Money, as a tool to access all kinds of lusts, unleashes passions, divides, destroys and in some cases, leads to death. There are countless tragedies related to money: suicide following a bankruptcy, murder of a relative for inheritance, homicide during a robbery gone wrong etc. When we are born again in Christ, we hope that things will be different, but testimonies collected from victims of manipulation, “racketeering”, or despoliation in organisations masquerading as the Church of Christ are too many. Fortunately, this is not the case everywhere although it is still important for everyone to ask the right questions. How to donate to the Church of Christ? To whom? What does the Lord require of us? For many people, the answer is straight from the verse of Malachi 3:10: “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse.”
Pressures from pastors, threats of being cursed, hopes of blessings in return, testimonies of people demonstrating how tithing revolutionised their finances, traditions too ingrained to be questioned, and the desire to obey and please God: these are some of the reasons driving thousands of believers to tithe. In addition to different types of offerings, many Christians regularly gives one-tenth of all their income, ignoring what the Bible really teaches about tithing.
Is tithing biblical? Yes, as it appears in various passages of the Bible. However, many factors must be taken into account to understand what should be the position of Jesus’ disciples in the New Covenant in regards to this practice. Although sincerity is a good thing, truth and obedience to the Word of God must prevail. Let us take the time to ask the right questions and find the answers in the Scriptures to understand the mind of God on tithes, offerings and money.
WHERE IS THE FIRST MENTION OF THE TITHE IN THE SCRIPTURES?
The first mention of tithing can be found in Genesis 14: 17-20:
“And the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley), after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him. Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And 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.” And he gave him a tithe of all.”
In this passage, Abram had just won a battle against Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him. He went into this fight to rescue his nephew Lot, who had been taken captive (Genesis 14:12). After this victory, Abram met Melchizedek and gave him a tenth of the property he had won in battle. In this act, four main facts should be noted:
∙ Abram gave this tithe willingly and not following an explicit request of Melchizedek.
∙ Abram tithed goods he had obtained after the fight that he had just lead. It did not include his personal belongings.
∙ Abram gave the tithe to Melchizedek, who is an image of Christ according to Hebrews 7.
∙ Abram did not repeat this action. He tithed only at this specific opportunity.
Therefore these are the conditions that anyone who wants to tithe as Abram must follow.
WAS TITHING A REGULAR PRACTICE OF THE PATRIARCHS?
As we saw earlier, Abram tithed only once in the 175 years of his life on earth. Concerning Isaac, Scriptures do not mention a story in which he would have given any tithe.
The second mention of tithing in the Bible is found in Genesis 28. In this passage, Jacob was fleeing his father’s house because of his brother Esau, who wanted to kill him. On the night of his departure, Jacob received a dream in which God told him that He would always be with him; that He would give him a countless offspring; and that He would bring him back to the country he was fleeing. When he awoke, Jacob made this promise to God:
“If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.” (Genesis 28:20-22).
When Jacob left Laban’s house to return to his father’s land, we can assume he had not fulfilled his promise. Indeed, there is no mention in the Scriptures and even if he had, it would have been twenty years after his initial vow. The story of the lives of the patriarchs clearly shows that tithing was not a regular practice for them. Indeed, Abraham did not recommend it specifically to his offspring as he did for the practice of circumcision.
WHEN DID GOD ESTABLISH TITHING AS A LAW? HOW MANY KINDS OF TITHES DID THE ISRAELITES GIVE? HOW OFTEN DID THEY PAY THE TITHES?
Moses received from God, the laws which governed the people of Israel. Among these laws, God gave specific orders concerning tithes. These recommendations are developed in Deuteronomy 14: 22-29 and Numbers 18: 20-31. According to these passages, we can distinguish different kinds of tithes:
- The annual tithe for the pilgrimages to Jerusalem:
“You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. And you shall eat before the Lord your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the Lord your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the Lord your God has blessed you, then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the Lord your God chooses. And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household.” Deuteronomy 14:22-26
According to the Mosaic Law, the Israelites were required to go to Jerusalem every year and bring the first tenth of the produce of their fields and the new wine and oil, and the firstborn of their livestock. This tithe was to be eaten by the person before the Lord.
