The five volume Dictionary of the Bible by James Hastings, under “tithe” tells us, “The history of the tithe in Israel is in many respects obscure … It is accordingly remarkable that no reference is made to tithes in the Book of the Covenant. This is usually explained on the theory that the tithes were originally identical with the first-fruits, and that the need of more strictly defining the amount that should be paid, led, in the later legislation, to the use of the term which had already been employed in the North Israel sanctuaries. W.R. Smith, on the contrary, thinks that the tithe was a fixed tribute, comparatively modern in its origin. At an earlier period the tribute took the form of first-fruits, which were a private offering. When this was no longer adequate to meet the expenses of a more elaborate cultus, the tithe was charged as a fixed burden on land.”
Now this is most interesting. Experts in Old Testament studies tell us that tracing the “tithe” and how is was administered is “obscure” and yet modern day preachers quote one or two passages out of Leviticus, Exodus, or Malachi and tell us “ten per cent off the top and it should go to your local ‘church.'” Those of you who want to see for yourself rather than just believing a preacher because he said so, will discover the following:
No tithe of any kind is found in the Book of the Covenant given by Moses which consisted of the Ten Commandments and various civil and religious requirements. Funds to provide for these activities came from free-will offerings. (see Ex. Chapters 20-23, Ex. 34:22,29; 36:3,7)
Almost a year after the Book of the Covenant was written, a tithing system was instituted. (Lev. 27:30-33) “And all the tithe 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. If a man wants at all to redeem any of his tithes, he shall add one-fifth to it. And concerning the tithe of the herd or the flock, of whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the LORD.” (Lev. 27:30-32) Please note some very important things here. The tithe was specifically directed to the “land, whether of the seed of the land or the fruit of the tree,” and the animals which ate of the land. God specifically did not mention the fishing, mining, tent-making, lumber, or various professional occupations. The focus was a tenth of the seed and fruit of the land. Note that if a person wanted to pay money instead of the actual produce, he had to pay 20 per cent more! Obviously money was not what God was after. Furthermore, regarding the animals, it was the tenth one which passed under the rod which was to be tithed. A man with less than 10 animals did not have to tithe his animals! Also note, he could not redeem the animals, that is, he could not give money instead of the actual animal. Question: are modern tithe pushing preachers more interested in your chickens or your money? That should tell you something!
When looking at all the Scriptures in the Bible that deal with tithing, only the owners of the land and the animals had to tithe those items. Servants or slaves who worked that land did not tithe, the produce did not belong to them!
There may be one exception to the above point. 1 Samuel Chapter 8 tells us that the children of Israel at that time wanted to be like the other nations around them. They wanted a king. This displeased Samuel the prophet, greatly. Samuel prayed and Yahweh answered and said, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you; for they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them…Now therefore, heed their voice. However, you shall solemnly forewarn them, and show them the behavior of the king who will reign over them.” Now hear the warning and see if we do not find that kings are often disguised as pastors, preachers, evangelists, and denominational headquarter types! “This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the LORD will not hear you in that day.” (1 Samuel 8:4-18) Sad to say, many Christians today are not familiar enough with church history to discover that she also has rejected the LORD and has placed kings over her to rule her and be fleeced by them. Those who strongly teach tithing look very much like the “king” just described. And these kings separate us from our true King! Here is the modern church tithe!
As Israel changed from nomads in the wilderness to a nation with boundaries and set cities, the regulations on tithing changed showing again there was never a set “Biblical tithe.” Deuteronomy Chapters 12 and 14 tell us of some of the changes. Deuteronomy 12:8 tells us, “Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here (prior to entering Canaan) this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes.” When Israel entered Canaan, they then set up a system which would distribute tithes, taxes, offerings, etc., which would logistically take care of a country 200 by 50 miles in area.
Due to the inconvenience of having to carry grain and animals perhaps as far as 100 miles, the 20 per cent surcharge for converting to cash was dropped. (Deut. 14:24,25) Furthermore, they were allowed to “spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household.” (Deut. 14:26)
Deuteronomy Chapter 14:23 talks about in every third year the tithe of the produce was to be laid up for the Levite and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, that they may eat and be satisfied. Please note, we are talking about people not going hungry, not paying for padded pews, stained glass, parking lots, and retirement funds for pastors.
One of the purposes for the tithe was to provide for the Levites. The Levites received a smaller allotment of land than the other tribes. The Levites provided not only much of the religious functions of the community, but judicial, governmental, and educational as well. In other words, the tithe was also used for secular purposes. Levites were often musicians, administrators, architects, judges, teachers, scribes, doctors, what we would call “professional people” today. The Levite would tithe the tithe given him and give that to the priests. The priests did not have to tithe. I realize most people equate Levites with “priests,” but somewhere in the history of Israel, developed two different classes. I can’t get much further with that topic in this article. A Dictionary of the Bible by James Hastings, Hendrickson Publishers contains a 30 page article under “priests” on this subject for those who are interested.
Those responsible for getting money out of their congregations often use Scriptures not even dealing with the tithe to teach tithing. The laws centering on first-fruits and first-born are different from the laws around the tithe. For firstlings see Num. 3:12,12, 40-45; 8:16-18. For first-fruits see Lev. 23:10-14; Num. 18:12-28. If we re-institute all these Mosaic Laws dealing with trying to get something out of God’s people, why not re-institute all of them? Let us go back to slaughtering lambs and killing rebellious children? Remember, he who fails in one point of the Mosaic Law, is guilty of it all!
When the children of Israel were in their land, they were required to come to Jerusalem for three feasts each year. A portion of their tithe was to be used for them to rejoice! 10 per cent of gross income in addition to hefty federal, state, and local taxes is nothing to rejoice about especially since most churches don’t allow one to use a portion of the tithe to “rejoice with wine or similar drink.”
