Updated: Dec 14, 2020
Tithing is a very controversial topic with passionate views on both sides of the issue, so let me say right from the beginning that this is NOT an anti-tithing message. It is not my purpose in this writing to speak against tithing nor is it my purpose to wholly endorse the modern views of tithing, especially those that may be an abuse of Scripture taken out of context. More than anything, really, I want to examine some things The Bible says about tithing that are either not taught in Churches today or may cause serious problems with the way tithing is taught in pro-tithing ministries. The primary purpose of this message is to get you to dig into the Scripture and think about things not typically brought up regarding the topic of tithing.
If you’ve been involved in modern Church, especially if you have attended a more aggressive Pentecostal or Word of Faith fellowship, you have likely been taught on some level to tithe through giving ten percent of your income to the Church. While there are still a number of Protestant denominations that oppose the modern views of tithing, it seems on some level the majority of Christian Churches appear to lean toward a view that tithing continues to be a requirement of biblical faith.
My objective here is to present from a favorable perspective on tithing, but at the same time asking those who currently believe in the model of tithing taught by Christian Churches today to pause and think seriously about some things. The modern tithe message is generally very simple: Give ten percent of your gross income (your monetary wages from you job before taxes are taken out) to a local Church. This local Church, of course, is referred to as “the storehouse”, pulling from Malachi 3:10, claiming that it is the modern equivalent to the storehouses where tithes were kept in ancient Israel—a view that is part of Replacement Theology.
But is this truly a biblical perspective of tithing?
So, with that question in mind, I want to take a look at several points related to biblical tithing. Chances are that I will present some things that you have never heard before or never considered. That’s a good thing!
As you read through this message, I hope that you will consider the information presented with an open mind and an open heart.
The Hypocrisy Of Modern Tithe Preaching
I’ve listened to many a sermon on tithing, and many more short exhortations on tithing prior to ushers passing plates, baskets, or buckets to collect tithes and offerings from willing parishioners. Let me emphasize, there is nothing at all wrong with giving financial support to a ministry you view favorably. But there is something I have noticed in one particular angle that may be taken in regard to the modern tithe message.
In this approach the preacher giving the teaching or exhortation on the tithe will acknowledge that tithing is “Old Testament” or “old covenant”. They will admit that it is “under the Mosaic Law” (a false reference to Yahweh’s Torah, as it was God that gave the Torah, not Moses who sat down with a pen and paper and made it up himself). But then they will point out that certain other things are “under The Law”.
Sure, tithing is a part of The Law, but so is ‘Thou shall not commit murder’. You don’t see anyone saying we shouldn’t obey that today. ‘Do not commit adultery’ is part of The Law, but nobody would say we don’t have to keep that commandment today. ‘Do not steal’ is a part of The Law, as well as “Do not bear false witness’.
All of these things and many others are part of “The Law”, and you don’t see anyone saying these are not to be adhered to under the “new covenant”. So far so good, I agree that if we push one commandment we should push all equally. With that, I have some questions for the modern preacher who uses this line of thought or some similar method to promote tithing in their Churches. If your argument in favor of tithing is that we should tithe because we don’t steal, we don’t lie, we don’t commit adultery, and we don’t murder as “new covenant Believers”—which I agree with—then: What about the food laws from Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14?
What about The Sabbath Day, the Fourth Commandment to remember the seventh day of the week and keep it holy by doing no ordinary work (you know, your job, the source of that paycheck they want you to tithe from)?
What about the Spring and Fall Feasts of the Lord outlined in Exodus 23, Leviticus 23, Numbers 28-29, and Deuteronomy 16?
What about Leviticus 19:28 telling people not to put tattoos on their body?
What about Leviticus 19:19 and Deuteronomy 22:11 telling people not to wear wool and linen together?
What about Deuteronomy 12:29-31 where it says to not take the ways of pagan religion and turn them into the worship of Yahweh—something that many historical and scholarly sources indicate Christmas and Easter is an absolute violation of?
