Tithing is overwhelmingly misunderstood in modern western evangelical and protestant churches. The Bible teaches Tithing only as a Israelite/Jewish command, and under scrutiny of Bible passages, does NOT resemble the “tithe” in the modern church. Tithing was God's command to the Jews and has nothing to do with Christian/N.T. believers.
Apostolic writers talked about “giving as the believe sees fit”, and “sharing all your possessions with the poor”. The idea of a tithe being required from Christians by God was brought into the post-apostolic church in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, when bishops started making full-time jobs out of their church positions. Bishops began to consolidate power in the churches, and a distinction materialized at this time between “clergy” and “laity”. Prior to that, ministers/bishops retained their full-time jobs and also worked as bishop; and tithing was not a part of church life (except for Jewish Christians who still attended to temple traditions).
The FACTS about Tithing in the Scriptures:
Problems for people who say Christians must Tithe to the church?
Many Christian leaders would make the argument that the church is now equivalent to the temple, and the pastors and ministers are equivalent to the Levite priests. However, we already said how every believer is a priest in the Kingdom of Heaven, so that equivalency fails. And, the word "church" in the New Testament has nothing to do with the Jewish temple. The word for church in Greek, "koinonia", means gathering of people, not a building nor a structure. So there is no equivalency between the body of believers and the temple of the Old Testament.
Bible Verses on Tithing
Genesis 14:16-20, Abraham Tithes to King-Priest Melchizedek from the Spoils of War from Sodom and Gomorrah.
Leviticus 27:30-33, Tithe of the land (seed/fruit), and of the herd/flock, explained.
Numbers 18:21-32, Tithes (Tenth) Given to the Levites by God
Deuteronomy 14:22-29, How the Tithe is separated for the Levite, stranger, orphans, widows
Malachi 3:6-12, Israelites have robbed God by not practicing His ordinance of Tithing
Hebrews 7:1-28, Tithing to Melchizedek and the priesthood in O.T. explained, not commanded for believers
Jesus' Teaching on Tithing
The number of Jesus' direct teachings on Tithing ... none. Jesus never taught specifically the Chrisitan's role regarding Tithing. If it was important for the practicing believer in Him to do, wouldn't the apostles have recorded even one sentence where He said something like, "You should always tithe to the gathering of belivers, 10 percent." But He doesn't say that, or anything like it at all.
He does mention the tithe, but always in the (correct) context of the Mosaic Law.
For instance, Matthew 23:23 - "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier [matters] of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. "
Points in this passage:
Giving, not Tithing
What Jesus did spend time teaching was not tithing, but giving. The principle He put forth could possibly be boiled down to "be willing to give whatever you have if you see that others have need."
2 Corinthians 9:6-8 says that each man should give cheerfully, as he sees fit from his heart, and that God loves a cheerful giver.
Writings of Early Church Fathers on Tithing
While there were many pre-Nicean (pre A.D. 325) early church fathers whose writings still exist, until Cyprian, they did not write about any form of suggested enforced tithing at all. These include Clement of Rome, Mathetes, Polycarp, Ignatius, Barnabas, Papias, Justin, the Pastor of Hermas, Tatian, Theophilus of Antioch, Athenagoras, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Minucius Felix, Commodianus, Origen, Hippolytus, Caius, and Novatium.
Irenaeus, 175-185 A.D.
“And for this reason did the Lord, instead of that [commandment], `You shall not commit adultery,’ forbid even concupiscence; and instead of that which runs thus, `You shall not kill,’ He prohibited anger; and instead of the law enjoining the giving of tithes, to share all our possessions with the poor; and not to love our neighbors only, but even our enemies; and not merely to be liberal givers and bestowers, but even that we should present a gratuitous gift to those who take away our goods”
“And the class of oblations in general has not been set aside; for there were both oblations there [among the Jews], and there are oblations here [among the Christians]. Sacrifices there were among the people; sacrifices there are, too, in the Church: but the species alone has been changed, inasmuch as the offering is now made, not by slaves, but by freemen. For the Lord is [ever] one and the same; but the character of a servile oblation is peculiar [to itself], as is also that of freemen, in order that, by the very oblations, the indication of liberty may be set forth. For with Him there is nothing purposeless, nor without signification, nor without design. And for this reason they (the Jews) had indeed the tithes of their goods consecrated to Him, but those who have received liberty set aside all their possessions for the Lord’s purposes , bestowing joyfully and freely not the less valuable portions of their property, since they have the hope of better things [hereafter]; as that poor widow acted who cast all her living into the treasury of God.
