H O M E
B A C K
"CURSED WITH A CURSE"
THE TRUTH ABOUT TITHING
What the Scriptures REALLY teach about Christian giving!
"SHOULD THE CHURCH TEACH TITHING"
Russell Earl Kelly
"TUTHING IS UNSCRIPTURAL UNDER THE NEW COVENANT"
L. Ray Smith (Bible Truths)
"THE TITHE IS ILLEGAL"
Gary Amirault (Tentmaker)
BREAKING THE BONDAGE OF LEGALISM (PDF)
Jared Bartholomew

 

Introduction

The Christian history books are full of the workings of great iniquities and greater injustices. It is no surprise to learn then, that the subject of money and the corruption of wealth have always sat uneasily and closely to the heart of the most powerful Christian denominations and institutions throughout the world. From the crack theology of indulgences and penance promulgated by the early institutionalised church, to the  crystal cathedrals and mega church ministries of the modern era, millions of Christians the world over have lived and died under the yoke of unwarranted financial burdens place upon them by Clergymen, Pastors and leaders alike.

Today, the practice of tithing ones personal income to the church is taught almost universally across the denominational divide – 10% is usually the rule of thumb though some would go so far as teaching that this is the minimum requirement of Christian giving. The failure to do so (as it is often taught) would be to receive a “curse from God” or at the very least, would result in God removing His hand of protection and blessing.

As far as discussing the tithing debate, most begin with the Old Testament precedent, first recorded in Genesis 14:20. After winning an astounding victory in battle and retrieving his nephew Lot along with all his lost possessions, Abram thanked God by giving Melchizedek one-tenth of all he had. Then, in Numbers 18:21, we find tithing included in the Mosaic Law. Its purpose was to provide for the Levites, whom God wanted to concentrate on priestly duties.

 

While the New Testament contains no explicit command to tithe, many have argued that this relationship between the Levites and the other tribes of Israel prefigures how Christians should provide for their ministers. This view of tithing, known as parallelism, gained prominence in the church around the sixth century.

 

Yet few realise that the concept of tithing is in no way exclusive to the Jewish/Christian faiths, nor is 10% some Biblical “magic number.” The idea of paying a tithe was a common practice in the ancient world. Many non-Jewish and pre-Christian societies practiced tithing-like giving.

 

“In the ancient Near East lie the origins of a sacred offering or payment of a tenth part of stated goods or property to the deity. Often given to the king or to the royal temple, the ‘tenth’ was usually approximate, not exact. The practice is known from Mesopotamia, Syria-Palestine, Greece and as far to the west as the Phoenician city of Carthage.” Encyclopedia of Religion.

 

Some ancient sources describe how kings imposed a type of first-fruits tax to maintain holy shrines and support clergy. From Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonia to the temples of Apollo in Delphi and Athena in Athens, pre-Christian centres of worship collected tithes for their gods. Ancient cultures as disparate as the Greeks and Chinese - including the Arabians, Phoenicians, Romans, and Carthaginians - gave in ways mirroring the tithe. Some scholars believe ancient cultures hit on the seemingly arbitrary figure of one-tenth because they often did calculations on their fingers.

 

The early church’s views on tithing foreshadowed many of today’s stewardship debates. The Eastern Church began tithing out of obligation because they believed Jesus’ conversation with the rich young man demanded sacrificial generosity. Clement of Alexandria and Irenaeus pleaded with the church to surpass even the Old Testament tithe since Christ had freed them from the Law.

 

Later church fathers - John Chrysostom, Cyprian, Origen, and Augustine among them - complained from time to time that their followers lacked Christian charity. Chrysostom even shamed his stingy church for marvelling at those who tithed. He contrasted their amazement with the dutiful giving of Old Testament Jews.

 

The early church’s expectation that every Christian would tithe found formal expression at the Synod of Mâçon in 585, which embedded the practice in canon law. A millennium later, the Council of Trent sharpened this law’s teeth: it provided for excommunication if any Catholic declined to contribute his tithe. This, despite the stain in the Church’s monetary record that Luther had so recently uncovered in his critique of papal indulgences.

 

Post-Reformation Europe, however, didn’t do much better: in the centuries after Luther, secular governments often acted on behalf of the churches by collecting mandatory tithes. These more closely resembled American property taxes than Jewish monetary offerings! Without a state-imposed tithe, giving in the United States developed quite differently than in Europe. American church leaders originally emphasized the New Testament’s command to give freely and cheerfully, which some leaders have cited to advocate giving less or even more than ten percent. Since the mid-late 20th Century, Western Christianity has been at the forefront of the increasingly popular “prosperity based” movement, teaching that you must give to get  - material blessings being the hallmarks of Christian success.

But is tithing 10% (or more) of your income to your church actually a mandatory scriptural requirement of the (often struggling) New Covenant believer as bellowed from pulpits every Sunday morning across the world? Would you believe - NO! In fact the “10% tithing doctrine” as far as the scriptures are concerned, is nothing but a sham, an illegal and abusive church practice which has held New Covenant believers to ransom for centuries!

Many insist that “tithing” is a bonafide legal obligation for members of the New Testament Christian Church. How many times do church leaders continue to quote the prophet Malachi when he was sent to the priests and nation of Israel: “Wherein have we robbed Thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse….?” It is argued that since tithing was a form of worship to God, and since we still worship God, we must still tithe.” Oh really? Since burnt offerings were a form of worshiping God, and since we still worship God, must we still offer burnt offerings to God?...Ridiculous.

Yes indeed – “Will a man ROB God?” How many untold tens of thousands of men will give account one day for teaching this verse in Malachi 3:8 totally out of context for their own sordid gain - berating their congregations and listeners for “robbing God” by not paying their tithes and offerings. This verse in Malachi certainly means what it says. Someone was defrauding God of tithes and offerings, but wait until you find out who it is that God blames for this act!

 

THE TRUTH ABOUT THE “CHRISTIAN TITHING DOCTRINE”

A surprising biblical fact that every Pastor should come to terms with, is that the poor did not pay tithes, but, instead, received from the tithe! This fact is made especially clear in the gleaning laws and in the purpose of the tithe. Jesus did not tithe, nor did he sin by failing to tithe because he was poor and did not own land or herd animals for his sustenance. The poor were only expected to give free-will offerings to the best of their ability!

In the light of such facts then, are church goers everywhere really being “cursed with a curse” because they have failed to pay God ten percent of their paychecks? And should such a gullible listener decide to repent and give God ten percent of his salary, just how would he do that? Just keep reading. Many world renowned men and women of the cloth who often have unquenchable worldly desires of the flesh, will be sure to give you an address where you can send them (or, ah, rather God) your tithe. And do they have a right to quote these Scriptures in this manner? No they do not, and furthermore they themselves know better. Here are some facts about “tithing” that too few are ever taught!

  1. Abraham never tithed on his own personal property or livestock.
     
  2. Jacob wouldn’t tithe until God blessed him first.
     
  3. Only Levite priests could collect tithes, and there are no Levite priests today.
     
  4. Only food products from the land were tithable.
     
  5. Money was never a tithable commodity.
     
  6. Christian converts were never asked to tithe anything to the Church.
     
  7. Tithing in the Church first appears centuries after completion of the Bible.

 

 

Abraham and Melchezedek

We start our journey of deciphering what the scriptures have to say on the practice of “tithing” with Abraham. The story of Abraham gives us valuable insight to the usual customary practices of the ancient world regarding tithing. It is argued that this scenario is proof of God’s endorsement of such a practice to be made into a “spiritual pattern” for all God’s chosen people and for generations to come. But is that in any way true?

Gen. 14:20, “And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he [Abram] gave him[Melchizedek king of Salem, the priest of the most high God, Ver. 18] TITHES of all [all the goods of war, Ver. 16].”

We read again of this same event in the book of Hebrews:

Heb. 7:1-10, “For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of God Most High, who meets with Abraham returning from the combat with the kings and blesses him, to whom Abraham parts a TITHE also, from all... Now, behold how eminent this one is to whom the patriarch Abraham gives a TITHE also of the best of the booty. And, indeed, those of the sons of Levi who obtain the priestly office have a direction to take TITHES from the people according to the law... And here, indeed, dying men are obtaining TITHES... And so, to say, through Abraham, Levi also, who is obtaining the TITHES, has been TITHED, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek meets with him.”

This first mention of tithing in Scripture involves Abraham paying tithes to the mysterious character Melchizedek. Since this incident in Abraham’s life precedes the Mosaic Law and the Old Covenant by over four centuries, those who teach tithing invariably use verses 18-20 as proof texts. Their position teaches that, since tithing, like marriage and the remainder of the “moral” law actually preceded the Law, then they are “eternal principles” which were not invalidated when the Mosaic Law was replaced by the New Covenant at Calvary. To many, Melchizedek kept the worship of the true God alive over the centuries from the time of Noah until Abraham arrived in Canaan.

 

In approximately 2000 B. C. four city-state kings from around the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers invaded east of the Jordan River towards the southern end of the Dead Sea. Their leader was Chedorlaomer of Elam (v. 1). After travelling between 700-900 miles westward around the fertile crescent (of Mesopotamia), they defeated five small city-kings who ruled within a few miles of each other at the southern end of the Dead Sea (vv. 2-3).

 

After paying tribute for twelve years, these five rebelled (v. 4). The four kings of the east returned. Proceeding south from Damascus, they defeated numerous city-kings east, south, and southwest of the Dead Sea until they arrived at En-gedi. This placed them about twenty miles south of Salem. Instead of advancing towards Hebron, Mamre, and Salem, they turned back south and fought the five kings (vv. 5-7). Chedorlaomer was again victorious. He took Abraham’s nephew, Lot, all his goods, all the goods and food of Sodom and Gomorrah and started back home (probably retracing the route east) (vv. 8-12).

 

At that time Abraham (Abram) lived near Hebron which is located approximately midway between Salem and Sodom (vv. 13, 24). When Abraham heard that Lot had been taken captive, he took 318 trained servants and confederated Amorites and pursued the enemy (vv. 13-14, 24). Using a night attack, he defeated the enemy forces, rescued Lot, and retrieved all of the captives and goods which had been taken from the area of Sodom and Gomorrah (vv. 15-16).

 

On his return journey, Abraham stopped just outside Salem (which is probably Jerusalem). There he was greeted by the new king of Sodom who was ­ followed by Melchizedek, the king of Salem, priest of El Elyon. Melchizedek brought bread and wine to feed Abraham and his men. Then Melchizedek blessed Abraham (vv. 17-20).

 

Abraham next honoured Melchizedek by giving him a tenth of all the spoils of war that had been stolen from Sodom and Gomorrah (v. 21; Heb. 7:4). The king of Sodom insisted that Abraham keep the rest of the spoils for himself and only return the persons who had been taken from his area of rule (v. 21). Abraham told the king of Sodom that he had promised the LORD (Yahweh, Jehovah), whom he recognized as the El Elyon (Most High God), that he would not take any of the spoil (vv. 22-23). Abraham said he did not want the king of Sodom to boast about making him rich (vv. 23-24).

 

 

MELCHEZEDEK WAS A SEMETIC CANAANITE PRIEST-KING

 

14:18 “And Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought forth bread and wine….”

 

Interestingly, Hebrews 7:6 says of Melchizedek: “he whose descent is not counted from them.” Although much speculation exists, the text itself gives no evidence that Melchizedek was anything other than a self-appointed and self-named pagan priest-king similar to hundreds of others found in his era and in his vicinity around 2000 B. C.

 

 “The name of this mysterious person means either ‘king of righteousness,’ or ‘my king is righteousness,’ or ‘my king is Zedek.’ Zedek is the Hebrew word for ‘righteousness’ and also the name of a Canaanite deity. Melchizedek was the priest-king of Salem, which is the shortened form of ‘Urusalem,’ ‘city of peace,’ identified with Jerusalem. ‘Shalom’ is the Hebrew word for ‘peace’ and ‘Shalem’ probably was the Canaanite god of peace. This kindly priest-king, recognizing Abram’s nobility and worth, supplied refreshment and sustenance for the weary warrior and his men. These gifts were tokens of friendship and ­ hospitality.” (The Wycliffe Bible Commentary) 

 

Of course much fuss has been made of Melchizedek’s standing in regards to being a “spiritual” type or shadow of a future incarnation, but rest assured, he is simply that. If Melchizedek had been a true worshiper of Yahweh, then he, and not Abraham, would have been God’s choice for starting a chosen nation! Melchizedek was already an established priest-king in a large city in Canaan! Such logic destroys the entire Bible emphasis and need of Abraham! It was precisely because God could not find a man of faith in Canaan like that of Abraham that he sought out Abraham in Ur and Haran. Now, there are a number of things we can learn concerning tithing from this section of Scriptures. In this, the first mention of tithing in the Bible, Abram gives to Melchizedek a tithe of the best of the booty taken in war. Notice that this was not wheat, corn, wine, oil, or cattle from Abram’s personal possessions, but rather booty taken from conquered nations.

There is nothing stated here that would cause us to conclude that Abram (later changed to Abraham) ever tithed on a regular basis on his own person possessions. Although Abraham gave Melchizedek a tithe of the booty of war, he told the king of Sodom that he would take none of it for himself!

In this same account recorded in the seventh chapter of Hebrews, we learn that the priests of Levi, from the family of Aaron (although far inferior to the priestly order of Melchizedek) also receive tithes from the people according to the law. This tells us little more about the actual tithes other than they received tithes.

Of course, Christian scholar’s claim that Abraham’s tithing of the spoils of war predated the Law of Moses, and therefore even if the Law of Moses is done away with, tithing is still binding on Christians because Abraham predated the Law of Moses. Is this true? Christendom teaches that this Scripture is the first proof from the Word of God that Christians are to tithe ten percent of their salaries to the church. But what have we really learned from these Scriptures?

Well, Abraham went to war on behalf of Sodom (SODOM, mind you), to rescue his nephew, Lot. He then gave 10% of these spoils of war to Melchizedek, and allowed Sodom to keep 90%, while he himself kept NOTHING! Did you see that? Nothing!

Now then, is there a Scholar alive anywhere on earth that can explain to us how this one single unparalleled and never-again-to-be-duplicated event is Scriptural proof that Christians should give 10% of their annual salaries (not the spoils of war, but their money, their salaries), not once, but year after year after year, not to Melchizedek, but to Clergymen who claim to be ministers of Jesus Christ? Of course not – all this does is confirm what historians know of the economic customary etiquettes of the ancient biblical world.

 

 

Jacob

Naturally, the story of Jacob is the next portion of scripture used to qualify “tithing” (outside of the Law of Moses) as a universal principle for modern believers. Jacob was the grandson of Abraham, the father of the faithful, whom God also blessed tremendously. It cannot be argued. Indeed, not only did God approve of Jacob’s customary tithing proposal, but He made it the foundational principle upon which all future tithing by His chosen people - would be based!

“And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, IF God will be with me, and [if God] will keep me in this way that I go, and [if God] will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; THEN shall the Lord be my God: And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shall GIVE ME I will surely give the TENTH unto thee.” (Gen 28:20-22)

It seems clear cut enough does it not? The customary principles of the day would be adopted into the laws of the Israelite people. But is Jacob’s pre-Law promise to tithe, an example for the church today? This event certainly records the only other “pre-Mosaic Law” mention of tithing. Also, this is definitely not a spoils-of-war-tithe as in Genesis 14. However, although there may have existed a tradition to help the poor, Jacob, like Abraham, was not responding to a command from Jehovah to tithe to a particular ministry of holy service. The formal law was yet centuries future.

 

There are some important factors here that are too often ignored by tithing advocates. True to his character, Jacob made a rash vow promising to give God a tenth of all his possessions. However, Jacob’s promised tithe was conditional! This one Scripture pretty much contradicts 99% of all sermons on the subject of tithing! This is the very first Scripture in the Bible that gives an account of someone giving a tenth or tithe of his personal possessions back to God. But, oh how different it is from the teachings of most Christian Churches!

First Jacob truly recognizes God as God. He then begins to proposition God. He states that “IF” God will do this and “IF” God will do the other things, “THEN” Jacob says, “shall the Lord be my God.” Jacob concludes his proposition to God, should God meet all of his requirements, by saying that of all the things that God will first give to Jacob, Jacob will give God back a tenth. How funny! And God honoured Jacob’s proposition! Again, God continued to honour this same principle of tithing all through Israel’s history. As Paul said, “Now what have you which you did not obtain?" (I Cor. 4:7) Indeed - All that we possess comes from God.

Jacob set the conditions, not God. Jacob made a vow to tithe; God did not ask for it. Although God greatly blessed Jacob in Haran, there is no further mention of tithing in Jacob’s life (or in the book of Genesis).

 

In all fairness to the subject, we must ask ourselves, “To whom did Jacob give these tithes?” It is not enough just to say that he “gave them to God.” God does not reach down from heaven and receive them to himself! Like Abraham, Jacob was surrounded by pagan Canaanite priest-kings. If he gave a tithe to them, he would actually be promoting idolatry, child sacrifices, sex with animals, and worship-prostitution! There was no God-called Levitical priesthood to receive them. Neither was there a temple in Jerusalem as promised and commanded later in Deuteronomy. As head of his own household, Jacob, like all patriarchs from Adam until the Law, was a priest himself and did not require a hierarchy of priesthood. Unless we are willing to accept the extreme liberal contention that Abraham and Jacob are merely mythological traditions written after Bethel had a temple in northern Israel, then the question is surely valid.

 

Again, as the head of household before the law, Jacob served as his own priest. He built altars to Yahweh and sacrificed on them (Gen. 35:1, 10). He asked for “food to eat and clothes to wear.” He promised to give God “a tenth of all that you give me." Was Jacob promising to give God a tenth of food and clothes? How would he do that? We do not know. Perhaps Abraham, Isaac and Jacob built and dedicated shrines to Jehovah (Yahweh). They could then bring food to those shrines for the poor and needy. We know that Jacob did build an altar at Bethel. However, if any commandment to tithe had been involved, there would have been no room for bargaining.

 

Both Abraham’s tithe and Jacob’s tithe are completely out of context with tithing in the Mosaic Law. However, it must be pointed out that, under the law, Israel would later consider even the dust of the Gentile land as defiling and requiring ceremonial cleansing. Whatever Jacob did tithe, it originated in pagan Haran or (at that time) pagan Canaan and did not meet the exact definition of tithes given under the Law. Perhaps this is why his tithe is not used as an example by Moses. Of course, there is no prohibition against the source of the tithe from a holy land in the book of Genesis.

 

Again, to whom did Jacob (and Abraham) tithe when they were wandering nomads? Except for the unfounded claims that Melchizedek was a faithful true priest-king serving Yahweh, no similar claim is made for any of the other priest-kings in which territories Jacob and Abraham lived. Like the temple of the moon god in Haran, except for their own shrines, all of the other shrines and priest-kings were clearly pagan!

 

 

 

A DEFINING PRINCIPLE

Here is an amazing scriptural principle in regards to Israel as a nation. Remember this! Israel was not to tithe on what they did not first possess, unlike those today who teach that it is required to tithe on that which one does not already possess. God is not partial and God is not a hypocrite. This example of Jacob proves that God doesn’t expect a tithe until He blessed the tithe payer first! Imagine a Pastor preaching a sermon on how Jacob REALLY paid tithes to God. Now hold your breath.

So if Jacob couldn’t physically give a tithe to God by Celestial Express and couldn’t take it to the local church or to the Temple or give it directly to one of the Levitic priests (there were no Levites as yet) how then did Jacob tithe to God? Was it even possible? Yes, there were actually two different ways that Jacob could tithe to God:

“And thither ye shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your TITHES, and heave offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks: And there ye shall eat before the Lord your God, and ye shall rejoice in all that ye put your hand unto, YE and YOUR HOUSEHOLDS, wherein the Lord thy God hath blessed thee” (Deut. 12:6-7).

Here is something EVERY CHURCH GOER SHOULD TAKE NOTICE OF!

“And even though there were no Levites in Jacob’s day, nonetheless, there were...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 thin hand which thou doest” (Deut. 14:29).

Wow! We shall explore this further during the course of this study. That’s how God acknowledged a tithe from Jacob: By partaking of a portion himself and his family in communion and thanksgiving to God, and by sharing his fortune with those who were unfortunate, poor, strangers!

 

 

Summarising Old Testament Tithing

Biblical society was like any other sophisticated ancient society. It included bakers, candle makers, carpenters, clothing makers, hired farm workers, hired herdsmen, hired household servants, jewellery craftsmen, masons, metal craftsmen, musicians, painters, perfume makers, physicians, sculptors, soldiers, tanners, teachers and tent makers....the list goes on. Yet NONE of these professions or products from these professions are included in any list of tithes or tithing! Why not? These sources provided much of the money for head taxes, temple taxes, tribute to foreign conquerors and, of course, free-will offerings. It is inconceivable to think that God simply forgot to include them in the many lists of items to be tithed.

 

Only those Israelites who earned a livelihood from farming and herding inside Israel were required to tithe under the Mosaic Law. Their increase came from God’s hand. Those whose increase came from their own crafts and skills were not required to tithe products and money! The poor and needy who did not tithe and received from the tithe gave freewill offerings! My, my, how different to Christian tithing today!

 

Now we must remember, tithes were not the Same as First-fruits! The first-fruit was a very small amount of the first crop harvest and the first-born was the first offspring of animals. The first-fruit was small enough to fit into a hand-held basket (Deut. 26:1-4, 10; Lev. 23:17; Num. 18:13-17; 2 Chron 31:5a). First-fruit and first-born offerings went directly to the Temple and were required to be totally consumed by ministering priests only inside the Temple (Neh. 10:35-37a; Ex. 23:19; 34:26; Deut. 18:4).

 

 

DEFINING A “TENTH”

“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. And if a man will at all redeem ought of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof. And concerning the TITHE of the HERD, or of the FLOCK, even of whatsoever passes under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord. He shall not search whether it be good or bad, neither shall he change it...” (Lev 27:30-33)

The tithe comes from the “land” only NOT the air or the sea. Fishermen were not required to tithe fish. It was the “seed” or agricultural products from the fields that was holy to God and tithable. Products from “trees” were to be tithed. This not only included the fruit, but oils, etc.

And here is another profound fact about tithing that Pastors and teachers of the tithing doctrine should be downright embarrassed by. Of “herds or flocks” it was the “tenth” that passed under the rod that was holy and dedicated to God. Did you see that? It was NOT the first tenth, but rather the tenth tenth that belonged to God, contrary to every minister who insists that the first tenth always belongs to God. Unscriptural. Untrue. Read your bible--it’s the tenth one of a herd that belongs to God.

