightened when they were taken to his house. They thought, "We were brought here because of the silver [keseph] that was put back into our sacks the first time. He wants to attack us and overpower us and seize us as slaves and take our donkeys.""

Genesis 43:21: "But at the place where we stopped for the night we opened our sacks and each of us found his silver [keseph]--the exact weight--in the mouth of his sack. So we have brought it back with us."
Genesis 43:22: "We have also brought additional silver [keseph] with us to buy food. We don't know who put our silver [keseph] in our sacks.""
Genesis 43:23: ""It's all right," he said. "Don't be afraid. Your God, the God of your father, has given you treasure in your sacks; I received your silver [keseph]." Then he brought Simeon out to them."

Genesis 44:1: "Now Joseph gave these instructions to the steward of his house: "Fill the men's sacks with as much food as they can carry, and put each man's silver [keseph] in the mouth of his sack."
Genesis 44:2: "Then put my cup, the silver one, in the mouth of the youngest one's sack, along with the silver [keseph] for his grain." And he did as Joseph said."

Genesis 44:8: "We even brought back to you from the land of Canaan the silver [keseph] we found inside the mouths of our sacks. So why would we steal silver or gold from your master's house?"

Genesis 45:22: "To each of them he gave new clothing, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred shekels of silver [keseph] and five sets of clothes."

Genesis 47:14: "Joseph collected all the money [keseph] that was to be found in Egypt and Canaan in payment [keseph] for the grain they were buying, and he brought it to Pharaoh's palace."
Genesis 47:15: "When the money [keseph] of the people of Egypt and Canaan was gone, all Egypt came to Joseph and said, "Give us food. Why should we die before your eyes? Our money [keseph] is used up.""
Genesis 47:16: ""Then bring your livestock," said Joseph. "I will sell you food in exchange for your livestock, since your money [keseph] is gone.""
Genesis 47:17: "So they brought their livestock to Joseph, and he gave them food in exchange for their horses, their sheep and goats, their cattle and donkeys. And he brought them through that year with food in exchange for all their livestock."
Genesis 47:18: "When that year was over, they came to him the following year and said, "We cannot hide from our lord the fact that since our money [keseph] is gone and our livestock belongs to you, there is nothing left for our lord except our bodies and our land."

Exodus 12:44: "Any slave you have bought [keseph] may eat of it after you have circumcised him,"

Exodus 21:11: "If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free, without any payment of money [keseph]."

Exodus 21:32: "If the bull gores a male or female slave, the owner must pay thirty shekels of silver [keseph] to the master of the slave, and the bull must be stoned."
Exodus 21:33: ""If a man uncovers a pit or digs one and fails to cover it and an ox or a donkey falls into it,"
Exodus 21:34: "the owner of the pit must pay for the loss; he must pay [keseph] its owner, and the dead animal will be his."
Exodus 21:35: ""If a man's bull injures the bull of another and it dies, they are to sell the live one and divide both the money [keseph] and the dead animal equally."

Exodus 22:17: "If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he must still pay [keseph] the bride-price for virgins."

Exodus 22:25: ""If you lend money [keseph] to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest."

Exodus 30:12: ""When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay [keseph] the LORD a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on them when you number them."
Exodus 30:13: "Each one who crosses over to those already counted is to give a half shekel, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs. This half shekel is an offering to the LORD."
Exodus 30:14: "All who cross over, those twenty years old or more, are to give an offering to the LORD."
Exodus 30:15: "The rich are not to give more than a half shekel and the poor are not to give less when you make the offering to the LORD to atone for your lives."
Exodus 30:16: "Receive the atonement money [keseph] from the Israelites and use it for the service of the Tent of Meeting. It will be a memorial for the Israelites before the LORD, making atonement for your lives.""

Exodus 35:24: "Those presenting an offering of silver [keseph] or bronze brought it as an offering to the LORD, and everyone who had acacia wood for any part of the work brought it."

Exodus 38:25: "The silver [keseph] obtained from those of the community who were counted in the census was 100 talents and 1,775 shekels, according to the sanctuary shekel--"
Exodus 38:26: "one beka per person, that is, half a shekel, according to the sanctuary shekel, from everyone who had crossed over to those counted, twenty years old or more, a total of 603,550 men."
Exodus 38:27: "The 100 talents of silver [keseph] were used to cast the bases for the sanctuary and for the curtain--100 bases from the 100 talents, one talent for each base."

Leviticus 5:15: ""When a person commits a violation and sins unintentionally in regard to any of the Lord's holy things, he is to bring to the LORD as a penalty a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value in silver [keseph], according to the sanctuary shekel. It is a guilt offering."

Leviticus 25:37: "You must not lend him money [keseph] at interest or sell him food at a profit."

Leviticus 27:2: ""Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'If anyone makes a special vow to dedicate persons to the LORD by giving equivalent values,"
Leviticus 27:3: "set the value of a male between the ages of twenty and sixty at fifty shekels of silver [keseph], according to the sanctuary shekel ;"
Leviticus 27:4: "and if it is a female, set her value at thirty shekels."
Leviticus 27:5: "If it is a person between the ages of five and twenty, set the value of a male at twenty shekels and of a female at ten shekels."
Leviticus 27:6: "If it is a person between one month and five years, set the value of a male at five shekels of silver [keseph] and that of a female at three shekels of silver [keseph]."
Leviticus 27:7: "If it is a person sixty years old or more, set the value of a male at fifteen shekels and of a female at ten shekels."

