Charles Mwewa
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Tithing, Law & Grace by Charles Mwewa

debate whether tithing is valid under grace

  

Tithe in Pre-Law Period


Tithe was before the Law of Moses was given. But the context is very important. Tithe was given after the blessing, not before: “Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said: ‘Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.’ And he gave him a tithe of all” (Genesis 14:18-20). Abram is not commanded to tithe pre-law; he does so out of his abundance, out of grace. God never commanded Abram to tithe; he did it simply because Abram wanted to.


Jacob, Abraham’s grandson gave a tithe. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear, and I return to my father's house in safety, then the LORD will be my God. This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God's house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You” (Gen. 28:20–22). 


In this situation Jacob gave a tithe as a form of a guarantee, even a form of bribe, to God. His own sense of insecurity caused him to seek God’s help in this endeavor. Of course, this is not to undermine the veracity of tithing; it is, rather, to show that tithing was used in this way at times, as a form of seeking God’s guaranteed help in difficulty times.


Tithing during the Law Period


“Thus, all the tithe of the land, of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD’S; it is holy to the LORD. If, therefore, a man wishes to redeem part of his tithe, he shall add to it one-fifth of it. For every tenth part of herd or flock, whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the LORD. He is not to be concerned whether it is good or bad, nor shall he exchange it; or if he does exchange it, then both it and its substitute shall become holy. It shall not be redeemed. These are the commandments which the LORD commanded Moses for the sons of Israel at Mount Sinai,” (Leviticus 27: 31-34, Emphasis added). 


Strictly speaking, tithing was a comprehensive Jewish regime. It starts here with the land – it is the LORD’s and a tenth of it was to be given to the LORD. Then the tree, and the herd and the flock – the tenth of each belonged to the LORD. If, by extension, this rule was to be followed today, basically, everything we own would warrant a tenth part to be dedicated to the Lord, not only a tenth of our moneys. Or we would have to sell all we possess and give a tenth to the Lord.


It is important to observe the principle underlying tithing: “…whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the LORD. He is not to be concerned whether it is good or bad, nor shall he exchange it; or if he does exchange it, then both it and its substitute shall become holy. It shall not be redeemed.” God was prepared to receive any tenth part, no matter how good or bad it was. It was a form of gamble or risk-taking mechanism. Sometimes God got the best, and sometimes the worst. This was also true of the people.


Moreover, tithing was compulsory to the people of Israel – “for the sons of Israel." It was a requirement of everyone, including the Levites who gave a form of tithe of tithe, as we shall see later. A distinction is to be made between Judaism and Christianity: The former was a national religion while the latter is mostly a personal relationship. Being in a national religion, the Israelites were mandated to obey all the statutes God set forth before them. This also included tithing as prescribed. Because of its national character, administration of the tithing regime was institutionized, too. Thus, the Levites were some aspect of appointed authorities who received and managed the tithe on behalf of God.


Further, owing to its national character, the element of willingness or willful offering was eliminated. People were compelled to tithe. For example, when some people did not take the tithe to God, God indicted the whole nation: “You are under a curse--your whole nation--because you are robbing me” (Malachi 3:9). 


It seems, from this indictment, that it was not up to an individual; it was compulsory to tithe. The repercussions of failure to tithe were national in consequences. The “sin” of one person could affect the entire nation. It was, therefore, necessary that there was a form of national management of the tithing regime.


“Then the LORD said to Aaron, ‘You shall have no inheritance in their land nor own any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the sons of Israel.’ To the sons of Levi, behold, I have given all the tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service which they perform, the service of the tent of meeting. The sons of Israel shall not come near the tent of meeting again, or they will bear sin and die. Only the Levites shall perform the service of the tent of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity; it shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations, and among the sons of Israel they shall have no inheritance. For the tithe of the sons of Israel, which they offer as an offering to the LORD, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance; therefore, I have said concerning them, 'They shall have no inheritance among the sons of Israel’” (Number 18: 20-24).


Aaron was the temporal High Priest (kohen gadol). He was forbidden or precluded from having any earthly inheritance; God was his portion: “I am your portion and your inheritance among the sons of Israel.” Aaron was entitled to receiving a tithe. He was to be dedicated (to be holy) to the service of the Tabernacle. Levites and are the descendants of Levi, one of the twelve tribes of Israel (Jacob). The Kohens (priests) are also descended from Levi. Both are integrated in Jewish and Samaritan society, but they keep their distinctive statuses. The Kohens, who are the descendants of Aaron, were designated as the priestly class (the Kohanim).


