Christians Should Not Tithe: Part Four

In Part One we looked at Deuteronomy 26, which describes a tithe given to support a yearly feast. Aside from being impractical, such a feast is no longer possible because we cannot go to a single, physical location where God dwells.

In Part Two we discovered that there was a third year tithe to support the community. Though the actual portions aren’t set, this tithe was divided into four categories, one of which went to the religious institute. Ultimately, the Levites received about 0.83% of the GDP annually.

In Part Three we learned that the entire system found in the Old Testament was a vast array of social, governmental, and religious regulations all fused into a single covenant—a covenant under which we no longer operate. To try and practice one small part of the covenant, divorced from the whole, does not work.

What, then, are we left with?

Here’s the question: What was the spirit behind the rules and regulations found in this first covenant? Four things emerge:

1. God wants to be Lord of every area of our lives, even our finances.
2. We are to be generous, but wise with those in need.
3. We are to support our community of faith and its structures.
4. We are to give sacrificially.

These four things aren’t rules and regulations, but rather principles that come from the heart of God.

We will see these same principles emerge as we look to the new covenant established not by the blood of goats and lambs, but by The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

The first covenant—what we would call a contract—was established by God with His people during the time of Moses. This covenant was written in the form of ancient world suzerainty treaties, which included a preamble, historical prologue, stipulations, provisions for depositions and readings, followed by curses and blessings (See the treaty between Ramses II and Hattusilis III, 1280 BC. in Old Testament Parallels).

In other words, YHWH used a format that was familiar to the people of that day. The covenant was cut, or made, and the people agreed.

“He then took the covenant scroll and read it aloud to the people. They responded, “We will do and obey everything that the LORD has commanded.” Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you concerning all these words.”” Exodus 24:7-8 CSB

This was the strongest type of legal bond that could exist between two parties; and it was sealed by blood.

For reasons we will not discuss here, a new covenant was hinted at during the time of Jeremiah:

“Look, the days are coming”—this is the LORD’s declaration– “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. This one will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt– a covenant they broke even though I had married them”– the LORD’s declaration. “Instead, this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days”—the LORD’s declaration. “I will place My law within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people.” Jeremiah 31:31-33 CSB

This would be a covenant not chiseled into stone, but on the fleshy tablets of the heart.

Then Jesus was born and everything changed.

Here are some telling statements about the new covenant:

“This cup is the new covenant established by My blood; it is shed for you.” Luke 22:20 CSB

“You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, recognized and read by everyone, since it is plain that you are Christ’s letter, produced by us, not written with ink but with the Spirit of the living God; not on stone tablets but on tablets that are hearts of flesh.” 2 Corinthians 3:3 CSB

“He has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit produces life.” 2 Corinthians 3:6 CSB

“By saying, a new covenant, He has declared that the first is old. And what is old and aging is about to disappear.” Hebrews 8:13 CSB

“Therefore He is the mediator of a new covenant,” Hebrews 9:15 CSB

Under the new covenant (or contract), we follow a different set of rules. Tithing is never commanded, nor implied.

Christians cannot tithe as presented in the Old Testament, certainly; but the command to give generously is quite clear.

We will examine New Testament giving in the last part, Part Five.

Comments

  1. Hey great thoughts on giving. I look forward to part 5, because I definitely think giving is essential to the spiritual health of anyone. I’m going to push back on two things:
    1) Covenant and Contract are not the same thing – a covenant is much stronger. In a contract, you basically say “If you uphold your end, then I’ll uphold my end.” In a covenant, you’re saying “I uphold my end, no matter what.” That’s why God kept (and even improved) His covenant, even though Israel broke it. Marriage is a modern day covenant, we are called to love our spouses, through sickness and health, for better or worse. It isn’t like a business deal you can back out of when it is no longer profitable.

    2) Curious about your thoughts on Genesis 14, where Abraham gives Melchizedek a tithe before the covenant is even made. There is no command for us to do likewise, but an interesting precedent and example.

