Author’s note: What follows below is what I wrote about tithing in 1996 while I was a missionary in Romania. I am now in the process of calling into question this traditional teaching, not because I think it is a bad thing to tithe, but because I believe that some of it could be based on bad exegesis of Scripture from a New Covenant perspective. I have to say that something is wrong if we don’t feel the Lord’s leading to do at least as much as the Old Testament believers were to do, because we have received so much more grace. So please don’t take these comments as a reason to be financially uncommitted to the wellbeing of the church God has put you in. You are instructed in the book of Galatians to share all good things with the one who teaches you, so if that is your local church pastor, please take note. Further, there is still in my view a strong case that Hebrews 7 teaches incidentally that Jesus still receives tithes in heaven. So there is still a great power in offering 10% to God in this way.
The teaching of tithing has been made fundamental to the maintenance of the present religious system in the pentecostal / charismatic world. It didn’t seem to be a concern of the apostle Paul in any of his letters, with the possible exception of the book of Hebrews (if indeed Paul wrote that). But the central argument concerning tithing in the Book of Hebrews was to do with the superiority of the Melchizedek priesthood over the Levitical priesthood, and nowhere does it specify that the tithes are to be controlled by people in the office of pastor, although it never denies it. What would it be like if for every teaching on tithing we had a teaching on giving to the poor and needy, widows and orphans or even to world missions instead? The latter are clearly taught in the words of Jesus, but not clearly taught in most churches. It is tithing into the local church as directed by the pastor which is taught. Leaders may say you are giving to God and not to them, but if you give it to the least of the brethren, they won’t accept that you are giving it to God. The idea is built into the present teaching on tithing that YOU don’t know how God wants you to pay the tithe, that it doesn’t count unless the local church leadership, usually the pastor, is controlling it.
Here was my teaching of 1996
Tithing means giving a tenth of all our income to the Lord. So if we earn or
receive $200, we should give a tenth part, or $20, to the Lord. If we receive
$10000, we should give $1000 to the Lord, and so on.
As far as we know, tithing began with Abraham, the father of faith. After
Abraham with God’s help had defeated many kings and taken much booty, the
story continues as follows:
Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of
God Most High. And he blessed him and said: "Blessed be Abram of God
Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High,
who has delivered your enemies into your hand." And he gave him a tithe of
all." (Genesis 14:18-20).
Tithing is not a thing only of the Old Covenant or of the Law of Moses.
Abraham tithed to Melchizedek before he received the sign of circumcision.
The law of Moses had not yet been given. The New Testament teaches us that
Abraham is a spiritual father to those who "walk in the steps of the faith which
our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised." (Romans 4:12). Clearly
tithing was one of those steps.
The Book of Hebrews teaches us that Jesus Christ is a priest after the order of
Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:15-17). Melchizedek is a type of Jesus Christ.
Abraham is the type of the believer not under the law. What was their
relationship? Firstly, Melchizedek brought out bread and wine. This is a new
covenant symbol of the body and blood of the Lord Jesus. What happens here
is of New Covenant significance. Secondly, Melchizedek blesses Abram. And
thirdly, Abraham gives a tithe of all to Melchizedek.
Jesus is a priest after the order of Melchizedek that receives tithes today. The
Scripture plainly says, "Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives
them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives." (Hebrews 7:8). Even though our
tithe is still received by mortal men today, it is also true that Jesus Christ
receives them in heaven. Therefore under the New Covenant the tithe of all that
we receive must be given to God. And all the Biblical examples of tithing show
that when a person tithes they no longer control the tithe themselves. It is not
that ten percent belongs to God and the rest to us. No, all belongs to God –
but at least ten percent of our income must be given into the spiritual
storehouse – the place where we are spiritually fed – the local church. It is not
for us to decide how we would like to spend ten percent of our income for the
Lord. There must be food in God’s house. Through the system of tithing the
local church will have the resources necessary to care for the needs of people
there and begin to impact the community with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
People must be taught to tithe. A theoretical ownership of our resources
attributed to God will not achieve anything until it results in very definite,
concrete giving to common purposes we have as a local church.
Thus tithing as a Biblical principle did not begin with the law of Moses, and
neither does it end there. It is true that the law of Moses has many regulations
concerning tithing. The system of tithing enabled the service of God in Israel to
continue as God had instructed. If Jesus Christ had wanted to abolish the
system of tithing in the New Testament he would have done so in his rebuke to
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and
anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice,
mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others
undone." (Matthew 23:23).
Jesus was not rebuking the Pharisees for tithing all that they received (not just
money but other things as well). He said they should not leave that undone. But
Jesus also makes it clear that obedience in tithing is no substitute for obedience
in other matters. Yet once again we see that tithing is something not limited to
the Old Testament. It is affirmed by Jesus Christ himself.
God promises abundance to those who obediently tithe and give – and all
God’s promises in the Old Testament are ‘Yes’ and ‘Amen’ in Christ (2
Corinthians 1:20). We can enjoy material blessings and prosperity if we
tithe. Everywhere I go I meet Christians who can testify to the reality of this.
Many of them began tithing out of a situation of extreme poverty and now they
are very blessed materially of the Lord (Proverbs 10:22).
On the other hand, if we rob God, if we don’t give the Lord his tithe – then the
devourer will be free to attack our material prosperity. Satan will take
advantage of our violating the covenant by robbing us. Let us see what God
says about this.
"Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way
have we robbed you?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse,
for you have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the
storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and prove me now in this,"
says the Lord of Hosts, "if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and
pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to
receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not
destroy the fruit of your ground, nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the
field," says the Lord of Hosts. (Malachi 3:8-11)
When the people of Israel stopped tithing, God’s curse came upon the whole
nation. Things went wrong and their material blessings were lost. There is also
a spiritual curse that comes as well when people don’t tithe, just as there is also
a spiritual blessing that comes on people who do tithe. It is not a matter of
worldly economics here – but of God’s supernatural blessing or cursing.
God’s instructions to us are plain. We are commanded to bring all the tithes
into God’s storehouse – for us this means the local church. God promises to
prosper us supernaturally if we do this. If we believe God’s Word we will act in
faith and receive the miracles of God. It doesn’t mean that we don’t need to
work – we have already seen what God’s word says about this. It doesn’t
mean we can then be foolish and expect to be prospered anyway. But if we
are walking humbly with the Lord and tithing we can confidently expect that
God will pour out such a blessing that we cannot contain it.
If you have not yet begun to tithe unto the Lord then do not put this off another
day. Make plans immediately to tithe and give offerings even above the tithe,
and you will see God’s blessings come. The devourer which has been
frustrating your efforts in life will be stopped by God. God says, "Put me to the
test." No where else does he say this. This is part of what it means to serve
God. Do it now. Where your treasure is your heart will be also.
I will examine my own former teaching in detail and critique it if God wills, at a later date.