Why aren’t these “under The Law” things being given the same attention as tithing? After all, if the argument, as I have heard so many times in regard to tithing, is “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15, the words of Yeshua) then why aren’t these commandments included as part of Yeshua’s admonition to keep His commandments if we love Him? It is absolute hypocrisy to insist week after week that your people should pay their tithe because it’s God’s commandment but rarely if ever teach obedience to the food laws and even offer all manner of unclean things to eat at events hosted by your Church. I have sat in meetings for ministers where lunch was provided. These places persist that tithing is a commandment of God, but then they tried to hand me a pepperoni pizza or a ham sandwich for lunch. I’m not making this up, I wish I were. (In these cases, if they had a clean option like a cheese pizza or a turkey sandwich, I requested that. Otherwise, I paid for my own biblically clean lunch after the meeting.)
How is it that a preacher can, in good conscience, stand up every week and tell their people to tithe, always citing a passage like John 14:15, but then not teach them to keep the food laws, The Sabbath and The Feasts? Think about this. These “pastors” will use a verse that technically applies to ALL commandments listed in God’s Torah and apply it only to the ONE commandment that they financially benefit from. They will not lead you to keep The Feasts—which we will see in a moment are actually an integral part of biblical tithing—and then to top it off they will celebrate secular-pagan cultural holidays that are certainly (at least in my opinion) a violation of the commandment given in Deuteronomy 12, as already noted. Some have even been teaching about the Feasts, but do not actually lead their people in keeping them biblically—rather, they have simply turned them into some “offering gimmick” that cannot be supported by Scriptural context—more on that in a moment.
The truth of the matter is that a preacher who uses this passage from John 14 or any other “proof text” to sway parishioners to tithe but then endorses eating the abomination or not keeping the true Sabbath or getting tattoos or anything else addressed in the above questions is acting in hypocrisy. To build on John 14:15, 1 John 2:4 says that anyone who claims to know God but does not keep the commandments is a liar and the truth is not in them. Think about that. If a preacher pushes tithing but not the food laws, he/she is a liar according to Scripture. If they push tithing but think it’s OK to tattoo their body, they are liars. If they push tithing but tell their people to come in on Saturday [The Sabbath] to work around the church to “get ready for Sunday service”, they are liars and the truth is not in them.
I heard one such preacher some time ago around the American cultural holiday of Thanksgiving. He delivered his exhortation to tithing using John 14:15 quite frequently, as I’m pretty sure he did the particular evening I am referring to. But then he said that for Thanksgiving he would be preparing a 16-pound country ham at his house. Apparently he forgot that “Don’t eat pork” is also one of the commandments covered by John 14:15. Or maybe he simply doesn’t care about that one because he needed to get paid (from the tithes of the people) to pay for the 16-pounds of swine’s flesh that his God calls an abomination.
If a minister teaches you to tithe but not to keep the food laws, I can assure you he or she is either grossly deceived or an absolute hypocrite. I talked about this particular hypocrisy some time ago in a message titled Tithing Laws vs. Dietary Laws where I compared what is often taught in favor of tithing with what The Bible says about the biblical food laws. There are eerily striking similarities.
Do you want to expose a hypocrite in the pulpit? Ask them after they tell you to tithe if they follow the biblical food laws—and make sure that if they do, they follow them for the same reason they endorse tithing, because it’s the commandment of God. This is important because some are following them merely because they think it’s a “good idea for health reasons” but not that they are to be imposed on all Believers. Others I have seen tout that they don’t eat pork, but then it turns out they eat other unclean things like shellfish. So the ability to say “I don’t eat pork” is just a ruse to keep Torah-keeping Believers thinking they are living right. But, as Scripture says: nothing is hidden that shall not be revealed. Eventually hypocrisy exposes itself. If tithing is still for Messiah’s Body today, then so are the food laws, so are the Feasts of Yahweh, so is The Sabbath, so is the prohibition against getting tattoos, so is the prohibition of wearing wool and linen together, and so is everything else in The Father’s Torah.
