The Tithe is Illegal
by Gary Amirault
When I say "illegal," I certainly do not mean from the government’s point of view. The American federal government has been extremely generous in allowing religious organizations almost free hands in their money raising endeavors, even to the point of giving them many kinds of tax advantages. By illegal, I mean that God never authorized Christian leaders to take a tithe from God’s people. One will not find the modern church tithe authorized in the Old Covenant, nor in the New Covenant. Certainly, church historians are in agreement, when they say that tithing was not practiced by the early believers.
The tithe is a subject that is very dear to most church leaders. Those denominations that can get their members to actually bring in a full 10% of gross income can create very powerful forces far beyond their strength in numbers. The leading "tithing" sects according to an article in Christian Ministry, are interestingly what Evangelicals would term "cults." The Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and the World Wide Church of God are the leading givers. The fourth is the Assemblies of God. Recently, the World Wide Church of God abandoned the tithe as un-Scriptural. Donations dropped 30 per cent in the first year. (While the article in Christian Ministry lists the Jehovah's Witneses among leading tithing denominations, I've since been informed by that organization that Jehovah's Witnesses do not practice tithing.)
According to Newsweek, most church members give far less than 10%, most giving under 2 per cent. Not surprising is the fact that the poor give a far greater portion of their income than the rich. USA Today (Oct. 25, 1990) tells us that families earning less than $10,000 give 5.5 per cent of their income to charity (not necessarily to church). Families earning between $50,000 and $60,000 give only 1.7% of their earnings.
We hope to show in this book that while many church fund-raising organizations and Christian financial counseling ministries tell us that not paying "the tithe" is robbing God, the actual Biblical facts are that those who teach tithing as a Christian doctrine are, in fact, the ones who are "robbing God." As we go through this article, keep in mind the above statistic that the poor far out-give the rich percentage-wise.
I am going to make a statement that will probably shock many Christians who have been in church for a long period of time and feel they know the Bible pretty well. I hope this statement encourages the reader to "see for themselves" that this statement is 100 per cent Biblically true. My hope is that when we see how far off Scriptural ground we have come in such basic Christian teachings as giving, we will renew our desire to study to "show ourselves approved." Here is the statement: The tithe as taught by most Christian denominations as being 10 per cent of gross or net income is not contained on the pages of the Bible!
Many Christian publications say that those who do not tithe are robbing God and will suffer curses for not doing so. I am going to use one of them as an example of what Scriptures and reasoning are usually used to support the idea that the church is full of God robbers, that is, people who do not tithe 10 per cent of their income.
A booklet entitled Tithes, Offering, and Alms states: "Today many churches do not teach tithing because they do not want to drive people away. In reality they are robbing God’s people of their blessing. When tithing is not taught, they are allowing their people to ignorantly rob God. By this they allow the devourer to have free access to their people. Then the church and the people wonder why they are not being blessed. When God’s people return again unto God, He will return unto them as He has promised."
By this minister’s own reasoning then, the Churches of the world are full of "God-robbers." The vast majority of Christians do not even come close to giving ten per cent of their income. Most churches are overflowing with "God-robbers."
While this booklet Tithes, Offerings, and Alms deals with more than just the tithe, we will only focus on the tithe since that is the subject of this article.
I am not mentioning the author of this work hoping in days ahead he will see the foolishness of what he wrote.
In one small paragraph, this minister condemned to the devourer entire congregations who do not tithe. As long as people do not tithe, he says, they have turned their backs to God and He cannot bless them. They are God robbers! The booklet I just quoted is very typical of publications like this. They all refer to the same handful of Scriptures to justify their position.
I will use this one as an example of which Scriptures are used to support their view and then show how these Scriptures have not only been grossly taken out of context, but even these Scriptures out of context do not support the teaching of tithing being 10% of income.
We will then study the history of tithing in the Old Testament, the early church view on the subject, and what we believe is the correct Biblical view on giving.
What Saith the Scriptures?
Those who teach that Christians are obligated to tithe can be categorized into two main groups: 1. those who say we are still under the Mosaic Law or portions of it; 2. those who say the tithe is part of the Abrahamic Covenant which is pre-Mosaic. The latter group says the Abrahamic Covenant, being a covenant of faith, is valid for the church. They say Abraham was a tither. Therefore, we should tithe.
