Tithing is an attribute of a Christian that is a good steward of his/her money. He or she will recognize the blessings of God in their lives and give to God accordingly. The Bible, in both the Hebrew and Greek has varying words that can mean a tenth. Moreover, it is not a foreign or obsolete topic in scripture.
Some teachers and saints are hesitant and leery of this discussion. Why? Because money is a sensitive issue, a volatile issue in some homes. Often times, those that I have debated this topic with admit that they have some issue or resentment from a situation in the past involving money. I am certain however one does not disagree with me simply based upon a negative experience of the past.
The Bible says, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:21 KJV) If we were to examine the checkbooks and bank accounts of any Christian where would you say their “heart” really is?
Whose Money Is It Anyway?
Whose money is it anyways? The money you have comes from your employer, he received it from the consumer, and the consumer received it elsewhere as well. If you trace it back, it came from the government mint. Essentially, our bills and notes are "supposed" to be backed by gold and silver. The gold, silver, and commodities come from the earth that the Creator has given us. So whose money is it anyway—Gods.
Throughout the Old Testament and New Testament and Christian History there is a general agreement that giving to God should be in proportion to one’s increase or net income. The Bible’s ONLY proportion commanded is the tithe or tenth percent. Some feel that tithing is bondage under the Old Testament Mosaic Law. This excuse is not well thought out or well studied because the origination of tithing is very uncertain.
We do know that it DID NOT start in recent years or with Moses. Some scholars feel that Abel is the first biblical record of tithing when it is recorded in Genesis 4:4, “And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering:” (KJV) Whether Abel actually tithed or not is not certain; however, we do know that tithing is an ancient custom observed in many places before the Bible was even written.
In the book, The Tithe in Scripture Dr. Henry Lansdell, wrote, “The picture writings of Egypt, the cuneiform tablets of Babylonia, and early writers of Greece and Rome inform us that before the Bible was written, and apart therefrom, it was an almost universal practice among civilized nations for people to pay tithes to their gods…”
In Genesis 14:18-20 we find Abram returning victorious from battle and paying a tithe to Melchizedek the priest of the most High God. The Bible says he gave him tithes of all. Why would Abram do this? Just come up with the “tenth” instantaneously…it had to be an established custom.
In Genesis 28:22 Jacob vowed (pre-law), “Of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.” Obviously, a tenth of increase was already an established custom. Later we see in Genesis 31:13, that God even reminds Jacob of this vow. Tithing is not a new concept nor is it a concept abandoned by Christ. Some attest that the 10 percent that Abraham and Jacob used was coincidental. This is of course ludicrous and laughable. It is not coincidental that Abraham and Jacob paid a tenth and then God just so happens to choose it as well in His prescription of the Mosaic Law.
Some critics hold that the two tithing accounts of Abraham and Jacob are late texts and only reflect the later practice of the nation; but the custom of tithes is so ancient and deeply embedded in the history of the human race (monotheistic or polytheistic) that it seems more likely and more natural to believe that among the Jews the practice was in existence long before the time of Moses. As we move along, we will offer more evidence of this ancient practice.
Tithing Restated in the Mosaic Law:
Tithing was finally observed or re-stated through the Mosaic Law in Leviticus 27:30-34 but, bear in mind its origination is not found in the law. There are 3 different types of tithing as well in the Mosaic Law, which involved flocks, harvests, cattle, etc. It was custom to give a 10th part of the products of the land and of the spoils (rewards or increase) of war to priests and kings (1 Macc 10:31; 11:35; 1Sa 8:15,17). There are so man layers in the legislation of tithing under the Law that it would be counterproductive to list them here.
Nevertheless, tithing is also found in the Prophets.
Consider the prophet Malachi, “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. 9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. 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.” (Malachi 3:8-11 KJV)
The Law of Moses stipulated the what, when, where, and how of tithing. In the tithe of crops from the land, if a part was redeemed by paying cash, one-fifth of the value was added. It was not the inception of tithing. When counting cattle, oxen, or sheep, the tenth animal to pass under the rod was given to the Levites or the priests (Leviticus 27:30-34).
The Talmud (a corpus of the Jewish civil and canonical law not comprised in the Pentateuch), extends the law of tithing beyond the Mosaic Law, with arduous detail, even to the least products of the soil. In certain cases not only the seeds, but, in certain cases, even the leaves and stalks had to be tithed (Ma`aseroth 4 5), (Dema'i 11 1; compare with Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42). The common law was that "everything that is eaten, that is watched over, and that grows out of the earth" must be tithed (Ma`aseroth 1 1).
Should Christians Pay tithes?
Yes. Scholars such as Augustine, Aquinas, and A.W. Pink would agree. In his Summa Theologica Aquinas notes:
“But the fixing of the proportion to be offered to the ministers of divine worship does not belong to the natural law, but was determined by divine institution, in accordance with the condition of that people to whom the law was being given. For they were divided into twelve tribes, and the twelfth tribe, namely that of Levi, was engaged exclusively in the divine ministry and had no possessions whence to derive a livelihood: and so it was becomingly ordained that the remaining eleven tribes should give one-tenth part of their revenues to the Levites [*Num. 18:21]”
It is significant that Abraham gave his tithe to Melchizedek—a priest. Under the law, the tithe was also given to the priesthood. The indication is that tithes were given as worship to God and to finance the work of God. Augustine of Hippo has noted that “It is a duty to pay tithes, and whoever refuses to pay them takes what belongs to another.”
In the New Testament Paul says, “Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the alter are partakers with the alter? 14 Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:13-14) KJV
The only suggestion that can be found from this passage is, not that the Christian ministry is purely or solely sacrificial, but simply, that as the latter (The Priests) was supported by the people’s contributions, so should the former. Paul was likely referring to the dictates of Jesus in Matthew 10:10, “Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.” KJV
The contemporary New Living Translation renders 1 Corinthians 9:14, “In the same way, the Lord gave orders that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it.”
Certain critics have used Hebrews 7, where tithes are mentioned often to describe the priesthood of Melchesedik. They assert that the "disannulling of an unprofitable commandment" is a reference to tithing. However, the view of the Thompson Chain Bible (KJV) which notes that this is a disannulling of the Ceremonial Law not tithing, is not a minority.
Paul also admonishes the Christians of Corinth to "lay aside" (1 Corinthians 16:2) their portion for the ministry at the beginning of each week. This could be an implication of the traditional concept of tithing—the Bible’s ONLY recorded proportion—the tithe or tenth percent.