Not only that, but if a herdsman had but nine cattle, guess what? He didn’t tithe his cattle at all! Herein lays an almost unheard of truth regarding God’s character. GOD DOESN’T REQUIRE ANYTHING FROM PEOPLE WHO HAVE NOTHING TO GIVE!!! Amazing isn’t it?

And notice that God did not even require the best of the cattle, just the tenth one to pass under the rod even if it was the runtiest of them all. Remember, we are talking about tithing and not sacrificing (animals for sacrifice always had to be without blemish.) Teachers of the tithing doctrine just LOVE to mix those two up!

 

 

MOSAIC LAW

 

Now, tithing was an ordinance (statute) at the very heart of the Mosaic Law – Israel was a theocratic society lead by a strict religious code. Numbers 18 is the exact wording of that ordinance. As a society set apart by God, only national Israel was commanded to pay tithes! Almost every verse in the chapter makes reference to national Israel and her children under special covenant terms. This ordinance was never expanded outside of those Old Covenant terms of national Israel to the church.

 

Only the Aaronic priests among the Levites could “come near,” or “draw near,” to offer at the altar, enter the holy places, and touch the vessels and furnishings inside the sanctuary. Direct worship of God was only performed “by proxy” through the priests. There was no priesthood of believers; the priesthood of the head of the family had been set aside in the Old Covenant; and even most Levites could not directly worship God. Levites, who received the whole first tithe, merely performed servant duties for the priests. Even they would die if they “came near” to God. Of course, neither priests nor Levites could own or inherit property so tithes replaced all property inheritance rights. Of course most Pastors today get to have their cake and eat it! If any Pastor wants to abide by the “principles” of Old Testament tithing, maybe they should sell their house? Or is that not a “principle” for today...? Although they did not receive the whole tithe, priests were given heave offerings, firstfruits of the land, the firstborn of clean animals, vow offerings, and redemption money for the firstborn of men and unclean animals (Neh. 10:35-37b). Any extension of tithes and offerings should include these also.

 

Only Levites received tithes, not the priests. The tithe was paid to them for their servant duties towards the “anointed” priests. Levites did NOT perform the actual worship ritual. This aspect has also been largely forgotten today in attempts to re-word tithing for Christians. In Numbers 18, the priests, descendants of Aaron, those who actually performed the sacrificial ritual, did NOT receive tithes! They only received 1/10th of the 1/10th that was given to the Levites for all other forms of service (Neh. 10:38). Therefore, priests received only one percent (1%), or a “tithe of the tithe.” This aspect has also been largely ignored without valid biblical principles. Furthermore, tithes only consisted of food and were eaten. This is yet another unauthorized change of God’s Word in order to convert Old Covenant Law into something God never intended.

 

Since the priests’ share was always brought to the STOREHOUSE, God commanded the male priests to EAT it inside the holy places of the storehouse (18:10). However, since the Levites’ tithe was NEVER brought to the STOREHOUSE, God allowed them to EAT it “in every place, you and your households” (18:31). This agrees with Nehemiah 10:37b which commanded Israel to bring the tithe to the Levitical cities, and not to the temple storehouse in Jerusalem. Now take note! Malachi 3:10 only refers to the “tenth of the tithe” which was the portion brought FROM the Levitical cities INTO the storehouse!

 

Tithing was the very “heart” of the cultic ceremonial worship system! Tithing replaced the former system of the family priesthood and was foundational in making provision for the very existence of the Levitical priesthood in order that the religious, ceremonial, and cultic provisions of the law would be enforced (Numbers 3:6-13; 18:1,2).

 

 

 

LAND INHERITANCE

 

The whole “tithe” was given to the Levites, and the “tenth” of the tithe to the priests, as their inheritance in place of land inheritance because they served God! Period! God’s plan was that they would own no land, because He would be their inheritance (their land) through the possession of the tithe. As we have mentioned, this has certainly changed in our modern society where gospel workers usually own and inherit property, often have great wealth gained from the churches they serve, and still demand the whole tithe for themselves.

 

“Inheritance” and “land” are two of the most important concepts of the Old Covenant. While western religious thought speaks of salvation in terms of grace and faith, the Hebrew mind-set is more likely to speak of salvation in terms of inheritance and land. These are also key ideas in the doctrine of tithing because God described Israel, its land and its people, as his unique inheritance. “For you separated them from among all the people of the earth, to be your inheritance” (1 Kings 8:53).

 

In exchange for his service to God, the Levite and priest were denied land inheritance in Israel. This truth was repeated six times in seven verses in Numbers 18:20-26! The “no inheritance” rule for those who received tithes is also repeated in Deuteronomy 12:12; 14:27, 29; 18:1-2; Joshua 13:14, 33; 14:3; 18:7; and Ezekiel 44:28.

 

When Paul said in First Corinthians 9:14, “they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel,” he clearly meant gospel principles of grace and faith. Unlike many wealthy religious leaders today - for almost 300 years, until the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325, the vast majority of church bishops, presbyters, and deacons lived ascetic lives of self-denial and poverty in order to better serve the poor of the church. They fully understood what Paul meant.

 

 

 

TEN PERCENT OR MORE?

 

Now here is a question! Was the biblical tithe only 10%, or could it have been as much as 23 1/3%? In the Old Testament there were at least two, and perhaps three, separate tithes, averaging either twenty or twenty three and one third percent (23 1/3%) per year, instead of only one ten (10%) percent tithe. For two thousand years theologians have been split over whether these were all separate tithes or somehow merged into either one or two tithes.

 

The First Yearly (Levitical) Tithe, Numbers 18:20-21 For Levitical Inheritance

 

The Second Yearly (Festival) Tithe: Deuteronomy 12:1-19 and 14:22-26.

 

The Third Year (Poor) Tithe: Deuteronomy 14:28-29 and 26:12-13

 

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia states:

 

“There is thus an obvious apparent discrepancy between the legislation in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. It is harmonized in Jewish tradition, not only theoretically but in practice, by considering the tithes as three different tithes, which are named the First Tithe, the Second Tithe, and the Poor Tithe, which is also called the Third Tithe; compare Tob. 1:7-8; Ant, IV, iv, 3; viii, 8; viii, 22).

 

According to this explanation, after the tithe (the First Tithe) was given to the Levites (of which they had to give the tithe to the priests), a Second Tithe of the remaining nine-tenths had to be set apart and consumed in Jerusalem. Those who lived far from Jerusalem could change this Second Tithe into money with the addition of a 5th part of its value. Only food, drink or ointment could be bought for the money (Ma`aser Sheni 2:1; compare Deut. 14:26). The tithe of cattle belonged to the Second Tithe, and was to be used for the feast in Jerusalem (Zebhachim 5:8).

 

In the third year the Second Tithe was to be given entirely to the Levites and the poor. But according to Josephus (Ant, IV, viii, 22) the ‘Poor Tithe’ was actually a third one. The priests and the Levites, if landowners, were also obliged to give the Poor Tithe (Pe’ah 1:6).” [Admittedly, parts of this quotation are confusing.]

 

The third tithe reveals that the Levite was expected to be among the poor. Israel’s treatment of strangers, the fatherless, and the widows was extremely important. After being first mentioned in Exodus 22:21, and ten times in Deuteronomy, they are linked in Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, and the very important tithing text of Malachi 3:5 - a total of 21 times. God commanded Old Covenant Israel to care for the needy; it was not an option!

 

Again, the third year tithe remained in the towns instead of going to the temple storehouse in Jerusalem. In addition to the Levite, it included all others who had no inheritance. God made it the responsibility of the religious leaders to take care of the needy. Once again, one requirement for receiving from the tithe was lack of land inheritance in Israel.

 

In giving a portion of the tithe to the poor and needy, the Israelite was demonstrating his commitment to keep ALL of the law. Today, there is no valid biblical principle which allows the church to teach only one of the three types of tithes to support its ministers and then ignore the national festival tithes and the third year tithes for the poor and needy. Like the rest of the law, tithing was a complete package with three inseparable parts which cannot be divorced from the context of the entire Mosaic Law. Tell a Pastor to preach all that in “context!” Imagine trying to convince a congregation to give up to 23% of their income in a special series of tithes!

 

 

 

A LEGITIMATE TITHE!

 

Here’s another hurdle for the purists who maintain the “principle of tithing” argument. A Legitimate Tithe Must Come Only from the Land of Canaan! Oh dear!

 

When Leviticus 27:30 says “all of the tithe of the land is holy” it means the “THE LAND OF CANAAN” after God had sanctified it, not just any land! God’s Word does not say, or imply, all of the tithe “of the land of the United States,” or “of the land of Great Britain,” etc. It is not a holy tithe merely because it comes from “land” per se; it is only a holy tithe if it comes from “the sanctified land of Israel.”

 

Moses prayed in Deuteronomy 26:15: “Look down from your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless your people Israel, and the land which you have given us, as you swore to our fathers, a land that flows with milk and

honey.”

 

The reverence for the land is the reason that the body of Christ was not allowed to stay on the cross overnight. “And if a man has committed a sin worthy of death, and he is to be put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God) that your land be not defiled, which the LORD your God gives you for an inheritance” (Deut. 21:22-23).

                                                                                                             

Guess what? Tithing Was to Stop if Israel Were Expelled from Its Land!

 

12:19 Take heed to yourself that you do not forsake the Levite as long as you live upon the earth. (The NKJ, NAS, NIV, and RSV all read, “as long as you live in your land.”)

 

According to Deuteronomy 12:19, as long as Israel lived in its land, it was to give tithes to the Levite instead of land inheritance. However, should Israel be expelled from its land of Canaan and lose its inheritance, then the Levite would also lose his inheritance of the tithe from the sanctified land. Therefore, tithing should cease.

 

After the exile this was illegally modified to include lands on which Israelites lived in Babylon and Egypt, but even those inferior tithes were not holy enough to be brought to Jerusalem and stayed in the local synagogues for the poor. The basic concept that pagan dust defiled never changed as far as the temple tithes from Levitical cities in Israel were concerned.

 

Remember. Could just anyone claim to be a representative of God and therefore have Israel pay tithes to him? Let’s read it again “But the TITHES of the children of Israel ... I have given to the Levites to inherit.” Now in order to be a priest one not only had to be of the tribe of Levi, but he also had to be of the family of Aaron. In fact, if one could not trace his genealogy back to the family of Aaron, he could not be a priest of God. This is the whole point of Hebrews seven. Jesus Christ is a priest for the eons of the rank of Melchizedek because Melchizedek predated the law which stated that only sons of Aaron could be priests. Therefore Melchizedek’s genealogy is not given in the Scriptures, and Christ, who according to the flesh is of the line of Judah, can and will be God’s High Priest in the Kingdom of God.

There is NO temple of God being officiated in Jerusalem today. There is NO Levitic priesthood to officiate at such a temple. There is NO NEED for such a temple or priesthood. Only Levites could collect tithes at the temple. If we want to get “scriptural” or “factual” about tithing – then NO-ONE today should be collecting “tithes.”If one cannot historically trace back his genealogy generation by generation with no lapses to the family of Aaron, he IS NOT and CANNOT be a priest authorized of God at this time to collect tithes for the temple services and sacrifices. (Of course Jesus IS our Sacrifice, and therefore that whole system funded by the tithes of the law is no longer applicable.) Picky, picky some would say. Well, we have to be considering so many “tithe” collectors claim their authority from the scriptures themselves. “well it’s the principle that counts today” many will argue. We would do well to note that the summary at the very end of the book of Leviticus does not mention the tithing of money? Interesting huh!

 

 

Kings and Taxes!

When all is said and done, despite the ceremonial requirements and ordinances of temple worship and upkeep, the “tithe” historically, became little more than a tax. During the approximately 300 year-period of the book of Judges, tithing is not mentioned in the Bible. “Each man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judg. 17:6; 21:25).

There was no central government, no organized worship, and most of the Levites (who owned no land) became drifters and beggars among the various tribes of Israel. Worship of pagan gods was common. During the period of the judges, often several tribes were in bondage to neighbouring nations.

As long as the Levites only performed the routine and lowly servant tasks for their Aaronic brothers, their receipt of the tithe was probably very inconsistent, or even non-existent (Numbers 3, 4, and 8 all). Tithe collection would also be sporadic during reigns of foreign kings, foreign occupation, and during times of pagan apostasy. Some families even used ordinary Levites as personal family priests!

When Israel asked for a king to rule over them like their neighbours, God declared that they had rejected his reign and had replaced him with an anointed king. From ancient antiquity to the Roman Empire, the political ruler collected the tax-tithe of food, animals, and even subjected people in order to finance his government, pay government expenses, build government buildings and provide a national army. King Solomon even used forced labour of Israelites and non-Israelites to make many citizens work every third month on the king’s farms and on the king’s projects without pay.

As soon as Israel became a nation ruled by a king, the FIRST TITHE became part of national taxation which was collected and redistributed by the king according to his needs. First Samuel 8:10-17 says that the king, whom God would “anoint” as his representative, would take the “best” and the “tenth” which formerly belonged to God. The “tenth” was regarded as “the king’s share.” Of course, we know that ten percent was already a centuries-old tradition among Israel’s Canaanite neighbours and surrounding nations. Later, as witnessed in the reforms of King David, King Hezekiah, and Governor Nehemiah, politicians supervised collection and distribution of the tithe. We must remember that, under Ezra and Nehemiah, the best and first tithe-tax went to the conquering and ruling Persians. The tithes collected by these two leaders were only secondary.

 

DAVID’S USE OF THE LEVITES

David himself was not immune to “bending the rules” as far as legitimising a national tax under the guise of religious observance.

“And he gathered together all the princes of Israel, with the priests and the Levites.” [Civil and religious leaders are combined in a theocracy.]  (1 Chron. 23:2)

King David used tithe-receiving Levites as the core of his government! What does this tell us about how the tithe was used during the God-blessed reigns of David and Solomon? David clearly took over control of the Levites, and whatever tithes they might have previously collected. However, no tithes are actually mentioned in association with David. Tithes were most likely included as an additional part of the royal taxes paid directly to him, as was the situation in other surrounding nations.

Since God had been replaced as ruler by the king, it became the king’s responsibility to rule over the worship facilities, Levites and priests. This principle was later used to legitimize the “divine right of kings” to collect tithes in order to support a state church.

As temple workers, David re-organized the Levites’ work schedules under his political authority. Levites served in 24 divisions, each serving at the temple only a week at a time, or about two weeks per year (1 Chron. 24 all; Luke 1:5-6). During the construction of the temple David divided the 38,000 Levites as follows: 24,000 construction supervisors, 6,000 treasurers and judges 4,000 gatekeepers, and 4,000 musicians (1 Chron. 23:4-5).

Duties of 38, 000 Tithe-Receiving Levites as Religious/Political Workers:

24, 000 Temple Workers (23:4)

6, 000 civil and religious judges and officers (23:4; 26:29-31)

4, 000 civil and religious guards (23:5) (Neh. 13:22)

4, 000 singers (23:5)

4, 600 earlier served as soldiers (1 Chron. 12:23, 26) (1 Chron 27:5)

While preachers want us to think that Levites received the tithe because they were full-time workers for God, they are deceiving us! Look at the list above! As temple workers and supervisors of temple workers, they certainly must have been experts in crafts and trades! They were also politicians and soldiers. After the temple construction was completed, most likely many of the 24,000 Levites who were construction supervisors continued to serve the king in other roles. First Chronicles, chapter 26 is a very interesting chapter for those who want to know how their tithe was used. While only serving about two weeks a year in religious activities at the temple, the remainder of the time many Levites were still the core of the king’s officials. Inspired by God, King David used the Levites as the base of his POLITICAL support.

In their political role as servants to the king, the government consisted of “leaders, priests, and Levites” (23:2). There were 6,000 Levites who served as governmental judges and treasurers in the Levitical cities: 1,700 judged and collected revenue in one region of the country, 2,700 in another region, and (evidently) 1,600 in a third region (26:31-32). So scripture clearly records that Levites were for the outward business over Israel, (1) “for every matter pertaining to God,” and (2) “affairs of the king” (26:32).

 

THEOCRACY IN ACTION

A true theocracy combines both civil and religious taxation. God placed all of these verses in our Bibles to remind us that Levites were public officials of the state and tithes were included as state-taxation to support them. It is difficult for some to understand that the above “political” positions were supported by the tithe for sustenance of the Levites which allowed the king to use his first tithe-tax for other purposes. Using the excess Levites (who were already due ten percent) was a simple matter of good political money management by the king.

It is even more difficult to understand how Christian tithe-teachers can ignore this Old Covenant context of tithing as a political tax. Total taxation, including tithes, easily approximated forty (40) percent, which is comparable to that found in our modern society. In addition to wholly religious duties, the Levites (who received the whole tithe) performed normal governmental positions such as judges, treasurers, registrars, census takers, genealogists, building and city policemen, and social service workers!

Even the Jewish Encyclopedia, Encyclopedia Judaica, agrees that tithes were political taxes. “As may be learned from 1 Sam. 8:15, 17 and from Ugarit the tithe could also be a royal tax which the king could exact and give to his officials. This ambiguity of the tithe, as a royal due on the one hand, and as a sacred donation on the other, is to be explained by the fact that the temples to which the tithe was assigned were royal temples (cf. Amos 7:13) and, as such, the property and treasures in them were put at the king’s disposal. . . .”

The Keil & Delitzsch Commentary says, “All their possessions he [the king] would also take to himself: the good (i.e., the best) fields, vineyards, and olive-gardens, he would take away, and give to his servants; he would [take the] tithe [of the] the sowings and vineyards (i.e., the produce which they yielded). . . and raise the tithe of the flock. . . .”

While such action was not challenged by God’s prophets as being out of line with the Old Covenant Law, no Christian church would want politicians to handle its finances today. Yet, following the example of the Old Covenant should compel them to do so. However, since tithing is not New Covenant, we have no guidelines concerning its collection and redistribution. Principles, principles, principles! How church leaders love to pick and choose!

 

 

Priests and Peddlers

It is astounding the liberties taken by “Godly” ministers operating with immunity under state laws today. Nowadays there exist thousands of “ministries” outside of your church doors collecting tithe monies by the millions and millions of dollars annually. Shamefully, too many beg for more multiple millions of dollars to get them out of financial debt that they have accumulated during the year. Here’s a laugh. In the same breath they have the unmitigated gall to then offer their followers “three video tapes, $60 US entitled The POWER to get WEALTH,” to “STAY OUT OF DEBT!” Can you believe it? Would the word “hypocrite” be too strong or out of place here? Know this - The whole system changed under the New Covenant. Notice what happened:

  1. Jesus said the temple would be utterly destroyed
     
    “And, coming out, Jesus sent from the sanctuary. And His disciples approached to exhibit to Him the buildings of the sanctuary. Yet He, answering, said to them, 'Are you not observing all these? Verily, I am saying to you, Under no circumstances may a stone here be left on a stone, which shall not be DEMOLISHED.” (Matt. 24:1-2). 
     
  2. Under the New Covenant, God does not dwell in temples made with hands, 
     
    “The God Who makes the world and all that is in it, He, the Lord inherent of heaven and earth, is NOT dwelling in temples made by hands...” (Acts 17:24).
     
  3. The true believers under the New Covenant are now God’s temple, 
     
    “For YOU ARE THE TEMPLE OF THE LIVING GOD, according as God said, that I will be making My home and will be walking in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (II Cor. 6:16). 
     
    See also, (I Cor. 3:15 and I Cor. 1:19).
     
  4. All theologians know that when the temple ceased, the priesthood officiating at the temple CEASED!
     
  5. Each individual believer under the New Covenant forms a NEW priesthood, 
     
    “Yet you are a chosen race, a ‘ROYAL PRIESTHOOD’...” (I Peter 2:9).

How then, under the New Covenant, does a believer give a tenth, when he is supposed to give his all (Rom. 12:1), to a priesthood that does not exist, but now he himself is part of a priesthood (I Peter 2:9), at a temple that does not exist (Mat. 24:1-2), but rather he himself is the temple wherein God dwells? No longer do we have priests with spiritual infirmities interceding for us, but rather we have Christ Jesus as our perfect intercessor and High Priest seated at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens (Heb. 7:28-8:1).

At this time in history, Israel owes no tithe to anyone. And, of course, we Gentiles (who are a new creation and the true Israel of God--Gal. 6:16) were never instructed to tithe in the first place! Read all thirteen books of the apostle Paul to the Gentiles and find one verse where he instructed Gentiles to pay one cent of tithe money to anyone! Seriously!

Deut. 12:6, 7, 11, 12, 17, 18, “And thither ye shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your TITHES, and heave offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flock.

And there, ye shall eat before the Lord your God, and ye shall rejoice in all that ye put your hand unto, ye and your households, wherein the Lord thy God hath blessed thee.

Then there shall be a place which the Lord your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there; thither shall ye bring all that I command you; your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, your TITHES, and the heave offering of your hand, and all your choice vows which ye vow unto the Lord.

And ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God, YE, and your SONS and your DAUGHTERS, and your MENSERVANTS, and your MAIDSERVANTS, and the LEVITE that is within your gates; forasmuch as he hath no part nor inheritance with you.

You may not eat within thy gates the TITHE of thy corn, or of thy wine, or of thy oil, or the firstlings of thy herds or of the flocks, nor any of thy vows which thou vow, nor thy freewill offerings, or heave offering of your hand: But YOU MUST EAT THEM before the Lord thy God in the place which the Lord thy God shall choose...”

Let us learn. Who was to partake of all these tithes and good things of the herd and of the land and of the trees? Everyone (yes, the Levite was also included) was to rejoice before the Lord. Did anyone see "money" in the list of things they were to bring before the Lord to rejoice? Was it just the ministers (the Levites) who were the recipients of these tithes and offerings, or was not everyone to partake of these things? Rejoicing and eating one’s own tithe before the Lord, was a very personal and reverent act of worship and communion with God. Not unlike prayer. Others may share and profit from our prayers, but we offer them to God, not to men.

The following verses deal with a practice initiated by God Himself to accommodate those travelling long distances to the Festival Sites where they were to eat and rejoice before the Lord to learn to fear Him. They could sell their tithes of the land for MONEY, and carry that amount of money rather than the bulky and heavy tithes themselves, to the Festival Site. There they were to purchase whatever their hearts desired and to share it with the Levites and the less fortunate. These verses will be further explained later on.

Deut. 14:22-29, “Thou shall truly TITHE all the INCREASE of thy SEED, that the field brings forth year by year.”

“And you shall eat before the lord your God, in the place which He shall choose to place His name there, the TITHE of thy CORN, of thy WINE, and of your OIL, and the FIRSTLINGS OF THY HERDS and of thy FLOCKS: that thou may learn to fear the Lord thy God always.

