Tithing or Giving?
By Arthur J Licursi
Tithing does not apply to Christians today living under “the dispensation of the grace of God.” We will examine the history of the tithe to see when it applied and who it applied to.
Due to not “rightly dividing the word of truth” for today many are deceived by preachers into thinking tithing can earn them favor with God by tithing. Most recognize how most Christian religionists preachers use the idea of the tithe to extort money from believers. Paul ranks extortionist with fornicators.
Of course, a true Bible student would know that God’s favor cannot be ‘bought.’ Today our grace relationship with the Lord works on the basis of God’s pure grace, and faith alone… in Christ alone.
It is sad that most pastors and so-called Bible teachers among the various divisions of Christendom use the idea of the “tithe” to extort money from the Lord’s blood-bought children. Of course, we see this abuse among nearly all the TV preachers who preach or imply that you can by your giving and tithes buy the blessing of God. Such sacrilege will not go undealt with.
Let’s search the Scripture to see where and how tithing fits in its context within the Bible.
Tithing Under Israel’s Law of Moses
There were three ‘Tithes’ different that were to be paid by Israelites under Old Testament Mosaic “Law.” These three tithes totaled 22% a year. In addition, there were other offerings to be made by Israelites, but these are not addressed herein.
- First, per Leviticus 27:30, 32 (see below), there was the ‘National Tithe,’ actually a ‘tax’ on the “gross” of Israelite’s harvest or herd to be paid unto the ‘Israel’s Treasury’ (Neh. 13:12), to support Israel’s theocratic government that was administered through the Priesthood, all of whom were Levites. The Levites had no land as the other eleven tribes were assigned. This was a 10% Tithe of the harvest of the land and the herd, every year, to be brought into the storehouse for the benefit of the Levites and the function of worship at the Temple.
- Then, per Deut. 14:23-26 (see below), there was the ‘Festival Tithe’; this on the “net” remaining after the National Tithe. It was to be used for the Festival worship in Jerusalem, to cover travel and food & drink cost, and... to buy an offering if they lived too far from the Lord’s chosen place (Jerusalem) for them to bring their 10% of their net gain with them. This ‘Festival Tithe’ was calculated after the ‘National Tithe,’ so this is a 9% tax every year.
- Also, per Deut. 14:28 (see below), there was another ‘Tithe’ of ‘the net’ that was payable every “third year.” This is for assistance to the needy “the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow” in one’s locality. This 10% of the net after the National Tithe paid each year over 3 years at the rate of 9%, which amounts to 3% per year.
The three tithes totaled 22%. This of course was upon those of the Nation of Israel only and has no application to “the church… the body of Christ.” At the time of Moses Law, all Gentiles were “aliens and strangers from the Law and covenants of God, being without hope and without God in the world.” (cf. Eph. 2).
Leviticus 27:30 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. Leviticus 27:32 32 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.
Deut.14:23-26 And thou shalt eat before the Lord thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name (Jerusalem) there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the Lord thy God always. 24 And if the way be too long for thee (too far), so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the Lord thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the Lord thy God hath blessed thee: 25 Then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the Lord thy God shall choose: 26 And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after (desires), for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine (to offer), or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the Lord thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household,
Deut. 14:28-29 At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates (your local town): 29 And the Levite, (Priest) because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.
2 Chronicles 31:5 And as soon as the commandment came abroad, the children of Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of corn, wine, and oil, and honey, and of all the increase of the field; and the tithe of all things brought they in abundantly.
Nehemiah 13:12 Then brought all Judah the tithe of the corn and the new wine and the oil Unto the Treasuries. (of the Nation Israel)
Matthew 22:17-22 17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? 18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? 19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. 20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? 21 They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. 22 When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.
Thus, “tithing” has absolutely nothing to do with us today as members of “the body of Christ” who are “saved by Grace through faith” and who “are NOT under the Law” (Rom. 6:14).
So, how exactly does Israel’s program of tithing apply to us as grace believers today? IT DOESN’T!
Paul is “THE apostle to the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:13). Under Paul’s “the dispensation of the grace of God” (Eph. 3:2) there is NO TITHING. Yet, it exists as a gross error that persist today in most man-controlled church organizations of Christendom. The “body of Christ” is not Israel! We do not today live under Israel’s program with God.