Leviticus 27:16: ""'If a man dedicates to the LORD part of his family land, its value is to be set according to the amount of seed required for it--fifty shekels of silver [keseph] to a homer of barley seed."

Leviticus 27:22: ""'If a man dedicates to the LORD a field he has bought, which is not part of his family land,"
Leviticus 27:23: "the priest will determine its value up to the Year of Jubilee, and the man must pay its value on that day as something holy to the LORD."
Leviticus 27:24: "In the Year of Jubilee the field will revert to the person from whom he bought it, the one whose land it was."
Leviticus 27:25: "Every value is to be set according to the sanctuary shekel, twenty gerahs to the shekel."
So from the time of Abraham we can see that money was used for buying, lending, and so on. In addition to the above passages, there was also a tax imposed by Moses (2 Chronicles 24:6), and there were offerings of money which were brought to the temple (2 Kings 12:4), and there was money collected in the census (2 Kings 12:4), and there was money given for personal vows, and there was money which was brought voluntarily to the temple (2 Kings 12:4), and there was money which was used for repairing the Temple (2 Kings 12:5-15), and there was money which was used for guilt offerings and sin offerings (2 Kings 12:16), and so on.

We have seen that the Israelites used money, yet nowhere in the entire Bible did God ever allow or command people to use money for their tithes, as we'll see in the next section.


What Does Malachi 3:8-10 Really Mean?

Many pastors and Bible teachers are sincerely trying to teach the body of Christ how to receive God's blessings through tithing, and the main passage that they use is Malachi 3:8-10:
Malachi 3:8: ""Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. "But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' "In tithes and offerings."
Malachi 3:9: "You are under a curse--the whole nation of you--because you are robbing me."
Malachi 3:10: "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it."
Based on this passage, many people teach that we are robbing God when we don't pay our tithes, and that we are placing ourselves under a curse when we don't tithe, and that we are commanded to bring all of our tithes into "the storehouse of God" (in other words, all of our tithes must be paid to our local church), and that God tells us to "test" Him in the matter of tithing, and that God will open up the windows of heaven and pour out abundant blessings on us because we are tithers. That's what is being taught concerning "New Testament tithing," based on the above passage.

Notice that the above passage says, "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse" (Malachi 3:10, above). As we will see, this command has been misinterpreted by many Christians, and God was not saying what many people believe He was saying.

Recall that Malachi 3:10 (above) was written to people who were all living under the Law of Moses. Therefore, in order to understand what God was really saying through the prophet Malachi we need to learn about all of the tithing commandments in the Law of Moses. We'll look at everything that the Law of Moses said concerning tithing, but keep in mind that we're simply trying to discover the original intent of Malachi 3:10 (above). As we saw earlier, the Law of Moses was totally canceled at the cross, and therefore the following tithing passages are not commands for Christians to follow.

Here is the first commandment in the Old Testament concerning tithing:
Leviticus 27:30: ""'A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD."
Leviticus 27:31: "If a man redeems any of his tithe, he must add a fifth of the value to it."
Leviticus 27:32: "The entire tithe of the herd and flock --every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd's rod-- will be holy to the LORD."
In the above passage, notice that the Israelites were specifically commanded to tithe from the land and from the flock. What we're going to see is that the Israelites' tithes were always meant to be edible. People were never meant to tithe in the form of money, and verse 31 (above) specifically says that if an Israelite chose to redeem (buy back) any of his edible tithes then he must add 20% (one-fifth) to the value of his edible tithes after he had tithed from his produce.

The above passage says that this tithe belonged to the Lord, and therefore scholars sometimes refer to this tithe as "the Lord's Tithe." There were other tithes as well, which scholars sometimes refer to as "the Festival Tithe" and "the Poor Tithe." For example:
"In the OT, the Lord's tithe (Lev. 27:30), the festival tithe (Deut. 12:10, 11), and the tithe for the poor (Deut. 14:28, 29), were all compulsory." (The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament, Spiros Zodhiates, p.403, emphasis added)
Now, recall that the Law of Moses was still active while Jesus was alive, and it was canceled at the cross:
Ephesians 2:13: "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ."
Ephesians 2:14: "For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,"
Ephesians 2:15: "by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace"

Colossians 2:13: "When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,"
Colossians 2:14: "having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross."
So the Law of Moses was still active while Jesus was alive, which is why He said to the Pharisees:
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."

Luke 11:42: ""Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone."
Notice that Jesus described spices and garden herbs as an example of the Pharisees' tithes. Under the Law of Moses, tithes were never meant to be paid in the form of money because the tithes were always meant to be eaten.

