The Law of Tithing
by Curtis Clair Ewing
Out of the 68 books of the Bible, 34 deal in one way or another with the subject of giving and receiving. Out of 72 references to giving, 48 show open promise of God’s pledged blessing to the giver. “Give and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” (Luke 6:38) Can anyone give evidence that God does not keep that promise? We believe that He more thank keeps His Word. However, we also believe in proportionate giving, and that minimum standard of Christian giving is “one tenth” or “the tithe” to use the biblical expression. No one has really given to God until the tithe has first been paid. We are also convinced that many Christians suffer materially, physically and spiritually, because they have been misusing and appropriating that which belongs to God. We trust you are not one of them.
The tithe is simply 10% of one’s increase or income. In the Bible it is also called the “first fruits” if offered in the form of crops, and “firstlings” if offered in the form of cattle and sheep many, not recognizing the difference between the letter and spirit or principle of the law have thought we no longer should be obligated to tithe because the Bible speaks of tithing crops and herds and oil and wine. Such people miss the principle of the Law entirely. In olden times men used the barter system for commerce and that was all they had to give. But today we use a medium of exchange or money, which represents the same thing but it is convenient. So today we tithe our money.
The first mention of tithe is found in Genesis 4:3-4 where Cain and Abel brought their gifts to the Lord. If we are to rely on the teaching of the early church fathers concerning Cain and Abel, we must connect the sin of Cain with tithing. The fathers taught that Cain’s offering was rejected because he did not bring the whole tithe of his increase to Yahweh, basing their conclusions largely on the Septuagint version of the incident. The Sacred Tenth, by Henry Lansdell, Baker Book House of Grand Rapids, Michigan, furnishes the proof of this position. And P.W. Thompson, an able English writer, has this to say on the same subject:
“So strongly has this view impressed some of the Church that in this history of the two brothers they find the first reference to the tithe, and in the Council of Seville, held in 590 AD, a cannon was passed which reads, ‘If anyone does not lithe everything, let the curse which God inflicted upon Cain for not rightly tithing be heaped upon him’.”
The next mention of tithing in the Scripture is found in Genesis 14:17-20, where Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedec. This is a very important reference as we shall see later. Then, later on in Genesis 28:22 we have the account of Jacob making his vow to tithe. These references show that tithing was a law known to man from the very first and was practiced long before Israel was organized into a nation and given the Divine Constitution to administer, with tithing incorporated into the economic system. So we have there tithing as practiced in non-theocratic civilization; of great importance to modern Christians.
Under a theocracy, which is the perfect type of government, tithing was different and men had advantages which they do not have in man-made governments. In Leviticus 27:30-32, we are told very definitely that the tithe is Yahweh’s and if one is guilty of misappropriating the tithe he may redeem it by adding a fifth part of it (10% + 2% = 12%). Then we are told that the tithe was paid to the children of Levi, who were comparable to our civil servants today, and one-tenth of that tithe was to go to the Aaronic Priesthood (Numbers 18:21-28). It was used as a state tax.
First, there was the regular tithe (Deuteronomy 14:22), then every third year an extra tithe (Deuteronomy 14:28; Amos 4:4) was collected for the poor, the widows, and the orphans. Besides these two there was a soldier’s tax paid by all the male population to save them from doom in battle (Exodus 30:11-16). Authorities disagree as to how much this amounted to – somewhere between 15-18% of the income. Only a small percentage under a theocracy with the Law of God as the Law of the Land. But as a curse for us, we are not willing as yet, to live under a Divine constitution. But the tithe still belongs to God. What, then, are we to do about it?
If we are living in a theocracy, with the Divine constitution, the tithe would cover everything but at present we are living under man-made governments, and man-made governments collect their own taxes. But the tithe still belongs to God! The extra tax exacted by governments of our day is the penalty we pay for not accepting God’s rule over us nationally. Israel was told of this very thing when she demanded a king, to become like other nations, that he would misappropriate the tithe (I Samuel 8:11-18).
Now, let us turn to the New Testament references which we believe sill shed light on the most important subject. The first one is Hebrews 7:1-8 which we believe is unanswerable. In this passage the Apostle is making a comparison between Melchizsedec, to whom Abraham paid tithes, and Jesus Christ, and showing the superiority of Jesus Christ over Abraham. But the Apostle’s argument certainly falls flat and he breaks down in his efforts to show the superiority of Christ, if Christ is not to receive tithes, as did Melchizedec, who was a type of Christ, to whom should Christians, who are the children of Abraham, pay tithes?
The writer of Hebrews settles this matter with verse 8.
