June 17, 2011

Tithing vs. Giving

The New Testament does not instruct believers to tithe, but rather to give. There is a profound difference between tithing and giving.  Tithing is an obligation, a rule, under God’s Old Covenant Law with the Israelites through Moses.  Giving is a choice, an act of freewill and love.  Giving is a kind desire which flows out of the grace of God in us.  The Law under Moses was stringent and rigid.  Grace, in contrast, is the “law of liberty” (James 2:12 NKJV).  So tithing vs. giving is law vs. liberty, obligation vs. free choice.

Under the Law, tithing was instituted for the Levites and priests who served the physical house of the Lord and did not have an inheritance of land as other Israelites possessed.  It was also consumed in celebration by tithers and their households at feasts.  And a tithe every three years was either a redirected tithe or an additional tithe for caring for the needy including strangers, the fatherless and widows.  Tithes were ten percent of the increase of the land (agricultural such as grain and fruit as well as livestock such as cattle).  Tithes were not on money or income, although the tithe could be exchanged into money in some cases where the tithe of grain and livestock had to be carried too far and then food was purchased at the destination (see Deuteronomy 14:22-29 below).

It is interesting historians cannot agree on reconciling the biblical discrepancies regarding tithes.  There might have been a single 10% tithe that was developed over time with variances adopted at different times in Israel's history.  Alternatively, there might have been a single 10% tithe with more complex applications and the biblical writers described the different applications and perspectives of the unified tithe.  Ot therer were three different tithes totaling 20% as was practiced by first century Jews (10% each year to the Levites and priests, 10% each year to be enjoyed by the tither's household at feasts, and 10% every three years to support the needy which replaced the Levitical tithe that year) or even 23 1/3% as described in the book of Tobit where the third tithe was an additional tithe every three years.  In Nehemiah 10, the fact the restoration of the tithe refers to a single tenth, and not multiple tithes, lends support to a unified 10% tithe during Israel's ancient history.  However, it is also interesting, and a discrepancy, that first century Jews practiced three tithes totaling at least 20% annually.

Despite whether there were one, two or three tithes, it is salient the tithe was for eating and not for other purposes such as building a new temple or buying the Levites houses to live in.  The purpose was to eat: to have food for the Levites, strangers, fatherless and widows as well as for celebrations at feasts.

Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting.
Numbers 18:21 (NKJV)

You are to seek the place the LORD your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks.  There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the LORD your God has blessed you…. Then to the place the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name--there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the LORD.  And there rejoice before the LORD your God, you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites from your towns, who have no allotment or inheritance of their own…. You must not eat in your own towns the tithe of your grain and new wine and oil, or the firstborn of your herds and flocks, or whatever you have vowed to give, or your freewill offerings or special gifts.  Instead, you are to eat them in the presence of the LORD your God at the place the LORD your God will choose--you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites from your towns--and you are to rejoice before the LORD your God in everything you put your hand to.  Be careful not to neglect the Levites as long as you live in your land.
Deuteronomy 12:5-19 (NIV)

“You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. And you shall eat before the Lord your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the Lord your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the Lord your God has blessed you, then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the Lord your God chooses. And you shall 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. You shall not forsake the Levite who is within your gates, for he has no part nor inheritance with you.
“At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.”
Deuteronomy 14:22-29 (NKJV)

“When you have finished laying aside all the tithe of your increase in the third year--the year of tithing--and have given it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be filled, then you shall say before the Lord your God: ‘I have removed the holy tithe from my house, and also have given them to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed Your commandments, nor have I forgotten them.’”
Deuteronomy 26:12-13 (NKJV)

As soon as the commandment was circulated, the children of Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of grain and wine, oil and honey, and of all the produce of the field; and they brought in abundantly the tithe of everything. And the children of Israel and Judah, who dwelt in the cities of Judah, brought the tithe of oxen and sheep; also the tithe of holy things which were consecrated to the Lord their God they laid in heaps.
In the third month they began laying them in heaps, and they finished in the seventh month. And when Hezekiah and the leaders came and saw the heaps, they blessed the Lord and His people Israel. Then Hezekiah questioned the priests and the Levites concerning the heaps. And Azariah the chief priest, from the house of Zadok, answered him and said, “Since the people began to bring the offerings into the house of the Lord, we have had enough to eat and have plenty left, for the Lord has blessed His people; and what is left is this great abundance.”
2 Chronicles 31:5-10 (NKJV)