Now let's look at the next passage that we find in the Old Testament concerning tithing:
Numbers 18:20: "The LORD said to Aaron, "You will have no inheritance in their land, nor will you have any share among them; I am your share and your inheritance among the Israelites."
Numbers 18:21: ""I give to the Levites all the tithes in Israel as their inheritance in return for the work they do while serving at the Tent of Meeting."
Numbers 18:22: "From now on the Israelites must not go near the Tent of Meeting, or they will bear the consequences of their sin and will die."
Numbers 18:23: "It is the Levites who are to do the work at the Tent of Meeting and bear the responsibility for offenses against it. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. They will receive no inheritance among the Israelites."
Numbers 18:24: "Instead, I give to the Levites as their inheritance the tithes that the Israelites present as an offering to the LORD. That is why I said concerning them: 'They will have no inheritance among the Israelites.'""
Numbers 18:25: "The LORD said to Moses,"
Numbers 18:26: ""Speak to the Levites and say to them: 'When you receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the Lord's offering."
Numbers 18:27: "Your offering will be reckoned to you as grain from the threshing floor or juice from the winepress."
Numbers 18:28: "In this way you also will present an offering to the LORD from all the tithes you receive from the Israelites. From these tithes you must give the Lord's portion to Aaron the priest."
Numbers 18:29: "You must present as the Lord's portion the best and holiest part of everything given to you.'"
Numbers 18:30: ""Say to the Levites: 'When you present the best part, it will be reckoned to you as the product of the threshing floor or the winepress."
Numbers 18:31: "You and your households may eat the rest of it anywhere, for it is your wages for your work at the Tent of Meeting."
Numbers 18:32: "By presenting the best part of it you will not be guilty in this matter; then you will not defile the holy offerings of the Israelites, and you will not die.'""
The purpose of this tithe was to support the Israelite tribe of Levi (the Levites) with food, because the tithes from the other Israelite tribes were the Levites' inheritance in return for the work that they did while serving at the Tent of Meeting (verses 21 and 24). When the Levites received "the Lord's Tithe" from the rest of Israel, the Levites had to give "a tithe of the tithes" (a tenth of the Israelites' tithes) to Aaron the priest (verses 26 to 28). The tithe which was given to Aaron the priest was "reckoned" as if the Levites had tithed from the land (verses 27 and 30). In this way, the Levites were able to tithe something edible and avoid sinning (verse 32). After the Levites received the tithes from all of Israel and then presented the best 10% of those tithes to Aaron the priest, the Levites and their families ate the remaining 90% of "the Lord's Tithe" as their wages (verse 31). The tithes were never meant to be paid in the form of money, the tithes were always meant to be eaten.

Now let's look at another passage which describes the tithing laws under the Law of Moses:
Deuteronomy 12:17: "You must not eat in your own towns the tithe of your grain and new wine and oil, or the firstborn of your herds and flocks, or whatever you have vowed to give, or your freewill offerings or special gifts."
Deuteronomy 12:18: "Instead, you are to eat them in the presence of the LORD your God at the place the LORD your God will choose --you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites from your towns-- and you are to rejoice before the LORD your God in everything you put your hand to."
Deuteronomy 12:19: "Be careful not to neglect the Levites as long as you live in your land."
Once again we see that the tithes were meant to be eaten, and God said that these tithes had to be eaten in the place where God would choose. Notice that it was the Israelites themselves who ate their own tithes (while not neglecting the Levites), and they all brought their edible tithes to the place where God dwelt in order to have a big feast. This is "the Festival Tithe."

The "Festival Tithe" is also described in the next passage, along with an interesting commandment:
Deuteronomy 14:22: "Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year."
Deuteronomy 14:23: "Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always."
Deuteronomy 14:24: "But if that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the LORD your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the LORD will choose to put his Name is so far away),"
Deuteronomy 14:25: "then exchange your tithe for silver [keseph], and take the silver [keseph] with you and go to the place the LORD your God will choose."
Deuteronomy 14:26: "Use the silver [keseph] to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice."
Deuteronomy 14:27: "And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own."
In Deuteronomy 14:22-23 (above) we can once again see that the tithes were commanded to be from the land and from the flock (because the tithes were always meant to be eaten), and once again we see that the Israelites were commanded to bring these tithes to the place where God would choose to dwell so that they could have a big feast and rejoice (verse 26). This is "the Festival Tithe." But notice the commandment in Deuteronomy 14:24-25 (above). If the place where God chose to dwell was too far for a family to carry their edible tithes then the family was allowed to convert their edible tithes into money. Doesn't this justify the modern Christian practice of paying tithes in the form of money? No, because verse 26 specifically says that when the Israelites reached the place where the Lord dwelt they must convert their money back into an edible form by buying food and drink, and then they must eat their tithes. The tithes were always meant to be eaten, and in this case the Israelites ate their own tithes (they did not put these tithes into "the storehouse of God"). This is completely different from the way that tithing is done today, even though modern tithers often say that the Old Testament tithes were "carried over" into the New Testament.

Here is another form of tithing that the Israelites were commanded to follow:
Deuteronomy 14:28: "At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year's produce and store it in your towns,"
Deuteronomy 14:29: "so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands."
This passage says that every three years the Israelites must take the edible tithes from that year's produce and store it in their towns so that the Levites, the aliens, the fatherless, and the widows could eat and be satisfied. This is "the Poor Tithe." Again, the tithes were always meant to be eaten, and notice in this passage that the aliens, the fatherless, and the widows did not need to pay any tithes (because they were the ones who were eating the Israelites' tithes). We can see that not everyone tithed in the Old Testament, yet modern tithers say that every Christian, rich or poor, needs to be tithing. The modern form of tithing bears no resemblance to God's purposes for tithing under the Law of Moses.

