“Tithe” is a word that means “10 percent”. If you pay 10% of your income to your local church then by their definition you are paying tithes. I want to start by saying that if you feel the need to give 10% of your income to your church, or you feel that God is directing you to give ten percent, then by all means continue what you’re doing. I don’t want to get in the way of that. Churches do need finances in order to function in ministry. Faithful support of your local church will help spread the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
However, if you give 10 percent of your income because you have been told that you are robbing God if you fail to do so, or if you can barely make ends meet and you go without the things you need so you can pay tithes, or if you are getting into debt because you are paying tithes, then this study is for you. If you feel condemnation as a result of failing to pay tithes then you should take to heart what I am about to say in this study. What does the Bible really teach about tithing?
I am about to show you how the church has abused the teaching of the tithe. For those that don’t know, in many churches the teaching of the tithe is manipulated to say that all Christians are to give to their local church 10 percent of their income. If we as Christians do not do this then we are robbing God of what we owe Him. We are being misled to believe that we are stealing from God himself.
Many scriptures are taken out of context and twisted to make this point, and the tithe has become a money-making machine for the church. I don’t think that the church knows the full extent of the damage this false doctrine has brought. It is my intent to reveal what the scriptures actually say, and to hopefully restore your faith in the gospel as the tithe is counterproductive to the gospel itself!
I say this as a witness to the damage that the tithe can do in a person’s life. It was this teaching and my personal belief in the tithe that almost cost me my faith in God and the Bible itself. This legalistic doctrine has done more to damage my walk with God than any other false teaching. I will touch on my personal story later, but for now let’s see what the scriptures actually say about the tithe.
The first Scripture used to teach tithing is found in Genesis 14:18-20
Gen 14:18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.
Gen 14:19 And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth:
Gen 14:20 And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all. -KJV
On the surface this looks like a scripture that supports paying tithes, but this scripture has been taken out of context. What is meant when verse 20 says that he gave tithes of all? Let’s look at the circumstances surrounding this scripture.
Gen 14:1 And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations;
Gen 14:2 That these made war with Bera king of Sodom, and with Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, and Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela, which is Zoar. -KJV
So we see in the beginning of this chapter that war broke out. The kings in verse one went about declaring war and conquering other kingdoms. After they did this they set out to war against Sodom and Gomorrah.
Gen 14:10 And the vale of Siddim was full of slimepits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and fell there; and they that remained fled to the mountain.
Gen 14:11 And they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their victuals, and went their way.
Gen 14:12 And they took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed. -KJV
Abram’s nephew Lot was captured in this battle as the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled. Now let’s read what Abram does,
Gen 14:13 And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew; for he dwelt in the plain of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner: and these were confederate with Abram.
Gen 14:14 And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan.
Gen 14:15 And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus.
Gen 14:16 And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.
Gen 14:17 And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king’s dale. -KJV
Abram went out to fight against these kings and they fled. Abram saves all the people and all the spoils that were taken. Then Abram returns from battle. The kings that were previously defeated in battle meet Abram.
Abram gave 10 percent of the spoils of this raid and only this raid to Melchizedek. When the king of Sodom saw this he asked Abram to give him the people and to take the stuff for himself. Abram responded by saying that he was not going to take anything that belonged to him because it would give the king of Sodom an opportunity to say that he made Abram rich.
Gen 14:21 And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself.
Gen 14:22 And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth,
Gen 14:23 That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich:
Gen 14:24 Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion. –KJV
You can say that you believe Abram paid tithes to Melchizedek if you want, but this is not a written record of that. Abram went to war to recover his nephew Lot. In the process he got all the stuff that was taken from the surrounding cities.
He gave Melchizedek 10 percent of the spoils of this war. He gave the other kings that lost everything in battle the rest of the spoils. He kept nothing for himself. He let the people who joined him in battle keep their portion. This is not a record of Abraham paying tithes as most people are led to believe.
Now let’s look at our next scripture Genesis 28:20-22
Gen 28:20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,
Gen 28:21 So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God:
Gen 28:22 And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.
This is a scripture used to claim that Jacob paid tithes in spite of the fact that there is no record in the Bible that Jacob ever paid these so-called tithes. This is Jacob bargaining with God. He is trying to make a deal with God, and he places conditions on this tithe …
- If God is with me
- If God will keep me safe
- If God will give me bread to eat
- If God gives me clothes, (raiment)
- If I come to my father’s house in peace.
