I also used to be a pastor who taught tithing and encouraged tithing. I don’t anymore.
Well, I will answer your question with a question, and then I will answer my own question to answer your question.
My question is this: Do Jews tithe today?
If you don’t know the answer, then I will tell you. No, they do not.
“Is that the reason why you don’t tithe, Eric?”
Actually, no, it’s not. But in order to tell you why I don’t tithe or why I no longer teach tithing I have to explain to you the reason why Jewish people no longer tithe. Let’s look at the biblical history of tithing.
A tithe simply means “one tenth.” Most churches and denominations today teach that the Bible commands us to give one-tenth or ten percent of our income to the church. This is referred to as “tithing.” Anything given above ten percent is considered an offering.
The first place that we find the word “tithe” in the Bible is in Genesis, Chapter 14. Abram’s nephew, Lot, had moved to Sodom. War had broken out. Lot was captured and carried off into captivity together with everything he owned.
Abram assembled a small army and went after the army of King Kedorlaomer. His army wiped out King Kedorlaomer’s army, and he rescued Lot and recovered all the possessions that Kedorlaomer’s army had taken.
Abram then met with the King of Sodom and the King of Salem, Melchizedek. Abram gave Melchizedek one-tenth of all that he had recovered. The King of Sodom asked Abram to release all the Sodomites that had been captured, but told him that he could keep spoils of war.
Let’s stop right here for minute.
Most pastors when teaching this are quick to point out that Abram gave of his “first fruits” and that we should follow suit. In other words, most pastors teach and preach that we should give ten percent of our paycheck before taxes, before bills, before gas, food, medical, etc. As soon as we get paid, we need to write out a check to the church before we write out a check to anyone else. That’s “first fruits.”
But there are a few things they neglect to teach you from this passage:
Abram didn’t tithe anything of his own. The ten percent that he gave to Melchizedek was actually things (goods, not actual money) that belonged to the people of Sodom. (vs. 20)
The King of Sodom tells Abram that he can keep the goods (things, not actual money) that he had recovered. Abram had already given ten percent of it to the Melchizedek before the King of Sodom told him this. (vs.21)
Abram tells the King of Sodom, “I will not take so much as a single thread or sandal thong from what belongs to you…. I will only accept what my young warriors have already eaten, and I request that you give a fair share of the goods to my allies…” (vs.23-24)
Abram kept absolutely nothing for himself. Nothing!
Nowhere in there does it mention, or even hint at, Abram tithing money. It mentions goods, threads, sandal thongs, and things his warriors had already eaten.
The next place we find the word “tithe” mentioned in the Bible is in Genesis 28. Abram’s name has been changed to Abraham. His son Isaac now has a son, Jacob.
In Genesis 28:13-15, God visits Jacob in a dream. In this dream or vision he tells Jacob that:
The ground he is lying on belongs to him and his descendants.
His descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth.
All the families of the earth will be blessed by through him and his descendants.
He (God) is with him and will protect him wherever he may go.
He will bring Jacob back to this land.
He will not leave Jacob until he’s given him everything that he’s promised.
Jacob then wakes up from the dream, excited. In Genesis 28:20-22, Jacob makes this vow to God:
– If God will be with me…
– If God will protect me…
– If God will provide for me food and clothing…
– And If I return safely home…
– Then the Lord will certainly be my God…and I will present to the Lord one-tenth of everything that he gives to me.
In other words, Jacob is saying, “If God does this, this, and this, and then I will do this…”
Today, pastors are quick to teach that if you want God to bless you, then, first, you need to tithe. As we delve a little further in our study on tithing, you’ll see that this is simply a false teaching. Scripture absolutely, positively does not teach this.
For the remainder of Jacob’s life, God was with him, protected him, provided for him food and clothing, and he returned safely back to Bethel. God did not require a tithe from Jacob for this. Jacob’s decision to tithe to God was merely his own. When the command was given for the nation of Israel to tithe, it was actually based on this model.
Let’s consider this.
