C H U R C H R E F O R M S E R I E S
By Biblicism Institute
Most church ministries depend heavily on the tithe to keep them afloat. So it is no wonder that the law of the tithe was dusted off from the Old Covenant shelf, and arbitrarily repackaged by mortal men for the consumption of New Covenant Christians.
We’ll examine the first tithe, the law of the tithe, and the standing of said law within the New Covenant. As we conclude, it should be clear that no Christian has been commanded to tithe, and that all ministry money should go to the poor and needy.
THE FIRST TITHE
“And Abram gave Melchizedek one-tenth of everything.” Genesis 14:20
This is the first time the tithe or one-tenth is mentioned in the Bible.
There was no God-given commandment when it occurred. Abram was a friend of God and a man of faith who had many encounters with the Almighty, and yet God never broached the subject with him. As a matter of fact, God never asked anyone to tithe before either.
So why did Abram really give one-tenth of everything he had to Melchizedek? Let’s let the Apostle Paul clarify this.
“This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, the name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever. Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder!” Hebrews 7: 1-4
Many Christians believe that Melchizedek was Christ pre-incarnate. Judging from Paul’s description this could very well be. Who else but God could have no mother, no father, no genealogy, and without beginning of days or end of life? Even the meaning of the name Melchizedek points to the tremendous resemblance to Christ.
That kind of supernatural appearance would again happen to Abraham.
“The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.” Genesis 18: 1,2
So Abram recognized the Lord in Melchizedek just like the Apostles did in Christ Jesus, and without hesitation gave Him one-tenth of everything he had: flock, slaves, clean and unclean animals, grain, tents, servants, etc.
Said gesture did not transpire from a command or a law because none existed. Abram gave 10% because he wanted to, and most likely he did so by faith following the lead of the Holy Spirit.
Melchizedek didn’t ask him for the tithe, and no indication was given that if Abram were to give him 10% he would be blessed. Melchizedek had already blessed Abram before receiving the tithe.
“Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram… Then Abraham gave him a tenth of everything.” Genesis 14:18-20
From that point on there’s no record of Abram/Abraham having ever tithed again. There’s no record of his son Isaac having ever tithed either. Abraham’s grandson Jacob paid lip service to tithing (Genesis 28:22), but no record exists that he ever did.
Leviticus 27 is a chapter replete with taxes that were supposed to be levied on God’s people in order to sustain the Levites, the priests. One of the taxes was for 10%. So for the first time a God-given command was issued in which the word tithe was used.
Taxes were to be evaluated and then levied on everything, from a male of 20 years old to a man of 60 years old, from females to children and elderly, from clean animals to unclean animals, and from a man’s house to his field. Said taxes were calculated according to God-given rules, and none of them reached 10%. Not even close.
The only tax that reached 10% was the one that was levied on all agricultural products. In other words, the farmers got stuck with a huge bill.
“The tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord.” Leviticus 27:30
That command was repeated again later on.
“Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year.” Deuteronomy 14:22
However, even when the word tithe was used it didn’t necessarily mean that the priests were going to get 10% of the totality.
“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.” Leviticus 27:32
As the herd passed under the rod the tenth animal was the tax.
Let’s say you had 1,000 animals, 10% of that would be 100. But that’s not what God asked for. He asked for the tenth animal from the herd. He asked for only one, but it had to be the tenth one. Simple. If a shepherd only had nine, he lucked out.
But just in case someone wants to get smart, let’s check the Hebrew words.
Hebrew words used in Leviticus 27:32 – for tenth it is asiyriy meaning the tenth and for tithe it is ma’asrah meaning tithe or one-tenth. And they were both used in the same sentence.
Therefore, the way Abram gave one-tenth of everything to Melchizedek was in absolute contradiction to the Levitical laws of Chapter 27. Again, it proves that Abram gave 10 percent of everything only because he wanted to, and only because he was following the leading of the Spirit of God. If the Spirit had asked him to give it all, he would have. This is the same man who did not hesitate to almost sacrifice his only son Isaac (Hebrews 11:17) because God asked him to. Abraham always followed the leading of the Spirit of God. Always.
Now that the law of the tithe was introduced, the Spirit of Grace and Faith that Abram followed could not be called upon. The law had to be followed the way God intended. There was no way around it.
“I have not come to abolish (the laws) but to fulfill them.” Matthew 5:17
Even today if one wanted to bypass the Spirit of Grace and Faith in order to follow the law of the tithe, it would have to be done according to God’s precepts. Therefore Leviticus 27 would need to be fully implemented, with no deviation and with no arbitrary addenda God never approved of.