- The tithe to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless and the widow
“You shall not forsake the Levite, who is within your gates, for he has no part nor inheritance with you. At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.” Deuteronomy 14:27-29
God told the people of Israel to give a tenth of their production to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless and the widow. This tithe due every three years, at the end of the year, was to be laid down at the gates so that beneficiaries may collect it there.
- The tithe to the Levite
“Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting. Hereafter the children of Israel shall not come near the tabernacle of meeting, lest they bear sin and die. But the Levites shall perform the work of the tabernacle of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity; it shall be a statute forever, throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance. For the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer up as a heave offering to the Lord, I have given to the Levites as an inheritance; therefore I have said to them, ‘Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.’” Numbers 18: 21-24
In this passage, the Lord told the Levites that they would have no inheritance in the Promised Land, but God himself would be their inheritance and possession. So He gave them the tithes of the children of Israel as a “salary” for the service they were doing in the tent of meeting.
- The tithe of the tithe:
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak thus to the Levites, and say to them: ‘When you take from the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them as your inheritance, then you shall offer up a heave offering of it to the Lord, a tenth of the tithe. And your heave offering shall be reckoned to you as though it were the grain of the threshing floor and as the fullness of the winepress. Thus you shall also offer a heave offering to the Lord from all your tithes which you receive from the children of Israel, and you shall give the Lord’s heave offering from it to Aaron the priest. Of all your gifts you shall offer up every heave offering due to the Lord, from all the best of them, the consecrated part of them.’ Therefore you shall say to them: ‘When you have lifted up the best of it, then the rest shall be accounted to the Levites as the produce of the threshing floor and as the produce of the winepress. You may eat it in any place, you and your households, for it is your reward for your work in the tabernacle of meeting. Numbers 18: 25-31
When the Levites received tithes from the children of Israel, they had to take off a tenth of it and bring that portion to the priest, which is commonly called the tithe of the tithes. In Nehemiah 10: 38, we are informed that this particular tithe was to be brought into the house of God, specifically in the chambers of the storehouse.
Through these explanations, we can notice that the tithes that God had commanded to Israel consisted of proceeds from the land and not money. Furthermore, the combination of the different kinds of tithes represented more than 10% of annual income. Tithes paid by Israel back then are thus very different from those paid nowadays in churches.
TO WHOM WAS ADDRESSED THE VERSE OF MALACHI 3:10 USUALLY QUOTED TO ENCOURAGE CHRISTIANS TO PAY THE TITHE?
“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try 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 such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.” Malachi 3:10.
Tithes discussed in this passage relate to the tithe of the tithes which according to the Law of Moses were the only tithes to be brought into the storehouse (see details in the previous question). Thus, this verse is addressed particularly to the Levites, not to all the people.
If we study the book of Malachi and its context more deeply, we can understand that the priests were acting badly before God, saying to the people: “The table of the LORD is contemptible!” (Malachi 1: 7). So, blind, lame and sick animals were given as an offering to God, and the Levites, as well as the people, were not faithful to the practice of tithing, which had brought a curse upon all Israel (Malachi 3: 9). In Malachi 3: 10, the Lord simply invited the priests- called to be models in word and action to the people - to be faithful in the payment of the tithe, so that He will open the windows of heaven and bless them.
Can this verse of Malachi 3: 10 be applied to believers in the New Covenant?
Absolutely not! The book of Malachi is about the strict application of the Law of Moses (Malachi 4: 4). We are no longer under the Old Covenant, but we are now living in under the New Covenant, in the time of grace that began with Jesus Christ (John 1: 17).
Whoever decides to follow a single precept of the law of Moses incurs serious problems, as the Lord said through Paul.
“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” Galatians 3: 10
Therefore, when a preacher uses the verse of Malachi 3: 10 to urge Christians to give a tenth of their income, he is wrong and misleading people. Moreover, under the New Covenant, all followers of Jesus are called to be the temple/house of God (1 Corinthians 3: 16) and the priests of the Most High God (1 Peter 2: 5). So there is no question of bringing tithes to any pastor in a building inaccurately called “house of God.”
