Common statements used to promote tithing. Click item–to read In-Christ perspective.
We have a completely different and much better relationship with God than Abraham had. It calls for a totally different way of living and giving—led by the Spirit and tailored to each person uniquely and individually.
Consider the differences between a believer in Jesus Christ and Abraham:
See Notes for scriptural references for each statement.
It is said that Jesus tithed. The Bible doesn't say so specifically, but people are quick to assume he did because he lived during the Law. That is the root of the whole tithing error: careless assumption based on faulty premises. It produces dysfunctional religious doctrine and a weak church.
Unless Jesus had agricultural produce from the land, increase from fields, vineyards, orchards, flocks, herds, and beehives, which were designated by the Law to be tithed on, he would not have been tithing. Even if he gave 10 percent of his carpentry income or a tenth of his ministry offerings, it would not have been called the “tithe” according to the Law's definition. We know that he gave to the poor, but he would not have been focusing on a percentage. That would be irrelevant to the principle of freewill offerings and to the spirit of giving.
Whether Jesus tithed or not, it has nothing to do with how a born-again son of God is supposed to live in the New Covenant. Jesus would have done a lot of things during that Old Covenant time period which he never intended for his church to do. If tithing was as important as we are told that it is, Jesus would have emphasized it in his own life and teaching. On the contrary, he minimized its importance by barely mentioning it.
Jesus was the divine nature of God in operation. His standard of life was so far above the Law that there was no comparison. The same should be true of the church, which is his body on earth. Our way of living and giving today should be far above anything previous, including both the Law and Abraham. When the church sees the truth of life in Christ it will be transformed. All previous giving will look weak and beggarly compared to what it will then do.
It is said that Jesus taught tithing. If so, to whom did he teach it? In Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42 Jesus acknowledged to the Pharisees that tithing was their duty, but he rebuked them for passing over the more important parts of the Law which were judgement, mercy, faith, and the love of God. In Luke 18:9–14 Jesus told a parable of two men going to the temple to pray. One was a self-righteous Pharisee who bragged to God about fasting twice a week and giving tithes of all he possessed. The other was a publican who said, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Jesus said the publican went down to his house justified rather than the Pharisee. None of these incidents were emphasizing the importance of tithing.
Jesus merely confirmed that the people he was speaking to were under the Law and that tithing was a part of their covenant obligation. He was not giving instructions to the New Covenant believer. There is no other record of Jesus talking about tithing. His relative silence on the subject tells us that it is not the key to blessing and prosperity in the New Covenant.
The New Covenant was going to be such a radical change in relationship to God that there was very little Jesus could say about it at the time. The people couldn't understand it. He told his disciples in John 16:12–13:
I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
God has put his own nature in the born-again Christian. When the church gets a revelation of their union with Christ they will start living to serve God. They will have to be told to stop giving instead of having to be constantly harangued to start giving.
To say that paying a tithe is what protects the remaining 90 percent from a curse of destruction is contrary to the New Covenant and it devaluates the blood of Jesus. Money can't redeem anything and neither can the practice of tithing.
In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: (Col. 1:14)
Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. (Heb. 9:12)
Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: (1 Pet. 1:18–19)
In the New Covenant we are redeemed. It is a finished work. It doesn't have to be redone each time we get a paycheck. Satan is defeated. We are not in his jurisdiction. We are not under the curse. The blood of Jesus paid the total price for our deliverance and there is nothing we can do to add to it.
Redemption means that God has purchased us and owns us. He has rightful claim to everything about us: ourselves, our time, our money, and every detail of our lives. He expresses his will to each person individually through the working of the Holy Spirit, not on the basis of the tithe.
One aspect of the wisdom and superiority of the New Covenant is that the Holy Spirit can direct each person's life uniquely for any circumstance. The Law was complex because it had to address a wide range of events that might occur. The religious leaders in Israel made additions to cover even more situations. The Holy Spirit in the New Covenant has made things simple. He will direct each person individually to deal with anything they face in life, including giving money and supporting the work of God's kingdom on earth.
Paul said in Galatians 5:1:
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
Well-meaning people will try to constrain you with a yoke of religious bondage. You must know the truth in Christ to be free and stay free.
This statement is based on the belief that tithing is one of the foundational principles of faithful financial stewardship for Christians today. But there is no scriptural basis for that thinking. Financial stewardship in the New Covenant is based on following the leading of the Holy Spirit, who deals with each member of the body of Christ individually. The Holy Spirit has the wisdom and knowledge to be prepared for any need that arises, any time and any place. Much giving will be regular and dependable but the Holy Spirit is the one who determines what is best in every situation. He reserves the right to interrupt the status quo. The church needs to learn to trust him. He will do a far better job than the principle of tithing.
The New Covenant has ended the compartmentalization of life. No part is more spiritual than another. In God's family enterprise we are expected to live for him with all of our resources, not just money. But in regard to stewardship, financial giving has been over-emphasized as the most important aspect. There are many other aspects of stewardship that are completely ignored. One that is almost unheard of is being led by the Holy Spirit not to give.
The goal of stewardship is to use all resources wisely by the infinite wisdom and knowledge of the Holy Spirit. It is not to just give more and more and more. It is not to give money in every meeting or to put something in every offering plate that passes by. If our giving is based on fulfilling an obligation like the tithe or on working a principle for our own financial benefit, we may be giving money at times and at places that we shouldn't be.
