Must a Christian give according to the tithing laws of Moses?

 

The subject of this message is one of the laws of Moses and the old covenant -- the law of tithing. I hope this doesn’t step on any toes, but it is an excellent, concrete example to use in a discussion on the applicability of the laws of Moses to New Covenant believers.

 

NOTE: It is important to read the previous article about Christians and the law of Moses. Click Here.


Giving is a powerful New Testament (Covenant) principle. We are exhorted to give. We are told that if we give, we shall receive, and what we sow, we reap. The New Covenant does not relieve us from giving. In fact, the demand for giving of oneself is far greater -- actually total. We are commanded to die to self, and present our bodies as a living sacrifice.

 

BUT SHOULD OUR GIVING BE UNDER THE MOSAIC LAW
IN THE FORM OF TITHING AS PRACTICED BY THE ANCIENT ISRAELITES?

 

Many pastors support the idea that with the New Covenant we are not under the law, but in contradiction at "collection time" they still put the congregation under the law in strong terms. At a church I once visited the pastor even shockingly said that anyone who did not tithe was "cursed" because of Malachi 3:9. It was a requirement for church membership there that a prospective member "pledge" to tithe. At least for fund-raising purposes, he ignored the glorious truth that Jesus became a curse for us (Galatians 3:13). Such pastors show either that they do not really understand the New Covenant or else they are disingenuous. I suspect the former in most cases. But many of them "use" the law as a coercive fund-raising tool, as they are taught such in seminary or in Bible college, plus it is a tradition of men they have seen practiced all their lives. It is so entrenched they may be fearful of not doing it and simply trusting God for church finances.

 

(I cringe when I think of some poor lost, hurting soul who knows nothing about the Bible wandering into a typical church on Sunday morning seeking God. Before he hears the gospel, if it is preached there, he is told in no uncertain terms that 10 percent or more of his income is demanded, which, in his uninformed perception, is a steep price for "joining" that organization! No wonder people stay away in droves.)

 

However, if one gives as under the law, there are other things one must do, which are never told. We cannot pick and choose which parts of the law we like or want to obey. No pastor has the authority to delete some parts of the law and include other parts. It is either all or nothing. No human can change God’s law. And remember: "All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law’" (Galatians 3:10, NIV). (Maybe the pastor was right about the "curse" but for a reason he did not intend!)

 

If one decides to tithe under the law, he must:

 

1. Give ALL the tithes required by the law. Some count 3-4 different tithes under the law of Moses. One tithe will not satisfy the law. (Remember, no human can change God’s law.)

 

2. Give your tithes to a Levitical priest. The problem here is that there is no more Levitical priesthood. Modern pastors are not Levitical priests. (Remember, no human can change God’s law.)

 

3. Give tithes in the form of agricultural produce and livestock. This will not work for urban dwellers -- unless you have a very big garden! (Remember, no human can change God’s law.) As to Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees that they tithe mint, dill and cummin (Matthew 23:23), remember that the New Covenant did not begin until the cross.

 

4. Bring your tithes to the storehouse, or temple. You will have to go to Jerusalem, but when you get there you will not find the temple. The problem here is that there has been no temple since A.D. 70. Modern church buildings are not the temple. Individual believers are God’s temple. (Remember, no human can change God’s law.)

 

Therefore, giving under the law today is actually impossible, plus it brings condemnation (2 Corinthians 3:9). If you try to do it, you flunk before you begin.

 

How then does one give under the New Covenant?

 

NEW COVENANT GIVING PRINCIPLES

 

New Covenant giving does not bring condemnation, as does Old Covenant giving. Instead, it brings joy and peace.

 

Under the New Covenant, we have the indwelling Spirit. As with all things under the New Covenant, we give as we are led by the Spirit. He may say to give 10 percent, or 20, 30, 40, 70, 90, or even 100 percent! Or He may say 5 percent, or less. We give not as under the law, but at the Spirit’s direction. The ancient Israelites did not have the indwelling Spirit. They gave as a legal requirement, which may have been easier in some respects. The indwelling Spirit may require more sacrifice from us. We are not off the hook! But the fruit of the Sprit is love, joy and peace! It may be sacrificial, but it will be fun and cheerful!

 

Here is the main passage for guidance in New Covenant giving (EMPHASIS SUPPLIED):


"Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. EACH MAN SHOULD GIVE WHAT HE HAS DECIDED IN HIS HEART TO GIVE, NOT RELUCTANTLY OR UNDER COMPULSION, FOR GOD LOVES A CHEERFUL GIVER. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. "As it is written: ‘He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.’ Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God" (! Corinthians 9:6-11, NIV).

 

What about using "10 percent" as only a model, from Old Testament example, a "suggested" rather than a "legal" amount? That may be okay but it is easily misunderstood and taken as law. It is better to preach Jesus and the principle from 1 Corinthians 9:6-11 above, then instead of just 10 percent the people may give more! Whichever, it will be from the heart.

 

In Virginia, back in the 1970s, I once had a pastor of a dynamic, non-denominational church, ironically called "New Covenant Church," where the gifts of the Spirit flowed freely, along with signs and wonders, healings and deliverances. Pastor Tom never gave a tithing sermon and never took a collection. There was a box at the back of the church, and people put donations in it as they left (as they were led by the Spirit). I once asked him about that, how the church got by that way. He replied simply, "If Jesus has your heart, He has your pocketbook." I was stunned by the profundity of that theological truth so simply and beautifully expressed. Pastor Tom preached the love and grace of Jesus and didn’t want people to give "under compulsion," or intimidation, but only out of their love for the Savior. (That church always had plenty, had an active building program, and supported several missionaries!) In this case, the church actually lived by faith -- by example -- instead of just telling the congregation to live by faith in their giving. In some churches, Jesus does not have the hearts of everyone, so to extract the funds from them they must be put under the law and coerced to give. People may then consider themselves "religious" for doing this, but I do not believe God blesses that kind of giving, nor does He need or want it.

 

The subject of giving concisely demonstrates the difference in the Old Covenant vs. the New Covenant; that is, giving as a legal requirement vs. out of the heart. The New Covenant is all about the heart, in which Christ dwells.