And we made ordinances to bring the firstfruits of our ground and the firstfruits of all fruit of all trees, year by year, to the house of the Lord; to bring the firstborn of our sons and our cattle, as it is written in the Law, and the firstborn of our herds and our flocks, to the house of our God, to the priests who minister in the house of our God; to bring the firstfruits of our dough, our offerings, the fruit from all kinds of trees, the new wine and oil, to the priests, to the storerooms of the house of our God; and to bring the tithes of our land to the Levites, for the Levites should receive the tithes in all our farming communities. And the priest, the descendant of Aaron, shall be with the Levites when the Levites receive tithes; and the Levites shall bring up a tenth of the tithes to the house of our God, to the rooms of the storehouse. For the children of Israel and the children of Levi shall bring the offering of the grain, of the new wine and the oil, to the storerooms where the articles of the sanctuary are, where the priests who minister and the gatekeepers and the singers are; and we will not neglect the house of our God.
Nehemiah 10:35-39 (NKJV)

In Christ, the physical has been replaced by the spiritual. There is no longer a caste of priests determined by genealogy (the tribe of Levites) who depend on the tithes of farming communities to eat. And the physical tabernacle has been replaced by a living, heavenly dwelling place of the Lord. Jesus Christ is the once-and-for-all eternal sacrifice and High Priest so there are no more sacrifices of animals to atone for sin and no more Levite priests mediating at a physical tabernacle. Jesus calls all His followers, not just some, priests. Believers enter freely into the spiritual Holy of Holies (i.e. the Presence of the Lord), whereas the physical Holy of Holies was previously entered by the Jewish high priest only once a year on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16). When the veil to the Holy of Holies, also called the Most Holy Place, tore the hour Christ died, believers entered into an intimate relationship with God the Father with all sins washed away and atoned for through Christ’s shed blood.

It is very important believers understand the significance of the veil of the temple being torn in two at Christ’s death. The fact the physical veil to the Holy of Holies was literally torn in two (and this veil was thick and heavy) is related to the tearing of Christ’s flesh so all believers may pass freely into the Holy of Holies. In the Holy of Holies, also called the Most Holy Place, dwelt the very Presence of the Lord’s Spirit. With the final work of Christ’s sacrifice, the earthly house of the Lord, which was the physical sanctuary, has been replaced with the heavenly, spiritual sanctuary of believers. Earthly and physical has been replaced by heavenly and Holy Spirit-filled. This living, intimate, heavenly sanctuary the Lord created and indwells is a marvelous miracle.

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple [i.e. veil to the Holy of Holies] was torn in two from top to bottom.
Matthew 27:50-51 (NKJV)

And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last. Then the veil of the temple [i.e. veil to the Holy of Holies] was torn in two from top to bottom.
Mark 15:37-38 (NKJV)

Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. Then the sun was darkened, and the veil [i.e. veil to the Holy of Holies] of the temple was torn in two. And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ “
Luke 23:44-46 (NKJV)

Then indeed, even the first covenant [with the Jews] had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary.
The Holy Spirit indicating… that the way into the Holiest of All [in the earthly sanctuary or physical house of the Lord] was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle [i.e. sanctuary, temple, house of the Lord] was still standing. It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience-- concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.
But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
He [Jesus Christ] has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
This Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin [e.g. sacrifices and offerings in an earthly temple].
Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil [i.e. relating to the physical veil to the Holy of Holies], that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.
Hebrews 9:1, 8-15, 26; 10:12-24 (NKJV)

By believing in Christ, we no longer keep the ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary prescribed by Moses. Instead, believers are collectively the body of Christ, the living sanctuary of God with Christ as our High Priest in heaven. And the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, fills and inhabits this living body of believers which is the true, heavenly tabernacle of the Lord:

For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us… He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself…. so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.
Hebrews 9:24, 26, 28 (NKJV)