And if the way be too long for thee, 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:

Then shall thou turn it into MONEY, and bind up the MONEY in your hand, and shall go unto the place which the Lord thy God shall choose:

And thou shall BESTOW THAT MONEY FOR WHATSOEVER YOUR SOUL LUSTETH AFTER, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for WHATSOEVER YOUR SOUL DESIRES: and YOU shall eat there before the Lord thy God, and THOU shall rejoice, THOU, AND THINE HOUSEHOLD.

And the Levite that is within thy gates, thou shall not forsake him; for he has no part, nor inheritance with thee.

At the end of three years thou shall bring forth all the TITHE of thine INCREASE the same year, and shall lay it up within thy gates:

And the Levite, (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 your hand which thou doest.

This third year of tithing is mentioned again:

Deut. 26:12, “When thou hast made an end of TITHING all the TITHES of your INCREASE the third year, which is the year of TITHING, and has given it unto the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled.”

Again we notice that Israel never tithed from their poverty, but on their INCREASE. Contrary to all the deceiving prosperity preachers in the world, God never intended for people to tithe on what they didn’t have, but only on the increase of what God gave them!

Paul never taught the Gentiles to tithe, but he did teach them to give freely from what they had, not from what they didn’t have:

“I want to suggest that you finish what you started to do a year ago, for you were not only the first to propose this idea, but the first to begin doing something about it. Having started the ball rolling so enthusiastically, you should carry this project through to completion just as gladly, GIVING WHATEVER YOU CAN OUT OF WHATEVER YOU HAVE. Let your enthusiastic idea at the start be equalled by your realistic action now.  If you are really EAGER TO GIVE, then it isn't important HOW MUCH YOU HAVE TO GIVE. God wants you to give WHAT YOU HAVE, NOT WHAT YOU HAVEN'T” (II Cor. 8:10-12, The Living Bible).

Wow – did you know this verse even existed? Yes, too many shamelessly hawk and huckster their ridiculous religious doctrines, trinkets, and wares over the air waves, like PEDDLERS, in the name of God, with total disregard for what the New Testament Scriptures actually sate.

“For we are not as the MAJORITY, who are PEDDLING THE WORD GOD...” (II Cor. 2:17, Concordant Version).

The word translated here “peddling” in the Concordant New Testament comes from the word "kapeleuo" which the Spirit of God inspired to be used in the original Greek text of this verse of Scripture.

Here is the meaning of the Greek word "kapeleuo" translated “peddler.” ‘To sell at retail, with the insinuation of improper profit, either by overcharging or adulterating” (Greek-English Keyword Concordance, page 220).

And notice that it is not just a few who “peddle” the Word of God, but Paul says, “...the MAJORITY...” are peddling the word of God! Contrast this insincere merchandising of the word of God with Paul’s motive:

“For we ARE NOT as the majority, who are peddling the word of God, but as OF SINCERITY, but as OF GOD, in the sight of God IN CHRIST, are we speaking.”

Just a few chapters later Paul informs us that one day we all will stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account of our lives, (II Cor. 5:10).

Chronicles tells us the same things we have already learned concerning what products were to be tithed.

II Chronicles 31:5, 6, 12, “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.

And concerning the children of Israel and Judah, that dwelt in the cities of Judah, they also brought in the TITHE of OXEN and SHEEP, and the TITHE of holy things which were consecrated unto the Lord their God, and laid them by heaps.

And brought in the offerings and the TITHES ...”

This next section of Scriptures deals with a special tithe and offering given to NEW priests and Levites set up by Hezekiah after cleaning house in the cities of Judah by destroying the idols and altars to pagan gods.

Nehemiah 10:37-38, “And that we should bring the firstfruits of our dough, and our offerings, and the fruit of all manner of trees, of wine and of oil, unto the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God and the TITHES of our ground unto the Levites, that the same Levites might have the TITHES in all the cities of our tillage. And the priest the son of Aaron shall be the Levites, when the Levites take TITHES: and the Levites shall bring up the TITHE of the TITHES unto the house of our God, to the chambers into the treasure house.”

Again, no mention of money, only agricultural products of the fields, and only the Levites and priests could have access to these tithes and offerings in the house of God.

Nehemiah 12:44, “And at that time were some appointed over the chambers for the treasures, for the offerings, for the fruitfruits, and for the TITHES, to gather into them out of the fields of the cities the portions of the law for the priests and Levites: for Judah rejoiced for the priests and for the Levites that waited.”

Nothing new in this verse that, we have not already discussed.

Nehemiah 13:5, 12 “And he had prepared for him a great chamber, where aforetime they laid the meat offerings, the frankincense, and the vessels, and the TITHES of the corn, the new wine, and the oil, which was commanded to be given to theLevites, and the singers, and the porters; and the offerings of the priests.”

“Then brought all Judah the TITHE of the corn and the new wine and the oil unto the treasuries.”

Same story: ONLY agricultural products, and ONLY to the Levites and priests.

Amos 4:4, “Come to Bethel, and transgress; at Gilgal multiply transgression; and bring your sacrifices every morning, and your TITHES after three years.”

Malachi 3:8-10, “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings…”

We shall cover the Malachi Prophecy is in much greater detail soon.

 

 

Ritual or Spiritual

Now this is where the real lesson must be learnt regarding “tithing” and in fact ALL Old Covenant practices. We must understand we are no longer under the letter of the law which kills.

“Now may it not be mine to be boasting, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything, but a NEW CREATION. And whoever shall observe the elements by this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, also on the Israel of God.” (Gal 6:14-16)

What is “...this rule...?” We are no longer doing things according to the flesh. Circumcision was the single most important ritual for a man in Israel to do. Yet circumcision is physical (of the letter and of the flesh,) even water baptism is physical (of the letter and of the flesh,) sacrificing animals is physical (of the letter and of the flesh), tithing is physical (of the letter and of the flesh,) etc., etc., etc.

“...God, Who also makes us competent dispensers of a NEW covenant, not of the letter, but of the spirit, for the letter is killing, yet the spirit is vivifying [giving life]” (II Cor. 3:6).

The physical is but a tiny microcosm of the spiritual macrocosm. Cutting a few centimetres of skin from a boy’s penis does not make him a spiritual man! But all of these rituals and ceremonies of the Old Covenant pointed to a future SPIRITUAL reality. True circumcision is not of the flesh, but of the heart, mind, soul, and spirit—it virtually has nothing to do with a few centimetres of physical skin.

“For not that which is apparent is the Jew, nor yet that which is apparent in flesh is circumcision; but that which is hidden IS the Jew, and circumcision is of the heart, in spirit, not in letter, whose applause is not of men, but of God” (Rom. 2:29).

Jesus Christ is not interested in the letter, in the physical, in the flesh.

“Now those who are in the flesh are not able to please God” (Rom. 8:8).

Even baptism is of the heart. The thief on the cross was not baptized in water, yet Jesus said he would be with Him when He comes in His kingdom. “...whoever are baptized into Christ Jesus, are baptized into His DEATH.” “His death,” NOT water. We shall look at this in a future study.

“We, then, were entombed together with Him through baptism into death, that, even as Christ was roused from among the dead through the glory of the Father, thus we also should be walking in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4).

It’s all about the SPIRIT – NOT water, foreskins, and money!

God doesn’t need or want ten percent of anything we have. God wants one hundred percent. Christ died for ALL OF YOU, and He wants ALL OF YOU, not just a percentage! God doesn’t want your money; He wants YOU!

You are already bought and paid for in full by Christ Jesus - don’t try to add your two cents. We are now to live on a standard far above what we ever knew before Christ called us to become new creatures in the spirit. This can only be done through the power of God’s spirit. And here is a verse that ALL prosperity preachers need to understand about living in the Spirit. Our flesh is profiting NOTHING!!!

“Yet you are not in flesh, but IN SPIRIT, if so be that God’s spirit is making its home in you” (Rom. 8:9).

One living in the spirit is not all concerned about physical things of the letter and of the flesh. The apostle Paul wasn’t called to “baptize,” “circumcise,” or “collect tithes.” The kingdom of God is not food and drink. Paul’s whole ministry was proof of that

If people feel they need to give something to God, something physical, something they can see and feel good about, then try this:

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove that is that good and acceptable and perfect, will of God” (Rom. 12:1-2).

The Apostle Paul said:

“Every man according as he purposes in his heart, so let him give, not grudgingly, or of NECESSITY: for GOD LOVETH A CHEERFUL GIVER.” (II Cor.. 9:7).

Do not give another penny to televangelists who peddle the word of God like some cheap merchandise for money. The amount of money they extort from the public is colossal. What in the world do they do with all that money? Never have SO MANY… accomplished SO LITTLE … with SO MUCH!

The real missionaries of the Gospel of Jesus Christ have never flown first class to cushy hotels in exotic lands to teach the natives while dressed in their $3000 suits! Real missionaries live down in the trenches with few if any luxuries. And there are still to be found such dedicated dispensers of God’s Word. These are the ones that are in need of financial support, for sure. These are those who truly are “worthy of their hire.”

If the Lord has chosen you to be in a situation where you can give after looking after your own household, then by all means give! Give to the fatherless, the orphans, the strangers, the widows, the poor, and the needy, the homeless, and the beggar on the street, as God gives to you, the wherewithal. Give to reputable charities if you have extra. Give to your family members and relatives in need - don’t humiliate them by making them ask you first. Give to a neighbour in financial distress. Let it be a reflection of the One that you are representing in your Christian walk. Our God is a generous God - may you become generous also. Develop a “love for giving.” Paul tells us in Acts 20:35b to:

Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, “IT IS MORE BLESSED TO GIVE THAN TO RECEIVE.” Isn’t it amazing how the truth can set us free?

 

 

Christian TITHING?

Of all the scriptures used to part parishioners of their hard earned cash, the Malachi Prophecy stands head and shoulders above all. The truth regarding this portion of scripture and its real intent has been all but lost on most Christians and far too many church leaders who should know better! It brings up some interesting questions regarding how the church should operate today and how we should behave when it comes to money. What is the real message of Malachi’s prophecy for believers today? Did Paul finance his international ministry through the tithing system? Is there even one example of Christians paying tithes in the Bible? Why did Jesus not pay tithes or the Temple tax commanded by the Law of Moses? Will you or anyone be “cursed with a curse” for not tithing? Here is the truth. THE SCRIPTURES KNOW NOTHING OF “CHRISTIAN TITHING!”

Jesus Christ’s followers did not pay tithe to Him from farm products or herds; neither did His followers pay Him ten percent of their salaries from other sources of income. “Christian tithing” is an oxymoron - it is a contradiction of words. Nay, it is more: it is, in fact, a Christian hoax! “Christian tithing” is about as Scriptural as “Christian burnt offerings,” ‘Christian stonings,” or “Christian synagogues.” The leaders of Christendom have bamboozled millions (billions) of unsuspecting laity into believing that “Christian tithing” is a Scriptural command from God Himself, and can easily be found and supported in the pages of Divine Scripture. Oh really?

Of the 613 laws contained in the first five books of the Bible written by Moses, why is it that aside from the Ten Commandments, “tithing” is virtually the only other law that the modern Church tries to retain? They retain it in name only, however, since there is nothing similar between Moses “law of tithing” and “Christian tithing” except the aspect of ten percent. Christian tithing is an extra-biblical concept and doctrine - aside from the ten percent it has nothing in common with the tithing law of Moses, and was never practiced by the New Testament Church.

Not only is Christian tithing taught to be needful, it is taught as if it were a divine, binding LAW. But there is no such thing as a “Christian tithing law” in the New Testament Scriptures. It is a heresy, used by the Church, independent cults, and charlatans of every description, as a club to beat and threaten parishioners into surrendering ten percent of their salaries in obedience to this phantom law. All are forewarned that failure to pay this 10% Church tax will cause them to be “cursed with a CURSE!” There is indeed “a curse,” but it is not God Who pronounces it.

 

NO TITHING IN THE CHURCH OF THE APOSTLES

We have Scriptural proof that no such law or custom as Christian tithing was taught or practiced in the Church by the early Apostles. Their epistles are totally devoid of any such tithing custom or law. Gentile converts were never taught to tithe to anyone. Although the temple and priesthood in Jerusalem remained until 70 AD, not even Jewish converts were taught to give their tithes to the Apostles rather than to the temple priests.

In the Acts 15 Jerusalem Conference we find outlined what the Apostles all agreed was necessary for the newly converted Gentiles to practice, and by inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God, tithing is conspicuously missing. Some believing Pharisees wanted the Apostles to teach the Gentiles to keep the Law of Moses (which certainly contained the law of tithing, Acts 15:5), but the apostles headed by Peter, James, and Paul would not hear of it (Acts 15:28-29)! Yet, what is one of the very first legislated duties taught to Gentile converts by the Church today? It is that they must tithe their annual salaries to the Church. Where did this unscriptural law of Christian tithing come from? Amazing.

Notice this telling bit of history from the Encyclopedia Britannica, “Tithes in Christendom” - The earliest authentic example of anything like a law of the State enforcing payment appears to occur in the capitularies [ecclesiasticals] of Charlemagne at the end of the 8th or beginning of the 9th century. Tithes were by that enactment to be applied to the maintenance of the bishop, clergy, the poor, and the fabric of the church.

 In the course of time the principle of payment of tithes was extended FAR BEYOND its original intention. Thus they became transferable to laymen and saleable like ordinary property, in spite of the injunctions of the third Lateran Council; and they became payable OUT OF SOURCES OF INCOME [not just farming and herding, but other trades and occupations and salaries paid in the form of money] NOT ORIGINALLY TITHABLE." (1963, volume 22, page 253, ‘TITHES’).

The Catholic Church knows its own history. Here is how tithing got back into the Church after being absent for nearly five centuries:

"As the Church expanded and various institutions arose, it became necessary to make laws which would insure the proper and permanent support of the clergy. The payment of tithes was adopted from the Old Law... The earliest positive legislation on the subject seems to be contained in the letter of the bishops assembled at Tours in 567 and the [canons] of the Council of Macon in 585."- The Catholic Encyclopedia.

They “extended” their base of tithe collecting to eventually include all forms of income. All Christian scholars know that although money was in wide use in ancient Israel, it was never a titheable commodity. But modern Christian pastors of God’s sheep don’t want tithes of goats or oil or corn - they want money - cold hard cash. God has a word to the "shepherds of the sheep," and it is the very same message that He had for the Levites in the book of Malachi. And it is this:

“My people have been lost sheep [Why? How did they get that way?] their SHEPHERDS have caused them to go astray” (Jer. 50:6).

Indeed! Was Israel consciously aware of the fact that they were being led astray by their spiritual leaders? Not most, and neither is the world of Christendom today aware that they are being lead astray by their spiritual leaders.

 

 

Prelude to Malachi

And so it was in the days when the curtain began to close on the final chapters of the Old Testament, that the moral fibre, practices and purity of the priesthood in particular would be put to question. How so? Well, if we are to understand the issue of tithing in Malachi, we must understand what went on before.

From Deuteronomy 26:13 until Second Chronicles 31:5, the word, tithe, is not mentioned in Scripture. This period reached from the Judges, the united kingdom under Kings Saul, David and Solomon until King Hezekiah’s attempted reforms just before 700 B.C. --approximately 800 years! When tithing is again mentioned, tithing is commanded, collected and stored by the king, the political authority, who delegated political authority to the priests.

The bottom line is this. Temple worship, observance of the Mosaic Law, and tithing had suffered under bad kings who often paid tribute to other nations and often worshiped false gods. Hezekiah’s predecessor had closed the temple and worshiped Baal.

King Hezekiah had to start all over again in following David’s tradition by appointing priests and Levites and separating them into 24 courses to serve one week at a time in the sanctuary (31:2) (1 Chron. 24). He even gave up some of his king’s portion of the best, his first tithe-tax (cf. 1 Sam. 8:14-17).

31:4 Moreover he commanded the people that lived in Jerusalem to give the portion of the priests and the Levites, that they might be encouraged in the law of the LORD.

Remember, the portion  means a tenth of the produce and herds from Israel to the Levites who, in turn, gave a tenth of their tenth to the priests (Num. 18:21-26). (Unless Jerusalem had been later added) Hezekiah erred in commanding those living in Jerusalem to bring their tithes directly to the Temple because Jerusalem was not a Levitical priestly city (see Joshua 21:9-19). Tithing may have been neglected for so long that this detail of the Law had been forgotten.

31:5 And as soon as the commandment went forth, the children of Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of grain, wine, and oil, and honey, and of all the increase of the fields; and the TITHE of all things they brought in abundantly.

31:6 And concerning the children of Israel and Judah that lived in the cities of Judah, they also brought in the TITHE of oxen and sheep, and the [TITHE ] of holy things which were consecrated to the LORD their God, and laid them by heaps.

These texts reveal that the ordinary people were obeying their king and probably did not know that the Law had channelled these offerings in two different directions. While all firstborn, firstfruits, and vow offerings were supposed to go to the priests in Jerusalem, the people were supposed to bring all tithes to the Levitical cities for the priests and Levites together to bring the necessary portions to the Temple for those ministering in rotation (Neh. 10:35-38; 12:44, 47).

31:7 In the third month they began to lay the foundation of the heaps, and finished them in the seventh month.

31:8 And when Hezekiah and the princes came and saw the heaps, they blessed the LORD, and his people Israel.

31:9 Then Hezekiah questioned with the priests and the Levites concerning the heaps.

Something did not make sense. Was not this the same Temple which Solomon had built? What did Solomon do with all of this food and animals? Where did Solomon put them? Had this problem occurred before? The king had to ask the priests and Levites. Should the king have commanded the people to bring their tithes directly to the Temple? Here’s a point to remember! To the great disappointment of those who misunderstand Malachi 3:10, verses 15 to 19 make it clear that only a small amount of the tithes were actually brought directly to the Temple in Jerusalem!

The vast majority of priests and Levites were to permanently live outside of Jerusalem. Therefore, common sense teaches that the tithes should be brought, NOT TO THE TEMPLE STOREHOUSE, but to the Levitical cites where the priests and Levites lived! Unfortunately for many, these facts from Joshua 21 and Nehemiah 10:37-38 destroy the tithing argument used in Malachi 3:10 which will be discussed later.

Although tithe-teachers like to call the church God’s “storehouse” for the tithe, it was King Hezekiah and Azariah the high priest, NOT God, who first incorrectly commanded that (some) tithes be brought by the people to storehouses in Jerusalem! One storehouse was the treasure house for war spoils and riches. Another storehouse (rather store rooms) held firstfruits and firstborn to be consumed by weekly rotations of ministering priests. Of course, those Levites taking their one-week rotations serving in the Temple would also require a place to keep their food from tithes (Neh. 12:44, 47). Consider this, if King Solomon had built food storehouses inside Jerusalem for tithes in his time of plenty, then King Hezekiah would already have Solomon’s storehouses to use in his time of much less.

31:15 And [other Levites were stationed] in the CITIES OF THE PRIESTS, in their set office, to give to their brethren by COURSES, as well to the great as to the small:

Levites and priests lived in “provided” suburbs of designated Levitical cities. Nehemiah 10:37 is correct when it says, “and [bring] the tithes of our ground unto the Levites, that the same Levites might have the tithes in all the cities of our tillage.” And Nehemiah 10:38 is correct when it says that priests received their tenth of the tithe from the Levites, NOT in Jerusalem, but in the city suburbs, “And the priest the son of Aaron shall be with the Levites, when the Levites take tithes."

Finally, Nehemiah 10:38 correctly points out that the Levites (with the priests) brought portions of the tithes to the Temple for the priests (and Levites) who were daily serving;) – “and the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes unto the house of our God, to the chambers, into the treasure house.” THIS IS THE TRUE CONTEXT OF MALACHI 3:10! Most of the TITHE was brought to rural locations for distribution to the 23 of 24 courses not currently ministering in the temple and to the remainder of the families of those males who were away for a week at the temple. The distribution was controlled by Levites.Take note of this. The only portion of the tithe necessary for the Temple was just enough to feed the priests and Levites for their particular week!

While outside of the Temple for 23 of 24 weeks, Joshua 21; Second Chronicles 31:19; Nehemiah 10:37 and 13:10 all teach that the priests and Levites permanently lived “in the fields of the suburbs.” The NAS says “pasture lands,” the NKJV says “common-lands”: the NIV says “farm lands.”

“But I thought that, since they received the tithe, they were supposed to be full-time ministers at the Temple!

That is the MYTH preachers want us to think! Actually, most of the time many had to be HERDSMEN or farmers! When they were not at the Temple performing rituals, singing, guarding, or repairing, they were tending the animals brought to them in the form of TITHES! If every TENTH animal was given to the Levites, and the Levites gave every TENTH animal to the priests -- exactly WHO tended these animals?

“And the cities shall they have to dwell in; and the suburbs of them shall be for their cattle, and for their goods, and for all their beasts” (Num. 35:3).

Yes these ministers in God’s service HAD JOBS!!! Where do you think that the 24,000 Levites obtained all of the skill necessary for building, maintaining, and overseeing the construction and maintenance of the Temple? Surely they could not even supervise something they knew nothing about! The only logical conclusion is that many performed these skills as tradesmen in their Levitical cities while not on duty. The Levites and priests were also used as both CIVIL and religious judges and rulers throughout King David’s reign and after his death.

The Bible does NOT say that priests and Levites were not supposed to work outside of the Temple. If this were true, then King David made a terrible mistake in First Chronicles 23:4. It would also make them little more than free-loaders who only worked one week out of twenty four. The proof text which is often given, Numbers 18:21-24 (which few actually read), only teaches that they have the tithe in place of land inheritance. Logic teaches that, just as those who DID have land inheritance could also work other occupations, even so the priests and Levites who DID NOT have land inheritance could also work other occupations!

Long before the time of Jesus, the priests and Levites had distanced themselves from the average Jew by politics, wealth, ritual, and pure snobbery. We see this best in Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan.

While they controlled the many Sanhedrins (the court system), the spiritual vacuum they had left by not teaching the Law had been filled by synagogues under the leadership of mostly non-priestly and non-Levitical rabbis. These rabbis, who set the example for Paul and the earliest church, usually considered it indecent to teach the Law for monetary or other profit. The very existence of the schools of the prophets in the Old Testament times and the synagogues PROVES that the priests and Levites had not spent their time away from the Temple (23 of 24 courses) teaching the Word of God!

 

 

Malachi in CONTEXT!

Now, before we get into dissecting Malachi fully, (yes it’s a little tedious) It is important to provide further historical background information to the “tithing” issue. Nehemiah 10-13 gives us the historical context of Malachi.

