The truth about tithing – by Colin Lyne[i]
The church, living under the New Covenant, is only ever taught to give – never to tithe.
But in the Old Testament, the Mosaic Law given to the Jews taught three tithes: 1) 10 percent to the Levites (Numbers 18:21)2) Of the 90 percent left, 10 percent (now only 9) to pay for the man’s family to celebrate the three main festivals described in Deut 12 and 14 (so that pays for three family vacations each year).3) Of the 81 percent left 8.1 percent over three years to the poorer people, Deut 14:28,29, so 2.7 percent per year for the poor. So the Jews gave 21.7 percent a year. There are only four passages on tithing in the New Testament, all to do with giving by the Jews under the Mosaic Law. The Church:
1 Cor 16:1,2 teaches at the start of the week we should decide how much to give on the basis of how much God has prospered us. We should store it (which means we could put it aside, perhaps in a bank account until we know what to do with it). We should give what we can afford. While we can give in church collections, we may be led to give to others.
- 2 Cor 9:7 teaches that we should give cheerfully.
- Luke 21:2 Jesus showed that it is the attitude of heart which is really pleasing to God.
The following is a response to a lady who quoted Mal 3:8-12 (‘Bring the full tithes into the storehouse that there may be food in my house’ etc).
Is there a point to quoting this passage? In this passage God is accusing Jews of not giving to groups such as Levites the tithes which were rightfully theirs under the Mosaic Law. In v 9 He says the whole nation was being cursed because of them. Under the Law, the Jews were cursed for disobeying God’s Law, but blessed if they kept His laws (Deut 27 and 28).
Sadly, many churches have taken these verses out of context and tried to apply them to the church. Like the Galatians in Gal 3:1 (‘O foolish Galatians…’) they foolishly failed to understand that the church is not under the Mosaic Law, but the New Covenant, a point well made in Hebrews.
The following is in response to a woman who said that we should tithe as Abraham did.
While it is true that Abraham gave tithes, he did not have to. It was not a command and he gave a tithe from the spoils of war (Gen 14:16). So if we are going to copy Abraham, we should give from the spoils of war. Melchizedek first gave to Abraham (Gen 14:18,19) and nowhere does it say that Abraham ever did it again or that the church should copy Abraham. As for rendering to God what is God’s, it is pure assumption to say that this applies to tithes and offerings.
The following is a response to a lady who earnestly wanted to know: do we give 10 percent net or gross and should it go to our church or to other causes.
Answer: To answer your question, the Bible never taught that anyone should give 10 percent. Only Abraham did that of his own free will, from the spoils of war. The Jews gave 21.7 percent under the Mosaic Law, which ended with Christ’s death (Romans 10:4 and Col 2:14). The church is under the New Covenant (1 Cor 11:25). The New Testament epistles teach that the church should only give, not tithe (1 Cor 16:1,2). As to who should be the recipients of our giving, a married man should first provide for the needs of his family (1 Tim 5:8).
We are all responsible to give to:
· those in ministry (1 Cor 9:7-14 and Phil 4:10-16)
· Missionaries or evangelists (2 Cor 8:1 to 9:15)
· Elders, especially those who teach (1 Tim 5:17,18)
· The Jews (Romans 15:25-27). We owe them a debt spiritually, so we should help them in earthly things.
· Teachers whose teaching helps us spiritually (Gal 6:6)
· A brother or sister in need (James 2:15)
· Widows (1 Tim 5:3)
Whether we give gross or net is irrelevant, as percentage tithing is only taught by people who are either ignorant of what the Bible teaches or else who just plain ignore it!
Pat Franklin writes: We are so grateful to Colin for writing this. I would just like to add, on the subject of giving, the words of our Lord in Matthew 6:20, 'Lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor ruse destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal...'
So, while we don't have to tithe 10 or 20 or any percentage, giving has no limits! I love the story of the poverty-stricken old Indian in America who heard the gospel and gave his heart to the Lord Jesus. When the collection plate was passed around and it came to him, he pointed to it and said: 'Lower,' meaning the usher should hold it lower down. The usher lowered the plate, and the Indian again indicated: 'Lower.' Finally the Indian pointed to the floor, and the usher put the plate on the floor. The old Indian, dressed in rags, stepped on to the plate. He gave himself. Talk about treasure in heaven! That old Indian had got the message!
[i] Colin Lyne is a postman in Farnborough, Hampshire, England, and is a valued member of the church we attend, Tongham Christian Fellowship in England (just outside the town of Aldershot). Colin is one of the finest Bible scholars we have ever known. He teaches at our church on a Sunday morning about every six weeks, and teaches a monthly Bible study at a home group.
This article is also on our Christian News section, which you can access by scrolling way down the home page (about 3/4 of the way down).