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Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.  These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.  Matthew 23:23

Jesus did not denounce scrupulous tithing.  He denounced using tithing as a way of evading “the weightier matters of the law,” which demand real sacrifice.  Indeed, the Lord says that tithing, even in small matters, is something not to be neglected.

The hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees lay in over-emphasizing easier forms of obedience while under-emphasizing harder forms of obedience.  They hid their unbelief within a self-invented form of theological disproportion, making small things look big and big things look small.  They seized upon opportunities to tithe, and they dismissed the crying needs for justice and mercy and faithfulness.

Jesus had quite a different sense of theological proportion.  Here is how he saw it: “Justice and mercy and faithfulness — you ought to do these things!  And while you’re at it, don’t neglect tithing.”

What Jesus was looking for from them, and what he looks for from us, is honest obedience in every area of life, however inconvenient.  If our “obedience” amounts to doing good, biblical things that we would have done anyway, for our own reasons, then it isn’t obedience; it is coincidence.  Obedience says Yes to God, by faith in Christ, no matter what his Word says, just because it is his Word speaking to us — but with special relish for the obviously more courageous things.

Tithing, then, is an obedient thing to do.  But we should not think of it as heroic and sacrificial and impressive.  Tithing is Obedience 101.  It is entry-level discipleship.  When we tithe, we should be thinking, “Well, this is for starters.  And I grow from here.”  So let’s tithe.  But let’s also press boldly into the demanding questions of justice and mercy and faithfulness, trusting and obeying Jesus no matter what the cost.

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37 thoughts on “Jesus and tithing”

  1. Brett Cox says:

    “Tithing is Obedience 101? Entry-level discipleship?” Wow.

    I disagree with more than those quotes there, but you should really sit back and think over those.

  2. Nate says:

    Will TGC be providing “two perspectives” on this issue the way it has others like baptism? Many of us in the reformed evangelical community — as reflected by the Facebook comments on this post — believe that the perspective presented here is one that comes from tradition rather than scripture — and seems to be soundly rebuked by Paul in Galatians. We look no further than John MacArthur’s excellent exegesis to source this belief. I look forward to your response.

  3. Joel Richardson says:

    What the Bible says about tithing

    In any study of the Scriptures we must ask questions of the passage or passages.
    What, who, where, when and why. Basically any and every question that can be asked needs to be asked. We need to set aside any previous assumptions of the doctrine and look with no bias at the Scriptures on the matter.

    #1. What.
    What was the tithe?

    A. The Meaning.

    The Hebrew word is “Ma`aser” (Mah-as-ayr`).
    Which means:
    tithe, tenth part
    a. tenth part
    b. tithe, payment of a tenth part
    So the tithe or “Ma`aser” means “a tenth”.

    B. The Content.

    What did God command the children of Israel to tithe?
    ‘Thus all the tithe of the land, of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD’S; it is holy to the LORD. Leviticus 27:30
    “You are not allowed to eat within your gates the tithe of your grain or new wine or oil…” Deuteronomy 12:17
    “You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year.” Deuteronomy 14:22
    “You shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God, at the place where He chooses to establish His name, the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and your flock, so that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always.” Deuteronomy 14:23
    “We will also bring the first of our dough, our contributions, the fruit of every tree, the new wine and the oil to the priests at the chambers of the house of our God, and the tithe of our ground to the Levites, for the Levites are they who receive the tithes in all the rural towns.” Nehemiah 10:37
    All Judah then brought the tithe of the grain, wine and oil into the storehouses. Nehemiah 13:12
    The content of the tithe was the produce of the ground. So you might say, wasn’t that their income, their currency, their means of trade if you will?
    Well lets see if the Scripture answers this question.
    “If the distance is so great for you that you are not able to bring the tithe, since the place where the LORD your God chooses to set His name is too far away from you when the LORD your God blesses you, then you shall exchange it for money, and bind the money in your hand and go to the place which the LORD your God chooses. “You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household. “Also you shall not neglect the Levite who is in your town, for he has no portion or inheritance among you.” Deuteronomy 14:24-27
    According to this passage the tithe was not money, the tithe was the produce of the ground. There was a distinct difference between the content of the tithe and the currency of the day.

