Many people have been asking me to expound on my understanding of the tithe. So I will attempt to do that here. I have a huge paper in the works but I hurried the last of it and I don’t like it so I am going to do smaller version here a little at a time. I am going to include the intro from my original here to get things started:
From the time I became a Christian I knew that I was to give monetarily to the LORD and when I arrived at Bible College I learned exactly how much I was expected to give. When our pastor asked “What is the tithe?” we responded in unison and in military fashion, “Ten percent of the sanctified gross income.” This was not something to be questioned and apparently there were dire consequences for those who refused God his share. For the past nine years I have been a faithful tither, meaning I gave ten percent off the top to the local church, without fail. I can not say for the most part that I was not living what most would call a blessed lifestyle but I did have my ups and downs.
It was not until recently that I truly felt the Holy Spirit ask me, “Why do you tithe?” This question lead me down a research path that has been terribly discomforting to say the least. This is not something I ever intended to question but when I realized that I really did not know the answer to that question it became something I had to examine, as I do not like to believe anything “just because.” I tried to do so as openly and honestly as I could and what I found was very interesting to me. I felt I really needed to get it out in writing so that I could have all of my thoughts straight.
This is a very scary road to travel as in many circles you would be safer if you questioned the divinity of Jesus than the issue of the tithe, however I have always wanted to be a seeker of the truth and I do not think Jesus has anything to fear from honest questions. My prayer is that this document gives some people the freedom to live their lives outside of religious traditions and legalistic Christianity.
I suppose I must begin with some hermeneutic statements, which are the way I understand the Bible to be studied. I believe the Bible to be the divinely inspired word of God. That being said I believe it to be the ultimate authority in the life of a Christian, prima scriptura, not sola scriptura. All things done and said in the name of God must be compared to the scripture. While not a full fledged dispensationalist I believe that the New Covenant means just that a New covenant as Hebrews 8:13 says “By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.” As New Covenant believers we are not bound to the Law but do find value in it. I believe it still holds the value it always has, pointing us to our faults and making us realize we can never be perfect and therefore must fully rely on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our redemption.
So with that out of the way I want to briefly walk through my thought process as I began to explore the doctrine of the tithe. I began by looking up all biblical references to the word tithe. I found a lot of things in the Old Testament, many of which surprised me. For instance Deut 14:22 tell us we should eat our tithe in the presence of God as a celebration of his goodness. I have NEVER in my life heard a sermon on that scripture. Could you imagine a pastor telling you to take ten percent of your income and throw a party, including alcohol to celebrate God’s goodness?
I also discovered that the only two appearances of the word tithe in the New Testament are Matthew 23:23 and its sister verse Luke 11:42 where Jesus is telling the Pharisees that while being so careful with the tithe they neglected the larger issues of the Law. This is the hallmark verse for those who contend that the New Covenant believer is required to tithe because Jesus said:
“How terrible it will be for you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest part of your income, but you ignore the important things of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but you should not leave undone the more important things”
But in this passage Jesus is correcting the Pharisees on how to live in the law which, Paul is clear doesn’t apply to Christians.
I also looked online to find out if I am the only one asking these questions only to discover that I am not. However the research I found was very disheartening. Everyone who argued that the tithe was for the New Covenant Church had very little scriptural argument, on their side, and what they did have was full of fallacy. I am no expert in the art of debate but I recognize a bad argument when I see one. Many of their arguments simply boiled down to “Why would you want to cheat God”, “It is all his anyway”, “Malachi 3, Malachi 3” or “If the tithe wasn’t required people wouldn’t give at all.” So, my goal became to do the research my self and write a definitive answer to the question “Why do you tithe,” the following is the result of a great deal of research and prayer.
I would greatly appreciate that if you read this you leave me a comment. I greatly want to know what people think on both sides.