Recall that in the previous passage (Deuteronomy 14:22-27, above), the tithes needed to be eaten in the place where the Lord dwelt, so they were not meant to be stored anywhere. In the above passage (Deuteronomy 14:28-29), the tithes needed to be eaten in the towns where the food was grown, so they were not meant to be stored anywhere. Notice that these passages create a problem with the usual interpretation of Malachi 3:10 because most modern tithers usually claim that 10% of our gross income must be paid to our local church (which they believe is "the storehouse of God"), based on Malachi 3:10. But this is an erroneous interpretation of Malachi 3:10 because "the Festival Tithe" was eaten by the Israelites (not placed into "the storehouse"), and "the Poor Tithe" was eaten in the towns where the food was grown (not placed into "the storehouse"), and most of "the Lord's Tithe" was eaten by the Levites wherever they wanted to eat it (not placed into "the storehouse").

As we have seen in the above passages, the vast majority of the Israelites' tithes was never intended to be placed into "the storehouse of God." Therefore, God meant something different in Malachi 3:10 than what modern tithers think that He meant, and we'll see exactly what He was talking about in a moment.

The next passage repeats the same commands as the previous passage:
Deuteronomy 26:12: "When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied."
Deuteronomy 26:13: "Then say to the LORD your God: "I have removed from my house the sacred portion and have given it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, according to all you commanded. I have not turned aside from your commands nor have I forgotten any of them."
Once again we see that every third year the Levites and the less fortunate were able to eat the Israelites' tithes ("the Poor Tithe"), and this was done in the towns where the food was grown. Again, the tithes were always meant to be eaten, and we can see that there was a special type of tithe every three years, and we can see that not everyone had to pay tithes. This is completely different from the way that tithing is done today, even though modern tithers often say that the Old Testament tithes were "carried over" into the New Testament.

The next passage also shows that the Israelites' tithes were always eaten:
2 Chronicles 31:3: "The king contributed from his own possessions for the morning and evening burnt offerings and for the burnt offerings on the Sabbaths, New Moons and appointed feasts as written in the Law of the LORD."
2 Chronicles 31:4: "He ordered the people living in Jerusalem to give the portion due the priests and Levites so they could devote themselves to the Law of the LORD."
2 Chronicles 31:5: "As soon as the order went out, the Israelites generously gave the firstfruits of their grain, new wine, oil and honey and all that the fields produced. They brought a great amount, a tithe of everything."
2 Chronicles 31:6: "The men of Israel and Judah who lived in the towns of Judah also brought a tithe of their herds and flocks and a tithe of the holy things dedicated to the LORD their God, and they piled them in heaps."
2 Chronicles 31:7: "They began doing this in the third month and finished in the seventh month."
2 Chronicles 31:8: "When Hezekiah and his officials came and saw the heaps, they praised the LORD and blessed his people Israel."
2 Chronicles 31:9: "Hezekiah asked the priests and Levites about the heaps;"
2 Chronicles 31:10: "and Azariah the chief priest, from the family of Zadok, answered, "Since the people began to bring their contributions to the temple of the LORD, we have had enough to eat and plenty to spare, because the LORD has blessed his people, and this great amount is left over.""
2 Chronicles 31:11: "Hezekiah gave orders to prepare storerooms in the temple of the LORD, and this was done."
2 Chronicles 31:12: "Then they faithfully brought in the contributions, tithes and dedicated gifts. Conaniah, a Levite, was in charge of these things, and his brother Shimei was next in rank."
This passage says that the Israelites brought their tithes (all of which were edible) and piled them up in great heaps. When Hezekiah asked about the heaps, the chief priest said, "we have had enough to eat and plenty to spare." Again, the tithes which were commanded under the Old Covenant were always meant to be eaten.

The next passage describes the tithes which were brought to the storerooms of the treasury:
Nehemiah 10:37: ""Moreover, we will bring to the storerooms of the house of our God, to the priests, the first of our ground meal, of our grain offerings, of the fruit of all our trees and of our new wine and oil. And we will bring a tithe of our crops to the Levites, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all the towns where we work."
Nehemiah 10:38: "A priest descended from Aaron is to accompany the Levites when they receive the tithes, and the Levites are to bring a tenth of the tithes up to the house of our God, to the storerooms of the treasury ['owtsar]."
According to this passage, when the Israelites returned to Israel after being in captivity in Babylon, they made a vow to begin tithing again in accordance with God's commandments. They said that they would bring a tithe of their crops to the Levites, who would collect the tithes in the towns where the crops were grown. As we saw earlier in Numbers 18:31, God had said that "the Lord's Tithe" must go to the Levites, and He told the Levites, "You and your households may eat the rest of it anywhere, for it is your wages for your work at the Tent of Meeting." The Levites in each town collected the tithes from that town, and they and their families ate 90% of the tithes wherever they wanted to eat it. God had also said to the Levites, "When you receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the Lord's offering" (Numbers 18:26). This is why Nehemiah 10:38 (above) says that when the Levites collected the tithes in the towns, they needed to take a tenth of those tithes to "the storerooms of the treasury" in the house of God. The Hebrew word for "the storerooms of the treasury" in the above passage is 'owtsar, which is the same Hebrew word used in "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse ['owtsar], that there may be food in my house" (Malachi 3:10).

