Why tithing is not for the New Testament believer

Defining the tithing, as the term is used today, I will just state here what I, as a normal believer, have perceived is the view in the 20 years that I have been a Christian. According to this view, tithing is to give 10 % of your income (pre-tax or post-tax – opinions are different) to the church organization with which you are affiliated (the church fellowship that you probably attend on Sundays). This money is then used to support the church budget (rent, bills, staff salaries, missions, etc). By many, not to tithe is considered a sin. Many times you will hear people reciting Malachi 3:8-12 that says:


“Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, 'In what way have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this," Says the Lord of hosts, "If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. "And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field," says the Lord of hosts; And all nations will call you blessed, For you will be a delightful land," says the Lord of hosts.”


Many use these verses to say that not bringing the “tithes and offerings” to the house of God (which they take it to mean the local church building) is a sin and withholds people from their “blessings”. The problem of using the above passage, as well as other similar Old Testament passages, to support the application of tithing is that this passage and the Mosaic law that this passage is based upon and was valid when it was written belong to the Old Testament. The Old Testament is wonderful and is part of the Holy Scriptures that God inspired. As Paul says in Romans 15:3-4


“For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, " The reproaches of them that reproached you fell on me." For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.


Whatever is written in the Scripture has been written for our learning. We can learn by reading Deuteronomy. We can learn by reading Malachi or any other Old Testament book. However, though all was written for our learning, not all is written for our application. The Old Testament is addressed to Jews that were living under the Mosaic law. Jesus Christ had not yet come. The price for the atonement of our sins had not yet been paid. The high priest had not yet arrived. As Paul says in Galatians 3:23-26:


“But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”


There was the time before the sacrifice and resurrection of our Lord. This was the time of the law. And there is the time after the sacrifice and resurrection of the Lord. This is the time that we live in now. There are vast differences between these two periods, for the simple reason that what was valid in the first period, the law, is no longer valid in the second period. And what is valid in the second period - grace and being children of God through faith in Jesus Christ - was not available in the first period. Can we learn from what was valid in the first period? Definitely we can. Does it apply to us? Not necessarily. You can read the Psalms and the Proverbs and get guidance for your life today. It is God’s eternal wisdom that crosses time. On the other hand, you can go to law-specific passages, such as the passages about tithing, or the passages about the sacrificing of bulls or the celebrations they had in Israel. Though you can learn from these passages, they are not directly applicable to us. The same is valid for all that refers to Mosaic Law, for the simple reason that this law was abolished with Christ’s sacrifice. It is like reading the law code of laws that are no longer valid. You can learn from them but they are not to be applied, for they are obsolete. As Colossians 2:13-14 says:


“And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.


And again Ephesians 2:14-15:
“For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace.”


Now if the law is abolished, are we going to apply it again? We can learn from it, but it is no longer a law that is for our application. It is abolished! And tithing is part of this law too. Tithing is a word that occurs a lot in such books of the law as Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Here are some references:


Leviticus 27:30-34
“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 to the Lord. If a man wants at all to redeem any of his tithes, he shall add one-fifth to it. And concerning the tithe of the herd or the flock, of whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the Lord. He shall not inquire whether it is good or bad, nor shall he exchange it; and if he exchanges it at all, then both it and the one exchanged for it shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.' These are the commandments which the Lord commanded Moses for the children of Israel on Mount Sinai.”


Notice in the last verse that tithing is part of the commandments, part of the law that God gave to Moses for the children of Israel on mount Sinai. This was the law that was abolished by the sacrifice of Christ. And tithing, being part of this law, was given not for general application but for the children of Israel, till its cancellation by the sacrifice and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here are some more passages about tithing:


Numbers 18:20-32
“Then the Lord said to Aaron: "You shall have no inheritance in their land, nor shall you have any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel. "Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting. Hereafter the children of Israel shall not come near the tabernacle of meeting, lest they bear sin and die. But the Levites shall perform the work of the tabernacle of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity; it shall be a statute forever, throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance. For the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer up as a heave offering to the Lord, I have given to the Levites as an inheritance; therefore I have said to them, 'Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.' Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak thus to the Levites, and say to them: 'When you take from the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them as your inheritance, then you shall offer up a heave offering of it to the Lord, a tenth of the tithe. And your heave offering shall be reckoned to you as though it were the grain of the threshing floor and as the fullness of the winepress. Thus you shall also offer a heave offering to the Lord from all your tithes which you receive from the children of Israel, and you shall give the Lord's heave offering from it to Aaron the priest. Of all your gifts you shall offer up every heave offering due to the Lord, from all the best of them, the consecrated part of them.' Therefore you shall say to them: 'When you have lifted up the best of it, then the rest shall be accounted to the Levites as the produce of the threshing floor and as the produce of the winepress. You may eat it in any place, you and your households, for it is your reward for your work in the tabernacle of meeting. And you shall bear no sin because of it, when you have lifted up the best of it. But you shall not profane the holy gifts of the children of Israel, lest you die.”