How to Tithe
We first find the command to tithe in Deuteronomy 12:6-7. There God commands them to:
1) Bring their burnt offerings, sacrifices, tithes, sacred offerings, offerings for vows, voluntary offerings, and the offering of their firstborn of their herds and flocks to the place of worship, and
2) with their families they were to have a feast in the presence of the Lord.
3) They were to rejoice in all that they had accomplished because the Lord has blessed them.
God had blessed them before they tithed, not after. And certainly not because they tithed. They tithed because they were blessed by God.
What to Tithe
The command God gives them to tithe gets a little more detailed. In Leviticus 27:30-33, God actually defines what the tithe should consist of. It’s referred to as “the tithe of the land.” It consist of:
1) The seed of the land.
2) The fruit of the tree.
3) From the herd or flock.
Notice something? There’s no mention of money.
The list gets a little bit more detailed in Deuteronomy 14:22-26 when they are commanded to bring their tithes to the festival site:
vs. 22 – They are to only tithe their from their increase of their seed (not money). In other words, as long as God had blessed them, they were to tithe. If they didn’t have any increase, then they were not required to tithe. Most churches teach the opposite—you tithe to be blessed by God, he wants your first fruits. You pay God before you pay anyone else, and if you don’t pay him first then it’s a lack of faith on your part. Backwards from what we’ve seen so far, huh?
vs. 23 – They were to bring the tithe to the designated place of worship and eat it in his presence. This includes grain, new wine, olive oil, the first born males of their flocks and herds. (Notice, once again, nowhere does it say money).
vs. 24-26 – Here again it mentions when the Lord blesses you. If God didn’t bless you with increase, then you weren’t required to tithe.
In verses 24-26 it does mention money in regards to tithe. What it says is this: If the place of worship is too far for you to transport your tithe (grain, wine, olive oil, first born males from their flocks, and herds), then you can sell those items for money, travel with the money received in your hand, and when you get to the place of worship you could buy grain, wine, olive oil, first born males from flocks, and herds there. (This is the backdrop of the story of in Matthew when Jesus drove the merchants out of the Temple.)
After that, they were to take their offerings to the place of worship where they were to have a feast in the presence of the Lord. Using their grain, wine, olive oil, first born males from flocks, and herds, they were to celebrate with their families because God had blessed them so much.
Next, there was a tithe that they were supposed to bring at the end of every third year. You can find it in Deuteronomy 24:28-29. Basically it says this: Bring a tithe of the year’s harvest (not money) and give it to the Levites. The Levites are from the tribe of Levi, descendants of Aaron, the brother of Moses. The Levites are the only tribe out of the twelve tribes of Israel that can serve as priest. According to the law, only Levite priests can collect tithes. In turn, they were to give the tithe to the priest, orphans, and widows so that they could eat and be satisfied.
The tithe wasn’t to be given to them to “keep the lights on.”
The tithe wasn’t given to them to buy a bigger sound board.
The tithe wasn’t given to help expand the temple. The tithe wasn’t given so that they could buy advertisements, build a studio, broadcast live on air.
The tithe wasn’t to be given so that the priest could be given an outrageous salary.
The tithe was to be given simply to feed them.
The tithe was given to simply supply these men with one simple, basic need: Food. A man can only eat so much.
The list gets a little bit more detailed in 2 Chronicles 31:5-6. There it says that they are to tithe out of their abundance—the first fruits of corn, wine, oil, honey, sheep, and oxen. Once again, they were to tithe goods, not money!
Who Was to Tithe
Believe it or not, not everyone was to tithe. Only the landowners were required to tithe. Those who worked in trades, such as fishing or carpentry, were not required to tithe. Nor is there given anywhere in the Bible a command for them to buy, sale, or trade goods or services to tithe. What this means is that Jesus, who was a carpenter, didn’t tithe. Peter, who was a fisherman, didn’t tithe. Matthew, who was a wealthy tax collector, didn’t tithe. Paul, who was a tent maker, didn’t tithe. Only land owners who produced the grain, wine, olive oil, herds, and flocks were required to tithe.