Justin Martyr, 150-160 A.D.
And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succors the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need.
Didache, or Teaching of the Twelve (150-200 A.D.)
When the apostle goes forth, let him take nothing but bread, until he reaches his lodging: if he asks for money, he is a false prophet…. But whosoever shall say in spirit, ‘Give me money, or other things,’ you shall not listen to him; but it he bids you to give for others that are in need, let no man judge him.”
“Let every one that ‘comes in the name of the Lord’ be received” and proven…. “If he wishes to abide with you, being a craftsman, let him work and eat. If he has no craft, use your common sense to provide that he lives with you as a Christian, without idleness. If he is unwilling to do so, he is a ‘Christ monger.’ Beware of such.”
Tertullian (150-220 A.D.)
Every man brings some modest coin once a month or whenever he wishes, and only if he is willing and able; it is a freewill offering. You might call them the trust-funds of piety; they are spent…on the support and burial of the poor…
Cyprian followed Tertullian in Carthage (North Africa only) and was probably the first influential leader to suggest (unsuccessfully) that tithes should support a full-time clergy.
Jewish Views on Tithing
The Encyclopedia Americana says, “It [tithing] was not practiced in the early Christian church, but gradually became common by the 6th century.”
The Catholic Encyclopedia (1912 edition only) says, “In the beginning [provision] was supplied by the spontaneous support of the faithful.
The Council of Tours in 567 and the Council of Macon in 585 enacted regional church decrees for tithing and excommunication of non-tithers, but did not receive authority from the king to enforce collection through civil decrees. It is significant that tithing did not emerge historically until the church became powerful in the secular realm. Even at this late date tithes were still only food.
Southern Baptists define tithing as an “expectation” and some of its churches are pushing to make tithing a requirement for membership (in addition to holding church offices).
Scholars and Theologians who DON'T teach Tithing
For those of you who really respond to appeals to authority, here is a list of renowned scholars and theologians (ancient and modern) who do not agree with teaching tithing to believers. You will recognize many of these names.
Arnold Fruchtenbaum Ph.D.
B. B. Warfield (1851 – 1921)
Bob Utley Ph. D.
Bruce Metzger (1914 – 2007)
C. S. Lewis (1898 – 1963)
C.I. Scofield (1843 – 1921)
Charles Buck (1771–1815)
Charles C. Ryrie (1925)
Charles Spurgeon (1834 – 1892)
David Croteau, Ph.D.
Erasmus (1466 – 1536)
F.F. Bruce (1910 – 1990)
Francis Chan (1967)
Francis Turretin (1623 – 1687)
Frank Stagg (1911-2001)
Franz Pieper 1852 – 1931
G. Campbell Morgan
George Barna (1955)
George Fox (1624 – 1691)
Irenaeus (130 – 202)
J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., LL.D (1904 – 1988)
James Montgomery Boice (1938 – 2000)
John Bunyan (1628 – 1688)
John Cotton (1585 – 1652)
John Gill (1697 – 1771)
John Huss (1369 – 1415)
John MacArthur (1939)
John Milton (1608 – 1674)
John Nelson Darby (1800 – 1882)
John Owen (1616 – 1683)
John Piper (1946)
John Robinson (1576 – 1625)
John Smyth (1570 – 1612)
John Wesley (1703 – 1791)
John Wycliffe (1330 – 1384)
Justin Martyr (100 – 165)
Lewis Sperry Chafer
Martin Luther (1483 – 1546)
Matthew Henry (1662 – 1714)
Origen (184 – 253)
Ray Stedman (1917 – 1992)
Richard C. H. Lenski (1864 – 1936)
Russell Earl Kelly, Ph.D
Tertullian (160 – 220)
Thomas R. Schreiner
W.E. Vine (1873 to 1949)
Walter Elwell, Ph.D. (1937)
William MacDonald (1917 – 2007)
And lots of others...
I have studied the Bible for over 40 years. I focus on the Scripture itself, and study the surrounding writings with the same veracity. Bringing literary and historical context to Bible study.