Category Archives: Finance

In defense of tithing

Ryan French, a fellow Apostolic minister, recently posted a wonderfully helpful article, “How to Hurt Your Pastor,” in which (among other things) he mentioned tithing. As you might imagine, someone started taking pot shots at tithing (in the comments), in obvious opposition. Both he and I responded in the comments, in defense of tithing. As Ryan explained his thoughts (in a reply to a comment) he defended tithing as a practice of faith for believers:

First, Abraham chose to tithe because he recognized that everything was God’s in the first place (Genesis 14:19). This is a common thread throughout the Bible… that God has entrusted us as stewards of his goods (…the earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof).

Secondly, When Abraham and Jacob began tithing it was … before the Law of Moses had been instituted. This places tithing firmly in the category of timeless moral law. For example, THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT ADULTERY is Old Testament law but it is timeless and moral and carries over into the New Testament (consider Genesis 28:20-22).

Thirdly, Leviticus 27:30-31 shows that the Israelites could either give 10% in produce or 12% IN CASH. When it came to livestock, a shepherd had to set aside every tenth for God. In other words, if they were going to give actual money God required 2% more than if they were going to give in produce or livestock. Beyond all of that, produce and livestock were considered currency in the same way that cash is considered currency today. People bartered with produce and livestock because it was often all they had.

Fourth, Numbers 18:21 establishes God’s precedent that tithing would be for the work of the ministry. God has always considered spiritual things to be worthy of full-time attention.

Fifth, over half of Jesus’ parables talk about money and yet Jesus never once mentioned the earth-shattering fact that tithing is obsolete. In fact, he did the opposite in Matthew 23:23… he rebukes the Pharisees for neglecting weightier things than tithing but then carefully tells them that they should in fact tithe. Another time, Jesus uses a poor widow giving her last penny to the temple as an object lesson for his disciples. Why didn’t he run to her and say you don’t have to do that anymore? Because the principles of tithes and offerings are timeless and moral in the kingdom of God.

Finally, the early apostolic Church, as far back as history records, understood that tithing is the means by which the Church provides for the work of the ministry. I suppose if we wanted to really be like the early New Testament saints we would need to sell everything and give it to the Church. Such was the custom in their zealousness.

Regarding Ryan’s fourth point (“Numbers 18:21 establishes God’s precedent that tithing would be for the work of the ministry. God has always considered spiritual things to be worthy of full-time attention”) I added:

The Apostle Paul specifically linked New Covenant support for gospel preachers to the “same manner” (the “same way”) the Old Testament priests were provided for, which of course referred to tithing and offerings. This is clear in 1 Corinthians 9, especially take note of vv. 13-14.

KJV: {13} Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? {14} Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.

NIV: {13} Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? {14} In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.

Notice the KJV wording “Even so…” (we ought to ask “how so?”) and/or the NIV wording “in the same way” (we should ask “the same way as what?”). The answer is clear: tithes and offerings.

The same way that provision was made for priests in the Old Testament is how it is to be done for full-time gospel ministers in the New Testament. Can a minister forego this right and not accept? Certainly, as Paul himself chose to do at some points. However, that does not permanently waive the right for that minister, nor remove or bar the practice for others.

1 Corinthians 9:14 directly links with Numbers 18:21, i.e. the New Testament gospel minister is connected to tithes the same way Old Testament priests were connected to tithes.

More thoughts of mine followed:

The most common errors of those who claim tithing was “Mosaic Law” and “done away with,” involve:

  • mistaking New Testament verses about emergency relief effort giving as a supposed substitute for tithing (a notion which cannot be supported, biblically),
  • and (the above then often leads to such) wrongfully thinking they know what is /supposed/ to happen “instead of tithing” under the New Covenant,
  • and finally, missing/overlooking the significance of New Testament links to Old Testament mentions of tithing, forming a functional biblical model for people of faith.

Here are a few questions for anti-tithe people:

Since you are professed to not be against giving, but rather against basing one’s giving on a set percentage of increase (which is a biblically based model and enables important functions of the believer’s family life, such as budgeting / financial planning), then what biblical model for giving do you appeal to as a substitute for the biblical model of tithing?

Whatever biblical model you claim as a substitute for the biblical model of tithing, are you sure you have not simply mistaken emergency relief effort giving as something else that it was never intended to be?

Is your biblically-based model absent any set percentage, making forecasting and budgeting extremely difficult if not nearly impossible? Or are all percentages acceptable except such that are prominent in Scripture?

Do you accept that any believer is free to choose a percentage-based plan, and then free to choose any percentage of increase they wish as their basis for regular giving? Or are you just “put off” by the 10% figure and/or an old word for “tenth” (tithe, aka 1/10th)?

If you accept that a believer is free to choose a percentage-based plan for their giving, do you accept that the same believer can in faith derive from the Bible a long-standing example of 10% as support for their choice to use that percentage?

Given that preachers / pastors who view tithing as an act of faith then teach it as such (not a bondage or entrapment or burden) why vilify or criticize them for doing do?

A certain anti-tither responded with the following:

You would have tithe more than 10% according to the law. I believe it is 23%. You are debtor to do the whole law you if you are going to tithe that includes the Old Covenant sacrifices.

What follows was my reply:

  1. Many aspects of a faith-based life predate the Mosaic Law. This includes tithing.
  2. The word “tithe” literally means “tenth” as in 10%. One cannot have “one-tenth” magically become 23%. One could possibly owe a “convenience fee” on top of the tithe, or give an additional offering beyond the tithe, but a tithe (a tenth) cannot be anything other than one tenth. This is common sense.
  3. Because biblically-based tithing in based on increase, the frequency does not affect the percent. Tithing once a week versus once a month does not increase the percentage from 10% to 40%, because if the the increase stays the same, so the percentage stays the same. This also is common sense.

Finally, I asked:

What policy do you practice regarding giving? Does your policy have a biblical basis? If so, what is that basis?