So we are now in a position to determine what Malachi 3:8-10 actually means. Recall that Nehemiah 10:38 (above) says that the Levites must bring a tenth of the tithes up to "the storehouse" of God (for the priests to eat). With this in mind, let's look again at that passage in Malachi, starting in verse 6:
Malachi 3:6: ""I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed."
Malachi 3:7: "Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you," says the LORD Almighty. "But you ask, 'How are we to return?'"
Malachi 3:8: ""Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. "But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' "In tithes and offerings."
Malachi 3:9: "You are under a curse--the whole nation of you--because you are robbing me."
Malachi 3:10: "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it."
The above passage tells us that the Lord does not change, and therefore He was not making any changes to the Old Testament tithing laws here. God told the priests and the nation of Israel to bring the whole tithe into "the storehouse" so that there will be food (for the priests). In other words, the proper tithes are not being placed into "the storehouse," God says, and therefore He is being robbed (verses 8-10). Notice that God told them to bring the "whole" tithe into the storehouse, which means that the portion for the priests (from "the Lord's Tithe") must be brought into the storehouse. Remember, we saw that most of "the Lord's Tithe" did not go into "the storehouse of God" because the Levites were meant to eat it, and "the Festival Tithe" did not go into "the storehouse of God," and "the Poor Tithe" did not go into "the storehouse of God." Only the priests' portion, meaning the best 10% from "the Lord's Tithe," was intended to go into "the storehouse" (in order to be eaten by the priests). So the "whole tithe" which belonged in the storehouse was the best one-tenth from "the Lord's Tithe."

Based on Malachi 3:8-10 (above), modern tithers tend to say that every Christian (rich or poor) must tithe 10% of every paycheck by giving money to their local church. But this is not what Malachi 3:8-10 means, and there is not a single person in the entire Bible who ever tithed in the way that Christians are tithing today.

In order to be thorough, here are the remaining passages in the Bible which mention tithing:
Deuteronomy 12:5: "But you are to seek the place the LORD your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go;"
Deuteronomy 12:6: "there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks."

Deuteronomy 12:11: "Then to the place the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name--there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the LORD."
Deuteronomy 12:12: "And there rejoice before the LORD your God, you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites from your towns, who have no allotment or inheritance of their own."

Nehemiah 12:43: "And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away."
Nehemiah 12:44: "At that time men were appointed to be in charge of the storerooms for the contributions, firstfruits and tithes. From the fields around the towns they were to bring into the storerooms the portions required by the Law for the priests and the Levites, for Judah was pleased with the ministering priests and Levites."

Nehemiah 13:4: "Before this, Eliashib the priest had been put in charge of the storerooms of the house of our God. He was closely associated with Tobiah,"
Nehemiah 13:5: "and he had provided him with a large room formerly used to store the grain offerings and incense and temple articles, and also the tithes of grain, new wine and oil prescribed for the Levites, singers and gatekeepers, as well as the contributions for the priests."
Nehemiah 13:6: "But while all this was going on, I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I had returned to the king. Some time later I asked his permission"
Nehemiah 13:7: "and came back to Jerusalem. Here I learned about the evil thing Eliashib had done in providing Tobiah a room in the courts of the house of God."
Nehemiah 13:8: "I was greatly displeased and threw all Tobiah's household goods out of the room."
Nehemiah 13:9: "I gave orders to purify the rooms, and then I put back into them the equipment of the house of God, with the grain offerings and the incense."
Nehemiah 13:10: "I also learned that the portions assigned to the Levites had not been given to them, and that all the Levites and singers responsible for the service had gone back to their own fields."
Nehemiah 13:11: "So I rebuked the officials and asked them, "Why is the house of God neglected?" Then I called them together and stationed them at their posts."
Nehemiah 13:12: "All Judah brought the tithes of grain, new wine and oil into the storerooms."

Amos 4:4: ""Go to Bethel and sin; go to Gilgal and sin yet more. Bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three years."

Luke 18:10: ""Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector."
Luke 18:11: "The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector."
Luke 18:12: "I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'"
We have now looked at every passage in the entire Bible which mentions tithing.

We have seen that poor people were never meant to tithe, and we have seen that the vast majority of the Israelites' tithes was never meant to go into "the storehouse of God." Not to mention the fact that God never allowed anyone to pay tithes in the form of money, and that the tithes under the Law of Moses were always meant to be eaten, and that Malachi 3:8-10 was written to the Jews living under the Law of Moses, which was canceled at the cross.

God never commanded Christians to tithe, and tithing as it is done today has no resemblance to any tithing passage anywhere in the Bible. It's a man-made invention.


Firstfruits

Under the Law of Moses, the Israelites were required to bring the "firstfruits" of their crops to the priests, and people sometimes assume that there is a principle of "firstfruits" which Christians should follow. This seems to add weight to the argument that Christians should be tithing, because people make the assumption that we should give our "firstfruits" by tithing from the "first" 10% of our earnings. But this assumption is not valid since there is no such thing as a principle of "Christian tithing" anywhere in the Bible.