To better understand this concept, I will quote from the New Living Translation, “As for the tribe of Levi, your relatives, I will compensate them for their service in the Tabernacle. Instead of an allotment of land, I will give them the tithes from the entire land of Israel,” (verse 21). The Levites received a tithe on behalf of God, for “their service in the Tabernacle.”


The Levites were set apart (to be holy) for the work of the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle was an elaborate sacrificial tent of very detailed processes and procedures. Their work in the Outer Court, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, with every brazen, silvery and golden emblem were so elaborate that doing any other work, in addition, would have been impossible. God’s wisdom assigned them a portion from all the produce of the land to be theirs. They were not directly entitled to the land – to till it and cultivate crops and keep animals. They would benefit from other people’s work on land, trees and fields. That way, they would concentrate on the work of God in the Tabernacle.


The Levites themselves,[1] had to give a tenth of the tithes they received as an offering to the Lord: “Speak to the Levites and say to them: ‘When you receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the LORD's offering,’” (Numbers 18:26).


The tithe was just one form of the offerings that were available to the Israelites: “But you shall seek the LORD at the place which the LORD your God will choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come. There you shall bring your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the contribution of your hand, your votive offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock,” (Deuteronomy 12:5-6). 


Tithe or ten percent of the crops was to be set aside each year: “People of Israel, every year you must set aside ten percent of your grain harvest,” (Deuteronomy 14:22, Contemporary English Version). There were tithing festivals every year in Israel. The festivals were quintessentially meant for the Israelites. For example, “You shall not eat anything which dies of itself. You may give it to the alien who is in your town, so that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner, for you are a holy people to the LORD your God,” (verse 21). These festivals and rules were meant for the Israelites, not foreigners or pagans or aliens. And the rationale was to set apart a remnant of God’s people who were committed to obeying God always. These, then, would serve as a sample of how God desired His people to be and behave – to be holy.


These ceremonial rules were many and intricate. The purpose is stated in Deuteronomy: “You shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God, at the place where He chooses to establish His name, the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and your flock, so that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always,” (verse 23).


As noted, God formally instituted tithing under the Law of Moses. Before the Law, people had a choice. Tithing was an act of personal will, and was not institutional. But it became formalized and institutionalized during the Law Period. 


Tithing was offered to the priests to support the priests and the Levites. When it was abused, God, through Prophet Malachi, laid out the dual blessings attached to tithing under Law: “’Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,’ Says the Lord of hosts, ‘If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,’ Says the Lord of hosts,” (Malachi 3:10-11).


The principle here was obedience, and not tithing; it was actions and not the resources. First, God has already stated that He can “pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.” God had and has abundance of resources. It is not because He did not have that He wanted to receive a tithe. Second, God does prevent and protect already available resources from being wasted, “I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field.” And third, “blessings” in the Old Covenant context, had a connotation for material prosperity. Blessings meant food, crops, animals and fruitfulness in the womb.


However, the Old Covenant blessings were conditional blessings. God, who had and has in abundance of everything, first tested His people to obey Him before He could release extra blessings into their lives. It is important to note here that, this principle seemed to have been efficacious only to extra blessings as opposed to basic blessings. For hitherto, God, even in Old Covenant time, had allowed His sun to shine upon both those who obeyed Him and those who did not. He had given rain to both the legally righteous people and those who were not righteous by the standards of the Law. 


God already blessed His people in terms of basic blessings. He provided for all their basic needs. He created everything they enjoyed under the earth. But in Malachi, He was testing their obedience. If they obeyed Him, vis-à-vis the act of tithing, He would release the blessings upon them. Like any act of obedience unlocks the “windows of heaven”, so was the requirement under the Law when obedience to tithe was done. To reiterate this rule, God reminded those Malachi spoke to that He did not change: “I the LORD do not change,” (Malachi 3:6a). His principles are unchanging. But it is important to note that tithing was a command and demanded obedience. It was a prescription of the Law.


God, at the time of Malachi dealt with an agrarian society. Their occupations were usually subsistence farming. And God dealt with them as their situation deserved. Although it is usual to equate this command to tithe in monetary terms, it was measured at that time in agricultural terms. The store-house was the place of worship, and tithe was to support and maintain the work of Levites and Priests. God instituted this practice to sustain His work in the temple. The Levites and Priests did not have any other regular jobs where they could receive an income, and in His generosity, God provided a way of tithe.