He [God the Father] raised Him [Christ] from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
Ephesians 1:20-23 (NKJV)

Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.
Hebrews 8:1-2 (NKJV)

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Ephesians 2:4-9 (NKJV)

As the old earthly sanctuary is replaced by a new and better heavenly body of Christ, so Christ has replaced the Old Testament priesthood of Levites and become High Priest for all believers who are all called priests. The old Law associated with the old earthly sanctuary has been fulfilled (made replete) by Christ. And the old Law has been replaced with a new and better covenant of a living and heavenly body (sanctuary) comprised of born-again believers where His law is written on the hearts and minds and they are led by His Spirit:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill [make replete] them [the Law].”
Matthew 5:17 (NIV)

Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.
Hebrews 7:11-12 (NKJV)

Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father
Revelations 1:5-6 (NKJV)

“You [Jesus Christ] were slain,
And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
And have made us kings and priests to our God;
And we shall reign on the earth.”
Revelations 5:9-10 (NKJV)

Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.
Revelations 20:6 (NKJV)

But now He [Christ] has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.
For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah-- not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
Hebrews 8:6-13 (NKJV)

With the passing of the Old Covenant to the New Covenant, nowhere in the New Testament is there reference to tithing except Jesus scolding the scribes and Pharisees for not keeping the whole Law, by which they judged themselves as “righteous”. This scolding by Jesus was one of many teachings by Jesus that the scribes and Pharisees were legalistic, did not keep the whole Law as they imagined, and even added their own laws which were burdens to the people and contrary to God. Jesus was exposing they were not keeping the Law and were, as a result, not righteous according to the Law:

“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.”
Matthew 23:23 (NKJV)

As further evidence that tithing is part of the written Old Testament Law, from which believers in Christ are liberated to follow instead His “laws in their mind and… on their hearts”, the apostles instructed new converts in only a few simple rules, and tithing and circumcision were both omitted:

But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”
Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.” Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles. And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me: Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written:
‘After this I will return
And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down;
I will rebuild its ruins,
And I will set it up;
So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,
Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name,
Says the Lord who does all these things.’
“Known to God from eternity are all His works. Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”
Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was also named Barsabas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren. They wrote this letter by them:
The apostles, the elders, and the brethren,
To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia:
Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law” --to whom we gave no such commandment-- it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.
Acts 15:5-29 (NKJV)

Notice the apostles say, “to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.” Tithing was not one of those things. Circumcision was not one of those things.

And here again, the apostles support gentiles in not following circumcision and other customs of the Law:

They have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs. What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will hear that you have come. Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow. Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law. But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.”
Acts 21:21-25 (NKJV)

There is a stark difference of obligation versus choice between tithing and giving. Giving is instructed over and over by Jesus but, as is shown above, tithing was not instructed for new Christians either by Jesus or by the apostles. One is an obligation of the Law with consequences if you disobey, the other is a choice which arises freely and unfettered from love and caring. If you try to keep the whole Law but don’t succeed, you are deemed guilty and cursed for not keeping the entire Law. And if you try to keep just part of the Law, and circumcision and tithing are each part of the Law, then you are obligated to keep the entire Law or else the part of the Law you do try to keep is of no value with regards to righteousness. It saddens me that for decades pastors and preachers have taught on the supposed importance and value of tithing in contradiction to the apostles’ teachings that keeping part of the Law is of no value, no righteousness:

For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
James 2:10-13 (NKJV)

For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.” Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Galatians 3:10-14 (NKJV)

For circumcision [or tithing] is indeed profitable if you keep the [whole] law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision [or tithing] has become uncircumcision [unrighteous, as if never circumcised or as if never have tithed]. Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter [i.e. the Law]; whose praise is not from men but from God.
Romans 2:25-29 (KJV)

