Christians Should Not Tithe: Part Three

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 weren’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.

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This last section gets a bit complex.

Whether you agree or disagree, in the U.S. we have a very clear separation of church and state. We pay our complex amalgamation of taxes to multiple government authorities throughout the year. If we are obedient men and women of faith, we also give generously to our community of faith.

These are two distinct groups; and while one is voluntary, the other is compulsory.

Under the first covenant there was no such separation.

The covenant was a theocracy.

Every obedient person gave 13.3% (10% each year for the feast tithe, and 10% every third year for the community tithe = 13.333% per year), plus offerings.

Fortunately for them, this tithe was also the tax. How do we know? Two reasons: first, the text refers to the tithe as a tax:

“Therefore the king summoned Jehoiada the chief priest and said to him, “Why haven’t you required the Levites to bring in from Judah and Jerusalem the tax imposed by Moses the servant of the LORD and by the assembly of Israel for the Tent of the Testimony?”” 2 Chronicles 24:6 NIV

Not only is the tithe referred to as a tax, it functioned as a tax. How?

Remember that the system in place functioned as a government.

There were elders who served as judges. This was the equivalent of our judicial system.

“Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves.” Exodus 18:24-26 NIV

Seventy of the elders were even given the Spirit of God to help Moses.

“I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit that is on you and put the Spirit on them. They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone.” Numbers 11:17  NIV

By the way, their penal system was quite simple. If you committed a crime, you were either fined, banished, or put to death. There were no prisons, which saved them much money (Our Federal Prison System’s budget was 6.6 billion in 2012, which called for 60,000 paid positions).

What about a Health Department or Center for Disease Control? The priests fulfilled that need.

If you had mold in your home or your tent, they dealt with it:

“When you enter the land of Canaan that I am giving you as a possession, and I place a mildew contamination in a house in the land you possess, the owner of the house is to come and tell the priest: Something like mildew contamination has appeared in my house. The priest must order them to clear the house before he enters to examine the contamination, so that nothing in the house becomes unclean. Afterwards the priest will come to examine the house.” Leviticus 14:34-36 CSB

They even dealt with skin rashes:

“The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron: “When a person has a swelling, scab, or spot on the skin of his body, and it becomes a disease on the skin of his body, he is to be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons, the priests.  The priest will examine the infection on the skin of his body. If the hair in the infection has turned white and the infection appears to be deeper than the skin of his body, it is a skin disease. After the priest examines him, he must pronounce him unclean.” Leviticus 13:1-3 CSB

There are many more examples. I suggest reading the last four books of the Pentateuch and checking it out.

This effectively neutralizes the debate about whether a person should tithe before or after taxes. It’s a nonsensical question if the tithe itself was a tax.

How would you like to live under a system that only required 13.3% of your income,  and that supported your government and your church? Sign me up!

Ultimately, here’s why we can’t tithe:

1. We can’t go to where the Lord dwells for a huge, lavish feast. There is no single, physical temple or tabernacle.

2. We can’t say the required prayer in Deuteronomy 26, since we don’t practice ritualistic cleanliness.

3. We can’t give a ¼ or our tithe to the Levites, since they don’t exist.

4. The Levites can’t tithe to Aaron or another high priest, since neither exists.

5. We can’t tithe because the tithe supported a complex social, religious, and governmental structure. It was both a tax and a way to support the religious institution. That government no longer exists.

6. We are no longer under the first covenant, but a new covenant in Christ.

What, then, should Christians do?

We’ll get to that in Part Four and Five.

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