TO TITHE OR NOT TO TITHE: THE SEARCH FOR TRUTH

Throughout the Bible study I prayed for His guidance and in the end I reached the inescapable conclusion that the "tithe" is to the modern church what the issue of "circumcision" was to the church in Paul’s time.

The verse most often cited in support of the tithe is from the Old Testament, found in Malachi 3:8-10: "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. "But you ask, `How do we rob you?' "In tithes and offerings. . You are under a curse--the whole nation of you--because you are robbing me. . Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it."

Many preachers shorten Malachi 3:8-10 to just "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse", and almost always with the inference that their church is the "storehouse". For purposes of this paper, the Lord had me concentrate on the passage: "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house". From that passage, the Lord had me research several questions:

    1) What is the tithe?
    2) What was the tithe for?
    3) What is the storehouse?

1) What is the tithe? The tithe is 10% of the increase, established in Leviticus 27:30-33 as an offering Holy to the Lord. The scripture identifies the tithe as grain and fruit, herd and flock. The tithe is food! An example of the tithe can be seen in a shepherd with a flock of 100 sheep who is blessed with the birth of 50 lambs in the spring. Five of the lambs must be offered to the Lord as a tithe. The tithe was brought to the temple in Jerusalem in acknowledgement and appreciation of God’s provision for His people.

2) What was the tithe for? God doesn’t need the food – God doesn’t eat.  God doesn’t desire sacrifices or offerings (Psalm 40:6 and Hosea 6:6 ) – He desires mercy.   God doesn’t need us to give Him a 10th of everything – when He already owns everything ( Psalm 24:1 and Job 41:11b ). The tithe was used to feed the Levite priests (and their families) who were required to work in the temple day and night ministering to God on behalf of God’s people ( 1 Chronicles 9:33 ). Without the tithe, the Levite priests would have needed to raise their own food, thereby taking them away from ministering before God. Hence the reference in Malachi 3:10 "…that there may be food in my house".  

Nehemiah 13:10-13 records a time when the Levite priests were not receiving the tithe wherein they abandoned their daily temple responsibilities to work the farms to feed their families.   The reference to ‘robbing God’ in Malachi 3:8 is in fact robbing God of ministry and worship by failing to take care of God’s priests through the tithe of food items.   Unlike the other tribes of Israel who were given land as their inheritance, the Levites were not given any land – only a few cities in which to live.   God was their inheritance ( Numbers 18:20-21 ).   Thus, the remaining tribes were obligated to provide the Levites with food since they had no land on which to grow their own.

3) What is the storehouse? 2 Chronicles 31 teaches that the storehouse is the Temple in Jerusalem. When the tithe was re-instituted under King Hezekiah, the king gave orders to prepare storerooms in the temple to hold the tithe.

Having established the original purpose of the tithe, the Lord prompted me with several more questions.

Q: "What happened to the temple (storehouse)?"
A:   It was destroyed in 70AD and has not been rebuilt.

Q: "Why?"
A: The old covenant system of animal sacrifice to atone for sin is finished. The new covenant is in the blood of Christ who is the final and everlasting sin sacrifice.

Q: "Where is the temple now?"
A: 1 Corinthians 6:19 says WE are the temple of the Holy Spirit.  God no longer resides in a stone temple, but in the hearts of his children through the Holy Spirit.

Q: "What happened to the Levite priests?"
A: The Levite priesthood is no longer necessary as the old covenant system of animal sacrifice in the temple was superceded by the everlasting covenant of Christ’s blood.

Q: "Who is the priesthood now?"
A: 1 Peter 2:5 and 9 says those who have received Jesus as Lord and Savior are the priesthood.

Burdening the Body of Christ with the Tithe requires several twists and reinterpretations of scripture.  This part is where the original author and I differ slightly.  We certainly end up drawing the same conclusions, we just arrive their differently. 

1) The tithe must be imported from the OT law of Moses to the new covenant of grace by Christ’s blood.  In truth, the tithe has indeed been carried over to the new covenant.  It was the Lord Himself who said "For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.Since we do not yet see a 'New Jerusalem'; all has not been fulfilled... 

We should clearly understand though that "...the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death."  Jesus said to Nicodemus "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." We should conclude then that the "law of the Spirit" is manifested through cheerful giving, while the "law of sin and death" works through the manipulation of Malachi chapter 3 and the fear of being cursed associated with it.

We understand then that "the law" Jesus spoke of is the "law of the Spirit" active in this present age.  Remember "... 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."

It is also important to note that the correction of Ananias and Sapphira had nothing to do with the giving or receiving of finances.  In Peters own words the question was..."While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control?So then the question was not about lawful ownership (in other words it wasn't a tithe)... because the problem; as we all know was lying to God.