It took me countless years to realize that by tithing and not keeping the rest of the Law such as animal sacrifices, my tithing was of no value with regards to righteousness and blessing since I would have had to keep the whole Law for it to be counted to me as righteousness. Seeking righteousness by following the Law as well as accepting the atoning blood of Jesus and receiving His righteousness imputed on us through faith are mutually exclusive. The Bible says, “For circumcision [or tithing] is indeed profitable if you keep the [whole] law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision [or tithing] has become uncircumcision [unrighteous or as if never kept the whole Law]” and “whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all”. I would rather remain under grace through Christ’s sacrifice, which I need in abundance, than try to keep the Law and know I will fail miserably. So I am actually afraid to tithe because it is similar to circumcision, seeking righteousness through actions rather than through faith in Christ. Jesus died for me and is my High Priest in heaven so I may enter into and be filled with the Presence of God, His Holy Spirit, “that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Through faith, I have an increased desire to love and give from the overflow and blessing of His Spirit in me and through me. Tithing stems from legal obligation and the apostles teach keeping part of the Law such as circumcision or tithing is of no spiritual value when one has not kept the whole Law. But giving stems out of love and caring. There is a big difference in the freedom of the soul between obligation and individual choice.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

Paul operated in the fivefold ministry (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, Ephesians 4:11) and set the example for working and giving. Paul could have argued he deserved to be financially supported as an apostle, or request a tithe of “love offering” as many pastors and preachers today do. But instead he wrote:

I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
Acts 20:33-35 (NASB)

Because he [Paul] was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers.
Acts 18:3 (NKJV)

For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example. For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.
2 Thessalonians 3:7-12 (NASB)

And Paul, having set the example, counseled others to work so they might be able to provide for themselves as well as give:

We urge you, brethren, to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.
1 Thessalonians 4:10-12 (NASB)

He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.
Ephesians 4:28 (NASB)

Jesus and the apostles instructed believers to give, and not out of obligation or compulsion or some formula to gain a material blessing. When our lives are oriented towards giving of ourselves in all aspects – love, kindness, good works, time, money, etc. – then we will reap the abundant, peace-filled, life and provision in Christ. Simply, we give because we love our neighbors. And we give according to our ability, not according to a formulaic ten percent of income.

And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own [i.e. free choice], they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.
2 Corinthians 8:1-5 (NIV)

I give my opinion in this matter, for this is to your advantage, who were the first to begin a year ago not only to do this, but also to desire to do it. But now finish doing it also, so that just as there was the readiness to desire it, so there may be also the completion of it by your ability. For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality— at this present time your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality.
2 Corinthians 8:10-14 (NASB)

And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea.
Acts 11:27-29 (NKJV)

But this I [Paul] say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. As it is written: “He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.” Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men, and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
2 Corinthians 9:6-15 (NKJV)

Disperse abroad your gifts to the poor. And be free in Christ from the burden of the Law that is “obsolete and aging [and] will soon disappear”.
Hebrews 8:13 (NIV)

All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.
Galatians 2:10 (NIV)

For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.
Romans 15:26-27 (NIV)

Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
Galatians 6:6-10 (NKJV)

And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
Heb 13:16 (NIV)

[Jesus said,] “If anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward."

Matt 10:42 (NIV)

[Jesus said,] “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom.”
Luke 6:37-38 (NKJV)

Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:29-31 (NKJV)

For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Galatians 5:14-15 (NKJV)

And we are not to assume giving is just about money, we give from the variety of gifts given to us by God. Here are some of many, many gifts that can be given to bless others: apostolic founding of churches, prophecies, teaching, working of miracles, gifts of healings, ministry, exhortation and encouragement, helping, leading, administrating, and showing mercy.

For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
Romans 12:4-8 (NKJV)

Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.
Matthew 10:8 (NKJV)

For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free--and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 12:12-31, 13:1-13 (NKJV)

Once again, in the above it is clear that how we give is anchored in the orientation of our heart, not in obligation. Similar to the teachings that keeping only part of the Law is of no value, the apostle states if we don’t have love, if our giving is out of obligation, then woefully “I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal”, “I am nothing”, and “it profits me nothing”. Those are very strong words. I have not heard a single sermon on tithing (and I’ve heard hundreds) that has placed the foundation of giving squarely on love rather than obedience to“God’s Law” or a “biblical principal” or “giving God back what is His”. Sermons on tithing are always about giving the first tenth of your income to the church. I can’t find such instruction to tithe anywhere in the law of liberty, the New Testament. But I do see over and over to love Jesus and your neighbor and, out of such love, to give according to your ability and your gifts, which have been given to you by God in the first place.