However, there is a bigger problem still for those who want to squeeze the tithe out of us by using the obsolete Levitical law.
All of those taxes – including those that reached 10% – were the same taxes that were being enforced during Jesus’s time when Peter was approached by the Temple tax collectors. The Temple had been transformed into a tax collecting center, or the IRS building of the Levites. That’s where everyone had to go pay their various taxes, including those that were levied on their persons.
Let’s see what happened in Matthew 17:
24 After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”
25 “Yes, he does,” he replied.
When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?”
26 “From others,” Peter answered.
“Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. 27 “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”
Jesus wasn’t even present when Peter was approached, but being God He already knew. It shows He really wanted to bring up the subject so He could establish His conclusion on the matter. And His conclusion for paying these taxes was, “Then, the children are exempt.”
Eventually Jesus paid the tax, but His conclusion was a forward-looking statement as He was wont to speak. Such taxes were going to cease once the New Covenant was in full effect, and once Jerusalem and the Temple that symbolized the old system were destroyed, which occurred in 70 A.D. as Jesus Himself prophesied.
“But he responded, ‘Do you see all these buildings? I tell you the truth, they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!'” Matthew 24: 2
Jesus finished His mission by fulfilling and accomplishing the whole body of the law.
“For I tell you truly, until heaven and earth pass away, not a single jot, not a stroke of a pen, will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” Matthew 5:18
“It is finished.” or “It is accomplished.” John 19:30
He allowed thus the Spirit of Grace and Faith to begin His reign.
“But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law… But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.” Galatians 3: 23, 25
Consequently, He did away with the entire Levitical system.
“For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.” Hebrews 7:12
Furthermore, all the offerings (Numbers 18:8-20) along with all the taxes (Leviticus Chapter 27), which included the tithe on agricultural products, were paid to the Levites because as Priests they had no other way of making a living. God forbade them to work in the manner everyone else did, by not giving them any land on which they could do so. Thus they were left without an inheritance.
“You will have no inheritance in their land.” Numbers 18:20
“I give to the Levites all the tithes as their inheritance.” Numbers 18:21
All the Old Testament Levites are DEAD, and their inheritance expired with them. Those Levitical taxes (tithe included) cannot be transferred to non-Levites since they were crafted specifically to benefit them.
With the New Covenant, every single Christian is now a Priest or a spiritual Levite, and God has not forbidden anyone to work for a living. Quite the contrary.
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood.” 1 Peter 2:9
“And made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father.” Revelation 1:6
“…if any would not work, neither should he eat.” 2 Thessalonians 3:10
Since all of us Christians are now the new Priesthood, and since all of us must work for a living, then we should pay those taxes to ourselves. 🙂
THE THIRD YEAR TITHE
The verse that is pounded to no end by preachers to guilt-trip the flock into tithing is this one:
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.” Malachi 3:10
What was the storehouse?
“At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.” Deuteronomy 14: 28,29
10% of all agricultural products had to be set aside every third year in the storehouse instead of being solely consumed by the Priests. Therefore, the storehouse was a public food pantry reserved for the Priests and the poor. God didn’t want anyone to go hungry, and that’s why He was so stern in His Malachi admonition.
One simple question: Does your preacher have a public food pantry where every third year he takes all the tithes – and we mean all the tithes – in order to stock that pantry for all the poor Christians and non-Christians to come and feed themselves?
We already know the answer.
“One might even say that Levi, who collects the tithe, paid it through Abraham, because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor. If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood—why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also.” Hebrews 7: 9-12
Beside Hebrews 7 there’s only one event in the New Testament where the tithe is mentioned.
“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” Luke 11:42 (same account in Matthew 23:23)
The true tithe according to the law was always on the produce of the land and on nothing else. And even though it is briefly mentioned in that New Testament passage, it is by no stretch a command for Christian farmers to tithe, or for any preacher to arbitrarily transform the concept of the tithing law from agricultural products to everything one owns, and to use said capricious transformation to levy a full tithe on God’s people when God had not commanded it.
These unscrupulous preachers, or rather wolves in sheep’s clothing, are playing God in order to separate you from your money, and they need to be whipped and chased out of the church. They’re no different than a two-bit mafia don, “Give me the 10% or I’ll sic my god on you. Capisce?”
