Do Christians Have to Tithe?

Samuel Rindlisbacher

Numbers 18:30 speaks of the grain and fruit tithes, “the increase of the threshing floor” and “the increase of the winepress.” Therefore, the threshed corn, the wine and the oil (Deuteronomy 12:17) were tithed. This offering could also be replaced by an offering of money. The amount had to be a fifth higher than the value (Leviticus 27:31). A tenth of the herd of cattle was determined by the cattle of the herd going individually under the shepherd’s rod, and every tenth was set aside; in contrast to the sacrificial animals (Leviticus 22:19ff.), it was all the same whether it was without blemish or not (Leviticus 27:32). A changing of these animals was forbidden. Where it did take place, they belonged to the Lord (verse 33).

After the capture of Canaan, the Levites received only cities and pastures for their cattle to live in (Numbers 35:2-5; Joshua 21:2ff.), but no land. As a substitute, they received all the tithes in Israel (Numbers 18:21-24), of which they had to give a tenth part to the priests as a heave offering (verses 26-30; cf. verse 8). In Deuteronomy, immediately before taking possession of the land, a number of extending and complementary laws concerning tithes were given them.

All burnt offerings and sacrifices, sacred gifts, vows, freewill offerings and the firstborn, as well as the tithes, should be brought to the central sanctuary (Deuteronomy 12:5-11; 14:22ff.). Only when they lived too far away were they allowed to sell them. The amount earned served to buy food at the place of the sanctuary (verses 24-26). With the giving of tithes, a sacrificial meal was connected, to which the Levites were also invited (Deuteronomy 12:17ff.; 14:26ff.).

In every third year, the Israelites should not bring their tithes to the sanctuary, but put them at the disposal of the Levites and the poor, strangers, widows and orphans (Deuteronomy 14:28ff.; 26:12). Every Israelite father had to carry out this law (Deuteronomy 26:13-15). Two of these tithing years fell into the period between two sabbath years (Leviticus 25:1-7), in which there was no harvest and so no tithes.

In the Old Testament, we see that a tithe of ten percent was due “from the seed of the land and the fruit of the tree,” and from the “cattle and sheep” of the people of Israel. This tithe was given to the Levites for their livelihood. And the Levites were obliged to give the tenth part of this to the priests. Thus, at the time of the Old Testament, everything was clearly regulated. Even the firstborn of men had to be redeemed (Exodus 13:1-16). On top of this, there were the voluntary offerings for the building of the tabernacle or temple.

God promised His express blessing for the exact carrying out of this Old Testament law, “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10).

In the New Testament, we read that Jesus Christ Himself said, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20). The apostle Paul confirmed this when he wrote, “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). In Matthew 16:24-26, Jesus declared to His disciples, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”

With this, Christ draws a clear difference between the Old and the New Testament. While the blessing of the Old Testament is mainly through prosperity and outward things, the riches of the New Testament are on another level: in the personal relationship and friendship with the Creator of all things, and the sonship, the father/son relationship with the living God. No one would have said at the time of the Old Testament, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20b). No one could say, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15). No one had the direct promise of an eternal home in heaven, of which Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3). And no one knew anything about a new creation, as we read in 2 Corinthians 5:17-18, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ…”

In the New Covenant, Jesus gives us the assurance of His continual presence, care and loving thoughts. God Himself calls us His children. He takes away the burden of guilt, gives us forgiveness, and grants us His peace. He cares for us daily. He says to us, “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? Or, what shall we drink? Or, wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:25-33).

In the whole of the New Testament, we do not find the idea of tithing, but something quite different: “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). The New Testament is saying here that God does not want the tenth part of our money, our time, or our capabilities, but everything: our whole lives.

The New Testament shows us that Christ has done everything to redeem us. He paid with His own life. He left the riches of His Father, renounced the comfort of heaven. He left His glory and took on the form of a servant (Philippians 2:7). The question for the New Testament believer is not, “How much must I give?” but, “How much is Jesus worth to me?” This is God’s question to our hearts. Everything which captivates me and which I think I have to have—that which is my treasure—will ultimately rule over me. And so the question arises, does Jesus really rule over me? Am I conscious of the fact that He did everything to redeem me? For this reason, everything that I am and have should be His possession!

As far as tithing is concerned in the New Testament, it is not about the percentage but the readiness, possibility and love in our hearts toward the Lord Jesus. Paul challenged the church at Corinth, “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem” (1 Corinthians 16:1-3). Here the voluntary nature of the gift is expressly emphasized, “as God hath prospered him.”

Simultaneously, the Bible also tell us what Jesus said to the well-known sinner, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little” (Luke 7:47). The more we are aware of how great God’s love is, the more we will love Him and put everything at His disposal—including our money! Are we aware of our abysmally lost nature and sinfulness, and what it cost Him to redeem us? This was the case with the Christians in Macedonia, “How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves” (2 Corinthians 8:2-3). We can also see this principle in Romans 14:7-8, “For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.”

Our whole life belongs to the Lord Jesus, and so we may put everything at His disposal. This means, those who have more can give more. Those who have less give less. They actually both give the same. It should be a voluntary gift from the heart; something that is put at His disposal which gives Him joy. It is a thank you for what He has done for us.

Midnight Call - 09/2017

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