SPECIAL TOPIC: TITHING

The NT has few references to tithing. I do not believe the NT teaches tithing because this entire setting is against "nit-picking" Jewish legalism and self-righteousness (i.e., Matt. 23:13-36). I believe the NT guidelines for regular giving (if there are any) are found in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 (i.e., referring to the one-time gift of the Gentile churches to the poor of the Mother Church in Jerusalem), which go far beyond tithing!  If a Jew with only the information of the OT was commanded to give ten to thirty percent (there are two, possibly three, required tithes in the OT; see Special Topic: Tithes in the Mosaic Legislation), then Christians should give far beyond and not even take the time to discuss the tithe!

NT believers must be careful of turning Christianity into a new legal performance-oriented code (Christian Talmud). Their desire to be pleasing to God causes them to try to find guidelines for every area of life.  However, theologically it is dangerous to pull old covenant rules which are not reaffirmed in the NT (i.e., The Jerusalem Council of Acts 15) and make them dogmatic criteria, especially when they are claimed (by modern preachers) to be causes of calamity or promises of prosperity (cf. Malachi 3).

Here is a good quote from Frank Stagg, New Testament Theology, pp. 292-293.

"The New Testament does not once introduce tithing into the grace of giving. Tithes are mentioned only three times in the New Testament:

1. in censoring the Pharisees for neglect of justice, mercy, and faith while giving meticulous care to the tithing of even garden produce (Matt. 23:23; Luke 11:42)

2. in the exposure of the proud Pharisee who 'prayed to himself,' boasting that he fasted twice each week and tithed all his possessions (Luke 18:12)

3. in arguing for the superiority of Melchizedek, and hence of Christ, to Levi (Heb. 7:6-9).

"It is clear that Jesus approved tithing as a part of the Temple system, just as in principle and practice he supported the general practices of the Temple and the synagogues. But there is no indication that he imposed any part of theTemple cultus on his followers. Tithes were chiefly produce, formerly eaten at the sanctuary by the one tithing and later eaten by the priests. Tithing as set forth in the Old Testament could be carried out only in a religious system built around a system of animal sacrifice."

 "Many Christians find the tithe to be a fair and workable plan for giving. So long as it is not made to be a coercive or legalistic system, it may prove to be a happy plan.  However, one may not validly claim that tithing is taught in the New Testament.  It is recognized as proper for Jewish observance (Matt. 23:23; Luke 11:42), but it is not imposed upon Christians.  In fact, it is now impossible for Jews or Christians to tithe in the Old Testament sense. Tithing today only faintly resembles the ancient ritual practice belonging to the sacrificial system of the Jews."

 

 Stagg has summed it up.

 "While much may be said for adopting the tithe voluntarily as a standard for one's giving without rigidly imposing it upon others as a Christian requirement, it is clear in adopting such a practice that one is not carrying on the Old Testament practice.  At most one is doing something only remotely analogous to the tithing practice of the Old Testament, which was a tax to support the Temple and the priestly system, a social and religious system which no longer exists. Tithes were obligatory in Judaism as a tax until the destruction of the Temple in a.d. 70, but they are not thus binding upon Christians.

"This is not to discredit tithing, but it is to clarify its relationship to the New Testament.  It is to deny that the New Testament supports the coerciveness, legalistic, profit motive, and the bargaining which so often characterize the tithing appeals today.  As a voluntary system, tithing offers much; but it must be redeemed by grace if it is to be Christian. To plead that 'it works' is only to adopt the pragmatic tests of the world.  Much 'works' that is not Christian.  Tithing, if it is to be congenial to New Testament theology, must be rooted in the grace and love of God."

 

Copyright © 2014 Bible Lessons International