That last point is important too, because I heard one not too long ago spouting off about grace in a message where was treading the lines of heresy. He began to boast about how he hasn’t eaten pork for about 15 years, but then said that it’s not because of any biblical laws. He just feels it’s not a good idea to do that, but he wouldn’t impose such a thing on other Christians. This is a person who makes it a point every time he opens his mouth to tell people to tithe, mind you. This is hypocrisy. Either you promote all of God’s Torah because it’s God’s Torah or don’t bother promoting any of it. If you are going to teach one thing as the Law of God, then either you teach ALL of His Laws equally or you are nothing more than a hypocrite blaspheming the Word of God. After all, Revelation 3:15 says that God would rather you be hot or cold than to waver in the middle. All throughout Scripture we see the plea to not become entangled in an unholy mixture.
I would rather a preacher make up their mind that we either follow the whole Torah or none of it than going around confusing people and creating a complicated “gospel” where we have to evaluate every commandment and figure out if we should keep it or reject it today. And for what? Because they want to eat bacon for breakfast? Eat turkey bacon if you need bacon that desperately! There is not a single food product on the market today commonly made from pork that does not have a biblically clean alternative made from chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, or another clean animal. And often the producers of these alternatives are health-conscious companies that do not fill their meat products with unnatural additives like the controversial nitrites and nitrates added to a lot of processed pork meats.
I’ve heard preachers refer to the tax codes of the United States of America and say how simple God’s way is: Just give ten percent. But when you have to endure long debates to try and figure out which commandments are to be kept and which are not, the result of picking and choosing which commandments people think they don’t need to follow, you have a religious code much more complicated than the American tax system. Yes, God does keep it simple: If you love Him, keep His commandments—ALL OF THEM! And do it because you believe God is God, and if you believe God is God then obeying anything He commanded is simply a result of believing God is God. Questioning the commandments of God is the work of Satan, just read Genesis 3:1. You are literally submitting yourself to the serpent when you decide you don’t have to follow that commandment, whichever of the 613 commandments that commandment you have questioned may be.
Wherever you might believe the truth of tithing in the modern Church is, I beg of you please stop giving money to hypocrites who tell you to tithe but don’t tell you to keep the biblical food laws or God’s Feasts or The Sabbath or anything else not so popular with “current Christian theology” and they don’t benefit from financially. Even if you feel God led you to their Church for whatever reason, you DO NOT have to give money to a hypocrite. Financing hypocrisy puts you in covenant with hypocrisy and makes you an equal partner with it.
Are You Really A Biblical Tither?
One thing you will likely find very few ministers teaching today is that there is not a singular ten percent tithe (and even the “main” ten percent is questionable, as you will see in a little bit), but rather there are three tithes given in the Torah. The third tithe, which I am going to discuss later in this message, is a tithe for the poor, which includes orphans, widows, and the stranger (Gentiles) living within the community of Israel. This tithe was collected every third year and supplemented other provisions for the poor, such as their authorization to glean from the corners of farm fields. Those who actually do teach this to any degree today present it as something you can do by adding an extra one-third of a tithe to your “regular tithe”, which I suppose is every bit as biblical as the ten-percent monetary tithe is—however biblical either of these interpretations may actually be.
One tithe you will almost certainly never hear taught from a pulpit, aside from a fully Torah-positive ministry, is the second tithe. This is a tithe that you pay to yourself. Yes, you heard that correct, you pay this tithe to yourself, not to any priest or storehouse and certainly not to any “Christian” Pastor or Church. Let’s take a look at what Scripture says.
