I have been in many hardcore, fundamental, King James Only Baptist churches that are constantly telling their congregants to “give their tithe”, is that biblical?
The modern-day Charismatic Prosperity Movement is built on one thing and one thing alone, and it’s not Jesus Christ. It’s tithing. Tithing literally means to “give a tenth”, and we find this in the Old Testament. Curiously, tithing it is not found anywhere in the writings of Paul, the apostle for the Church Age, and mentioned only in the gospels as it applied to the Pharisees. Hebrews mentioned tithing but it is repeating the Genesis passage about Abraham.
“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” Malachi 3:10 (KJV)
The teaching of tithing for Christians is not limited to only the heretical Prosperity Movement, I have been in many hardcore, fundamental, King James Only Baptist churches that are constantly telling their congregants to “give their tithe”. So what does the Bible have to say about tithing for Christians living in the age of grace?
The Bible shows three groups of people who tithed
In the Bible, we see three groups of people who tithed, and they are as follows:
- Israelites living under the Old Testament Law of Moses
- The Pharisees as mentioned in Matthew and Luke
#1). Abraham’s tithe was a one time only event with a deeper meaning. The Bible records that Abraham, after the battle to return his capture nephew Lot, met in the way both Melchizedek and the King of Sodom. Abraham gave a tenth of Lot’s returned goods to Melchizedek while at the same time refusing to receive anything from the King of Sodom. The message here about Abraham’s loyalties are crystal-clear.
“And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all. And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself. And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich: Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.” Genesis 14:18-24 (KJV)
When Abraham chose to give a tithe to the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ in the form of Melchizedek, and refused to accept anything from the king of wicked and soon to be destroyed Sodom, we see why he was called “the friend of God”. In the very next chapter, we see God rewarding Abraham for making the right choice:
“After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” Genesis 15:1 (KJV)
No where in any of this account is a command given, and you will note that Abraham was not commanded to tithe. He did it as a free will offering. Hmm….just like a Christian in the New Testament.
#2). Jews under the Old Testament Law were commanded to tithe. The second time we see tithing is in Leviticus, and it is a command to tithe of the land and of the cattle.
“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. And if a man will at all redeem ought of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof. 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. He shall not search whether it be good or bad, neither shall he change it: and if he change it at all, then both it and the change thereof shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed. These are the commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses for the children of Israel in mount Sinai.” Leviticus 27:30-34 (KJV)
You will note that the context of the passage shows us that tithing as a command was given by Moses to the children of Israel, the Jews. Christians in the Age of Grace are not the “children of Israel”. Born again Christians are the children of God, not of Israel.
“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:26-29 (KJV)
Interestingly, this verse shows up in the same context of Christians being called the “seed of Abraham” in verse 29. Abraham who gave a free will offering, and not figured as from Moses who commanded tithing.
#3). The Pharisees in the New Testament were tithers. When we read about people who tithes in the New Testament, it is of note to observe that they were being rebuked by Jesus Christ for their hypocritical following of the Law of Moses. Tithing here is mentioned in a very negative context.
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” Matthew 23:23 (KJV)
Need we say more? Let’s move on.
There is no New Testament command for any Christian to give a tithe to their church
Search the New Testament from Matthew 1 to Revelation 22 and you will find no commands for a Christian to tithe their money to their church. It does not exist. Paul, the apostle for the Church Age whose writings are our doctrine, only mentions giving a few times. Here is the main verse he wrote for us:
“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7 (KJV)
And there you have the New Testament, rightly divided doctrine of Biblical giving for Christians in the Church Age. God leaves it up to the Christian themselves to determine how much and how often they want to give to the church. God wants you to do it because you have a sincere and honest desire to see the work of the Church continue. Not because you expect a blessing from it, not because some greedy pastor shamed you into it, but because you in your heart want to do it.
But the notion that Christians are to, every Sunday, sit down and write a 10% check of their weekly income and give it to their pastor is not only unbiblical but I believe demonic. There are millions of poor Christians who, because of false teaching on tithing, take the money that should be used to put food on the table and power the light bill and give it to a millionaire pastor living in a mansion. Churches need money to operate on, yes that’s true. But so much of today’s building programs and fund raising only serve to increase the personal wealth of the pastor and those at the top.
If your church preaches on tithing more than once a year, find a new church and save your offering for people actually trying to get the gospel out. Take a moment and read some of the Bible verses never preached by the Prosperity Gospel crowd:
“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” 1 Timothy 6:6-10 (KJV)