Who Could Receive the Tithe
Not just anyone could receive the tithe. According to the law, only Levite priests could receive the tithe. In other words, you didn’t give your tithe to your local Rabbi. Only Levitical priests could receive a tithe.
This is why today Jewish people do not tithe. As a matter of fact, I can tell you exactly when they stopped tithing: 70 A.D. That’s when the Second Temple was destroyed in Jerusalem by the Roman Empire. With no Temple in Jerusalem, there was no priest. With no priest, there was no one who can legally receive a tithe. As a matter of fact, if a Jewish person today were to receive a tithe from someone, they would actually be breaking God’s law because only Levite priests can receive a tithe.
Pastors today are so quick to teach and preach that tithing is commanded by God. They teach that it’s a legal requirement for a Christian to tithe. Yet, nowhere in Scripture is there a command for anyone, other than a Jewish landowner, to give a tithe. And nowhere in Scripture is there a command given for someone other than a Levite priest to collect tithes.
Look at Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew, Chapter 1. Notice that Jesus is not listed as being a descendant of Aaron. Take a look in Luke, Chapter 3. Likewise, Jesus is not listed as being a descendant of Aaron. What this means is that Jesus wasn’t from the tribe of Levi, meaning, that he couldn’t be a temple priest. Jesus couldn’t collect tithes.
Open up to Philippians 3:5. We find out that the apostle Paul was from the tribe of Benjamin, which means that legally speaking Paul couldn’t collect tithes.
As a matter of fact, none of the twelve disciples were legally able to collect tithes, except perhaps Matthew. Some scholars believe that he may have been of the tribe of Levi. Still, he was a tax collector, not a priest, so he would have been unable to collect tithes.
In light of the above, let’s now consider what we know about tithing as commanded by God:
1) Only Jewish landowners are commanded to tithe.
2) They were only to tithe using fruit, grain, olive oil, wine, and the first born from their flocks and herds, not money.
3) They were to bring their tithe (goods) to the place of worship.
4) There, they were to prepare a feast using their tithe, celebrate with their families.
5) They were only to tithe from their abundance. If God did not bless them, they were not required to tithe.
6) Part of the tithe was to go to the priest, part of it was to go to the poor, the widows, and the orphans to feed them.
7) Only a Levite priest can accept a tithe.
8) Since there’s no temple currently, there’s no Levite priest. Tithing is not required for anybody.
9) Anyone who accepts a tithe who is not a Levite priest is breaking God’s law.
If tithing is a commandment that Christians are supposed to do, then shouldn’t we actually be doing it how the Bible says to do it? Honestly, I don’t know of one single church that tithes like this! The problem with this is if churches were to actually follow the teachings of the Bible on tithing, many of them would close. Man can’t live by bread, alone. The same is true for churches, as well. They need money, not goods.
Not only that, but since there is no temple or Levite priest, nobody in church can legally collect tithes. If you’re going to follow one of God’s commandments, you have to follow it exactly as God has commanded it. If you teach/preach that according to the Bible that Christians are required and commanded by God to tithe, shouldn’t you teach them to tithe how the Bible says to tithe?
“But Eric, we’re not under law…”
True. But yet pastors and church leadership choose to be legalistic when it comes to tithing.
In 2 Corinthians 9:7, the apostle Paul says:
You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.
It’s amazing how pastors and church leadership pressure their congregations into giving more. They’re quick to open up Malachi, Chapter 3 and use it to pressure people into giving tithes. Even at that, they’re not teaching it right.
To provide a little bit of background on Malachi 3:8-10, we have to look at these Scriptures in their proper context. First, Malachi 3 is written to the Jews concerning their tithes and offerings, not to Christians giving money to the church. We read in Malachi 1:6-10 that the nation of Israel was tithing blind, sick, and lame animals. But God wasn’t just mad about that. He was also mad because the Levite priest was accepting them.
God was angry because Israel hadn’t lived up to their end of the bargain. Remember the vow that Jacob had made to God? If he did this and this, then Jacob would give him ten percent? God had honored that. When he gave the command for tithing, it followed that same model. They were only required to tithe as long as God was blessing them.