Would God rebuke the devourer of the crops of the Israelite people who obeyed His commands, especially the command to tithe? Of course, He would. But He would no less rebuke the thief who wanted to attack any of His people who were obedient to Him than He would for a tither. The principle is the same. Under the Law, God promised He would rebuke the devourer on behalf of those who tithed to keep their produce from being destroyed by the devourer. 


 It is very important to note that it is not God who is the devourer; He merely rebuked the devourer. The enemy, and by extension, the devil (John 10:10) is always prowling around to find someone to attack. The enemy would attack anything, including the produce of crops and animals unless the Lord protected them: “Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain,” (Psalm 127:1).


Old Testament “blessings” were limited in scope; they seem to have only covered earthly things. They were provided in terms of material possessions – grain, wine, land, crops, meant, milk, fruit, and etc. They were stored on earth in granaries and flocks. They were vulnerable to the enemy – they could wither, die, be stolen or perish. The enemy had access to them. The people of Israel had to depend on God’s protection to guard crops, animals, and etc.


No Tithing in New Testament


As discussed, in the Old Covenant, tithing was required. However, there is no evidence in the Bible that tithing is a New Testament phenomenon. It is no longer the case for believers in Christ to abide by the old ceremonial festivals of tithing, and so on; believers are set free from such observances. No-one is punished in the New Testament for not tithing. It is heretic and diminishing to God’s redemptive plan to hook people to ideas that unless they tithe, God would not bless them. It is equally erroneous to preach that additional blessings come from acts of tithing. Tithing is not only from finances, it’s from all we own; and if that was the case, by Malachi standards, we would all be unredeemed, robbers and thieves. God does not need us to tithe to act on our behalf and prohibit the devourer from wasting away our finances. 


Someone wrote: “You absolutely do not have to tithe. God will still love you just as much whether you tithe or not. But now that you know the benefits God promises if you do tithe, why would you not want to enjoy those extra blessings?” This, too, is purely a half truth. Indeed, God simply loves us, whether we tithe or not. In fact, under the New Covenant, there is no requirement to tithe – giving is an act of Grace - a demonstrated willingness according  as someone has purposed in their hearts. There is no number, no percentage.


To justify tithing in the New Testament, most congregations reference Leviticus 27:30, “And all the tithes of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD’s. It is holy to the LORD.” 


And then they interpret this verse as suggesting that all that we own, including our income, belongs to the Lord. There is an insinuation that those who do not tithe in the Church Era are wrong or mistaken or sinning. This is not true.


Leviticus 27:30 is a statement of fact. It is true that all the land, in fact, all creation, belongs to God. That is the basis of the Creationist Theory – God made all things. It is equally true that all of the things God made, are holy – or set apart for Him. But He has given them all to us for our enjoyment: 


“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17). 


This is the new way God deals with us; He gives us everything, freely, unconditionally, for our enjoyment.


In the Law Period and the Old Covenant in general, God’s material blessings to people were not gifts; they were conditional offers: “Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your harvest; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine” (Proverbs 3:9-10, Emphasis added). This does not establish the institution of tithe or ma’aser (Hebrew) or tenth. Under the Rule of Grace, God simply gives gifts, there is no merit on the part of the receiver, so that “nobody can boast”.


Ironically, most congregations quote John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (Emphasis added) – and still miss the open message of Grace in it. The Grace of God in this verse is in two respects: As a matter of gift – “gave his one and only Son” – and the absence of Law or sacrifice, only belief – “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 has never been a conditional invitation; it is a completed work. God has already “given” His Son (He is not promising to give His Son if we do certain things; Jesus was given for all of humanity and publicly crucified, died and rose again!). The condition is not in the giving, the condition is on the recipient. This is a fundamental change from the Old Covenant where the condition was prior to giving. Under the Rule of Grace, God gave before He was even asked, and He pleads with people to receive the gift already given. Law ensured that no gift was given unless certain conditions were met; Grace has given before there is any evidence of request. The gift is available to all who will believe and receive it. There is, therefore, no external requirement to satisfy the will of the giver – there is only a willingness to receive what has already been given. That is, Grace does not demand perfection before there a bequeathing of blessing or benefit. Grace bequeaths blessings and gifts first, regardless of the condition of the recipient. Both the sinner and the saint are entitled to the benefits under Grace.


