The following paper is based upon the Scriptures with some minimal opinion mixed in. Thanks goes to Erik Weems. Much credit is given to the wrong Right Reverend Robert Johnston THE fifth for most excellent work editing work editing work editing work, and friends in Ohio. BB did some too.
Deuteronomy 14:22 Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, the produce of the field, year by year. 23And thou shalt eat before Yehovah thy God, in the place that He will choose to place His Name there, the tithe of thy grain, of thy wine and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks, that thou mayest learn to fear Yehovah thy God continually. 24And if the way be too long for thee so that thou art not able to carry it because the place is too far from thee, where Jehovah thy God will choose to set His Name, when Yehovah thy God blesseth thee,
25then shalt thou give it for money. And thou shalt bind the money together in thy hand. And thou shalt go to the place that Yehovah thy God will choose. 26And thou shalt give the money for whatever thy soul lusteth–for oxen or for sheep or for wine or for strong drink or for whatever thy soul asketh of thee. And thou shalt eat there before Yehovah thy God. And thou shalt rejoice–thou and thy house. 27And thou shalt not forsake the Levite that is within thy gates. For he hath no portion nor inheritance with thee. 28At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year. And thou shalt lay it up within thy gates. 29And the Levite–for he hath no portion nor inheritance with thee–and the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are within thy gates shall come. And they shall eat and be satisfied so that Yehovah thy God may bless thee in all the work of thy hand that thou doest.
The Timing of the Tithe
Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed that the field bringeth forth year by year.
The tithe must be extracted from the blessing received (past tense). It is not the cause of blessings as some teach (“Tithe, and God will multiply it back to you”). The blessings promised to literal Israel in these Torah passages were granted only if Israel kept the whole Law including the sacrifices and the Sabbaths (all Israeli Holy Days).
“Is it necessary to continue to tithe in order to have blessings?” Yehovah may withhold blessings from Israelis who refuse to obey the Torah. This text has nothing to do with members of other races besides Israel. The command was not given to Dutch or Irish Gentiles or to Australian Aborigines. Every Jewish person living during the times of the Temple or Tabernacle, when the Torah can be completely followed, is responsible to obey this command.
The pronoun thou teaches that this is addressed to the individual Israeli. The timing is year by year. The tithe was normally performed once a year, but could also be performed once every three years if the Israeli lived far from the designated tithe locations.
The Israeli field and the increase of seed are the subject of this tithe (verse 22).
How Was the Tithe to be Handled?
Deuteronomy 14 continues,
“And thou shalt eat before Yehovah thy God, in the place that He shall choose to place His Name there, the tithe of thy grain, of thy wine and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks, that thou mayest learn to fear Yehovah thy God always.”
The tithe must be eaten by the tither where Yehovah has chosen to place His Name. No other place is acceptable. The tithe must be offered once a year for those who live near it. (Other folks will also participate by eating as the text will shortly show.)
What Must Be Tithed
Four crop categories of tithes are specified: grain, wine, olive oil and firstling males. All firstlings belonged to Yehovah without exception.
The Purpose of the Tithe
The purpose of eating the tithe before Yehovah is to learn to fear Yehovah always.
Location of the Tithe
Deuteronomy 14:24 continues,
“And if the way be too long for thee so that thou art not able to carry it, if the place be too far from thee where Yehovah thy God shall choose to set His Name, when Yehovah thy God hath blessed thee, then shalt thou turn [it] into money and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place that Yehovah thy God shall choose.”
The blessing comes before the tithe (verse 24). (If the person has not been blessed with any increase, nothing will be tithed.) Those who live too far away must turn the tithe (consisting of crops or animals) into money. They must carry the money to the place that Yehovah has chosen.
The Form of the Tithe
The tithe must be eaten by the tither before Yehovah. Verse 26 and following states:
“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 Yehovah thy God. And thou shalt rejoice–thou and thine household and the Levite that is within thy gates–thou shalt not forsake him, for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee.”
The tithe is turned into money for portability. The money must then be turned back into some edible commodity to be eaten before Yehovah. So the tither who lives far from the tithing location will purchase food items upon arrival at the tithing location using all the money for food. No monetary gifts from the tithe funds can be given to some other place of offering.
The Levite is included with the whole household because the Levite has no inheritance in Israel (Numbers 18:28).
Who Eats the Tithe?
Verses 28 & 29 continue, “At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year. And thou shalt lay [it] up within thy gates. And the Levite (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee) and the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are within thy gates shall come and shall eat and be satisfied so that Yehovah thy God shall bless thee in all the work of thine hand that thou doest.”
The three-year wait is only for those who live too far to bring the tithe once a year. The tithe is only of the increase. It is to be stored at home until the time comes to eat the tithe. The Levite, the stranger, the orphan and the widow are the recipients of the tithe, as well as the one who is tithing with his family. The tithe is a party, an occasion, a celebration of joy before Yehovah. It will result in a blessing from Yehovah (assuming that the tither obeys the Torah in the other ways commanded).