Well, God had been blessing them! He had been giving them his best, but they were shortchanging him. This is why in Malachi 1:6, God says:
“A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?”
Neither the priest, nor the people, was honoring God. On the contrary, they were despising his name. This brings us to Malachi 3:8-10.
“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
God blessed them just like he promised them he would. He had given them everything that he promised. He held nothing back from them, yet they were holding back from him. He’d protected them. He’d provided for them. He’d been with them. His expectation was that they would honor him the way that their father, Jacob, had kept his vow to God.
Again, I reiterate, the commandment for tithing was based on this: I bless you, you honor me by giving me one-tenth of your grain, fruit, wine, honey, first born of your herds, and flocks. However, most pastors and teachers preach and teach that if you don’t want to be cursed, tithe. If you want God to open up the windows of heaven and pour out his abundant blessing, tithe. If you do not tithe, then you are robbing God and you’re bringing yourself under a curse, not a blessing. But that’s not what the text is saying here. When preachers use it to substantiate their teaching, they are merely cherry picking. They’re not preaching this in proper context!
So remember why were the people cursed? Not because they didn’t give tithes, but because the tithes that they gave and the tithes that the priest accepted did not honor God. They robbed God of honor. Because of that they were under a curse.
Simply, all God is saying is “Honor me. I have already blessed you. Honor me. Honor me, and I’ll bless you even more. Do not rob me of honor. I don’t deserve that.”
To be honest with you Christians, God doesn’t want your ten percent. Under the law, he required that of the Jews. You’re not under law—you’re under grace. Jesus set you free. Don’t let any man try to put you under a yoke of bondage. Remember John 8:36, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”
Now, please, don’t get me wrong. This isn’t an anti-giving message! I want you to give. God wants you to give. As I said: God doesn’t want your ten percent, he wants all of you—one hundred percent. He wants your entire life to honor him.
Let’s revisit 2 Corinthians 9:7:
“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” You should be giving from your heart. What or how much you give is between you and God. You should not giving “grudgingly,” meaning, you shouldn’t huff and puff about giving! If you are huffing and puffing about giving, you shouldn’t give.
You also shouldn’t give out of necessity. The Greek word used here for “necessity” is the word “anagkē,” which means: necessity, imposed either by the circumstances, or by law of duty regarding to one’s advantage, custom, argument calamity, distress, straits.
Do not give because your pastors or church leadership tell you that the reason you’re struggling is because you’re under a curse—because you haven’t tithed. Malachi, Chapter 3 is about honoring God with your giving. Period. No matter how much you give or how little you give, God loves a cheerful giver. Honor him with your giving.
Likewise, don’t give because a pastor or someone else in church leadership is telling you that tithing is a law or a commandment. It was a law and a commandment given to the Jews, not to Christians. Nowhere in the Bible is there one single command given for Christian tithing. Jesus didn’t tithe. The disciples didn’t tithe. Neither did they collect tithes. According to the commandment, only a Levite priest can collect tithes. And, as I mentioned, since there’s no Temple currently, there’s no Levite priest.
I could have gone into a lot more detail in this teaching, but I didn’t. This article is long enough, but I think the issue certainly is compelling. I also think it’s a good launching point for you to seek God on the issue.
So I encourage you, Reader, to please take your time with this, pray about it, open up God’s word and study it for yourself. Don’t take the decision to tithe or not to tithe lightly. While it won’t cost you your salvation, in today’s church culture it may cost you opportunities in your church or in other churches to serve or minister.
It may also cause you to have some stones thrown at you.
But above all, give. Be a giver. Give with all your heart. Honor God, and give abundantly if and whenever you can.
Eric Johnson wears many hats! Husband, father, organic church planter, pastor, preacher, conference speaker, worship leader, songwriter, cancer survivor, and a semi-retired professional stand-up comedian, Eric has been really blessed over the years to have the following artists close the show for him: Hawk Nelson, 7eventh Time Down, The Josh Gilbert Band, and Shinebright. Eric makes his home in majestic mountains of Bristol, Tennessee, with his amazing wife, Crystal and their son, Kyle. Follow him at @EricIsGuitarted.