Looking at and interpreting the Biblical timeline of the Old Testament, Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi cover 536 B.C. to about 400 B.C. and should be read together. The seventy years of captivity had lasted from 606 to 536 B.C. Under Zerubbabel and the prophet, Haggai, the temple had been rebuilt by 519 B.C., and under Nehemiah the wall of Jerusalem was finished in 445 B.C. which brings us chapter ten where tithing is first mentioned.

With the exception of those who volunteered to live in rubble-filled Jerusalem and those one of ten who were forced by lot to live there from chapter eleven of Nehemiah, we must remind ourselves again that Jerusalem was NEVER supposed to be the permanent dwelling place of any of the priests or Levites! Because of the purpose and location of the Levitical cities, Malachi 3:10's “bring all the tithes into the storehouse” cannot possibly mean what most tithe-teachers say that it means.

Nehemiah and Malachi are written to the same people. The four curses of Malachi are these self-imposed curses of the Old Covenant, or Mosaic Law, when they together reaffirmed the covenant with an oath.

“..Also we made ordinances for us, to charge ourselves yearly with the third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our God...” (Neh. 10:32-33)

Funny how this Temple shekel, and not the tithe, became by far the greatest source of income to the Temple! Every Hebrew and every circumcised servant and proselyte was required to pay the temple shekel. After purchasing the sacrificial animals for all of the feasts, new moons, and Sabbaths, there was still money left over for civil necessities such as wall and road repair. In plain words, the people were agreeing to be taxed to provide for the Temple needs!

To understand Malachi 3:10 we must also remember that the priests were supposed to receive the tithes from the people, not in the Temple, but in the Levitical cities!  Actually, they were supposed to receive them from the LEVITES and not directly from the people anyway! When the tithes were received in the Levitical cities, the priests separated their share, their tenth of the tithe from the balance, or the Levites’ share of the 90%. The Levites were then responsible for bringing the tenth of the tithe, the priests’ share, to the Temple in Jerusalem (and surely the priests accompanied them).

Again, only the “tenth of the tithe,” the priests’ “portion” from the Law in Numbers 18:26, properly belongs in the Temple storehouse!  Malachi 3:10 should be understood as only a command to the dishonest priests to “bring all ‘OF THE NECESSARY PRIESTS’ PORTION of the tenth of the tithe’ into the storehouse” NOT THE WHOLE OTHER 90% Included!

SINCE, therefore, Malachi 3:10 does not refer to the 90% (or more) bulk of the tithe which stayed in the Levitical cities for the Levites (and other non-ministering priests), THEN, Malachi 3:10 should not be used in any way whatsoever to command Christians to bring all of their so-called “tithe” into the so-called “storehouse” of the church.

“And the rulers of the people lived at Jerusalem: the rest of the people also cast lots, to bring one of ten to dwell in Jerusalem the holy city, and nine parts to dwell in other cities. ... in the cities of Judah every one lived in his possession in their cities, that is, Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the Nethinim, and the children of Solomon's servants.” (Neh 11:1,3)

“And the residue of Israel, of the priests, and the Levites, were in all the cities of Judah, every one in his inheritance. But the Nethinim lived in Ophel: and Ziha and Gispa were over the Nethinim.” (Neh 11:20-21)

Christian tithe-teachers do not want us to read the above texts. They want us to think that the priests and Levites spent all of their time ministering in the temple and received “ALL the tithes.” Again, in reality, they spent most of their time herding animals and working in their fields. Jerusalem was still in ruins after ninety years of being back in the land. There is simply no logical way to compare Old Covenant priests to New Covenant preachers. Again, it would be foolish to send food from tithes to a place other than where the people lived. Only their leaders and special workers permanently lived in Jerusalem (11:4-17).

Also, a small portion of the Levites’ tithe was brought up from their cities and used day by day to feed the singers who were on duty during their weekly course rotation. The Levites lived in both Judah and Benjamin. This is far different from saying that all of the tithe was kept at the temple all of the time!

Closely related to the Levitical cities is the fact that both priests and Levites had been divided by King David into 24 courses consisting of several houses, or families, per course. The biblical facts about the division of the priests and Levites into 24 courses proves that they did not serve full-time at the temple. Furthermore, only those priests above thirty and Levites above twenty years of age were qualified to serve. Therefore, it would be impractical to move the rest of the family to Jerusalem for only one week. Thus the majority of the family, including women and servants stayed in the Levitical cities.

Again, since the overwhelming majority of priests and Levites lived outside of Jerusalem in the Levitical cities (23 of 24 courses plus women, children and servants), and, since the TITHE was intended to be a major source of their FOOD, then common sense tells us that the basic tithe STAYED in the Levitical cities where the priests and Levites lived!

“And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites out of all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem ... out of the plain country round about Jerusalem, and from the villages of Netophathi ... Also from the house of Gilgal, and out of the fields of Geba and Azmaveth: for the singers had built villages round about Jerusalem.” (Neh 12:27-29)

What more proof do we need that the Levites did not live in Jerusalem? We simply have to understand the tithing system in Nehemiah and Malachi. 

First, the order of importance for items in the storehouse are (1) offerings, (2) firstfruits, and (3) tithes. In Jesus' day the temple shekel and thirteen treasure chests provided the majority of the funds. 

Second, when the Law was strictly enforced, the “portions” of “tithes” were daily portions brought up from the Levitical cities as each course required. 

Third, “the Levites that waited” ["who ministered": NKJV; "served": NAS] were NOT “ALL” of the Levites or priests - they were only the ones actively serving in the Temple. Since more ministers were needed at the dedication of the wall around Jerusalem (our context), then greater daily portions would be needed. Those appointed merely had the responsibility of insuring that enough tithe food was brought into the storehouse to feed those priests and Levites currently serving and does NOT refer to the great masses of priests and Levites who remain in their cities!

 

WHO WAS ROBBING GOD? – IT WASN’T THE PEOPLE!

“And before this, Eliashib the [high] priest, having the OVERSIGHT OF THE CHAMBER OF THE HOUSE of our God, was allied unto Tobiah: And he had prepared for him a great chamber, where PREVIOUSLY they laid the grain offerings, the frankincense, and the vessels, and the TITHES of the grain, the new wine, and the oil, which was commanded to be given to the Levites, and the singers, and the temple guards; and the offerings of the priests.” (Neh 13:4-5)

Continuing. While Nehemiah had been away in Babylon, all that he had accomplished in chapters 10-12 had stopped (verse 6). This text has all of the components of being the CONTEXT of Malachi 3:8-10! 

First, there had been a storehouse designated to hold the offerings, firstfruits, and daily portions of the tithes for the priests and Levites who were ministering during their one-week rotation. 

Second, Eliashib, the high priest, had EMPTIED this storehouse and allowed Tobiah, Nehemiah’s enemy, to occupy it.

Third, the responsibility for this sin fell on the priests, under the leadership of the high priest.

“And it grieved me bitterly: therefore I cast forth all the household stuff of Tobiah out of the chamber. Then I commanded, and they cleansed the chambers: and I again brought back there the vessels of the house of God, with the grain offering and the frankincense.” (Neh. 13:8-9)

Notice that the TITHES were NOT included among the items brought back into the storehouse! The TITHES HAD BEEN STOLEN BY THE PRIESTS! Compare Malachi 3:8, “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed me. But you say, Wherein have we robbed you? In tithes and offerings.” Very clearly the priests, and NOT THE PEOPLE, were guilty of robbing God by removing and keeping the tithes and offerings for themselves!

“And I realized that the portions of the Levites had not been given them: for the Levites and the singers, that did the work, were fled everyone to his field.” (Neh 13:10)

Nehemiah noticed that the daily portions of tithes which had been stored to feed the ministering Levites were missing. Notice that he did NOT say that the priests’ portions were missing! Strange indeed! Having nothing to eat, the Levites had returned to their fields. Again, the PRIESTS had stolen the portions of the TITHE which belonged to the LEVITES. Therefore, the Levites went back home and resumed farming and herding (like they did the rest of the year anyway).

“Then I contended with the rulers, and said, Why is the house of God forsaken? And I gathered them [the Levites] together, and restored them to their stations.” “Then all Judah brought the TITHE of the grain and the new wine and the oil to the storehouses.” “And I made treasurers over the treasuries, Shelemiah the priest, and Zadok the scribe, and of the Levites, Pedaiah: and next to them was Hanan the son of Zaccur, the son of Mattaniah: for they were counted faithful, and their office was to distribute unto their brethren.” (Neh 13:11-13)

With the Levites back at their stations, the stolen tithe for their food needed to be replaced. Although we are not told what happened to Eliashib, in comparing verses 4 with 13, logic tells us that Nehemiah had replaced him. The “rulers” were then commanded to instruct the citizens to replace the portions of the tithes required to sustain those ministering - a temporary one-time exception to 10:37-38. Therefore, Nehemiah’s discussion of tithes ends with his replacing of one overseer of the storehouse with four faithful and reliable persons representing both the priests and the Levites.

As a type of the Messiah, Nehemiah became the first to literally fulfil the Messianic type shadowed in Malachi 3:2-3 “But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appears? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.”

 On several occasions Nehemiah cleansed the temple, the priests, and the Levites and put those in charge who could literally offer an offering in righteousness. The historical events of Nehemiah simply must be included in any understanding of the book of Malachi!

If Nehemiah 13 is the context of Malachi 3:8-10, then it makes perfect sense. The priests had taken the tithes OUT OF THE STOREHOUSE and withheld them from the Levites! Therefore, God is telling the PRIESTS in Malachi 3:10 to bring “ALL the tithe” that belongs in the empty storeroom back to that storeroom, especially the portion they had stolen from the Levites. Also, we have in Nehemiah a plain historical event of what is most likely the context of Malachi 3:8-10, especially in the light of the necessary cleansing of the priesthood from Malachi 3:1-4.

Well, well, well. There it is! Wasn’t that worth waiting for? How many preachers have chastised their congregations from withholding money from God by quoting Malachi, when the whole context of this story was that it was the PRIESTS robbing THE PEOPLE by corrupting the ordinances and Laws of WORSHIP! Little has changed! How many Ministers today steal from the people threatening them of corrupting true “worship” by not tithing when the corruption lies squarely upon the shoulders of those who try and enforce this illegal practice! 

 

FALSE COMPARSIONS

For those so stubborn to believe that we can still in fact compare the context of Nehemiah and Malachi with tithing today, there are far too many “tithing principles” that don’t add up. There are numerous discrepancies that exist between Old Covenant tithing and what is falsely presented as New Covenant tithing. It is exasperating that we even need to mention the following issues. Remember what we have learnt about the Old Testament priesthood.

First, the Old Covenant system could not possibly work in our society. Many small churches, who give all the so-called “tithe” to the pastor, do not have enough other workers to receive the ninety percent (90%) of the tithe, and a full-time pastor could not survive on only one-tenth of the whole tithe. Thus, while a distorted form of tithing is taught in order to support the pastor, the pastor receives up to one hundred percent (100%) instead of only ten percent (1%) of the tithe. Again, compare Numbers 18:20-24 with 18:26 and Nehemiah 10:37b and 38.

Second, once again the contents of the tithe is ignored. Nehemiah occurs at least twelve hundred (1,200) years after the contents of the tithe were first described in Numbers 18 and Leviticus 27. While hundreds of other occupations must have existed, the tithe is still only required from land owners who farmed or had herd animals. It is the tithe of the grain, the wine, and the oil. Although, this formula was expanded by the Pharisees to include small garden spices, at no point does the true biblical tithe refer to products and money obtained through crafts and non land-use occupations.

Third, the political authority is still in charge of worship services, commanding tithing, and delegating spiritual leaders. He is God’s anointed ruler of the theocracy. Church-state union is the rule under the Old Covenant in which tithing applied. Persia, the conquering power, still received the first tithe as its spoils of war tax.

Fourth, most tithe-teachers need to keep their congregations biblically ignorant of the context of those who received tithes in the Old Covenant. How does one justify tithing to support those who, except for two weeks out of forty-eight (2 of 48), lived in rural fields as farmers and herdsmen. They certainly did not all live in Jerusalem and serve full-time in the Temple - a lie we might be led to believe But not so anymore!

 

 

Cursed with a curse!

Yes, it is the book of Malachi that today’s clergy uses as their main authority for promulgating the doctrine of “Christian tithing,” everyone giving 10% of their gross income or they will be “cursed with a curse.”  Mostly one will hear only three verses of Malachi quoted by those attempting to wrest a doctrine of Christian tithing from this prophecy. Let’s finally get to the heart of the Malachi debate.

Here are the “cursing” verses:

“Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed Me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed Thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed Me, even this whole nation” (Malachi 3:8-9).

Here is the “blessing” verse:

“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat [bread] in Mine house, and prove Me now herewith, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10).

Now we know differently, but their interpretation of these proof texts are as follows: Rob God of His ten percent of your salary and be CURSED, or pay God ten percent of your salary and be BLESSED.

Before we go any further, just who is cursing whom in this Malachi prophecy? Does God, indeed, say, “You are CURSED with a curse” (Mal. 3:9)? This definitely sounds as if it is GOD Who is doing the cursing, doesn’t it? But notice that the word are in your Bible is in italics? That means that the word was supplied by the translators and was not in the original manuscripts. Remove it, and the verse says: “You cursed…” rather than “You are cursed…” Is it God, or Israel, who is doing the cursing in this verse? SAY WHAT?!!! Yes you read right!

The Sopherim (Jewish Scribes) understood this verse to say that it was Israel “cursing God” rather than “God cursing Israel.” Here are some translations that make this correction:

“With the curse YOU are cursing [me], and me YOU are robbing—the nation in its entirety.”

And:

“With a curse you curse Me, and Me you are defrauding—the nation, all of it” (Mal. 3:9, Concordant Version of The Old Testament).

We must repeat again, that when the Bible says “tithes” it means products from the land - as grains and cattle. But when the Priests of Christendom say “tithes,” it always means money. Because the clergy prefers to be paid in money, it therefore, became necessary to change the Biblical use of the word “tithes” to now include money. And if “money” can now be shown to be a tithable commodity, guess what? Abracadabra, hocus-pocus, open sesame - every believer, of every occupation in the whole world (not just the farmers as in the Law of Moses), now is required to pay ten percent of his income to the Church. They increased their base of productivity a hundred fold.

What then is the 21st Century application of this Malachi Prophecy? Are we now to tithe money? Let’s read Malachi 3:10 very carefully:

WHAT were they robbing God of? “tithes AND offerings.” Tithes of what? Products from the land—grains and cattle. 
 

WHERE were they to bring the tithes? To the “storehouse” [Hebrew: ‘garner’-- a granary for grain]. 
 

WHY did God want these tithes of the land brought to the “storehouse” (the granary)? “That there may be meat [bread] in Mine house [God’s house, Not the granary].”

 

 

 

QUALITY OVER QUANTITY

 

Now apart from what we have learnt about the Priesthood withholding the “tithes” from the Levites so they couldn’t perform their duties – there is something to be spiritually discerned here. The real issue in Malachi is not the obvious one – of quantity, but rather one of QUALITY. In fact if there is anything to be compared in Malachi with church tithing today, this is it – the quality of WORSHIP! Forget about the Levites for a moment. What God wanted was “bread in His house.”  The only food in God’s house - the tabernacle, was a dozen loaves of bread. And that bread was for the Priests only, not for the tribe of Levi. Since there were only twelve loaves of bread in the Tabernacle/Temple of God, are we to believe that the whole nation of Israel did not bring enough grain to the storehouse to make even twelve loaves of bread?

Just what does God truly mean, “that there may be meat [bread] in Mine house?” Is God really reprimanding Christians of the 21st Century through Malachi’s prophecy to bring our check books to church, that there may be money in Mine house?” Yet this is the teaching of the Church regarding Malachi’s message. What is the truth?

Does God ask Israel to bring all the tithes and offerings into the storehouse, or treasury, or granary, so that there will be “tithes and offerings in Mine house?” No. God says so, “that there may be meat in Mine house?” We know that they did not bring the tithes and offerings into the holy place of the tabernacle. Only bread was kept in the holy place. The “bread” in the holy place was a “type” of something future, just as everything that happened to Israel and all of their offerings and ceremonies were a type of something future (I Cor. 10:11). He must indeed be spiritual blind who cannot see that the “bread” in the holy place foreshadows “The True Bread of Life- Jesus Christ.”

If God wanted more money in His house, why did Jesus do what He did in the House of God?

“And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the MONEY changers… and said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Matt. 21:12-13).

 

THE CHRISTIAN INTERPRETATION OF BRINGING IN THE TITHE

So again, the Christian interpretation of Malachi 3:10 is this: “Bring ye all the tithe MONEY and extra offerings of money to the church bank, that there may be money in the Church.” Granted, they might not enunciate it that crudely, but that is what they teach. Ask virtually any pastor of any church, “How do I, starting today, actually obey this prophecy of Malachi to stop "robbing God of His tithes and offerings?" and he will tell you to write out a check in the name of his church, for 10% of your salary (plus an offering), and that check will then be deposited into the church bank account.

Then ask these same pastors what kind of blessings you will receive for obeying this procedure, and they will probably tell you stories where people received huge amounts of material goods and even huge amounts of more money. This is their interpretation of God “opening the windows of heaven and pouring out a blessing.” And there are ministers by the tens of thousands at this very moment preparing more stories and more yarns on how blessed one will become in every imaginable physical, earthly, and material things for giving them (they would say, giving God) your money.

Is this really how God wants us of the 21st Century to apply Malachi’s prophecy to our lives?

This prophecy has absolutely nothing to do with tithing money to the Church.

Does God suggest somewhere in this prophecy that there isn’t enough “money in His house?” Is Jesus Christ coming back to this Earth to judge these “priests” because the “people” failed to bring enough money to the storehouse so that there would be money in God’s house? Is it a lack of money that concerns God in this prophecy? No, it is the priests who have corrupted themselves according to this prophecy and hence the people. But like always, God holds the priests to a much higher standard and therefore they receive the greater condemnation.

“Behold I will send My Messenger… But who may abide the day of His coming? And who shall stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: and He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall PURIFY the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness” (Mal. 3:1-3).

And

“And I will come near to you to judgment [not just the priests, but many of the people as well]; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not Me, says the Lord of hosts” (Mal. 3:5).

It is amazing how the clergy make most people think that the only thing of value in the book of Malachi are these three verses on “robbing God” and “receiving a blessing.” There are four whole chapters in this book, and maybe it should behove us to see what the rest of this book has to say. Here are just a few more things contained in Malachi:

 

SINS OF THE PRIESTS, 1:6-14

According to 1:6 “O priests, that despise my name.” and 2:1, “And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you,” Malachi is most specifically addressed to dishonest ministers, that is, Old Covenant priests! These two verses, 1:6 and 2:1, are the KEYS to understanding the entire book of Malachi. These two verses actually REVERSE what most of us have been told all of our lives. Do not forget the context of these two verses. God is specifically rebuking His ministers, the priests, and not the people. The first “you” in Malachi 1:6 refers to the priests. They are guilty of dishonouring God and despising His name.

“You offer polluted bread upon My altar… if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil…” (1:7-8).

 (1:7-8) Remember, this is an issue of QUALITY! God is rebuking the ministers for giving Him what nobody else wants. By doing so, the ministers are guilty of despising the “table of the LORD.” Notice that God does not say that they did not “have” the ­ adequate offering to present to Him. There is no reason to conclude that the ministers were forced to give defiled food because they did not have anything else to give.

 (1:9) God only criticized the PRIESTS (and not the people) for bringing unacceptable OFFERINGS. He said that their governor would not even accept these offerings of the lame and sick for his table. This is because the governor knew that these ministers had plenty of good healthy animals for sacrifice from the firstborn offerings and from their share of the tithed animals. Why is this true? Because Nehemiah had ordered the people to bring these offerings and so much abundance had been received that storehouses were necessary (see Neh. 10:35-38; 12:44, 47; 13:4, 5, 12, 13).

 (1:10) God is extremely angry at the priests in Malachi. He told them that He would like for them to stop all hypocritical worship. He was not pleased with the priests and would not accept any meaningless offerings from them.

 (1:12) The priests are guilty of profaning God’s name. Their disgusting sacrifices revealed their utter sinful contempt for God.

“...ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the LORD.” (Mal 1:13)

 (1:13) This is a very interesting text. The KJV says “that which was torn”; the NIV “injured”; the NAS, NKJV and TLB prefer “by robbery” or “stolen”; and the RSV says “taken by violence.” If stolen, then this means that the priests had somehow taken “more” than their legal share. Since the firstfruits, firstborn, and offerings went directly to them, the priests could not have stolen these items (Neh. 10:35-37b). However, the priests had taken the Levites’ portion of the tithe from the storehouse (Neh. 13:10-11).

 (1:14) Those who only read the curse of Malachi 3:9 do not realize that the word, curse, had previously been used by Malachi four times in cursing the priests! This first curse of Malachi 1:14 “..But cursed be the deceiver...” is very evidently placed on the priests, the ministers, of the Old Testament. The priest already “HAS” acceptable sacrificial animals received from tithes and offerings. God did not excuse them because the people had not properly paid tithes! Although priests were not required to tithe, they were expected to VOW freewill offerings from the tithes and offerings they received. Their sin was in vowing to give God the best and then giving Him the worst!

 

PUNISHMENT OF THE PRIESTS, 2:1 TO 4:6

Mal. 2:1 “And now this commandment is for YOU, O PRIESTS.

(2:1) Because of its vital relationship to the remainder of Malachi, this verse becomes the greatest key to its meaning! For the second time, God distinctly makes it clear that He is specifically addressing the priests! Since there is no corresponding text anywhere else in the book of Malachi that God has changed his primary audience, then the conclusion must be that God did not change his audience for the remainder of the book. Chapter two continues God’s condemnation of the PRIESTS. After describing some of their sins from 1:6 to 1:14, he now describes their punishment.

Mal. 2:2 “If you do not listen, and if you do not take it to heart to give honour to My name,” says the LORD of hosts, “then I will send the CURSE upon you and I will CURSE your blessings; and indeed, I have CURSED them already, because you are not taking it to heart.

(2:2) How many preachers ignore this text when they preach on the curse of 3:9? Could it be because these second, third, and fourth occurrences of CURSE in Malachi (like the first) are again directed towards the ministers themselves? Nothing can be clearer from this text.

Mal. 2:3 Behold, I will corrupt your [priestly] seed, and spread DUNG upon your faces, even the DUNG of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it.

(2:3) “God will spread dung, refuse, offal, manure—in your priestly faces!” This verse shows the extent of God’s anger with the priests. There is more of course...

 “But you have departed out of the way… ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi… therefore I have also made you contemptible and base before all the people…” (2:8-9).