2) The tithe must be redefined from "flocks, herds, fruit and grain" to "money" and often "time".   I am fully convinced in my own heart that this is not a "twist", but is in fact true.  What most fail to realize is that in context  "flocks, herds, fruit and grain" was in fact a form of currency in biblical times.  "Time" is in fact a form of tithing as well since it is very easy to see that it took time to shepherd the flocks and herds, and it also took time to cultivate and harvest the fruit and grain.  The time it takes to shepherd or cultivate if you will modern currency is in fact equivalent to the value of time spent shepherding/cultivating the currency of "flocks, herds, fruit and grain."  Again though it must be emphasized that the use of our time as part of the tithe is governed by the "law of the Spirit."  In other words... "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God."

3) The storehouse must be redefined from the temple in Jerusalem to the local church building.   I certainly agree that a doctrine of demons has manipulated this as well; but I think the Holy Spirit working through the apostles redefined the storehouse, and then this redefinition was manipulated by the institution of man.  I praise God daily for those who see the lie and are set free from the manipulation, but I also grieve that most of these precious saints fail to grasp the New Testament framework as defined by the Holy Spirit.  In a very clear way, The Holy Spirit has shown me that there was a "law of the Spirit" manifested in cheerful giving that overtook the early Jerusalem church in much the same way that the cheerful giving overcame the children of Israel that came out of Egypt, as they gave their gold and silver for the construction of the tabernacle. 

This next part is very difficult to communicate to those who have been set free from the "law of sin and death" obligation to tithe.  I implore you to consider that having no apostolic framework for the receiving and "daily distribution" of finances is equivalent to having no wineskin.  Remember an old wineskin or having no wineskin bring forth the same result... the wine is spilt or if you will... Kingdom resources are squandered.

Unfortunately many in this present age having been freed from the "law of sin and death" feel free to designate their tithe in a "Spirit led" way.  A principle of being Spirit led says "Let each be fully convinced in his own mind"  If after reading this you are still fully convinced, then I commend you to the Lord on this issue; as His word says "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

I beseech you though to consider the following: One very important point that must be addressed here is apostolic mission.  Many scholars now understand that the principles adopted by the church in Acts 15 were an affirmation of principles that the Jews had in place at least since the time of Ezra.  These principles (known as the Noachide laws) made possible interaction between Jews and Gentiles in a society where Jews no longer had political control over the land in which they lived.  There was one positive injunction which was not put into writing because it was an apostolic function that was being walked out.  This function was to establish courts of justice among the people of God.  I am convinced the Lord has revealed that the establishment of "courts of justice" is in fact the apostolic doctrine that the Jerusalem church practiced.  In part, this is why the people (giving cheerfully) sold their possessions, brought the money and laid it at the apostles feet. 

When the question was raised by the Hellenists concerning the daily distribution to the widows; the apostles, recognizing that they could no longer handle the full scope of overseeing justice in the church brought forth the office and function of deacons to administrate this matter.  In other words when the unjust scales of neglecting the Greek speaking widows was pointed out to the apostles; they set forth standards for choosing men (and  later women) "of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word."  

When we feel that we can administer the "daily distribution"  ourselves, being led by the Spirit, then we thwart the purpose of apostolic framework judging and promoting ourselves to be "of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdomUnmistakably, the apostolic doctrine was for the corporate body to seek out those from among them who also met the qualifications later communicate to us in 1 Timothy chapter 3.   As I carefully examined this issue, I have come to this conclusion:  Churches and people that have departed from apostolic doctrine concerning the giving and receiving of tithes, and continue to resist apostolic framework for governing the assembly of His people; will eventually pervert the courts of justice in the midst of His spiritual house.

4) The Body of Christ must buy into the ordained clergy as the new priesthood, thereby replacing the Levite priesthood as the rightful recipient of the tithe.   I am mostly in agreement with this statement with a couple qualifiers.

Paul in writing to Timothy said "And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministryPaul was counted faithful through the working of the Holy Spirit... and having been called, he was later separated into the ministry  This course is open to any that God has called into five fold ministry as the "law of the Spirit" would say "And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely." 

Not to make this an exclusive club, it should also be said that anyone led to work in the field of the Lord to such an extent that their time is consumed by their God given ministry; these precious saints should also be recipients in the "daily distribution" administered through chosen and appointed deacons and deaconesses.  We need to remember though that Our Heavenly Father is THE MASTER FISHERMAN, and by the time you are involved in ministry to the point of justifying being part of the daily distribution because your time is consumed by the Kingdom of God; it will become apparent to all that you have a five fold calling on your life as well.

Ask yourself this question:  How will the true church ever grow without the constant equipping and release of more and more five fold ministers.  Remember though the way of the institutional church is dead as many obtain a degree of some kind, begin drawing an unlawful salary, having never picked up the Cross of Christ.  

