Tithing; God’s Call or Man’s Substitute


Preface: I’ve reposted the original article with this preface. I’d just like to add a simple obvious concept. Throughout the new testament we are reminded to build treasure in Heaven by giving to the Poor. Clearly these verses are telling us Giving to God is giving to the poor, not supporting  Pastors, not building buildings, not keeping a disobedient church machine going. New Covenant believers are simply called to respond give what the Holy Spirit asks them to. Don’t allow anyone to twist Jewish traditions into a current obligation!  I’d also like to present my interpretation of the sixth bowl prophesy,  when  Jesus protects his sheepfold and dries up the Euphrates (the river feeding the Antichrist ’s priesthood) with his teaching about The Good Shepherd and The Hired Hand. John 10:1-18 Are You In Christ’s Sheepfold?


I was very surprised when I first heard that the early church did not practice tithing. I had to research the issue. All the references that I’ve found state that Tithing first appeared about 580 AD when the Catholic church began teaching people to give the church 10 percent of their income. I’ve looked for other opinions, but found little to substantiate any other conclusions. If you are aware of any, Pls e-mail me at glenn.engle@hawaiiantel.net I’ll work them into future articles.


The absence of tithing in first few centuries troubles me. I can not come to the conclusion that the Catholic Church of 500 AD was better in touch with God’s will than Paul and Jesus? I have a very difficult time imagining that the fifth century church somehow corrected an oversight, or an obligation that Paul and Jesus had overlooked. I don’t think it is very likely that the people who got their teaching directly from Jesus and Paul were mistaken. I’m guessing that it is even less likely that the many changes implemented by established churches through the years have brought us closer to God’s will.


This forced me to re-evaluate what God’s word says about tithing. I found that when I look at Tithing as an Old Testament (Old Covenant) practice, the call of New Testament giving seems to make more sense.


Pastor’s may have a harder time with this than regular folks. This is an area with significant “conflict of interest” for a Pastor. We don’t expect people in other professions to appropriately handle conflicts of interest. Instead we expect those people to recognize when they have a conflict of interest and simply step aside, leaving this particular decision to more independent thinkers. Why do we presume that Pastors should be immune to these influences? Pastor’s (the one’s I know) will readily admit that they are human too, that we are all works in progress.


Tithing facts;

1. NLT Gen 14;18-20 Abraham once paid Melchizedec a tenth of the spoils of his recent battle. – 18 And Melchizedek, the king of Salem and a priest of God Most High, brought Abram some bread and wine. 19 Melchizedek blessed Abram with this blessing: “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. 20 And blessed be God Most High, who has defeated your enemies for you.” Then Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the goods he had recovered. – This is a one time gift. God just told Abram that he defeated Abram’s enemy, so Abram responded giving a tenth of his spoils right back to God.


2. NLT Gen 28;20-22 Jacob promised ‘if my journey is successful I’ll tithe whatever God gives him on the trip. – 20 Then Jacob made this vow: “If God will indeed be with me and protect me on this journey, and if he will provide me with food and clothing, 21 and if I return safely to my father’s home, then the LORD will certainly be my God. 22 And this memorial pillar I have set up will become a place for worshiping God, and I will present to God a tenth of everything he gives me.” – again a deal bring me back safe & then I’ll return 1/10 of what God gives him.


3. NLT Lev 27;30 Tentmakers & carpenters paid no tithes, Tithe were only paid on things from the land – from crops, herds, or trees. – ” ‘A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD. 31 If a man redeems any of his tithe , he must add a fifth of the value to it. 32 The entire tithe of the herd and flock – every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod – will be holy to the LORD. 33 He must not pick out the good from the bad or make any substitution. If he does make a substitution, both the animal and its substitute become holy and cannot be redeemed. ‘ – Clergy today argue the agricultural economy has transformed and so the tithe should be generalized, yet no attempts are made to explain why the two main characters of the new testament; Jesus, a carpenter, & Paul, a tentmaker never paid a tithe.


4. NLT Deu 14;23 The annual tithe was actually consumed By the offeror! – as a holy meal – [only every third year it was used for those in need].23 Bring this tithe to the designated place of worship—the place the LORD your God chooses for his name to be honored—and eat it there in his presence. This applies to your tithes of grain, new wine, olive oil, and the firstborn males of your flocks and herds. Doing this will teach you always to fear the LORD your God.


5. NLT Except on The 3rd year tithe, that year was for Levites, orphans, widows, foreigners [homeless?] NLT Deu 14;27 And do not neglect the Levites in your town, for they will receive no allotment of land among you. 28 “At the end of every third year, bring the entire tithe of that year’s harvest and store it in the nearest town. 29 Give it to the Levites, who will receive no allotment of land among you, as well as to the foreigners living among you, the orphans, and the widows in your towns, so they can eat and be satisfied. Then the LORD your God will bless you in all your work.