“Behold, I will send my Messenger… But who may abide the day of His coming… He is like a refiner’s fire [like the lake of fire] …And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi… that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness” (3:13—See Isa. 6:29).

“Then they that feared the Lord spoke often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them… And they shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in that day when I made up my jewels; and I will spare them… Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serves God and him that serves Him not [‘Do you not know that the saints shall judge the world?’ I Cor. 6:2)]” (3:16-18).

“And He shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (4:6)

 

MALACHI AND THE BREAD OF LIFE

Wow. That’s some heavy stuff. We can only speculate what Gods anger would be towards the snake oil salesmen and “peddlers” of the Word today? So, Malachi indeed contains a prophecy and information “for OUR admonition upon whom the ends of the world are come” (I Cor. 10:11). Know this. There is NO tabernacle/temple administered by the priests of Levi today, nor has there been for two thousand years. Malachi is not speaking to Christians about tithing money to the church. The literal physical circumstances extant in the Church in Malachi’s day is but a type, a shadow, of a spiritual reality for our day and for all those called since the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was from the tithes that the Priests of Levi selected the “sacrifices.” There lies the problem for ancient Israel and the problem for the Church today.

Here is the problem with Israel and her priests in a nutshell:

God says: “I have LOVED you…” 

Israel asks: “wherein have you loved us?” (Mal. 1:2).

God said:"If then I be a Father, where is mine honour? My fear? O priests, that despise My name.”

 The priests ask: “Wherein have we despised Thy name?” (1:6).

God says: “Ye offer polluted bread upon Mine alter…”

 The priests ask: “Wherein have we polluted Thee?” (1:7).

God says: “And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? ,..the sick and the lame… is it not evil?” (1:8).

God says: “I have no pleasure in you… NEITHER WILL I ACCEPT AN OFFERING AT YOUR HAND” (1:10).

The PRIESTS despise God’s name, and THEIR sacrifices are “blind, sick and lame.”  God says He will not even accept THEIR offering. So really, the people were tithing. But the quality of their tithes (from which they selected the sacrifices) was of an unacceptable quality. But was it this poor quality of sacrifices that really angered God? The sick and lame sacrifices were but a symptom of a much larger problem. God used their polluted sacrifices only as a physical, visual illustration to show them their sins and polluted hearts. For much of the remainder of this book, God unfolds to them their many sins and weaknesses.

God says: “Ye are gone away from Mine ordinance, and have not kept them. Return unto Me, and I will return unto you…” (3:7).

The priests ask: “Wherein shall we return?” (3:7).

God says: “In tithes and offering” (3:8).

God uses “tithes and offerings” to illustrate their attitude of mind and heart behind their giving. Tithes and offerings were all that God asked of the people to give Him. Everything else they could keep for themselves. But how much did they love God? How much did they appreciate God and all His goodness to them? What was their attitude of heart and mind toward God? Their “tithes and offerings” say it all: “You offer POLLUTED BREAD UPON MINE ALTAR” (1:7).

All that was included in their “tithes and offerings” - firstfruits, tithes of the land, tithes of the herds, and altar offerings of every sort, were to God: “polluted bread upon Mine altar.” They gave offerings (they WERE TITHING,) but they were totally unacceptable. “…NEITHER will I accept an offering at your hand” (1:10).

 

HISTORY REPEATS

 

Yes, corruption in high places is as common throughout history as flies around dung. Mark Twain famously stated that “politicians are like nappies, they need to be changed regularly and for the same reason.” Israel’s theocratic government was no less prone to the trappings and indulgences of high office.  Remember, this was not the first time that the Priests of Israel were found wanting! We need look no further than the “House of Eli” to realize that there is nothing new under the sun as far as corruption in the HOUSE OF GOD goes.

 

Eli was of the priestly house of Aaron (I Samuel 2: 27,28). According to I Chronicles 24:1 Aaron had four sons- Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. Nadab and Abihu were killed by the Lord for their offering of strange fire on God's altar. Numbers 3:4 and Leviticus 10 record this incident which occurred in the wilderness of Sinai. Nadab and Abihu were cut off to such a degree that they had no offspring that survived. The line of the priesthood of Aaron was continued through his other two sons, Eleazar and Ithamar.

 

After the death of Aaron the high priestly office was filled by Eleazar, but later was transferred, for a reason not revealed, to the house of Ithamar. Eli was a descendant of Ithamar. I Chronicles 24:4 records that there were 16 sons of Eleazar and 8 sons of Ithamar. The line of Eleazar continued through Zadok, the faithful priest, unbroken till the birth of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, according to prophecy, was not a priest after the order of Aaron, but rather a priest after the order of Melchizedek, testifying of Christ's eternal priesthood. God preserved only one line faithful through the generations.

 

“I will cut of thine arm, and the arm of thy Father's house" (I Samuel 2:31).

 

Yet God's anger is expressed toward both Eli's household and his descendants, as well as against the whole of his father's household, all Ithamar's seed.

 

Verse 29 reads “Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering.”

 

The sons of Eli had little regard for the regulations of the law. The first perversion was that they did not handle and divide the meat of the sacrifice properly. Leviticus 7:29-34 was very explicit about how the meat was to be handled. The fat was to be burned while the breast and right shoulder were to be given to the priest after they were roasted on the altar. The sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, looked upon the sacrifices not as a means of worshiping God, but as something which was there for their own personal use and pleasure. They would boldly take anything they wanted by thrusting their three-pronged fork into the meat (I Samuel 2:14). This was a blatant disregard for God's commandments.

 

As time went on they became bolder and began to send their servants to those who came to sacrifice even before the sacrifice was brought to the altar (verse 15). The servants would cut the choice portions off the animals before the animals were offered up. This meant that when the sacrifice was brought to the altar, it was only partially there- it was mutilated. This went against all the rules of the sacrifices. The sacrifice had to be brought to the Lord unbroken and unmutilated. For Hophni and Phinehas it was of real advantage to take the meat when still raw so that it could be sent to the marketplace and sold, the money their own. They became so bold that they started to take meat by force. The whole spirit of worship was destroyed. Understandably, sensitive believers turned away in disgust.

 

Not only that, but finally, it became known that these men were seducing and committing immoral acts with some of the women who came regularly to help in the service of the tabernacle. This is mentioned in verse 22. The tabernacle of God was beginning to resemble the pagan temples. The sons of Eli had corrupted the true worship of Jehovah. Wow, sound familiar? How many “godly men” in the church have been found trousers down with their hand in the cookie jar like these chaps?

 

One would expect that Hophni and Phinehas would have gone out of their way to keep their father ignorant of these things. They may have tried at first, but then they became bold, as is always true of sin. The sins were so blatant that they could not be hid, even from their aged and perhaps naive father. Eli learned what was going on. He realized how serious their sin was and it hurt him more than anything else he experienced. Eli was a true child of God and was not indifferent to such wickedness, especially when it came from his own sons. Eli said in verses 23-25 “Why do ye such things? For I hear of your evil dealings by all this people. Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make the LORD's people to transgress. If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the LORD, who shall intreat for him? Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the LORD would slay them.”

 

God directs his words of rebuke toward Eli. Eli was at fault before God. What he said to his sons was true. The sins they committed were of the most serious sort. They were sinning against God. Eli made clear the serious nature of their sins, then dismissed them to their duties again. Eli's sin was a failure to discipline his sons. This was a sin typical of Israel through the period of the Judges and later again after the time of the captivity. Eli knew the difference between good and bad and taught his sons, but did not go further. He did not punish them!

 

One could argue, the passage does not say that. It may be that he did punish them, but you know what these sons needed: they had to be thrown out of the tabernacle! No strange fires may be offered before God. The name of God was being blasphemed before the whole congregation, and Eli knew it. Eli did not bring an end to it. Eli gave occasion for the faithful remnant to despair all the more! Eli never enforced the things he talked about. He never brought his sons to see what it was to tremble before the justice of the living God. He could talk with weeping and grieving heart, but talk was not effective. His sons needed to be excommunicated from the priesthood and put out of the temple. They showed no sign of repentance. They repeatedly returned to their same sins. The Old Testament law would have required that the sons be driven out of the city and stoned for their blasphemous actions in the tabernacle of Jehovah.

 

“They that despise me shall be lightly esteemed” (verse 30). God would not allow Himself to continue to be mocked in worship. This was a trouble that plagued Israel during the time of the judges. There were always some that were God-fearing from the heart. These loved God, respected His law, and even taught God's principles to their children. But, in one serious matter they failed: They did not properly discipline their children. When their friends and neighbours violated God's law and broke His commandments, they did not condemn and punish. When their children desired to marry outside of the covenant, they did not do anything about it. Wickedness grew and grew. It came to the point where the worst of sins were being committed with no discipline being administered.

 

Nehemiah, years later expresses his judgment of the sin of taking heathen wives. He took matters into his own hands so that we read in Nehemiah 13:25“And I contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves.”

 

Eli was an example of this same unfaithfulness. God made Eli's house an example to all of Israel in their generations. They that despise God's covenant will be cut off. They who allow their children to despise God's covenant will also see their generations cut off. There would not be an old man in the house of Eli any longer.

 

The weakness of the human priesthood pointed to the faithful Priest who would be the eternal God of heaven and earth. Jesus Christ did all that was in the mind of God. He obeyed perfectly. There was nothing within His heart that desired to walk contrary to God's commands. Jesus Christ offered the perfect, unblemished sacrifice that covered Eli's sins and that covers our sins of disobedience. The “sure house” is the church for which Jesus Christ laid down His life! Christ made that house secure by His own blood and poured out His Spirit on His people to preserve them in the path of obedience.

 

THE TYPE AND SHADOW IS FAR INFERIOR TO THE REALITY

Yet we digress. Now Malachi was a “prophet.” Moses was also a prophet, “And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses” (Deut. 34:10). And Jesus Christ did not come to destroy the “prophets,” but rather to “fulfill [the prophets] (Matt. 5:17).

Under the Prophet Moses, God fed the nation of Israel bread in the wilderness.

“Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat” (John 6:31).

Under the Prophet Malachi God said they should bring the tithes into the storehouse so that there would be

“…meat in My house, and prove me now herewith, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of HEAVEN, and pour you out A [keep in mind that this blessing is singular—a blessing] blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive IT[again, singular]” (Mal. 3:10).

This may well be one of the most misunderstood and wrongly preached verses in the Bible. Here again is what needs to be “spiritually discerned.”

The word “meat” in this verse comes from a Hebrew word taraph, and means “to pluck off or pull to pieces; to supply with food (as in morsels)” (Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary, p. 105, #2963).

From this pulling to pieces, plucking off, and morsels, comes the phrase “breaking bread.” There undoubtedly was, more grain in the storehouse (to bake bread,) than any other food commodity. What did Jesus have to say to the Jews about the “bread from heaven” which they said their fathers ate in the desert?

“Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, [truly, truly], I say unto you, Moses gave you NOT THAT BREAD FROM HEAVEN; but My Father gives you the TRUE BREAD from heaven. For the bread of God is HE which comes down from heaven and gives life unto the world” (John 6:32-33)!

What? How can Jesus say that?

The Jews said that their fathers ate “bread from heaven.”

Moses said that, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”

But Jesus said, “Moses gave you NOT that bread from heaven; but My Father gives you the TRUE bread from heaven.”

Is Jesus contradicting the very Word of God? No, a thousand times No: He is fulfilling the words of the prophets just as He said in Matt. 5:17.

The bread in the desert was only the type of bread from heaven, which in reality, and in fulfilment, pointed to Jesus Christ, the “TRUE bread from heaven.” The same is true for Malachi. The “polluted bread” of Malachi is but the type of the unpolluted, pure, “TRUE bread from heaven,” which is Jesus Christ. But to receive this “blessing from heaven,” we must bring all our tithes, all that we have to offer God, into the storehouse so that there will be “meat [unpolluted bread] in Mine house.”

Now then, does God want unpolluted animals? No. Does God want unpolluted produce from the land? No. Does God want unpolluted money? No. Well what kind of sacrifice does He want then? God wants you! All of you! You, yourself, are the sacrifice that God wants!

“I beseech [invitation, invocation, imploration, exhortation] you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice holy [not polluted], acceptable [not like in Malachi where God says, neither will I accept an offering at your hand’], unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1).

As it is our “bodies” that house our mind, heart, and spirit, we will also cover those attributes which are necessary in order for our “living sacrifice” to be acceptable unto the Lord.

Seriously, what value are physical material offerings to God if the ones making the offerings are themselves, “polluted bread?” Does God really desire physical things? God has already created BILLIONS OF GALAXIES full of “physical things.” Billions of galaxies do not fulfil God’s desire for the love, obedience, and admiration of children. God wants children. God wants children - Sons and Daughters in His Own image. But God will not accept children whose character is likened to “polluted bread.”

 

FIRST THE PHYSICAL AND THEN THE SPIRITUAL

“Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is SPIRITUAL (I Cor. 15:46).

Now then, was that bread that the fathers ate in the desert the “TRUE bread from heaven?” No, it clearly was not, Jesus said it was not! And so, can we not see, can we not believe, can we not understand, that Jesus Christ IS

“…the TRUE bread from heaven. For the bread of God IS HE which comes down FROM HEAVEN and gives life unto the world” (John 6:32b-33).

Hold this thought ……And now back to Malachi again: “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse that there may be meat [bread] in Mine house, and prove me now herewith, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi, 3:10).

This is vital to understand: God does not berate the people or the priests for the lack of quantity (as we have discussed) in their tithes and offerings and sacrifices, but rather a lack of quality. Here is absolute Scriptural proof. They brought offerings, but why would God not accept their offerings? Because they offered “blind, lame and sick sacrifices.” And why did they do that? Because they THEMSELVES were spiritually blind, lame and sick. There was quantity to their offerings, but not quality.

“And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? Offer it now unto your governor; will he be pleased with you, or accept your person? Says the Lord of hosts” (Mal. 1:8).

 

FINE FLOUR AND PURE FRANKINCENSE VS. POLLUTED BREAD

And how is it that God views these evil sacrifices: “Ye [all of you] offer polluted bread upon mine altar…” (Ver. 7).

There is the whole ball of wax! And so it is in today’s Church. The problem is not a lack of money, but offering polluted bread upon the altar of God. God wants “Pure and Fine Bread”:

“And you shall take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes… And you shall put pure frankincense upon each row, that it may be on the bread… And it shall be Aaron’s and his sons’; [the priests] and they shall eat it in the holy place…” (Lev. 24:5-9).

Remember: first is the natural, the physical, and then comes the spiritual.

And so the children of Israel ate the “bread from heaven” in the wilderness. There was sufficient quantity, but it lacked quality. It did not possess the quality of True LIFE—they all DIED in the desert except for Caleb and Joshua in that generation. The spiritual fulfilment of this type of physical bread in the desert is that Jesus Christ is “The True Bread of LIFE.” Likewise, the quantity of bread being offering by the priests on the altar of God was not the problem, but rather the quality of those offerings.

The spiritual bread (the spiritual food for the people) being offering in the Church today is not lacking in quantity, but rather quality. There is “bread,” yes, but it is “polluted bread.” The opposite of ‘polluted” is “pure.” God’s religion is PURE:

“PURE religion and UNDEFILED before God and the Facher is this, To visit the fatherless and widows IN THEIR AFFLICTION, and to keep himself UNSPOTTED FROM THE WORLD” (James 1:27).

This verse does not say: “Take ten percent of the Social Security checks and welfare checks of the “fatherless and widows IN THEIR AFFLICTION,” and then take that money and spend it for all the “spotted materialism of this world.” Yet that is exactly what all too many of today’s priests and ministers are doing. And furthermore, they shamelessly boast about their material possessions! They “love the world and the things that are in the world.” And, therefore, is it little wonder that, “the love of the Father is not in them” (I John 2:15)? Neither do they have a “love of the Truth” (II Thes. 2:10).

God used a physical, outward, visible, type of sick, lame, and blind sacrifices, which He then calls polluted bread” to show Israel and their priests what He was really angry with, namely, their “polluted” hearts, minds, and spirits! Malachi’s prophecy is about the sin WITHIN, not sacrifices WITHOUT!

 

THE ENDTIME CHURCH AS PETER SAW IT

Lets’ be clear about one thing. Peter describes the church in the latter days:

“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily [secretly] shall bring in damnable [destructive, fatal, disastrous, ruinous] heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And MANY shall follow their pernicious [lascivious, licentious, wanton] ways; by reason of whom the way of the truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness [greed, lust] shall they with feigned words MAKE MERCHANDISE OF YOU” (II Pet. 2:1-3). Other renderings:

“Motivated by greed, they will exploit you with their counterfeit arguments” (Berkely Version).

“…in their lust they will exploit you with cunning arguments” (Moffatt Translation).

“In their greed for MONEY they will trade on your credulity with sheer fabrications” (The New English Bible).

 

ALL PHYSICAL TYPES FORESHADOW SPIRITUAL REALITIES

Understand. Everything that happened in the Old Testament was a TYPE of future, spiritual things.

“Now ALL these things happened unto THEM for examples: and they were written for OUR admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (I Cor. 10:11).

And Malachi is no different. The people of Israel tithed sick, lame, and diseased animals to Levi. The Priests took those evil beasts and offered them as sacrifices to God. The reason that the people and the priests offered sick (polluted) sacrifices is because they themselves were sick and polluted with sins. Isaiah describes them well:

“Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward. Why should ye be stricken anymore? Ye will revolt more and more, THE WHOLE HEAD IS SICK and the whole heart is faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head THERE IS NO SOUNDNESS IN IT…” (Isa. 1:4-5).

Much of what the clergy disseminates from the pulpit as “wholesome spiritual food,” God calls “polluted bread.” And just WHY do they offered polluted bread? Because:

“O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? For out of the ABUNDANCE OF THE HEART, the MOUTH SPEAKS” (Matt. 12:34).

There it is again! There is the message of Malachi! That is why Israel brought sick and blind sacrifices and that is why the priests did not correct them, but went ahead and offered them to God. Both the people and more importantly – THE PRIESTS were polluted in their hearts, and it is of the abundance of the heart that determines men’s actions.

Today’s “polluted bread” is served up in such doctrines as exact ten per cent of the parishioner’s salaries in the form of a church tax called tithing. And the threat of eternal torture in fire if one does not follow the dictates of a specific denomination or religious teaching that is deemed necessary to avoid this eternal hellhole of terrorism.

The type and shadow of Jesus Christ, the True Bread of life, was the physical bread that Israel ate in the desert. The desert doesn’t produce enough food to sustain an army of people - it had to be supernaturally supplied by God. The desert and wilderness of our carnal nature does not produce enough spiritual food to sustain us either. Only the True Bread of LIFE from Heaven in the person of Jesus Christ can supply our spiritual needs. We must eat this spiritual bread in order to have spiritual life.

The sacrifices spoken of in Malachi were not suitable for God’s house. They offered

“POLLUTED BREAD” and we saw some of the many sins that constituted this polluted bread. Here are the only sacrifices that are fit for God’s storehouse:

“The sacrifices of God are A BROKEN SPIRIT: a broken a CONTRITE HEART…” (Psalm 51:17).

And in Psalm 34:18 David reverses the order:

“The lord is nigh unto them that are of a BROKEN HEART; and saves such as be of a CONTRITE SPIRIT.”

It is all about attitude: REPENT, HUMBLE YOURSELF, and OBEY! Then follows the Blessing:

People always want to do physical things to prove their spirituality. But God doesn’t want your physical things. God wants a broken heart and a contrite spirit and a willingness to OBEY:

“Behold, to OBEY is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (I Sam. 15:22).

The sacrifices of a broken heart, a contrite spirit, and a willingness to always obey are always acceptable to God. BRINGING GOD YOUR SPIRITUAL TITHES
WILL REAP A SPIRITUAL BLESSING!

“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat [bread—pure and fine bread—not polluted bread of a carnal mind filled with evil deeds and doctrines], and prove Me now herewith, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of HEAVEN [‘For the bread of God is He which come down from heaven… For I came down from heaven… I am the bread which came down from heaven John 6:33, 38, 41] and pour you out a blessing [Jesus Christ, The Bread of Life is this blessing], that there shall not be room [‘Now unto Him that is able to do EXCEEDING ABUNDANTLY {Gk: SUPEREXCESSIVELY—superabundantly, superexceedingly, superaboundingly} ABOVE ALL THAT WE ASK OR THINK Eph. 3:20] to receive it” (Mal. 3:10).

God is saying to us: “Give Me your pure bread offerings of a “broken heart, contrite spirit, and attitude of obedience,” and I will give you, “The TRUE BREAD OF LIFE from HEAVEN.”

Now that truly is a blessing beyond our ability to make “room to receive it.” Jesus Christ is the True Bread in God’s house. Jesus Christ is the personification of LOVE, LIGHT AND LIFE. Jesus is the ultimate, the apex, the primer, the zenith, the HIGHEST OF EVERYTHING! Jesus Christ is the Tree of Life, The Hope of Glory, The Saviour of the World - all that we and the entirety of the universe will ever need for all eternity is found in Him! But God demands purity. All the polluted bread has got to go:

“Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the SONS OF GOD: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew Him not.

Beloved, now are we the SONS of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

And every man that has this hope in him PURIFIES HIMSELF, even as He [Jesus] IS PURE” (I John 3:1-3).

And the priests of Christendom would have us believe that God’s message through Malachi is a quest for MORE MONEY! Unbelievable!

 

THE LESSON OF MALACHI FOR THE FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST

Obedience to the Law of Moses, the Sacrifices and the many Ordinances was to bring physical prosperity, safety from enemies, healthy children, and a long life in the land, followed by DEATH. Malachi brings us from obedience to physical laws in the land, all the way down to the return of Messiah in fiery judgment upon mankind. God never really did want animal sacrifices, but the sacrifices of a “broken and contrite heart and spirit.”

God tells us through Malachi that we should bring all our tithes (spiritual tithes and offerings) to Him and He will bless us with a blessing that cannot be contained.

The physical tithes that were brought to the storehouse from which portions were sacrificed to God, brought temporary, physical blessings on Earth. For all those who will bring all their spiritual tithes and offering to God’s house, God promises One permanent, SPIRITUAL Blessing from heaven. Jesus Christ is that One and only “True Bread” of never-ending life.

 

 

A New LAW!

WE OBEY A SPIRITUAL LAW AND OUR SACRIFICES ARE SPIRITUAL

As Christians are not under the Law of Moses in this New Testament dispensation, accordingly, the end-time fulfilment of Malachi does not pertain to the Law of Moses, which is the oldness of the letter rather the newness of the spirit. Just as there is no more sacrificing of animals at the Temple, likewise there is no tithing of animals at the Temple - nor is there tithing of any kind. Christians are not under the Law of Moses, nor a twisted, modified version of it.

