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Biblical Tithing: Questions and Answers June 30, 2014

Posted by Henry in Tithing.
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Tithing has become a foundation in most churches yet it is one of the most misunderstood and misapplied terms in the Christian lexicon today. Most people will also claim they know what tithing is yet have never studied the subject in any detail. Many therefore have a perception of tithing based on tradition rather than grounded in Biblical truth. I therefore set out below a number of questions and answers concerning the tithe as set out under the Mosaic law to help clear up some of the confusion and misconceptions around the subject.

1. What is a tithe?
A tithe is a tenth meaning a tenth part or every tenth one. (Lev 27:30-34)

2. Is this the same as 10%?
No. E.g., if the tither was giving a tenth of livestock from his 50 cows a tenth would be 5 but if he was giving a tenth from 45 this would only amount to 4 because he cannot give 4.5 livestock which is what 10% would equate to.

3. Was the tithe from income?
No. A tithe was a tenth of the increase of agricultural produce and livestock in the land of ancient Israel (Canaan) – i.e., what the land brought forth. God gave the land as a gift but reserved a tenth part of what the Land brought forth for Himself. So it was not a tenth of what you made but a tenth of what He first gave (Lev 27:30-34).

4. Could tithes be given in the form of money?
No, not strictly speaking. Although money was readily available, the commandments required food produce and livestock. If you wanted to redeem or buy back the tithe you had to add a fifth (or 20%) of the monetary value on top of the actual monetary value (Lev 27:30-34).

5. Was the tithe the first 10%?
No. It was not a percentage (see 2) and it was NOT the first tenth either. Since a first fruit of the harvest (e.g. grain) was to be given to the priest first (Ex 23:19, Ez 44:30) then the tithe could not have been first. Similarly, the tithe of livestock was not the first tenth but every tenth one that passed under the rod (Lev 27:30-34). The idea that the tithe is “10% off the top” as many pastors teach is not supported by scripture.

6. To whom were tithes given?
The nation of Israel comprising the eleven tribes gave tithes to the Levite tribe (one tribe which made up the twelve). This is because the Levite tribe did not get a portion of the Land so God gave them the tenth part He reserved for Himself as their inheritance (see 3, Num 18:21, Heb 7:5). The Levites in turn gave a tithe of the tithes they received to the priests (Num 18:28). Note the priests did not get all the tenth in Israel – only a tenth of what the Levites received.

7. Who were required to give tithes?
Only those who tended land and owned/looked after livestock were required to tithe to the Levites who in turn tithe to the priests (Lev 27:30-34, Neh 10:37, Num 18:28).

8. Was the tithe the best of what you had?
No. If you were giving livestock you were not allowed to examine whether it was good or bad – you had to give the tenth one that passed under the rod regardless of its condition (Lev 27:30-34). It was the Levites who were then required to give a tithe which constituted the best of the tithes they received to the priests – the Lord’s heave offering (see 7, Num 18:29-30)

9. Were people of other professions therefore not required to tithe, such as artisans, carpenters, brick makers etc?
When God gave Israel the land He reserved a tenth part of the increase that the Land brought forth for Himself, which He gave the Levites for their inheritance because they did not get a share of the Land (see 6). There was no requirement to tithe money nor were people of these professions required to tithe of their wood, metal, cloths, bricks etc. The key thing to note is that God never reserved a tenth part of anyone’s income for Himself. He reserved only a tenth part of the increase of the Land which HE gave in the first place. This was then to be given to the Levites who did not get a share of the Land. If you tended land alongside another profession then you were also required to tithe from the Land but not your other income. For that matter you couldn’t “tithe your time” either.

10. Were people of other professions therefore not required to give of their income (money) to the upkeep of the priests and the temple then?
The temple or tabernacle had a treasury where money was offered to (1 Chron 29:8, Neh 7:70-71, Josh 6:19, 24, Ezr 2:69). This was separate and apart from the “storehouse” which housed the tithe (which was food produce, Neh 10:37-38, 2 Chron 31:6-12, Mal 3:10). Whilst the people also gave money offerings (from their income), wood offerings (Neh 10:34), produce and animal offerings etc these were separate and apart from the tithes (see 1 Chron 22:15, Ex 35:30-35, 36:2-4, for some of the different professions that were in Israel).

11. Is tithing for today – should the church tithe?
The tithing ordinance (Mal 3:7) was abolished (Eph 2:15, Col 2:14) when Jesus went to the cross therefore the church is not under this law.

12. Do the scriptures contradict themselves?
This question though not specific to the tithing question needs to be asked if we are to truly answer the question of whether tithing is for today. It is clear that if scriptures say that the law (and ordinances) have been abolished that it cannot also be saying that we are required to observe the tithing law at the same time.

Jesus is our tithe June 23, 2014

Posted by Henry in Contending for the Faith, Tithing.
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Here is an interesting take on the tithe by a Pastor Amos Ortiz.

