Summary: Is the Christian under the law of the tithe? Are we free to give by whim and feeling? Are there eternal principles that should govern our giving?
New Testament Giving verses Old Testament Tithing
Dr. Russell K. Tardo
I. Is Tithing for Today?
In this study, we’ll examine what the New Testament teaches regarding the tithe. We’ll try to answer questions such as: Are Christians required to tithe under grace? Is the Christian’s giving left to impulse or whim?
Of the thirty-five parables of Jesus, over one-third deal directly or indirectly with the subject of money. The apostle Paul also taught extensively regarding giving.
A. The Definition:
The word tithe comes from the Hebrew a-sar, meaning ten or tithe. The tithe is the acknowledging that everything rightly belongs to God. Everything belongs to God (Psalms 24:1) and man is His steward.
B. The Old Testament Tithe:
And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.[Gen. 14:20]
This is the first reference to tithing, when Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek.
And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.[Gen. 28:22]
In this scripture passage, we see that Jacob also paid the tithe or tenth. It is thereby evident that tithing was in existence prior to the Law. Tithing is mentioned in these passages as if they are carrying out God’s established custom. However, it is important that we understand exactly what the Jewish tithe consisted of in the Law for the Jew actually paid three tithes.
1. The Establishment of the Tithe by the Law:
30And 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 unto the Lord. 31And if a man will at all redeem aught of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof. 32And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord. 33He shall not search whether it be good or bad, neither shall he change it: and if he change it at all, then both it and the change thereof shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.[Lev. 27:30-33]
It is plainly stated here that one-tenth of everything goes to God, i.e., produce, animals, etc. The produce could be redeemed, i.e., the Jew could buy it back at its market value, plus one-fifth of its value. The tithe of the herd, i.e., animals, could not be redeemed.
According to the Jewish manner of tithing, today a tithe would consist of ten percent of the gross income. If one has a garden, then add to that ten percent of the produce. If one is a fisherman, then God is due ten percent of the catch. The same goes for the hunter, in that ten percent of the game belongs to God.
2. The Deuteronomic Tithe:
5But unto the place which the Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there, even unto his habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come: 6And thither ye shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and heave offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks.[Deut. 12:5-6]
22Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year. 23And thou shalt eat before the Lord thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the Lord thy God always. 24And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the Lord thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the Lord thy God hath blessed thee: 25Then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the Lord thy God shall choose: 26And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the Lord thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household, 27And the Levite that is within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee.[Deut. 14:22-27]
This is a reference to what was known as the Festival tithe, which was in addition to the previously mentioned one-tenth. This Festival tithe was to be set apart and taken to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage feasts.