There are two main Hebrew words which are translated as "firstfruits," and these words are never used outside of the Law of Moses in connection with giving the firstfruits to the Lord. Here are all of the references: Exodus 23:16, 19, 34:22, 26-27, Leviticus 2:11-15, 23:17, 20, Numbers 18:11-13, 28:26-27, Deuteronomy 18:3-5, 26:1-5, 8-10, 2 Chronicles 31:2-6, Nehemiah 10:34-38, 12:43-45, 13:30-31, Psalms 78:51-52, 105:34-37, Proverbs 3:9-10, Jeremiah 2:1-3, Ezekiel 44:28-30.

We have already seen that Christians were never meant to follow the Law of Moses because the commands of the Law were completely canceled at the cross. Therefore, none of the "firstfruits" commands in the Old Testament (above) applies to us. But perhaps we are meant to draw a spiritual principle of firstfruits from those Old Testament passages in order to get a more accurate understanding of what God expects of us under the New Covenant. If so, then we should be able to find this principle in the New Testament, because it's the New Testament (not the Old Testament) which contains the principles for us to follow under the New Covenant. Here are all of the passages which contain the Greek word for "firstfruits" in the New Testament:
Romans 8:22: "We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time."
Romans 8:23: "Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies."

Romans 11:14: "in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them."
Romans 11:15: "For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?"
Romans 11:16: "If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches."
Romans 11:17: "If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root,"

Romans 16:5: "Greet also the church that meets at their house. Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia."

1 Corinthians 15:20: "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep."
1 Corinthians 15:21: "For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man."
1 Corinthians 15:22: "For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive."
1 Corinthians 15:23: "But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him."

1 Corinthians 16:15: "You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints. I urge you, brothers,"

James 1:18: "He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created."

Revelation 14:3: "And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth."
Revelation 14:4: "These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb."
We can see that there is no such thing as a requirement or a principle of giving the "firstfruits" from our earnings under the New Covenant. Sometimes people assume that if we "give our tithes or our firstfruits to the Lord" then the remainder will be blessed. But again, this assumption is not valid because there is no such thing as "Christian tithing" or "Christian firstfruits from our earnings" anywhere in the Bible. Remember, when Jesus referred to the Pharisees' tithes in Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42 He was talking to Jews living under the Old Covenant, because the Old Covenant was active during Jesus' entire lifetime (as we have seen, the Old Covenant was canceled at the cross). Jesus was not speaking to any Christians in those verses, and He was not describing any principle of "Christian tithing."


New Testament Giving

The "rules of living" under the Old Covenant were given in the Law of Moses. If you're not convinced that the Old Covenant and the entire Law of Moses were totally canceled at the cross then consider studying the Scriptural evidence in my article called Covenants, Dispensations, and the Ten Commandments - Part Three.

The New Testament Church was born on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:1-4 (see my article called The Rapture of the Church - Part One), and throughout the rest of the New Testament we see the apostles and the authors of the New Testament teaching us the "rules of living" under the New Covenant.

So now let's take a close look at what the New Testament teaches on how we should be giving as Christians under the New Covenant.

Jesus made it clear that our attitude towards money demonstrates which master we are serving:
Luke 16:13: ""No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.""
This means that we should be careful that we have our priorities right. Most of us would like a better standard of living, and we have bills to pay, and we have debts to pay off, and so on. But remember, our job does not supply our needs, and people do not supply our needs. It is God who supplies our needs, and the above passage tells us that we are meant to focus on Him, not focus on money. God is not against us being wealthy (the more money we have, the more we can help pay for His work to be done on earth), but wealth should never be our focus or our priority (e.g. 1 Timothy 6:9-11, Hebrews 13:). Our focus and our priority should be God, whom we serve (Luke 16:13, above).

Instead of worrying about how to receive more money, we should change our priorities and enjoy giving more money:
Acts 20:35: "In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'""
Here Jesus said that it is more blessed to give than to receive, which means that we will be more blessed when we give than when we receive. So if you want to be blessed then be a giver! But where should we give our money? Here's our Scriptural priority:
Romans 12:13: "Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality."
In this passage and in other passages that we'll see, our priority should be to share with other Christians who are in need. This can be done through giving to our church, giving to other ministries, and giving to Christians who are in need.

Another priority is to support the Jews:
Romans 15:26: "For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem."
Romans 15:27: "They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews' spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings."
Sometimes people assume that Gentile Christians are "spiritual Jews," or that the Church is "the Israel of God" or the "true" Israel or the "new" Israel or the "replacement" of Israel, but these views are not accurate (see my article called Are Gentile Christians All "Spiritual Jews"?). The Jews have always been God's chosen people, and they will continue to be so throughout all eternity (see my article called Beyond the Second Coming). As Paul said in the above passage, Gentile Christians share in the Jews' spiritual blessings (also see Ephesians 3:6), and therefore the Gentiles have an obligation to share their material blessings with the Jews. Again, this can be done through giving to churches and ministries which support the Jews.

Similarly, we should share our material blessings with those who sow "spiritual seed" into our life, such as pastors and teaching ministries:
1 Corinthians 9:11: "If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?"
In the above passage, notice the principle of sowing and reaping. We'll see more of this principle in a moment.