“For the law of the SPIRIT of LIFE in Christ Jesus [this is not the Law of Moses] has made me FREE FROM THE LAW OF SIN AND DEATH” (Rom. 8:2).

The law of the letter “engraven in stone tablets” assuredly was a “dispensation of death and condemnation” (II Cor. 3:4-11). Here are but a few more sacrifices of the spirit which are always acceptable in God’s presence:

“…therefore will I offer in His tabernacle sacrifices of JOY…” (Ps. 26:6).

“Offer the sacrifices of RIGHTEOUSNESS, and put your trust in the Lord” (Ps. 4:5).

“And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of THANKSGIVING, and declare His works with REJOICING” (Ps. 107:22).

Yes, these are the sacrifices, these are the offerings, these are the tithes of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Oh what a clever piece of legislation the Church enacted when they changed a law regarding the tithing of farm products for the Levites only to a law that exacts ten per cent of EVERYTHING FROM EVERYBODY.

 

LOVE NOT THE WORLD NEITHER THE THINGS IN THE WORLD

Instead of following the Apostle Paul’s example of humility and service, all too many priests of Christendom have become the very personification of materialistic exhibitionism.

Once content with a good quality $200 watch, now they need a $2000 Rolex. Once happy with $300 suits, now they need $3000 suits. Once content with a brand new $30,000 car every year, now they need an $80,000 top-of-the-line luxury car. Once happy with a beautiful and roomy $150,000 home, now they need a $1,500,000 mansion on the hill. Once happy that the $500,000 mortgage on their church building got paid, now they need a $5,000,000 cathedral with gold-gilded everything. Once happy to fly first class everywhere they travelled, now they need their own private $10,000,000 executive jet. Just look at how many men of the cloth are building their own kingdoms on earth. And it seems like the next generation coming behind them have even greater appetites.

Granted, there are tens of thousands who do not believe it possible to aspire to such dizzying heights of materialism and are content to have sizably smaller kingdoms, but it is still the same foul spirit of lust, power, and worldly materialism at work in many of their lives. Teaching God’s people that it is God’s law that they must tithe ten percent of their salaries to the Church or God will curse them is not only unscriptural, it is a SIN!

How many of these prosperity ministers give sermons on I John 2:15?

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”

 

JESUS, MONEY AND THE BELIEVER

There is not one example of anyone tithing MONEY to anyone in the entirety of the Bible! The only reference to “money” with regards to tithing has absolutely nothing to do with paying tithes ON money. It is found in Deut. 14:24-26.

 “And if the way be too long for thee [to the place where God placed His name to be worshipped, especially during the fall feast harvest of tabernacles] so that you are not able to carry it [the tithe of their farm produce] or if the place be too far from you, which the Lord your God shall choose to set His name there, when the Lord your God has blessed you: Then shall you turn it [the tithe of their farm produce] into money, and bind up the money in your hand, and shall go unto the place which the Lord your God shall choose: And you shall bestow that money [to the preachers? to the church? NO…] …for whatsoever thy soul lusts after [Heb: ‘for whatsoever your heart desires’], for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever your soul desires: and you shall eat there before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you, and your household.”

Farm products could be sold and turned into money when long travel was necessary. But at the destination where God placed His name, the money was spent on food for the Levite, stranger, fatherless, poor, etc. It was not presented to the Levites as a monetary gift.

Repetitive we know - but what the purpose of the tithe again?

“And the Levite, (because he has no part nor inheritance with you), and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within your gates, shall come, and shall EAT [food from the land] and be satisfied; that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do” (Deut. 14:29).

The Church would prefer you not know the following:

ONLY LANDOWNERS TITHED

ONLY PRODUCTS OF THE LAND WERE TITHED

ONLY LEVITES COULD RECEIVE THE TITHES

TITHING WAS A LAW OF MOSES

CHRISTIANS ARE NOT UNDER THE LAW OF MOSES!

Does anyone have a Scripture that contradicts these facts?

By the way, Jesus Christ was a carpenter by trade, and as such, JESUS DID NOT TITHE! Christians believe that Jesus came to FULFILL the Law of Moses by RELIVING the law of Moses in His own personal life. He assuredly did not. This is an entire study of itself; however, Jesus did not concern Himself with Tithes and Taxes, and restrictions of the Law of Moses.

How will the rich religious leader escape Isaiah 3:14, “The LORD will enter into judgment with the elders of His people and His princes:’For you have eaten up the vineyard; the plunder of the poor is in your houses’” (NKJV)? Joseph and Mary Paid the Smaller Offering of the Poor

 

“And when the days of her [Mary’s] purification [from child-birth] according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him [Jesus] to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord...” (Luke 2:22)

 

Luke 2:24 “And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons....”

 

Here’s an interesting fact for the average “tithing advocate!

 

”Jesus’ parents did not qualify to pay tithes! They were poor carpenters which were not required to tithe land increase if they did not own land. When presenting the baby Jesus at the temple, the customary offering of a first-year lamb was not required because of their poverty. Not only that, but Jesus did Not Tithe either!

 

Law eliminated all non-landowners, all tradesmen, and all who were too unfortunate to afford raising stock animals for a living in Israel from tithing. This narrow definition of tithing never changed among Jews for over a thousand years; it was still the definition during the time of Jesus. Not only that, but Jesus did not pay tithes with His Disciples also; Remember Matthew 12:1-2; Mark 2:23-24; Luke 6:1-2Matt. 12:1. At that time Jesus went on the Sabbath day through the grain; and his disciples were hungry, and began to pluck the heads of grain, and to eat.

 

Matt. 12:2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, Behold, your disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the Sabbath day. Jesus did not qualify as a person required to pay tithes! Jesus had been a carpenter and many of his disciples had been fishermen. If none of his twelve disciples were farmers or herdsmen, then none were required by the law to pay tithes - only freewill offerings. In addition, the above incident of the gleaning is noteworthy. First, since this was neither a sabbatical year nor a Jubilee year, this incident must have reference to the gleaning laws. Second, gleaning laws were specifically for the poor. Third, the Pharisees did not rebuke Jesus and his disciples for not being too poor to glean. Fourth, the Pharisees did not rebuke Jesus and his disciples for not paying tithe on their harvest! The only accusation is that they performed work on the Sabbath day.

 

In conclusion, since the poor were not in possession of land, and, since the poor actually received tithes, God did not request, or require, the poor in the Old Testament to tithe. They neither owned farmland nor (substantially) raised herds, and, since God is full of grace and mercy, it is not within the scope of his divine holy character to ask a poor person to tithe and deprive himself and his family of the basic necessities of life. There is not a single Old Covenant text which commands the poor to tithe. God was satisfied to accept their freewill offerings.

 

And what’s the moral of the story here? Those who tell the poor to give ten percent of their gross income to the church and thus cause those same poor to be deprived of basic necessities are simply not teaching either Old or New Covenant principles of grace and freewill giving! Shame on them!

 

 

 

JESUS AND THE TEMPLE TAX

Not only did Jesus not tithe, because He was a carpenter and carpenters were not obligated to tithe, but neither did He pay the Temple tax, which was commanded by the Law of Moses for all men in Israel to pay annually. Of the 613 laws of Moses, this is Law # 404:

“This they shall give, every one that passes among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel is twenty gerahs): an half shekel shall be the offering of the Lord.

And you shall take the atonement money of the children of Israel and shall appoint it for the service of the tabernacle [in Jesus’ time, to the Temple] of the congregation; that it may be a memorial unto the children of Israel before the Lord, to make an atonement for your souls” (Exodus 30:13-16).

Jesus Christ did not pay this yearly tax to the Temple, for the same reason that Jesus did not keep the Sabbath day commandment. Jesus Christ is Lord of the Sabbath, (Matt. 12:8). And likewise, Jesus is not only Lord of the Temple, Jesus is the Temple! (John 2:19). And, furthermore, Jesus was the Lord to Whom Israel gave the half shekel as an offering. Jesus does not need an atonement for His soul; Jesus Christ is the Atonement, (Rom. 5:9-11).

Notice this remarkable story of the only time the temple tax came up in the ministry of Jesus. Most Christians will never hear an explanation of these verses as long as they live! These verses are highly incriminating to those who teach the tithing of money to the Church:

“And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Does not your master pay tribute [Greek: ‘pay the double drachma’ which was the exact amount of the annual Temple tax]”?

He says, Yes [Peter was embarrassed and apparently not honest with his answer]. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him [Greek: ‘prophthano,’ - ‘to get an earlier start of,’ ‘forestalls’ or ‘anticipated him], saying, What do you think, Simon? Of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute [taxes]? Of their own children [sons] or of strangers?”

“Peter said unto Him, of strangers. Jesus said unto him, THEN ARE THE CHILDREN FREE.”

“Notwithstanding, LEST WE SHOULD OFFEND THEM, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first comes up; and when you have opened his mouth, thou shall find a piece of money [Gk: ‘statar’ –the exact temple tax for two]: that take and give unto them for Me and thee” (Matt. 17:24-27).

What an amazing story! What a telling teaching truth from Scriptures we have here! No wonder most Christians have never heard this Scripture explained in Church.

The reason Peter said “yes” to the tribute collector is because it was embarrassing to Him to say, “NO, my master does NOT pay temple tax.” It was such a small amount of money (less than a dollar.) But now Peter has to go into the house and give Jesus an appraisal of what just happened. Jesus, being merciful to Peter, does not reprimand him for not being honest with the tribute collector, but rather, cuts him off [forestalls him] before he can speak and saves Peter the embarrassment.

The point is this: Jesus did not pay temple tax because Jesus is the King of the kingdom. And if “the children are free,” certainly the King Himself is free!

We might add here, neither did Jesus stone or condone others to stone, the woman caught in the very act of adultery even though the Law of Moses demanded it:

“And the man that commits adultery with another man’s wife, even he that commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer AND THE ADULTERESS SHALL SURELY BE PUT TO DEATH” (Lev. 20:10).

Now then, did Jesus come to “fulfil” this Law of Moses by living, teaching and carrying out that law? He surely did not. He rather said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7). If we are to believe that “fulfilling the law” of Moses can only be accomplished by living, teaching and enforcing the law of Moses, then something is wrong with that theory because Jesus obviously did NOT carry out many commands of the law of Moses in His own life!

The theologians have debased the New Covenant as being nothing more than the Old Covenant, with a few added twists. Jesus “fulfilled the law” not by adding a few spiritual twists to it, but by keeping a MUCH HIGHER SPIRITUAL LAW that actually contradicted much of the letter of Moses’ Law.

One doesn’t need a physical law of the letter chiselled in stone, to “keep the Sabbath” when he has entered into “God’s SPIRITUAL REST” in his heart.

One doesn’t need a physical law of the letter to “swear by His name” when in his heart his desire is to “swear NOT at all.”

One doesn’t need a physical law chiselled in stone telling him “thou shalt not commit adultery” when in his heart he no longer “even looks on a woman to lust after her.”

One doesn’t need a physical law telling him to “HATE his enemies” when now in his very heart, he "LOVES his enemies."

LOVE is a lot different than just putting a spiritual twist on HATE! Not swearing at all is more than putting a spiritual twist on the commandment TO SWEAR.

And neither did Jesus take the commandment to “bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse” and spiritually twist it into “bring ye all the money into the pastor’s bank account.”

And so what is it that Jesus is teaching us with regards to money? Simple, neither the king nor his children pay tax - any tax (including even Temple tax) “then are the children FREE.” We are the children of God’s kingdom! And neither our King, nor we, pay taxes or tithes to our own kingdom!

“Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as He [Jesus] IS, SO ARE WE in this world” (I John 1:17).

And so the reason… the only reason, that Jesus paid this tax was, “…lest we should offend them.” Not because it was a LAW OF MOSES and Jesus had to keep the law of Moses, but only because, “…lest we should offend them.”

Furthermore, where did Jesus get the money (the very small amount of money) to pay this temple tax so as to not offend them? From His own pocket? From the treasury held by Judas? From Peter’s house? No. He had God provide for it in a fish from the sea. Jesus did not even deign to pay this tax from His own money. And say, did you notice that Jesus paid for Himself and Peter only? He did not even pay for the other eleven.

Do you suppose we are sinning if we follow His steps by not tithing? Should we follow His steps, or commandments of the clergymen?

“Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow His steps” (I Pet. 2:21).

 

 

The Pharisees WOES

“Woe to you, scribes [teachers of the law] and Pharisees …”

Now anyone who has read the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry will be all too familiar with his contempt for those who were sitting in Moses’ seat. They were the ones interpreting the Law and boy did Jesus have words to say to them! You see, the Pharisees were hypocrites especially concerning tithing! The noted Biblical scholar Alfred Edersheim explained how the Pharisees actually paid less tithe than did others.

 “When John Hyrcanus (135-100 B.C.) enacted a new law which required the buyer to pay tithes rather than the seller, the Pharisees vowed to only trade within their own fraternities, or chabura. Thus, while others paid certain tithes every time produce exchanged hands, the Pharisees declared all except the first time to be “free” from subsequent tithing. In addition to this, the rabbis had excluded themselves from Jewish local taxation. Thus, while the typical citizen paid at least an extra10% in local Jewish taxation, the Pharisees had that much extra to pay in tithes and boasted about tithing! Therefore, in reality, the Pharisee paid less tithes in two different ways than others who did not boast.”

Indeed Jesus wasted no time in calling the Pharisees “Hypocrites”: The scribes and Pharisees were the ones who had exaggerated the Law to make it a burden. And they were the ones who refused to obey the very laws they had exaggerated! “For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin …” As interpreters of the Law they had even exaggerated it to include ordinary garden spices which the Law had never intended! The Mishnah and Talmud (NOT the Bible) defined tithes as “everything eatable, everything that was stored up or that grew out of the earth.”

 The Pharisees also prided themselves with scrupulous obedience to circumcision, Sabbath-keeping. They wanted the Jews to think that they could observe these rites even better than what was expected from the Law. Meticulously counting micro-small spice seeds was their way of boasting.

It was at such obscene and profane observance to such pathetic and trivial matters that Jesus espoused: “And [you] have omitted the weightier matters of the law - judgment, mercy, and faith.” Jesus was telling the scribes and Pharisees that judgment, mercy and faith are more important “matters of the law” than was tithing. Why? Because judgment, mercy and faith are all moral principles and part of God’s eternal character while tithing was merely a ceremonial statute, or ordinance, of the Law.

 ALL of the woes in Matthew, chapter 23, are directed against the scribes and Pharisees. Yet tithe-teachers today want to ignore every word of every woe directed against the Pharisees and burden the Church with tithing from Matthew 23:23. Such is very poor hermeneutics. The YOU of Matthew 23:23 is not the church!

13 Woe: YOU shut up the kingdom of heaven against men.

14 Woe: YOU devour widows' houses; make long prayers.

15 Woe: YOU make a proselyte a child of hell.

16 Woe: YOU blind guides; YOU fools.

23 Woe: YOU pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin (gnats).

25 Woe: YOU make clean the outside of the cup.

27 Woe: YOU are like unto whitened sepulchres.

29 Woe: YOU serpents, generation of vipers.

.Whenever the wealthy were involved, Jesus was more concerned about their treatment of the poor than he was about their tithing. Jesus told the rich young ruler, “Sell all that you have, and distribute to the poor.” This saying of Jesus was quoted very often and his counsel was taken literally by many of the early church leaders in the first three centuries because they had no desire for wages which would contradict their ascetic lifestyles. Notice that Jesus did not say, “Sell all that you have, pay tithes to the priests, and give the rest to the poor.” Why not? What happened to tithing? Many today would expect Jesus to say, “Give it to the church.” However, rather than promote tithing, Jesus told the rich young ruler to give ALL, not to the temple, but to the poor. For the rich ruler, whose money was his god, Jesus asked for everything. How many Church leaders today would choose to walk away than give their ALL to God if asked to “sell all that you have?”

 

 

Tithing and the Jerusalem Church

It behoves us to ask, just how Jesus’ radical dismantling of the archaic and corrupt Jewish priesthood eventually played out within the early Christian community. It had serious implications for many aspects of Jewish life, especially in regards to new Gentile converts – tithing was no exception!

Acts 15 and 21 are crucial documents relating to tithing because they described the struggle of the first church council to deal with how the Law should apply to Jews and Gentiles.

Noted church historian, Williston Walker, agrees, “The early Jerusalem company were faithful in attendance at the temple, and in obedience to the Jewish law, but, in addition, they had their own special services among themselves, with prayer, mutual exhortation, and ‘breaking of bread’ daily in private houses. This ‘breaking of bread’ served a twofold purpose. It was a bond of fellowship and a means of support for the needy”. Notice that he does not say, “for the support of the clergy” except as they were also among the very poorest.

The terrible compromise kept Jewish Christians under the full jurisdiction of the Law with its continued links to the Jerusalem Temple and, of course, tithing to the Temple (not to the church). HOWEVER, it released Gentile Christians from any jurisdiction of the Law whatsoever. Therefore, no part of the Law, including tithing, was ever placed on Gentile believers.

Paul was right! The Jerusalem church under James and Peter were wrong! The compromise James (and the church) declared caused a split in the early church which ultimately led to the death, although centuries later, of this particular legalistic Jewish-Christian church which soon rejected Paul and all of his writings.

After returning to Antioch in Syria from his first missionary journey, an unauthorized delegation of Christian Pharisees from the Jerusalem church went to Antioch to “supplement” the teachings of Paul and Barnabas. They insisted that Gentile believers must be circumcised according to the Mosaic Law in order to be saved. For them, to be circumcised meant to keep all of the Mosaic Law.

 After a heated discussion in about the place of the Mosaic Law in Christian doctrine produced no satisfactory agreement, Paul and Barnabas were pressured to continue the discussion in the Jerusalem church. The Jewish-Pharisee-Christians within the Jerusalem church had maintained all of their ties to Judaism and the Temple. Evidently (from chapter 21) so did the rest of the church. They wanted the church to command all believers, both Jew and Gentile, to be fully under the jurisdiction of the Mosaic Law and fully obey its teachings. They were Jews first, Pharisees second, and Christians third. Incredible!

It is astounding that In approximately A.D. 52, twenty years after Calvary, this foundational church in Jerusalem had still not confronted the issue of the Law as it relates to Gentiles! These Jewish-Christians still felt comfortable in simply adding Christian teachings alongside all of their Jewish traditions. Most likely the Gentile Christians within its membership had been circumcised and the issue had not emerged. Now that Paul had returned with testimony of many hundreds of uncircumcised believing Gentiles, the issue came to a crisis - something must be decided.

It was the Apostle Peter, second in leadership to James, that had to reminded the church that he had personally witnessed the Gentiles receiving the Holy Spirit simply through faith and apart from keeping the Law. He concluded that, since both Jews and Gentiles received the Holy Spirit through faith, then the Law did not function as a method of salvation. Therefore, placing Gentile-Christians under the yoke of the Law would be equivalent to tempting God! Jews and Gentiles are saved through grace, and not through Law. I ask, is it not logical to say that attempting to place believers under the yoke of tithing is also tempting God?

After reminding the Jewish Christians that the Bible prophesied that Gentiles would become part of God’s people (vv. 13-18) James (the church leader) declared that the Jewish Christians should “not trouble” Gentile Christians by expecting them to obey the Mosaic Law. THIS IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT! While these Jewish Christians did NOT understand that they also were no longer bound to observe the Law, they DID correctly conclude that the Gentile Christians were NOT bound to keep any of it!

And guess what? THIS INCLUDES TITHING!

If these Jewish Christians were tithing at all (and they were), they were tithing TO THE TEMPLE because they incorrectly considered themselves still bound to observe all of the Law.

 This decision was a divisive and dangerous compromise. It kept Jewish Christians under the Law by mixing Law and grace, while it kept Gentile Christians outside of the Law with no mixture of Law and grace. When preachers declare with Paul in Romans 3:21 and 22 that the righteousness of God has been revealed through faith “apart from the Law” and then add back items of the Law (such as tithing), it is these preachers who become the divisive ones in the church! For shame!

 “The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia. Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, SUBVERTING YOUR SOULS, saying, You MUST be circumcised, and KEEP THE LAW: to whom we gave no such commandment. It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 15:23-29)

 How plain can it be! The Apostles, elders, and church body “gave no such commandment” that Gentiles Christians “must - keep the Law.” Expecting non-Jews to observe the Law was comparable to “subverting your souls.” They even put it in writing so that Paul could show it to the churches he visited. This was a 100% decision, “with one accord,” of all present at the first recorded church council! Yet 21st century churches have reversed this letter and are more and more commanding church members to “keep the Law” is, at least tithing!

When the Gentile Christians heard that they were not expected to be burdened by observance of the Mosaic Law, they “rejoiced for the consolation” it brought. Yet today believers are not allowed to rejoice when they are told of the curse of the Law of Malachi 3:8-10. Finally, in their office of prophet, this truth of “no greater burden” was confirmed by God through Judas and Silas. What more plain teaching should we require from God’s Word!

“Also, the priesthood was so fundamental to the Old Covenant between God and His people (the whole relationship was constituted in dependence upon its ministry), that any change in the order of priesthood must of necessity imply and involve a change in the whole constitution; i.e. it implies nothing less than an accompanying new, and indeed better, covenant.” A. M. Stibbs

The history of the early Jerusalem church is very important. A.D. 60 - almost 30 years AFTER Calvary and the CHRISTIAN church leaders are commanding Paul to GO TO THE TEMPLE, PURIFY YOURSELF, OFFER SACRIFICES, AND CONVINCE THE REST OF THE CHURCH THAT HE IS FAITHFULLY OBSERVING THE MOSAIC LAW! Do we HONESTLY believe that this church was teaching its members to pay TITHES TO THE CHURCH?

The Apostle Paul was almost beaten to death outside of the Jerusalem Temple. He was arrested, sent to prison, and later to Rome - all because the mostly Jewish Christian church in Jerusalem had COMMANDED him to enter the Temple, offer sacrifices, and continue observing all of the Mosaic Law. Today, almost twenty centuries later, there are Christian churches and denominations who are again COMMANDING church members to observe that same Mosaic Law. Whether this takes the form of Sabbatarianism, unclean foods, commanded church festivals, or tithing - it is still wrong and divisive. Amazing.

 

 

History of the Early Church

In fact, early church leaders did not even attempt to introduce tithing for at least 200 years after Calvary. During this period early church leaders preferred to be extremely poor and predominantly ascetic rather than be sustained by any elaborate system of tithes and offerings. Not only did the inspired writers of the New Testament not teach tithing for the church, neither did those who immediately followed them as leaders of the churches.