The passage of Leviticus we read previously dealt with the commandment to the children of Israel to tithe. Where were these tithes supposed to go and for what would they be used ? This is answered by the above passage of Numbers: As verse 21 told us:


Numbers 18:21
“Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting.”


The tithe was to go to the children of Levi, the Levites, that were making up the priest tribe of Israel, the 1/12 of it. It was to be their reward for the service of the tabernacle and later of the temple. Numbers 18:31 says it clearly: “for it is your reward for your service in the tabernacle of the congregation”. It was to be counted by them as “the increase of the threshing floor, and as the increase of the winepress” (Numbers 18:30). In fact the Levites had to give their own tithe from this. This was given to Aaron and was to be the Lord’s heave offering. Many take the above passage and they wrongly try to apply it in the New Testament era, in our age, saying that we should continue to tithe to pay the salaries of the priests, pastors and the clergy in general. But this view cannot be correct as in the New Testament there is simply no special class of clergy and priests. As Peter and John tell us, speaking to us, the believers in the Lord Jesus Christ:


I Peter 2:5
“you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”


I Peter 2:9
“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people”


Revelation 1:5-6
“To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”


Also as the Lord said speaking to the disciples:


Matthew 23:8-12
“But you, do not be called 'Rabbi'; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”


These passages do not refer to some special class of people but to all believers. All believers are made priests by the Lord Jesus Christ to His God and Father. Does this mean now that we should not financially support believers that move for example from town to town establishing churches and serving the Lord as missionaries ? It does not mean this and we will see it later in this study. What it means is that support and gifts in the New Testament are no longer regulated by the law of the tithe. Instead there are other principles in place for the New Testament gifts and giving and we will see these as we move on in this study. This part of the study focuses on what the Bible does NOT say for us concerning giving –even though people may say it. As we move on, we will focus on what the Bible does say for us.

Back to tithing; was the above – the tithe for the Levites - the only tithe? It appears that it was not, as in Deuteronomy 14:22-29 we see again tithing mentioned but in another context and for what appears to be another purpose. As we read in this passage, every year the Israelites were to take “the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks” (Deuteronomy 14:23) and go to the place that God would define and there: “you shall eat there before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household” (Deuteronomy 14:26). If they were far away they were allowed to sell the various items, get money and “you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires” (Deuteronomy 14:26). This appears to be a festive tithe. People would take this tithe and use it to eat and drink before the Lord in the place he would define. Notice that this tithe is used by the people themselves. This is different from what we read in Leviticus and Numbers earlier, where the tithe was going to the Levites. It is therefore a different tithe. In fact, every third year this tithe was to be used differently: at the end of that year this tithe was to be collected “and the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied” (Deuteronomy 14:29). Furthermore every seven years the land was to have a Sabbath in which nothing was sown or reaped by the owner of the land (Leviticus 25:1-5) but all people were entitled to eat whatever the earth was bringing up on its own (Leviticus 25:6-7) as well as from the big surplus of the sixth year that God had promised to give (Leviticus 25:20-22).



Let’s summarize what we have learned up to now. As we have seen, tithing was part of the Old Testament law, part of the ordinances that God gave to the children of Israel through Moses. As it appears to me, there were two tithes. The first tithe was going to the Levites while the second was used by the people themselves in rejoicing before the Lord or in the third year it was collected for the poor and (again) for the Levites. Tithing is part of the law and as such it belongs to the same category as animal sacrifices and the many and various regulations this law dictated. We further saw that the New Testament makes it emphatically clear that the law with its ordinances was abolished by the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of this we are not sacrificing animals today. If somebody asks why we don’t do this, we correctly say “because this is part of the Mosaic law and this law is no longer valid. Jesus Christ, through His sacrifice on the cross, abolished in His flesh the enmity, the law of commandments contained in ordinances. We are no longer under the law”. The same reason that we use for not sacrificing animals is also true for tithing. Tithing was, along with animal sacrificing as well as other ordinances, part of the Mosaic law. Whatever is valid to the one is also valid to the other. The Mosaic law became obsolete about 2000 years ago, with Christ’s sacrifice. Together with it, animal sacrifices, tithing and the other ordinances of the law became obsolete too! We can learn from them, but they are not meant to be for our direct application. Is therefore tithing biblical? Yes it is. It is biblical as it is in the Bible. However, is tithing relevant and valid for the Christian ? Here the answer is no! What is for our direct application concerning giving is what we see written in the New Testament. And what we see there is not tithing and tithers but cheerful giving from the heart, according to the ability of each one. Let’s now turn to this.


Tassos Kioulachoglou






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