Let’s look briefly at the three tithes for Israel under “the Law,” versus Paul’s ‘grace’ program for today. Paul wrote: “… for ye are not under the law, but under grace. Romans 6:14b (KJV)
1) The ‘National Income Tithe’ of 10% does not apply today since we as Christians are not of the Nation Israel, but rather “the body of Christ.” We have only to support the USA. So, if you want to tithe, it should be unto the U.S. Treasury.
Note that in the day of Jesus of Nazareth, Israel was under the rule of the Gentile Romans. Jesus told His disciples to pay taxes to Caesar. “... Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. (Matt. 22:21) We could say, if Pastor’s really supported the ‘National Tithe,’ they should instruct the people to send the check to the US Treasury.
The ‘National Income Tithe’ was a 10% ‘Tithe of the harvest of the land and the herd,’ every year, to be brought into the storehouse for the benefit of the Priestly tribe of the Levites and the function of worship at the Temple.
In Paul’s day there were no paid Pastors, assistant Pastors, choir directors or ‘church buildings’ to support as we see today and not Board of Directors to manage these affairs. These are of man and for man. Christians met in homes as seen throughout Paul’s thirteen epistles. Paul frequently mentions those who met in “the house of...” ‘Church buildings’ only came after the year 315AD or so, under Rome’s Emperor Constantine. Protestantism continued the Roman penchant for grandiose buildings, as most do today. Commonly, over 80% of the local church budget is for the building and staff… what about the poor?
2) The ‘Festival Tithe’ does not apply to the members of the “body of Christ” has no city such as Jerusalem (as Israel did) to travel to in order to worship. We under grace “worship God in spirit” (John 4:4). Today Christ indwells us as His living temple (1Cor 3:16, cf., Col 1:27). We have no temple except the real temple, called “the church, body of Christ,” which is the body of believers in whom He dwells.
We have no need of a priesthood as an intermediary, we have a direct personal relationship with Christ as our one mediator. “... there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;” (1 Tim. 2:5)
3) Since today we do still have the needy, Paul only encourages believers to give to the necessity of needy believers, willingly.
Thus, it appears from Paul’s writing that this kind of giving for those in need is the only legitimate issue. Recall hos Paul raised money of his grace believers for the starving Messianic Jews at Jerusalem. (Romans 16:26, Acts 11:27-30). Yet, we may give as the Lord leads us to, for individuals, and those in the Lord’s work as the Lord personally leads us to; but not as a salary. Salaries determined by a Board of Director means those Directors can call the tune the Preacher must dance to. This could affect and corrupt the preacher’s Christ-led ministry.
Paul, as “THE Apostle to the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:13) instructs the members of “the church, which is His body,” as follows.
The following includes excerpts from the words of Les Feldick.
In 1 Cor. 16:1-2 (below) Paul is dealing with the matter of ‘giving’ to the needy. Here he comes down to the nitty-gritty of, “How we’re to give.” I’ve got nothing against giving. But we are NOT under ‘the tithe.’ I know this is going to ruffle a few feathers, but remember the tithe was part of “the Law.” The Tithe was given to the National Government of Israel under the rule of “the tribe of Levi.” If we could ask some of our Jewish friends whether they teach tithing today, I’d be very surprised if they would say yes. Because they too do not know who the Levites are today; I just have to doubt that good Jewish people still tithe in accord with the Scriptures.
Always remember that the Apostle Paul never says ‘tithe,’ because that was part of Israel’s “Law,” but that doesn’t say that God doesn’t expect you to “give” to the needy. Look how Paul puts it. I Corinthians 16:1a “Now concerning the collection (of money) for the (needy) saints...”
At one point, Paul instructed the believers to remember the poor Messianic Believing Jews at Jerusalem. Why them? They had cashed in land and everything they had and brought the money to the feet of ‘the Twelve Apostles.’ It all went into a common kitty back there in Acts Chapters 2 and 3 in light of “the Kingdom.” They had to live off the kitty and I imagine it was a pretty good existence for a while. But the Kingdom did not come because the Jews had rejected it. What happened to these poor Jewish saints? God took care of them through Paul’s Gentile grace converts, and the money was collected and taken to Jerusalem for them.
I Corinthians 16:1-2 “Now concerning the collection for the saints, (starving Jewish saints at Jerusalem) as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye (at Corinth). Upon the first day of the week (not on the seventh day Sabbath.