Here we have the plain statement that Christ “receiveth them (tithes) of whom it is witnessed that He liveth.” Who witness that Christ is alive? CHRISTIANS! As His witnesses, Christians tithe to Jesus. How could Paul make it plainer?
The other reference is found in I Cor. 9:12-14. Here the Apostle Paul is referring to Numbers 18:21-28 where the tithe was paid to the priest. And as God ordained in olden times, that they who ministered in sacred things should be supported by the tithes, just so now those who preach the Gospel should live of the same. This is God’s order for us today. And we are convinced that many sincere Christians, suffer so much needlessly, materially, physically, and spiritually, simply because they cannot or will not, from a loving heart, out of gratitude to God, tithe their income systematically. God’s pronouncements on this are the same in all ages – a curse on those who do not tithe and a blessing on those who do (Mal. 3.8-12; Proverbs 3:9-10; 11:24-25).
Now, besides these passages by the Apostles, we have the direct words by Jesus Christ to the men of His day who certainly were not living under a theocratic state:
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithes of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law; judgement; mercy, and faith; these ought ye to have done and not to leave the other undone.” (Matthew 23:23)
The interpretation which has been put on these texts is the same as was taught by the early church fathers. A Christian should think twice before he rejects a teaching on which the fathers were so unanimous and spoke as with one voice, as they did on tithing. Especially should we give heed to what was taught for the first three or four centuries when the church was closest to the Apostles and was the purest in its doctrine. Even eleven of the great church councils, up until the year 790 AD ordained all Christians to tithe and held that to do so was “divinely ordained.”
During the years 1913-14, the following question was published in a number of religious journals in the United States and Canada: “Have you ever known anyone who was less happy less generous, or less financially prosperous from being a tither?” A total of more than 10,000 “no” replies were received and not one “yes.”
Here is a testimony, like many which are on record, from a William Arthur, a Wesleyan Methodist minister of London, England, taken from his famous lecture on systematic and proportionate giving: “I know many men who, at the outset of life, gave a tenth. These have all been prosperous men. I do not know one of them but shows that the effect of his early adopting one-tenth has been to prepare him for higher proportion when years of plenty set in. the very night before I left London to give this lecture, I asked a friend of mine who had adopted the principle of giving a tenth early in life and whom the prospering hand of God had raised from humble beginnings to a position of great valuable influence, if he every knew a case in which a man set out on the principle of giving a tenth to God, and PERSEVERED IN IT, and failed in life? HE answered ‘Not one’.”
If you are not a their, my friend, do begin this practice immediately and you will find many surprises awaiting you. Here are a few of them: You will be surprised at the deepening of your spiritual life while paying the tithe; at the ease with which you meet your obligations with the remaining 9/10 of your money; at the amount of money you will have to give to the Lord’s work; at the ease in which you can go to larger giving, finding it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35); at the preparation which tithing gives to be a faithful and wise steward over large incomes; and at your own foolishness in not tithing sooner.
Who to give it to? The late Pastor Emry used to say “you should pay where you are fed!” If you are blessed and learn from a particular ministry – then put your money there! He also told of someone who was in the habit of giving a small offering. Gradually the man’s income went down to the point that his small offering was actually his tithe. When he started giving more, his pay increased.
Low income? No one could have less than the widow who cast two mites into the temple treasury. (Mark 12:41-44)
“But thou shalt remember Yahweh thy God; for it is He that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may established his covenant which he swore unto thy fathers, as it is this day” Deuteronomy 8:18
You can’t afford to tithe?
Can you afford NOT TO?
I agree with much of what I find on this site. But this post is way, way off base and unfounded!
Here is a small portion of text from my book manuscript “Fundamentals for Mature and Young Christians” which deals with four different doctrines, one of which is tithing.
“A tithe was not an income tax, for income was not tithed nor taxed. Only the increase from the field was tithed, which leaves out revenue earned by other occupations and investments. The value of something you might receive or earn from your job or business might have been taxed, but it was never tithed. Only the original produce from the land and any animals raised on the land were tithed, not what you earned from their sale. If you did not raise animals or grow crops, a tithe was not required, according to scripture. See Lev.19:23-25; 27:30; Num. 18:26-31; Deut.14:22, 28; 26:9-13…
As we read through Scripture, we find not everyone tithed, nor was everything tithed. Those who earned their living by occupations other than agrarian pursuits did not tithe but would give offerings, some of which were commanded by the law, of weighed money such as bronze, silver, gold, and copper. The Scriptural tithe never included gold or silver or money in any form, but only discretionary offerings. Nor did it ever include any kind of payment, profit, increase, emolument, or compensation, from earnings or wages, from a business or employment. There are no exceptions to this anywhere in Scripture. Let me restate that, if you want to tithe the Scriptural way, do not bring money in any form to the church building, bring only goods such as produce from your fields and animals from your flocks or herds (only sheep and cattle). If you do not grow produce, are not a farmer or herdsman, you need not tithe.