It appears the tithing varied from year to year. Scholars are in disagreement with each other exactly how this was done. One scholar suggested that in the seven year sabbatical period, the first, second, fourth, and fifth year the tithepayer could eat of the tithe at the temple along with the Levites. In the third and sixth year, the tithe stayed in the tithepayer,s home town instead of being brought to Jerusalem. This was to take care of the fatherless, strangers, widows, and Levites.
In the seventh year, there was to be no planting, no reaping, and no tithing. (Lev. 25:1-7) Do tithe preaching pastors give their congregation a break every 7 years? I haven’t met one yet. (I told you they didn’t get their tithing teachings from the Bible!)
The Levites (pastors) did not live completely off the tithe. They only ministered in the temple twice a year for a week at a time. (Ex. 23:14-17; Lev. 23; Deut. 16:16) They were allotted quite a bit of land around the cities they were centered in. (Num. 35:4) These fields belonged to the Levites for a perpetual possessions. (Lev. 25:34)
Only Levites could receive the tithe! Jesus Christ himself could not receive the tithe because He was from the tribe of Judah. Remember, the Mosaic Law is a package deal. It cannot be broken.
Jewish Rabbis today (those who should know the Mosaic Law better than pastors), do not collect tithes because they know only Levites can collect the tithe. Because the genealogical records were destroyed in the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, they cannot determine true Levites. They use a patron system of so many dollars for each seat in their synagogues to raise funds for the maintenance of their synagogues. Of course, the more prominent seats command a higher price, but they do not tithe. Now isn’t that amazing? I wonder how many ministers can prove biological descendance from Aaron? Remember, this is not the priesthood of Jesus Christ.
Well, I think we have covered enough ground on true Biblical tithing to show that what is pawned off today as the “Biblical tithe” is nothing but a great big scam, a con- no even more. It is outright fraud!
Now as I say this, I realize there are thousands of sincere ministers and laypeople who are teaching and practicing tithing. Please understand. I am not attacking you. It is very easy to pass on the traditions of men and find ourselves ending up very ignorant of the Scriptures and the ways of our Father. Many who are reading this right now are probably amazed at how little they actually knew about what the Bible has to say about the tithe. O.K. Now you know. Now you are responsible for what you know. Repent. Turn. He is there to forgive and He has the power to turn all things to our good, including our mistakes. Some who are tithing may not feel as bad about giving the tithe as those ministers who taught Christians to do it. But when one sees how much evil rather than good those tithes have actually done, they may see that repentance and Godly sorrow is needed. We have a very merciful Father Who is able to deal with our self-righteousness and haughtiness in just the right way.
In analyzing that booklet Tithes, Offerings, and Alms, I noticed the author almost completely avoided all those Scriptures I just covered about true Biblical tithing under the Old Covenant. He quoted all kinds of unrelated Scriptures about Abraham’s sacrifice of his son, James talking about how our faith is made perfect through works, Hannah making a vow to God, giving alms to the poor, etc. But he almost completely avoided Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Exodus, and Numbers where the tithe is defined. Why? Because the 10 per cent of income which he preaches isn’t in there! Most people never read that part of the Bible and as long as Christians will not study for themselves to show themselves approved, then perhaps they deserve to be fleeced by wolves in sheep’s clothing!
Now this little booklet I have been referring to, refers to the Book of Malachi on a least 6 different occasions-far more than any Books which actually lay down the laws dealing with Old Testament tithing.
“Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. For you have robbed Me. Even this whole nation. 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 such a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.” (Malachi 3:8-10)
How many times have you heard this passage used to put guilt on people for not coughing up the dough for a new parking lot, steeple, missionary fund, new organ, etc., etc.? The focus of tithing agricultural and livestock throughout the Old Testament was food!!! Food for the Levite, food for the stranger, food for the widow, food for the orphan and God doesn’t change the subject in Malachi. The subject is still “food in My house.” It is very sad that it never occurs to pastors of churches that the early church wasn’t concerned about choir robes, pews, organs, pastor retirement funds, building funds, retreats, new carpets, etc. They didn’t have any of these things nor did they want any of this stuff! Pastors who are so interested in that 10 per cent off the top are usually building their own kingdom which usually requires a lot of money. Jesus is building His church in an entirely different way, and He doesn’t need padded pews to get the job done.
The next time a pastor has one of the elders, deacons, traveling financial counselor, or evangelist put the guilt on you about tithing, buy a truckload of wheat and dump it on the pulpit and see his reaction. “Food in my house.” You would have fulfilled the Old Testament Law perfectly, if you were a land owner and it wasn’t the 7th year. If you brought the truckload in on the seventh year, you would have broken the law and would have been under a curse. Now isn’t that amazing?
This is not to say there is not proper place for money in ministries. Of course, there are many financial needs even in Holy Spirit directed works. How this money is raised and how well it is managed and for what purpose is the real issue.
It is also important to note that the entire Mosaic Law system was only for Israel. This system did not require the Roman, the Greek, the Babylonian, the American Indian to tithe. One had to become a part of Israel through a system of ritual which began with circumcision for the male. Only after being accepted into the community of Israel were the Mosaic Laws binding. Furthermore, the tithe was at first only applicable to the land of Israel. When large populations of Jews lived in Babylon, Ammon, Moab, Egypt, and Syria, these lands became titheable land. But most gentile land was considered defiled by Jews and a tithe from them would be considered unclean. The United States under the Mosaic Law commandments would certainly have been considered “unclean.”
Keep Reading, one more part to come…
HE LIVES, A Living Testimony