Giving, while not a requirement per se, is highly suggested and recommended. And while tithing is giving, there are debates which causes one to question its relevance under the New Covenant. This post will investigate and offer scriptural points about its relevance.
Giving Is Essential
There are many verses one can use to justify giving. Finding many scriptures about giving in church would prove difficult. There is one however…
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. 1 Corinthians 16:2
This one is rarely used when teaching giving. First, it speaks of a collection for the saints, not a general tithe and/or offering. Next, this is Paul's order, not God's. Yet Jesus demonstrated on several occasions that provision for the needs of the people is the right thing to do. Remember the fish and loaves? So giving is certainly advocated. Sadly, it's true purpose is often missed. Many people turn from God and others lose their eternal hope because of money. This post addresses one of those reasons.
Tithing with Abram
And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all. Genesis 14:20
For a greater understanding, read the entire 14th chapter of Genesis. The focus here is mainly on the fact that Abram gave tithe. The real point of this event is left unseen. This meeting was not about money. It is part of the ever unfolding story of Christ. Let's address the tithe first. Abram returns from the battle with the kings to recover his nephew, Lot. Abram meets a company which includes the priest of God and King of Salem, Melchizedek. They partook of bread and wine and Abram received a blessing. Then Abram gave the priest tithe (a tenth part) of all. What exactly did Abram tithe? He tithed the spoils of the battle. Abram never tithed of his personal wealth. And he was very wealthy (Genesis 13:2)! Because Abram never took possession of the spoils, that cannot be counted as his.
That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich: Genesis 14:23
So what really happened here? For one, God was showing through Abram what would become a requirement for Israel: caring for the priesthood. Abram had no idea he needed to give a tenth as this is the first mention of it. God put it in Abram's heart to give a tenth. And something else. There is no command to give it! Next, note that Melchizedek is a king and priest. Sounds familiar? And he offers Abram bread and wine. Who else would do this very thing centuries later? This would represent the body and blood of Christ! Finally, the spoils of war represented filth of sin. How? The spoils were filthy and unclean having come from heathen kings. Abram represents all who surrenders their sin to the High Priest and Advocate, Christ Jesus! See what we miss when we lust after Mammon instead of trusting in God for provision? We miss seeing salvation through Christ! Later God asks Abram to give his son Issac as a sacrifice, the capstone of the event. Meditate on this for yourself and see if the Holy Spirit reveals the same to you!
Tithing with Jacob
And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God: And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee. Genesis 28:20-22
Many would agree there is no evidence Jacob ever tithed. He made a vow that if God provided for and keep him, he would give God a tenth of all. It is likely that he did give a tenth because God is faithful. However, as with Abram, there is not command here to give. It is voluntary!
Tithing with Israel
When is tithing commanded? Is there more than one tithe? First we have the most commonly known and taught Levitical tithe:
And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation. Numbers 18:21
But since every Christian is a member of Christ's priesthood (1 Peter 2:5,9), who receives tithes today?
And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. Revelation 1:6
Next we have a tithe after the establishment of the temple:
But unto the place which the LORD your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there, even unto his habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come: And thither ye shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and heave offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks: And there ye shall eat before the LORD your God, and ye shall rejoice in all that ye put your hand unto, ye and your households, wherein the LORD thy God hath blessed thee. Deuteronomy 12:5-7
Notice that this tithe is not given to anyone. The people are to consume (eat) it themselves in thanksgiving to God! Continue reading through verse 28. Then we have a tithe that was not only for the Levites, but for others as well:
At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates: And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest. Deuteronomy 14:28-29
This tithe caused debates whether there are two tithe or three. The point here is this is a tithe given not once a year, but every third year. This tithe is for the Levites (hence the debate since the Levites are already mentioned), the fatherless, the widow, and the stranger! Let it be noted here that the Levites also gave a tithe of the tithe (Numbers 18:26). With multiple tithes mentioned, which one did Malachi speak of?
The Tithe of Malachi
Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Malachi 3:8
This is where almost everyone goes in Malachi. We place the focus on tithing. Except Malachi was not about tithing at all (read Malachi chapters 1-3)! The message is about God's love for Israel, how Israel turned from Him, and His pleading with them to turn from their sinful ways. While tithing is mention in Chapter 3, this is only one of the issues plaguing Israel. The tithe is necessary, not only for preserving the priesthood, but to supply the needs of those without support!
God's Support System
You see, God supplies all of our needs. Most are able to sow and reap the fields, vineyards, and livestock. And He blessed the work of their hands. Those without support (the stranger, fatherless, and widows) had none. The strangers could not own land because they were not partakers of the inheritance promised to Israel. The fatherless and widow lacked a male supporter as was the custom of the day. Yet God provided a way to see to their needs. How? Through the people via gleaning the fields and to our point, the tithe! God's will is for us to care for each other. Those who think the Old Testament tithe is for support of the clergy only or to fund ministry are in error. It was God's provision for the support of those He took care of. That's why it was offensive to Him to do otherwise with the tithe.
Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts. Malachi 3:9-12
To neglect to care for their brethren and the stranger is to cause them to think God did not care for them.
The Role of the Church Today
God still desires us to care for one another. Look at the examples in the New Testament. Not a tithe, but an offering is collected and taken to those in need.
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. 1 Corinthians 16:1-2
There are no requirements how much to give. Only that one give as they are able and do so with joy. Why? Because is pleases the Father and you store up treasure in Heaven!
Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. Matthew 19:21 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7
See how the command to give did not come from God. It was Paul who gave the command to the churches. Nevertheless, God wants us to give when it helps others. If we know they are a Christian, we are to help. Besides, how can we expect the world to take us seriously if we find fault (the road to perfection is littered with mistakes…), tear down, overlook, disregard, bite and devour one another instead of performing acts of love and compassion? What makes us different from the world?
Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. Titus 2:14
And lest we think otherwise, tithing does not win anyone brownie points with God. For example, in the Old Testament (Matthew is considered the Old Testament), God rebukes the Pharisees. They were proud of their tithing record, yet they had character failures when it came to the law, faith, and how they treated other people.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Matthew 23:23
Having said all of that, what you do with your giving is your choice. Just understand the truth and give with a grateful heart. Not looking for a return in this life but in the world to come. Always remember, this is not our home. We who are God's are simply here to share the wonderful news of Christ while passing through… True Purpose…