(Some of the Bible verses quoted in this study have had comments added in brackets. The sole purpose of this study technique is to emphasise or introduce a line of thought. All verses KJV unless otherwise stated).
Is tithing 'binding by law' today?
We do believe that tithing is a good "principle" today.
However, there are many sermons being preached, that lead us to believe that; 'to be right with God', we are to give a tenth of our income to the church.
The verse in Malachi, 'will man rob God', is a popular verse used to support this teaching.
"On hearing such a sermon, I thought; wow, this is a legal requirement from God; and on getting home, I set up a ledger of income so that I wouldn't be found guilty of 'robbing God'. It was some time later, that I discovered what the Bible really says".
If you follow the context of Malachi carefully, you will notice that God was actually speaking to the priests;
(Mal 2:1) And now, O priests, this commandment is for you…
(Mal 2:4) Then you shall know that I have sent this commandment to you, That My covenant with Levi may continue," Says the LORD of hosts…
(Mal 3:3) He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi,…
(Mal 3:7) Yet from the days of your fathers You (Levites) have gone away from My ordinances And have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you," Says the LORD of hosts. "But you said, 'In what way shall we return?'
(Mal 3:8) "Will a man rob God? Yet you (Levites) have robbed Me! But you say, 'In what way have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings.
You see, the Levites were robbing God. They were not distributing the tithe for its intended purpose;
(Deu 26:12) When you have finished laying aside all the tithe of your increase….and have given it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be filled,
A tithe was never for funding the building of churches, or its running costs; this came from a temple tax or free-will offerings.
In Israel, everyone, whether rich or poor, had to give the same amount (ie, half a shekel / approximately two days work), each year, for the temple and the expenses of the priests; Exo 30:11-15. Yet today, churches collect about 30 days work (per year), and the majority of tithe goes towards the expanding and upkeep of buildings and institutions; not to the people God had intended it for.
Also, a tithe was 10% of what God produced, ie, increase in grain and cattle; not wages.
(Deu 14:22) You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year.
(Lev 27:30) And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD's: it is holy unto the LORD.
(Lev 27:32) And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the LORD.
You will not find one verse in the Bible, giving reference to the tithing of wages.
But, some may protest; doesn't the following verse say that Abram gave tithes of all;
(Gen 14:20) And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.
We would need to ask; all what?;
(Heb 7:4) Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.
You will find that Abraham actually gave 100%. King Chedorlaomer had taken Abram's brother, Lot and his household captive. Abram pursued them, freeing Lot, and gained a great looting from their enemy;
(Gen 14:16) And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.
So the 'all' here is referring to 'all the spoils'.
Nowhere in the Bible was income or wages tithed (however free-will offerings could be made from wages).
Our labour is a gift from God (Ecc 3:13), and contrary to what many church leaders teach, wages are not even 'an increase'.
An example may be helpful.
- If I were to swap a box of apples for a box of oranges, what is the increase? (assuming they have an equal value)
- If I were to mow your lawn for a box of apples, what is the increase?
- If I were to mow your lawn, and you gave me money to go and buy a box of apples, what is the increase?
Or looking at it another way;
- If I were to mow your lawn (for 1 hour), and in return you washed my house (for 1 hour), what is the increase?
- If I were to mow your lawn, and in return you gave me money to have someone else wash my house, what is the increase?
So, when money comes into the transaction, why does the church suddenly lay claims to it?
We are all given the free gift of labour from God. If we choose to swap our labour for goods, or for money (with which to buy goods), there is no increase. It is a straight swap. There is no increase because you have simply swapped your labour for something of equal value!!!
So the Bible shows that tithes were from increase of produce from the land.
The tithes of the land were only to be given to the Levites;
(Num 18:26) Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, When ye take of the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then ye shall offer up a heave offering of it for the LORD, even a tenth part of the tithe.
(Neh 10:37) And that we should bring … the tithes of our ground unto the Levites, that the same Levites might have the tithes in all the cities of our tillage.