This thought though needs to be balanced with an understanding that "Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel." (1 Corinthians 9:14)  Personally though my hope is to walk my calling out with enough provision from "tent making" that "I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel."  This is my personal desire though and should in no way be presented as THE standard to other ministers especially when you consider what Paul shared with his younger disciple in 2 Timothy 2:6 "The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops."

5) The Body of Christ must forfeit their own priesthood and buy into the notion that they are the "laity".  I agree that this notion is false, except we need to recognize again that God does separate certain brothers and sisters into five fold ministry callings as they are counted faithful. Keep in mind there is framework and structure and order of authority (captains of hundreds, fifties, etc).  Some would say that this fosters disunity; but the Word of God says in 1Corinthians 11:19: "For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you.The point that needs to be stressed here is that the "factions" do not represent an ecclesiastical hierarchy, but instead they are the discipline and military order needed by an army, and are necessary for victory in battle.

The tithe has been introduced to the Body of Christ using 2 tactics of the enemy.

1) Sowing guilt and shame into the Body of Christ by quoting Malachi 3:8 "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, `How do we rob you?' In tithes and offerings." What devoted Christian wants to rob God? The net effect of sowing guilt has been to extort money from the Body of Christ, thereby robbing the Body of the joy and blessing of giving as God leads. The practice ignores Paul’s instructions to the church at Corinth: "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver ( 2 Corinthians 9:7 )."

2) Blaming the "laity" for the financial troubles in the Body of Christ by telling the Body they are not blessed by God because they do not tithe. Often Malachi 3:10 is emphasized "Test me in this, says the LORD Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it." In so doing, believers are challenged to tithe, with the promise that God will bless them if they do.

My thought in this is simply how tragic and yes, how blasphemous it is to share the gospel of God's great love for us on one hand, and to be told  in the same meeting that we somehow have to buy the Father's blessing with our tithe.  By hammering on Malachi 3:9 ("You are cursed with a curse...") the institution is activating a curse against the institution itself. Why do I believe this?  Because Galatians 3:13 says that "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree

So then leaders in the institutional church in attempting to measure a curse on God's children... (I believed unwittingly) have had this curse measured back to them and to the institutional church they represent.  Why?... because Christ did not die on the Cross to redeem the institution from the curse, He died to redeem us.

Such giving is not out of love for God, but out of selfishness. It implies a reward for works, which contradicts Ephesians 2:8-9, and completely ignores our status as sons of God by faith in Christ ( Galatians 3:26 ) and joint heirs of God with Christ ( Romans 8:17 ).

The Apostles Did Not Teach Gentiles To Tithe, instead they encouraged cheerful giving

Acts 15:1-31 records a dispute over circumcision that arose in the Gentile church at Antioch. Several false brothers had attempted to require Gentile (non-Jewish) Christians to be circumcised. Paul and Barnabas sharply opposed the false brothers and traveled to Jerusalem to discuss the issue of circumcision with the other apostles. In Jerusalem, they reported the miracles and conversions among the Gentiles. The apostles were filled with joy over God’s work there, and they agreed that circumcision was not a requirement for salvation. Following the meeting, the apostles and elders in the church at Jerusalem sent Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch with a letter of welcome to the Gentile Christians. The essential text of the letter is found in Acts 15:28-29. It reads: "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell."

 

Come, Let Us Reason Together ( Isaiah 1:18 )

Let’s suppose for the sake of argument that Jesus had commanded us to continue tithing. It would be appropriate then to use the tithe to feed the priesthood as originally purposed. Who then is the priesthood? The apostle Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:5 and 9 that every believer is a priest !   Hebrews 5-8 also teaches us that Jesus is the only priest that we need . However the institutional church has borrowed from the Old Testament model of the Levitical Priesthood, thereby establishing a new priesthood (ordained clergy) that is separate from the rest of the Body of Christ. The division between the clergy, and the so-called "laity" is not Biblical (Is this the doctrine of the Nicolaitans that Jesus says He hates in Revelation 2:6 )?  In fact, Jesus did not establish the ordained clergy – He chose fishermen and tax collectors to preach His gospel.  The apostles did not set up an ordained clergy – they chose men full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom to serve the Body ( Acts 6:3, 1 Timothy 3 ). This man-made division between "clergy" and "laity" has effectively served to divert the offerings of the Body of Christ away from the people it is intended to bless and the offerings are most often used in ways contrary to the will of God. The net result has been starvation and financial bondage for many believers, and the real priesthood – the whole Body of Christ – has not been prepared to carry out Christ’s command to preach the gospel to all nations!