Let us deal first with the pre-Mosaic arguments. This teaching is used by those ministries who have taught the Mosaic Law is done away with and therefore cannot be put upon Christians. They are correct regarding the Mosaic Law having passed away.
(We cannot get into this subject fully because it would take up too much space, but a handful of Scriptures might be helpful to those who disagree on this point. See 2 Cor. 3:11,13; Hebrews 8:13; Gal. 4:21-26; really all of Galatians and Hebrews.)
Briefly, the Old Covenant (Mosaic Covenant) was a two-sided agreement between Israel and Yahweh in which Yahweh would bless them if they kept their part of the agreement and He would curse them if they didn’t. It was an all or nothing package. A person was not allowed to turn this agreement into a smorgasbord, picking and choosing what suited one’s religious diet. They could not choose what to keep and what to throw out. James 2:10 tells us that "whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all."
Almost all denominations of Christianity have taken portions of the Mosaic Covenant, "Christened them," and added them to the New Covenant. Without being aware of it, this has made most Christians guilty of the whole Mosaic Law, which says it all must be kept. At the same time, they have "fallen from grace" because of mixing it with a covenant which no longer serves a purpose for those under the New Covenant. This is not to say that we cannot learn many wonderful truths from the Mosaic Law. We are just no longer in covenantal relationship with God through that covenant. We are in covenantal relationship with God through a New Covenant ratified by Jesus Christ, not Moses.
The fact that most denominations of Christendom have not understood this vital point has caused us to fall from "grace through faith," the very power of the New Covenant itself. What is tragic is that most Christians are not even aware of this "falling away" which has been going on for hundreds of years. Most denominations have mixed the Mosaic Covenant instituted by Moses with the New Covenant, which is the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 8:2) One covenant brought death (and always will); the other brought Life. If you believe any of the Old Covenant is still binding to a believer in Christ, read what Paul has to say in 1 Corinthians chapter three verses four through eighteen about the cornerstone of the Mosaic Covenant, that is, the Ten Commandments. This should cure anyone of binding themselves to the "ministry of death." The consequences of this mixture have been catastrophic. A careful non-biased survey of church history should reveal what this mixture has produced. While this paper is not about Mosaic Law versus Grace, I felt the subject had to be touched somewhat. Back to the subject at hand.
Is the "tithe" Pre-Mosaic?
Now let us deal with the teaching that says that the Biblical tithe was pre-Mosaic.
The first place we come across offerings of any kind is in Genesis 4:3-7. Cain brought forth an offering from the fruit of the ground to the LORD and Abel brought the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. The LORD respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering, which caused Cain to become very angry.
Most Christians who teach tithing would also consider themselves Bible literalists, that is, they are opposed to "spiritualizing" the Scriptures. However, when we get down to some of their pet doctrines, we find that literalists often quickly abandon their "literalism" and "spiritualize."
In Genesis 4:3, the passage mentioned above, there is not a hint as to the amount being offered. Both fruit of the ground and flocks are acceptable offerings. One could point out that Able brought blood and Cain did not. One could perhaps make something of the fact that Able gave of his "first-born" while nothing is said about Cain’s offering. We could attempt to "spiritualize" here, but if we let the Scripture stand as it is with a "literal" interpretation, we do not have a "Biblical tithe" here. We have two offerings; one acceptable—one unacceptable.
We have to travel 2000 years ahead in history to find another trace of offerings to the LORD. We come to Abraham and His offering to Melchizedek, the king of Salem. I want to make an emphatic point here as we analyze this portion of Scripture. As I said before, literalists are not very literal. If true "spiritual" understanding comes from a "literal" approach, then Scriptures such as the following do not make much sense: "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are "spiritually discerned." (1 Cor. 2:14) If the Bible can be understood with the natural mind using a "literalist" approach to the Bible, then the above Scripture is not true. The fact is, the Scriptures and the things of God need to be "spiritually discerned." They are "foolishness" to the "natural mind." Even Christians can be naturally, carnally, fleshly minded. "And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ." (1 Cor. 3:1) A Christian, while claiming to be a literalist, who finds himself having to add to or subtract from Scriptures to make them fit into their doctrines, is still very carnal. The next portion of Scripture we will look at will bear this out.
There are those who say that, while we are not under the Mosaic Law, we Christians, are children of faith. Our father in this faith is Abraham. (So far so good.) Then comes the nice little carnal step which shows how unliteral "literalists" can be. They say that Abraham was a tither and therefore we must be tithers. Well, let us be literalists for a moment and look at that Scripture to see what it "literally" says.