It is amazing that people fear to offend the church’s sources of income. Tactics like “God will bless you if you tithe. God will pour into your bosom when you tithe. Tithing is an act of worship. Tithing builds your faith. Tithing breaks the power of greed, and etc.,” and similarly-situated gestures are not based on real New Testament teaching. It is better to write the truth of modern tithing culture that it is a form of financial support for the ministry. Indeed, “tithing” provides ministry financial support, and is not based on any spiritual sanction. It may suitably be described as giving for the operations of the congregation, such as paying pastor’s salary, rentals, and etc. It is never given in the New Testaments, if practiced in a church, as a form of spiritual homage. That ended with the Old Covenant. Under Grace, God does not punish anyone for failure to give tithe. 


No-one is cursed who does not give tithe, either. In the Old Testament, it was a duty to obey the entire Law otherwise one was under a curse for failure to do so: “‘Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen’” (Deuteronomy 27:26). 


If anyone insists on adherence to tithing as an ablution of divine efficacy, it portends hypocrisy for all intentions and purposes. Galatians 3:10 is even more explicit: “For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law’” (Emphasis added). 


The oft-made argument is that tithing is pre-Law and, therefore, it is not part of the Law. This argument still falls short under the Rule of Grace. This assertion supports the very premise it purports to undermine. If tithing was pre-Law, it, therefore, follows that, then as now, tithing could be seen as a work of Grace. Abram gave a tenth to Melchizedek out of his own volition (willingly); it was never commanded to him to do so. Under the Mosaic Law, however, it was a command. Either way, tithing seems to be obsolete, both based on pre-Law or Law or post-Law  regimes.


Proponents of the tithing doctrine advise that tithing should be given to the “storehouse” or the church. They warn of not giving it to media evangelists or ministries or charitable organizations. They are right; it should not be given to those entities, neither is it to be given to a church. Paul illustrates that a New Testament Minister ought to work with his or her own hands. In his testimony to the Elders, Paul writes, “I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20: 33-35). 


Moreover, Paul discloses, “We work hard with our own hands” (1 Corinthians 4:12). Paul advises the Corinthians, “You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12). 


And in his strongest words ever, Paul commands, “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat. We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat’” (2 Thessalonians 3: 6-11).


It is wiser to ask the church to give a special offering or offerings to cover the expenses of operating a Ministry or church business. It is wiser to be candid and to tell the truth. The allure tithing provides is that it is a dependable and sustainable form of revenue to the church. Ten percent of all income the congregation gets can go a long way to meeting the payroll and other needs of the church. However, tithing should not be used as a weapon to forcing people to give. People, under the Rule of Grace, can give even more than ten percent of their income, if they are willing to do so without compulsion. But they can also give less than ten percent. Still, they can choose not to give at all. In all of these circumstances, they have not committed sin, violated a principle or disobeyed a command. It is just as simple as that. Tithing is not sanctioned under the Rule of Grace.


It is not in conformity with the teachings of the New Testament to consider people who do not give tithes as greedy, ignorant, rebellious, or unbelievers. These may not fail to give tithe due to personal debt, either. It is simply not permitted under the Rule of Grace. 


This is the hallmark of the Pauline Theology on giving: “Consider this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each one should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not out of regret or compulsion. For God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9: 6-8, Emphasis added). 


Notice that no percentage is given, and God is not the decider of how much someone must give, if giving at all. The principle exemplified here is that the giver determines how much they must give. The one who gives (sows) more, reaps more. There is nothing new with this principle; it exists freely in nature. Farmers are very conversant with this principle. No-one should be compelled or forced to give. God loves those who decide to give, and give they do, cheerfully.


There is a danger to corrupt the context and teach people that tithing is a regular or was a regular collection habit of the Early Church. This is usually linked to 1 Corinthians 16:2, “Now about the collection for the saints, you are to do as I directed the churches of Galatia: On the first day of every week, each of you should set aside a portion of his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will be needed. Then, on my arrival, I will send letters with those you recommend to carry your gift to Jerusalem” (Emphasis added). This is not an authority to collect tithes in the New Testament. 


First, it was not a regular occurrence. Paul never collected from the Corinthians each week; he did it for a particular project. His instructions were to collect a particular portion each week until enough was collected for the Jerusalem Church. That project had a beginning and would, definitely, come to an end. It was not to be a continuous practice of the Early Church under the Rule of Grace.