Jesus is the Word of God in the flesh (John 1:14).  He knew that Malachi 3:10 says "bring the whole tithe into the storehouse" when He instructed the rich man to sell everything and give the proceeds to the poor (Matthew 19:21).   I imagine the Scribes and Pharisees about choked on what Jesus said as they were in the habit of devouring widow’s houses for profit ( Luke 20:47 ) and the rich man’s possessions would have been a real feast for them.   In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus reiterated His desire to help the poor in the parable of separating the sheep from goats, wherein at judgment Jesus will reward those who feed the hungry and clothe the poor.   Since Jesus judges us for our care of the poor and hungry, and since He commands us to preach the gospel throughout the world, why is most of our giving used for church buildings and salaries with only a small percentage devoted to the poor, missions and evangelism?

Is the church making goats out of us by not feeding the hungry and clothing the poor with our offerings?

Let’s not wait until the Judgment of Christ to find out!

Sins of the Church Against the Needy

More recently, I attended a conference where the host appealed to the audience to give "an offering for the poor". I heard the Lord say "the poor are among you" (Mark 14:7) and immediately I thought of a dear friend in attendance who is experiencing financial difficulties and had recently lost her home. The next day I began a letter to the host saying "Last night you took an offering from the poor" . I groaned at the error and started to rip the page from my notebook when the Lord said "that is not an error – last night’s offering was taken from the poor".

The early church had a much better understanding of Christ’s intent to care for the needs of the Body of Christ than we do today. The proof of their caring for each other can be seen in Acts 2:44-47 and Acts 4:32-37 where the Body of Christ shared everything, and through their giving, they eliminated poverty and indebtedness. In fact, Acts 4:34 says "there were no needy persons among them!" Taking up offerings to feed the Body of Christ was common in the early church. In Acts 11:27-30, the Gentile church at Antioch took up an offering for the believers in Judea who were experiencing a time of famine. Can you imagine a church today taking up an offering for a cross-town rival?

How did the church get so far off course?

Giving as Christ Intends

Though the tithe is not a requirement for the Body of Christ, we are still instructed to give. What changed from the Old Testament to the New is our motivation for giving. In the Old Testament, giving was compulsory – a tenth (tithe). In the New Testament we are to give with joy as we are led to give (2 Corinthians 9:7), not by compulsion.

Our attitude about giving should be like that of the poor widow who Jesus esteemed in Mark 12:41-44. She put 2 small copper coins, worth a penny, into the temple treasury. They were all the widow had to live on. She understood that God owns everything and was willing to give all that she had with cheer as God had prompted her to do.

It is time to invest cheerfully in what is eternal, specifically in God’s children for the completion of Kingdom work (Matthew 6:19-21). The children must be fed, clothed and equipped to carry Christ’s gospel throughout the whole world and to make the Bride of Christ ready for her soon returning Savior. Imagine what it could be like if we resumed giving and sharing as Jesus intends. Surely we would rediscover the same abundant and powerful living as the early church enjoyed!

On the topic of giving, John 8:36 might seem like a strange scripture to cite: "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed". While it is true that Jesus set us free from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:10-13), sin and death (Romans 8:2), our failure to give as Jesus taught us has kept the Church in financial bondage, and has prevented the Church from completing the work of Christ on earth. How many children of God fail to reach their full potential as ministers of the Gospel because they lack provision? It is through our giving and sharing that we equip the Church for service, eliminate hunger and poverty, and realize the fullness of our freedom in Christ.

We can no longer afford to misuse the Holy Tithe for church buildings, parsonages, conference centers, multi-purpose buildings, air conditioning, padded pews, pipe organs, and the like, all of which will soon be forgotten, while God's children go hungry, poor and ill equipped to minister the Gospel. Instead, like Abel, we should give our best gifts to the true Church – the people – because we love God and want to see God's work accomplished on the earth.

On concluding my study, the Lord asked one final question: What building ever won a person to Christ?

On the 'Welcome' page to this website I eluded to the words of Jesus when He said "...if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand."  Clearly as we consider New Testament giving, we see that this way is diametrically opposed to the status quo of institutional Christianity.  Is there a solution to this dilemma? I believe there is, but it requires faith and obedience to God's ways. It requires a biblical accounting of the tithe and then trusting the Lord to bring forth the 'wealth of Egypt' in the form of offerings above and beyond the tithe. 

If there is to be genuine breakthrough in this area, as His children

We must

"Trust in the LORD with all (our) hearts,

And lean not on (our) own understanding;

We must

In all (our) ways acknowledge Him,

And He shall direct (our) paths."

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This is a series of excerpts from several articles written by Jack Helser.  His material remains primarily in black.

(Allen Logan) have taken the liberty to comment through much of these excerpts using this color and this color for clarification.

ALL SCRIPTURES UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED ARE FROM "NKJV" VERSION OF THE BIBLE
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