Why doesn't your church tithe?

Posted: Wed. Apr, 27 2016


From time to time, a well-meaning Christian will say something like this to me: 

“I want to give my tithe.  How do I do that?”

Now the wise guy in me is sorely tempted  - just one time! -  to give this reply:

“Here’s what you need to do.  Call   1-800-829-1040 and let them know you are ready to pay your tithe”.

I know;  the suspense is already killing some of  you.   829….

So no, we do not tithe at Lighthouse Bible Church.

To see why, we first need to understand exactly what the tithe was.  And to do that we will need to head back to the first five books of the Bible. To the Old Testament, and the giving of the Law.


What was the tithe?

According to Fausset’s Bible Dictionary:

TITHE = Tenths of produce, property, or spoils, dedicated to sacred use.

While the practice of giving a tenth of income or property goes all the way back to Abraham (GEN 14:17-20),  the requirement to tithe is found in in the law of Moses.

Under the law of Moses, the tithe was God’s method of support for the Levites and priests.  It also provided  for the welfare of the poor, the stranger, the fatherless and the widow.

There are five major passages that describe tithing, and they are found in the  books of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.   These books were written to Israel, not the church.  The passages include LEV 27:30-32, NUM 18:21-32, DEU 12:5-18, DEU 14:22-29, and DEU 26:12-15).  Read them and you will learn a lot about the tithe.   


What, Who, How much, and When

The tithe was holy to the Lord, and included one tenth of the production of the land, as well as every tenth animal of their herds and flocks.  (LEV 27:30-32)

The tithes in Israel were given to the sons of Levi in return for the service they performed in the tabernacle.  The Levites did not receive a land inheritance like the other tribes of Israel.  (NUM 18:21-23)

The Levites, in turn, were to set aside a tenth of the goods which they received for the use of the high priest.   

The book of Deuteronomy describes  a second tithe.   This second tithe was on the produce of the land only, and was used to celebrate the sacred feasts.   There was  a three year cycle for the tithe.  After two such cycles (6 years), there would come the Sabbath year (year 7) for the land, when no tithe was required.

The sacred feasts were to be family celebrations, where the Levites in the local area were to be invited to participate.

The third year was called the year of tithing. In that year, the tithe of all their produce was deposited in their own town.  Then the Levite would be joined by the alien, the orphan and the widow who lived in that town, and they all would come and eat and be satisfied. (DEU 14:28-29)

Finally, the  head of the household had to declare before the LORD that he had fulfilled all of his obligations under the law in the matter of the tithe.

Out with the Old, with the New

In the Old Testament, the purpose of the giving of a tenth was to meet the material need of the Levite, the priest, the stranger, the fatherless (the orphan), and the widow (DEU 26:12-13).  When the Jews gave their tithes, they acknowledged God's ownership of everything in the earth. The Lord alone provided the land and their possessions for them to enjoy.

Yet the Israelite was motivated by self-interest too, because the blessing of fertile soil was conditioned upon performing all the requirements in the Law.

In the New Testament, the words tithe and tithing appear only eight times (MAT 23:23; LUK 11:42; LUK 18:12; HEB 7:5-6; HEB 7:8-9). And all of these passages refer to Old Testament usage and to Jewish practice.

Nowhere does the New Testament command Christians to tithe.

We Christians are not members of the nation of Israel, and we do not have a Levitical priesthood to support.   

We have something better!

We have the permanent priesthood of our great High Priest, our Lord Jesus Christ.


The only mention of the tithe in the letters to the Church

And so it is highly significant that the only place that the tithe or tithing appears in the New Testament letters is in the book of Hebrews, chapter 7.

This  passage in Hebrews proves  that we have one High Priest, our Lord Jesus Christ.  His priesthood is the only one in effect now in the Church Age.  And He  is far superior to anything that the nation of Israel had under the Levitical priesthood (with its system of taxation called the tithe).

So the sons of Levi who received the priest’s office had commandment in the Law to collect a tenth from the  Hebrew people (HEB 7:5).

But now the priesthood has changed. 

The Mosaic Law has been set aside and a better hope has been brought in forever for us, a better covenant (HEB 7:23-28)


We take our direction from the letters of Paul

And we are NOT under the Law of Moses (ROM 6:14; ROM 7:4; ROM 10:4; GAL 3:23-25; GAL 5:18 ).  Indeed, for us, the Law has been abolished!  (2CO 3:3-13;  EPH 2:15, COL 2:14).

Therefore, we are NOT under the regulations or requirements of the tithe, which all come from the Mosaic Law.