The modern “tithe preacher” does not grasp the concept–the tithe was never money and not applicable to everyone. He does not understand that only the bounty produced from the holy land (the land promised to Abraham) was ever subject to a tithe, and its authorization and sanction did not extend to any occupation or activity not connected with the land.
Tithing under Mosaic Law was narrowly limited to those engaged in farming, and they had to tithe based on the increase derived from their land. Unless your tithe was given birth by your flocks or herds, came from seed, which was planted in the ground or grew on trees, it did not qualify as something that could be tithed. The Mosaic Law of tithing continued to operate unchanged until it was done away by the New Covenant instituted by Christ, so it does not apply to Christians engaged in farming or raising animals, even in modern-day Israel…
No Christian denomination follows or practices anything reasonably close to the Scriptural instructions on how the tithe was to be implemented and administered. What the modern church calls tithing is not an imitation, replication, or representation of a Biblical model. Nor does this doctrine correspond with any Scriptural precepts, tenets, or principles of stewardship. For a tithe was never money, nor could it ever be.”
Here is a bit more about Abraham and paying tithes:
“In a successful attempt to rescue his nephew Lot, we find Abram, his three allies, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre returning home from defeating the armies of King Chedorlaomer and his confederates. Out of the spoils of war, Abram allows his allies to take their rightful portion of the goods taken in battle. He gives Melchizedek, King of Salem, tithes of all the booty captured in battle. But Abram goes much further than paying 10% with his portion of the goods. He keeps nothing. All of it, 100% of everything God delivered into his hands, he gave away, 10% to Melchizedek, a portion to his allies, and the rest he returned to its rightful owners, the Kings of Sodom and Gomorra and their people.
Booty captured during a war has no relationship with income earned from a job, business, or farming the land. There is no comparison between the two; it’s like comparing apples and donkeys. Consistent weekly giving or paying 10% of what you earn has no relationship with one-time giving a portion of the booty captured during the war to a king or someone in a position of leadership. We cannot compare it with a one-time event, never done before and never repeated.
There is no record of Abraham giving away any of his income consistently or giving away an increase of his flocks or herds. At times, Abraham did sacrifice an animal or two as an offering to God. Abraham was a congenial host and would provide food and shelter for his guests and those who stopped by. But the sacrifices Abraham made to God were never consistent events repeated over and over at a set time of the year or during the month. There is no relationship between what Abraham did, a once-in-a-lifetime event, and what preachers teach their congregations to do, bring 10% of their income to the Church weekly. There is no written record of Abraham giving a consistent weekly or yearly offering, nor giving a specific amount, such as a tithe, at a certain time of the year, at a specific place to God. It never happened. If that was the case, it might make a reasonable basis for the weekly tithe.
Nevertheless, preachers teach their congregations to tithe because Abram did. However, since they are teaching only part of the story, they never relay what Abram did with the other 90% or instruct their congregations to do the same. With every bounty they receive, give 10% to the minister or church and then give away the rest, to whomsoever they want.”
I would be happy to send the whole manuscript for your review. Just email me at: email@example.com
and I will attach the file.
I don’t know if you read my other post, but here is a bit more from my book dealing with tithing.
“Gravity is a “law” that applies equally to everyone and everything, to the organic and inorganic. It applies to everything on this earth, man and beast, rocks and water. Gravity is a dictator, whose law broaches no exceptions, exclusions, or respite, and it matters not where you are or what you are doing. Time is irrelevant to gravity, morning or noon, winter or fall, its dictates cannot be revoked, canceled, or annulled.
Unlike gravity, tithing is neither law, mandate, nor a spiritual principle irrevocably invoked in the beginning upon all of mankind by the Creator. Even when tithing was commanded under Mosaic Law, it did not apply to everything or everyone, many were its exceptions. Time was not tithed, nor was money or wages under its authority. All occupations, activities, and endeavors were not treated the same, and most need not heed the requirement to tithe. Only those involved in tithable occupations or activities were compelled to do so.
Every tenth fish from a fisherman’s catch was not tithed, nor what he received from its sale at the market. The tenth brick of a mason was not given as a tithe to the Levite, nor was a tenth given from what he earned from its sale. The artist’s tenth painting or sculpture was not brought to the Levite to be placed inside the storehouse. In addition, if you were a laborer, blacksmith, weaver, midwife, or craftsman, and received wages or payment in the form of weighted metals, coins, or goods, a tithe was not extracted from you, for the law of the tithe as commanded by Moses did not apply to you.”