Should a Christian pay tithes?
While many Christians are generous in their financial contributions to the church other adherents offer very little financial support.
The paying of tithes is even considered unnecessary in some quarters of the church.
A Christian can give to the church with talent, time and financial contributions (tithes and offerings).
Addressing the issue of giving and tithing will go a long way in meeting one of the important needs of the church.
What is the tithe?
Tithes is the giving a tenth of one's income as an offering to God. Abraham was the first man ever recorded in the bible to give tithes to God. Read the full account in Genesis 14.
17 After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley).
18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High,
19 and he blessed Abram, saying,
"Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.
20 And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand." Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything. NIV
Melchizedek was the priest of the Most High God. The bread and wine he offered to Abraham had a close resemblance to the Lord's Supper. (Luke 22: 14 -23)
Hebrews 7 sheds more light on Melchizedek. Here he is called the priest of the Most High God. He was the only one qualified to receive tithes from Abraham. All this happened before the law was established. There is no record of Abraham, who at this time was still called Abram, being told to give tithes to God. Nor is any explanation given for Abraham's paying of tithes. It seems as if the tithes were a free will offering that Abraham instinctively knew he should give. He did it willingly.
Abraham's victory in battle led him to pay tithes. He was not paying a financial debt but offering a gratitude of praise and thanks to God with his tithes. Abraham was moved to give tithes not compelled.
Jacob gives us the second reference to paying tithes when he made a vow to God
20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear 21 so that I return safely to my father's house, then the LORD will be my God 22 and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth." NIV
Here Jacob was following a family tradition. Paying of tithes was an act of gratitude and acknowledgement of God's blessings. Giving was and still is an act of worship.
The giving of free will offerings to the Lord is as old as mankind. We all remember the story of Cain and Abel. Remember it was an offering that started all the trouble. Read Genesis chapter 4
Samuel warned the Israelites, when they asked for a King, that he (the King) would take a tenth of the income (1 Samuel 8: 15- 17).
The giving of tithes would seem to be an offering that demonstrates our acceptance of God as our Lord. It is a way of saying thank you to God. It has nothing to do with the law but everything to do with a grateful heart and a love for God.
Tithes and the law
Hundreds of years after Abraham had first paid tithes, the law of Moses was elaborating the validlity of tithes. The biggest argument against paying tithes seems to be with its association with the law. Although godly men before the Law fulfilled the practice of tithing, the Law of Moses made it mandatory.
Leviticus 27: 30 - 32 states that
30 "'A 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. 31 If a man redeems any of his tithe, he must add a fifth of the value to it. 32 The entire tithe of the herd and flock--every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd's rod--will be holy to the LORD. 33 He must not pick out the good from the bad or make any substitution. If he does make a substitution, both the animal and its substitute become holy and cannot be redeemed.'" NIV
The law of Moses also mentions tithes in Numbers 18: 21 - 29 in relation to it supporting the Levites, the tribe dedicated as priests of God.
21 "I give to the Levites all the tithes in Israel as their inheritance in return for the work they do while serving at the Tent of Meeting. 22 From now on the Israelites must not go near the Tent of Meeting, or they will bear the consequences of their sin and will die. 23 It is the Levites who are to do the work at the Tent of Meeting and bear the responsibility for offenses against it. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. They will receive no inheritance among the Israelites. 24 Instead, I give to the Levites as their inheritance the tithes that the Israelites present as an offering to the LORD. That is why I said concerning them: 'They will have no inheritance among the Israelites.'"
25 The LORD said to Moses, 26 "Speak to the Levites and say to them: 'When you receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the LORD's offering. 27 Your offering will be reckoned to you as grain from the threshing floor or juice from the winepress. 28 In this way you also will present an offering to the LORD from all the tithes you receive from the Israelites. From these tithes you must give the LORD's portion to Aaron the priest. 29 You must present as the LORD's portion the best and holiest part of everything given to you.' NIV
What is even more interesting here is the purpose for which the tithes were given. Read the above verses from Numbers again and you will realize that the tithes goes towards supporting the Levites who in turn give part of it as an offering to the Lord. When we take that in context with Leviticus 27:30 - 32, it becomes clear that the tithe had two purposes:
1. Supporting the work of God
2. Providing for his laborers (the Levites) and a third reason
3. To support the alien (stranger, homeless or disadvantaged) the fatherless and widow is also established in Deuteronomy 26
Read the following
9 He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; 10 and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, O LORD, have given me." Place the basket before the LORD your God and bow down before him. 11 And you and the Levites and the aliens among you shall rejoice in all the good things the LORD your God has given to you and your household.
12 When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied. NIV
A third reason for paying tithes is introduced here. To support the alien (stranger, homeless or disadvantaged) the fatherless and widow.
No one can argue against the value of paying tithes. It's purpose is well established in the law. Indeed without the law the value of tithing would have never been established.
Notice the term 'first fruits' are mentioned in Deuteronomy. Indeed this is what tithes are. They are the first portions that we take out of our income and offer in gratitude to God. Giving it in the support of His ministry.