Instead, as members of the body of Christ, we take our direction from the letters of Paul.

OK so now I think we are ready to get back to that phone number.

“Call   1-800-829-1040 and let them know you are ready to pay your tithe”.

Recognize the number?

It is the Customer Service department for the IRS!

The tithe was basically the system of taxation for the nation of Israel in the Old Testament.

You see, taxes are required.  You get in trouble if you don’t pay them.  The law says you have to.

So the tithe was legal in character. Do this and you will be blessed with a rich harvest. Don’t do this and you will be cursed with land that does not yield a harvest. You might  starve.


Tithe? No.

Give? YES!

But now, as Christians, in our life before God, we are not under law but under grace.

Are Christians required to tithe?  No.


Are Christians called to give?  YES!

It’s just that our motivation should be all gratitude and no fear.

We get our instructions about giving from Paul’s letters.

The most detailed treatment of the subject of giving in Paul’s letters appears in 2 Corinthians, chapters 8 and 9.

And the heart of the matter is found in this passage:

2CO 9:6-11
6 Now this I say,  he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; 9 as it is written,


10 Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; 11 you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God.

God loves a cheerful giver.

Now let me ask you something.

When you were doing your taxes this year, how many of you were CHEERFUL?  Not many, right?  Probably not any.  I know I wasn’t.

But I am cheerful when I give freely, like my Daddy in heaven does.


We give BECAUSE we are blessed.

Because of Christ’s work on the cross, we are freed up to give without concern about law or curses.

We give BECAUSE we are blessed.

We  don’t give SO THAT WE WILL be blessed.

This is the difference between law and grace.

Now that Christ has redeemed us, we are no longer slaves but sons. (GAL 4:1-7)

Sons do not tally up percentages and stop.

Sons take care of people using the limitless wealth of their Father.

Sons who do a lot of that get access to a lot of the wealth of the Father.

When we give generously and freely and joyfully,  God blesses us further with wealth, not as a reward for complying with the law, but to enable us to give some more!


Key principles about Christian giving

So in closing, let’s look at several key principles concerning giving as Christians.

Are Christians required to tithe? No. 

Are Christians called to give?  Absolutely.

Giving is an ESSENTIAL part of our lives as Christians.

How does the Lord want us to give?

2CO 8:1-5
1 Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, 2 that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. 3 For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, 4 begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, 5 and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God. 6

Giving should flow out from a life that has first been given to the Lord.

Giving is to be done voluntarily.

2CO 8:11-12
11 But now finish doing it also, so that just as there was the readiness to desire it, so there may be also the completion of it by your ability. 12 For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.

Giving should be done liberally even when we are experiencing times of poverty.

It should be done cheerfully.

And giving is to be done according to the measure of prosperity that the God gives to the individual.

1CO 16:2
On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come.

The more we have left over once we have met our legitimate needs, the more we should give.  If we are barely making ends meet, then we have very little available to give.

Christian giving is a people thing. We give to people.  Brothers and sisters who are in need, and the one who teaches you the word of God.

Giving for Christians is done to meet the needs of other Christians.

ROM 15:26-27
For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. 27 Yes, they were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things.

And the Christian is to share all good things with the one who teaches him.

GAL 6:6-8
6  The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him.  7  Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. 8  For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.


Giving starts and ends with Christ

Giving is like every other part of our life as Christians.

It starts and it ends with Christ.

Keep your eyes on Christ and you’ll get it right.

When you realize that there is no greater love than the love with which Christ and His Father have loved you…

And when you see that He loved you when you were at your worst, He died for you then, He shed His blood for you when you were black with sin…

Then gratitude will fill your heart.

And that’s what the Father wants to see in your heart every time  you give.

When you probe the depths of the Lord’s faithfulness to you...
Over many years and seasons,  and all circumstances.
How He has always provided all you ever needed.

And once we get it, down deep, that our God has always been there for us and always will be,

And how He has already given us the greatest thing He had when He gave us His son
And now He will not withhold us any good thing.
He’ll supply all our needs in Christ Jesus.

He melts our heart

So it starts to become  a joy to give to others
In the name of Jesus.

So keep doing that.
Keep taking it all in,
Listening to the great hymns ,
Reading in the Bible about the wonders of being in Christ.

What a friend we have in Jesus!

And that will soften your heart
And put you in the right heart place:

A place of humble adoration
A place of heartfelt gratitude-
The giving of thanks.

And then will pour out of your heart
Great generosity
Born in love

A love that is kind
A love that hopes all things
A love that never fails.

EPH 5:1-2
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

Until the next time, we’re all ….

In His grip,

Pastor John

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