Second, Paul does not instruct people to set aside a tenth of their incomes, even in this specific context. He leaves it open-ended for people to determine how much they are willing to give. This is in harmony with the teachings of Grace under Pauline Theology.


And third, Paul calls the collection a “gift”. This is antagonistic to Law – where adherents were expected to carry out the activity as a matter of obeying law. A gift, on the other hand, is determined by the giver and does not confer continuity.


Under Grace, the one who tithes or gives and the one who does not, both have equal standing in Christ before God: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous,” (Matthew 5:44-45).


Arguments may be made that these kinds of verses speak to the spiritual blessings and not monetary blessings. It is true all are blessed spiritually who put their trust in God through Christ: 


“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ,” (Ephesians 1:3). 


However, Grace gives more than money; it elevates us to excellence in everything: “But since you excel in everything -- in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you -- see that you also excel in this grace of giving,” (2 Corinthians 8:7). Spiritual blessings are superior to any form or type of blessings. A blessing by definition is anything that is not a curse; it is not money or wealth. Money and wealth may be blessings or curses depending on the attitude or spiritual or moral disposition of the possessor and the use and purpose for which money and wealth are put to. Some people may have plenty of money and wealth and choose to hate or harm others or despise or abuse others with it. Money and wealth are amoral; they are neither good nor bad. The one who has a lot of it is, therefore, the determinative factor.


Spiritual blessings are embedded in these passages: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Therefore, I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1-2). 


We become more like Christ Jesus when we are sanctified to God – when we become set apart for His purposes. As the Bible also says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). To love God and to be called according to His purpose is a spiritual blessing.


Other spiritual blessings are illustrative, thus:


But someone will say, "How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?" You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own. All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish. There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. So also, it is written, 'The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL.' The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly. Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, 'DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord."[2]


It is important to see how Paul renders the nexus between our spiritual destiny to law and Grace. He alludes to our real destiny – to be reunited with Christ in glory. However, he is also concerned with the barrier that stands in between – namely, that sin, strengthened by law, is a menace that puts our spiritual destiny at risk. God has a solution for that. It is called Grace. Paul praises God that through Christ, through His Grace, we have overcome the world. In this passage we also notice that the “power of sin is the law.” To deal with the power of sin, something better and stronger than the law was required. God found it in Grace. Grace is above the law, literally.


What Grace does is to pre-empt the law, so that the law has no power of sin and over human souls. God is able to redeem humankind without any obedience to any law except the Law of Grace. The dispensation of Grace is the Rule of Grace, as opposed to the Rule of Law. If there is no law, the power of sin is nullified. If there is law, there is sin, and in its strength. Grace is the antidote against sin, because it does not afford sin an avenue to be strong any more. Under Grace, there is nothing to violate; there is no law to break!


Grace is all-encompassing: “For in Him you have been enriched in every way, in all speech and all knowledge,” (1 Corinthians 1:5). Grace makes us rich without tithing or giving – that is why it is more superior to Law. Under the Law of Moses, the Israelites were required to tithe every year – to hold elaborate feasts and festivals – under Grace, God freely supplies everything we need.


Christ Jesus our Lord brought us the Grace to enrich us in every way – to be rich “in every way”: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich,” (2 Corinthians 8:9). There is no mincing of words, here richness is simply richness and it means richness in resources and money. It is the very opposite of poverty. Jesus has brought us Grace to be rich. We need not do anything to be rich, except to believe in Jesus Christ. If we insist that to access God’s richness we need to tithe, then it is no longer of Grace; it becomes of works. For Christ to become poor and we simply take on His richness – that, then, is the true definition of Grace. And God has not ended at Christ’s imputation of His Grace unto us, God continues – He is able – to make that Grace abound towards us in everything, always: ““And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work, “(2 Corinthians 9:8).


It is important to note here that the Bible is clear: “…so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need [not want], you will abound in every good work,” means that if you own property, it is protected. If you have crops, they are covered. If you have animals, they bear more. If you have a job, it is safe. If you have a business, it is well. All this must be at God’s whim and not ours, otherwise it is not of Grace. All we need to do is believe that all shall be and is well and rave in His Grace for us.


Grace does not justify waste, laziness or lethargy. Grace is reasonable, and we ought to be occupied as He is occupied: “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Therefore, if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?” (Luke 16:10-11). Grace will give us all need but we must be faithful managers of what God has given us. Grace does not make us irresponsible; it gives the power to be industrious, investing and versatile.


