After going through the Old Testament to find the purpose and see tithing in action, it may leave you with the question of what to do now. If you don’t tithe, what are the standards of giving? First, I think it is necessary to understand what the Scriptures say about the priesthood under the New Covenant.
Hebrews 5:1-10 NLT
Every high priest is a man chosen to represent other people in their dealings with God. He presents their gifts to God and offers sacrifices for their sins. 2 And he is able to deal gently with ignorant and wayward people because he himself is subject to the same weaknesses.3 That is why he must offer sacrifices for his own sins as well as theirs.
4 And no one can become a high priest simply because he wants such an honor. He must be called by God for this work, just as Aaron was. 5 That is why Christ did not honor himself by assuming he could become High Priest. No, he was chosen by God, who said to him,
“You are my Son. Today I have become your Father.[a]”
6 And in another passage God said to him,
“You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.”[b]
7 While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. 8 Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. 9 In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him. 10 And God designated him to be a High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.
A few observations from this passage:
1) As discussed in Part 1, the tribe of Levi (Levites) were set aside as priests before the Lord and out of this priesthood God appoints a High Priest. The above passage tells us what the function of the High Priest was in relation to offering sacrifices to God. There were different High Priests over time until Jesus.
2) In order to atone for the people’s sins (remember, this is Old Testament practice) the High Priest was to offer unblemished sacrifices to God for his sins and the sins of the people.
3) Jesus is the last and eternal High Priest. He was also the unblemished sacrifice for our sins and THE “source of eternal salvation for all those who obey Him.” He was the last physical sacrifice.
Hebrews 7:11-13 goes on to tell us: “So if the priesthood of Levi, on which the law was based, could have achieved the perfection God intended, why did God need to establish a different priesthood, with a priest in the order of Melchizedek instead of the order of Levi and Aaron? And if the priesthood is changed, the law must also be changed to permit it. For the priest we are talking about belongs to a different tribe, whose members have never served at the altar as priests.”
Just like Melchizedek, who was High Priest but not from the tribe or lineage of Levi, Jesus was High Priest after the order of Melchizedek. In Hebrews 7:11 we understand that a new priesthood had to be established in order to accomplish the Lord’s purpose of salvation through Jesus Christ. The Law of Moses was established with regards to the Levitical priesthood.
Priesthood of Believers
1 Peter 2: 5, 9
And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God.
But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.
We, the body of Christ, those that call upon His name and live for Him are now holy priests before God through Jesus Christ. Instead of offering physical sacrifices, we now offer spiritual sacrifices pleasing to God. The order of the priesthood has changed. The priesthood is now spiritual priesthood and not a physical one. If you reading this are a born again believer of Jesus Christ, you too are a holy priest unto God with Jesus as our eternal High Priest.
What does all of this have to do with tithing?
No physical Levitical priesthood; no tithe. No law; no tithe. We are governed by a different standard.
Didn’t Jesus Teach Tithing?
In one instance, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees by saying they pay tithes but they neglect more important matters. He tells them they should tithe, but should also show justice, mercy and faith. (Matthew 23:23-24, Luke 11:42) The first thing to remember is when Jesus was on earth, mankind was still operating under Old Testament/Covenant Law. Although the Gospels are included in what we know as the New Testament, the people were still governed by the Law of Moses. The New Covenant did not come into effect until after the resurrection of Christ.
Giving by way of the New Covenant
While the law of tithing may no longer be in effect, we still must open to Lord and willing and ready to give. There are still those in need among us. The Good News must still be carried to the ends of the earth and sometimes this takes money.
In Acts 2 when the Christian Church was growing the new believers formed a community sold their property and possessions and shared the money with all those in need. We continue to see an extension of this in the passages found in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9.
2 Corinthians 8:11-15
Give in proportion to what you have. 12 Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have. 13 Of course, I don’t mean your giving should make life easy for others and hard for yourselves. I only mean that there should be some equality. 14 Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it. In this way, things will be equal. 15 As the Scriptures say,
“Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough.”
2 Corinthians 9:6-15
Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. 7 You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”[c] 8 And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. 9 As the Scriptures say,
“They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”[d]
10 For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity[e] in you.
11 Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. 12 So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem[f] will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.
13 As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. 14 And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you.15 Thank God for this gift[g] too wonderful for words!
I believe these passage give us a great picture of God’s purpose in giving as it relates to Christians presently. It is to supply the needs of others with an attitude of cheerfulness which will result in praise and thanksgiving towards God. There are several other things to note from these passages, but I think they speak for themselves.
I’ve heard it said that God is not so much concerned with our 10% as He with our whole lives. By this, He knows we are faithful to Him and will be able to give all that He would require of us for His purposes; monetary or otherwise. With this, I agree.
A few things to be mindful of….
1) The current church building/environment/system and OT Temple worship are NOT the same and cannot and should not be compared. There is no longer a physical Temple where God resides and is to be worshipped only, but our bodies (born again believers) are His Temple, the temple of Holy Spirit, and God’s presence dwells in the midst of His Church (not the building, but in the midst of His people where ever they might be found).