The 14th Chapter of Genesis deals with a battle between 9 kings, five against four. The first part of Chapter 14, is very difficult to understand. The King James Bible does not tell us, but the Jewish Bible called the Tanakh (which is the Old Testament) tells us that some of the meaning of the Hebrew in this Chapter is uncertain. (It seems the Jews are more honest in their translating than some Christian Bible translators.)
Abram, with 318 of his men, went after the four kings who spoiled the king of Sodom and the king of Gomorrah. Abram defeated the kings, and set his nephew Lot free. On the way back with all the spoils of war, the king of Sodom met Abram in the king’s valley. Here a mysterious king of Salem, priest of the God Most High, brought out bread and wine and blessed Abram. Abram then gave a tenth of those spoils to Melchizedek.
At this point, the king of Sodom told Abram to take everything except the people. It is not clear in the text whose goods and people are involved here. The armies which Abram defeated had attacked several other kingdoms before they spoiled Sodom and Gomorrah. When Abram defeated them, he must have collected a tremendous amount of wealth plus people which could be turned into slaves.
One thing is clear in this passage, these "spoils" were not the property of Abram. They belonged to other kingdoms which were defeated by the previously mentioned kings. The dividing of all the "spoils of war" and the people is also not completely clear. One thing, however, is clear--Abram kept nothing! Furthermore, there is no reference in the Bible that Abram gave the king of Salem anything else, ever. In other words, there is no tradition prior to nor after this event of giving a tenth of the spoils of war to the king of Melchizedek. In addition, there is no directive anywhere in the Scriptures which grants the right for any human being to place themselves into the priesthood of Melchizedek commanding tithes of God’s people! The jump from this event to the modern day tradition of offering tithes to a pastor or head of an organization claiming this fulfills the event in Genesis is going way beyond literalism and way beyond "spiritualizing." It is nothing short of twisting the Scriptures for self-gain.
Let us also consider the fact that slavery was certainly a part of life in this region. Spoils of war included people. Are we to "tithe" captured enemies when Christian nations go to war?
The king of Sodom said Abram could keep all the goods, he just wanted the people. It is not clear which people he referred to. We may assume he was referring to his own citizens who were captured, but that would be mere conjecture.
There are many questions which can be asked about this mysterious passage, but there are some very clear points that can be made. Abram gave a tenth of these spoils of war to Melchizedek. If tithing is the issue here, then Abram had every right to keep the rest, but Abram gave it all back. He used a part to feed his army and he allowed three men to keep their share. Abram didn’t give a "full tithe" of ten per cent. Abram gave it all away!
"I will take nothing from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’" (Gen. 14:23)
There is nothing here to indicate Abram gave a tenth of his personal possessions. Note Abram said, "I will take nothing that is yours." This shows he did not tithe his own possessions. It should also be noted, these spoils went to this mysterious king of Salem, not to a pastor, denominational headquarters, etc. There is not one record that Abram did anything like this again. There is nothing in the Bible up to this point to indicate that God wanted a tenth of everything a person owned. If He did want that, it seems it wouldn’t have been to difficult to simply state that He did, but He didn’t. Abram offered a free-will offering of spoils of war to a mysterious king.
If we take passages of Scripture such as the previous one which describes an event which occurred thousands of years ago in a culture totally foreign to our ways today, and say that we should do the same things, then we should be consistent. Why pick and chose those Scriptures which suit our carnal little minds? This Scripture taken literally means we will all starve to death. We end up with nothing! Furthermore, if we literally follow Abram’s example, we should be giving most of our earnings to the king of Sodom! Obviously, something else is going on here other than what tradition has taught us.
It is important not to take cultural traditions from generations thousands of years ago, and apply them to today just because they are recorded in the Bible. Abraham took several animals and cut them in half when making an agreement with God. Why do we not do the same in our modern cultures? Why are tithing teachers so selective as to which ancient traditions they wish to place upon the backs of God’s people? I suppose checks in the offering plate are more desirable and less messy than chopped up animals on the altar or in the offering plate. Just because the Bible records a practice done thousands of years ago, is not a good reason to continue the practice today. We must "rightly divide the Word of God."