Grace, Tithing and the New Testament


The general rule is that if there is a new, the old, ought, of necessity, to be obsolete. However, in morality and theology, the old may still give efficacy to the new in terms of principles. While we may infer the total absolution of the Old Testament in practice, in principle, however, we still need the salience and moral structure they enforced. As argued in this Treatise, the principle underlying tithing was obedience and not enriching God. 


God is materially rich: “’The silver is mine and the gold is mine,' declares the LORD Almighty” (Haggai 2:8). In essence and in practicality, all things come from God: “But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from You, and from Your hand we have given You…O LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided to build You a house for Your holy name, it is from Your hand, and all is Yours” (1 Chronicles 29:14, 16). 


In fact, even the earth itself is the Lord’s: “The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). The flora and fauna are the Lord’s, too: “For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalm 50:10). Common-sense surely dictates that God is materially rich; He created everything, and what He created is good: “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving…” (1 Timothy 4:4). For, “The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof” (1 Corinthians 10:26). God not only created everything – “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples made by human hands,” (Acts 17:24) – but He also gives life to everything: “This is what God the LORD says -- the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it” (Isaiah 42:5).


The New Testament is a dispensation of Grace: “If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward” (Ephesians 3:2, KJB). There is also no question that we are no longer under Law: “But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code [Law]” (Romans 7:6, English Standard Version). 


Law captured and imprisoned us and the Spirit has released and freed us. Now we rest on Grace, not Law: “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may rest on grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring--not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all” (Romans 4:16, Berean Study Bible). We are of Abraham’s type, not of Moses type. The Mosaic laws are still persuasive, but they are not binding upon those who are of the faith of Abraham.


Many Old Testament principles have been transposed onto the New Testament. However, many Old Testament practices have been discontinued. Tithe has neither been continued or sustained in the New Testament. The New Testament does not advocate for the continuation of the tithing regime, in word or in spirit.


The scriptures oft-referred to in the New Testament as justifying tithing are both narrow in scope and too widely interpreted. In short, they fall short of the truth test inherent in holistic Biblical interpretation. In Matthew 23:23, Jesus rebukes, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.” 


First, and according to our Lord, there was weightier and lighter matters of the Law. Justice, mercy and faith were ranked higher than giving tithes. 


Second, Jesus was speaking during the Dispensation of Law – and even during that time, tithing was not a weightier matter. In Luke 11:42, the same argument is captured: “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.” To justice, mercy, and faith, our Lord added the love of God. And these are weightier (“ought to be done”) matters of the Law. 


But remember that our Lord was still making commentary on matters of the Old Testament, for at that time, the New Testament was not in effect (Christ had not died and resurrected yet). Our Lord spoke those words in harmony with the directives of the Old Agreement (Testament). And we do not hear from Christ on this issue until His apostles and disciples begin to preach the message of the New Testament. It is under this Dispensation of Grace by His apostles that we become fully aware of the meaning of all that Jesus said and did. The position of Christ in relation to the existing Old Testament is illustrated in the following: “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law” (Galatians 4:4-5). 


All the words He uttered and miracles He performed, He did under the umbrella of the Old Testament. For example, in Matthew 8:3-4, we observe, “And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. See that you tell no one; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” Our Lord ordered compliance with the Mosaic Law at that time because He was operating under the Law. “For the same reason He compelled tithing in Matthew 23:23. The Law of Moses was still in force during the life of Christ. It would have been ‘sin’ for Christ at this time to have taught against the Law of Moses! In the Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42 verses Christ was not teaching that tithing was required by the New Testament, but rather was just re-enforcing that this was a requirement under the Old Covenant!”[3]


It is very difficult to justify tithing in the New Testament. The temptation has always been for Ministers and church leaders to attempt to link tithing through the eyes of Grace. Thus, many scriptures in the Old Testament on tithing are explained in the light of twisted “giving verses” in the New Testament. This error, though not eternally damning, is injurious to the principles and purpose of Grace. 


When a Pharisee prays, “I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess” (Luke 18:12), it is not an attestation to the continuation of tithing under the New Testament. It is, rather, an illustration of what self-righteousness and pride can produce. Our Lord was emphasizing mercy – a weightier factor in the Law than tithing.