    #2. Who
    A. Who was to give the tithe?
    Again, the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel…” Leviticus 27:1,2
    These are the commandments which the LORD commanded Moses for the sons of Israel at Mount Sinai. Leviticus 27:34
    For the tithe of the sons of Israel, which they offer as an offering to the LORD… Numbers 18:24
    “When you take from the sons of Israel the tithe which I have given you from them for your inheritance…” Numbers 18:26
    As soon as the order spread, the sons of Israel provided in abundance the first fruits of grain, new wine, oil, honey and of all the produce of the field; and they brought in abundantly the tithe of all. 2 Chronicles 31:5
    The sons of Israel and Judah who lived in the cities of Judah also brought in the tithe of oxen and sheep, and the tithe of sacred gifts which were consecrated to the LORD their God, and placed them in heaps. 2 Chronicles 31:6
    All Judah then brought the tithe of the grain, wine and oil into the storehouses Nehemiah 13:12
    And those indeed of the sons of Levi who receive the priest’s office have commandment in the Law to collect a tenth from the people, that is, from their brethren, although these are descended from Abraham. Hebrews 7:5
    The ones who were to bring the tithe were the children of Israel.
    **The first two references in this section have tithing in there contexts**

    B. To whom was the tithe to be given?
    “To the sons of Levi, behold, I have given all the tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service which they perform, the service of the tent of meeting. Numbers 18:21

    “For the tithe of the sons of Israel, which they offer as an offering to the LORD, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance; therefore I have said concerning them, `They shall have no inheritance among the sons of Israel.’ ” Numbers 18:24

    Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Moreover, you shall speak to the Levites and say to them, `When you take from the sons of Israel the tithe which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall present an offering from it to the LORD, a tithe of the tithe. `Your offering shall be reckoned to you as the grain from the threshing floor or the full produce from the wine vat. Numbers 18:25-27

    And those indeed of the sons of Levi who receive the priest’s office have commandment in the Law to collect a tenth from the people, that is, from their brethren, although these are descended from Abraham. Hebrews 7:5

    So the tithe was to be given to the Levites.

    #3. Where?

    Where was the tithe to be brought?

    “These are the statutes and the judgments which you shall carefully observe in the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess as long as you live on the earth.” (speaking of Israel) Deuteronomy 12:1

    “But you shall seek the LORD at the place which the LORD your God will choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come. There you shall bring your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the contribution of your hand, your votive offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock. Deuteronomy 12:5,6

    “You shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God, at the place where He chooses to establish His name, the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil…” Deuteronomy 14:23

    We will also bring the first of our dough, our contributions, the fruit of every tree, the new wine and the oil to the priests at the chambers of the house of our God, and the tithe of our ground… Nehemiah 10:37

    The tithe was to be brought to the temple in Jerusalem.

    #4 When?

    How often was the tithe to be brought?

    “You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year.” Deuteronomy 14:22
    “When you have finished paying all the tithe of your increase in the third year, the year of tithing, then you shall give it to the Levite, to the stranger, to the orphan and to the widow, that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.” Deuteronomy 26:12
    They were to bring their tithes once a year and every third year they were to set aside the tithe for the Levite, stranger, orphan and widow in their town.

    #5 Why?
    Why were the people to bring the tithe?
    “To the sons of Levi, behold, I have given all the tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service which they perform, the service of the tent of meeting. Numbers 18:21

    “You may eat it anywhere, you and your households, for it is your compensation in return for your service in the tent of meeting.” Numbers 18:31
    “When you have finished paying all the tithe of your increase in the third year, the year of tithing, then you shall give it to the Levite, to the stranger, to the orphan and to the widow, that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.” Deuteronomy 26:12
    So the main reason for the tithe was to provide for the priests so that they could remain in the temple and do the duties of the temple.
    The secondary reason is so that they could provide for the needy.

    “Well!” you may say, “aren’t the priests a picture of pastors and the temple a picture of the church building?”
    Well, let’s see what the Scripture has to say.

    #1 What (or Who) were the priests a picture of?

