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Unravelling the tithing dilemma December 9, 2011

Posted by Henry in Tithing.
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I previously wrote an article on this issue which can be read here. However I thought I would revisit this issue because tithing is one of the most controversial topics in the church today yet I believe it is such a simple issue to deal with once we have disentangled the different myths and arguments. I will therefore try to make this as simple and as clear as possible and I hope this will help others to gain clarity on this matter. In addressing the tithing issue I want to also expand the issue a little bit to include offerings with the hope of bringing some clarity to both subjects given that they usually go hand in hand


The question for most people is whether or not Jesus abolished the tithe and therefore whether or not the New Testament believer is required to pay a tithe and are we robbing God if we don’t pay the tithe? There are several questions rolled into one here but before answering them lets look at some simple points of facts.

Two Approaches to tithes and offerings


There are two approaches to the tithe from a Biblical standpoint:

1. Firstly, there is the voluntary tithe (Abraham’s gift to Melchizedek and Jacob’s promise to give a tithe to God)

2. Secondly there is the legal or compulsory tithe (the Mosaic Law on tithes which requiredIsraelto observe several tithes, including the tithe to the Levites from who’s tribe the priesthood came)


There are also two approaches to offerings where the Bible is concerned:

1. Firstly, there is the pre-law offering which like the pre-law tithes were voluntarily given (Cain offering a gift from the produce of the land – Able offering a gift from his herds of animals)

2. Secondly, there is the legal or compulsory offerings (like the legal tithes the Mosaic Law instituted there were a number of offerings which God required ofIsraelto perform)

So from this synopsis we can see the two approaches to both tithes and offerings – There was the pre-law position of voluntary giving and the Legal position of compulsory giving. Before the Law anyone could choose whether or not to give a tithe or an offering and they had sole control over the nature or size of the gift – after all this was “freewill” giving. Within the Law however everyone who were bound by it were compelled to give both tithes and offerings and there were specific prescriptions as to the nature and size of the gifts according the legal status of each person.

Answering the Original Question

Going back to the question highlighted above we need to first separate it into its constituent parts because there are a number of issues muddled together there.

Argument 1 – Did Christ abolish the tithe?

Some supporters of the tithe argue that Jesus did not abolish the tithe because the tithe existed before the Law, citing Abraham and Jacob as examples. This argument is flawed primarily because it makes the assumption that the Mosaic (legal) tithe and the voluntary tithe (as per Abraham and Jacob) are one and the same. This is not the case and anyone who argues such is being dishonest. As I have demonstrated under the “Two Approaches” heading above – the voluntary tithe and the tithe required by Law are different (diametrically opposed) and likewise the pre-Law offerings are different from the Legal offerings. When Jesus therefore fulfilled the Law, He abolished the Legal tithes and offerings – NOT the voluntary tithes and offerings. The voluntary tithes and offerings fall under the category of “freewill” giving and Jesus did not abolish such giving.

Argument 2 – Are New Testament Believers required to pay tithes?

Supporters of the tithe believe that since the tithe is pre-Law, as demonstrated by Abraham and Jacob, the church today should also pay tithes (note emphasis added to imply a Legal or compulsory requirement). As I have demonstrated under Argument 1 however Jesus abolished the Law along with all the legal requirements to pay tithes and offerings. The church is therefore under no obligation, legal or otherwise, to observe the Legal tithes and offerings. It is therefore an incorrect position to attach a legal obligation on the church to observe the Abraham and Jacob tithing example. The example of Abraham and Jacob demonstrates “freewill” giving and therefore the church may freely or not as the case may be follow Abraham and Jacob’s example to give a voluntary tithe.

Argument 3 – Are you robbing God by not paying the tithe?

As I have already demonstrated under Argument’s 2 and 3, Jesus abolished the Legal tithes and offerings and to attempt to impose a legal duty to observe an example of voluntary giving by Abraham is completely wrong. Since Jesus abolished the Legal tithe then you are not robbing God if you choose not to observe something that is already abolished. Are you therefore robbing God if you do not observe the “freewill” tithe? Note here that the reference to “robbing God” for not paying the tithe, found in Mal 3:10, is a direct reference to the Legal tithe – NOT the voluntary tithe suggested by Abraham and Jacob. You are therefore not robbing God if you do not choose to exercise your free will by giving a tithe.


This presentation demonstrates that to understand our position in regards to tithing we must make a clear distinction between voluntary tithes and offerings and compulsory tithes and offerings. It should become clear to the reader therefore that whilst Jesus has abolished the Legal tithes and offerings along with the Mosaic Law, we may exercise our free will by giving a voluntary tithe and offering. We should never make the mistake however of attaching legality to what may be given as a “freewill” gift. If we understand these points clearly it then resolves a whole lot of other questions such as whether or not we are required to observe first fruit offerings etc. The abolition of the requirement to observe the legal tithes and offerings leaves us with the voluntary position of Abraham, Jacob, Cain and Able. This falls in line with Pauls teaching on giving, suggesting that we should give not out of necessity or compulsion but according to what you purpose in your own hearts. You may therefore exercise your free will in Christ to give a voluntary tithe or to give another amount according to what you purpose in your own heart.