“You will surely set aside a tenth of all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. You are to eat the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, before Adonai your God in the place He chooses to make His Name dwell, so that you may learn to fear Adonai your God always. Now suppose the way is too long for you, for you cannot carry the tithe because the place Adonai your God chooses to set His Name is too far from you. When Adonai your God blesses you, then you are to exchange the tithe for silver, bind up the silver in your hand, and go to the place that Adonai your God chooses. You may spend the money for whatever your soul desires—cattle, sheep, wine, strong drink, or whatever your soul asks of you. Then you will eat there before Adonai your God and rejoice—you and your household. ~Deuteronomy 14:22-26 (TLV)
This is generally referred to as the second tithe (despite that I have mentioned it third, as the tithe for the poor mentioned above is outlined in Deuteronomy 14:28-29), and it is essentially a “savings” one is to keep so that they have what they need to celebrate the biblical Spring and Fall Feasts (Pesach/Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Shavuot/Pentecost, Trumpets, The Day of Atonement, and Sukkot/Tabernacles).
Yes, it says you are to take of your produce and use that to keep The Feasts, but it also says that if you cannot do that you can exchange this tithe for money and then use that money to buy whatever you need for your celebration. Seeing as most people today earn monetary wages at a job, and since this tithe allows for you to use money to buy what you need for the Feasts, it doesn’t seem it would be a stretch to use a tenth of your income for celebrating The Feasts. This would be especially true if it is justified to tithe ten percent of your monetary income to a Church.
Have you ever heard a minister quote Deuteronomy 16:16-17? It reads like this, from the Tree of Life Version: “Three times a year all your males are to appear before Adonai your God in the place He chooses—at the Feast of Matzot, the Feast of Shavuot, and the Feast of Sukkot. No one should appear before Adonai empty-handed—the gift of each man’s hand according to the blessing Adonai your God has given you.” With the growing interest among Christians in keeping The Feasts—one of the few elements of “full Torah-keeping” that currently seems to appeal to the masses of Christianity—I often hear this verse taken completely out of context in an effort to make God’s Holy Feasts into a gimmick to raise an offering. The context of this passage is based in Deuteronomy 14 where we read the parameters of the tithe for the Feasts.
The passage in Chapter 14 clearly tells us to set aside a tithe so that we have what we need for the celebration of God’s Holy Feasts. It says that we are to eat this tithe ourselves, but that we do it before God. It even gives provision that you can redeem your tithe for money to go out and purchase whatever you may need to celebrate these Holy Feast Days. To further clarify this point, in Numbers 28 it refers to food offerings that are made by fire. This matches up with Leviticus 23 where in each of the Feast days we are instructed to bring an offering made by fire. Deuteronomy 16:16-17, then, is telling us to make sure we have the food we need to celebrate The Feasts—and those who use it to tell you to give them money are twisting Scripture to con you.
What does all of this mean? It means that no matter where the truth lies regarding tithing in modern times and whether or not there is any validity to paying a monetary tithe to a local Church, if you do not celebrate the biblical Feasts YOU ARE NOT A BIBLICAL TITHER. How many professing Christians who call themselves “biblical tithers” keep the Feasts of their God? It’s probably very few, even with the growing interest in The Feasts because many are being misguided into thinking that celebrating these Commanded Feasts today simply means giving a “special (monetary) offering” to their Church, on top of their “regular tithe” of course. When it says not to come before God empty-handed it isn’t telling us to give money or anything else to a Church, ministry, or even a Levite priest. It simply means we are to actually have a literal feast with food—clean in accordance with Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14, of course—to honor our God by celebrating His provision.
Remember my preacher friend I mentioned a moment ago who cooked the 16-pound abomination for Thanksgiving? This is a fellow who I so often heard brag that he is a “biblical tither”. Oh, I got that wrong. He would brag that he is a “ten-percent biblical tither”. This is a man who, along with his family, loves not only a very secular version of Christmas and Easter—with the Santa Claus and decorated tree and the rabbit and the painted eggs that actually do come right out of pagan religion, regardless of whatever may be the “origins” of the holidays themselves—but also loves celebrating Halloween, the most Satanic festival of the year. And when I say he loves Halloween, I mean he is all in with the jack-o-lanterns and the scary décor and the costumes and all of it.