    “The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:23-25

    “For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever.” Hebrews 7:26-28

    “Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” Hebrews 10:11-14

    According to those verses the priests were a picture of Jesus Christ.
    Just as a side note… Do you remember in the “Why” section what the main reason was for the people to bring the tithe?
    Yep, you guessed it. It was to provide for the priests so that they could remain in the temple and offer sacrifices on behalf of their sins and the sins of the people. But Jesus as our new High Priest does not need to offer sacrifices for His and the people’s sins. First because He is sinless and second because he already offered Himself and thirdly He does not need food or drink sense He lives forever in a glorified body.

    #2 What was the temple a picture of?

    “Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle prepared, the outer one, in which were the lamp stand and the table and the sacred bread; this is called the holy place. Behind the second veil there was a tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies, having a golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant; and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat; but of these things we cannot now speak in detail.”
    Hebrews 9:1-5

    For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself”… Hebrews 9:24

    According to these passages the temple in Jerusalem was a picture of Heaven.

    “Well, what about Malachi chapter 3?” you may say. “If the temple in Jerusalem was not a picture of the church then maybe the storehouse is.”

    Well let’s look at Malachi chapter 3 and see what it says.

    “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, `How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. “You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you!” Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test 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 a blessing until it overflows. “Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes,” says the LORD of hosts. “All the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land,” says the LORD of hosts.” Malachi 3:8-12

    The first thing we must look at in this passage is who is this written to? Well according to verse 1 the “you” if you’ll look at the context is Israel.
    Secondly when He says “In tithes and offerings” what was that? If you’ll look back at the “what” section you’ll see that the “content” is the produce of the ground and the offerings are the sacrificial offerings of animals.
    Thirdly, “you are cursed with a curse”. Are we cursed in Christ?
    “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us–for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE”
    Galatians 3:13
    Fourthly. “the whole nation of you”. What nation? Israel!
    Fifthly. “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse”
    What was the Storehouse?
    “Also he commanded the people who lived in Jerusalem to give the portion due to the priests and the Levites, that they might devote themselves to the law of the LORD. 5 As soon as the order spread, the sons of Israel provided in abundance the first fruits of grain, new wine, oil, honey and of all the produce of the field; and they brought in abundantly the tithe of all. 6 The sons of Israel and Judah who lived in the cities of Judah also brought in the tithe of oxen and sheep, and the tithe of sacred gifts which were consecrated to the LORD their God, and placed them in heaps. 7 In the third month they began to make the heaps, and finished them by the seventh month. 8 When Hezekiah and the rulers came and saw the heaps, they blessed the LORD and His people Israel. 9 Then Hezekiah questioned the priests and the Levites concerning the heaps. 10 Azariah the chief priest of the house of Zadok said to him, “Since the contributions began to be brought into the house of the LORD, we have had enough to eat with plenty left over, for the LORD has blessed His people, and this great quantity is left over.”
    11 Then Hezekiah commanded them to prepare rooms in the house of the LORD, and they prepared them. 12 They faithfully brought in the contributions and the tithes and the consecrated things; and Conaniah the Levite was the officer in charge of them and his brother Shimei was second.” 2 Chronicles 31:4-12

    So the storehouse was established to “store” the tithe of grain’ new wine and oil so that it wouldn’t remain just sitting out on the grass.

    Another thing that tells me that the storehouse was not a picture of the church building is the fact that no one was allowed to dwell in the storehouse, no one was allowed to live there.
    “Now prior to this, Eliashib the priest, who was appointed over the chambers of the house of our God, being related to Tobiah, 5 had prepared a large room for him, where formerly they put the grain offerings, the frankincense, the utensils and the tithes of grain, wine and oil prescribed for the Levites, the singers and the gatekeepers, and the contributions for the priests. 6 But during all this time I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I had gone to the king. After some time, however, I asked leave from the king, 7 and I came to Jerusalem and learned about the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, by preparing a room for him in the courts of the house of God. 8 It was very displeasing to me, so I threw all of Tobiah’s household goods out of the room. 9 Then I gave an order and they cleansed the rooms; and I returned there the utensils of the house of God with the grain offerings and the frankincense.” Nehemiah 13:4-9

    According to that passage dwelling in the storehouse was forbidden. If you’ll go back and look at the context you’ll see that because of that the priests ran out of food and therefore had to return to the fields to grow their food, and because of that they could not continue in the service of the temple, so when it was restored they were able to perform their duties.