There is another example of God’s people receiving spoils of war from which portions were divided into "offerings" to priests. Will we find this act consistent with what Abram did? Let us look at that event.
In Numbers Chapter 31, Israel "took vengeance for the Lord on Midian." (Num. 31:3) Twelve thousand Israelites went to war with Midian. First, they killed all the males. Forget the Geneva Peace Accord about proper treatment of prisoners. Kill them all! Remember how we feel when our troops are treated this way in war? We are outraged!
Next they took the women and children captive and brought them along with the rest of the spoils to Moses, Eleazar the priest, and all the leaders of the congregation. Now some ministers might be proud of a congregation such as this, but Moses was angry with them. "Have you kept the women alive?" he said. "Look, these women caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the incident of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD. Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man intimately. But keep alive for yourselves all the young girls who have not known a man intimately." (Num. 31:16-18)
Now we could talk about this passage of Scripture for days and still not run out of things to say, so we won’t analyze this incident beyond its relationship to tithing. Suffice it to say, that a minister who would try to bring the above command from the Lord into modern society, would find himself in jail or seated in the electric chair.
Just a few glances into the New Testament to see how Jesus treated Gentile sinners should shed some light on the difference between the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus and the Law of Moses. What did Jesus do to the woman at the well who had 5 "husbands," was living with a sixth who was not her husband? Did He stone her? What about the woman caught in the very act of adultery? Did Jesus cast the first stone? Jesus never commanded anyone to kill anyone! Moses did. How should we as Christians treat our enemies? Do you remember? Could you, as a Christian, kill baby boys and women who were not virgins if your government or your pastor told you to do it? I hope not! These examples and dozens more throughout the books commonly, but incorrectly named The New Testament should reveal to us that the New Covenant and the Old Covenant are radically different!
"Count the plunder that was taken—of man and beast..." (Num. 31:26) We see that humans were counted as "plunder." Then the "plunder" was divided between those who went to war and those who didn’t. From those spoils, an offering was given. Those who went to war were to give one out of every five hundred persons, cattle, donkeys, and sheep to Eleazar the priest. Those who didn’t go to war had to give one out of every fifty persons, cattle, donkeys, and sheep to the Levites (ministers).
Unlike Abram’s offering to Melchizedek, a good part of their spoils had to be killed. Then they had to give two-tenths of one per cent to the high priest. Those who didn’t fight had to give two per cent to the Levites (ministers). If tithing was like what is preached today, or like the Abram incident, why does this incident totally contradict "ten per cent off the top?" Why do tithing teachers not refer to this Scripture and make it the standard for giving? Could it be the simple fact that ten per cent is much more than 2 per cent or two tenths of one per cent? These very commands were given by "the LORD to Moses." (Num. 31:25) They are God’s very words written in the Bible. Why do tithing teachers avoid reference to this passage of Scripture?
First of all, it totally contradicts their teaching. Furthermore, it reveals some aspects of Moses Law which they would prefer laymen not study too thoroughly. When a Christian truly begins to see the difference between the Old Covenant and New, deceitful ministers who use portions of the Old Covenant to hold God’s people in bondage, will become manifest. They do not want to be exposed.
We must go on. But I do want to point out that this portion of Scripture is full of spiritual truths which the "literalist mind" will never be able to learn anything from. This Scripture as well as all Scripture needs to be "spiritually discerned."
Why do those who teach and practice tithing no longer practice slavery, and the killing of women and children as revealed previously? Well, perhaps they do, but most of the slaves do not realize they are slaves to a system which places burdens upon the backs of God’s people that He never placed upon their backs! Few Christians are aware of how spiritually dead they really are until they come out of the graveyards in which they worship!
This passage of Scripture tells us the "spoils" had to be cleansed with fire and water. From a "spiritual" point of view, this speaks volumes. From a natural point of view, hygiene might be the best we can get from the passage.
Having been a part of quite a few churches, I have been amazed at some of the occupations many Christians are involved in. Many of these occupations clearly violate Old Testament Laws and the New Testament spirit. Yet I have not found too many ministers reject the money from these sources due to these people or their occupations being "unclean" from a Mosaic Covenant point of view. Spend a few weeks reading specific laws, and the penalties for breaking those laws found in the first few books of the Bible and then try to bring them into our present day cultural and religious societies. They just won’t work. Remember, one can’t pick and choose which laws to leave out. The Mosaic Law is a contract which one cannot break by deleting certain ordinances, rites, or commands. All must be kept in order to receive the benefits which God would bestow upon those who kept their part of the agreement. Furthermore, it was a national covenant. A single person’s sin could and did affect the entire nation. Please think this through. This is vitally important to realize.