In addition, blessing cannot be conditioned by money given to a religious organisation. Under the New Covenant, we are firstly blessed by the lov0e shown through the work of the Cross. It is for this purpose that Paul said in Ephesians 1: 3 that “God blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ”. Also, what additional blessing could someone hope for when he realises his position in the Kingdom of God, namely, “seated in heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 2: 6)?
DID JESUS CHRIST TEACH THE PRACTICE OF TITHING TO HIS DISCIPLES AND THE CHURCH?
Jesus mentioned the word “tithe” twice in the narrative of the Gospel. What was He trying to communicate in these specific passages?
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.” Matthew 23: 23
In this verse, Jesus was speaking to the scribes and Pharisees and called them hypocrites because they paid tithes, but neglected “the weightier matters of the law.” In fact, He clearly stated that the practice of tithing was not the most important part of the law. He invited them to practice first “justice, mercy and faith” because without those things, it is impossible to please God (Matthew 6: 33; Matthew 9: 13 and Hebrews 11: 6).
The Pharisees were particularly zealous for the traditions of their fathers and were among the most religious Jews. The word “Pharisee” means “separated.” They called themselves “separated” because they stood away from the things and the people they considered impure. These “set apart” men taught that righteousness was obtained by the strict application of the law, as illustrated in the following passage:
Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar of , would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18: 9-14
Through this story, Jesus described the attitude of heart of two men, a Pharisee and a tax collector, who went to the Temple to pray. The Pharisee exalted his righteousness and considered himself faithful to God’s law because he was not committing the tax collector’s sins, regularly fasted, and gave a tenth of all his possessions. The tax collector, on the other hand, humbly admitted to being a sinner before God and implored His mercy. In the end, the repentant tax collector was justified rather than the arrogant Pharisee.
The central teaching of this parable is that there is no justification for the strict observation of the Law. Indeed, God takes more pleasure in humility and brokenness (Psalm 51: 19). Jesus did talk about tithing as shown in these passages, but these verses cannot be quoted in our day to encourage Christians to tithe because it was not His intentional message. Although Jesus did not condemn tithing here, we must understand that when He spoke in Matthew 23: 23 and Luke 11: 42 – which tells the same story – Jesus was still under the Old Covenant as the New Covenant began with His death and resurrection.
FROM THE LAW TO THE GRACE, WHAT DID CHANGE?
For many Bible readers, it is difficult to understand the difference between the law and the grace. First of all, it is important to remember that both participate in the same plan of humanity’s redemption. The law was a shadow of things to come (Colossians 2: 17; Hebrews 10: 1) and the tutor that brought us to Christ (Galatians 3: 24). And Grace came with Christ, the Lamb of God who was slain before the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1: 19-20).
The law, given by Moses, prescribed animal sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins. Indeed, “without shedding of blood there is no remission” according to Hebrews 9: 22. However, “in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.” (Hebrews 10). Christ thus came on earth to offer a pure blood, in order to take away the sin of the world; his sacrificial love ended the ceremonial laws instituted under Moses. He then established a new covenant in which we would no longer need the annual sacrifice for the remission of sins. Indeed, by one sacrifice, that of his body, Jesus led the saints to perfection.
Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, But a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin, You had no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come—In the volume of the book it is written of Me—To do Your will, O God.’ ” Previously saying, “Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the law), then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all. And every priest stands ministering daily and repeatedly offering the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin. Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrew 10: 5-22
Comparison between the New and the Old Covenants
Beneficiaries of the covenant
|Israel (Romans 9: 4)||All the nations (John 3: 16)
|Moses (John 1: 17)||Jesus Christ (John 1: 17)|
|Levitical priesthood with Aaron as the first high priest and his son as priests (Exodus 28: 1).||Royal priesthood of all believers with Jesus Christ as High Priest (Hebrews 7) and all his disciples as priests (1 Peter 2: 9 and Revelation 1: 6).|
|Tithes were paid to priests for their service in the tabernacle.