Giving generously from what God has given you will inspire and refresh you with its freedom and lack of obligation. You will flow in something spiritually exquisite as you feel Him giving through you and to you in a variety of ways. You won’t want to hold it in because the flow of gifts feels so good. However, giving out of obligation and duty will, eventually, feel like shackles. When you give out of duty or expectation of a “harvest from your seed giving”, you will wonder why your giving “isn’t working”, you aren’t as blessed as you thought you would be. I encourage you to experiment not tithing anymore and simply giving of your variety of gifts. Don’t focus only on money, explore giving from all your gifts. Know you are giving when you forgive and don’t resent. Know you are giving when you show mercy. Know you are giving when you take time to help someone. Know you are giving when you provide someone a shoulder to cry on. Know you are giving when you hug and love someone who is dirty. Know you are giving when you find homes or charities for the items in your house you don’t use anymore. I know you will not fall under God’s judgment for not tithing ten percent of your income. Rather, I hope you won’t take as long as it took me to discover the true freedom of giving in various ways from all your gifts.


Christ desires that His body of believers provide for the poor and suffering, particularly those of His body. Christ’s instruction to sell what I interpret as excess lands and possessions are overlooked in the prosperity teachings of many pastors and teachers today (Luke 12:32-34; Mark 10:21-22). I admit that I live richly compared to most of the world and my relatively comfortable life causes introspection. Yes, I view my quality of life as a blessing and not avarice, but see below that a clear conscience does not mean the motives of my heart are right with the Lord. Whether I am right or wrong in Christ’s eyes, whether or not I have failed the test Jesus presented to the rich young ruler (Matthew 19, Mark 10, Luke 18), I have made a personal goal, Lord willing, to own what I presently own without mortgage debt and then give most of my overflow to the poor and others free of charge. Again, I don’t know if I am right or wrong in this attitude. I just believe at some point enough has to be enough for me personally and further increase has to be almost entirely for others and not for me.

My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.
1 Corinthians 4:4 (NIV)

I also follow the Apostle Paul’s example for each of us to work, to earn income from being in the world’s marketplace, and not to gain our wealth from our non-profit ministry.  We are to work in the world so we have money to give.  The flow of the river of Christ’s life and blessing should be from us who are strong and prospered in the Lord to others who are poor and need help, not vica-versa.  If you, as a religious leader, have food and clothing already why do you receive gifts and money for yourself like motivational speakers do?  Why not teach and share your wisdom for little or no profit as the apostles did?  They were even beaten and jailed and yet kept freely sharing the good news about Jesus Christ.  The apostles even healed for free and prophesied for free.  Or why not only take enough money to cover your real costs, such as publishing, conferences and meetings ,and give your profits to the poor?  If you have your basic needs met already, why do you receive additional gifts and money for yourself from the poor, the widows, the down-trodden, the new in faith, the desperate, the heavily in debt, and the hurting?

It is unconscionable to me that some Christian leaders (e.g. preachers, teachers, pastors, ministers and other leaders) have gotten wealthy by taking from the very people they should have been giving to instead. At minimum these religious leaders should have told their financially struggling devotees to instead use their money to pay bills and pay down debt. Yes, some of these leaders have some wise teachings on the Bible and Christian life, and many of these leaders do care deeply about people. But on the matter of money they widely deviate from the Apostle Paul’s example. These leaders increase wealth for themselves through receiving tithes, offerings, love gifts, seeds sown, and donations from their “partners” and “church”. Of course, once they acquire wealth they may boast they earn their income from their outside businesses and investments and no longer draw high salaries and high revenues from their ministries, books and CDs. But I argue they never would have had the money to buy those businesses and investments if they didn’t first receive money for themselves from the poor, the widows, the down-trodden, the new in faith, the desperate, the heavily in debt, and the hurting. Imagine if these Christian leaders actually had to start from scratch and earn a living and grow wealth from only working in the world and not from their ministry. I have no doubt we would not see so many of them so wealthy.