I have never once heard him talk about keeping God’s Feasts, and if he ever did it would likely be limited to that nonsense about using the Feasts out of context to collect an offering. I am not saying he doesn’t keep the Feasts in his home the way they are commanded to be kept in Torah, I really don’t know. I merely know I have never once in my life heard him talk about keeping them, but he says he is a “ten-percent biblical tither”, and he openly boasts about his love for holidays mentioned nowhere in The Bible that, again, many academic sources state originate from demonic pagan festivals. He shares plenty of pictures on social media of his family celebrating those holidays, but I have never once seen him share anything related to any biblical Feast Days. So, assuming he doesn’t keep The Feasts (which seems to be the indication), he would be lying to his audience every time he tells them that he is a “biblical tither”. If you don’t keep the Spring and Fall Feasts, you are not a tither. I don’t care how much money you throw into the collection at some “church”. There is a commandment to set aside a tithe to celebrate The Feasts, so being a “biblical tither” requires you to celebrate The Feasts.
Give Your Best, Before Anything Else!
The modern tithe message emphasizes two things that, contrary to popular belief, are not at all a biblical aspect of tithing. When you listen to a modern preacher talk about tithing they sternly tell their audience to give their best and that they should give their tithe first before they do anything else with their latest paycheck (as in paying bills, buying groceries, putting gasoline in their vehicle, etc.). Many preachers will even push their people to set up an auto-deduct from their paycheck so that their tithe truly is paid first before anything else. Neither of these things, however, are actually in line with the Levitical tithe—the tenth part that went to the Levites.
I will also add that the people never actually gave a tithe to the priesthood. The tithe went to the Levites, but not those who served as priests. It was then those Levites who received the tithe that would then take a tithe of the tithe they received and give that to the priesthood. It was only the tithe given from the Levites to the priests where it was commanded to give “the best of the tithe”, so there was no actual requirement for the people to give their best, something that would be impossible anyway if they followed the rules for tithing properly. Let’s take a look.
All the tenth from the herd or the flock, whatever passes under the shepherd’s crook, the tenth one will be holy to Adonai. ~Leviticus 27:32 (CJB)
Do you see what that says? It says you are to pass your livestock animals, if that is what you make your living raising, under your staff and every TENTH one to pass through is marked as the tithe. This means two things:
1. The tenth is not the first, but rather the last of every ten.
2. There can be no guarantee that the tenth in such a random draw system would be “the best”.
The very next sentence in this 27th chapter of Leviticus even goes on to say, “One is not to inquire if it is good or bad, nor exchange it.”
Now, I do realize that if we are going to apply tithe principles to modern monetary wages there is not an actual need to pass your money through a random draw to figure out what the “tenth part” would be. It only makes logical sense that you would just divide your paycheck by ten and take one of those tenths and make it your tithe. I am merely pointing out that the tithe is neither the “first” part nor the “best” part of your increase. If preachers miss such an obvious point of the tithe message, it begs the question: What else are they wrong about regarding tithing?
I also mentioned that it wasn’t until the Levites gave to the priests that the “best” were to be selected. Let’s take a look at this.
Adonai spoke to Moses saying, “Speak now to the Levites and say to them: When you receive from Bnei-Yisrael the tithe which I have given to you as your inheritance, you are then to offer to Adonai a tithe of that tithe. Your offering will be reckoned as grain from the threshing floor or the fullness of the winepress. Thus you will also present an offering to Adonai from all your tithes that you receive from Bnei-Yisrael, and from that you are to give Adonai’s portion to Aaron the kohen. From all your gifts that you receive, you are to present the best and holiest from them as Adonai’s portion. ~Numbers 18:25-29 (TLV)
See, this is simply saying that the general population of Levites who received the tithe from the tribes of Israel then took their tithe, separated out the best tenth of what they received, and give that as a tithe to the kohens, which were the actual priests. This means that the priests actually received only one percent of the total tithes of Israel. This also means that a very strong argument can be made that if there is validity in tithing directly to a Church out of your monetary wages today, the proper amount would be one percent, not ten.
