Ep.1040: Do Tithes and Offerings Belong in Christianity?
Understanding tithing and establishing Christian giving
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Theme Scripture: Numbers 18:20
What is the business of Christianity? What are we here to do and how is it supposed to be accomplished? To cut through all of the rhetoric, what does it monetarily cost to follow Jesus – is it 10% of your income? More? How much of our Christian message, method and motivation is based – should be based - on our church's and our pastor's financial statements? As with any issue regarding Christian belief, there are countless ways we can interpret this answer. When Israel was established by God as His chosen nation, there was a definitive system put in place that actually supported the priesthood and the tribe of Levi. With such a clear path of tithes and support in place, many Christians firmly believe that we as Jesus’ disciples should follow that same path. On the other hand, many Christians believe that an entirely opposite approach is more appropriate. So, who is right?
This question is really all about giving
Who should be doing it, and more importantly, who should be receiving it? Many churches claim that tithing (requiring church members to donate 10% of whatever their income) has an obvious foundation in the Old Testament. Does it? Let’s do a tithing reality check. First, Old Testament tithing was actually land-based. God’s gift of the Promised Land of Israel was for their use, and God wanted them to “give back” from what they were given. All tithes came from the fruit and harvest of the land, and from the sheep and cattle which were nourished by the land. So, how do today’s churches follow this example? They don’t. I have never heard of any minister willing to take produce or cattle as someone’s contribution.
Tithing was never money
The next tithing reality check is built upon the first one. In the Old Testament, the fact is, no tithe was ever given in monetary form. Some may say that money was not used then, but that is simply not true. Gold and silver shekels were common. Why not use money? Tithes were based on the land! It was not only about giving out of your harvest and cattle, it was about appreciating the fact that you HAD that harvest and cattle because God had delivered the land He had promised!
There are several more very revealing tithing reality checks we could do. Let me just mention one more in passing. The Old Testament tithes were given to the tribe of Levi and to Aaron the High Priest and his family. All of those who received tithes owned no land. They had no inheritance. They survived only because they were supported by the people. Do the pastors of our day abide by this practice of owning nothing and having no earthly inheritance?
Check out our September 24, 2018 podcast, “Do Tithes and Offerings Belong in Christianity?” to put all of the pieces together. We take a hard look at the many Old Testament tithing details you never hear about. We examine what true Christian giving looks like and who benefited from it. Look, if you go to a church that seems to be all about “show me the money” you owe it to yourself to find out the facts!
Need to learn more. About Jesus.
That’s wonderful! Please type “Jesus” into the search magnifying glass icon and it will bring you to many years of podcasts to listen to. If you have specific questions or have a suggestion for an upcoming program, please let us know! Lord bless – Christian Questions
The author states that the Bible doesn’t teach people to tithe money, if that is true then why are so many churches teaching contrary to the Bible?
We appreciate your question. Hopefully you have had a chance to listen to the podcast, where Rick and Jonathan trace the history of tithing and how it is referenced in the New Testament (only to Jewish people still under the Law, such as the Pharisees). Churches (especially large ones) need financial support and there is nothing wrong with giving to your church or to charity. However, there are a lot of abuses in the churches where money coming in make the clergy and board members wealthy – this was never the intent of tithing. In order to maintain that lifestyle and/or the upkeep of extremely expensive real estate, we guess it is easier to gloss over the fact that tithing is never required in the Bible for Christians. Tithing in the Old Testament was always land-based (land, cattle, produce, etc.) and even the priest class was required to in turn tithe a share of what they received. It makes for a very interesting study! Lord bless – Christian Questions
This is an interpretation of convenience and one that is founded on untrue statements. For one, the practice of tithing started before the law, and thus transcends the law and all dispensations. Secondly, whereas it is true that money was in existence then, money was NOT the main commodity back then. This is supported BT the fact that in many instances in the Old Testament, cattle, land etc were used as methods of payment and used as markers of wealth. So just because tithing then wasn’t described in monetary terms is not a reasonable argument to suggest that the church does not need to pay. In fact, given pur understanding of the nature of business activity back then, it is more than reasonable to extrapolate that to mean we should pay 10% of our income…it’s much easier to calculate too
Thank you very much for your comments. The podcast begins by explaining the pre-Law tithing between Abram and Melchizedek, even though it was not an actual requirement from God. The first formal tithing with an order from God we found was in Leviticus 27. (Your statement that what starts before the Law transcends the Law and all dispensations is interesting – we will look into this further.) The overall point of our presentation was 1.) There is no specific requirement to tithe that God, Jesus or the apostles placed upon the Christian, 2.) Modern tithing is very much abused by those in power receiving the money. They seem to have forgotten that those receiving the tithes under the Law were relatively poor without goods or inheritance in the land the other tribes had, and they themselves had to tithe 10% of their best. A quick google search finds many clergy, pastors, etc. living extremely wealthy lives off of the donations of their congregations. It is these inconsistencies and abuses with which we take issue. Those who believe tithing is the right thing to do based on Old Testament principles should continue to participate. We see it being voluntary and not mandatory (or suggested) for the Christian. None of this has anything to do with Christian generosity which is always in order and should be magnanimous. – Christian Questions