Their inheritance was God Himself (Number 18: 20-24)
|Priests (=all children of God) are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8: 17, Ephesians 1: 11). No tithes are to be paid to ministers who are requested to live by faith (Romans 1: 17) and settle for less (1 Timothy 6: 8).|
|The tabernacle (Exodus 26) and then the temple built by Solomon (1 Kings 6)||The born again disciples are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3: 16 and 6: 19)|
Access to God’s presence
|The temple was divided into three parts:
∙ The court where all had access.
∙The Holy place where only the sons of Aaron and the priests had access.
∙The Most Holy place, where the high priest entered once a year. (Read Hebrews 9: 17)
|At the very moment when Jesus died on the cross, the veil of the temple that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place was torn. By offering his perfect blood as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, Jesus Christ inaugurated a new route to the Most Holy place: a symbol of intimacy with God restored to all men (Hebrews 16: 26). Jesus Christ is now the only way and mediator to God the Father (John 14: 6 and 1 Timothy 2: 5).|
|Animal sacrifices repeated every year to cover sins (Leviticus 16)
|Faith in the single sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1: 29)|
|The holocaust described in Leviticus 1||The offering of our sanctified lives according to Romans 12: 12|
|The Mosaic law was the tutor leading to Christ (Galatians 3: 24).||The Holy Spirit is the teacher given to us by the Lord (John 14: 26).|
the law is
|On tablets of stone, symbol of the unconverted heart (Exodus 24: 12 and Exodus 34: 4, 28)||On tablets of converted human hearts, symbol of new and regenerated born again spirit (Ezekiel 36: 25-27 and Hebrews 10: 16)|
From the law to the grace, the crucial change is related to the priesthood. Indeed, the perfect sacrifice of Christ made obsolete the ceremonial law containing all the requirements of Moses for worship. Now an elite group dedicated to operating the sacrifices of animals, to pray and to proceed with offerings for the people is no longer needed. Jesus Christ is indeed the intercessor and the expiatory victim for our sins (Hebrews 7: 25 and 1 John 2: 1-2).
Paying tithes to the Levites is no longer relevant today. Indeed, the Leviticus priesthood has been replaced by the new priesthood in which Jesus Christ is the High Priest, and all believers are priests, sacrifices, and temples of God. Therefore, saying that the lambda Christian must tithe of his income to “modern priests” – i.e. pastors, prophets, bishops and men of God- is a heresy.
Jesus did not change the law regarding His standards of holiness, justice and morality (Matthew 5: 17-20, 48; Hebrews 10: 14; Matthew 6: 33; Mark 12: 29-33 and Galatians 5: 14). However, He accomplished once and for all the sacrifice necessary for the forgiveness of our sins and, through the sending of the Holy Spirit, He enabled us to achieve its requirements.
HOW DID THE “PASTORAL PRIESTHOOD” EMERGE?
The “pastoral or the man of God priesthood ” that can be observed in the majority of assemblies today is a system funded and supported by the churchgoers. As in many other religious movements, there is a remunerated spiritual leader (usually the pastor), a temple (the church building or other meeting places) and rules related to sacrifices (including tithing).
Although this structure was not adopted by the Early Church, it can nowadays be found in most Christian denominations and assemblies , and we will see the elements that led to its development.
As mentioned above, we changed from the Levitical priesthood – where only one class of people had access to the presence of God – to the universal priesthood in which all born again believers are priests.
The sad reality is that many believers do not know or understand their responsibility as priests and thus despise this function by putting themselves under the yoke of men.
There is nothing new under the sun. The people of Israel was initially called to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19: 6), but the majority refused the presence and intimacy with God (Exodus 20: 19). Moreover, they also refused the direct authority of God by demanding a king like the other nations (1 Samuel 8: 5-8).
Similarly, many of the New Covenant believers want a pastor or prophet who shall reign over them, intercede on their behalf before God, and communicate to them the thought of God for their lives. This inclination of man to desire a leader to rule over him is one of the elements that contributed to the development of the “pastoral priesthood.”
However, it is not the only one. The “pastoral priesthood” that is happening, even in so-called Reformed churches, is also a legacy of the Catholic Church. Indeed, Ignatius of Antioch (35-107) developed a doctrine exalting one bishop over the other elders. According to Ignatius of Antioch, only that bishop should have the responsibility of celebrating the Lord’s Supper, baptising, giving counseling, disciplining church members, blessing marriages and giving sermons. This model, also supported by Cyprian of Carthage (200-258), one of the Fathers of the Catholic Church, spread during the second century and prevailed everywhere in the late third century.