… then I will give God 10 percent. All this happened 20 years later with no record of Jacob ever paying this tithe.
This is a much different attitude than what is taught about the tithe. Jacob is saying “if God blesses me and meets these conditions then and only then I will give Him 10 percent”. That is the direct opposite of the way the tithe is taught in the church. The church says give ten percent to God and you will be blessed. Jacob says If God blesses me I will give ten percent.
Another point to make is the ten percent that Jacob is talking about here more than likely relates to animal sacrifice. So Jacob is promising a blood sacrifice as an offering to God. This is not something he is going to give to someone else so they can minister. When we get into the tithe under the Law of Moses you will discover that in most cases it relates to the harvest. It is not a tithe of the spoils of war or of money itself.
In the Old Testament, the only place the tithe can actually be found is under the Law of Moses. There is no record of the tithe being found outside of the Law! Some evangelists have claimed that when Adam sinned and ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden he was actually stealing from God. He took God’s tithe and that was the original sin. This is the biggest stretch and misapplication of scripture I have ever heard regarding tithing!
God said you can eat of any tree except that one tree. I believe that there were more than ten trees in the Garden of Eden. This attempt to put wrong meaning into scripture in order to steal money from people makes these bible teachers no better than the money changers that Jesus drove out of the temple with whips! The people who came up with this twist know they are lying! This is a very grave sin that needs to be addressed because these false teachers are purposely perverting the gospel of Christ for their own ill-gotten gain! Make no mistake about this; there will be a penalty for this action!
Let’s explore the meaning and original purpose of the tithe. The tithe was a commandment given to the Jewish people in the Old Testament.
There were four kinds of tithe in the Old Testament. All the tribes of Israel except the Levites had an inheritance. The priests were of the house of Aaron, which was a part of the tribe of Levi. So all priests were Levites but not all Levites were priests. Ten percent of the harvest was given to the Levites. In return the Levites had to take ten percent of that tithe and give it to the house of Aaron or the priests. So the priests received their inheritance from the Levites. This means the priests actually only received one percent of the total tithe.
Num 18:20 And the LORD spake unto Aaron, Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel.
Num 18:21 And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.
Num 18:25 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Num 18:26 Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, When ye take of the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then ye shall offer up an heave offering of it for the LORD, even a tenth part of the tithe.
Num 18:27 And this your heave offering shall be reckoned unto you, as though it were the corn of the threshingfloor, and as the fulness of the winepress.
Num 18:28 Thus ye also shall offer an heave offering unto the LORD of all your tithes, which ye receive of the children of Israel; and ye shall give thereof the LORD’S heave offering to Aaron the priest. –KJV
While the priest performed the worship at the temple, the rest of the tribe of Levi was over the Torah. It was their job to enforce the Torah and to put it into practice. The Torah was the legal code, it was the sanitary code, it was the health code, and it was the moral code. The tithe was always based on the harvest.
There was another kind of tithe. This tithe was meant to be spent by the children of Israel to buy whatever was needed during the Jewish festivals. This tithe was also meant to help the poor so they could also celebrate the festivals.
Deu 14:22 Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year.
Deu 14:23 And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always.
Deu 14:24 And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the LORD thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the LORD thy God hath blessed thee:
Deu 14:25 Then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose:
Deu 14:26 And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household,
Deu 14:27 And the Levite that is within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee. -KJV
God is telling the Jewish people not to forsake the other tithe that is given to the Levites. Remember the Levites. He is also telling the people of Israel to save an additional 10 percent for feasts, and don’t get the two confused. The fourth tithe was given every third year and it was for the Levites, strangers, orphans, and widows. It was for the local Jewish community.
Deu 14:28 At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates:
Deu 14:29 And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.
The tithe was never based on money. It was always based on agriculture. There are those who say that people did not have money back then and money was not commonplace. That is why we give money today. Deu 14:26 says to turn the tithe used for the festivals into money (silver) in order to avoid transporting goods a great distance. Money at this point in time was precious metals, and even Abraham had money. Money was commonplace and Abraham used money to buy a cave to bury his wife.