Summarizing "Spoils of war"
So we have seen two accounts of how spoils of war were dealt with by God’s people. It should be pointed out that the incident with Abram was prior to God making a covenant with him. The Abrahamic Covenant is in Chapter 15 of Genesis. The tithe on the spoils given to Melchizedek is in Chapter 14. If God made a law that ten per cent of the spoils of war belonged to Him, then He must have changed the law in Numbers Chapter 31. But God never changed anything. The fact of the matter is there was never a law demanding ten per cent of income before or after Abraham, before or after Moses, before or after Jesus, or before or after any of them. It has never existed except under deceitful or ignorant or sincerely misled ministers claiming for themselves in the name of God what God has never given them the right to take.
The Abrahamic Covenant
The ratification of what we call the Abrahamic Covenant, or the Covenant of Faith is found in Genesis Chapter 15. Not one single word is found about tithing. Abram brought a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon. He cut everything except the birds in half, drove the vultures away, and fell asleep and beheld a great horror and great darkness. Then when the sun went down, "Behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces." (Gen 15:17) Here we have the ratification of the Abrahamic Covenant. Two lights passed between the animal halves while Abraham slept. Here is the Covenant of Faith ...all God. Man sleeps. Man can never enter into covenant with God because he will always break the covenant. God instituted the Mosaic Covenant to prove that. So then, in the Abrahamic covenant, we see a one-sided agreement, God agreeing with Himself, while Abraham slept. No tithe here. (By the way, a person who thinks they "decided" to follow Jesus, still doesn’t know what the Abrahamic Covenant is all about.)
Returning back to our search for tithing in the Old Testament, we see the word tithe is found in Genesis 28:20-22. Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, spent the night at a place called Luz (almond tree). He had an incredible dream in which Yahweh reaffirmed the promise He made with Abraham. Jacob anointed the stone which was by his head when he slept and called the place Bethel, which means "house of God." At this point, Jacob tried to make a deal with 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 (Yahweh) shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all You give me I will surely give a tenth to You." (Gen. 28:20-22) What we see here, is typical of Jacob, the heel-grabber, conniver before he became Israel, "a prince with God."
If Abraham had taught his children to tithe, then Jacob had no business trying to make a deal with God. "You take good care of me and I’ll give you back 10 per cent." Jacob, the heel-grabber made a conditional promise to God. We do not find God answering Jacob. (Jacob also called a stone which he anointed with oil the "house of God." Is that stone the "house of God?" If we are going to be literal, then let us be consistent. Either that stone is the "house of God," or Jacob still had some growing up to do spiritually.)
While we find Jacob playing "Let’s make a deal" with God, we do not find a single passage of Scripture which declares the deal was made or that the deal was to be passed on to his off-spring. There certainly is no indication whatsoever that any of His attempt to make a deal with God has anything to do with us apart from the fact that many of us seem to have the same nature Jacob had. We seem to play the same games with God that Jacob played. There are many truths we can learn from Jacob who would one day become Israel, but tithing is not something we can learn from him. There is not a single record that God commanded him to tithe and not a single record that he ever did.
If there were ever an opportunity for God to conclusively show He was interested in 10 per cent of gross income, Joseph had a perfect opportunity to make it absolutely clear. If you recall, Joseph interpreted a couple of dreams foretelling 7 years of good harvest followed by 7 years of famine. Joseph, "a man in whom the Spirit of God is," (Gen. 41:38) told Pharaoh to set aside one fifth of the grain from the 7 years of plenty to carry them through the 7 years of famine. I am sure there are many great truths we could dig up in the 47th Chapter of Genesis, but we must stay on the topic of tithing.
As the famine grew, Joseph sold grain to those living in Egypt and Canaan, until "Joseph brought all the money that was found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan." The famine continued. The Egyptians then sold all their livestock to Joseph. At the end of that year they came to Joseph again. This time he bought their land and their very bodies in exchange for food. At this point, the Pharaoh, through Joseph’s administration, owned everything in Egypt except the land of the priests. Pharaoh had given the priests an allotment of food throughout this time and they therefore did not sell their land.