 The “church” was very far from being a united system for many centuries. Competing centres of Christianity arose in Rome, Ephesus, Antioch of Syria, Jerusalem, Caesarea, and North Africa. After the barbarian invasions of the 4th century began, the Roman Empire moved its ­ capital city to Constantinople, where Constantine protected and assisted the church in Constantinople as the most wealthy and influential church for many years to come.

 While most church historians will laugh at the thought, not only was tithing NOT a doctrine, it was very far from being discussed by the early church. The locations of the earliest church councils show that Rome was not dominant. The first council at Nicea in A.D. 326 was necessary to ­ discuss the deity of Christ; the second at Constantinople in A.D. 381 was necessary to discuss the deity and person of the Holy Spirit. This was ­ followed by Chalcedon (451); 2nd Constantinople (553); 3rd Constantinople (681); 2nd Nicea (787); 4th Constantinople (869) and, finally, the 1st Lateran Council in Rome in A.D. 1123.

Beginning around the middle of the third century, the tithe only had the authority of a “suggestion” in Cyprian’s small area of influence in North Africa. And Cyprian had no authority over other zones of the divided church. Tithing would not even become a local church law for over five hundred years after Calvary. The introduction of tithing emerged in direct proportion to the disintegration of the doctrine of the priesthood of believers and the emergence of the power of the bishop-priests.

 New Testament doctrines concerning the church and giving experienced a drastic change from the end of the first apostolic century to the middle of the third century. The first stage of decline was the removal of spiritual gifts from the laity. The second stage was the distinction of the bishop as a level higher than the other (formerly equal) elders in the church. The third stage of decline occurred when the bishop was given a high priestly status with spiritual power over the laity. In the fourth stage, the bishops, elders, and (sometimes) the deacons were encouraged to stop performing secular work and devote themselves full-time to the church. Tithing became the fifth stage of this doctrinal decline.

 Instead of the priesthood of every believer replacing the Old Testament priesthood, the church had gradually reorganized itself to resemble the Old Testament hierarchy! The bishop had become the equivalent to the Old Testament high priest, the presbyters to the Old Testament priests, and the deacons to Old Testament Levites. Full sustenance followed by using the Old Testament pattern of priesthood, sacrifices, and forgiveness controlled by priests. Thus some types of tithing was introduced into the church only after a long period of at least 200-300 years of steady doctrinal decline and only to follow the pattern of Old Testament worship. Even then, tithing was not mandatory or compulsory for many more centuries.

Almost every denomination’s historians of early church history agree that, until A.D. 70 the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem faithfully attended the temple in obedience to Jewish law and, as faithful Jews, supported the Jewish temple with tithes and offerings in addition to their church support. Acts 21:21-24 can hardly lead to any other conclusion!

 The Jewish Christians had merely added their unique brand of Judaism into the already diverse Judaism of their day. Although the Sadducees did not accept them, the Pharisees did not oppose them and applauded their high moral conduct within Judaism. Jewish Christians narrowly escaped when the temple was destroyed in A.D. 70 by fleeing to Pella. The final banishment of Jews under Emperor Hadrian in A.D. 132-135 ended all hope of Jewish Christian leadership from Jerusalem. (However, the Gentile Christians had an influential church there in the new Roman city.)

 From the destruction of Jerusalem until the end of the fourth century the “Nazarenes” were identified with a small group of Jewish Christians who held themselves bound by the Law of Moses, but did not refuse fellowship with Gentile Christians. While later splitting into Pharisaic Ebionites, Essenic Ebionites, and Elkaisites, they also considered Paul a false teacher and eventually found themselves outside of the recognized church. These Jewish Christians never ceased teaching that strict obedience to the Mosaic Law was necessary for salvation. Thus, for many Jewish Christians, tithing never left the spiritual environment of the Mosaic Law.

 

SECOND AND THIRD CENTURY APOSTOLIC AGE UNIVERSAL CHURCH

It is very easy to demonstrate from Scripture that none of the first century post-Calvary Apostolic fathers like Paul, Peter, John, James, Jude and Luke, taught tithing. Several chapters in this book demonstrate that no teaching of tithing exists in Scripture after Calvary.

The second and third generation church leaders (c. A.D. 100-200) were almost totally devoted to living an ascetic (self-denying), or semi-ascetic, lifestyle, preaching the gospel, defending the gospel, and helping the poor and needy. Research this for yourself! They abstained from worldly pleasures and took great pride in doing so. Constructing fine houses of worship and accumulating financial independence were completely foreign to their lifestyle. They took literally Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:21, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell that which you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me,” and Paul’s words to elders in Acts 20:35, “I have shown you all things, how that so labouring you ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

 The first generation church fathers wrote very often about the Lord’s Supper being the occasion for offerings for the needy. Almsgiving was considered better than both fasting and prayer. Tithing, however, was not included! The verifiable presence of freewill-giving in their writings, along with the verifiable absence of tithing in their writings presents a real dilemma for those who support tithing and insist that it was a valid doctrine of the church from the very beginning. Obtain a copy of the ten-volume Ante-Nicean Fathers and settle this issue! Tithe-teachers do not quote the very earliest church leaders in order to validate their doctrinal position.

 “The leaders [before A.D. 100] usually worked with their hands for their material needs. There was no ­ artificial distinction between clergy and laity.” He later added, “The ­ earliest bishops or presbyters engaged in secular labor to make their living and performed the duties of their church office when not at work”. Robert Baker

 Alfred Edersheim (Anglican), in his book, Sketches of Jewish Social Life, devoted an entire chapter to the Jewish work ethic. “Thus…to come to the subject of this chapter…we now understand how so many of the ­ disciples and followers of the Lord gained their living by some craft; how in the same spirit the Master Himself condescended to the trade of his adoptive father; and how the greatest of his apostles throughout earned his bread through the labor of his hands, probably following, like the Lord Jesus, the trade of his father. For it was a principle, frequently expressed, if possible ‘not to forsake the trade of the father.’”

 Lars P. Qualben (Lutheran) explains this in detail in, A History of the Christian Church. “The local church had elders and deacons who supervised and directed the work of the congregation, administered its charity, took care of the sick, and saw to it that services were regularly held. But the early church organization was not centered in office and in law, but in the special gifts of the Spirit. The teaching, the preaching, and the administration of the sacraments were conducted by the ‘gifted men’ in the congregation. An elder might also teach, preach, and administer the sacraments, but he did not do so because he was an elder, but because he was known to have the ‘gift.’ None of these ‘gifted men’ held church office in a legal or judicial sense. The preaching, the teaching, and the administration of the sacraments were not legally confined to any specific office. The gospel could be preached and the sacraments could be administered in the presence of any assembly of believers, gathered in the name of the Lord.”

Philip Schaff comments on church growth before the great persecutions which followed, “Until about the close of the second century the Christians held their worship mostly in private homes, or in desert places, at the graves of martyrs, and in the crypts of the catacombs. This arose from their poverty, their oppressed and outlawed condition, their love of silence and solitude, and their aversion to all heathen art.”

 “The first traces of special houses of worship occur in Tertullian, who speaks of going to church, and in his contemporary, Clement of Alexandria, who mentions the double meaning of the word ekkleesia. About the year 230, Alexander Severus granted the Christians the right to a place in Rome…. After the middle of the third century the building of churches began in great earnest….”

 While there were many pre-Nicean (pre A.D. 325) early church fathers whose writings still exist, until Cyprian, they did not write about any form of suggested enforced tithing at all. These include Clement of Rome, Mathetes, Polycarp, Ignatius, Barnabas, Papias, Justin, the Pastor of Hermas, Tatian, Theophilus of Antioch, Athenagoras, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Minucius Felix, Commodianus, Origen, Hippolytus, Caius, and Novatium.

Clement of Rome (c. 95) began writing about the same time the Apostle John died. His writings do not use the word, “tithe.” He is not specific when he wrote, “He [God] has enjoined offerings [to be presented] and service to be performed [to Him], and that not thoughtlessly or irregularly, but at the appointed times and hours” (First Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 40). Most likely, at this time, Jewish Christians in the Roman church would have objected to any hint that tithes be taken away from Levitical priests.

 Justin Martyr (c. 150) (from the area of old Samaria) wrote, “And the wealthy among us help the needy…when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgiving, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succors the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us” (First Apology, chap. 67). In accordance with the first century Scripture, “presidents,” or church leaders, are only capable administrators, and not necessarily pastors or teachers of the Word.

Irenaeus (150-200) (bishop of Lyons in France and teacher of Hippolytus), clearly did not teach tithing. “And for this reason did the Lord, instead of that [commandment], ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ forbid even concupiscence; and instead of that which runs thus, ‘You shall not kill,’ He prohibited anger; and instead of the law enjoining the giving of tithes, to share all our possessions with the poor; and not to love our neighbours only, but even our enemies; and not merely to be liberal givers and bestowers, but even that we should present a gratuitous gift to those who take away our goods”

He clearly taught that the church was a dispenser of necessities for the poor. His life and writings reveal that he believed that its leaders should live as meagerly as ­ possible.

 Tertullian (150-220) was a prolific writer from Carthage in northern Africa whose writings do not teach tithing. He was also a Montanist who lived an extremely ascetic lifestyle. For the Montanists, extreme poverty was a virtue which allowed absolutely no room for a doctrine of tithing. Since he taught that all incoming offerings should be given to the poor, Tertullian would not have taught that church leaders should be supported through tithes. His only recorded uses of the word, “tithe,” appear when he quotes Matthew 23:23 to compare Marcion’s hypocrisy with that of the Pharisees (Marcion, book 4, chap. 27) and Genesis 14:20 when he argued, like Justin Martyr, that Melchizedek was not circumcised (book 5, chap. 9).

 Tertullian also wrote, “Our presidents are elders of proved worth, men who have attained this honor not for a price, but by character. Every man brings some modest coin once a month or whenever he wishes, and only if he is willing and able; it is a freewill offering. You might call them the trust-funds of piety; they are spent…on the support and burial of the poor…” (Apology, xxxix, 1-18). From these it is clear that, at least near the end of the second century, no tithing existed solely to support full-time clergy.

 

CYPRIAN

It was Cyprian (200-258) (following Tertullian in Carthage - North Africa only) who was probably the first influential leader to suggest (unsuccessfully) that tithes should support a full-time clergy. It must be remembered that, by Cyprian’s time at least the first departures from the apostolic age ­ doctrine had occurred. Spiritual gifts had mostly been taken from the laity and placed within various levels of the clergy. The office of bishop had been distinguished above that of elder and presbyter, and each bishop had spiritual power over the laity through the crude sacramental system. Also his church now erroneously compared the bishop to the Old Testament high priest, the presbyters to the Old Testament priests, and the deacons to Old Testament Levites.

Cyprian merely took what he thought was the next logical step (in this scenario of the role of bishops) and insisted that the clergy should cease all secular work and depend on tithes for full-time ­ support. At least in the Western church, the Old Testament pattern of priesthood, sacrifices, and forgiveness was now controlled by so-called Christian high priests, Christian priests, and Christian Levites. Such is the context of Cyprian’s tithing appeals! Yet MOST pro-tithing apologists point to Cyprian as their prime evidence of early tithing. While only a bishop in Africa, Cyprian did not have authority beyond his own sphere of influence. Those who quote Cyprian to support early church tithing should place their quotation in this limited historical context!

 

TITHING – NOT A VALID DOCTRINE

The more one looks at the development of hierarchical church structure, the more obvious it becomes that “tithing” simply cannot be supported as a valid doctrine found in early post-biblical history.

It is certain that Jewish-Christians in Palestine continued to send tithes to the temple as part of their obedience to the law (Acts 15 and 21) at least until A.D. 70. Post-biblical history proves that most of these never abandoned the Mosaic Law, refused full fellowship with Gentile Christians, rejected Paul, later split into factions, and disappeared around the end of the fourth century. Jewish Christians, like Paul, who had been trained in the strict traditions of the Mosaic Law would have never accepted full-time support for teaching the Old Testament Sacred Writings concerning Christ. Jewish Christians viewed tithing as purely law, which they specifically ordered Gentile Christians not to obey (Acts 15 and 21).

In fact Jewish Christians were taught to earn their living through a trade and not depend on charity. Both Jewish and Christian sages were ­ supported by the communities through support of their trade. The secular crafts and trades of many rabbis and later church leaders are recorded in history. Many church historians comment on the fact that the early church leaders sustained themselves by a trade (rather than by tithing).

More importantly we must remember that the church was early considered “un-licensed (or illegal?)” and it was ­ considered an “outlaw” since approximately A.D. 80. The Romans required all citizens to register their livelihood and proof of sustenance. For at least the first two hundred plus years after Calvary, anybody claiming to be a full-time gospel worker would have been arrested as an insurrectionist who had no evident means of support such as a trade. And ince Christians were sporadically killed by mobs and the government for much of the first three centuries, it seems improbable that the earliest leaders would openly reveal themselves (by not having an obvious trade) that they were full-time church leaders!

When the New Testament was written, very few, if any, of the churches were organized into a ruling-bishop system which would require or sustain a full-time minister. The churches were too primitive, too small, too poor, and often had to hide from the authorities to meet. Church buildings did not exist because they would not have been tolerated until about A.D. 200 and did not flourish until after A.D. 260 before being destroyed again in 303.Persecution varied widely around the Roman Empire.

The earliest churches did not distinguish between “clergy” and “laity” for several centuries. Gifted lay members preached and carried out other functions which were later restricted to full-time ordained clergy. For example, a gifted “administrator” may have been in charge while another gifted person “preached” and another gifted person “taught” the Word. This fact would preclude giving tithes when numerous laity exercised their spiritual gifts. It is also very likely that even slaves held leadership roles as elders and bishops in the early church. The noted scholar, F. F. Bruce, says that “Pius, bishop of the Roman church towards the middle of the second century, if not a slave himself, was at any rate the brother of a slave; and Callistus, bishop of the same church in the early part of the third century, was an ex-slave”. Slaves would certainly not accept tithes for their sustenance!

Eleven: Perhaps the best post-biblical argument against tithing in the Ante-Nicean church is the church’s overall attitude towards Christian virtues, ethics, poverty, and asceticism. To state it plainly, “Poverty was ­ considered a virtue, especially among the clergy!” While still retaining fresh memories of the first apostles and disciples, the miracles of the first ­ century, and, while still expecting a soon return of Jesus Christ, the pre-Constantine (pre-A.D. 325) church, was a charity organization which received offerings only to serve the poor, widows, and orphans of society.

 

THE FOURTH TO EIGHTH CENTURY –THE DEVELOPMENT OF DOCTRINE

It is not until the Fourth Century that we can clearly see the evidence of an ever powerful ecclesiastical elite, using “tithes” as a sustaining implement and a conduit for which to amass wealth and power – increasingly, POLITICAL POWER!

Although Cyprian had earlier tried to enforce his idea that church workers should not pursue secular trades, Walker comments, “By the middle of the third century the higher clergy were expected to give their whole time to the work of the ministry, yet even bishops sometimes shared in secular business, not always of a commendable character. The lower clergy could still engage in trade.”

It may, or may not, be noteworthy that the noted church historian Philip Schaff does not mention church “buildings” until the lapse of persecution between 260-303. It is unclear to what extent church edifices existed prior to this time. As long as Christians were blamed for almost every disaster such as famines, earthquakes, floods, battle losses, and barbarian invasions, the pagan population very often punished the church as its scapegoat and would have quickly destroyed highly visible and accessible structures associated with the church.

 The Encyclopedia Americana says, “It [tithing] was not practiced in the early Christian church, but gradually became common by the 6th ­ century.” The statement assumes Cyprian’s failure in North Africa and probably means that tithing was not practiced “by enforcement of Church or secular law” until the 6th century.

It was not until Centuries later, that the church acquired wealth in the form of land. At first wealthy landowners donated land to the church for parishes, but retained the privileges of nominating the bishops and keeping the profits and tithes from the land in their own secular hands. Therefore, tithing soon became a source of abuse. Eventually, however, the church gained enough secular authority to regain appointment of its own priests and bishops again, along with keeping the tithes in the church. The church soon owned from one half to one fourth of the land in many European countries and enacted tithes from those who rented its lands.

Historians usually agree that, not until A.D. 567, five hundred and thirty seven (537) years after Calvary, did the Church’s first substantial attempt to enforce tithing under its own authority appear in history! The Council of Tours in 567 and the Council of Macon in 585 enacted regional church decrees for tithing and excommunication of non-tithers, but did not receive authority from the king to enforce collection through civil decrees. It is significant that tithing did not emerge historically until the church became powerful in the secular realm. Even at this late date tithes were still only food. Eventually the Roman Church even refused to administer last rites if it was not given wealth or land in wills.

 Between 774 to 777 the Frankish king, Charlemagne, destroyed the Arian Lombard kingdom which separated his empire from northern Italy. After his defeat of the Lombards, Charlemagne’s unopposed rule included northern Italy and Rome. By quoting the Mosaic Law as its authority at a Church synod, the pope finally convinced Charlemagne to allow enforced agricultural tithing in support of the fast-growing parish system of churches. In 785 Pope Hadrian attempted to impose tithing on the Anglo-Saxons. In appreciation of his church support, on Christmas Day, A.D. 800, the pope crowned Charlemagne as Holy Roman Emperor, thus making official the renewed “Holy” Roman Empire.

 In 906 King Edgar legally enforced food tithing in England. In 1067 and 1078, at the Church Councils of Gerona, and in 1215 at the Fourth Lateran Council, tithing was increasingly applied to all lands under Christian rule. All citizens, including Jews, were required to tithe to the Roman Catholic Church. A typical peasant was giving the first tithe of his land to his secular ruler or landlord (which was often the church) and a second tenth to the church outright. In 1179 the Third Lateran Council decreed that only the pope could release persons from the obligation to tithe, and he exempted the Crusaders.

 For several centuries the right to collect agricultural tithes shifted back and forth between the Church and the secular authority –depending on which was the strongest power. Pope Innocent III (1198-1216), in order to strengthen and purify the church, ordered that tithes for the support of the church be given precedence over all other taxes, excluded all lay interference in church affairs, and prohibited any one man from drawing the income from more than one church office. Theologian Thomas Aquinas defended tithing by stating, “During the time of the New Law the authority of the Church has established the payment of tithes” (Summa Theologica, Vol. 3, The Second Part of the Second Part). He did use Genesis 14 and Melchizedek to substantiate his argument.

 Exacting agricultural tithes from Jews became especially severe in England and Germanic countries. Beginning around the 14th century, Jews were not even allowed to own land in many nations. This forced the Jews off the land and many went into banking and commerce because those occupations and money were not included in tithing. In 1372 even the clergy in Germany revolted at having to pay tithes to the pope.

Not long after the Bible had been translated into the language of the common man, Otto Brumfels in 1524 proclaimed that the New Testament does not teach tithing. Later that century, Pope Gregory VII, in an effort to control secular ownership of tithes, once again outlawed lay ownership of tithes.

 In 1714 the English Anglican exacted agricultural tithes from Roman Catholics and Presbyterians for the support of the Church of Ireland. Soon revolt became ripe in France. Some of the earliest stages of the French Revolution were actions which struck at the privileges and status of the Roman Catholic Church.

In 1789, tithes were abolished in France by the secular authority.

Other revolts against tithing followed. Between 1836 and 1850 tithing was mostly abolished in England. It was later commuted to a rental to be paid in cash. In 1868, as a result of agitation which began at least as far back as the 1830’s and which was pushed by Dissenters, the compulsory payment of local parish tithes for the maintenance of the church was abolished and was made purely voluntary. However, the final tithe rent charges were not abolished until 1936 in England.

 In Canada, as late as 1868, the Fourth Council of Quebec declared that tithing was mandatory. For a while tithes were even made mandatory in the French lands of the New World until the territory was sold in the Louisiana Purchase. In 1871 tithes were abolished in Ireland. In 1887 they ended in Italy. In West Germany residents must formally renounce church membership in order to avoid mandatory church taxation. Elsewhere, the Eastern Orthodox Church has never accepted tithing and its members have never practiced it. The Roman Catholic Church still prescribes tithes in countries where they are sanctioned by law, and some Protestant bodies still consider tithes obligatory.

 

THE MODERN CHURCH

Today most religious bodies have abandoned the practice of compulsory tithing, particularly in the United States, where no system of tithing was ever generally employed after the American Revolution. Tithing was never a legal requirement in the United States. Nevertheless, members of certain churches, including the Latter Day Saints and Seventh-Day Adventists are required to tithe and some Christians in other churches do so voluntarily. Southern Baptists define tithing as an “expectation” and some of its churches are pushing to make tithing a requirement for membership (in addition to holding church offices). As Europe slowly rejected church-state taxation and the divine right of kings, it also rejected enforced tithing to state-supported churches.

History reveals that tithing became a “Christian” doctrine only after the Roman Catholic Church joined hands with secular and political forces. However, just as tithing was an unprofitable ordinance which never produced spiritual growth in national Israel under the Old Covenant, even so tithing never led to spiritual growth when used by Christians and was eventually forced into retirement a second time by state churches. Without a doubt, both Roman Catholics and Protestants have been guilty of oppression and persecution regarding state mandated tithing laws. And, like Old Covenant tithing in national Israel, nothing good has ever resulted from such attempts to enforce tithing.

Today, politics have largely been put aside within the world’s mainstream cutting edge churches. “Tithing” has now become an issue of “spiritual morality,” church members are reminded constantly of the “curse” of not giving and the “spiritual” blessing (and by spiritual they mean material) that is due them if they OBEY the command to tithe!

 

 

The Apostle Paul verses Christian Tithing

Worldliness in the Church today is not looked upon as shameful, but rather as being chic. Power, wealth, and notoriety are not things to be repented of, but are rather to be lusted after and pursued with great vigour. Young aspiring ministers are not thought to be vain or ambitious when seeking worldliness, but are rather thought of as being enthusiastic for the work of the Lord.

Here’s a little known fact. The Apostle Paul never tithed, never taught Gentiles to tithe, never collected tithes, and never accepted tithes. Can anyone imagine what Paul would have said had someone come up to him and offered him $100 saying: “Here Paul, here is my payment according to the tithing law with regards to my thousand-dollar paycheck.” We don’t know what his exact words would be, we can inagine what he would have said in principle:

“Sir, MONEY is not a tithable commodity. Furthermore, tithes can be paid to the Levitic priests only, and I am not a Levite, I am from the Tribe of Benjamin. Furthermore, as a believer in Jesus Christ, you are also freed from the law of Moses. Jesus Christ has taught us that, ‘FREELY you have received, FREELY give." One cannot give ‘freely’ that which is demanded by law. I am sorry, but I cannot accept money that is given out of obligation to a law. Jesus has freed us from carnal ordinances, and whom Jesus has freed, ‘is FREE indeed.’"