God doesn't want us to put valuable resources into something that he isn't directing. Even if some project or ministry is ordained by God, he may want someone else to support it so that we will have resources available for another particular purpose that he knows is coming in the future. Recognizing the Holy Spirit's guidance when he tells us not to give is also part of good stewardship.
This statement comes from Proverb 3:9–10:
Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.
Solomon was speaking first of all to the people of his day who were living under the Law as he was. It does have an application to us today, but it isn't to tithe.
There were many ways for a person to honor God with their substance under the Law. Some were commandments and some were voluntary. Tithing was just one of the many financial aspects of the Law.
Firstfruits was a distinctly different offering than the tithe. It was voluntary and had no set amount for its size. However, there were specific instructions regarding when it was to be done, in what form it was to be brought, in what manner it was to be offered, and how it was to be used. Honoring the Lord with your firstfruits had nothing to do with tithing.
This verse is a reminder to us that all material wealth is a blessing from God. Using material resources for his kingdom is part of our nature as sons. We can expect the blessings of God to be upon us as we abide in Christ and live for him by faith. As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 9:6–8:
But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:
Many people tithe because they love themselves, not God. They have been convinced that a curse will come on them if they don't tithe and that a blessing will come on them if they do. So they tithe faithfully, but God is not first. And as already said, God is not impressed with being first. He expects to be all and that can only happen by the power of the Holy Spirit, when a person gets a revelation of what the gospel really means. People who are trying to put God first in their lives, by tithing or anything else, do not have a revelation of life in Christ in the New Covenant. When they get it they will be transformed and their giving will be an expression of the love of God in their heart.
This teaching is a combination of two separate concepts in the Old Covenant: the “Law of First Things” and the “Law of the Tithe.” The resulting hybrid law has been brought over into the New Covenant and applied to the church. Besides violating the New, this hybrid is also a faulty interpretation of the Old.
The “Law of First Things” is a reference to the commandments about the firstborn of man and animal and the firstfruits of fields, vineyards, and oliveyards. It is a separate concept from tithing and was regulated by separate commandments. God had no tolerance for changes in the Law. He designed each aspect to teach a spiritual lesson.
The Law said in Exodus 13:2:
Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine.
That was a one-time event for an individual animal. The tithe was an annual event from the herd as a whole. The two concepts couldn't be combined. There were two separate laws for two separate purposes and spiritual lessons.
Another unscriptural statement that has become popular is, “If it's not first, it's not a tithe.” That means if you spend anything before you pay the tithe then you have violated God's law and there will be no blessing. But the farmers in Israel couldn't know what their tithe would be until the entire harvest was finished. After that there was still a period of time before it could be delivered to the storehouse. In the meantime there was no law against selling or using the portion that belonged to them. God didn't burden them with excessive legalism.
The Bible also contradicts that teaching in another way. According to the Law, when taking a tithe of flocks and herds, the tenth one that passed under the rod was the one given to the Lord, not the first one.
And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth 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: and if he change it at all, then both it and the change thereof shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed. (Lev. 27:32–33)
The word “tenth” in Leviticus 27:32 is an ordinal number, meaning the tenth one in a sequence. It does not mean a tithe or 10 percent. It comes from a different Hebrew word. That means the tenth animal belonged to the Lord, not the first one.
Israel was also instructed not to inspect the tenth animal to see if it was good or bad. It didn't matter if it was a bad one; that is the one they were commanded to give and they were not to replace it with a good one. That is another example of the Law being different than what we have been taught about it.
It must be said repeatedly, the key to the question of tithing is getting a revelation of New Covenant life in Christ. Without a revelation of that, people get bogged down in controversy over isolated scriptures and miss the real issue. Sincere people are trying to fit New Covenant living into a framework of Old Testament types and shadows. Jesus gave Paul the apostle a revelation of spiritual reality in the New Covenant. All types and shadows need to be interpreted in the light of that.
Bringing the law of tithing over into the New Covenant is wrong in itself. Creating a new hybrid law, out of tithing and firstfruits, and adding it on top of tithing is the same as what the Pharisees did. The Law wasn't extensive enough for them. They had another body of law that they had created and added to God's law. In their minds they were sincere but they missed the point.
People don't think that the doctrine of tithing is a message of righteousness by works. But if all of God's redemption, protection, and blessing depend on tithing, then what good is the righteousness we have been given as a free gift? They don't mean to say it but the righteousness they leave us with isn't good for anything by itself. So it isn't righteousness at all.
If failure to tithe makes me a God-robber, then my righteousness depends on tithing. If failure to write out the first check on payday to the local church causes me to lose the favor of God on my life, then my righteousness must depend on doing that. If tithing is what redeems the remaining 90 percent of my paycheck, then the blood of Jesus did not redeem it. If a curse is going to come upon me for not tithing, then Christ has not redeemed me from the curse of the Law.
The popular teaching on tithing is really saying that we need Christ plus tithing. It is saying that the blood of Jesus wasn't enough, that we need the blood plus tithing. The message of grace and the message of tithing are as different as night and day.