Many churches, Christians, and religious organizations teach that a Christian should/must give 10% (tithe) or more of his income to the Lord via the church. But is this biblical, true?
Those who teach that Christians should tithe usually base their opinion on such passages as Lev. 27:30-33; Num. 18:21-24; Deut. 11:31-32; 12:5, 8-11; 14:22-26; and Mal. 3:8-10.
But as you read these passages, you find some interesting facts that aren’t often mentioned by those who teach tithing. For example, in the Lev. 27:31-34 passage, verse 34 states, “These are the commands the Lord gave Moses on Mount Sinai for the Israelites.” So, who was the command to tithe given? Was it to Christians or to the Israelites? It says that it was to the Israelites (physical descendants of Abraham). Christians (believers in the Lord Jesus Christ) and Israelites are two different categories of people (Rom. 11; 9:30-32).
In the Num. 18:21-24 passage, verse 21 says, “I give to the Levites all the tithes in Israel as their inheritance in return for the work they do while serving at the Tent of Meeting.“ To whom were the tithes to go? Was it to the Levites (vss. 21, 24) or to Christian ministers/pastors/elders? It says that it was to the Levites (descendants of the tribe of Levi who were set apart for the service of the tent of meeting/tabernacle/sanctuary and subordinate to the priests, Aaron’s descendants – Num. 1:53; 3:1-9; 18:21-31). Levites and Christian ministers/elders/overseers are 2 different categories of people (Heb. 7:11-28; 1 Tim. 3:2-7; Titus 1:5-9) as are the tent of meeting and churches two different things (Ex. 25-27, 30; Rom. 16:5; 1 Cor. 16:19; Col. 4:15).
In the Deut. 11:31-32; 12:5, 8-11; 14:22-26 passages, God tells the Israelites to bring their tithes to the place He would choose in Israel from among all their tribes to put His name there for His dwelling (vss. 5-6, 10-11). So, where were the Israelites to bring their tithes? Was it to the one place in Israel where the tabernacle (later the temple) stood, or was it to every church building in which Christians would meet? It says that it was “the (one) place God will choose from among all your (Israel’s) tribes to put His name” (vs. 5), and not as/where anyone/everyone sees fit (vs. 8). The tabernacle (Ex. 25-27, 30), later the temple in Jerusalem (1 Ki. 3:1; 6; 8) is different from churches (1 Cor. 1:2; 16:19; Gal. 1:2; Col. 4:15; 1 Thes. 1:1). The Israelites brought their tithes to the one place of Jerusalem’s temple (2 Chron. 31:5, 10; Neh. 12:43-44; Mal. 3:8-10). Also, 10% (tithe) of the Israelites’ produce was to be brought by the family and eaten together once a year (Deut. 14:22-23, 26). Are Christian churches who teach tithing doing this? Or, do they pick and choose what they want to teach and obey out of the Old Testament that which was written for the Israelites?
In Deut. 14:28-29 it says, “At the end of every 3 years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites and the aliens, the fatherless and widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied…” Deut. 26:12-15 basically states the same thing for the Israelites to do. Again, it’s the Israelites who are to do this in the land of Israel as the context shows. This once every 3-year-tithe is to be given to the local needy people where the Israelite lived. It’s interesting to note that the churches or Christians who teach that we Christians should tithe to our churches, never tell us to tithe once every 3 years to the needy people around us. How come? Is it because the churches or pastors are not the benefactors of this tithe?
In Mal. 3:8-10, God tells the Israelites (descendants of Jacob – vs. 6) to not rob Him by withholding their “tithes and offerings”. God goes on to tell these Israelites, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house.” Again, this command is to the Israelites, not Christians. And they are to bring the tithes to God’s storehouse/house (another name for the temple – 1 Ki. 3:1; 6:1, 2; 8:6), not to the churches.
Tithing was a requirement for the Israelites under the Law of Moses/law (Lev. 26:46 with Lev. 27:30-34; Deut. 26:12-27:3 with Deut. 4:44-45; 1 Ki. 2:3).
But Christians (believers in the Lord Jesus Christ) are not Israelites and are not under the law/Law – Rom. 10:4; 6:14-15; 7:4-6; Gal. 3:24-25; 4:21-31; 5:18; 1 Cor. 9:20.
No instruction in Acts or in the Epistles suggests that tithing is to be practiced by Christians. Christians are to give to the needy (Rom. 12:13) and to their spiritual teachers (Gal. 6:6). Christians are to give as they desire in their heart (2 Cor. 9:7), and as a balanced response to the needy (2 Cor. 8:12-15). But no percentages are mandated.
Another so-called argument by those who try to prove that tithing is a command for Christians to obey today is that because Abraham gave a tithe to Melchizedek, and this was before the Mosaic Law was given; therefore, so should Christians. However, the logic of this argument is absurd. If one was to follow this logic, then Christians today should have multiple wives and/or concubines because Abraham and other great leaders before the Law was given and after the Law was given had them. Also, nowhere does the Bible say that Abraham (or anyone else before the Mosaic Law was given) was commanded to tithe to Melchizedek or anyone else. So, the Abraham argument is fallacious. Or, some people try to prove tithing being for today by quoting Matt. 23:23, which is in a New Testament book. However, the new testament (which means “new covenant”) does not begin until the death of Jesus Christ (Matt. 26:27-28; Lk. 22:20; Heb. 8:6-7, 13). Therefore, Jesus’ comments about tithing in Matt. 23:23 still fall under the old testament period of the Mosaic Law.
So, must a Christian tithe? No! The Bible does not say so!