Why first day of the week? (Resurrection day!) let every one of you lay by him in store, (As a ‘tithe’? No, but rather) as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.”
Now that’s the beauty of God’s Grace. He has left us with free will. We can give as much or as little as we want to, but God is not holding a law over our heads and saying, “You will give 10%! Now that may be a guideline. God more or less lets it be known that 10% is a guideline for giving. But God’s not going to zap you or love you less if you don’t give 10%. We live under the grace, the “free gift” relationship with the Lord.
Now, if we ignore the Lord’s moving in our spirit to give, then we may lose some Reward in glory (1Cor. 3:8, 14), but, under Paul’s teaching, you’re not under a mandate to give a set amount. It’s up to you as a believer to ‘give as God has prospered you.’ God has enough respect for your free will as a believer that you’re going to give as much as you can, happily give.
Actually, Paul told these believers at Corinth to take this particular offering before he came so that they wouldn’t be under his influence. He wanted it all taken care of before he arrived. Paul did not want them to dig down in their other pocket and say, “Oh, Paul is here, and he’d better see how much I’ve given.” But Paul wanted it a matter of free will and have it all taken care of before he got there.
Our Giving is to Not be the result of Extortion (see v5 below).
Many preachers you may hear today make God out to be an extortionist, as if He you can earn salvation, security and blessing by your giving. This is wrong! Any ‘works’ requirement would negate Christ’s cross-work on our behalf to be “in vain” (Gal. 5:4). The verses below concern giving to meet ‘the want of the (needy) saints’ (v12) and nothing more; there was no building program or clergy they were required to support. Like so many other verses, these below have been misused by many of the manipulative church and TV preachers. To understand these verses, we must see them in full context.
2 Corinthians 9:5-15 (AMP) 5 That is why I thought it necessary to urge these brethren to go to you before I do and make arrangements in advance for this bountiful, promised gift of yours, so that it may be ready, Not As An Extortion [Wrung Out Of You] but as a generous and Willing Gift. 6 [Remember] this: he who sows sparingly and grudgingly will also reap sparingly and grudgingly, and he who sows generously [that blessings may come to someone] will also reap generously and with blessings. 7 Let each one [give] as he has made up his own mind and purposed in his heart, not reluctantly or sorrowfully or under compulsion, for God loves (He takes pleasure in, prizes above other things, and is unwilling to abandon or to do without) a cheerful (joyous, “prompt to do it”) giver [whose heart is in his giving].
8 And God is able to make all grace (every favor and earthly blessing) come to you in abundance (not as a reward or it would not be grace), so that you may always and under all circumstances and whatever the need be self-sufficient [possessing enough to require no aid or support and furnished in abundance for every good work and charitable donation]. 9 As it is written, He [the benevolent person] scatters abroad; He gives to the poor; His deeds of justice and goodness and kindness and benevolence will go on and endure forever! 10 And [God] Who provides seed for the sower and bread for eating will also provide and multiply your [resources for] sowing and increase the fruits of your righteousness [which manifests itself in active goodness, kindness, and charity]. 11 Thus you will be enriched in all things and in every way, SO THAT you can be generous, and [your generosity as it is] administered by us will bring forth thanksgiving to God.
12 For the service that the ministering of this fund renders does not only fully supply what is lacking to the saints (God’s people), but it also overflows in many [cries of] thanksgiving to God. 13 Because at [your] standing of the test of this ministry, they will glorify God for your loyalty and obedience to the Gospel of Christ which you confess, as well as for your generous-hearted liberality to them and to all [the other needy ones]. 14 And they yearn for you while they pray for you, because of the surpassing measure of God’s GRACE (His favor and mercy and spiritual blessing which is shown forth) in you.
15 Now thanks be to God for His Gift, [precious] beyond telling [His indescribable, inexpressible, free Gift (which is Christ)]! (Author’s emphasis has been added to some verses throughout.)
Where to Give Today:
Today, giving does not necessarily mean give to a manmade church organization. It means giving to the needs of the needy saints and for the furtherance of the gospel. I personally give to no money to any church organization. You may want to give to a Haiti mission, “Love a Child,’ Richard Jordan’s Grace School of the Bible, The Billy Graham Ministry, and/or to needy individuals you know who are local to you, all as unto the Lord who impresses you to give. We are all free to give (or not give) … as the Lord leads us. Being under grace, we are not under any Law, certainly not in the matter of Giving.