Consequently, the hierarchical class of the clergy gradually developed, which is in opposition to the model of the early church managed by a group of elders (Acts 13: 1-3). Despite the waves of Reformation of the fifteenth century until now, this unbiblical foundation of a single man at the head of the local assembly remains strongly rooted in almost all Christian denominations. As a result, the “pastoral” ministry, although mentioned only twice in the New Covenant Scriptures, became a central feature in modern churches. If the idea of one single man running the Church was accepted and deeply rooted in mindset from the third century, the financial support of this system by the tithe developed much later.
Indeed, Cyprian of Carthage was the first to prescribe the support of the clergy by the payment of tithes, but that initial idea did not meet with much success in the early centuries. Until the eighth century, tithing was practiced as a voluntary offering. In some nations, it became mandatory, and even legal in the late tenth century, to support churches that had close relations with the government. This is no longer the case today, but the practice of tithing is still widely used to pay “ministers of God.”
The “pastoral priesthood”, wherein a single salaried pastor reigns at the head of the local church, has no biblical foundation. Furthermore, this system damages the free functioning of the Church as only Jesus Christ deserves the place of King, Head of the Church and Senior Pastor over any local church (Psalms 23: 1; John 10: 11,16; Ephesians 5: 23; Colossians 1: 18). In the light of these elements, tithing under the New Covenant means supporting a priesthood that God never established within his Church. Tithing under the New Covenant also means renouncing to one’s identity of priest, and depriving oneself of the freedom for which Christ paid a great price on the cross. Tithing under the New Covenant finally means neglecting grace and disobeying the word of God.
HOW ARE DISCIPLES ENCOURAGED TO GIVE IN THE NEW COVENANT?
From the birth of the Church that unfolds in the book of Acts, we can notice a great mobilisation of believers who supported God’s work financially, but contrary to what He did in the Old Covenant, God did not set specific laws relating to offerings. Some recommendations have yet been issued about donations within the church.
- Donations must be made in response to specific needs.
Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need. Acts 4: 34-35.
And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. Acts 11: 27-29.
- Donations should be made in secrecy and humility.
Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. Matthew 6: 1-4.
- Donations must be made according to one’s own means and not beyond.
And in this I give advice: It is to your advantage not only to be doing what you began and were desiring to do a year ago; but now you also must complete the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to desire it, so there also may be a completion out of what you have. For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have. 2 Corinthians 8: 10-12
- Donations should be made with joy and neither with regret nor under duress.
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9: 7 (ESV)
Under the New Covenant, giving money – even to support noble and important causes – is not a mandatory law, but it is rather the expression of the love of God poured into the heart of the believer (Romans 5: 5).
The only thing that the disciple is encouraged to give is his body, as mentioned in Romans 12: 1, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”
IF CHRISTIANS DO NOT PAY THE TITHE, HOW WILL PASTORS AND OTHER MINISTRIES OF GOD LIVE?
When God gives a vision, He also gives the needed provision to accomplish it. Therefore he who receives the call of God needs to fully rely on He who called him, and not use stratagems, mixing false doctrines and manipulation of God’s people, to self-insure a salary and a comfortable retirement.
“The just shall live by faith” Romans 1: 17
This verse initiated the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century with Martin Luther (1483-1546), who was firmly opposed to the traffic in the Church and unbiblical systems that kill faith. In his day, Luther particularly fought the unbiblical dogma of indulgences which taught believers that they could buy their ‘ticket’ to heaven. Today we can observe a similar phenomenon with the success of a watered-down gospel, in which repeating a prayer once and giving the tenth of one’s income to the pastor would guarantee salvation.
On one hand, this false teaching satisfies Christians who fail to give up sin, and on the other hand, pastors have the assurance of a salary. Nevertheless, according to Ephesians 4: 11, the ministers of God are supposed to be gifts for the Church and not burdens.