Once again the apostle Paul said that Christians should support those who preach the Gospel:
1 Corinthians 9:13: "Don't you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar?"
1 Corinthians 9:14: "In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel."
Verse 13 (above) makes a reference to Jewish priests who ate part of the Israelites' tithes under the Law of Moses, and therefore tithers sometimes argue that Paul was using this illustration to show that pastors should make their living off of Christians' tithes. However, this argument misses Paul's point because Paul specifically said that the Lord has commanded that preachers should make their living off of the Gospel. But what exactly did the Lord command? As we have seen, there is no such thing as a principle of "Christian tithing" anywhere in the Bible, and the Lord never commanded Christians to tithe (He only mentioned the tithes of the Pharisees, since they lived under the Law of Moses). In addition to the Great Commission, there are only two other times when the Lord commissioned people to preach the Gospel. In Matthew 10:5-11 and Luke 9:1-5 He commissioned the 12 apostles to go out and preach the Gospel, and He commanded them to receive their support from the Gospel, saying that "the worker is worth his keep" (Matthew 10:10). The only other time when Jesus commissioned people to preach the Gospel is in Luke 10:1-9. Once again He commanded them to receive their support from the Gospel, saying that "the worker deserves his wages" (Luke 10:7). Bible commentaries point out that these are the only places where the Lord commanded that those who preach the Gospel should receive their living from the Gospel.

Therefore, Paul was not teaching anything about tithing in 1 Corinthians 9:13-14 (above). Instead, he was teaching that we should financially support our church (and other ministries as well, if possible). It takes a lot of money each month to keep a church or ministry running, and if a congregation does not financially support their own church then who will? We have a responsibility to help support our local church, and if possible any ministries which have spiritually blessed us. However, we also have a responsibility to make sure that we are sowing our seed into good soil, just as farmers must ensure that their seed is going into good soil. Are you absolutely certain that God wants you to be in your current church, and that He wants you to be learning from the ministries that you listen to? To help you be more certain, you might take a look at my article called How to Hear the Voice of God.

Now, notice how highly Paul praised the Macedonian churches for their proper attitude in giving:
2 Corinthians 8:1: "And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches."
2 Corinthians 8:2: "Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity."
2 Corinthians 8:3: "For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own,"
2 Corinthians 8:4: "they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints."
2 Corinthians 8:5: "And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will."
2 Corinthians 8:6: "So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part."
Notice their "overflowing joy," and notice how they "urgently pleaded" with Paul for the privilege of sharing in the service of giving to other Christians. These were not rich people with plenty of money to spare, these were people in "the most severe trial" who were under "extreme poverty," yet they joyfully gave "even beyond their ability"! Paul was holding them up as an example for us to follow!

So how should we follow their example? For one thing, their extreme poverty tells us that all of us can find something to give. Also, the fact that they were praised for giving "even beyond their ability" tells us that we should sometimes give more than we think we can afford to give. This takes us into a realm of living by faith, not by sight, which pleases God (2 Corinthians 5:7, Hebrews 11:6). In addition, their attitude of "overflowing joy" should be our attitude in giving as well. Remember, God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7, below), and we are more blessed when we give than when we receive (Acts 20:35, above). So don't look for excuses not to give, but instead ask God to show you more places to give!

Here we see Paul urging the Corinthian church to excel in giving to Christians in need:
2 Corinthians 8:7: "But just as you excel in everything--in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us --see that you also excel in this grace of giving."
2 Corinthians 8:8: "I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others."
2 Corinthians 8:9: "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich."
2 Corinthians 8:10: "And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so."
2 Corinthians 8:11: "Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means."
2 Corinthians 8:12: "For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have."
2 Corinthians 8:13: "Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality."
2 Corinthians 8:14: "At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality,"
2 Corinthians 8:15: "as it is written: "He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.""
Notice that Paul urged them to give to the needy, and he said that he was not commanding them in their giving, and he gave them his advice concerning their giving, and so on. Nowhere are Christians ever commanded to tithe or to give a certain amount or to give a certain percentage or to use a certain percentage as a starting point for their giving! Instead, Christians are urged to excel in this grace of giving (2 Corinthians 8:7, above) by giving beyond what we think we can give, with an attitude of "eager willingness" and "overflowing joy." However, we're not meant to give foolishly to the point where it makes us "hard pressed" and unable to meet our needs (2 Corinthians 8:13, above). We're meant to give willingly, according to our means (2 Corinthians 8:11-12, above). For example, if you earn less money than another person does then you shouldn't feel bad about not giving as much as that other person because you don't have as much as that person. You should give willingly based on what you do have, not based on what you don't have (2 Corinthians 8:12, above).

We can see that Paul used principles of psychology to encourage the churches to give willingly, generously, and unselfishly. Notice that this psychological urging would not be needed if Christians are required to pay tithes. We never see Paul reminding the churches of any tithing commandments, and we never see Paul chastising any churches for not tithing, and we never see Paul telling the churches to give offerings beyond their tithes, and so on. We never see any of these things anywhere in the New Testament after the cross. Consider that if Christians are not meant to pay tithes, then we are free to give whatever amount is in our heart. In that case, we should expect to see that the authors of the New Testament can only urge or encourage Christians to give generously and not be selfish or greedy, right? In fact, this is exactly what we see in the New Testament whenever it talks about money! Paul used principles of psychology to urge Christians to give generously, rather than chastising them for breaking any "tithing" or "firstfruits" commandments, because there are no such commandments anywhere in the New Testament after the cross.

