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Tithes & Offerings Under the New Covenant?

Several years ago, I was taught that there were two economies - the world’s economy and God’s economy. I was required to give the Lord 10% of my income to operate in God's economy. It was instilled that this was the only way I could experience God’s blessings as a Christian. A preacher I listened to called it God's financial plan for any Christian who desires to prosper.

Back then, some teachers said, “You haven’t given to the Lord when you pay your tithes. You have only paid back what already belongs to him. It is a debt you owe. Your tithe opens the tap; your offering keeps the blessings flowing in. Your tithe opens the windows of heaven; your offerings cause the rain showers to pour down the abundance of heaven.”

Believers who could only give 10% lived under a heavy weight of condemnation because they couldn’t top up their tithe with an offering. While others who could only give regular offerings, but failed to tithe, lived under the threat of a curse.

To make matters worse, some went as far as praying a different prayer for the tithers during their meetings - Prayers of blessing over those who bring the tithe, while those who gave an offering got a general prayer. I guess they did this to motivate those who don’t tithe. The idea was that they were missing out on the blessing. But the practice was manipulative at best.

These analogies and practices sounded great. The inferences sound plausible. But these so-called revelations hold no water without the expounders of these concepts reading things into scripture.

Folks who question the place of our modern-day tithing system are usually labelled rebellious. I can understand why their detractors brand them this way. Money is vital for survival.

When I engage in healthy debates with those who teach and practice some of the things I’ve highlighted, they usually agree that no scripture commands Christians to tithe under the New Covenant. But they assert with enthusiasm, “Tithing is before the Law.”

You know what? They are right. Tithing was practised before the Law of Moses came into play. Abraham was the first person on record to tithe in the Old Testament. Genesis 14:20 (NIV) says, “And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.”

When you read, “Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” It is easy to spin the narrative that Abram gave Melchizedek a 10% of everything he owned. A raft of formal translations of the bible seems to give this impression. But this is not the case.

Abram gave the priest a tithe of all the goods he recovered from battle. The New Living Translation translates Genesis 14:20 this way, “Then Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the goods he had recovered.”

Abram didn’t leave Melchizedek waiting, dash home from the valley of the kings, go through all his possessions, gather his tenth, and then travel back to give it to the King of Salem. Abram was well away from his tent.

The writer of the book of Hebrews lends weight to this fact. Hebrews 7:2 states, “… Then Abraham took a tenth of all he had captured in battle and gave it to Melchizedek.”

Scripture doesn’t explain why Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder. Some experts think that offering a tenth was common practice in antiquity. People gave a tithe of their goods to a deity, acknowledging their role in helping them succeed in battle.

Whatever the case may be, it was a voluntary gift by Abram. He willingly gave it to Melchizedek after he blessed him (Genesis 14:17-20).

The other person mentioned in connection to tithing before the Law was Jacob, the grandson of Abraham. After the fallout between him and his twin brother Esau, he set off for Haran as instructed by his father Isaac (Genesis 28:1-7). He stopped over to get some rest. The Lord spoke to him in a dream and assured him about his trip. He told Jacob He would bring him back and give him the land (Genesis 28:10-17).

After setting up the stone he laid on as a memorial pillar and anointing it with olive oil, he named the place Bethel (house of God).

Jacob didn’t just stop there. He said in Genesis 28:20-22, "If God will indeed be with me and protect me on this journey, and if he will provide me with food and clothing, and if I return safely to my father's home, then the LORD will certainly be my God. And this memorial pillar I have set up will become a place for worshipping God, and I will present to God a tenth of everything he gives me."

He vowed to give the Lord a tithe of everything He blesses him. However, this was based on the condition that the Lord provides for him with food, clothing and a safe return to his father’s house. It was voluntary. God never put a gun to his head to vow. His arm wasn’t twisted to make this pronouncement. He committed of his own volition.

The funny thing is, if any of us ever adopted Jacob’s vow as a template for New Testament giving, no local church would get a dime. Church leaders would have to wait for God to fulfil His end of the bargain before the saints honour their vows.

Therefore, the cursed with the curse argument doesn’t stand up to the scrutiny of scripture, particularly when the concept of tithing before the Law is floated. No minister who claims to live under the New Covenant should use the scriptures in Malachi to club believers with guilt and condemnation. We shouldn’t be coaxing congregations to tithe by praying a special prayer for those who give a tenth and a general blessing for those who brought an offering.

Tithing under the Law wasn’t a master key to biblical prosperity. It certainly isn’t a master key under the New Covenant.

The Israelites were commanded to tithe under the law to take care of the needs of the Levites (Leviticus 27:30-32). They were the only tribe that did not receive an inheritance from the Lord. When the Promise Land was divided among God’s people, they were not given anything. The Lord said the offerings and tithes of the children of Israel would be their inheritance. He was their inheritance (Numbers 18:20-24; Joshua 13:14).

The Priests didn’t just take care of worship. They also had numerous functions. They determined whether a person should be quarantined or not if there was an outbreak of some sort (Leviticus 13). They carried out building inspections (Leviticus 14:33-57). The tithe was a form of tax to keep Israel running.

The tithe took care of the widows and the poor (Deuteronomy 26:12-15). The tithe took care of the needs of a whole tribe (Deuteronomy 18:1-8; Numbers 18:20-21;). So when the children of Israel refused to pay their tithes and bring their offerings, they were robbing God (Malachi 3:8-10). They were reducing the Levites to penury. Worship could not function as it should, nor could the state. The state agents, the Priests, had to find another way to survive and take care of their families, which resulted in them neglecting their duties (Nehemiah 13:10-14). The storehouse was empty.

In closing, I am not saying you shouldn’t support your local church financially. As believers, we should support the work with our resources. But scripture never said tithing was a financial plan for the church. It never suggests it is a master key for success. It is not a debt cancellation instrument. It is not a substitution for proper planning and hard work. It was to keep the Old Covenant priesthood functioning as God intended. It was to take care of the whole tribe of Levi, the poor, the widows and orphans.

Our Master's early ministry wasn’t supported by Old Testament tithing. There was no threat of a curse. People who benefited from His ministry willingly supported Him and his disciples from their resources.

Luke 8:1-3 says, “Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.

If this free will model was good enough for Jesus and his disciples (the early Apostles), it should be good enough for us.

Remain firm in His Grace. Enjoy the rest of your week.

Pastor O.

Revised blog post - Originally published 17 December 2015

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