It is true that the disciple of Christ is encouraged to share his goods with those who teach him the word of God (Galatians 6: 6). However, it does not justify the setting up of a dedicated organisation on tithing that God never instituted within the Church. Indeed, the payment of tithes cannot be considered as a fundamental doctrine of the Church to make believers share their goods with “men of God.”
“Sharing in all good things with him who teaches” simply means that he to whom the word is taught should freely support with his goods servants that God sends to teach him the Word. When Jesus sent out the twelve in mission (Matthew 10: 1-10), He said that “the worker is worthy of his food”. Moreover, when He sent out the seventy, Jesus said that “the labourer is worthy of his wages” talking about food and drink (Luke 10: 7). In other words, whoever works in the field of the Lord cannot require more than that from the community of believers.
What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. 1 Corinthians 9: 8 (ESV)
In this passage, Paul explained that there was a right in the gospel, but he chose to preach the gospel free of charge and called it a reward. Indeed, he found more honourable to work with his hands, to fill his needs and those of the people who were with him, so that he would impose nothing on the assembly of believers. He did receive some donations (Philippians 4: 10-19), but this was by no means the result of pressure on the people of God, as illustrated in the following passage.
“I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me. I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20: 33-35).
May all ministers of God follow the example of Paul who, in scarcity as well as in abundance, blessed God by faith and in the hope of the glory to come!
DOES GOD TAKE PLEASURE IN WHAT BELONGS TO CAESAR?
Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” Matthew 22: 21
It is one of the best-known replies of Jesus and yet many are those who continue to want to give to God what belongs to Caesar. In this famous episode of the Gospel, Jesus reminded the Pharisees – who wanted to trap him – that money should return to the person it bears the image and inscription. Therefore, Jesus reminded the importance to settle taxes owed to the authorities and also to give him what belongs to him.
Paul also addressed this issue in Romans 13: 7:
“Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor”.
God is not the creator of the currency. During his earthly ministry, Jesus Christ always showed a firm distance with money. He did not keep the money box, but He left it to one of His disciples who, seduced by the gain, finally betrayed the Master for a few coins (John 12: 4-6 and Luke 22: 4-5).
Jesus never did fundraising even though He was supported by women who freely provided for Him from their substance according to Luke 8: 3.
Furthermore, the only miracle of Jesus directly related to money is the one linked to the temple tax (a tax paid by the Israelites for the maintenance of the temple). In this story, that can be found in Matthew 17: 24-27, Jesus sent Peter to catch a fish in the mouth of which he would find enough money to pay the tax for both of them.
However, when Jesus fed 5000 men, he chose to multiply the food and not the money that would buy food for all.
When the day was now far spent, His disciples came to Him and said, “This is a deserted place, and already the hour is late. Send them away, that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy themselves bread; for they have nothing to eat.” But He answered and said to them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to Him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give them something to eat?” But He said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they found out they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then He commanded them to make them all sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in ranks, in hundreds and in fifties. And when He had taken the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and the two fish He divided among them all. So they all ate and were filled. And they took up twelve baskets full of fragments and of the fish. Now those who had eaten the loaves were about five thousand men. Mark 6: 35-44.
What should we understand through these two stories?
First, we do not pay taxes with prayer and speaking in tongues, but with the currency of the world. The Lord will always provide so that His children will not live in debts, and in this way give a bad testimony. His provision is always miraculous since everything comes from Him. Honest work is the easiest way to get money to give Caesar his due. It is interesting to note that Peter, a fisherman, was sent fishing.
Also, in the story of the loaves multiplication narrated by Mark, the disciples came to Jesus to point out that it was time to dismiss the crowd to allow them to buy something to eat. However, Jesus invited them to feed the crowd. Then, the disciples talked about money, asking where to buy bread for two hundred denarii to feed all these people. After that, Jesus performed the famous miracle of the loaves and fishes. While human realities portray money as the only mean of provision, Jesus can easily multiply the products He created to be freely and without constraints enjoyed by men.
Another point is that God does not delight in considerable monetary offerings, as illustrated by the story of the poor widow. Indeed, according to men, she gave a little but according to Jesus, she gave more than all the others (Luke 21: 1-4).
