September 16, 2019

Should a Christian Tithe?

By faithsprings

The tithe has been a controversial topic as far back as I can remember. When I was in the university, we would get together as a bunch of Christian student leaders to discuss the scriptures (a very enjoyable past-time). The tithe always seemed to polarise opinions, with many totally convinced it is an abiding covenant obligation, whereas others were of the opinion that it is an anachronistic Old Testament practice that had been done away with in Christ.

It’s been almost 20 years since we had those debates, and many people are still as confused about the tithe as some of my friends were. In fact, things have gotten worse, with a cacophony of voices contributing to the debate, many from a position of ignorance of the Bible. In these matters, it’s important to beware of paying heed to the person shouting the loudest, seeing as empty barrels usually make the most noise !

Human opinions are a dime a dozen, but God’s Word lives and abides forever (1 Pet. 1:23). To get clarity on the tithe, we should examine what God says about it in His Word. We should also examine historical practice – what did our forebears do with respect to the tithe, and how did their behaviour serve them ? I believe in the inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures, and will therefore use God’s Word to examine this topic.

What is the tithe ?

The Word tithe is from the Hebrew word, “ma‘aśēr”, which literarily means “the tenth”. In the Greek, it’s the word “apodekatóō”, which also means the same thing. Without getting unduly technical, we can define the tithe or tithing as the practice of “giving a tenth of something owned, typically money or an asset, to God in recognition of His grace of provision upon our lives“. The Bible describes the tithe as being payable on your increase, on anything that increases you or your worth. So as an example, a monthly salary is an increase, so a tenth of this would be the tithe.

For the avoidance of doubt, the tithe refers to 10% of your gross increase, not your net increase. This is a point of confusion for many people. The tithe is due on the total increase experienced, not on the “after tax” balance, or the balance after statutory deductions are made. So the tithe on a gross salary of £2000 is £200, and not £150 (after tax and NI deductions are made).

 

Should a Christian pay tithes ?

Well, let’s examine the evidence from scriptures.

There are three specific reasons why I think every Christian should pay tithes:

 

1. Our Father Abraham paid tithes

As Christians, we all claim our heritage from Abraham. According to Gal 3:29, if we belong to Christ, we are Abraham’s seed and heirs of the promises God made to Abraham.

Galatians 3:29 (CWSB)

29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

As Abraham’s seed, we have an obligation to walk in the footsteps of our Father. He was called a friend of God, and Christ’s coming, and the New Testament, actually connects us to the promise God made to Abraham. So what was Abraham’s attitude to the tithe ? Let’s take a look at this in Genesis 14.

Abraham’s nephew Lot, got caught up in the domestics of the nation where he was living [Sodom], and he and his family were taken captive. When the news got to Abraham, he went with his servants to rescue his kin and his goods, and in so doing also rescued other casualties of the war – men, women and children of the town Lot was living in, including their goods and provisions. Now, according to the principles of war, everything that came back with Abraham from the war belonged to him. Indeed, the King of Sodom acknowledged this much by petitioning Abraham to only keep the goods in vs 21.

Genesis 14:17-24 (CWSB)

17 And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of — Chedorlaomer, and — of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king’s dale.

18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.

19 And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth:

20 And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.

21 And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself.

22 And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lifted up mine hand unto the Lord, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth,

23 That I will not take from a thread even to to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I havemade Abram rich:

24 Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.

So these spoils of war then represented an increase for Abraham. And in vs 20, we see what Abraham did with this increase. He gave Melchizedek, the priest of the most High God tithes of all.

So we see then, that Abraham paid tithes. And this didn’t stop with him either. He also taught his descendants to engage with the tithe as a covenant obligation. How do I know this ? Check out Jacob’s lifestyle, which is indicative of the fact that his Grandfather and Father must have thought him about the tithe !

Genesis 28:20-22 (CWSB)

20 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,

21 So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God:

22 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.

It’s important to recognise that this is before the law was given. So tithing then is not about the law, as not everything in the Old Testament relates to the law. Tithing is about love and trust – love of God and the things of God, and trust in His ability to take care of you.

 

2. Jesus said to pay tithes

In the gospel accounts, the scriptures records Jesus taking the Pharisees to task on their fastidiousness with form over substance, their propensity to major on the major on the minor. A Pharisee had invited Jesus home for dinner, and had invited some of his own friends to attend the occasion with Jesus. When it was time for dinner Jesus went straight to the table, seeing as the essence of dinner was, well, to have dinner! But he was taken to task for not having first washed before coming to sit at the table.

Luke 11:37-42 (CWSB)

37 And as he spake, a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him: and he went in, and sat down to meat.

38 And when the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that he had not first washed before dinner.

39 And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness.

40 Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also?

41 But rather give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you.

42 But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

Jesus’ response was to denounce the Pharisean culture of putting focus on the wrong things at the expense of what is beneficial. In particular, let’s focus on what Jesus said in verse 42. A similar thing is also said in Matthew 23:23.

Luke 11:42 (CWSB)

42 But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

 

Matthew 23:23 (CWSB)

23 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.