    • Hey Evan,

      Push back is always welcome.

      What’s being said in the Old Testament is difficult to translate. In fact, there is no English word that really encompasses the Hebrew word. It’s definitely a legal relationship, so in that sense ‘contract’ is accurate. But it’s more than that. The Hebrew word describes a legal and social binding between two parties.

      Here’s the part that many people haven’t read.

      Check out Deuteronomy 28

      28:1-14 describes all the wonderful blessings if the covenant is followed:

      Blessing on the city and the country
      The soil will be blessed
      The livestock will be blessed
      One’s descendants will be blessed
      Enemies will flee
      Israel will lend money, but not have to borrow
      Israel will be the head, not the tail

      23:15-67 is brutal and difficult to read.
      The consequences of breaking the covenant are harsh:

      Curses will fall on the city, the crops, and the livestock
      YHWH will be against Israel
      Pestilence
      Disease
      Defeat by enemies
      Dead bodies will be consumed by the birds
      Sons and daughter sold off, presumably into slavery
      Ridiculed
      Yoke of iron
      People will eat the flesh of their dead children during sieges
      The Lord will scatter Israel

      This is brutal, but there were blessings for following the covenant, and curses for breaking it.

      Sadly enough, all of these curses came true.

      In 722 BC the Assyrians came and wiped out the Northern portion of the country, or ten of the twelve tribes.

      In 586/587 the Chaldeans came and sieged the two remaining tribes and dragged them off to captivity.

      That is why, I supposed, a new covenant was established.

    • Abraham’s Tithe to Melchizedek Was an Arab War Custom: which has delivered your enemies into your hand. And he gave him tithes of all. And the king of Sodom said to Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to yourself. Genesis 14:20-21

      Tithing was a well-known pagan practice from Phoenicia, Egypt, Canaan, Mesopotamia and lands around the Fertile Crescent. It was a mandatory customary tax to a pagan god or ruler. The Roman Empire continued this tradition by requiring its defeated subject nations, like Israel, to return the spoil of the first tithe of the land to them. From a comparison of discussions of verse 21 (And the king of Sodom said to Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to yourself), Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek was in obedience to the old Arab war custom and was not a command from God. Evidently, the Arab war custom specified that ten percent of the spoils of war be given to the local priest-king, while the ninety percent belonged to the victor. Abraham was OBLIGATED to pay a special one-time tithe-tax of the spoils of war. While those spoils usually belonged to an enemy, in this case, they belonged to Melchizedek’s ally, ambassador-friend, and possible subject, the king of Sodom (and those he represented)

      Spoils of War Rules under Moses and David: Comparing Spoil-Tithes to Spoil-Tithes (Num 31:21) And Eleazar the priest said to the men of war which went to the battle, This is the ordinance of the law which the LORD commanded Moses.… (Verses 22-25 discuss purification rites of spoils and persons after battle (verse 19).

      23. That I will not take from a thread even to a sandal thong, and that I will not take any thing that is yours, in case you should say, I have made Abram rich, 24. Except only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.

      Chapter 14 follows God’s promises by faith to Abraham in chapters 12 and 13 and it precedes God’s promises by faith in chapters 15 through 17. When Abraham did not deserve blessings, he received wealth (by grace) from Pharaoh (chapter 12) and Abimelech (chapters 20, 21). However, when he actually did something to earn wealth in chapter 14, he gave it all back In chapter 14 Abraham had an opportunity to become suddenly very wealthy through his own works by keeping the riches of Sodom and the five kings of the southern Dead Sea. Yet Abraham, refusing to acquire wealth in such manner, returned ALL of it, not just ten percent! This event demonstrates that Abraham’s justification, sanctification, and wealth ALL depended on faith, and not matters of customs and law. Abraham represented God’s covenant of grace, not the Old Covenant of law. The Arab custom concerning the spoils of war demanded a tribute of a tithe and allowed Abraham to keep the ninety percent and become instantly much more wealthy. However, while living under the constraints of Arab law, Abraham refused to be blessed through the provisions of that law. He deliberately rejected the Arab law-blessing opportunity because he knew that God was fully capable of blessing him through the operation of grace and faith in his life. Keeping the ninety percent would have meant keeping the worldly goods belonging to the king of Sodom. God had better blessings in store for Abraham which are eternal. Again, Genesis 14 is a narrative with the climax at the end of the story, and not in the middle. The climax involves neither Melchizedek, nor tithing. Instead, it involves Abraham’s assurance that God would keep His promises made by grace through faith, and not by military conquest, or Arab law-keeping.