And often times, New Testament verses are twisted to give effect to the efficacy of tithing. A good example is Hebrews 7:4-10:


"Consider how great Melchizedek was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the spoils. Now the Law commands the sons of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people (that is, their brothers), even though they are descended from Abraham. But Melchizedek, who did not trace his descent from Levi, collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. And indisputably, the lesser is blessed by the greater. In the case of the Levites, mortal men collect the tenth; but in the case of Melchizedek, it is affirmed that he lives on. And so, to speak, Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham. For when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the loin of his ancestor."


Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek directly. Melchizedek was a type of Christ. The Levites under the Old Testament received tithes from the people. The lesser was blessed by the greater. However, the critical review of this passage of scripture centers on the identity of Melchizedek and the changing priesthood under the New Testament. As a consequence, tithing under the Old Testament is discussed, but not tithing under the New Testament. There is no clarification given to tithing in the New Testament in this passage, either. If for argument sake, and by analogy, the transfer of authority be extended to the New Testament, there will still be a problem. That problem is that if we are to pay tithing under the order of Melchizedek, we would, therefore, be required to tithe directly to Christ. We would not be tithing through church appointed Ministers or church leaders. This would eliminate any representations on behalf of Christ.


Moreover, as I have argued under “Tithe in Pre-Law Period,” Abram did tithe out of his abundance. It was an illustration of what tithe, or any form of giving, might look like under grace. Abram tithed after victory, not before it. In short, Abram did not tithe as a way of attracting blessings, Abram was already blessed by Melchizedek when he gave his tithe (see Genesis 14:18-20).


The Apostles, especially under Pauline Theology, go to lengths to belabor this issue. There was no specific command to the new believers to tithe:


And now I commit you to God and to the word of His grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all who are sanctified. I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have ministered to my own needs and those of my companions. In everything, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus Himself: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.[4]



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Perhaps of all God’s workers Paul could have qualified as a true royal priest,[5] and, therefore be a subject of receipt of tithes. If the modern church leaders collect tithes, Paul could collect more. However, Paul defends his record of receiving alms and gifts, including tithes. Paul did the following: 


He did not covet silver, gold or clothing; he worked hard on his own; and he gave more than he received. Surely, if the tithing regime was that effectual, Paul would not have to labor very hard on his own; he would have concentrated on prayer, preaching and teaching. But, as noted here, Paul worked as hard as he prayed, preached and taught the Word of God. He did this, as again he notes, because he was committed to the “the word of His grace,” and not to the dictates and the letter of Law of Moses.


Paul continues the same argument: “I robbed other churches, taking wages from them to minister to you. And when I was present with you, and in need, I was a burden to no one, for what was lacking to me the brethren who came from Macedonia supplied” (2 Corinthians 11:8-9).


And again, “The only thing I failed to do, which I do in the other churches, was to become a financial burden to you. Please forgive me for this wrong! See, I am ready to come to you a third time, and I will not be a burden, because I am not seeking your possessions, but you yourselves. For children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. And for the sake of your souls, I will most gladly spend my money and myself. If I love you more, will you love me less?” Paul apologizes to this church that he had become a burden to them because he asked them for money. The fact that he issued an apology is detailing of the fact that, under grace, he should not have burden the church by seeking financial gifts. The veracity of this verse of scriptures is that Paul’s humility is at deep display. He did not ask for money for himself, he was asking for the help of other churches.


Then Paul unleashes the real crux of the grace message vis-à-vis finances and giving:


For it is superfluous for me to write to you about this ministry to the saints; for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the Macedonians, namely, that Achaia has been prepared since last year, and your zeal has stirred up most of them. But I have sent the brethren, in order that our boasting about you may not be made empty in this case, so that, as I was saying, you may be prepared; otherwise if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we -- not to speak of you -- will be put to shame by this confidence. So, I thought it necessary to urge the brethren that they would go on ahead to you and arrange beforehand your previously promised bountiful gift, so that the same would be ready as a bountiful gift and not affected by covetousness. Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 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….[6]


Tithe is not mentioned nor alluded to in this discourse. But it is the principle underlying New Testament giving (all manner of giving) that is at play here. As Paul spells out, it must be willful giving; without grudging; and not under compulsion; because “God loves a cheerful giver.” Tithing was not a willful giving; it was a legal requirement under the Mosaic Law. If tithing has to conform to the New Testament Grace Dispensation, it must be willful, and given without compulsion or force. It should emanate from people’s hearts, and not from a legalistic requirement to give a tenth of one’s income.