Notice some more ways in which Paul used psychological principles to urge Christians to give as generously and unselfishly as possible:
2 Corinthians 9:1: "There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the saints."
2 Corinthians 9:2: "For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action."
2 Corinthians 9:3: "But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be."
2 Corinthians 9:4: "For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we--not to say anything about you--would be ashamed of having been so confident."
2 Corinthians 9:5: "So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given."
2 Corinthians 9:6: "Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously."
2 Corinthians 9:7: "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."
2 Corinthians 9:8: "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work."
2 Corinthians 9:9: "As it is written: "He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.""
2 Corinthians 9:10: "Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness."
2 Corinthians 9:11: "You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God."
2 Corinthians 9:12: "This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God."
2 Corinthians 9:13: "Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else."
Again, notice that Paul did not chastise them for not paying their tithes, and he did not tell them to give offerings above and beyond their tithes, and he did not tell them to use 10% as a starting point for their giving, and he did not tell them to give the "firstfruits" of their earnings, and so on. These things are not found anywhere in the New Testament after the cross.

In addition, once again we see the principle of sowing and reaping. If we sow generously then we will reap generously! (2 Corinthians 9:6, above). Not all churches and ministries are teaching Scriptural truth, so we need to make sure that we are sowing our money into good soil (as every farmer knows). We also need to make sure that we are giving cheerfully and not grudgingly or reluctantly or under compulsion (2 Corinthians 9:5, 7, above). Then we need to exercise patience until our harvest comes in (as every farmer knows), with a good attitude, not grumbling or complaining (e.g. 1 Corinthians 10:10, Philippians 2:14-15).

Paul said that God supplies seed to the sower (2 Corinthians 9:10, above), so if you are a person who cheerfully sows generously into good ministries then God will keep supplying you with more money! God is willing to make us rich, but notice the purpose for wealth. Wealth is meant to enable us to do good works (2 Corinthians 9:8, above) by being generous in supplying the needs of God's people (2 Corinthians 9:11-13, above).

Once again we see that Christians need to generously support those who preach the Gospel:
2 Corinthians 11:8: "I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you."
2 Corinthians 11:9: "And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed. I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so."
We should also be eager to help the poor:
Galatians 2:9: "James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews."
Galatians 2:10: "All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do."
Once again we see the principle of giving financial support to churches and ministries which are blessing us by teaching us spiritual truths:
Galatians 6:6: "Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor."
Galatians 6:7: "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows."
Galatians 6:8: "The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life."
Galatians 6:9: "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."
Galatians 6:10: "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers."
The above passage also repeats the principle that we reap what we sow, pointing out that we should continue doing good as we wait patiently for our harvest to come in.

We have seen that it's important to give willingly and cheerfully and joyfully, not grudgingly or reluctantly, and without grumbling or complaining. Like Paul, we need to learn the secret of being content no matter what our circumstances might be:
Philippians 4:11: "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances."
Philippians 4:12: "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want."
Philippians 4:13: "I can do everything through him who gives me strength."
When we sow our money or time or energy into a ministry, there's a sense in which we become partners in the fruits of that ministry:
Philippians 4:15: "Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only;"
Philippians 4:16: "for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need."
Philippians 4:17: "Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account."
Philippians 4:18: "I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God."
Philippians 4:19: "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."
Paul indicated that when the Philippian church sowed into Paul's ministry, it was credited to the Philippians' account, so to speak (Philippians 4:17, above). So in a way, the Philippians received "credit" (spiritually) for sowing into Paul's ministry. Paul was able to continue traveling and preaching the Gospel because of the gifts which were sent by the Philippians, so in a sense they were partnering with Paul by sowing into his ministry. This "partnership" principle can also be seen in John 4:35-38 and Romans 10:14-15, for example. If we become "partners" in the fruits of the churches and ministries that we sow money and time and energy into, then it's important to make sure that they are good churches and ministries!

Paul also made it clear that we have a duty to help provide for our family and relatives in need:
1 Timothy 5:3: "Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need."
1 Timothy 5:4: "But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God."
1 Timothy 5:5: "The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help."
1 Timothy 5:6: "But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives."
1 Timothy 5:7: "Give the people these instructions, too, so that no one may be open to blame."
1 Timothy 5:8: "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."
These passages essentially sum up New Testament giving:
1 Timothy 5:17: "The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching."
1 Timothy 5:18: "For the Scripture says, "Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain," and "The worker deserves his wages.""

1 Timothy 6:17: "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment."
1 Timothy 6:18: "Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share."
1 Timothy 6:19: "In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life."

1 John 3:17: "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?"
1 John 3:18: "Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."

All for Your glory, Lord Jesus!
 
 
 
  Modification History  
 
 

  • 08/17/2008 - Added a section called "Firstfruits" and another section called "New Testament Giving." Removed the section called "New Testament Passages on Money and Giving" and removed the Conclusion.
  • 08/04/2007 - Added a section called "Did the Israelites Use Money?" and modified the Conclusion.
  • 02/20/2005 - Modified some of the wording throughout the article. Added some links to Google search results concerning various theories about who Melchizedek was.
  • 05/25/2004 - Added a definition of "tithing" at the top of this article.
  • 11/10/2002 - Added a section called "What Does Malachi 3:8-10 Really Mean?" and modified the Conclusion.
  • 08/13/2002 - Completely re-written.