6. Excerpts from a typical article on Tithing in the early church from Christianity Today

‘The Ancient Rise and Recent Fall of Tithing – Is yet another time-honored Christian practice fading from view?’By Collin Hansenposted 06/05/2003


only 3 percent tithed their 2002, a 62 percent decrease from 8 % in 2001.


…”the New Testament contains no explicit command to tithe, many have argued that this relationship between the Levites and the other tribes of Israel prefigures how Christians should provide for their ministers. This view of tithing, known as parallelism, gained prominence in the church around the sixth century. [For the 1st 500 years NT Church did not tithe]


…”The early church’s expectation that every Christian would tithe found formal expression at the Synod of Mâçon in 585, which embedded the practice in canon law. A millennium later, the Council of Trent sharpened this law’s teeth: it provided for excommunication if any Catholic declined to contribute his tithe.”


7. The Bible calls us to use all common sense to fulfill our walk.


MSG Col 1;27 God wanted everyone, not just Jews, to know this rich and glorious secret inside and out, regardless of their background, regardless of their religious standing. The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory. It’s that simple. That is the substance of our Message. 28 We preach Christ, warning people not to add to the Message. We teach in a spirit of profound common sense so that we can bring each person to maturity. To be mature is to be basic. Christ! No more, no less.


When we look thru the NT ‘salvation stealers’ there’s no warning that failing to tithe could cost you your salvation, but there are many other clear directions we need to follow;


to help the poor and needy,

to use our gifts for God, keeping God first in our lives,

don’t indulge in sexual sin,

don’t indulge in thievery, greed, drunkeness, or slander,

don’t take advantage of believers trusting nature (millstone sin)

to submitting to the Spirit; and to doing God’s will.

Don’t Causing others to sin,

No weak conditional faith [need childlike simple trust], and

No divided Loyalty [allowing other things to detract from God’s will].

These issues are disdusseed more completely in “In Spirit and Truth”


But on the other hand, failing to help the poor and needy can cost us our salvation – Matthew 25:41-45 (New Living Translation)


41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.[a] 42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’


New Testament Giving – CEV 2 Corinthians 9:5-15

5So I have decided to ask Titus and the others to spend some time with you before I arrive. This way they can arrange to collect the money you have promised. Then you will have the chance to give because you want to, and not because you feel forced to. 6Remember this saying, “A few seeds make a small harvest, but a lot of seeds make a big harvest.” 7Each of you must make up your own mind about how much to give. But don’t feel sorry that you must give and don’t feel that you are forced to give. God loves people who love to give. 8God can bless you with everything you need, and you will always have more than enough to do all kinds of good things for others. 9The Scriptures say, “God freely gives his gifts to the poor, and always does right.” 10God gives seed to farmers and provides everyone with food. He will increase what you have, so that you can give even more to those in need. 11You will be blessed in every way, and you will be able to keep on being generous. Then many people will thank God when we deliver your gift. 12What you are doing is much more than a service that supplies God’s people with what they need. It is something that will make many others thank God. 13The way in which you have proved yourselves by this service will bring honor and praise to God. You believed the message about Christ, and you obeyed it by sharing generously with God’s people and with everyone else. 14Now they are praying for you and want to see you, because God used you to bless them so very much. 15Thank God for his gift that is too wonderful for words!


One of those aforementioned salvation Stealers is failing to keep God first in our lives. To think that giving 10 % to our church effectively puts God first appears not to be genuine. We typically spend more than 10% of our income on housing, pensions and social security, vehicles, and food. Tithing actually would put God in fifth place.


The early church did not operate off tithes, rather free will offerings [story of Ananias & Sapphira Acts 5: 1-11] – The died trying to defraud God, saying the pledged the full cost of the field, but holding some money back in secret.


So what should we give to the Church? That is a question that only you can answer. Take a look at the scriptures to see how well your church is fulfilling its call, seek God’s will, submitting to what the word asks of the church. If your church is doing well, supporting missions work, taking care of the weak, the homeless, the prisoners, perhaps 10% isn’t enough. If your church is not doing these things, I suggest either finding a church that is, or preferably pushing your church towards that assignment, and giving to other charities.


Typcal Church spending really doesn’t seem to line up with our New Testament call. A typical church spends 42% on salaries, 20 % on the building, 16% on other costs related to their services, and about 15% on missions.



Reader Responses:


My book (from a PH. D. dissertation) has a history on tithing and it agrees with what you have already discovered but goes into greater detail. It is free online at http://www.shouldthechurchteachtithing.com. I am opposed to tithing as a new covenant doctrine and have extensive articles on my web site. I will be glad to answer questions. May God bless you. Russell Earl Kelly



russkellyphd@earthlink.net Acworth, Ga 770-974-4756

TITHING: http://www.home.earthlink.net/~russkellyphd/

SDA: http://www.home.earthlink.net/~russkellysdafile/

STUDY GROUP: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Tithing-Study/


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