The end result is a forceful pull on the string of greed ensconced in the deep recess of the heart, “Give 10% and you’ll get more… you’ll get more… you’ll get more…”
“Men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that godliness is a means of gain: from such withdraw thyself.” 1 Timothy 6:5
And the gullible sheep line up to clamor their testimonies of how God has financially blessed them because of their tithe. How quickly they forget the goodness of the Lord!
Despite the facts that 1) God was not pleased with our state of sin, and 2) we gave Him nothing to spur Him to look on us with favor, He freely bestowed the most precious gift He could confer: salvation of our souls through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
“He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done…” 2 Timothy 1:9
So how dare anyone think he can bribe God with 10% of his income just to get “filthy” materialistic blessings in return?
“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, freely give us all things?” Romans 8:32
God doesn’t bless us because of what we do.
“When you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have done only that which was our duty to do.'” Luke 17:10
He blesses us because of who He is.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” Psalm 23:1
In God’s Kingdom on earth we Christians don’t give to get back. We give freely just the way God gives because we want to emulate Him.
“Remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ “Acts 20:35
Further, Jesus and his disciples killed a lamb to observe Passover, but we Christians don’t follow that, do we? Why? Because everything has changed. The entire Old Covenant system has been overhauled by the death and resurrection of Christ and by the advent of the Holy Spirit.
“For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another.” Hebrews 8:7
Just like Paul said in Hebrews 7, the law is changed because the priesthood is changed.
When it came to money the new High Priest Jesus, or the new Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:17), did not fool around. He was radical. This is how He changed the system.
“Jesus said unto him, If you will be perfect, go and sell all that you have, and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven: then come and follow me.” Matthew 19:21
Jesus told the man to give all his money away. He didn’t ask for 10% or 20% or even 50%. He asked for all of it. And yet He didn’t demand that the money be given to “His ministry.” He told the man to personally go and give it all to the poor.
Here is Jesus on another occasion:
“Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21: 1-4
Whether you’re rich or poor, Jesus wants it all. He does not act one way with the poor and another way with the rich.
“God does not show favoritism.” Romans 2:11
However, you must understand why Jesus is so “intransigent” on the subject of money. He wants our hearts to be free from the love of it, because if we can give it all up in the blink of an eye, then we are truly free.
Does that mean we are to give up every valuable thing we possess? Only if the Holy Spirit dictates it. Remember, the “system” is different now. We must follow the leading of the Holy Spirit just like Abram did, not the voice of mortal men with hidden agendas.
“The Spirit of truth… he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears…” John 16:13
In the New Covenant era, each one of us only gives as much or as little as the Holy Spirit dictates, much like Abram willingly and cheerfully gave to Melchizedek. And the Holy Spirit needs no human intermediary between you and Him.
“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
The law of the tithe was followed grudgingly and out of necessity. Tax (tithe included) collectors were despised, and even Jesus knew how bad the system was or had become.
“If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” Matthew 5:46
With the New Covenant we have the freedom to give it all or to give little or not to give at all. However:
“Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” Luke 6: 38
We have so much liberty with the New Covenant that many Christians have become scared of it. So they retreat to the Old One and into the arms of obsolete laws, away from the Spirit of Grace and Faith.
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” Galatians 5: 13
Don’t be afraid of your freedom, bask in it.
“Now the Lord is that life, and where the life of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3: 17
WHO DO WE GIVE OUR MONEY TO?
First, we take care of our immediate family. And second, whatever we purpose to donate, we give a) to those in our extended family or household who are in need, and b) to those outside our family who are poor, needy, or struggling – Christians firstly and others next. See The Family is God’s Plan.
“But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God,” he is not to honor his father or his mother.’ And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.” Matthew 15:5,6
“But if someone doesn’t provide for their own family, and especially for a member of their household, they have denied the faith. They are worse than those who have no faith.” 1 Timothy 5:8
“Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry And bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?” Isaiah 58:7
” ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?‘ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ ” Matthew 25: 37-40
“…let him labour, working with [his] hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.” Ephesians 4:28
That’s how God blessed the latter days of Job. He multiplied – through Job’s hard work – the money his brothers, sisters, and friends gifted him in order to afford him a fresh new start.
“Then came there unto him all his brothers, and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance before, and did eat bread with him in his house: and they bemoaned him, and comforted him over all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him: every man also gave him a piece of money, and every one an earring of gold. So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning…” Job 42:11,12
In other words, we give to those we personally know and to those God puts in our path. If everyone did that, the world would be a better place.
For an in-depth look see Who Should Christians Give their Money to?
A biblical church gathering takes place in a home. See Church Services Are NOT Biblical for an exposé.