Whilst calling out their perverseness in ignoring judgement, faith, mercy and the love of God, he in the same breath reiterated that they should have continued to tithe as they were doing, whilst also focusing on the weightier matters he called out. In this, Jesus supported the covenant practice of the tithe.

Now I know some people will respond that Jesus did not specifically state that “ye shall pay tithes”. My response to such people is this – he didn’t specifically say not to do it either. The only statement we have him uttering about tithes and tithing focuses on him urging the Pharisees to continue in the practice but to supplement it with the more important matters of the kingdom. Interestingly, this was the only thing the Pharisees were doing that received any form of approval from Jesus !

 

3. The tithe obligates God and puts Him to work on your behalf

In the book of Malachi, God makes a very bold and clear statement regarding the tithe.

Malachi 3:10-12 (CWSB)

10 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.

11 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.

12 And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightful land, saith the Lord of hosts.

God threw down a challenge, asking His people to prove him (The Amplified Bible uses the word “test”). He clearly articulates that bringing the tithes obligates Him to rebuke the devourer for our sakes, and to prevent any form of miscarriage. He also promised that there will be enough evidence of His goodness in our lives for observers or those around us to know that we are blessed. That presents a clear picture of God saying if we obey Him and bring the tithes, He is obligated to do a number of things on our behalf.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t mind obligating God. Why? Because He has the wherewithal to deliver on His obligations. And that with interest.

Now, you may be one of those people who say, well I did tithe, and there was no evidence of the devourer being rebuked in my life. If anything, he went on a rampage. My cat and my dog had miscarriages, and I even lost two tyres on my brand new car which had to be replaced. So I am not sure what you are on about.

Well, let me let you in on two things that the Holy Spirit brought to my attention with respect to the tithe. These two things have caused many people to lose out on walking in the blessings of the tithe more than many people can ever know. These are little things, not big ones, but it’s usually the little foxes that spoils the vine, not the elephant. As small as a spark plug is, if it is missing from your car, you are unlikely to be using that car for any errands.

The first thing is to be careful where your tithe goes. Notice in vs 10 of Malachi 3, God said to bring the tithes into His storehouse. Not your storehouse, or a place you fancy, or to give it to your parents, or to your favourite Pastor. His storehouse. So my question is this, have you asked God where His storehouse is from your perspective ? If I asked you to pay some money into my account to receive a certain service, it stands to reason you should ask for my account details to ensure the payment is made in order to obtain the service. You can’t just pay it into a random account, or to your best friend’s account and expect me to deliver the agreed service.

For the most part, God’s storehouse should be your local church, as the expectation is that you should be getting spiritual nourishment that enables you to grow from your local church. If you attend a church where you are not fed and the Word is not taught, then do yourself a favour and find a different church. Immediately. God expects His children to grow, and the local church is the platform for this to happen. Should you send your tithe to a popular ministry ? Personally, I don’t think so. You should send them a seed periodically if they are a blessing to you, but your tithe should go to your local church. However, ask God and He will tell you where the storehouse is.

Secondly, watch the words that come out of your mouth with respect to your tithe and obeying God’s covenant instructions. Many people have done much damage to the outcome of their obedience of scriptural instructions with the words of their mouth. If you read the remaining verses of Malachi 3 (starting from vs 13), this will become clearer.

Malachi 3:13-18 (CWSB)

13 Your words have been stout against me, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee?

14 Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?

15 And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.

16 Then they that feared the Lord spoke often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.

17 And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth — him.

18 Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.

Evidently, this part of Malachi 3 is still talking about the tithe, as the Bible was not written in chapters and verses. God is calling out that His people were using words that were holding back his hands from blessing them. Their words were stout against Him. How ? By saying things like, “Ah, not sure about this tithe business, you know. I paid my tithe for the first time last month, and things are much tighter than they’ve ever been. Not sure what that Pastor was on about. It’s a con. I wish I hadn’t listened to him.” They were saying things like, “What’s the profit of tithing? These other people don’t tithe, and they are alright. They are even doing much better than us. Why should we be tithing”, and so on. These words were holding back God’s angels from moving on behalf of His people, because the angels only hearken to the voice of God’s Word from the scriptures (), not the voice of grumbling and complaining of men. Do you get it ?

You can see from vs 17-18 that once God’s people straighten out their talking to be in line with His Word, alongside their embracing the covenant practice of tithing, He has promised to put a distinction between them and the world. Glory, hallelujah. Isn’t that amazing ?!

So what’s the conclusion ? All Christians should tithe, no exceptions. Why ? Firstly, Abraham tithed, and he is the father of the faithful. And not just that, he taught his descendants to do the same. Children ought to walk the honourable footsteps of their parents. Secondly, Jesus indicated it was important to tithe, and put it in the same bucket as judgement, faith and mercy. That is exalted company if you ask me. And finally, tithing obligates our Father to confirm His promise in our lives. If you are yet to embrace this covenant practice, I dare you to do it today. Prove God and see His hand at work. You will not be put to shame.