Do you attend a church in which the pastor exhorts you to follow the biblical law to tithe?
Most Christians do.
Yet, most pastors in America also teach that that their sheep are no longer “under the law.”
Some say the laws of the Torah, presumably including the Ten Commandments, were “nailed to the cross.”
Others even suggest that once you are born again in the spirit, you are no longer capable of sinning. And what is sin? The Bible defines it as the “transgression of the law.”
So, back to my opening question: How can a pastor who rejects the very idea that Christians are still accountable to the law turn around and shame you into tithing, which they assert is a biblical commandment?
Color me confused.
Or, perhaps, color many pastors confused.
If tithing is commanded by God, where can those commandments be found?
I did a study on this subject, and here’s what I found:
- There are 32 references to the word “tithe” in the King James Bible. Of that total, 25 are found in the Hebrew scriptures, or, as we euphemistically and somewhat misguidedly call it, the “Old Testament.” Seven are found in the Greek scriptures, or “New Testament.”
- There is one reference to the word “tithing.” It is found in Deuteronomy.
- There are 21 references to the word “tithes.” Of those, 16 are found in the Hebrew scriptures and five in the Greek.
Again, most pastors today don’t look to the Hebrew scriptures for their commandments. They say the laws of the Torah are null and void, having been “fulfilled,” if not completely done away with, by Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross and His Resurrection.
So, what do the Greek scriptures tell us about tithing? In fact, what does Jesus say in His own words?
In Matthew 23:23, Jesus tells us: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”
The biggest controversy or conflict in the gospels is the one between Jesus and the religious establishment – notably the scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees and Caiaphas, the corrupt, politically appointed high priest of his day. Look what Jesus said to the religious establishment in this example: They tithed spices, but forget “the weightier matters of the law” – judgment, mercy and faith. Apparently, tithing was not one of the “weightier matters of the law.”
Then let’s look at a parallel verse – Luke 11:42: “But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” Apparently, even when the Temple was standing and the priests needed to be supported in their Temple work, God did not honor tithing by those who did not love God.
The Bible explains that tithes were intended to support the Levites, the priestly tribe, and the Temple. You might note that the Temple hasn’t existed since A.D. 70. And there is no longer any mechanism in place since then to support the Levites, who had to get new day jobs in the latter part of the first century.
So, whom exactly are we commanded to tithe to today? See if you can find the scriptural teaching to answer that question. I think I know the answer, but I’d like to hear it from the professional pastors out there who scoff at the idea that God’s commandments no longer apply, with one exception – tithing to feed, clothe and house the new self-described priestly class.
Let me provide one more key passage from Luke to give you what I see as a Jesus-eye view of tithing:
Luke 18:10-14: “Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
What is Jesus saying here?
He’s saying the most important thing we can do in God’s economy is to humble ourselves in repentance, turning away from our sins, which are defined scripturally only one way – “transgressions of the law.”
Fasting and tithing can be good things to do, but they are not going to earn anyone the keys to the Kingdom.