What does the Bible teach about giving tithes and offering? I continue to hear this question regularly. That’s why I prepared this page on my website to explain the truth about tithing. Folks ask for clarification on tithing related to Israel and the church today. People are confused about the meaning of Jesus’ death fulfilling the law as it relates to tithing. Generally, many folks seem to accept Old Covenant tithing laws, which don’t apply today.
I believe any study of giving tithes and offering in the Bible will conclude that tithing does not apply today. Clearly, giving tithes and offerings in the Bible related to a particular period in Israel’s history and applied to Israel’s farmers alone. It was not income-based and did not apply to other nations (Numbers 18:21-32, Deuteronomy 14:23-29). In the New Covenant, tithing was practiced while Jesus was alive, but not after His resurrection.
Giving tithes and offerings in the Bible related to Israel
Yet, an increasing number of pastors and other believers preach and teach tithing as today’s biblical giving standard. They interpret Malachi 3:10 incorrectly when they teach giving tithes and offerings in the Bible. Sadly, some preachers manipulate and coerce ignorant believers. This teaching is wrong for several reasons.
First, the tithe related to Israel only. Moreover, it was independent of the individual’s income. In contrast, the church is not Israel. God has not and will not change His promises to the Nation of Israel. Hebrews 13:8 tells us Messiah Jesus is the same yesterday, today and always.
Second, we do not have the temple. The church building is not God’s house as was the temple. Wherever believers gather, that’s where the Lord is (Matthew 18:20). He indwells us by His Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16).
Third, all believers are priests (1 Peter 2:4-9) and we do not need intermediaries between us and God.
Fourth and most significant, Jesus’ death and resurrection removed the need for animal sacrifices and ended the Aaronic priesthood (Hebrews 7 and 8).
The New Covenant was not written when Jesus was alive. He taught from the Old Covenant reminding folks of its proper interpretation. Mull over Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:17-19:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
In Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus, David Bivin et al say, “destroy” and “fulfill” are technical terms used in rabbinic arguments. A rabbi would be accused of “destroying the law” if he misinterpreted it. While “fulfilling” the law was correctly interpreting it. The proper reading of this passage is Jesus came to interpret Torah correctly. Not to abolish it.
Most translations and many pastors teach that fulfill means His death abolished the Old Covenant. However, they don’t see their inconsistency when they stress Malachi 3:10 as today’s standard for giving tithes and offerings in the Bible.
While Jesus lived He kept the law as it was given to Moses. He interpreted the law as Moses wrote it. The Sermon on the Mount shows the law continues as interpreted correctly by Jesus and New Covenant writers. These teachings explain the true intent as opposed to the Pharisees’ oppressive teachings. Recall that Jesus, Apostle Paul, Peter, and others in the New Covenant taught from the Old Covenant. Obviously, Jesus death made obsolete Old Covenant provisions on animal sacrifice, tithing, and the need for priests to offer sacrifices on our behalf to remove our sins.
What can we apply today from teachings on giving tithes and offerings in the Bible? Before Jesus’ death and resurrection, three tithes were instituted as a part of the religious and governing structure in Israel. They applied to Israel alone. They do not apply to the church today. The tithing requirement ended after Jesus’ resurrection. Early believers did not practice tithing following Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Giving tithes and offerings in the Bible – Today’s standard 2 Corinthians 9:7
Today’s giving standard is optional as described by Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. Though voluntary, giving today is not a free pass to splurge on ourselves. Believers must fund God’s work by staying focussed on Him and letting Him lead our lives. We are stewards who own nothing. We must make all funds available to Jesus and understand that funding the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) is a key part of our worship and stewardship role.
Copyright © 2014, Michel A. Bell