Jesus is more interested in our hearts and our deep motivations than our financial donations that cannot impress Him at all. Ananias and Sapphira were thus severely rebuked and even condemned to death because they did not fear God and lied to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5: 1-10). Like other Christians of the early Church, the couple Ananias and Sapphira had sold a field to make a donation to the community of believers, but they retained a portion of the price of the land without letting the others know. As Peter suggested, they did not have to make that gift. And even if the amount paid by the couple could be significant, God did not accept the donation because they did not do it with a pure heart. Indeed, the verse 3 clearly stated that Satan had filled their heart.
This story is a perfect example of Christians who want to give to God what belongs to Caesar (money as notes, coins, shares, bank transfers etc.) and to Caesar what belongs to God (fear, trust, faith). Indeed, Ananias and Sapphira did not fear God by lying to the Holy Spirit. They were afraid to lack of funds by giving all. They put their trust in money, and their offering led them to death.
May we never give such offerings to God!
In short, Jesus takes no pleasure in what belongs to Caesar. When He was on earth, He did not demonstrate any love for money and never sought to enrich Himself on earth, but He came to enrich others. Moreover, the advice He gave to the rich young man who wanted to be assured of eternal life is very instructive.
Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honour your father and your mother.’ ” And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.” Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” Mark 10: 17-27.
We can see that Jesus – who had no place to lay His head (Matthew 8: 20) – did not ask the man to give Him even a part of his great earthly wealth. What a difference with many evangelical leaders begging and extorting the people of God!
IF JESUS CAME TO PROCLAIM THE GOOD NEWS TO THE POOR, WHY DID HE NOT ABOLISH POVERTY?
“So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the broken hearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4: 16-21.
At the genesis of his ministry, Jesus went into the synagogue and read a scroll containing the passage of Isaiah 61, clearly saying that the prophet had spoken of Himself. We can see here that the poor were the heart of His ministry; it is particularly to them that Jesus preached the Gospel (meaning good news).
Contrary to what many preachers of the prosperity gospel can teach, the good news is not:
- “Jesus Christ died on the cross for us to be financially successful.”
- “Jesus Christ became poor on earth for us to be rich on earth.”
- “Give £100 to Jesus and he will give you £1000.”
Nevertheless, the good news that Jesus came to announce to the poor is not the beginning of a new age of material and financial abundance. Even the pagans recognize it, “Money cannot buy happiness.” Jesus did not come to eradicate the financial and material poverty; He even said that the poor (or needy) will always be there (John 12: 8).
This may seem shocking and contradictory for some who would say, “What better news for the poor than the end of his poverty!? “.
However, the good news that Jesus preached is about the Kingdom of God, which does not consist of eating and drinking (Romans 14: 17) or earthly things (Matthew 6). The kingdom of God is the end of worries; it is justice, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit in every circumstance: disease, hardship, famine, etc. In other words, Jesus came to give what the world and banknotes cannot guarantee!
The good news is that eternal life begins today through personal knowledge of Jesus Christ, the true God (John 17: 3), and the hope of the coming Kingdom. Because even though man may be in abundance, his deepest concerns about tomorrow, death and eternity can find an answer in Christ alone.
We can also note that tithing under the Law of Moses was “good news” for the poor since they did not have to pay it, but received it. However, today in most Christian congregations where tithing is practiced, even people with the lowest incomes are forced to pay this tax. And the main beneficiaries are not the needy but pastors.
Did God cease to support the needy materially by ending tithing? Absolutely not!
The poor are always at the heart of God’s work. Therefore, Jesus invited the rich young man willing to follow Him to give his fortune to the poor (Mark 10: 17-27). Moreover, according to Acts 4: 34-35, nobody lacked any essential thing among the early Christians because they shared. This solidarity was not the result of a law on sharing that God would have imposed, but rather the consequence of brotherly love that must be found among the followers of Christ (John 15: 12).
This love did not consist of words, but in deeds and truth according to 1 John 3: 16-18. This notion of love in action is so important to the Lord Jesus that He identified Himself to the needy, the stranger, the sick and the prisoner in Matthew 25. In this passage talking about judgment, people who do not show mercy were rejected by the Lord, who told them:
“Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25: 41-46.