As seen in an earlier verse, the Levites were to distribute the tithe to the needy.
It should also be noted that not anyone could be a Levite.
They had to be of the Levitical bloodline.
Here is the issue.
God established a principle, that if we are blessed with more than we need, we should give to those less fortunate or without.
This should be done out of love, and results in a great feeling of satisfaction. To teach that tithing is a legal requirement, kills that beautiful feeling of giving; which should be because we love our neighbour.
The New Testament clearly shows the Mosaic covenant / Levitical system (which included tithing) was nailed to the cross.
(Heb 7:5) And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law (ie, the Law of Moses or Levitical laws),…
(Heb 7:11) Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek,…
(Heb 7:12) For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.
(Heb 7:18) For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment (the one in verse 5, i.e. commandment to receive tithes) because of its weakness and unprofitableness,
(Heb 7:19) for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope…
So what was the purpose of the Levitical laws (Mosaic covenant)?;
(Gal 3:19) What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made;…
A tithe was for a specific reason, to feed (i.e. with food / produce) those who don't have the means to grow it themselves.
Now we are not saying that a church shouldn't be supported financially by those attending.
One should give everything they can in the furthering of God's kingdom.
However that is a free-will offering, not a tithe.
Why for example, should the father of 8 (or any number for that matter), struggling to make ends meet, be misled to believe that unless he gives 10% of his wages to the church, he will not be right with God?
The fact is, this is who the tithe was meant for in the first place!
This is deception, and distorts the reason for tithing. It is almost a form of extortion.
God warned the Levites against doing such a thing,
(Mal 3:5) And I will come near to you (Levites) to judgment; and I will be a swift witness….against those that oppress the hireling in his wages…
Can you see the parallel? Imagine a Pastor today, making a wage earner (who is struggling to make ends meet), to think that he has to give a tenth of his wages to the church, in order to be right with God. Such a Pastor had best read Mal 3:5 again!
He is 'oppressing a hireling of his wages'!
We personally give free will offerings to extend God's work. Some people give more than 10% and some less. Remember the lady at the temple who gave all? God gives us the choice.
Not because we have been made to believe it is a legality, but because we love those we are reaching out to. We take the example of Paul, and support our own ministry;
(2Th 3:7-9) For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone's bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.
The churches who push tithing in an unjustified way, will ultimately be accountable to God; not to us.
Adding to the problem
With some denominations, to become a 'church member', they need to read (before God and the congregation), a list of beliefs (baptismal vows), of how to live their life from that point forward.
Many include the requirement to tithe within that list.
A 'vow' is like an oath, covenant or contract, which you enter into; in this case before God and the congregation of the church.
One such belief list states that "it is my purpose to support the church by my tithes and offerings, and by my personal effort and influence."
On making the 'Baptismal vow', the candidate often also signs the bottom of the vow leaflet
(a standard requirement when entering into any contract).
We must ask; where in the Bible do we see evidence that the early church members had to sign contracts to become members of 'the body of Christ'.
Although not in reference to writings about the early church; the Bible does speak about making an oath or vows;
(Deu 23:21-23) When you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay to pay it; for the LORD your God will surely require it of you, and it would be sin to you (if you didn't fulfil what you vowed to). But if you abstain from vowing, it shall not be sin to you. That which has gone from your lips you shall keep and perform, for you voluntarily vowed to the LORD your God what you have promised with your mouth.
So what this is saying, is that if you voluntarily make an oath or vow before God, and don't perform what you have vowed; it will be sin to you.
And what did Jesus add to this matter;
(Mat 5:33-37) Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.' But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God's throne;…But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No.' For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.
Jesus says not to make an oath or vow at all!
Does this not say that if you swear/vow/make an oath at all, it is of the evil one?
Whatever contract you freely agree to; in God's eyes if you don't keep your part of the contract it is sin.
When, for example you freely sign a contract with the IRD department, to pay them a portion of your wages; and don't pay; it is stealing.
So how would God look upon a vow to pay tithe to your church?
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