A surprising percentage of pastors and church leaders have concluded that tithing is not for believers today. I heard one of them say, “We’re under grace, not under the law, and tithing is part of an old, law-based system that Christ ended.” When I heard that I was tempted to tell him that a little more homework was in order, because that’s not at all what I see in the Scriptures.
As I read the Bible, tithing was sanctioned by God before the Law was given. In fact, 400 years before the giving of the Jewish laws it was practiced by Abraham (Genesis 14:20) and practiced by Jacob (Genesis 28:20-22). Jacob also, long before the law of Moses, promised that he would give to the Lord a tenth of all he received (Genesis 28:22). Later, of course, it was sanctioned by God under the Law (Leviticus 27:30-32; Malachi 3:10). And it was then commended by God after the Law (Matthew 23:23; Hebrews 7:8). Before, during and after the Law, tithing is a God-ordained practice.
The king-priest Melchizedek (who typified Christ according to Hebrews 7:8) received Abram’s tithes centuries before the Law. Under the Law, Israel brought the tithes into the storehouse. In the New Testament there is no abolishment of tithing. So, I am compelled to ask: If the tithe belongs to the Lord, then what right do I have to not give it to the Lord? What right do I have to borrow it or use it for anything other than what God intended?
The tithe, simply put, is the tenth—one dollar out of every ten, straight off the top. By acknowledging this and dedicating the tenth to the One who already owns it, I grow in His grace; I don’t suffer under the stricture of some “law.” Tithing is the basis of what I call responsibility giving, the contribution God expects of me. Offerings, on the other hand, are above-and-beyond giving, the contributions God desires of me—especially when I am presented with extraordinary needs.
For the New Testament believers, if there is a sense of obligation in tithing, it is an obligation of love not of law. It is where stewardship begins, not where it ends.
Six Truths about Tithing:
1. Tithing was sanctioned by God before the Law was given (Genesis 14:20; 28:20-22).
2. Tithing was sanctioned by God while the Law was in effect (Leviticus 27:30-32; Malachi 3:10).
3. Tithing was sanctioned by God after the Law was fulfilled in Christ (Matthew 23:23; Hebrews 7:8).
4. Tithing in the Old Testament was part of the moral law, not the ceremonial law. Jesus did not cancel the moral law; he confirmed it.
5. The tithe is one element of giving to God, not its full extent. Both the Old and New Testaments speak of “tithes and offerings.”
6. Jesus commanded (and commended) tithing after He had announced His Church (Matthew 16:16-18; 23:23).