2) Pastors and priests are not the same and it is incorrect to believe that giving of your monetary tithe to a pastor is the equivalent of giving to the priest. See section on Priesthood of Believers above.
3) As referenced in Part 1, the tithe was never monetary. We saw in Deu. 14 that the tithe could be exchanged or sold for money for easy transport, but money was NOT the tithed portion. Some will say we have to tithe money because we don’t own land or livestock. To that I say, no sanction has been given in Scripture (Old or New Testament) changing the tithe to money.
4) Remember, the Law of Moses (which included the tithe to the Levites) was fulfilled in Christ, and through Christ, the order of the priesthood has changed. Instead of being concerned with giving a tenth we should be more concerned with generosity and good will towards men…namely the poor, the widowed and the orphan.
5) Church buildings are NOT storehouses. They are simply places where people gather.
6) If the tithe is still operable, and we are to tithe of our income, why is it that none of the other details of tithing are taught or followed? For instance, the Israelites were instructed to consume of the tithe themselves in celebration of the Lord’s plentiful harvest. Have you ever heard anyone tell you to do that? They were also told to give all of their tithe to place in the storehouse every 3rd year to provide for the priests, widows, foreigners and orphans. Does your church do that? The people tithed once a year, not every time they got paid. Can you explain that? If someone is going to hold to one portion of this ordinance, why is it not necessary to hold to EVERY portion of this ordinance?
7) The only curses we deal with now are the consequences of our sin and disobedience. Just like in the OT, God still blesses those that trust in Him and are obedient to Him. That has not changed.
8) The Law brings the curse. Jesus brings truth and light to our lives is we walk after Him.
9) Give without expecting in return. We don’t “sow seeds” because it’s a way to move (or manipulate God into giving us what we want. I’ve hear this taught SOOOO many times. Yes, the Lord will bless us for our generosity, but it must be done from a pure and willing heart. It should be more about the person we are giving to and A LOT less about us. God knows our hearts and intentions.
In light of this information, what do you do?
Whatever you feel the Lord is leading you to do. If you feel you should continue to give 10% of your income then do so because it is what you have purposed to do and not because you feel that you will be cursed if you do not. God is not pleased when we do anything out of obligation and if you are afraid NOT to tithe because you fear a curse, well guess what…..The Lord DOES NOT give us the spirit of fear, but it does come from someone else (if you catch my drift). Whatever we do for the Lord we want to do it with a clear conscience. Giving a tenth is not mandatory, but availing all that we have to the Lord is.
Also, be mindful of where you give. I have heard some say, “I just give my tithe and whatever the church wants to do with it is their business. I’ve done my duty.” Well, what if that ministry is into some foul stuff (whatever it might be). You just financed foolishness so you should be VERY CONCERNED with were you choose to give (whether it is 10% or otherwise).
I understand it takes money to operate church buildings and some churches pay their staff from the money that comes in. Keep this in mind, church buildings are not mandatory for Christian gathering and worshipping. Early Christians met in existing synagogues (I doubt they had overhead expenses like we do now) and from house to house. Not one Christian fellowship in the early Church had a building fund campaign. None of the Apostles felt it was necessary to do so. They were concerned with the needs of the people being met. If your church is more concerned with keeping the lights on than your family being fed, you might be in the wrong place. I know personally of an experience with a church that would not help one of their member’s pay her light bill because she did not tithe.
Now, although church buildings are not necessary, there is nothing wrong with people gathering and assembling in buildings. If there is a place you choose to go to gather with other Christians I believe it is only right to help cover moderate overhead expenses. Key is moderate NOT extravagant. I believe God is more concerned with the members of His Body being able to care for their family’s than keeping the lights on, “burning the note” on a building (this is my opinion, but I do believe it is supported by Scripture) or paying a house note on the pastor’s mansion (sorry, I had to go there). I see nothing wrong with (and actually encourage) the people of God providing for those that have committed themselves to the full time preaching of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 9:13-16). We SHOULD be willing to do this as the Lord moves on our hearts through the Holy Spirit to make sure they and their families are cared for (same concept that applies from above passages from 2 Corinthians). They are just as much a part of the Body and should not be neglected. However, this is nothing to FORCE on anyone. The Apostles did not force it and neither should anyone else. We are to give freely and cheerfully.
Do not the neglect those in need. There are other ministries, people and causes to give to other than the church you attend. It is not your pastor’s or church’s responsibility, it is YOUR responsibility.
If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion – how can God’s love be in that person? 1 John 3:17 NLT
I could go into all of the reasons I believe this is still being taught and practiced, but that is not the purpose of this piece (Part 3, maybe????). My prayer is that we would all abound in our generosity and giving to others. This pleases God and brings glory to His name!
I am sure I have left some things out, but I think this is enough. Don’t just take my word for it. I encourage you to take the time to study and ask the Lord about this yourself. You might be surprised what you find.