Think about it. If we applied this to the way the modern Christian Church tries to apply tithing principles, then the general congregation should give their tithe—ten percent of their gross income—to people who would actually align with the non-priestly Levites, perhaps staff members and/or volunteers around the Church who do non-ministry tasks, such as janitors, groundskeepers, and the like. These people would in turn take a tithe out of the tithe received and give it to the pastoral team. But I am sure modern preachers who are living lavishly off of the tithes of their megachurch congregations—living in mansions, driving luxury vehicles, and wearing high-end designer clothes—wouldn’t easily receive this truth.
Redeeming The Tithe
If a man redeems anything of his tithe he must add a fifth part to it. ~Leviticus 27:31 (TLV)
This is another verse I have often heard misinterpreted and used to promote a wrong teaching. It goes something like this: “The tithe is supposed to be the first ten percent of your gross income. But if you miss paying your tithe, it’s OK, God allows you to ‘catch up’ your tithe with twenty percent interest.” I’ve already established that “the first part” and very possibly “ten percent” are wrong, so let’s look at this twenty percent interest thing.
The problem here is that the word “redeem” is the Hebrew gaal (גָּאַל), and it has to do with buying and selling, not with accrued interest. Take a look at this related passages about redeeming tithes:
The first offspring of the womb from all flesh, whether human or animal, offered to Adonai, is yours. However, you are to redeem the firstborn of man and the firstborn of unclean animals. When they are a month old, you are to redeem them at the redemption price of five shekels of silver by the Sanctuary shekel, or 20 gerahs. But the firstborn of the ox, sheep or goat you are not to redeem. They are holy.
~Numbers 18:15-17b (TLV)
You see here that parameters were being set for redeeming the firstborn of a married couple and of any unclean animals. Now, we know unclean animals like pigs were not raised in Israel as food, but they would have had animals such as camels or donkeys, commonly used in transportation, that would have given birth to offspring. Since humans and unclean animals are not to be eaten, there needed to be a monetary value placed on them to “buy out” the firstborn offering on these births.
As a side note, I find it interesting that human children and newborns of unclean animals are equal to each other in this application, which is also related to the idea that neither was to be eaten. Many who contest that we can “eat all things” under the new covenant would do good to consider this. If we are allowed to eat unclean animals under the new covenant, than based on passages like this we would also be given license to eat human flesh as well. I know that’s a random and unrelated thought, but worth mentioning nevertheless.
Also, we can look again at the tithe for the celebration of the Spring and Fall Feasts. We also saw that there were parameters given to exchange the tithe for money that you could use to buy whatever you desired for your celebration of these Feasts. This too is related to redeeming the tithe. It’s the same basic concept, even though Deuteronomy 14 uses the word “exchange” instead of “redeem”.
So, basically what Leviticus 27:31 is saying is that if you exchange your tithe—the tenth part of your produce and/or livestock—for money and then use the money to give your tithe, you are always to add the tenth part. While the Scripture does not give a reason for this, I believe it is to account for the markup rates for buying food at the local market.
What this may very well mean is that if it is in any way biblical to give a monetary ten-percent tithe from your income—the wages received from your job—to a church you will also need to add that twenty percent to it every time you tithe to a church. This would mean that your tithe, based on the modern view, goes from ten percent to twelve percent. Or, if you earn $1,000 in a week your tithe is not $100 but $120. Of course, if the one percent tithe is more accurate, if giving directly to a Church/Pastor, then the tithe would be $12, instead of $10, from $1,000 of earned wages.