Joseph had in that moment in history, a perfect opportunity to create a perfect economical system. What did he do? Did he institute a "tithe?" After all, if tithing was a God ordained system among the patriarchs, here was Joseph’s perfect opportunity to institute the system throughout all of Egypt. After all, Joseph’s descendants were going to spend the next several hundred years in Egypt. He had a perfect opportunity to create an environment in which Yahweh would bless them and not curse them. So, did he set up a tithe of 10 per cent of gross or net income? No! Joseph first of all did not give the Egyptian people their possessions back. Capitalism was out. He gave them seed to grow new crops on land which now belonged to Pharaoh. Then, from the harvest of the government-given seed, 20 per cent went to Pharaoh to do with as he willed. The citizens of Egypt were allowed to keep the other eighty per cent. The people remained servants of Pharaoh. (The term "servants" in the Old Testament usually meant "slaves.")
"And Joseph made it a law over the land of Egypt to this day, that Pharaoh should have one-fifth except for the land of the priests only, which did not become Pharaoh’s." (Gen. 47:26)
It should be pointed out that there is not even a hint in Scripture that Israel while in Egypt would be under a different system than the one Joseph set up. For those of you who do see types and shadows in the Old Testament, many see Joseph (increaser, adding) as a type of Jesus Christ. There is much to learn here, but tithing is not one of them.
Now twenty per cent, is a very reasonable and probably healthy tax to keep a government running. You see, most of the countries at this time were not structured anything like governments today. Those who teach tithing do not tell us that there was no such thing as separation of church and state at this time in history. The kings and Pharaohs were often recognized as gods. These kingdoms were theocracies. What the king collected from the people could be used for anything from building roads, paying teachers, making war or building temples. Like I said, there was no separation of church and state.
What Joseph set up, whether we like it or not, was an economic system which forbid private land ownership with a twenty per cent tax on grain. Keep in mind, the Spirit of God was in him.
We do not find a 30 to 40 per cent tax for the government, and then a ten per cent tithe for the priests (pastors). Joseph did not institute a 10 per cent tithe off the top because God did not require it! Pharaoh did, however, need funds to keep the government running.
Now that is the end of any Scriptures relating to anything close to what we would call tithing prior to the institution of the Mosaic Law. Clearly, if God had instituted a 10 per cent tithe prior to Moses, either the Biblical characters must have been unaware of it, or God did not make it very clear. The truth is, He never demanded or even suggested it.
The Mosaic Tithe
As we begin to try to decipher what tithing in Israel was all about after they left Egypt, keep James 2:10 in mind. This is a New Testament warning of the consequences of trying to mix the Old and New Covenant together.
"Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all." The penalty is death!
The entire law goes way beyond the Ten Commandments. For instance, the one who wants to put the Mosaic tithe on others will also have to stone their rebellious son or daughter (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). This would eliminate quite a few second-generation preachers. Preacher’s children are notorious for entering into much rebellion in their teen years due to having to project the right image all the time.
Anyone who has eaten a rare steak or catfish or shellfish is excommunicated from the congregation and separated from the blessings of God. (Lev. 17:14; Lev. Chapters 11 and 12) I won’t give all the references for some of the rest of these items tithe keepers must also keep. Leviticus and Numbers are full of laws most Christians would not like to place themselves under. Pork chops and bacon, of course, are definitely out. If your sister’s husband dies without producing children, her brother would have to give her children. Those who practiced a traditional Christmas would surely be guilty of idolatry and put to death. The images in most churches, especially those that have pictures of Jesus in them, would also qualify the pastors to be stoned.
I think you are beginning to get the point. Those who want to use the Mosaic tithing system to finance their churches and ministries are not willing to accept the rest of the package. I am afraid it was, is, and always will be a package deal, all or none. If you don’t believe me, see what Paul called the Ten Commandments in 2 Corinthians 3:5-7.
"Our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious."
And what was the glory of the Old Covenant, whose glory was passing away even as Paul was speaking? It was the ministry of condemnation! People who love to judge also love to condemn. They love to lift themselves up by putting others down. That is the ministry of the letter of the law; the ministry of condemnation; the ministry of death! And we wonder why there is so little life in the church.