What the Tithe Does Not Do
The purpose of the tithe is not to increase the coffers of the Tabernacle or Temple. This need was met by freewill offerings and the Temple tax.
The Malachi Stipulation
Malachi 3:8-12, addresses the issue of the tithe. The entire prophecy of Malachi is directed to Israel (Malachi 1:1). The Law of Moses is mentioned on numbers of occasions, and the Law of Moses is given only for Israel to teach Israel how to physically live out Spiritual realities. Malachi 4:9, for example, confirms that only Israel is in mind by stating “this whole nation.” Any application of any part of Malachi to any other group besides Israel (including the Church) is a misapplication and a great theological error.
Another Tithing Text
Deuteronomy 26:12 “When thou shalt make an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase the third year, the year of tithing, and hast given unto the Levite, the stranger, the orphan and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates and be filled, then thou shalt say before Yehovah thy God, ‘I have brought away the holy thing out of the house. And I have also given them unto the Levite and unto the stranger, to the orphan and to the widow according to all Thy commandment which Thou hast commanded me. I have not transgressed Thy commandments, neither have I forgotten. I have not eaten of it in my mourning, neither have I taken away of it for uncleanness nor given it for the dead. I have hearkened to the voice of Yehovah my God. I have done according to all that Thou hast commanded me. Look down from Thy holy habitation–from heaven, and bless Thy people Israel and the land that Thou hast given us, as Thou swarest unto our fathers, a land that floweth with milk and honey.'”
These instructions are directed only to Israel, the People of these Laws and Commandments.
In all the texts, the Tither is always the agent of distribution of the Tithe. Never are the priests, the Tabernacle or the Temple involved in the distribution of the tithe.
Giving According to Church-Age Principles
There are two main principles for giving outlined for the age of the Body of Messiah. The first is found in the following text:
2 Corinthians 8:1 “Moreover, brethren, we want you to know of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia 2how that, in a great trial of affliction, the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. 3For to [their] power–I bear record, yea, and beyond power–[they were] willing of themselves, 4praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. 5And [this they did], not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord and unto us by the will of God 6insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also. 7Therefore, as ye abound in everything–faith and utterance and knowledge and all diligence and your love to us, [see] that ye abound in this grace also. 8I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others and to prove the sincerity of your love. 9For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor that ye through His poverty might be rich. 10And in this I give advice. For this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago. 11Now, therefore, perform the doing, that as [there was] a readiness to will, so [there may be] a performance also out of that which ye have. 12For if there be first a willing mind, [it is] accepted according to what a man hath, not according to what he hath not. 13For [I mean] not that other men be eased and ye burdened, 14but by an equality, [that] now at this time your abundance is for their lack that their abundance also may be for your lack, that there may be equality 15as it is written, ‘He that [had gathered] much had nothing over, and he that [had gathered] little had no lack.'”
Paul taught that anyone’s willingness to give is acceptable with Yehovah as long as he gives from what he has. He commends the churches at Macedonia that “according to their means, and on their own initiative, they urged us to receive their monetary gift so that they would be able to participate in ministering to the Saints” (recklessly paraphrased). Paul insists, in verse 11, that the offering be “completed out of that which ye have. For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what a man hath” (paraphrased). The willingness to give is acceptable with Yehovah, and the actual giving is acceptable only as long as one gives from what he has, not from what he doesn’t have.
Some argue that “faith promises” will demonstrate the giver’s trust that God will make good on the giver’s pledge and faith. This is a presumption upon Yehovah, and the Scriptures give warning about this. Remember Jephthah (Judges 11).
“Faith Promises” (pledges) are very dangerous. Jephthah lost a daughter over a faith promise.
A pledge is a vow. Vowing is dangerous for the faithful Christian. No one knows if he will be able to keep his vow and give. It is better to not promise and then give, rather than to promise and not be able to meet the needs of one’s family because of the promise.
The New Testament principle is that God will supply the Believer’s every need according to His riches in Grace through Messiah Jesus (Philippians 4:19). If this promise is not being fulfilled, there is either no need, or the needy one is not a Believer. (This does not mean that Godly Saints cannot go into debt by circumstances, or that Saints who do are out of God’s will. Voluntarily going into debt through a foolish pledge does not portray the Wisdom that God gives.)
The church budget must fall into the same category, i.e., live by faith, not by presumption. If Yehovah does not provide for the congregation by giving its participants or other willing parties such a desire to give that the funds are sufficient to pay bills, that congregation has not planned wisely and needs to reconsider its budget. Yehovah is not in presumption.
The target of the funds in the Corinthians text above was the poor Saints. A severe problem is demonstrated when Saints who are able will not meet the needs of poor Saints. The proper order of meeting needs is family first, poor Saints next, and then, if there is a desire, poor non-saints. (Look out for the wrong desire to do the above and shirk off paying debts! Members of the medical profession, the law profession and the ministerial profession have reputations of being the worst by not paying debts.)