Now then, give that same $100 to any number of priests of Christendom, and one might receive this retort: “Well, if this $100 is your tithe, where is your offering? Don’t you know that the tithe is commanded and demanded by law? You have only given me what is commanded by law of you to give. You have not really given me anything until you give me money in excess of your tithes”

Know this - Paul wanted others to follow his example of not receiving tithes or any other sustenance as payment for the gospel ministry. Paul surely preferred that his principle of “liberty” would become the superior principle which is more important than the principle of “rights.”

Every serious Bible student will eventually encounter teachings in God’s Word of which he or she will at first find hard to accept. The answer to the question, “Should preachers accept full-time salaries?” is startling to one who has received full-salaried support. It disturbs the very foundation of the modern church system.

In Acts 20 (approximately A.D. 58-60) at least twenty-eight years after Calvary and after the church had been established at Pentecost and after ministering for over ten years, Paul had just completed his third and final missionary journey. At least three of those years had been continuous or from a base at Ephesus (20:31). When Acts 20 is combined with First Corinthians 9, a powerful message about gospel priorities and the ethics of gospel workers emerges. The Sermon Was Specifically for Preachers (20:17-18, 28)

20:17 “And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.”

Paul wanted to reach Jerusalem before Pentecost and did not have time to await another ship. He had sent word ahead for the elders of the area around Ephesus to come and meet him at Miletus on the coast west of Ephesus. These texts contain a sermon especially for the leaders of the churches, the elders! The “elders” are also called “overseers,” they are the “shepherds of the flock,” the church of God (20:28), the pastors of the various churches in and around Ephesus. Everything Paul had to say about false teachers taking advantage of the flock and about work ethics related specifically to them.

Even before presenting the problems which burdened him, Paul offered his own example as the solution. They had observed his manner and lifestyle for three years throughout all seasons (v. 18); they had observed him declare the whole gospel in public (vv. 20, 27); they knew how he had treated everybody fairly (vv. 26, 31); and they knew that he had set an example for them in everything he did (vv. 20, 35). To the best of his ability, Paul was following the example of Christ. Therefore, he asked his understudies to follow his example.

Paul fully believed that this would be his final farewell to the leaders of the many house churches which he had started. He felt convinced by the Holy Spirit that this was his last missionary trip. Being a farewell sermon, he would surely tell them the most important things on his mind to safeguard the church in the future without him. They must first realize that the gospel of the grace of God is a most solemn thing; it is not to be treated lightly. Paul had accepted the possibility of martyrdom, if necessary, in order to preserve the integrity of the gospel and to fulfil his calling (v. 24).

20:29-31 “For I know this, that after my departing grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock...”

Paul’s first concern was that false teachers with false doctrines would arise from outside and from inside the church after he had gone. From past experience he knew that others would follow him and preach a “different” gospel (Gal. 1:6-7). “Take heed,” he said, “savage wolves” from outside Ephesus and “men speaking perverse things” within the church would not spare the flock and would draw away disciples to themselves (vv. 28-30).

20:32 “And now, brothers, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.”

What a great pity it is! The last four verses of Paul’s farewell sermon concern money going in the wrong direction! Surely Paul would have preferred to end his career at Ephesus on a better note. Perhaps he feared that the ravenous wolves he just mentioned were going to pervert the gospel he preached by coming in and fleecing the flock. There must be some connection between those Paul warned about and the direction of the flow of money.

Just think about it! This is an extremely important last farewell sermon to some of his nearest and dearest fellow workers in the gospel. He will never see them again, and, of all things, he warned them about false teachers. Hinting that the elders were concerned about their financial future, Paul told them that God “is able to build you up and give you an inheritance,” and then he gave his own example of his attitude towards wealth. It seems as if Paul had peered into the future and had seen the rich church leaders and their poor parishioners throughout the ages. The solution he presented for staying in the centre of God’s will was to allow God’s Word to build them up and to remember our “inheritance,” that is, what we have in Christ.

20:33 “I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel.”

“What is my reward then? Truly that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I do not abuse my power in the gospel.” (1 Cor 9:18)

Paul had exercised his higher “right” to refuse adequate sustenance which would have allowed him more time to evangelize. In doing so he had refused his inferior “right” to financial sustenance which a few other gospel workers had evidently chosen to accept. Evidently Paul was so industrious and efficient making tents that his co-workers in the gospel did not have to ask for sustenance from the churches either. Oddly enough, Paul’s co-workers may have been more free to evangelize because their leader worked long hours night and day.

Imagine this - Paul, not the church, provided the “necessities” for his co-workers in the gospel. [How many are running in that direction to be just like Paul?] Although it is true that choosing the principle of liberty involves more sacrifices on our part, it is also true that it yields greater rewards in soul-winning.

Instead of asking everybody to tithe in order to support himself, Paul was asking church elders to work harder in order to support the poor church members! Paul’s very last words of what he thought might be his very last sermon to the Ephesian elders is a quotation of Jesus which is not recorded elsewhere. In some unwritten tradition Jesus had said “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (see John 21:25). How many times have we heard these words used at offering time! Yet, how much of the offering goes back into the direction of the poor, as Jesus and Paul so earnestly preferred?

 “And because he was of the same craft, he stayed with them, and worked, for by their occupation [Greek: technee] they were tent-makers.” (Acts 18:3)

And so it was that Paul insisted on working for a living. The Apostle was a Pharisee of the tribe of Benjamin. He was a teacher of the law of Moses trained under Gamaliel and was therefore, a rabbi himself; however, he earned his living by making tents.

The Wycliffe Bible Commentary says, “It was customary for Jewish rabbis not to receive pay for their teaching, and therefore, Paul, who had been raised as a rabbi, had learned the trade of tent-making. The apostle did not at once launch into the evangelization of Corinth, but joined Aquilla and Priscilla in practicing his trade during the week. The Sabbaths he devoted to preaching in the synagogues (Acts 18:1-4).”

Few Christians realize that Paul did not preach for a living! He worked at his trade six days a week and preached at least one day. It is clear that Paul personally never intended to stop performing manual labour and become a full-time salaried minister! His strict education, respect for tradition, and work-ethic compelled him to work very hard during the week from morning to evening. Although Paul had a right to ask for financial assistance, “nevertheless” he did not exercise that right, and he urged others to follow his example (1 Cor. 9:12; Acts 20:35)!

In fact, Paul only received temporary partial sustenance from Philippi in Macedonia, not because he was due any tithe, or offering, but because he was in need! In contrast, he told churches in Corinth, Thessalonica, and Ephesus that he refused to be a burden on them. The statements in First and Second Corinthians relating to giving are in the context of giving for the needy, both church members and otherwise. True Christian religion is not found in a system of tithing to support a hierarchy of church officers, but in helping the needy. At least to Paul, every penny given for salaries is one penny not given to the poor. The gospel worker should (at least according to Paul’s ideal) earn his own living and give to the poor. Times have really changed, but so have social circumstances.

Early history reveals that church giving flowed from those who had more toward those who had less. However, today the huge cathedrals, fancy homes, cars, and clothes of the clergy mock Jesus words. Peter was poor and shared what he had to those poorer than himself (Acts 3:6). One proof of the great power of the resurrection was that the early church was fully capable of taking care of its own needy.

As a needy person, Paul received sustenance from Philippi because other churches did not contribute. The “main” church in Jerusalem plainly did not instruct Paul to solicit tithes and offerings for their support. Instead they only asked that Paul collect for the poor (Gal. 2:9-10).

What this New Covenant conclusion does to tithing is evident. The truth is a radical change from tradition and life under the principles of Mosaic Law. Paul’s last letters were written from 30-35 years after Calvary. Yet not a word is said about tithing. While specifically discussing the “matter of giving and receiving,” he called the gifts “a fragrant offering and an acceptable sacrifice” and, again, no mention is made of tithes (Phil. 4:15-18). On the other hand, Paul seemed concerned about greed, covetousness, and the love of money when writing to Timothy. Since such problem definitely existed, Paul addressed the problem of elders and deacons in regard to money matters.

So it was Paul who was inspired by God's Holy Spirit to declare that “God loves a cheerful giver” (II Cor.9:7). Why was not Paul inspired by God’s Holy Spirit to declare that, “God loves a cheerful tithe-payer?” Again, why does not Paul mention the words tithe, tithes, or tithing in any of His thirteen epistles—not once? (Paul did not write the book of Hebrews, II Thes. 3:17). Why does not Peter, James, John, or Jude mention tithing in any of their epistles? Why didn’t the early Christian Fathers mention tithing as a doctrine of the New Testament Church? Therefore, why are innumerable thousands of evangelists, theologians, teachers, preachers, and clergymen teaching the world that if they don’t tithe ten percent of their salaries, that God will curse them with a curse?

It is telling that the only two times in the New Testament that Jesus mentions tithing is in condemnation of the Pharisees. At the time of Jesus’ ministry there was a temple and there was a Levitic Priesthood, hence tithing was still in effect for the Jews. Hear now the only words ever recorded of Jesus mentioning tithes:

Tithing to Jesus was so absolutely insignificant to the gross sins of failing to properly Judge the widows and orphans and fatherless and poor, and to not show any Love of God toward them. Tithing was the smallest most inconsequential thing Christ could think of to show the utter hypocrisy of this Pharisees. They were very meticulous about tithing (a law of virtually no spiritual consequence whatsoever,) and yet… and YET they would do the tithe thing and neglect judgment, love and mercy.

Indeed most have missed the very reason why Jesus gives two examples of two Pharisees, who were gross sinners deserving the worst possible chastisements, and then says that they were both tithe-payers.

Christ’s attention to the fact that they were both meticulous tithe-payers proved the hypocrisy of these two Pharisees. They would pay strict attention to very minor details of a law, and yet totally abandon the very reason and purpose for the whole existence of the law—LOVE, MERCY, JUDGMENT.

Here then is the bottom line: Neither Jesus nor His Apostles tithed themselves or taught tithing to others. And within a generation God pronounced to the entire world by the total destruction of both the nation of Judah, and their city of Jerusalem with its temple, that the church established in the wilderness, was now superseded by the Church of Christ. The nation of Israel was gone, the temple was gone, the priests were gone, the Levites were gone, and concerning the very Law of Moses containing the law of tithing, we read this:

“In that he says, A NEW covenant, He has made the first OLD. Now that which DECAYS and waxes OLD is ready to VANISH AWAY” (Heb. 8:13).

But the Church today doesn’t want the New Covenant to replace the Old. They want to put the New Wine (of the New Covenant.) in the Old Bottles (of the Old Covenant.) And they want to put the New Cloth (of the New Covenant), on the Old Cloth (of the Old Covenant.) And what did Jesus tell us would be the result of such an inharmonious and unequal yoking?

“And no man puts new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled and the bottles shall perish.”

However, in two thousand years, the church is still trying put the Old and the New together as One, and the results are always disastrous!

Just why is it that they like the Old covenant better than the New? Here’s the answer from the lips of our Master Himself: “No man also having drunk old wine [lived by the Old Covenant] straightway desires new [the spiritual New Covenant]: for he says, The old is better (Luke 5:39).

But not only is the Church blinded by the new wine, they are also intoxicated from the old wine to the point that they have no idea what its purpose was in the first place. Jesus said, “You blind guides, which STRAIN OUT A GNAT [are attentive to TINY insignificant things like paying tithes on mint and pepper pods], and SWALLOW A CAMEL [totally neglect the weightier matters of the law which are of HUGE consequence, like judgment, faith, mercy, and the love of God] (Matt. 23:24).

How many millions of sermons are geared toward “straining out gnats” on Sunday morning, so that the Pastors can “swallow camels” all week long?

Cheerfully giving from the heart is a virtue. However, fraudulently fleecing the flock by exacting ten percent of parishioner's paychecks under fear of breaking an Old Testament law of tithing is a sin!

Certainly we cannot begrudge a minister an honest living. However, too many feel the need to have everything they own gold gilded - just maybe their greed and vanity starts to destroy their effectiveness as dispensers of God’s Truths.

There is no need for people to feel guilty over any religious doctrine. It is time we rid ourselves of guilty consciences It is our sincere desire that all who have been chafing under the unscriptural burden of Christian tithing will feel free at last to follow their heart in giving to whomever they desire as God prospers them. John 8:32 tells us that Truth is Freedom: “And ye shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you FREE!

 

 

Conclusion

So indeed if we are made free, what is the appropriate spiritual mandate we should live by under the New Covenant – what might that actually look like? What is required of the Christian asked to live as a “living sacrifice” unto God – their very bodies the temple of the Holy Spirit, the place where “God dwells?” The bottom line is this. The New Testament teachings on giving are unpretentiously simplistic involving the heart and NOT antiquated law that “kills.”

“…freely ye have received, freely give” (Matt. 10:8b).

“Give to him that asks you, and from him that would borrow of you turn not thou away” (Matt. 5:42).

“The churches in Macedonia and Achaia, you see, have thought it a good thing to make a contribution towards the poor Christians in Jerusalem. They have decided to do this, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the gentiles have had a share in the Jews’ spiritual good things it is only fair that they should look after the Jews as far as the good things of this world are concerned” (Rom. 15:26-27, J. B. Phillips Translation).

“Give and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over…” (Luke 6:38).

“I have showed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

“But this I say, He which sows sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which sows bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposes in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity [Gk: ‘compulsion’ as in a commanded law]: for God loves a cheerful giver” (II Cor. 9:6-7).

Really? Is it that simple? Follow these admonitions on giving and you will be blessed of God. Yes –REALLY! And not only that, but guess what? You are to GIVE TO YOU AND YOURS ALSO!

“But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own household, he has denied the faith, and worse than an infidel.” (Tim 5:8)

How many elderly and disabled people are told by their pastor that they are expected to tithe on their meagre income regardless as to whether there is sufficient left over to care for the family. This is disgraceful beyond comprehension – not only that but completely contrary to what the scriptures say! How many ministers intimidate their congregations to contribute money they do not have? Incredible – how they despise the Word of God.

But aren’t we in faith encouraged by our Pastors to “test” God concerning our finances – to trust Him to pull through if we stretch ourselves too far by tithing to our church? Yes, one of the most common arguments heard from tithe-teachers is that Malachi 3:10 is the only text in the Bible in which God Himself tells man to put Him to the “test” - to “prove” or “try” Him. They emphasize that God is saying “Test me by tithing” and you will see that I will keep my promise and bless you with overflowing blessings!

 

The so-called “only test of God in the Bible” argument is simply not true. Why? Because of the way it was written! The Law itself was almost always worded by God in the form of a test. In Deuteronomy God said to Israel “(Prove me) Obey me by keeping ALL the Law and I will certainly bless you. Disobey me in any part of the Law and I will certainly curse you.” The words “obey” and “if” carry the same weight as the words “test” and “prove.” “If you obey Me I will bless you.” “If you disobey Me I will curse you.”

 

Another error is made when most tithe-teachers discuss the “test” of Malachi 3:10. That error involves hermeneutics (principles of interpretation). There is absolutely no biblical or scholarly justification for teaching that a Hebrew (or anybody else) could be blessed (or cursed) simply because one has tithed (or not tithed) according to Malachi 3:10. The faulty hermeneutic implies that obedience to the remaining 600+ commands of the Law were/are irrelevant and has no consequence on whether or not one is blessed or cursed for simply tithing.

 

Nowhere does God's Word teach that one can be blessed by obeying only one part of the 600+ commandments of the whole law. Neither does God's Word anywhere teach that one can evade the curse of the whole law by only obeying one of the 600+ commandments. Paul made that fact clear in Galatians 3:10 when he quoted Deuteronomy 27:16For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.”

 

No Old Testament or New Testament inspired writer (Hebrew/Jew) ever sub-divided the Law in such a reckless manner! The context of Malachi 3 MUST be included in any correct interpretation! Nehemiah's audience and Malachi's audience are the same at the same point in history. That audience (not the church) had renewed the Mosaic covenant. That audience (not the church) had “tested” or “proved” God by saying to God “If we disobey, then curse us; if we obey then bless us” (Neh 10:29). And (most important) the “test” was the whole law and NOT merely tithing! How many Preachers of the Word understand this? Not many.

 

Seriously, how does “testing God” even stack up to the whole New Covenant ethos of voluntary giving anyway? Isn’t that a complete contradiction in terms? Tithing was commanded by the LAW. Giving is voluntary from the HEART!

Where does that leave us today then? You may well ask – how does a Church function if people don’t tithe? Cannot we be responsible, even adult about the whole thing? Why can’t churches pay their bills the same way someone pays their living expenses? Here’s the thing: You don’t need to lie and deceive and pervert the Word of God in order to pay church expenses! Why can’t expenses be divvied up honestly and accurately between those members that can afford to give? It is because those who teach false doctrines to exact money illegally from their congregation don’t have faith to trust their people to contribute voluntarily out of love. They only know how to teach the Old Testament laws, which are carnal, and therefore don’t know how to teach the New Testaments laws, which are SPIRITUAL.

God forbid – what if the Pastor doesn’t get paid the salary He/She wants? There are thousands upon thousands of ministers that don’t get paid! How do they do it? How do they function? How indeed? Maybe these ministers don’t see their calling as the “career move” that most do today? Imagine becoming a Pastor of a church simply because of “the calling” (not unlike Paul) - NOT the salary and the free house and perks of office! Imagine having a burden for the lost without the motivation of “pay?” YES IT IS POSSIBLE! It’s this simple. Most pastors see two options:

  1. Teach that people will be cursed if they don’t tithe ten percent of their annual salaries, 
     
  2. Trust God in faith to provide the money from voluntary gifts given from the heart.

If, in reality, trusting would bring in more money than pronouncing curses, no one would ever hear a sermon on tithing again, anywhere on earth. And if anyone suggested to any of these same pastors that tithing is an Old Testament law that Christians must keep or be cursed, those same pastors would ridicule you to scorn for ever suggesting such an obvious unscriptural doctrine that is not binding on New Testament Christians.

They will do whatever brings in the most money. And it is a proven fact; unscriptural threats of curses for no tithing, and blessings for tithing brings in more money than trusting the people, in faith, to supply the needs of the Church.

But what about those small congregations that don’t even want huge cathedrals and the pastor doesn’t want to be rich or drive a $80,000 Mercedes. All they want is to preach the gospel and care for a local congregation and all that that involves. Surely it is not wrong for them to teach their congregation to tithe their salaries to the church, is it? Of course that is wrong. That’s like saying, I don’t want to rob a bank: I just want to take a few small things from the super market without paying for them! IT’S THE SAME CRIME, with the only difference being the amount stolen.

Imagine what society might look like if we followed Paul’s example of giving to the needy, the oppressed and down trodden. Imagine if congregations the world over, instead of paying for huge salaries and Lear Jets and costly overheads and T.V. airtime - gave to their neighbours instead! Imagine how quickly the Gospel message would spread if Christians gave to the community as generously as they do to the church!

Imagine Christians paying for a stranger’s grocery shopping at a checkout queue! Imagine paying for someone’s gas at the petrol pump and blessing them in Jesus’ name. Paying someone’s rent for a week because they’re struggling. IMAGINE IF EVERY CHRISTIAN DID THIS EVERY WEEK INSTEAD OF TITHING TO THEIR CHURCH! People would be so overwhelmed with generosity, they would be filling every church in the country to overflowing! WHAT ARE WE MISSING HERE? Maybe that’s why the early church in Jerusalem grew so quickly, God “adding to their number daily?” IMAGINE PREACHING LOVE THROUGH ACTION INSTEAD OF EMPTY WORDS! Imagine!

Know this. The gospel IS “Jesus Christ”- his pre-existence, virgin birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension and intercession - nothing more, nothing less! Anything, including principles of giving, which is added to the gospel from the New Covenant is merely “fruit” of the gospel and food for spiritual growth. “Against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:23) means that there is “no law” to counteract, or negate, the fruits of the Spirit. Anything, including tithing, which is added to the gospel from the Old Covenant without New Covenant re-authorization is neither of the gospel, nor of its fruit!

According to the New Covenant, eternal spiritual riches, not physical riches, flow from a knowledge and love of God in Christ. When Scripture is compared to Scripture, the “hundredfold increase” is not money. Moses left his money and chose the “reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt” (Heb. 11:26). God abounds in those riches for all who call upon him (Rom. 10:12). Paul told the true believer, “Now you are full, now you are rich” (1 Cor. 4:8). The riches of God’s grace fall, not as money, but in the assurance of “redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7). Mercy, kindness, love and power flow from God’s wealth to the believer throughout eternity (Eph. 2:4, 7; 3:16). This was the ONLY message of riches preached by Christ (Rom. 3:8; Col. 1:27)!

Colossians 2:2 describes the church and believer that are “being knit together in love, and to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ.”

 A free democratic society will out-give (and out-produce) a forced labour society. The Apostle Paul received neither tithes nor any full-time support. He used his gospel freedom to refuse wages, yet he was perhaps history’s most successful church-builder and evangelist. Likewise, the Christian church, with its freedom in Christ, will out-give and out-serve Old Covenant Israel.

God saves, blesses, and fills the believer with his Holy Spirit solely because of the believer’s faith in Jesus Christ. Having done so, he continues to use principles of grace, not law, to supply the needs of his church (2 Cor. 8:1-15; 9:6-8; 1 Cor. 16:1-2; Gal. 3:1-5).

We must understand. When Christ is preached, every doctrine must be in the light of its relationship to him! A Christian does not obey God in order to please him. Instead a Christian obeys God because he has been saved, because his nature is changed, because he is studying to know God’s will, and because he is yielded to the Holy Spirit! Believers who are being transformed into Christ’s likeness by learning sound doctrine want to give as Christ gave. With a burden for lost souls, they respond by giving from a sincere desire and from their best ability. They give their lives, their time, and their money out of GENUINE MOTIVATION – NOT OBLIGATION.

“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” (John 6:63)

Yes, how many Christians and prosperity preachers completely miss the point Jesus was making here. A life in the “Spirit” HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH PHYSICAL BLESSING! The flesh “PROFITS NOTHING!” -  A new BMW is not a sign of God’s blessing! Our riches are to be found in our character, our quickened spirit – living godly lives and serving our fellow man.

We are tied to a “higher law” and a “higher calling” – one FAR ABOVE that of the Law. Our very lives are the ONLY reasonable offering we can give to God in order to please him – obedience is the ONLY currency of the Kingdom. How blessed are those who understand these precious truths. And by such truths we are truly set free!

 

 

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