Paul advocated for principle of equality in giving. The have-nots should not out-give the haves, and vice versa: “For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have. For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack – that there may be equality” (2 Corinthians 8:12-14). Paul is not the first to observe equality of giving, Our Lord also did: “Jesus called His disciples to Him and said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more than all the others into the treasury. For they all contributed out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on” (Mark 12:43-44).


It should be noted that Jesus was not recommending giving beyond one’s means, or more than one owned or had. He was barely stating a fact of the hypocrisy of the rich he had observed. They had given what looked to be a lot, but if considered together and in context, the poor widow gave more. Paul made a clarification, namely, that there should be equality in giving, “– that there may be equality”! 


The fundamental principle of giving, as reiterated by Paul again above, is that any form of alms-giving, offering, and even a tithe, if it existed in the New Testament, ought to be out of a willing heart and “according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.” That is the message of Grace.


Paul was very clear on the requirement by the congregation to contribute to the material needs of Gospel Ministers and church leaders. In other words, the Church needs money to function and Paul recognized that. All the preaching that money is required to “advance the Kingdom of God” are correct. However, it is the method of fundraising that is questionable in the New Testament. Accordingly, any form of giving that is willful and not with compulsion is welcome in the Church. Those who work for God deserve, and have the right, to be compensated in material things:


If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn't we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ. 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? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.[7]


This is a noble message. Paul does encourage industry and creativity in the Church. But he speculates that this might be abused by the busy-bodied Ministers. Those who preach should live by the Gospel, just like those who do secular jobs do depend on those jobs for material survival. If tithe is used as a method of collecting money for the preaching of the Gospel, this should be stated so. And it should be made very clear that this is a policy of that particular congregation and not a requirement under the Biblical order. If people decide to give a tenth of all their income, it should meet the same New Testament standard; it should be volitional, willful, without compulsion, and according to one’s means and ability. It is not sin; it is not disobedience in the New Testament not to tithe. But it is a good thing to do, to share in good things with those who live to teach the Word of God: “Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches” (Galatians 6:6). “All good things” here is not only limited to money – it may include all other material things.


It is acceptable in the New Testament, under grace, for a Minister of the Gospel to receive wages from his, and if they are travelling evangelist, other congregations. It is equally very commendable that they work and supply their own needs. It is cautioned under the New Testament to place any monetary upon the congregation. In the same vein, if giving is institutionalized in any particular congregation, it must be proportionate to people’s ability to give. In other words, there must be equality of giving; no-one or one party should be unnecessarily burdened.


Furthermore, if one part of the globe is hit by natural disasters or famine or any form of misfortune, the believers in well-to-do places and countries or churches should help those in need. It is quite a New Testament phenomenon to engage in philanthropy as well as in goodwill giving, and even in televised charitable programs. The only caveat, as Paul teaches, is such giving should not be abused or misused for personal gain or aggrandizement. A prophet of God can even foretell that there would be disasters to prepare God’s people for action: “In those days some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up and predicted through the Spirit that a great famine would sweep across the entire Roman world” (This happened under Claudius).[8]


Similarly, churches and Christian programs can target the poor and provide help: “For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the Lord's people in Jerusalem” (Romans 15:26). And Paul was very clear that Christians can receive financial support and contributions from non-believers if those non-believers have benefited from their Gospel: “For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual blessings, they are obligated to minister to them with material blessings” (Romans 15:27). The principle is: Those involved in preaching the Gospel should be financially rewarded by those receiving the message.


The central argument, though, still remains, that tithe is not a recommended New Testament method for financial sourcing. The tithing principle does not have any applicability under Grace. The New Testament leadership did not always request monetary assistance, if the Corinthian Model is to be critically examined. They did that if and when there was need. They did not collect tithe as we know it in the Early New Testament Church. The New Testament does not teach that, either.

__________


[1] See the change of roles in the New Testament in Acts 4: 36-37, “Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (meaning Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned, brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”

[2] 1 Corinthians 15:35-58

[3] Tithing in the New Testament (http://www.bibleinsight.com/ti-new-testament-tithing.html - retrieved: February 22nd, 2018)

[4] Acts 20:32-35

[5] See 1 Peter 2:9” “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (NIV).

[6] 2 Corinthians 9:1-8 (New American Standard Version)

[7] 1 Corinthians 9:11-14

[8] Acts 11:27-28