Meeting the Pastor’s Needs
The Saints are to meet the needs of the Pastor. These may be met by the Saints of his flock or the Saints of other supporting flocks.
1 Corinthians 9:13 “Do ye not know that they who minister about holy things live [of the things] of the Temple? And they who wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they who preach the gospel should live of the gospel.”
This carries the proviso that the pastor preaches the Gospel, and that he is truly called of God. (Not many are called; most presume falsely that they are.) The increase comes from the proper preaching of the Biblical Gospel. A pastor who either preaches the wrong gospel, preaches the Gospel in a wrong manner and content, or who does not properly know the Gospel has no business being a pastor, and should not be supported. (Many pastors are not born of God, and have found the pastoral profession a good way to make money and enjoy ‘the good life’.)
Church Giving and Tithing
Were preachers to teach their flock what the Scriptures actually say about tithing and giving, and were they to do so with honesty and boldness, the amount of giving would greatly increase. They would teach living by faith in action regarding all aspects of giving. Some have deemed it necessary to teach a 10% form of giving (some 30% or 10% off the gross pay, and others have had “Reverse the Tithe Sunday,” asking for 90%). Some have taught that if their people don’t give to the Church, God won’t bless them. Others say that God will take away their savings. Some have taught that if one does give, God will multiply the gift. (God does have the power to do so if He so chooses.) Some have been taught to give money that they do not have, or money that was intended originally for food or shelter. Unless God has convicted a person to operate in a special instance in this manner, no one should follow such presumptive and tempting lines of giving. Tempting God and presuming upon Him is sin. Godliness is not monetary slavery.
2 Corinthians 8:1-15 is the principle for “New Testament” giving. Nowhere in the New testament is tithing commanded for the Church. It is a principle, however, that one who gives the Gospel should live of the Gospel. The Saints should take care of the one ministering to their Spiritual needs on a full-time basis, financially and otherwise if that is possible.
Difficulty is encountered when teaching tithing for the Church, since tithing is as much a part of the Law of Moses (Torah) as the seventh-day Sabbath and the slaying of animals for sacrifice. “Now we know that what things soever the Law saith, it saith to them who are under the Law.” (Romans 3:19) The Law of Moses cannot be subdivided at will. It must be taken as a whole. “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one [point], he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10) The New Testament passages dealing with the Tithe refer either to the keeping of the Law of Moses or to Abraham’s tithing to Melchizedek (a Priest and a King, Genesis 14:18). The New Testament uses the tithe to demonstrate Truth having nothing to do with giving (for example, Hebrews 7:4-10).
2 Corinthians 9:6 But I say this: He who soweth sparingly shall also reap sparingly, and he who soweth bountifully shall also reap bountifully. 7Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give–not grudgingly or of necessity–for God loveth a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to make all grace abound toward you so that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work 9(as it is written, “He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor; his righteousness remaineth for ever.” 10Now he who ministereth seed to the sower: both minister bread for food and multiply your seed sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness!) 11being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness that causeth thanksgiving to God through us. 12For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God 13while by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for liberal distribution unto them and unto all, 14and by their prayer for you who long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you. 15Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.
Sowing and reaping in this text is about giving. Yet it is not about giving in an offering plate, but giving to the needs of poor Saints. If any church (congregation) takes up an ‘offering’ for the needs of these Saints, not one penny of that offering is to go to any other designation except for those Saints. Groups of Saints giving personally to meet needs is far better than the coldness of a congregational gift (which seems impersonal). This is no issue of a tithe. It has everything to do with one form of good works. One who gives willingly and cheerfully to the needs of poor Saints is doing a good work. The poor Saints will be doing a good work also in their poverty, so that both groups will reap the benefits of the fruit of both their labours.
Matthew 23:23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: ye ought to have done these, and not to leave the other undone.
Messiah was not condemning these certain scribes and Pharisees for tithing their mint, anise and cumin (plant crops). He stated, “Ye ought to have done these,” based on the Torah. They were leaving other matters of the Torah: justice, mercy and faith, undone. (Messiah was not speaking to all scribes and Pharisees; some other scribes and Pharisees were doing what was right in the fear and faith of God. A scribe is a Torah scroll copier, and therefore was learned in the specifics of the Torah; a Pharisee was a person who claimed to be part of a group that was separated from the sinfulness of the world by living righteously. Messiah Himself was a Pharisee. Some Pharisees actually did right; others did what enriched them.)
The New Testament takes the unequivocal position that Saints belong to Messiah. He is Lord (Sovereign) over all they are, all they have, and all they ever hope to possess. Tithing is only commanded to Israel as part of the entire command of the Torah. Saints must give when they are able, and see a need for their gifts to go to poor Saints. They also must do what they can to support a truly called pastor who is doing what a Biblical pastor is called to do.