Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Tithe

Dear Pastor Lawyer,

What do you think about the Christian and tithing? Should Christians tithe? If so, how much?

Thanks, Bob

Dear Bob,

The questions about tithing abound. Whether to give, how much, whether it is mandated in the Bible for Christians are questions many Christians have.

Let’s begin with what the Old Testament has to say about the tithe. In Leviticus 27 it says that the tithe (the first and best tenth) of all the crops and everything produced belongs to the Lord and should be brought and given to Him as an offering. Later, in Numbers 18, it says that the tithe that the people bring to the Lord is given to the Levites as their inheritance because they didn’t get any land of their own when the Israelites went into the Promised Land (the Levites ran the religious system in Israel). Of this tithe the Levites were to also take a tenth and give it to God as their offering to him. In this way God was worshiped and given glory through everyone’s income and prosperity. As long as the people worshipped God with thanksgiving and gratitude as shown in their joyfully giving their tithes, God blessed them with immense prosperity. When they stopped giving from a glad heart, they were cursed and eventually lost not only their land, but also their covenant.

Thus enters the New Testament (‘Covenant’ and ‘Testament’ mean the same thing). As long as the Temple still existed, those Christians who were Jewish in the beginning continued to pay their tithe to the Lord. But when the Temple was destroyed, as a sign that the new Covenant had come in its completeness, the Christians stopped participating in the Jewish worship customs. This was primarily because Jesus had fulfilled and completed those customs and there was no longer any need to participate in them (this is not exactly correct, but we’d get too far off the track if I explained it more clearly).

In the New Testament Church then, there is no need to pay the Jewish tithe. On the other hand, Christians are commanded to love their neighbors and to support their leaders financially. Because of this, giving has always been a large part of Christian worship. In Acts 2, for example, in order that they might help those less fortunate than themselves, the saints gave money they had received from the sale of property. This was probably far more than one tenth of their total income. In 2 Corinthians 9 the Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians that he is going to take a collection for the poor and that they should give to the need for the glory of God and the pleasure of serving him (this even though they were already poor).

Further, the leaders of the Christian church have always been provided for by the people of the churches. In 1 Timothy 5 it says that the elders who do a good job are worthy of double honor (this is not saying that pastors should be made rich, but that the attitude of the people should be one of giving). It also says that the flock should care for those who serve the church. This is because Christians love one another and because one of the first places where you can see their love is by how they treat their leaders. There are many other passages that talk about how the church's people are to financially treat their church leaders, but suffice it to say that God is pleased when his people love one another.

So then, the New Testament does not command that Christians give a tithe. What it does command is that the people in the church financially support and maintain those who prayerfully and Biblically support and maintain their souls — their pastors. I don’t want to say that people ought to sell their property or that they shouldn’t buy more and more toys, because Scripture doesn’t say that. However, I do want to point out that the people in the Bible, because of the joy of serving God, did what was necessary to bless God by taking care of their God-given responsibilities. I hope this helps.

Pastor Lawyer

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