      The “Word of Truth” is written FOR all classes of people, and FOR our learning, it is not addressed to all peoples in general. but part of it is addressed to the JEWS, part to the GENTILES, and part to the CHURCH. These three constitute the THREE CLASSES into which humanity is divided. (1Cor. 10:32.) it follows therefore that while the whole Bible was written for the INSTRUCTION of the Church, it is not all written ABOUT the Church. Tithing was never for the Church the Church is not mentioned in the Old Testament. It was hid from the Old Testament prophets, and was a “Mystery” first revealed to Paul, and disclosed by him in (Eph. 3:1-3). The Old Testament is mostly taken up with one nation, that of Israel. In the first five chapters of Genesis we given the history of Creation, and 1700 years of human history. In the next four chapters we are given the account of the Flood. The tenth and eleventh chapters give the account of 400 more years of human history, and then God singles out one man, Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3), and from there on the whole of the Old Testament centers around the Jewish Race. When we take the Old Testament promises and apply them to the Church we rob the Jew “Israel”of that which is exclusively theirs. The Kingdom was no mystery. The Old Testament prophets describe it in glowing terms. But there was something that was a Mystery” to them, and that was what was to come in between the “Sufferings and Glory” of Christ. 1Pet. 1:9-11.
      That is, between the Cross and the Crown. Jesus intimated that there was to be something that He called the “Church, ” but He did not say when it should appear, or what it would be like. Matt. 16:13-15. The “Mystery of the Church” was first revealed to Paul. “For this cause I, Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if ye have heard of ‘The Dispensation of the Grace of God’ which is given me to you-ward; how that by revelation He made known unto me “The Mystery” which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that “The Gentiles” should be fellow heirs and of “The Same Body”, and partakers of His promise in Jesus Christ by the Gospel….. according to the
      the “Eternal Purpose” which He purposes in Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Eph. 3:1-3).

      From this we see that the Church was unknown to the Old Testament patriarchs and prophets.
      That the Gentiles were to be saved was no mystery. Rom. 9:24-26. The “Mystery” was, that God was going to form an entirely “NEW THING, ” composed of Both Jew and Gentile, to be called “THE CHURCH.” 2. It is a “Called Out” Body. The word Church comes from the Greek word “ecclesia” which means “Assembly” or a congregation of “called out ones.”But the Word is not used exclusively as to the Church. Israel was an “ecclesia” or an Assembly of people “called out” from other peoples and nations, and is called in (Acts 7:38), “The Church in the Wilderness.” Any Assembly of worshipers banded together as a church or congregation is an “ecclesia.” (Matt. 18:17; 1Cor. 14:19, 1Cor. 14:35). The Guild of Ephesian Craftsmen and a Town Meeting is an “ecclesia, ” because distinct or called out from the body of citizens, (Acts 19:32, Acts 19:39).

      Lastly Israel is a “called out body” it is a “National Body, ” composed exclusively of the descendants of Abraham, but the Church is not a “National Body” for it is not composed of the people of any one nation, , but of individuals from every kindred, people, tribe and nation. That Israel and the Church are distinct and separate and cannot be blended, is clear from the fact that their “election” was made at different dates, and that the “election” of the Church antedates the “election” of Israel, for Israel was chosen in Abraham from the foundation of the world (Matt. 25:34), while the Church was chosen in HIM (Jesus) BEFORE the Foundation of the World. (Eph. 1:4-6).

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