Tithe or tithing is one perennial issue in Christianity that has garnered several controversies among various churches and denominations. But should it be an issue in the first place? Or is it the case of compulsion, volition or that it shouldn’t be paid at all that draws this much polemics about it?
Tithing in the Old Testament
Going down Biblical memory lane, we find the initial shadow of tithe paying in Genesis 4:3-7, where Cain and Abel presented a portion of their toils’ harvests to God. We see also in Genesis 14:1-20, the first instance where tithe was mentioned and observed by Abraham to Melchizedek, king of Salem (who was a foreshadow of Christ – Hebrews 6:19-20, 7:1-28).
The second instance surfaced in Genesis 28:10-22, where Jacob made a vow to give a tenth of all that God gave him. These instances captured were before the law given to Moses and they are so mentioned that we may understand the genesis of tithe or tithing. However, the emergence of the law gave a clearer explanation on who is entitled to tithes and how it should be administered. It is in this regard, I believe, the misconceptions on tithing ensue.
An argument raised by Christians who are on the opposing side of tithe paying is that, according to the law, tithes were meant for the Levites (Priests), and in our current dispensation of grace and not of law, where the supposed place of the Levites (Priests) no longer exists, there should be no need to pay tithes.
But what they fail to realize is that from inception, tithes weren’t for the Levites (Priests) but for God, and though the Old Testament’s priesthood was a presage of what Christ was to accomplish, the advent of the new covenant didn’t nullify the validity of tithe or tithing.
Leviticus 27:30-33 says, “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…” So, we understand that tithe was and is for God and no one else. That is why we see God in Malachi 3:8 requesting from the people of Israel and the Priests is due – “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.”
And where do the Levites (Priests) come in pertaining to tithe? In apportioning inheritances for the tribes of Israel, each twelve tribes received an allotment of lands in the promised land of Canaan except the tribe of Levi. As such, the Lord became their inheritance and saw it fitting to give them (Levites) ten percent of all that the other tribes gave to Him (See Numbers 18:20-21, 29-31).
Moreover, for knowledge sake, it’s pertinent to state that according to the law, God also permitted that tithes be used for the Israelites to celebrate in His presence and to meet the needs of foreigners, orphans and widows (Deuteronomy 14: 22-19; 26:12-13).
In view of this backdrop and according to Deuteronomy 14:23; Malachi 3:10, we may infer that though tithe was for God, it was instituted that we may learn to revere God always and make food available in God’s house to sustain those serving in His vineyard and to promote His work.
Hence, it wouldn’t be out of place to posit that tithe was God’s design to teach us how to show forth gratitude, learn not to be possessed by what we have and to imbibe His nature of giving. God has always been a giver from the beginning of creation and hitherto. So tithing is a privilege of giving back to God, not that He needs our resources or money (Psalm 24:1-2; Deuteronomy 10:14; Job 41:11; Haggai 2:8; Leviticus 27:30) but that we may revere and learn to be like Him.
Tithing in the New Testament
Having established the basis for giving tithes, the book of Hebrews 7 makes us understand that the New Testament’s dispensation of grace doesn’t invalidate the viability of tithing. What happened, instead, was a change in the directives of the law since the Old Testament’s priesthood was transmuted by the coming of Christ (Hebrews 7:11-13). For instance, failure to tithe attracted curses under the law but under grace, it doesn’t.
Another argument raised is that nowhere in the New Testament is a definite instruction given for believers to give tithes, but similarly, nowhere is it stated that they shouldn’t. Yet, we may submit that no instruction was required as it was already a known principle by the Jewish believers and thus, communicated to the Gentile believers in view of the new covenant’s pattern in Christ.
The Lord Jesus acknowledged the place of tithing which was why He didn’t condemn the Scribes and Pharisees for observing it but that in being merely religious and self-righteous, they forsook the weightier matter of the law, “which they ought to have done and not to leave the other undone” (Matthew 23:23).
Critics may as well contend that the Scribes and Pharisees were under the law and so they were mandated. If that were the case, why didn’t Jesus also condemn giving of offerings to God in Luke 21:1-4 being a command of the law and one of the accusations levied on Israel in Malachi 3:8?
All of these evidences should make it credible enough that there is no basis for defaulting in tithe paying. Though, it is only a starting point for believers’ giving, tithing is an essential virtue that accompanies our faith. And we don’t offer it because it is compulsory but because we love Jesus, who is our reason for sacrificial giving and living.
To reiterate, tithing didn’t emanate from the law and however, doesn’t justify us before God; we are justified by faith in Christ (Romans 3:28) but then, ‘isn’t faith without work dead?’ (James 2:20-26). More so, “do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law” (Romans 3:31).
Evidently, there is a manifestation of worldliness in the church and the crop of Christians who find faults in tithing are the ignorant ones, supposed born again believers who seek to subject the word of God to human intellect in order to suit their ways of life.
The rationale is that these purported Christians find it difficult to give wholeheartedly and amidst present global economic cash crunch where even monthly wages are insufficient to cater for one’s needs, they would rather bring out excuses not to pay tithe than give to the Lord even from the little they have as did the woman in Mark 12:41-44.
Besides, we do not give tithes to the church but to God through the eternal High Priest of the new covenant in the order of Melchizedek, Jesus Christ. And the church, being the body of Christ, receives them on His behalf for the prevailing of God’s will on earth and the furtherance of the gospel.
We must, nevertheless, take heed so as not to give that which is holy to dogs nor cast our pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6), for there are deceitful workers transforming themselves as servants of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:13-15), who rob God by enriching themselves with the tithes due to Him and deprive believers of their blessings.
Even so, this shouldn’t be a reason not to pay tithe, for defaulting amounts to robbing God of gratitude due to Him. Thus, depriving one’s self the privilege of laying full claim on God’s promises associated with tithing. But if truly the love of God abides in us, gratitude and humility would make us entertain no reason to hold back in giving to God. However, giving by compulsion in any way or form is not of God, “for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Above all, tithes and offerings should be given joyfully with pure motives and an attitude of worship to God and service to the body of Christ. And beyond tithing, God wants us to give our very best and all to Him. Not just a part of us, He wants everything and our hearts inclusive (Proverbs 23:26).
Finally, tithe is not a criterion to make heaven; confessing and repenting of one’s sins, believing in Christ and continuing in the faith till the end are. And should you still nurse the doubt whether to pay tithe or not, consider these questions: will a man rob God? Where are you laying your treasures, heaven or earth? And are you rich towards God? (See Matthew 6:19-21; Luke 12:15-21).
Bible verses – New King James Version (NKJV)
Michael Olajubu, alias Jacobs Adewale is a product of grace and ambassador of Christ, journalist and poet from Nigeria. He is a certified Digital Marketer and whose ultimate goal is to win Christ and be found in Him. Michael blogs at www.truthmediaonline.blogspot.com and you can connect with him via Facebook.