    Back to Malachi… The next thing mentioned is “So that there may be food in my house”. If you’ll look back at “the Content” you’ll see that the tithe was always eatable.

    “In My house…” What is the only place in the Bible considered “the house of the Lord”?

    You can do a study on this subject but the only place that was considered “the house of the Lord” was the temple in Jerusalem. And sense the temple was (as we looked at) a picture of heaven then the only place today you can rightfully call the house of the Lord would be heaven.
    Nehemiah 10:37, Deuteronomy 14:23, Deuteronomy 12:5, Deuteronomy 14:24,25 Isaiah 56:7, Isaiah 66:20, Jeremiah 7:10-11,14,30
    There are many more references to the house of the Lord in the old testament and if you’ll look they’re all in reference to the temple. But Jesus puts them all together in the new testament…

    “And He *said to them, “It is written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER'; but you are making it a ROBBERS’ DEN.” Matthew 21:13

    “Then, after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions…
    And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” Luke 2:46,49

    In Matthew and in Luke He’s in the temple and in both places He calls it God’s house, or His Father’s house.
    I find it ironic that the only other place that Jesus mentions His Fathers house is in reference to Heaven…
    “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.
    John 14:2

    Well what about Abraham? Didn’t he give a tithe to Melchizedek before the law? And if it was before the law then it does not pertain to the law and we should still give it right? Well lets see…
    “When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he led out his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. He divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and defeated them, and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus. He brought back all the goods, and also brought back his relative Lot with his possessions, and also the women, and the people. Then after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. 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.” He gave him a tenth of all.” Genesis 14:14-20
    Now clearly according to these verses Abram gave a tithe of the spoils of war to Melchizedek. “to whom also Abraham apportioned a tenth part of all the spoils, was first of all, by the translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace… Now observe how great this man was to whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth of the choicest spoils.” Hebrews 7:2,4 This is the only recorded time that Abram gave anything to Melchizedek. He gave that one time and no other. Also in this passage there is no command. Abram gave what he purposed in his own heart to give. (no percentage command for us there.)

    Many would say, “What about all of those verses in the Bible that talk about giving, shouldn’t we give?” Absolutely! The Bible does talk about giving and we should, but giving is not the same as tithing. According to the Scriptures tithing has been done away with.
    “In this case mortal men receive tithes, but in that case one receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives on. And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him. Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also.” Hebrews 7:8-12
    “When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.” Hebrews 8:13

    There is no more temple in Jerusalem, there are no more Levitical priests, Christ is now our High Priest. The picture is finished.
    We should give, but not as though there is a specific amount.

    “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”
    2 Corinthians 9:7

    If someone gives grudgingly or of necessity then it is something he’s expected or required to give, like a percentage. But God does not want us to give that way He wants us to give from the heart.
    If someone wants to give 10 percent to their local church then great, but don’t tell everyone else that it is a command of God because its not.

    1. Drew says:

      Thanks for this very organized post. I didn’t grow up in church or around Christianity. I got saved while reading the bible and with very little influence from Christian culture. In reading the bible, I never came to the conclusion that I was required to give 10% of my income to the local church. I found joy in putting $5 – $20 in the plate on Sunday. Seven years later I am now told that the tithe is required and should be the starting point in giving. I ask if not giving 10% is a sin and I can’t get a straight answer. When I examine my hearts response to giving money I begin to feel pressured to give 10% with ‘fear of man’ being the main motivator but when I ‘decide in my heart’ to give(to the church and set aside for charitable giving) the amount my wife and I have chosen I experience joy and freedom. I know it isn’t a popular interpretation of scripture, but that is where I stand and experience freedom, joy, and peace with my giving, which God loves.

