the New Testament
something that occupies so much time in many pulpits and on Christian
radio talk-shows, you would expect the New Testament to have a lot to
say on the subject of Tithing. It is not enough to say that Jesus
spent a lot of time talking about money... He did! But check out the
context of what He was talking about. Unless it has to do with a
tithe (the religiously mandated ten percent), which wasn't even money
in temple times unless converted by the giver for easier traveling,
it's not talking about the same thing. It's also not enough to raise
many other New Testament passages that speak about giving. Unless
they are contextually in regards to the tithe, they are also not
the New Testament only speaks about the tithe THREE times...
23:23 (also Luke 11:42) "Woe to you, teachers of the law and
Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices-mint, dill
and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the
law-justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the
latter, without neglecting the former.
extremely important to understand what is and isn't being taught by
this passage as it is often used to defend tithing in today's churches.
argue that tithing is an Old Testament principle, the executive
officer said that Jesus never taught against it, pointing out that in
Matthew 5:17 Jesus said He came to fulfill the law, not abolish it.
Wilkerson added that Jesus actually affirms the practice of tithing
in Matthew 23:23 while warning not to neglect the practice of
"justice, mercy and faithfulness" [NASB]. (Jack Wilkerson,
vice president of business and finance for the Southern Baptist
Convention's executive committee, from an article entitled Tithing:
What should the church teach its members about giving? Baptist
Press News, July 11, 2003)
claims are not unique to him or a few others in the Southern Baptist
Convention. He, as do others, use Jesus' claim that he didn't come to
abolish the Law but rather to fulfill it, as an introduction to their
following statement that Jesus "affirms the practice of
tithing." Unless Wilkerson actually believes that all of
Mosaic Law is still in effect in New Testament times, he has to have
a better understanding of that passage. A person can't use it to say
that one piece of the Law is still in place and then say that other
aspects are not. If Jesus' claim was meant to say all the Law
was still in place, then the fact that some is not (including temple
sacrifices, etc.) would make it a false claim. Again, Wilkerson and
other defenders of this view cannot have it both ways. The truth of
Jesus words comes with emphasis on His fulfillment of the Law, which
we examined in our earlier section, "Is all the Law still in
effect?" When the Law, in any or all aspects, was fulfilled in
Jesus it was completed and no longer necessary. This is not arbitrary
abolishment (or for that matter, arbitrary retention either).
to be seen if our conclusions, from Matthew 23, support this idea
that that Jesus was affirming the tithe for today's church.
speaking directly to those who were still under the Law including the
scribes and Pharisees. This was before Jesus' death and resurrection,
so the Law was not yet fulfilled and all Israelites were still
mandated to uphold every aspect of the Law. Notice the tithe was
still in terms of the increase of grown things, specifically
cultivated items (crops).
telling these Israelite religious leaders that they had missed the
point of the Law and had descended into a hollow legalistic ritual
rather than seeing the intent of the Law. Part of Jesus' fulfillment
of the Law was through His putting the Law into proper perspective,
including that it was given as a schoolmaster to bring people to
Christ (see Galatians 3:24-25) and to show the ungodly what sin is
(contrast Romans 7:7 and Jesus' words in John 4:16-18 or Matthew 19:17-22).
showing that Jesus wanted these Israelites to uphold the Law -- while
it was still in effect -- does not place a requirement on the church
to follow. Jesus offered sacrifices at the temple as well and
fulfilled all the required elements of the Law, but this does not
mean that all those practices of the Law should be carried into the
church either. Again, it is improper Biblical interpretation to
arbitrarily take one part and leave others, without clear Biblical
instruction or precedence.
interesting to note that Jesus looked on the tithe as a lesser part
of the Law, calling justice, mercy, and faithfulness more important.
Even today this is a stark contrast to the way many churches hold the
tithe as an extremely important (and perhaps most important) part of
their professed worship.
passage referencing the tithe in the New Testament comes from Luke...
18:11-12 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I
thank you that I am not like other men-robbers, evildoers,
adulterers-or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week
and give a tenth of all I get.'
consider that this passage is in regards to a Pharisee our
conclusions shouldn't come as a surprise.
passage records the words of another self-righteous person, still
under the Law of Moses, who looked to his deeds as gaining favor from
God. Like the other Pharisees, he was missing the point. Part of the
problem of the mandated giving and ritual of the law was that people
often looked only to the act, rather than considering the motivation
of their act. Even today, many people point to the tithe as
fulfilling their "obligation," rather than considering
their motivation and coming to a complete understanding of Christian giving.
also the Pharisee's claim to be tithing "all I get." The
implication was that He was a priest or Levite as they were the only
ones who gave from what they were given. They alone were required to
give a tenth of all they got to the temple storeroom, unlike the
common citizen of Israel. KJV and NKJV translate Luke 18:12 to say
"all I possess" and are misleading both as to the meaning
of the Greek, which points to increase, and also as to the mandated
practice of the Law which was only dealing with increase. In the case
of a Levite or priest though, 100% of what was given to him was
considered increase, so giving 10% of all to the storeroom was necessary.
of this Pharisee's actions concerning the tithe, these are the
actions of a person Jesus said was not justified (Luke 18:14). They
should never become a model for one who is justified.
reference to the tithe in the New Testament comes from Hebrews
7:1-28. We cannot merely refer to one or two verses from this
passage, as its' entirety is necessary for context. For reasons of
brevity we have not included this longer passage here. Do take the
time to read and study the entire chapter on your own.
entire passage in Hebrews was to show the deficiency of the Levitical
priesthood (Law) and the need of a spiritual priesthood forever in
Jesus (grace). In addition, nowhere does it say that Abraham was
following a command to give a tithe, even as the Old Testament
passage does not.
If -- and
this is a big "if" -- this passage could be shown to teach
the need of a tithe, it would be in the example of Abraham (refer
back to the earlier section on Abraham). As for the "if",
the passage implies that the tithe (of faith) was already paid in a
spiritual sense for subsequent generations. With out a doubt, the
focus of the passage was not on tithing but on the greatness of
Jesus' eternal priesthood, even as Melchizedek (as a pre-incarnate
appearance or at least a type of Jesus) was far greater than the
earthly priests of the Law. Nowhere does this passage provide a basis
for a continuation of the Law's tithe into the church. In fact, it
could be said that it points out gifts (i.e. freewill offerings)
given to God are greater than any Law-bound tithe.
passage clearly states that the former regulation of the Law has been
set aside through Jesus...
7:18-19 The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and
useless 19 (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is
introduced, by which we draw near to God.
may appear to be an argument from silence, take note that Jesus --
who perfectly fulfilled all aspects of the Law -- is never recorded
as having paid a tithe. The reason is rooted in what the tithe was.
Jesus did not grow crops, cultivate fruit trees, or raise sheep or
goats. For this reason He would have had no requirement to tithe, as
He had no increase of things grown. The same would have been true for
hosts of city dwellers in Jesus' day, who as workmen and laborers
were too poor to own lands outside the city. They worked day-by-day
to be able to buy their food and sacrificial animals, not having the
means to grow either, so there was no mandate for them to tithe.
Someone that didn't tithe because of this was in no way less
spiritual than those who were required to tithe. Both were fulfilling
the Law. If Jesus had taken things given to Him and
ceremonially offered them as a tithe, it would have been an act of
deception -- the Law required it to be of the increase of your grown things.