These words should make us tremble more than all the threats of curse associated with non-payment of tithes as the sentence is clear and painful. The Church, who is the Body of Christ, is clearly called to practice mercy and to share with the needy, and not to finance the comfortable, faithless and/or extravagant lifestyle of some evangelical pastors.
The wealth that Jesus Christ came to bring to the poor is firstly spiritual. The needy should be able to find through the Church of Christ material support. In this, we have a perfect example through Jesus Christ who became poor to enrich others.
But as you abound in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us—see that you abound in this grace also. I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich. […] For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have. For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack—that there may be equality. As it is written, “He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack.” 2 Corinthians 8:7-15
WEALTH OR POVERTY: WHAT CAN WE EXPECT IN CHRIST?
“Two things I request of You (Deprive me not before I die): Remove falsehood and lies far from me; Give me neither poverty nor riches—Feed me with the food allotted to me; Lest I be full and deny You, And say, “Who is the Lord?” Or lest I be poor and steal, And profane the name of my God.” Proverbs 30: 7-9
This speech of Agur is a perfect example of wisdom towards riches of this world. Through this prayer, he asked for the necessary daily bread, no more, no less, so that God’s name may always be honoured in his life. It perfectly matches the prayer Jesus taught his disciples (Matthew 6: 9-15) and should also inspire us. The Lord invites us to dependence on the Father, faith, and simplicity, which is very difficult for the rich. To this end, Jesus clearly said it would be hard for those who have riches to enter the Kingdom of God (Luke 18: 24). Indeed, the wealth of this world is often associated with self-satisfaction, corruption, and even concerns: those elements are obviously very harmful to authentic faith. He who has great riches is particularly exposed to the love of money, which is presented as a root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6: 10).
Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 1 Timothy 6:6-10
Moreover, even if this can be tough, there is nothing more wonderful than living by faith and seeing the daily provision of the Heavenly Father. I am personally experimenting it more and more. I even realised that having more materially does not lead us to give offerings that God approves more. However, in every age, material and financial poverty was never a limit to serve God. Thus, the widow of Zarephath was able to feed Elijah, herself and her son for three years and a half whereas famine was raging at the time of Ahab (1 Kings 17: 8-16). During the earthly ministry of Jesus, the poor widow’s offering was the most pleasing in the Lord’s sight (Luke 21: 1-4). Finally, the churches of Macedonia supported the work of the Lord when they were in deep poverty (2 Corinthians 8: 1-4).
So even in poverty, with God, we shall perform miracles!
To summarize, tithing is no longer relevant and here are ten reasons why the teaching of this practice under the New Covenant must be firmly condemned:
- Neither Jesus nor the apostles taught the practice of tithing within the Church.
- Jesus did not promise that He would open the windows of heaven to his disciples if they tithed. He made His true disciples sit together in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2: 6).
- Abraham’s faith was not proven in the fact that he once gave a tithe, but because he willingly obeyed God all the time, even when he had to sacrifice the son of promise.
- The regular practice of tithing was instituted under the Law of Moses and made obsolete by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
- The practice of tithing is not in line with the freedom Christ has given us.
- God never established the “pastoral priesthood” led by a “man of God” paid by the tithes of the faithful.
- Tithing under the New Covenant is synonymous with condemnation and pressure for lower income households while it was “good news” for the needy under Moses.
- In His righteousness and grace, God cannot curse a person who gives “only” 7% of his £700 salary and bless another who gives 10% of his £3000 salary.
- God does not want 10% of our income, but our whole life including our money.
- Jesus did not abolish the law but accomplished it to enable us to enter into a New Covenant in which we became sons, kings, and priests of the Most High.
So finally how shall we give? With all our heart, freely, within our capabilities, animated with the feelings that were in Christ, free from the love of money and any pressure. To whom shall we give? To the poor, widows, orphans, our parents, brothers, and sisters in need. We can also support the running costs of the local church and any project that the Holy Spirit will put us at heart. What does God expect of us? In all things, the Lord expects us looking for love, fidelity, justice, purity of heart and obedience to His Word. That is how we will lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven!