Is The Law Of Tithing For New Testament Gentile Believers?

Tithe means one-tenth of a thing, or a tenth part of something. The doctrine of believers paying a tenth of their income to the church, as a mandatory biblical requirement, is zealously taught and demanded by almost all churches. In fact, some people teach that not to pay tithe is such a heinous sin against God that it could even affect one’s salvation. This topic is so important that it merits a detailed biblical exposition, in order to understand the place of tithing in the New Testament Church of Jesus Christ.

The first record of tithing in the Bible is found in the 14th Chapter of Genesis, where Abraham (then Abram) paid tithe to King Melchizedek, the High Priest of God.

Genesis 14:18 Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine: and he was priest of God Most High.

Genesis 14:19 He blessed him, and said, “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth:

Genesis 14:20 and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” Abram gave him a tenth of all.

We are not told whether Abram had a specific commandment to give a tenth or 10% of the spoils he had seized from the enemies he fought and overcame. We do not know and cannot tell whether tithing was a regular habit with Abram or whether it was just coincidental that he gave a tenth of the spoils as offering to God’s Priest.  It is instructive to note that nowhere else is it recorded that Abraham gave tithes again.

The next record of tithing in the Bible is in Genesis Chapter 28, where Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, vowed to give God 10% of his wealth, if God would protect and bless him on the journey he was about to embark upon.

Genesis 28:20 Jacob vowed a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and clothing to put on,

Genesis 28:21 so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, and Yahweh will be my God,

Genesis 28:22 then this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, will be God’s house. Of all that you will give me I will surely give the tenth to you.”

It is worth noting that Jacob promised to give God his tithe, not as in obedience to a mandatory commandment from God, but as a vow, as a promise contingent on God’s protection and blessings. In other words, Jacob was saying he would give 10% of his wealth if God blessed and protected him on his journey. However, if God failed to protect or bless him, he wasn’t obligated to give God his tithe. Tithing for Jacob was a contractual agreement with God, not an obligatory commandment from God. You don’t give God conditions before you obey a commandment of the Lord. Whether God blesses you or not, whether he protects you or not, you are required to keep his commandment, as a child of God. You don’t negotiate on a divine commandment.

We do not see tithing again until it appears in Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, as part of the laws given to Moses by God, for the support of the Levitical priesthood, the widows, the poor, the needy and the strangers in the land of Israel.

Leviticus 27:30 “All the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is Yahweh’s. It is holy to Yahweh.

Leviticus 27:32 All the tithe of the herds or the flocks, whatever passes under the rod, the tenth shall be holy to Yahweh.

Numbers 18:24 For the tithe of the children of Israel, which they offer as a wave offering to Yahweh, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance. Therefore I have said to them, ‘Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.”

Numbers 18:26 “Moreover you shall speak to the Levites, and tell them, ‘When you take of the children of Israel the tithe which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall offer up a wave offering of it for Yahweh, a tithe of the tithe.

Numbers 18:27 your wave offering shall be reckoned to you, as though it were the grain of the threshing floor, and as the fullness of the wine press.

Numbers 18:28 Thus you also shall offer a wave offering to Yahweh of all your tithes, which you receive of the children of Israel; and of it you shall give Yahweh’s wave offering to Aaron the priest.

Numbers 18:29 Out of all your gifts, you shall offer every wave offering of Yahweh, of all its best, even the holy part of it out of it.’

Tithing was thus made a commandment to the Israelites, to whom God gave his laws on Mount Sinai. As a commandment for the Jews, its observance was obligatory, with severe penalties from God for disobedience.

Malachi 3:8 Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In tithes and offerings.

Malachi 3:9 you are cursed with the curse; for you rob me, even this whole nation.

Malachi 3:10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and test me now in this,” says Yahweh of Armies, “if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough for.

Malachi 3:11 I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast its fruit before its time in the field,” says Yahweh of Armies.

Malachi 3:12 “All nations shall call you blessed, for you will be a delightful land,” says Yahweh of Armies.

Because the tithes of the children of Israel, the Jews, belonged to God, failure to bring their tithes to God amounted to robbing God. Keeping God’s property away from God is akin to stealing from God.

Such act of robbery against God was to be punished with a curse on such offenders in the land of Israel. Devourers would be released upon them (sicknesses, plagues, famine, war, pestilence, etc), and they would thus experience severe hardship, suffering, barrenness and unfruitfulness. However, if they were faithful in paying their tithes, the Jews would be tremendously blessed, all things being equal.

Now, let’s look at how tithes were to be paid and used in Israel, in accordance with the Mosaic Law which regulated the payment and utilization of tithes. The Jews were mandated to pay two sets of tithes, the first at the end of each year (the yearly tithe), and the second at the end of every three years (the third yearly tithe). The yearly tithe was for the owner of the tithe and his family to eat and enjoy in the presence of God, sharing the feast with the Levites, the poor, the fatherless, the widows and the strangers.

Deuteronomy 14:22 you shall surely tithe all the increase of your seed, that which comes out of the field year by year.

Deuteronomy 14:23 You shall eat before Yahweh your God, in the place which he chooses, to cause his name to dwell there, the tithe of your grain, of your new wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock; that you may learn to fear Yahweh your God always.

Deuteronomy 14:24 If the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry it, because the place is too far from you, which Yahweh your God shall choose, to set his name there, when Yahweh your God shall bless you;

Deuteronomy 14:25 then you shall turn it into money, and bind up the money in your hand, and shall go to the place which Yahweh your God shall choose.

Deuteronomy 14:26 You shall trade the money for whatever your soul desires, for cattle, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatever your soul asks of you; and you shall eat there before Yahweh your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household.

Deuteronomy 14:27 you shall not forsake the Levite who is within your gates, for he has no portion nor inheritance with you.

The three yearly tithes were to be collected at the end of every three years, and were to be kept in storehouses within every city in Israel, for the sustenance of the Levites, the poor, the widows, the fatherless and the strangers.

Deuteronomy 14:28 at the end of every three years you shall bring all the tithe of your increase in the same year, and shall store it within your gates.

Deuteronomy 14:29 The Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the foreigner living among you, and the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that Yahweh your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.

The three yearly tithe was the main tithe for the upkeep and maintenance of the Levites, the widows, the poor, the fatherless and the strangers in the land of Israel. Its purpose was to ensure that there was food always for the Levites (who had no inheritance in Israel and worked full time in the service of God), the poor, the widows, the fatherless and the strangers.

Amos 4:4 Come to Bethel, and transgress; at Gilgal multiply transgression; and bring your sacrifices every morning, and your tithes after three years:

Malachi 3:10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and test me now in this,” says Yahweh of Armies, “if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough for.

As shown from the scriptures above, tithes were not meant for the Levites alone. Tithes were meant to be brought into store houses in every city in Israel, and were to be distributed to Levites, widows, the fatherless, the poor and the strangers. Even when it was lawful to pay tithe under the law, it was not to be paid privately to a Levite, and it was not to be used by the Levites alone. The tithes of the people was to provide food for the entire house of God, and not just for Levites alone!

In the New Testament, tithe was mentioned only in the Gospels, and in relation to the Jews, who were still under obligation to keep the Law of Moses, of which tithing was a part.

St. Matthew 23:23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cumin, and have left undone the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faith. But you ought to have done these, and not to have left the other undone.

St. Luke 11:42 But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, but you bypass justice and the love of God. You ought to have done these, and not to have left the other undone.

Jesus strongly rebuked the hypocritical Pharisees, who would meticulously require the people to pay tithe of everything, including the smallest seeds, but ignored more important or weightier matters of the law, such as justice, mercy, faith, and love of God. As far as Jesus was concerned, these matters were far more important than tithing. Unlike our Pastors of today who make tithing the weightiest matter of the word of God and of the faith, Jesus placed tithing for the Jews on the lowest rung of the spiritual ladder, below justice, mercy, faith and love of God. Tithing is not the panacea our modern day Pastors are making it out to be. Tithing was a minor part of the entire Law of Moses, and was never the basis of righteousness or the means to secure God’s favour. In fact, a Pharisee, like a lot of Church members today who seek to be justified by payment of tithe, was condemned by Jesus and went away without God’s favour, though he was a faithful tither.

St. Luke 18:10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray; one was a Pharisee, and the other was a tax collector.

St. Luke 18:11 The Pharisee stood and prayed to himself like this: ‘God, I thank you, that I am not like the rest of men, extortionists, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.

St. Luke 18:12 I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I get.’

St. Luke 18:13 But the tax collector, standing far away, wouldn’t even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

St. Luke 18:14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted”.

Indeed, tithe paying does not justify anyone, and cannot be used as a basis to secure God’s favour, if you don’t observe the weightier matters of God’s word.

For those who quote these passages in the Gospels as evidence that tithing is a New Testament doctrine for the Gentile Believers, let me remind us that Jesus ministered to the Jews only, throughout his ministry. Infact, he came primarily and originally for the Jews and was their minister.

Romans 15:8 now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:

St. John 1:11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

St. Matthew 15:24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Jesus was sent to the house of Israel, as their Messiah, King, Prophet, Judge and Lord. He expounded and elaborated on the Laws God gave to Moses for the Jews. He was born as a Jew, lived as a Jew and upheld the Jewish traditions until his death. He lived and fulfilled the law!

Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,

Galatians 4:5 to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

The purpose of Jesus coming as a man and as a Jew was to fulfill the law (which no man before him could fulfill), meet its righteous requirements and deliver from the law those who were under the law (the Jews, unto whom God gave his law). If he had failed to fulfill the law he would have been deemed unfit to redeem his people from living under the law.

St. Matthew 5:17 “Don’t think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I didn’t come to destroy, but to fulfill.

St. Matthew 5:18 For most certainly, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not even one smallest letter or one tiny pen stroke shall in any way pass away from the law, until all things are accomplished.

When he had fulfilled the law and died as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the people, he abolished the law and redeemed the people from under the law, having fulfilled the law. In his life he fulfilled the law, and by his death he abolished the law!

Ephesians 2:14 for he is our peace, who made both one, and broke down the middle wall of partition,

Ephesians 2:15 having abolished in the flesh the hostility, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man of the two, making peace;

Colossians 2:13 you were dead through your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh. He made you alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,

Colossians 2:14 wiping out the handwriting in ordinances which was against us; and he has taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross;

Romans 7:1 or don’t you know, brothers (for I speak to men who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man for as long as he lives?

Romans 7:2 for the woman that has a husband is bound by law to the husband while he lives, but if the husband dies, she is discharged from the law of the husband.

Romans 7:3 so then if, while the husband lives, she is joined to another man, she would be called an adulteress. But if the husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is no adulteress, though she is joined to another man.

Romans 7:4 Therefore, my brothers, you also were made dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you would be joined to another, to him who was raised from the dead, that we might produce fruit to God.

Romans 7:5 for when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were through the law, worked in our members to bring out fruit to death.

Romans 7:6 But now we have been discharged from the law, having died to that in which we were held; so that we serve in newness of the spirit, and not in oldness of the letter.

Did you notice verse 6? But now we have been discharged from the law (of Moses), discharged from all aspects of the Law of Moses (including the laws of tithing). We have died to the law, by the death of Christ! We are no longer under the law. Hallelujah!!! No commandment or ordinance of the Mosaic Law, including the laws of tithing is mandatory for the New Testament believer in Christ.

Whoever tries to keep any aspect of the laws of Moses, including the law of tithing is under a curse. Whoever does that has fallen from Grace!

Galatians 3:10 for as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse. For it is written, “Cursed is everyone who doesn’t continue in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them.”

Galatians 3:11 Now that no man is justified by the law before God is evident, for, “The righteous will live by faith.”

Galatians 3:12 the law is not of faith, but, “The man who does them will live by them.”

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us. For it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree,”

Galatians 3:14 that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Christ Jesus; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Galatians 5:4 you are alienated from Christ, you who desire to be justified by the law. You have fallen away from grace.

The entirety of the laws of Moses (over 600 laws), including the laws of tithing, firstfruits, offering of sacrificial animals, laws of vows, etc,  are all obsolete, expired, null and void and therefore of no effect on the New Testament believer. Hallelujah!!! Tithing is no longer a law or a commandment requiring obedience for fear of a curse. You are free from the law of tithing and so, no one, not even God can curse you if you don’t pay tithe. Malachi 3:8-12 is no longer valid and cannot be used to threaten a New Testament believer, like any other part of the Mosaic Law, because we are not under the law. The law has no jurisdiction over us.

In conclusion, tithing as a law, like all other parts of the abolished Mosaic Law, is no longer applicable to the New Testament believer in Christ. Giving to support the cause of God and to support God’s servants is voluntary and according to what each person determines in his mind to give to God. Giving is to be done voluntarily, cheerfully, and abundantly, according to what a man has and chooses to give.

2 Corinthians 8:7 But as you abound in everything, in faith, utterance, knowledge, all earnestness, and in your love to us, see that you also abound in this grace.

2 Corinthians 8:8 I speak not by way of commandment, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity also of your love.

2 Corinthians 8:12 for if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what you have, not according to what you don’t have.

2 Corinthians 8:13 for this is not that others may be eased and you distressed,

2 Corinthians 9:6 Remember this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly. He who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

2 Corinthians 9:7 Let each man give according as he has determined in his heart; not grudgingly, or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver.

2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that you, always having all sufficiency in everything, may abound to every good work.

Shalom!!!

Published by Dr. Ndubuisi E. Ojo

Dr. Ndubuisi E. Ojo is a teacher and an expositor of the word of God with an intense passion for doctrinal purity and the restoration of the Church to the original Apostolic faith.

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