The far majority of Christians have been wrongly taught that they’re required to PAY tithes to the Lord. They have been brainwashed to believe that if they faithfully tithe God will bless them, but if they do not tithe, He will curse them. Tithing is certainly biblical, but it is not dispensational truth for this present age. It was required under the law, but the Body of Christ is not under the law (Rom. 6:14; 7:4-6).
Tithing in the Grace Age
The instructions for tithing are found in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. I don’t know of anybody today who believes in tithing that actually follows the clear instruction of the law. Tithing is also mentioned in the books of Genesis, 2 Chronicles, Nehemiah, Amos, Malachi, Matthew, Luke, and Hebrews (none of which are written to us or about us). The apostle Paul never mentions tithing in his thirteen epistles to the Body of Christ. He taught grace giving, which is very different from tithing (2 Cor. 9:7).
This simple truth clears up all the confusion about tithing. There are all kinds of questions people have about tithing. Do we tithe off the gross or net income? Do we tithe to the local church or may we tithe to any ministry? What if I owe tithes? All such questions are pointless in this age.
Fundamental preachers that are at least somewhat dispensational, but teach tithing, try to use the references in Genesis (before the law) and the NT as proof that tithing is still required today. Do those references establish tithing as being for this age?
- Gen. 14:18-20 (compare Heb. 7:2, 4, defines tithing as a tenth) – Abraham also made sacrifices before the law. Does that mean we should? He was the father of the Hebrews (v.13). This passage provides a prophetic picture of how the Hebrews will tithe in the Kingdom Age (Melchizedek a type of Christ, a King and Priest, see Zech. 6:12-13).
- Gen. 28:20-22 – Is this a pattern for us to follow today? Note the conditions!
- Matt. 23:23; Lk. 11:42 – Christ was sent to Israel (Rom. 15:8) and conducted His entire earthly ministry under the law (Matt. 5:17-20; 23:1-3).
- Heb. 7:1-12 – This epistle is written to the HEBREWS, not the Body of Christ (see 3:6, 14 for example). It is a transition book from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant (the law will be written in their hearts). Christ the High Priest will receive tithes of those He commanded to pay tithes.
Giving a tenth of your income to support the Lord’s work is certainly not a bad thing to do. Paul taught proportionate giving (we should give according as God has prospered us) and giving a tenth is a good principle and starting point. But most preachers that preach tithing will use Abraham to establish the principle of giving a tenth to the Lord, but then they go to Malachi to bring people under the bondage of the law in an effort to motivate people to faithfully tithe by using GUILT and FEAR (Mal. 3:8-12). Consider some obvious facts about this oft-abused passage in Malachi:
- Note that Malachi prophesied TO ISRAEL (1:1). God said it was the NATION that robbed Him by not tithing. How could we rob God today when He never commanded us to tithe?
- Tithing was commanded under the law. According to the law covenant, God would bless Israel in their LAND for obedience, but He would curse them for disobedience (see Deut. 28).
- The storehouse was certainly not a local church. It was a literal chamber in the temple where they stored the grain, etc…
- Opening the windows of heaven had to do with rain for their crops.
- Rebuking the devourer had to do with removing pestilence, drought, etc…
To require tithing is LEGALISM (performance-based acceptance). The Body of Christ is already blessed with all spiritual blessings in HEAVENLY PLACES in Christ (Eph. 1:3) and we cannot be cursed by the law (Gal. 3:13).
Let’s consider what the law actually said about tithing:
- Under the law, only agricultural products were tithed, such as grain, fruit, and livestock (Lev. 27:30-34). Only that which was produced “of the land” of Israel was to be tithed. If a farmer wanted to redeem (buy back) his tithe, he had to add the fifth part. For example, if he wanted to keep his tithe of grain worth $1,000, he had to pay the cash equivalent of $1,200. Those who did not have fields and livestock were not required to tithe! The tithe was to be the first tenth, the gross, of all their increase (Prov. 3:9-10).
- There was a tithe to be paid ANNUALLY to the Levites (Num. 18:20-24). It was like a tax because Israel was governed by the priesthood.
- There was a religious tithe to be paid for the Lord’s feasts and sacrifices, it had to be brought to Jerusalem (Deut. 12:5-7, 10-12, 17-19). This tithe was used to get to Jerusalem for the required feasts three times a year (Deut. 14:22-27).
- There was a third tithe to be paid every three years (Deut. 14:28-29; 26:21-15; Amos 4:4). We are now up to about 23% annually!
- The Levites were to tithe to the high priest (Num. 18:25-26; Neh. 10:38-39)
- Only Levites could receive tithes of the people (Heb. 7:5). There is no example in the Bible of a pastor receiving tithes.
- Tithing is mentioned in association with Israel being revived by getting back to the LAW (2 Chron. 31; Neh. 10-13).
Why do Most Preachers Teach Tithes are Required?
In light of all this, why do most preachers teach people that they must pay tithes? They don’t rightly divide the word of truth. But perhaps the biggest reason is they think tithing is the best way to fund their religious machinery (staff, buildings, etc..).
The fact that we are not under the tithing commandments today is no excuse for us to not faithfully give to support the Lord’s work. The apostle Paul taught the principle of grace giving in a number of passages. In fact, giving willingly to the Lord is a principle we see throughout the Bible. God is the greatest giver. Certainly, His people ought to be givers!