    2. Kenton says:

      Thanks for this. It’s always helpful to think biblically about these things. Some other verses:

      For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. (Romans 15:26 ESV)

      Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. (1 Corinthians 16:1, 2 ESV)

      We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us… I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine… For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.” (2 Corinthians 8:1-5, 8, 12-15 ESV)

      Giving was primarily about supplying the needs of the poor (Christians). This is what we see in Acts with the Jerusalem church. Then, Paul directed the churches of Asia Minor and Greece to give to the Jerusalem church, which was poor. This was the purpose of giving, and it was to be individually determined based on how one prospered.

      Then, giving was to support the work of the (small ‘a’) apostles and itinerant preachers (ie, missionaries):

      Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. (1 Corinthians 9:6, 11, 14 ESV)

      Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth. (3 John 1:5-8 ESV)

      This is New Testament giving.

  4. Wyeth Duncan says:

    Thank you for your reflections in this post. I have a question, however. How do we get from the tithing of “mint and dill and cumin” in Jesus’ day to our present-day understanding of tithing as giving 10% of one’s monetary income? And how do we reconcile the evangelical emphasis on monetary tithing (giving 10%) with 2 Corinthians 9:7 (“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion…”), where Paul seems to suggest a giver is free to give as much as he/she decides he/she is able (which may be more or less than 10%)? If tithing is “entry-level discipleship,” then isn’t it compulsory for Christians to tithe? I’d really appreciate some help thinking through this issue biblically.

    1. Nate says:

      Tithing is inherently compulsive because the OT law is inherently compulsive. If anyone can show me in scripture where the New Testament church members gave 10% if their income to the elders (or were instructed to do so) I will change my position. Until then I stand with Paul in Galatians that the civil and ceremonial requirements of the law have passed away.

  5. DC says:

    “Tithing is Obedience 101. It is entry-level discipleship. When we tithe, we should be thinking, “Well, this is for starters. And I grow from here.”
    I’m sure this post will be long lost in a large number of other posts that are sure to come, but I must say that the above quote is rather presumptuous. Of course there are different ways of viewing this and not everyone agrees with everyone. But the way I see this passage is in terms of the time. When Jesus was speaking, He and everyone else was still under the Law. However, the Law had long been perverted by years of stumbling over it via a lack of faith (Romans 9). Jesus came to fulfill the law, in that He came preaching what the law was meant to produce. First of all, Faith. Practically, love toward God, Love toward men, in forms of real worship, real service, real benevolence, etc. Even when you read the OT accounts of the Tithe, most of the time it was blatantly spelled out that the tithe was not just given to the temple and then magically burned up as an aroma to God. No, it was given out to the helpless. The widows, orphans, poor, sick, travelers, and Levites (who had no land to work and provide for themselves). The Jews had long forgotten what the tithe was for (hence “corban” was abused, and even parents forsaken). The tithe was not meant to be an eternal 10%. It was meant to produce something within the people. Generosity and service to others. But like our children, we do not teach them to make their bed everyday with the purpose of making sure that even when they are grown up that they will continue to make their beds everyday, but rather to produce something deeper within themselves in terms of responsibility and discipline. The law in many ways did just this, and I believe the tithe is one of those things. It cannot be reduced to terms of mere “obedience” without losing its power. How the NT treats tithe is not in terms of 10% but in terms of providing for those in need. Do you need the church to be your intermediary? Sure, some find it a very useful one. But those who would rather show hospitality and generosity outside the church in a more personal format should not be quenched by telling them “no, you can’t do that, you have to first give your 10% to the church and then go be generous apart from your churchiness.” This is the same mindset that the pharisees perpetuated. A mindset of rules-without-purpose for the sake of mere obedience. Even the law had purpose. The Jews stumbled over it because they missed that purpose and treated is as a righteousness that could be gained via the works of the flesh. And this is how I believe this article is teaching us to view the tithe.

  6. Brandon says:

    As DC said above, Jesus was speaking to Jews who were under the law. This was before the cross. Jesus also commanded the 10 healed lepers to “Go, show yourselves to the priests”. Should we then take this as a prescriptive command by Jesus to find a priest every time we’re healed of a skin disease? Of course not.

