Chapter 5

After the Law

The statement that tithing was “after the Law” is not true. Part of the error comes from not considering when the Old Covenant ended and when the New Covenant began. When Jesus referred to tithing, the Law was still in effect. It didn't end until he died on the cross. Jesus was living during the Law and speaking to people who were under the Law.

Jesus mentioned tithing three times in the New Testament. In Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42, Jesus acknowledged to the Pharisees that they tithed and should do so. He described how they tithed the minute quantities of their herbs, but he rebuked them for omitting the weightier matters of the Law, such as judgement, mercy, and faith. He wasn't teaching the importance of tithing. He was condemning their moral corruption and the fact that they took self-righteous pride in their tithing.

There is only one other record of Jesus mentioning the tithe. In Luke 18:9–14 he told a parable about a Pharisee who gave tithes. Again, he was rebuking the Pharisees for the pride they took in their religious activities. This statement from Jesus actually foreshadows the fact that tithing would not be part of the New Covenant because the other man in the story was justified by God without tithing.

The statements Jesus made on tithing were not instructions to the church for life in the New Covenant. His death, burial, and resurrection did a radical work in the spirit realm that forever changed the way that man relates to God. Although his statements on tithing are recorded in the section of the Bible that we call the New Testament, they really occurred during the Law and pertained to that period of time.

Hebrews Chapter 7

Another mistake that causes people to think that tithing was “after the Law” is a misunderstanding of Hebrews chapter 7, which is the only reference to tithing that is truly “after the Law.” That passage of scripture has nothing to do with tithing in the New Covenant. Tithing is only mentioned as part of a comparison between Melchizedek and the Levitical priesthood.

The book of Hebrews proclaims the superiority of the New Covenant. It says we have a better hope, better covenant, better promises, better sacrifices, better substance, better country, better resurrection, and better outcome of our faith. It shows that Jesus has a better name and better blood, and that we now have a better cleansing of sin, a better conscience, and a better relationship with God, entering the true holy place in the heavenly realm.

Hebrews chapter 7 is arguing that Jesus is a greater priest than any priest in the Old Covenant. To make his point, the writer is first proving that Melchizedek was a greater priest than any priest in the Old Covenant. That will prove that Jesus is also greater because Psalm 110 had prophesied that Jesus would be a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

The writer of Hebrews bases his argument on the fact that Abraham gave Melchizedek a tithe. How does that tithe make Melchizedek greater than all the Old Covenant priests? Hebrews 7 uses the following logic.

In Hebrews 8:1 the writer sums up what has been said:

Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;

This verse clarifies the writer's purpose for bringing up the subject of Abraham and Melchizedek—to show that we have a greater high priest. He wasn't teaching tithing to the church either directly or indirectly.

Higher Spiritual Paradigm

It is true that Jesus is a great high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek and that Melchizedek received a tithe from Abraham. However, we have a completely different and much higher relationship to Jesus Christ than Abraham had to Melchizedek. It calls for a totally different way of life than that which was appropriate for Abraham.

The tithe that Abraham gave to Melchizedek is also different than the tithe that is taught in church today. It was not the basis of his financial blessing. It was given after Abraham was already exceedingly rich. It was not the basis of getting answers to any of his prayers. It was not a required or suggested part of his covenant with God. It was not something he had to do to avoid a curse. It was a tithe on something that he was not even going to keep. There is no scriptural basis to say that it was more than a one-time event in his life.

Why do Christians fight to pattern their relationship to God after the example of a man who would have given anything to trade places? New Covenant giving is based on a different spiritual paradigm than what we see in the life of Abraham. Consider Abraham's relationship with God compared to our relationship with God through Christ:

Christians who fight to follow the principle of tithing haven't seen the reality of living in Christ as a son of God. When they see the new and higher way of life in Christ they will leave the old inferior ways behind. We can learn some things from Abraham about faith, but the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ is the only true model for living and relating to God for a born-again Christian. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” Paul was following the resurrected Christ, not the Christ before the cross who was living under the Old Covenant and fulfilling the obligations of the Law.

Total Change of Paradigm

Some believe that the absence of teaching on tithing in the book of Acts and the epistles shows that it was so universally accepted it didn't need to be mentioned. That conclusion misses the real issue. The New Covenant is a total change in the way man relates to God. The change in relationship is the reason why tithing isn't mentioned. It doesn't need to be mentioned. It's a nonissue. It's irrelevant. The church has largely missed the meaning of the New Covenant.

In Acts chapter 15 we find the church in Jerusalem disputing about how the Law should pertain to the new gentile believers. This was about twenty years after the resurrection and the Jewish believers in Jerusalem were still deeply entrenched in an Old Covenant mentality. After much deliberation, James finally spoke up and said that the gentiles should not be troubled with all the aspects of the Law that the Jewish believers still kept.

The leaders in Jerusalem concluded that they would give the gentile believers only four instructions: abstain from eating food offered to idols, from eating blood, from eating anything strangled, and from fornication. This was the sum total of their instructions to the gentiles. But even some of these instructions were based on faulty theology. Paul made it clear in 1 Corinthians chapters 6, 8, and 10 that eating food offered to idols is not an issue if you have a revelation of the truth in Christ.

If tithing was as important as it is said to be, the church leaders in Jerusalem would have certainly mentioned it. This was their perfect opportunity to communicate the most important truths of the New Covenant to all the gentile believers. But even though the church in Jerusalem was hung up on the Law, only beginning to realize that a gentile did not need to convert to Judaism first before they could become a disciple of Jesus Christ, tithing was still not part of their instructions to the new gentile believers.

The church in Jerusalem exempted the gentiles from keeping the Law, but failed to realize they didn't need to keep it either. Their faith in Jesus was mixed up with an obsolete mentality about the Law, so they created a modified set of laws for the gentiles to live by. The carnal mind cannot comprehend the New Covenant. Only the Holy Spirit can reveal it. The new relationship to God through Christ operates differently than everything before it. Laws, rules, principles, regulations, guidelines, formulas, methods, and systems do not define the New Covenant. There is only one issue, that is Christ himself living within.

Christians are free to tithe because they are free to give as they purpose in their heart, but tithing has no special recognition or benefit in the New Covenant. Why go backward and seek after the kind of spiritual life that Abraham had? Why not pursue what is available to us in Christ today? The issues now are faith and following the leading of the Holy Spirit, not tithing. The very life that Christ now has is available to those who will enter into that dimension of life with him. But to do so we must leave behind the old, carnal ways of religious tradition.

It cannot be overemphasized that the key to life for a Christian is an understanding of what it means to be in Christ. Most of the church has not been taught that. Some who think they understand that truth are unknowingly negating it with other teachings and practices. Tithing is one of those practices that distracts people's attention and keeps them from the fullness of life in Christ.

The New Testament has much to say about giving that is not based on tithing. Those other teachings are often overlooked because tithing has been adopted as the foundational truth on the subject. In many cases the whole spirit of giving has been distorted and what is being taught is much different than what we see in the lives of Jesus and the apostles.