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Is Tithing Biblical?

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Author/Source: Mark Harper

Topic: Tithing

What's the deal with tithing? Do you have to do it? What if you don't?

I gave my life to Christ on September 12, 1976 when I was 17 years old. I didn’t tithe right away, but began to tithe when I was 19 years old. The thought of not tithing has not entered my mind since then. It has been one of my Christian disciplines, just like reading the Bible and prayer.

Over the past few years I have been surprised to see many blogs and posts against tithing. Some people even accuse the preachers that teach on tithing as being dis-honest or even crooks. This seems harsh to me, but maybe it’s payback for all the times the anti-tithers have been accused of robbing God.

The heated debate caused me to re-examine my position on tithing for the New Testament believer.

No one seems to disagree that tithing is in the Bible. There are numerous scriptures in Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Malachi about tithing.

Tithing – was the system that God set up to support the Levitical priesthood. In addition to tithing there was also a system of offerings. If you sinned you were required to bring a trespass offering to the temple. The guilty party furnished an unblemished ram as a living sacrifice. The blood of the ram paid the price for their sin. (It was expensive to sin under the old covenant.)

Here are the questions I am proposing to answer:

  •     Is tithing for the New Testament believer?
  •     How come the New Testament does not say more about tithing?
  •     Does God want me to tithe?

Is Tithing for the New Testament Believer?
The word “tithe” is mentioned three times in the New Testament.

  • In Matthew 23:23, Jesus talks to the Pharisees, condemning them for being legalistic about tithing but neglecting the more important issues of justice, mercy and faith. Jesus then goes on to tell them that they should in fact tithe, but that they shouldn’t neglect the more important things. The pro-tithers say that this is important because Jesus recognized the importance of tithing. The others say that Jesus was talking to people who were still under the law. There is truth on both sides of the argument.
  • In Hebrews 7:1-10 the author of Hebrews refers to the time that Abraham gave a tenth of his plunder to Melchizedek. We do not know for sure who Melchizedek is. He seems to show up out of nowhere and there is no record of his birth. Many Bible scholars believe Melchizedek is a pre-incarnate visitation of the Lord.

This story of Abraham paying tithes is important because it takes place hundreds of years before the law. There was no Levitical priesthood and there was no requirement to tithe. Abraham tithed in response to God’s blessing on his life. This is a good example for New Testament tithing as it was voluntary.

•  In my humble opinion the best argument for New Testament tithing is found in 1 Corinthians 9:13-14.

Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.

In chapter nine of First Corinthians the apostle Paul is talking about supporting those who preach the Gospel and he refers back to the Levitical Priesthood. He even says that New Testament preachers should be supported “in the same way” as the Levites.

One thing that the anti-tithers never seem to address is this, how do we support the church if we stop tithing? It’s almost as if some of them are not only anti-tithe, they are also anti-church. Think about it.

What would happen to the Church if we all stopped tithing? It’s not a pretty picture.

Ministry in the local church is different than any other profession in that preachers cannot charge for the services they provide.

The reason for this is two fold: First of all the Lord does not want hirelings. A hireling is someone who is in ministry just for the paycheck. Secondly, we want unbelievers to come to church.Unbelievers are not going to support the church, so it is vital that those of us who do believe support the preaching of the gospel.

If someone has a better idea of how to support the Gospel, I’m all ears. If not with tithes and offerings then how do we support the church?

How Come the New Testament Does Not Say More About Tithing?
I think it’s a fair question. This is my opinion. (You certainly are entitled to your opinion, but it’s my blog so I get to go first.) There are three reasons why the New Testament does not say more about tithing.

The Apostle Paul avoided using the word tithe so there was no confusion about the grace of God. In the early church believers were transitioning from Judaism to Christianity. In Judaism the tithe was what supported the priesthood and you had to see a priest to get your sins forgiven. There was a direct line between tithes, offerings and their forgiveness. When Jesus cried “It is finished”, the veil in the temple was torn and everything changed. Jewish Christians did not pay their tithes to the priest, but what should they do with their money? Paul taught Christians to give their money to support the preaching of the Gospel.

  • New Testament tithing is voluntary. Tithing was required under the law, but not under grace. New Testament tithing is more than a financial transaction; it is part of our worship. When we tithe it is honoring to the Lord and demonstrates our gratitude. Does God want me to tithe? Yes, but he wants me to tithe out of my love for him, not because I have to.
  • In the Old Covenant the tithe belongs to God. In the New Covenant we belong to God. It’s kind of like getting married. “The two become one.” It’s hard to separate what belongs to God and what belongs to me.

It’s interesting to note that every example of New Testament giving exceeded the tithe. My question for the those who don’t believe in tithing is: Are your giving more than the tithe? If not, then I find your belief to be way too convenient.

Does God Want Me to Tithe? 
GET THE BIG PICTURE: This is what happens when believer’s tithe:

  • Tithing is honoring to God.
  • Tithing promotes spiritual growth. As with any act of obedience tithing causes me to grow spiritually. After being in ministry for over 30 years I have noticed that people who tithe are the most mature people in the church.
  • Tithing provides the church with resources to reach the lost. It may take a while for new believer’s to begin tithe, but when they do it gives the church the resources to reach more people for Christ.
  • Every time I give to the Gospel I am laying up treasure in Heaven.

Am I robbing God if I don’t tithe? No, tithing in the New Testament is voluntary, however it is to my advantage to tithe.

Tithing helps God
It helps me
It helps my church
It helps believers
It helps unbelievers
And I am laying up treasure in heaven.


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