    I am a firm believer in cheerful, sacrificial giving as prescribed for every New Testament believer. But it is NOT the same thing as an OT tithe.

    1. Brian Watson says:

      Brandon, you are quite right in your succinct post. I am quite surprised that Dr. Ortlund would overlook such an important fact. Giving is entry-level discipleship, to be sure, but we don’t have a set amount. It’s also interesting how some Christians ignore the fact that the Israelites were commanded to give three tithes (one to the Levites, one for fellowship, and one every three years to the poor), which would add up to roughly 23.3 percent of their earnings.

  7. Jordan says:

    Seems Jesus is pretty indifferent to tithing in Matthew 17. Remember that story? When Jesus said the Father’s kids are free? No cost of admission to be in his family? But he pulled the tithe out of a fish’s mouth just to not cause offense to the good Jews who were testing him on it.

    Perhaps it’s the massive overhead our Western evangelical churches have produced that demand the tithe. Not our Father.

    “From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “then the sons are free.”

  8. Steven Adams says:

    Every single objection I have ever heard or seen to the practice of tithing has been an excuse to try and give less. You’re right, it isn’t matter of the law, it’s a matter of the heart.

    1. DC says:

      That’s awfully presumptuous given your limited visibility. I for one am making an excuse to give more, differently, and deliberately! This is not a discussion of quantity alone, but of quality! When you settle into your little 10% niche, you neglect to see real needs around you just like the Jews did. Your outlook is not charitable or loving. It’s “I’ve given to the church, now the church is responsible to help the needy.” If we even care about the needy. Most of us say “you can’t give to them, they will just spend it on drugs.” Or “why would you give to them? don’t you know that they that do not work should not eat either?” When we should be saying “I love you whether I know you and your story or not. How can I help?” and we are able to help because we “work with our own hands so that we can provide for others” and we don’t spend it all on monthly house and car payments and then call ourselves too poor to give away anything but our 10%. Not because we’re actually poor but because we’ve spent it all building the lives we want for ourselves. This discussion is far more involved than what you have reduced it to.

    2. Hal says:

      Right, Stephen. If this many people get so bent out of shape over being asked to give a measley tenth of their income, it’s no wonder our church budgets are hard to meet.

      1. Hal says:

        These comments AGAINST tithing present modern legalism at its best.

  9. Chris says:

    I raise no crops nor animals, neither am I a Jew under the Mosaic law. I think I’ll obey the instruction from Paul to Believers to give generously in keeping with my income, and not place burdens on people by telling them to give 23.3% of their crops and animals, which most people don’t have today (and interestingly enough, as far as we know, Jesus would not have tithed, because he owned no land, and He was a carpenter, and so if He had no crops or animals that He raised, tithing would not have applied to Him). I’m sure Jesus gladly gave offerings as he had the ability, and ultimately He offered up His life for His sheep.

    Some will say that the tithe was to be animals and crops, because there was no money, but that’s not true. There was gold and silver that was used as currency, but the tithes were food stuffs required to feed the priests who inherited no land of their own, when it was allotted to the 12 tribes. The tithe was to be crops and animals, and there was actually a penalty attached if one wanted to pay it in something else other than crops and animals.

    I say that the tithe equated to be 23.3%, because there were three tithes – two annual ones (one to support the Levites, and one to support the Festivals), and one that was every three years (to support the poor) – that averages to 23.3% of one’s gross crops and animals, which was considered a national tax system to support the Levites, the Festivals, and part of the care for the poor. This was all in addition to free will offerings).

    When the Christian Jews were pondering what parts of Judaism to suggest that the Gentiles follow, they said to abstain from blood and sexual immorality – not to duplicate the Levitical laws of tithing crops an animals.

    The article started out good describing Jesus’ encounter with the Pharisees and the importance of them not shunning the minor points of the Law, but definitely to not miss the weightier ones, but then you switch from a descriptive narrative, to a prescriptive narrative, suggesting that the Levitical system of tithing is prescribed for Christians today.

    This is bad hermaneutics.