The first fruits
When God brought Israel into the land of Canaan the first city they took was Jericho. God told them not to touch any of the spoil. (Joshua 6: 17 - 19) It was the Lord's. It was the first fruits of battle. It was their tithe. The next city to fall was Ai. Here they were allowed to take as much spoil as they needed (Joshua 8: 1 - 2). They had paid their first fruits or tithes with Jericho. Hence the difference.
Do you set aside your first fruits for the Lord?
Malachi 3: 3 - 12 gives God's mind with regards to paying tithes
"Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.
"But you ask, 'How do we rob you?'
"In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse-the whole nation of you-because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit," says the LORD Almighty. 12 "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land," says the LORD Almighty. NIV
But what does the New Testament say about tithes?
Not a lot. In fact the only references to tithing in the New Testament are Matthew 23:23, Luke 11:42, Luke 18:12 and Hebrew 7: 5 - 9.
So where does this leave tithing? The answer is - where it began. Please make sure you have read the previous notes above before continuing.
Tithing started as an instinctive offering of gratitude by Abraham.
All godly men would have done the same thing. Whether we call it first fruits, tithes or worship. There is something planted in the heart of man that knows it is right to give worship to God. Offering up to God part of what He has blessed us with is how we demonstrate and acknowledge His Lordship over us.
The giving of the law helped to establish the importance of many of the unwritten truths already known by god-fearing men. But when Jesus brought us faith there is no longer the need for the supervision of the law. Lets hear it from Galatians 3: 23 - 25
Galatians 3:23-25 reads
23 Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. 24 So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. NIV
In other words, the law was given to make things clear. Without the law we would not understand sin. Sin was around before the law but the law exposed it. Read the whole book of Galatians to get more insight into this truth.
The giving of tithes was also around before the law. Again the law helped in the establishing its importance and relevance. The law did not invent tithing, it only exposed it. We could say the same of sacrifice and obedience.
The absence of any direct command for a Christian to pay tithes in the New Testament does not relieve us of this great privilege of worship and acknowledgement of the Lord we serve. For this is what tithing is all about. Tithe is a helpful hint of where the dedicated believer should start his or her giving. Tithing is not an act to fulfil the law but a demonstration of our love for God. When God gives you a hint it is prudent to take it.
The need for tithing in the Household of God has not ceased. Remember tithing fulfils three needs in the Kingdom of God.
1. Supporting the work of God - Acts 4:32 - 35
2. Providing for the laborers and the work of the kingdom - 1 Corinthians 9:14, Galatians 6:6
3. To support the disadvantaged (strangers, homeless, fatherless e.t.c) - Romans 15:26, 1 Corinthians16: 1-2, Acts 11: 27 - 30
Everything we have belongs to God (Matthew 19:21).
Jesus commands us to give in Matthew 6.
Giving is not the issue. Most Christians, like Abraham, know instinctively that they should give to the work of God. The law of tithing shows us where to start.
2 Corinthians 9: 6 - 8
6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. NIV
How much has God laid on your heart to give each month (or week as the case maybe) to His work?
2 Corinthians 8:12
12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. NIV
A starting place for all of us is one tenth. Nothing less. We are not under law. We have a better covenant. God's love has been poured into our heart. As God speaks to your heart you will find the amount you give to His work increase.
Jesus taught us to give. Tithing teaches us how to measure our giving.
Let me try and summarise this teaching on tithing in one paragraph.
Tithing started before the law. It was an act of worship and dedication to God. It confesses His Lordship. Godly men (and women) tithed as they were led. The law made the need for tithing obvious. Malachi highlighted some of the blessings associated with tithing. The New Testament admonishes us to give. Tithing shows us how.
Tithing lets us know where to begin. There are only two real requirements with regards to tithing. Firstly, it should not be less than one tenth of your income and secondly, it should be the first fruit. In other words, the first thing you pay - an offering to God. Remember, He owns it all.
Tithing is your act of worship.
Lets end with the words of Jesus
13 No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."
14 Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him. 15 And He said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God. NKJV
John Wesley once said - Give ten percent, save ten percent and do what you like with the rest.
Become a shareholder in the work of God's ministry here on earth. Start tithing. It's a great investment for your future.
Questions for discussion
1. Who was the first person to tithe?
2. Who told Abraham to tithe?
3. What is the relationship between tihes and offering?
4. What does the law have to do with tithing?
5. What were tithes used for in the Old Testament?
6. Do we still have these needs in the body of Christ today?
7. What do 'first fruits' and 'tithes' have in common?
8. What does the New Testament say about tithing?
9. Should a Christian give money to the work of God?
10. How much should a Christian constantly give to God's work?
11. What blessings are there to giving money to God's work?
12. Should we give less or more than they did in the Old Testament?
13. If we give ten percent of our income, could we, even with God's grace, still manage to survive on the rest?
14. Is God's work worth ten percent?
15. Can you explain Luke 16: 13 - 16 ?
16. Why do some Christians find it hard to give to God's work