“To the assembly in your house.” Philippians 1:1
“When you go into a household, greet it.” Matthew 10:12
“Likewise greet the assembly that is in their house.” Romans 16:5
“He came to the house of Mary… where many were gathered together praying.” Acts 12:12
“…from house to house, testifying to Judahites, and also to Greeks…” Acts 20:20,21
“Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.” Acts 28:30,31
It is a waste of valuable resources when a “church building” is bought or rented because with the New Covenant the real building or temple is each individual Christian.
The Old Covenant TEMPLE principle – with its altar and a Levite High Priest hovering over everyone – is no longer in effect. Christians themselves are now the new Temple, and Jesus their new High Priest.
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” 1 Corinthians 3:16
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.” Hebrews 4:14
Nowhere in the bible is the command given to buy or rent a building for gathering purposes. If a house is not available, then another appropriate location must be found. The key is not to pay for it. Jesus and the Apostles showed us how to go about getting it.
“Ask and it will be given to you…” Matthew 7:7
“Say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says, ‘Where is My guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?’ ‘ ” Mark 14:14
“There were many lamps in the upper room where they were gathered together.” Acts 20:8
A successful gathering means not having a sardine-packing mentality of hundreds or thousands. Not only would biblical participation of each individual be impossible, money would also be wasted on big buildings while many in the flock go through hardship.
Let God open a door where His people can gather. If the gathering is too big, then split it. In terms of size, think of a home bible study gathering. The smaller the group, the better for all to participate as dictated by the bible. See Church Services Are NOT Biblical for an exposé.
The law of the tithe was part of a Levitical system that is now obsolete and does not belong in the body of Christ.
“They shall raise their voices against the malicious ones…” Mark 16:17
It is being used by deceitful men who seek 1) to draw a salary rather than get a normal job or ply a trade like the Apostle Paul did, and/or 2) to meet unnecessary expenses generated by “church buildings” purchased or rented to impress the flock.
“Paul lived and worked with them, for they were tentmakers just as he was.” Acts 18:3
“What business is it of mine to judge those outside the assembly? Are you not to judge those inside?” 1 Corinthians 5: 12
They realize that biblically you should not give them any money.
“…overseeing them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind…” 1 Peter 5:2
So they wield the obsolete law of the tithe as a sword above your head or under your throat, while they simultaneously proclaim that you are free from the bondage of obsolete laws.
“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive…” Ephesians 4:12
The work of ministry is to be performed by volunteers only, as Jesus never meant for his church assembly to be a 501c3 corporation nor for it to run on money. See Understanding the Duties of Ministry for an exposé.
“On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this… in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. This we commanded you: that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” 2 Thessalonians 3: 8-10
What kind of example or model would a ministry worker or shepherd be if he were working for God because of a paycheck? That’s why the Apostle Paul refrained from taking money so as to be the example he wanted us to follow in ministry. The moment someone is financially compensated, he is no longer doing it for God. He’s doing it for a paycheck. No one can serve two masters.
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Matthew 6:24
However, there are mammonists who will use the following passage to try to prove that Shepherds/Pastors can get paid. See Church Services Are NOT Biblical for an exposé.
“The elders who oversee the affairs of the assembly well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.” 1 Timothy 5: 17,18
Here’s how Christ defined such wages.
“Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages… eat what is set before you…” Luke 10: 7,8
Wages = Food and/or free lodging. So much so that the Apostle Paul said this:
“…nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it.” 2 Thessalonians 3:8
When an ox is treading out the grain, it’s eating the very grain that is set before it to tread while it’s working. In the same manner, these wages or meals are given to God’s servant to sustain the body while doing God’s work. Biblical wages are not physical money. They are rewards for particular deeds.
“For the wages of sin is death…” Romans 6: 23
This can’t be stressed enough. Ministry money is always for the poor and needy, whether they’re in want for food, clothing, shelter, health care, education, bible, etc. All of it should go into helping them directly. A ministry should never be a means to an end for someone to earn a salary.
“In all things… we must help the weak …” Acts 20:35
“Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord.” Proverbs 19:17
Imagine all the suffering that would be alleviated today if all ministries on earth were to use the totality of the money they receive, along with the totality of their holdings, towards only helping one another.
“…sell all that you have, and give it to the poor…” Matthew 19:21
It’s time to be radical. Like Jesus.
“For there was not a needy person among them …(as the proceeds were)… distributed to each as they had need.” Acts 4:35
Read also: Jesus was not a Jew
Read also: Whatever Happened to the Hebrew Tribes?