I cannot find one single Christian man of God in the New Testament or one single Hebrew man of God in the Old Testament who made their wealth by receiving money given to them. All the great heroes of faith in the Old Testament made wealth from the Lord blessing their lands and businesses in the world. Yet there were two classes of people who made wealth by inappropriately receiving from (in other words, robbing) others: (1) immoral politicians, businessmen and tax collectors who oppressed the people and laborers, and (2) immoral religious leaders who devoured widows’ houses and, it is assumed, the houses of other believers as well. Jesus warned these religious leaders, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees [i.e. religious teachers and leaders], hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.” Matthew 23:25 (NASB)

In polar opposite to religious leaders who have acquired wealth through teaching, Paul gave his teaching away for free and further gave us his example of working: one should work like Paul so they have something to give. He didn’t take money from his non-profit ministry to support his living needs, he worked. And because Paul worked, the money he received through his ministry flowed through him and to others who were suffering. Paul was a trustworthy steward who didn’t dip his hand into the offering bucket to scoop up a handsome salary. Paul carried the entire offering bucket to the hurting. It is not tricky to discern whether or not religious leaders who gain wealth by receiving tithes, offerings, love gifts, seeds sown, and donations from their “church” and “partners” are operating in the same spirit of the apostle Paul who worked in the world.

Jesus said to his disciples, “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.”
Luke 20:45-47 (NIV)

“You yourselves know that these hands of mine [Paul] 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 20:34-35 (NIV)

Jesus’ appeal to all His disciples was to not love money and to not seek worldly riches, but rather to seek the Kingdom of God and be provided for: “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” Matthew 6:31-34 (NIV) Jesus counseled against materialism, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV) The Apostle Paul instructed contentment with moderation: “If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” 1 Timothy 6:8 (NIV) And the book of Hebrews teaches the same, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have.” Hebrews 13:5 (NIV)

The giving of money as Christ and the apostles taught was to help the poor, never to make the apostles and other early Christian leaders wealthy. Yes, a Bible teacher is worthy of receiving compensation but the theme is one of moderation, which is not surprising given Jesus’ discouraged materialism and Paul and other apostles taught on contentment with what you have. Paul writes, “Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.” Galatians 6:6 (NIV) And Jesus instructed, “As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.” Matthew 10:7-10 (NIV) Jesus described a situation where His instructors, the ministers of the gospel, did not have any means to eat or be sheltered, thus they received basic living needs from those they taught. A minister of the gospel is worthy of having living needs supported, although Paul set the higher standard of working and refusing steady compensation. There is no indication the leader’s living, as supported by the gifts of others, was ever to be rich or lavish in nature.

In summary, according to Jesus’ teachings and the apostles’ instructions and examples, we are to work in the world so we are able to bless others. According to our ability, we are to give to and care for the poor so they might have food and clothes. Given how inexpensive modern nutrition and medicine are today, one might argue basic nutritional and medical needs should be met as well. Below are additional scriptures that support the views I have expressed. May we each decide where to draw the line in our life and be content with what we have.

So the people asked him [John the Baptist], saying, “What shall we do then?” He answered and said to them, “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.”
Luke 3:10-11 (NKJV)

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
James 2:14-17 (NIV)

Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.
1 Timothy 6:17-19 (NASB)

Whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
1 John 3:17-18 (NKJV)

There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.
Acts 4:34-35 (NIV)

For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality at this present time your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality.
2 Corinthians 8:13-14 (NASB)

[Jesus said] “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Luke 12:32-34 (NIV)

Looking at him [the rich young man], Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.
Mark 10:21-22 (NASB)

[Jesus said] “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble
Matthew 6:25-34 (NKJV)

If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
1 Timothy 6:8-10 (NIV)

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have.
Hebrews 13:5 (NIV)

Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.
Proverbs 30:8-9 (NIV)

[The Lord said] “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter--
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.”
Isaiah 58:6-11 (NIV)

Update as of April 18, 2013
The 2nd through 4th paragraphs were updated as of this date after reading "Beyond Tithing" by Stuart Murray today.  "Beyond Tithing", which you might find at a used book store on Amazon, is a well-researched book on the history of tithing and presents why tithing is biblical but it is not Christian.