I used to be the poster boy for tithing. I preached it as a mandate from heaven. The, “anointing” that would, “break the yoke” of financial hardships. The key to rebuking the devil and opening the windows of heaven. There was no one I knew that believed in it more than I did. Once, I even told someone that the reason they weren’t healed was because they didn’t tithe consistently enough (sorry about that, dad).
Yup . . . I was one of those Christians.
Then I went into a new season in my walk with God and big changes started taking place.
I made the decision that moving forward, I would no longer consciously accept something as true unless I could read it for myself in the Bible. I was upending every doctrine I could think of, throwing it onto the biblical conveyor belt, and watching to see what was left at the other end. And for a while, the concept of tithing flew under the radar. Like so many ideas we accept and hold dear, I just never thought to question that one. It was so ingrained I unconsciously put it above scrutiny.
Until one day, like cleaning out the attic and grabbing stuff piece by piece to see if it’s time to throw it away, I grabbed hold of tithing.
I knew it couldn’t be avoided any longer. It was time to confront the subject head on:
Does the Bible Command the Christian to Tithe?
By this time I had read through the New Testament at least a dozen times. And it occurred to me . . . God hardly (and I mean, hardly) ever mentioned it.
Once, in Matthew 23:23, when Jesus was talking to the Pharisees, (who were, keep in mind, teachers, and examples of keeping the law) He told them they should be tithing. And I realized that under the Old Covenant, if Christ had told them anything less, He would have been advocating the breaking of God’s Law. He commanded Jews not only to tithe but to keep ALL of the teachings of the Pharisees which would have included animal sacrifice along with every other mandate in the Torah (Matt 23:2-3).
So I quickly realized that unless we were trying to prove that Christians should be practicing all the Jewish ordinances, then this particular event in the Gospels could not be used for the tithe discussion.
Then the only other passage I knew of was in Hebrews 7:1-9. And it was pretty vague. I also noticed it merely mentioned tithing. It did not command Christians to do it.
And we need to be careful, here. Just because something is mentioned in the Bible does not mean God is commanding you to do it. It sounds like common sense, but this is exactly what people do with the passage in Hebrews. They assume that because God said the word, “tithe” that this is proof He wants them to do it. Just think how weird things would get if we consistently made that assumption about every word we read in the New Testament.
So, I had to be honest with myself and admit that just because the word, “tithe” was mentioned, does not justify the creation of the doctrinal dynasty we see today.
It was just too big of a stretch.
Tithing Before the Law
Now, some folks mention the fact that tithing took place before the Law. Abraham, for example, tithed.
But Abraham also had multiple wives, including his sister, made animal sacrifices, and killed a bunch of people.
Again . . . Just because it is mentioned, does not mean God is commanding you to do it.
I understand the temptation to scramble and reach for something . . . . . . . . . . Anything—- to keep a dying idea afloat, but you have to look at the broader picture. A sloppy approach to the Bible such as this is only going to open the door for all kinds of weird ideas.
Something else I had to confront about this idea is the fact that even if we were to assume the New Testament Christian was commanded to tithe,—tithe what and to whom? So, as you can see, there are multiple assumptions that would have to be made before you could arrive at the type of system you see being taught in many churches today.
What Does the New Testament Say About Giving?
Whenever I talk about this, there is always at least one person who thinks I am against giving to the local church, or other ministries. I am not. I’m not even against tithing if that is what you want to do. I’m merely pointing out the absence of it being a command to Christians. God says we should be giving, but that it should be according to what we purpose in our hearts and not grudgingly (2Cor 6:7).
That is the New Testament instruction on the matter.
Good News For Those Who Love Tithing
4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
5 For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.”
Notice how it says Moses writes about the righteousness of the Law. Another translation says, “Moses describes” the righteousness of the Law. When you can find a term that the Bible itself actually defines, it’s a good thing. So the righteousness of the Law is described here as a person who does the commandments and lives by them (ESV). Now, we know the Law, among other things, included a command to tithe. So keeping in mind that tithing is included, we could read it like this,
“Moses describes the righteousness of the Law as the person who practices the commandments, including tithing, shall live by them.”
Follow so far?
Now read this and watch for the same term, righteousness of the Law, to be used.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done
what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteousness of
the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
So you see . . . The righteousness of the Law (the doing of all the commandments, including tithing) has been fulfilled in those who are in Christ Jesus.
That’s past tense.
It does not say, “will be fulfilled if you try real hard.” It does not say, “You meet Jesus halfway with your efforts, and He takes care of the rest.” No, it says it already has been fulfilled. In who? Those who are in Christ Jesus.
So that’s you and me, right?
Remember what we’re talking about, here—-keeping the law, and in this case, tithing. That means the requirements of tithing have already been 100% fulfilled and completed in you by virtue of the fact that you’re in Christ Jesus.
Now, if you want to still try to tithe, that’s fine. But it’s important you know that it’s already been done for you.
So next time someone tells you there’s a Covenant Promise and the windows of heaven will open if you’ll just be faithful enough to give ten percent of your income, you can tell them, “I know! And I’ve already met the requirements!”