Gen 23:10 And Ephron dwelt among the children of Heth: and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the audience of the children of Heth, even of all that went in at the gate of his city, saying,
Gen 23:11 Nay, my lord, hear me: the field give I thee, and the cave that is therein, I give it thee; in the presence of the sons of my people give I it thee: bury thy dead.
Gen 23:12 And Abraham bowed down himself before the people of the land.
Gen 23:13 And he spake unto Ephron in the audience of the people of the land, saying, But if thou wilt give it, I pray thee, hear me: I will give thee money for the field; take it of me, and I will bury my dead there.
Gen 23:14 And Ephron answered Abraham, saying unto him,
Gen 23:15 My lord, hearken unto me: the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver; what is that betwixt me and thee? bury therefore thy dead.
Gen 23:16 And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron; and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver, which he had named in the audience of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant.
The claim that people in the Old Testament did not use money and that is why they gave tithes from the harvest does not hold up. The tithe was paid to the tribe of Levi. It was given to them because they had no inheritance. It had nothing to do with money! The Levites collected the tithe and gave another tithe to the priests. The storehouse portion was a tenth of a tenth, or one percent. The other 9 percent was held in the Levitical refuge cities.
When the harvest came farmers were told by God that they should leave the corners of their fields for the poor.
Lev 19:9 And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest.
Lev 19:10 And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the LORD your God.
Lev 23:22 And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the LORD your God.
The harvest did not cost the farmers a total of a 10 percent tithe. When you total up all the different portions of the harvest and account for what was given to the poor and the Levites, approximately 30 percent was set aside for various reasons. This portion of the harvest went to the Levites, the poor, the widows, the strangers, and it provided food for Jewish feasts and pilgrimages. The rest of the harvest was taken by the farmers and owners of the land.
Now that we have this background on the tithe, let’s look at the scriptures used by most pastors who teach tithing. This is probably the most abused scripture on the subject.
Mal 3:8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
Mal 3:9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.
Mal 3:10 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.
Mal 3:11 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.
Mal 3:12 And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.
Remember that the storehouse for the priest only received 1 percent of the total tithe not 10 percent. It was a tithe of the tithe. So when God is saying to bring the tithe into the storehouse this is only referencing 10 percent of the total tithe!
This is the scripture used by those who teach tithing to falsely accuse the body of Christ. The Christian believer is wrongfully placed under condemnation because they are told that they are robbing God if they don’t pay ten percent of their income. There are television evangelists that claim we will receive a blessing and that the windows of heaven will open up if we pay 10 percent of our income to the church. They claim that we have protection over our finances if we tithe. If we don’t tithe we are placed under a curse and we are no better than a thief. It is even taught that God himself will rebuke the devourer for our sake if we give a tithe.
Mal 3:8-12 is yet another tithing scripture that is taken out of context. First, as we discussed earlier tithing was always based on the harvest. It was never based on money. Second, this scripture is actually addressing the priests and not the nation of Israel as a whole. It was the priests who were robbing God! Consider these other verses.
Mal 1:6 A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?
Mal 1:7 Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible.
Mal 1:8 And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the LORD of hosts.
Chapter 2 of Malachi continues to address the priests.
Mal 2:1 And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you.
Mal 2:2 If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the LORD of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart.
Mal 2:7 For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.
Mal 2:8 But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the LORD of hosts.
Mal 2:9 Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law.
This theme of addressing the priests is still in effect when we get to Mal 3:8! It may be that most pastors don’t even realize that the scripture that is used to condemn people who do not tithe is actually a scripture that condemns priests who steal from God! It condemns the very pastors who use it. I think that the majority of pastors who teach tithing are not even aware of this. The ones who are aware of this are just thieves!
We have totally dismantled all the scripture that is used and twisted in the Old Testament to manipulate people into giving 10 percent of their income. Tithing is a legalistic doctrine that has no place among Christianity today. This doctrine like all legalism only serves to bring bondage and it enslaves people. Many people including myself have been spiritually wounded by this teaching. I will go into more detail about this damage later.
If you have never tithed your income and you heard this teaching, then there is a chance you have wrongfully believed that you were stealing from God. This only serves to cause separation between you and God. After all, how can you have an honest relationship with someone you are stealing from? The truth is you are not stealing from God! Don’t let the teaching of the tithe affect your relationship with God!
In part 2 of this study I believe that you will find healing and restoration.