I cannot get into a long discussion about Mosaic Law versus Grace through Jesus Christ. I just want to point out that Jesus Christ came to fulfill all the requirements of the Mosaic Law for us. The ultimate requirement of the Mosaic Law really boiled down to an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life. The sentence of death was on every single descendant of Adam. In Adam all died. It took the death of an innocent man to set those in Adam free. Life for life. All descendants of Adam (which is all mankind) died because of Adam’s transgression.
"For if, by the trespass of one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men." Romans 5:17-19
(We have a lot of material on the subject of Grace through Faith versus Mosaic Law. We will be happy to send some to the reader if requested.)
Jesus walked this earth for 30 to 35 years sinless. When He died, He took away the sin (singular) of the world. He set those who died in Adam free. One day we will all come to this realization. Today, very few Christians really realize the far-reaching consequences of the righteous act of Jesus Christ.
But let us assume I am wrong. Let’s say Jesus didn’t fulfill all the requirements of the Law and therefore we are still under the Mosaic Law. Even if that were the case, the tithe that ministers are demanding is still not found in Moses’ Law.
A trip into a handful of Bible dictionaries should cure anyone of the simplistic idea that there is such a thing as 10 per cent off the top to a priesthood. Harper’s Bible Dictionary under "tithe" on page 1078 tells us,
"Reconstructing a clear picture of the nature and function of tithing in biblical times is extremely difficult due to the conflicting accounts and the problems in identifying the dates and provenance of the texts. Apparently, tithing was understood and practiced differently at different times and localities throughout the Biblical period."
The above statement may come as a surprise to many people. This is very sad because it shows how little most of us know about the Bible. Many of those who teach tithing want it that way.
Brief History of the Mosaic Tithe
The five volume Dictionary of the Bible by James Hastings, under "tithe" tells us,
"The history of the tithe in Israel is in many respects obscure ... It is accordingly remarkable that no reference is made to tithes in the Book of the Covenant. This is usually explained on the theory that the tithes were originally identical with the first-fruits, and that the need of more strictly defining the amount that should be paid, led, in the later legislation, to the use of the term which had already been employed in the North Israel sanctuaries. W.R. Smith, on the contrary, thinks that the tithe was a fixed tribute, comparatively modern in its origin. At an earlier period the tribute took the form of first-fruits, which were a private offering. When this was no longer adequate to meet the expenses of a more elaborate cultus, the tithe was charged as a fixed burden on land."
Now this is most interesting. Experts in Old Testament studies tell us that tracing the "tithe" and how it was administered is "obscure." Yet many ministers quote two or three passages out of Leviticus, Exodus, or Malachi and tell us "ten per cent off the top and it should go to your local ‘church.’" Those of you who want to see for yourself rather than just believing a preacher because he said so, will discover the following:
• No tithe of any kind is found in the Book of the Covenant given by Moses which consisted of the Ten Commandments and various civil and religious requirements. Funds to provide for these activities came from free-will offerings. (see Ex. Chapters 20-23, Ex. 34:22,29; 36:3,7)
• Almost a year after the Book of the Covenant was written, a tithing system was instituted. (Lev. 27:30-33) "And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD’s. It is holy to the LORD. If a man wants at all to redeem any of his tithes, he shall add one-fifth to it. And concerning the tithe of the herd or the flock, of whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the LORD." (Lev. 27:30-32) Please note some very important things here. The tithe was specifically directed to the "land, whether of the seed of the land or the fruit of the tree," and the animals which ate of the land. God specifically did not mention the fishing, mining, tent-making, lumber, or various professional occupations. The focus was a tenth of the seed and fruit of the land. Note that if a person wanted to pay money instead of the actual produce, he had to pay 20 per cent more! Obviously money was not what God was after. Furthermore, regarding the animals, it was the tenth one which passed under the rod which was to be tithed. A man with less than 10 animals did not have to tithe his animals! Also note, he could not redeem the animals, that is, he could not give money instead of the actual animal. Place a dead chicken in the offering plate next week and see whether your pastor is interested in your fulfilling the law or is he or she really more interested in your money. Their reaction to the chicken should tell you something.
• When looking at all the Scriptures in the Bible that deal with tithing, only the owners of the land and animals had to tithe those items. Servants or slaves who worked that land did not tithe; the produce did not belong to them!
• There may be one exception to the above point. 1 Samuel Chapter 8 tells us that the children of Israel at that time wanted to be like the other nations around them. They wanted a king. This displeased Samuel the prophet, greatly. Samuel prayed and Yahweh answered and said, "Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not