Pure Religion and undefiled March 6, 2012

Posted by Henry in Contending for the Faith.
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Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (Jam 1:27) KJV

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (NIV)

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. (NLT)

Recently I have written a series of posts addressing “tithing” (amongst other things) and this started with the post “Unravelling the tithing dilemma”. Some reading this blog may think that my sole focus has simply been on “tithing” and may even think I sound like a broken record repeating myself but there is a central theme and purpose to each post and in this post I aim to tie up all that I previously stated. Hopefully the point of all these posts may therefore come to the fore through reading this post.

I opened this post with a quote from James 1:27 as this sits at the heart of the tithing equation today and which sits at the very heart of our Gospel. The two other translations I gave, more fully expresses what the KJV version intended to say. What sits at the heart of the tithing equation therefore is the question of what is acceptable religion before God?

 Under the Old Covenant Israel was called to give a tithe of the produce of the Promised Land to the Levites, the poor, the fatherless, the widows who were all in NEED that they may eat and be satisfied (Deut 14:29). Today the church seeks to recapture the practice of collecting a tithe but what does the church do with it? In contrast to ancient Israel where the tithe went to meet immediate and pressing needs, today we use the tithe to maintain lofty and expensive church buildings and pay a salary to the priests or pastors (and perhaps the organist). Today we talk about giving to God, and equate our giving to maintaining these structures as giving to God (this is seen as furthering the Gospel). Yet in the early church giving to God was tantamount to meeting the needs of the poor, the fatherless and the widows. If the tithe is God’s then let us start giving it to God via the poor and stop talking about it. In Matt 25:35-46 we see Jesus saying that if we feed the hungry, visit the sick, clothe the naked etc we have done it to Him but if we did none of those things we did not do it to Him. There are those who will argue of course that when we give money to church that the church will in turn use some of this money to send missionaries abroad and to give to the poor and other charitable causes. In my experiences, some churches remit a portion of the takings to the umbrella body and this may help to support missionaries in the field. However, for others the main church takings (tithes and offerings) are normally treated as sacrosanct – by this I mean that most of it is used up on the administrative overheads (including salaries) and the rest kept in a bank account but very little or none of it goes to meet the needs of the poor. Instead, after the main tithes and offerings are collected we are then asked to “dig deep” into our pockets for extra funds or “love offerings” that will go to missions and fund charitable works. This was not so in the early church however. Do we for a minute think that God is pleased with great and grand buildings we have elevated in His name, and maintain with vast sums of money year by year, whilst millions of people throughout the world go hungry each day? Perhaps the church cannot solve the poverty problem across the world but we can certainly do more even in our immediate communities.

In the early church all of the church takings were redistributed to meeting the needs of the whole church, including the elders who ministered over the church. This is aptly demonstrated in Acts 2:42-47 and Acts 4:32-35. What a contrast to today’s church where the poor and the needy who come in go home empty-handed with the promise that God will bless them if they tithe faithfully even if they have to borrow to pay that tithe (as in the example of some churches)? The early church did not consider their possessions as their own but had all things in common – and they laid what they had to give at the apostles’ feet who in turn redistributed so that no one lacked. Other examples of this practice are evidenced in 2 Cor 8:12-15 and 2 Cor 9:1-8 where Paul collected gifts from other churches to give to the poor Christians in Jerusalem. The early church was acting out the very commands/teachings that Jesus Christ imparted to us such as in Matt 19:21 where He instructed the rich young ruler to sell his possessions and give it to the poor. We also see another example in Luke 16:9 where Christ says we should make to ourselves friends with the mammon (worldly wealth) of unrighteousness. In meeting the needs of the general poor we are also encouraged to give to the elders, especially those who minister in the word and doctrine (1 Tim 5:17).

 Today we have reassigned the purpose of the tithe (not that we are under the Law), as the principle of it as demonstrated under the Law is not borne out in how we utilise it in the church today. In contrast to the early church also, faithful stewardship is now exemplified by our giving of tithes and offerings to God to maintain lavish buildings and large administrative budgets in the place of directly redistributing the funds to meet the needs of the poor. Is our religion as practiced in this way by the church today acceptable to God when pure religion and undefiled, which God accepts is defined in scripture as caring for the fatherless and the widows and keeping oneself spotless from the world?

Related Posts:

Embezzlement: The Corporate Sin of Contemporary Christianity

 

 

 

The unholy tithe: Defiling God’s name December 20, 2011

Posted by Henry in Tithing.
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10Bring 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. (Mal 3:10)

Most of us who know a little about the “tithe” are aware that the Biblical tithe is Holy unto God (Lev 27:30-33). However, the practice of tithing in the church today is an “unholy” practice which does not bring glory to God but rather defiles His name. I believe the practice of tithing in the New Covenant church creates confusion amongst believers and since God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor 14:33), it is arguably whether God does preside over churches that create confusion and are defiling His name.

Some people may think that to tithe or not to tithe is no big deal and put it down to mere “theological differences”. In this regard they don’t think that this is a topic worth discussing. However there are ministers who teach that if you don’t tithe you can’t go to Heaven. In my view therefore, this topic warrants a serious debate as most of Christendom is caught up in a practice that is unbiblical where the new church is concerned. I further believe that this is one of the central tenets of the church, which instead of empowering it, weakens the fabric of the church. It begs the question of whether God actually preside over such defilement. How can a church collect tithes under false pretences and then pray to the Lord to bless it and use it according to His will in furthering the work of His Kingdom? We may think we are doing God a service but we are actually doing Him a disservice by declaring things from the pulpit in His name that He did not command the church to observe. This is a SIN before GOD.

Let me state categorically here that if anyone wants to give 10% of their income to the church, there is nothing wrong in principle in doing so. However, if you are giving because you feel obligated to do so because of what was said under the Old Covenant (such as the verse of Malachi 3 stated above), then you are effectively saying that Christ did not do enough – that He only fulfilled part of the Law but not the whole Law. In this way you are denying Christ and make His cross of no effect.

Pastors and other ministers of the Gospel are defiling God’s name when they declare from the pulpit that He did not abolish the tithe and that the church today are required to observe tithing. When they quote from Leviticus 27 they are careful to leave out verse 34 which says:

34These are the commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses for the children of Israel in mount Sinai.   

 

The tithing commandments were given to Israel and Israel alone, which they were to observe in the Promised Land. Hebrews 7:5 confirms that only the Levites had a commandment to take a tithe of their brethren, not modern-day pastors. How can church leaders therefore quote Leviticus 27 in support of reasons why the church should tithe without being deceitful? Similarly, the scriptures in Malachi 3 tell us plainly who the passage was speaking to in verse 9 when it says “this whole nation” referring to the Nation of Israel. Verse 7 of the said passage was a rebuke to Israel that from the days of their fathers they had gone away from the ordinances (laws) of God. This was the reason they were cursed and not simply for not paying the tithe. The history of the curse is set out in Deut 11:

26Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; 27A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day: 28And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known. 29And it shall come to pass, when the LORD thy God hath brought thee in unto the land whither thou goest to possess it, that thou shalt put the blessing upon mount Gerizim, and the curse upon mount Ebal.

We see here that it was a blessing if Israel obeyed the commandments they were to observe in the Promised Land but a curse if they didn’t and the reference in Mal 3:9 relates to this very curse. How can a pastor, prophet or evangelist rebuke the church to tithe based on Mal 3 when it was NOT spoken to the church, without being deceitful? How can they threaten the church with the curse of the Law, which Christ has redeemed us from (Gal 3:13)? According to Paul in 1 Tim 1: 5-7 however, such people who desire to teach the Law have no understanding of what they teach or what they affirm:

5Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: 6From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; 7Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.

 

Pastors who teach tithing from the Law do not know what they are talking about and moreover they have a distinct lack of understanding of the Gospel. For if they understood the Gospel they would not seek to teach from the Law.

Supporters of the tithe will of course say that Jesus endorsed tithing thereby implying that Christ intended for the church to observe tithing. They make their assumptions based on Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees in Matt 23:23:

23Woe 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.

 

If Jesus endorsed tithing then perhaps New Testament believers should start planting herbs and tithe it to the church but of course those deceitful supporters of the tithe will argue that the church cannot pay bills with herbs. It is however a mindless argument to that Jesus supported or endorsed tithing. Jesus came to fulfill the Law and whilst He was yet alive in the flesh He was bound to endorse the whole law including tithing. Jesus did not endorse tithing in the church but the practice of tithing under the Law that the Pharisees were observing but neglecting the weightier matters. To teach tithing based on this reference in Matt 23 is to deceive the church and defile the name of Jesus in the process.

Of course there are those who will further argue that tithing is a principle that existed before the Law but so what? If Abraham volunteered a tithe to Melchizedek (Gen 14:20) and Jacob promised to give a tithe to God of all God gave to him (Gen 28:22), how can these be used to command the church to tithe? The truth is that those who teach tithing declare that the first 10% of one’s income belongs to God yet the only commandments given to tithe were set out under the Law, which incidentally has already been abolished. Those who teach tithing cannot fully establish their doctrine without making reference to scriptures that related to the Law. This practice however is dishonest and defiles God’s name by declaring things to the church that God did not command the church to observe.

Leviticus 27:30-33 sets out what the holy tithe was and these included: “tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree” and “tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod”. The holy tithe was clearly not money nor could it be substituted for money, though it was already in existence, yet the church today has changed what God has instituted into the mammon of unrighteousness. The tithing doctrine is thus built upon false premises and as such the tithe in the church, except it be a voluntary gift, is unholy.

Church, do you not know that you are defiling the Lords name by changing His Laws and declaring pronouncements in His name that He did not command the church to do and to observe?

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