    I don’t want anyone to think I’m saying that Christians shouldn’t support the Church and missions generously. That means that some will have the means to give 90% of their income away if God has so blessed them; some due to a lack of skills in the marketplace and the resulting lower income or those who are given the gift of a special needs child, may have only 1% of their income that they can give cheerfully. There are no percentages for the Christian, and the word “tithe” just needs to be struck from our vocabulary. Give generously, but don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Often people who want to talk of tithing just really want to boast.

    Churches teach tithing for one of three reasons:

    1.) They’re ignorant of the application of it – thinking that it’s still binding on Christians today. A lot of pastors and churches are just simply teaching what they were taught and haven’t really studied this issue.

    2.) They know it’s not for Christians under the New Covenant, but they simply don’t trust God enough to move in the hearts of His people to have them give generously – so they think throwing around the verses about tithing will help guilt (probably they’d prefer the word “convict”) enough people into filling up the coffers so they can keep building bigger and better buildings.

    3.) The final extreme is the money hungry prosperity preachers, who will tell you that you are under a curse if you don’t tithe, because they see it as a means for their Lear jets, mansions and designer suits.

  10. Great post! Who knew tithing was such a hot top

  11. *topic? “What do you have that you did not receive?” 1Cor.4:7

  12. Cornelius says:

    There is no New Testament mandate for Christians to tithe. “Tithing, then, is an obedient thing to do.”–I completely disagree with your statements. This is manipulative and divisive used to compel Christians to give to a congregation.

    “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”
    2 Corinthians 9:7

  13. John W says:

    Well TGC, 17 comments later & still not one in support of the original post as far as I can tell.

    Kind of compels you to air an alternative view don’t you think?

  14. Thanks for the great and thoughtful debat on both sides. I am coming to find that the tithe is more deeply spiritual than I had ever imagined because our great high priest receives tithes perpetually in heaven. I wrote recently on the topic…

    http://richardpmoore.blogspot.com/2013/12/are-tithes-new-testament-mandate.html

    1. Neil says:

      Richard, no one will argue that Jesus is from the order of Melchizedek, but believing that the 10% tithe is applicable to the Church is not accurate and poor hermeneutics. Abram(not Abraham, as his name was not yet changed by God) gave 10% to the order of Melchizedek, but it was a one-time offering after the spoils of war. You cannot compare the tithe to a 501c3 organization with this example. If the elders of the church would preach the truth about the New Covenant, the church would be like this…Acts 2:44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.

      1. Neil,
        Thanks for the comments. Notice I did not say anything about a 501c 3 in my comments. And I certainly agree with you that the church should be a little more like the Acts church, but if 10% is such a difficult ‘ground level’ for people then people “selling all they had” would be a bit of a bigger problem don’t you think? And calling my handling of Hebrews poor hermeneutics is a bit of an insult. I take it in stride though, because I am not forcing anyone to give 10% of their income. I call it a good place to start, and then maybe we can eek our way up to “selling all we have and bringing it to the apostles” as you say. I see Hebrews 7:8 as a future progressive act “he receives them” or receiveth. Meaning he continually receives tithes of those who would give them unto him as he continues to work the works of the high priest today “making intercession for us”, and continuing to make propitiation for His people, etc. thanks again for the input.

  15. John W, that calculation is incorrect.

  16. Brett Cox says:

    Thanks Ray. I think you can understand the comments because they are about what you are about, applying Jesus statements. We say your application is wrong, you say it is right. We are indeed talking about the same thing, but disagreeing.

  17. Todd Wilkinson says:

    WOW!! Who knew this many people disliked the concept of tithing?!?!?!? If grace supersedes the law then tithing is the basement of giving and should not garner this type of vehement reaction. Ray, I think, you hit certain people’s idol.

    1. Chris says:

      Unless you’re confessing an idol in your own life, you are judging people, whom I assume you don’t know, and you’re inferring that people who have been objecting to this post have a problem with giving and not Ortlund’s “implied” incorrect application of tithing [a mandated 10% of one’s crops and animals (which I don’t have)]. Give 10%; give 2%; give 98%. There’s no ceiling, basement, or any other plumb line – only freedom and generosity.

      1. Jon Wood says:

        Chris, where in the original post did you see Dr. Ortlund advocating “a mandated 10% of one’s crops and animals?” I encourage you to look again as I promise you won’t find it.

        1. Chris says:

          I said that, because in the Bible, that’s what the tithe was – crops and animals. It was food stuffs to support the Levites. If you were a stone mason who had no crops or animals (which, probably most people had at least a small garden, but for argument’s sake lets say there were some trades people who had no crops or livestock of their own), then you weren’t subject to the tithing laws.

          The point was made was that tithing is not an equivalent system to portray Christian offerings. Tithing was a tax system under the theocratic system of Levitical priests. We pay our taxes to a civil government today, and we give freely through a system of offerings that no one defines the minimum or maximum except for ourselves, as the Lord leads us.

          The point is that, if you’re going to tell someone to tithe, tell them to bring it in grain, wine, and sheep, because if you’re using the phrase to describe writing a check, you’re using bad hermaneutics.

    2. Sara says:

      No, Todd, you are incorrect. We do not have a problem with giving (and giving generously and cheerfully!). What we have a problem with is a incorrect interpretation of Scripture – something we should all care about, whether the incorrect thing seems to be good. Giving 10% of your income to your church is a noble thing…but to say it is required of believers in the NT age is not. A simple study of what the tithe really is will make you realize how wrong it is for a pastor standing at the front of his church asking his congregants to TITHE 10% of their income because the Bible says they have to. Should a pastor preach about giving money to the church, to the needy, to charities? Yes, of course! I say if the leadership of a church is going to require a tithe for their members, than they at least ought to use all the requirements for the tithe (i.e. non-land-owners were exempt, tithing the TENTH animal – and so if you had only nine, you did not have to tithe any, a portion of the tithe should be given to the needy in the church who themselves should not be required to give, as others have pointed out the tithe was actually MORE than 10%). See? That is why we have a problem with the “tithe” – not because we love money and keeping the money for ourselves, but because we love the Word of God and hate to see it being misused and misapplied, no matter the good intentions of the interpreter.

    3. Kenton says:

      Todd, the basement of giving is a cheerful, compassionate, grateful heart. As Christians, we have to think biblically about things, lest we confuse the law of Moses with the law of Christ. Giving is commanded in the New Testament, but not on a percentage basis. No where do the New Testament authors command tithing to the church, and not even the synagogues of the diaspora community tithed to the synagogue (though they did send tithes to Jerusalem, perhaps the basis for Paul’s own collection for Jerusalem).

      The churches did not *tithe*, and so while many here are certainly agreeing that giving is good and right, to say that Christians are to tithe is to misapply one verse of Scripture. Because then you start saying that American Christians should expect material prosperity, both individually and nationally, based on Malachi 3:8-12. Or that Christians who are healed should go and show themselves to a priest whenever they’re healed, based on Luke 5:14. Or that Christians should give 100% of their money to the church, based on Mark 4:41-44.

      Was Jesus opposed to tithing? No. But neither was he opposed to the Temple structure or offerings or Jewish feasts. But, those things belonged to Israel while they lasted, and to try to apply them to Gentiles beyond what the apostles stated is erroneous and irresponsible. 90% of what Ray wrote is spot on. Indeed, obedience is not a matter of picking and choosing what can be seen and measured publicly, but of submitting all of one’s life, and possessions, to the One who owns them. But it’s that last paragraph that doesn’t comport with the New Testament.

    4. Nate says:

      Paul had a pretty vehement reaction when the Galatians stumbled back into following their dead traditions instead of living under grace. I am incredibly encouraged to see the majority of comments to this article that are willing to stand on scripture. I think it much better to follow the example of the Macedonian church than the levitical law. Tithes are taxes. My taxes that go to the government. I give willingly and joyfully to the church.

      1. Ray Ortlund says:

        Thanks, everybody.

        Some good points here.

        For the record, I don’t consider the teachings of Jesus “dead traditions” but rather a sharp challenge to dead traditions. Nor do I consider his teachings “Levitical law” but rather the announcement of New Covenant grace. I receive his teachings this way, because I want to be a follower of Jesus.

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Ray Ortlund


Ray Ortlund is senior pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and serves as a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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