Think about it. The tithe was food to be used as the sustenance of the Levites and then ultimately the priests. So if you were to give money to the Levites, because you redeemed your tithe for money, then it only makes logical sense that you would need to give them enough money to buy from the market the same amount of food you would have given them had you not redeemed your tithe for money. So this added fifth part, twenty percent of the ten percent added, was likely to ensure the Levites were not shortchanged in what they were supposed to receive. Just like with the Feasts, this parameter was really meant for those who needed to travel a great distance and would be too burdened to carry the tithe all that way. They could sell their tithe, and then carry the lighter load of money to the Levite storehouse—but with an added fee.
Could you imagine if these “pastors” got up in front of their Churches one Sunday morning and told the truth about this? Think of the reaction they would get. Most likely everyone in the congregation would be ticked off—some because they are suddenly now being told to pay more than ten percent and others because they have faithfully tithed their ten percent for the last thirty-seven-and-a-half years and are now being told they came up short. It becomes very difficult to tell the truth after you have preached the lie for so long.
This is why many Pastors today are celebrating the biblical Feasts in secret while continuing to put on their annual Church Christmas Program and Easter Carnival, because they know they can’t just get up one Sunday morning and tell the truth. They fear that if they did that—if they actually stood up and said “I’ve made the decision that this Church will no longer celebrate or endorse the celebration of Christmas and Easter”—they would lose most of their people. Whether this fear is based on selfish greed, knowing that when the people leave they take their wallets and checkbooks with them, or a genuine concern that if they leave they will no longer be sitting under the preaching of The Word, they simply don’t believe they can effectively tell the truth.
The Tithe-Teaching Pastor’s Mansion
Many today like to point to the leading minister, be it a megachurch Pastor or an Evangelist with a large international ministry, and say that they are violating Scripture by receiving tithes since they not only own a house and property but in some of the most extreme cases they live on large estates with multimillion dollar mansions. Now, I am not saying it is right, or that it is wrong for that matter, for a minister of God’s Kingdom to live so lavishly, there are a myriad of factors that must be considered in each individual case. But I am going to show you that this is a blatant misunderstanding of the “no inheritance for the Levite” statements. Since our focus is tithing, let’s look at what Numbers 18 says about this matter.
Adonai said to Aaron, “You will have no inheritance in their land nor share among them. I am your portion and your share among Bnei-Yisrael. See, I have given all the tithes in Israel to the sons of Levi as an inheritance in return for all the work of the service they are doing in the Tent of Meeting. From now on, Bnei-Yisrael must never trespass the Tent of Meeting, or they will bear the consequences of their sin and die. The Levites will perform the service of the Tent of Meeting. They will bear the responsibility for their iniquity. It is a permanent ordinance throughout your generations. So among Bnei-Yisrael they are to receive no inheritance. For I have given the tithes that Bnei-Yisrael present to Adonai as an offering to the Levites as an inheritance. That is why I said they would receive no inheritance among Bnei-Yisrael.” ~Numbers 18:20-24 (TLV)
So, we have it here that the Levites were not to receive an inheritance in the land. They were given to live interspersed among the people of Israel, throughout the entire land. We see this in Numbers 26, where discussions began regarding how much land each tribe would receive, and in Joshua 13-22 where the actual distribution of the land began to take place. But this all had to do with the dividing of large portions of the land for entire tribes of Israel. This did not mean that individual Levites could not own individual plots of land. Take a look at what is said about this side of the matter:
“But as for the towns of the Levites, the Levites may have a permanent right of redemption for the houses in the towns of their possession. The Levites may redeem a house sold in the town of its possession. Also it should be released in the Jubilee, for the houses of the Levitical towns are their possession among Bnei-Yisrael. But the fields in the pasturelands of their cities may not be sold, for it is their permanent possession.” ~Leviticus 25:32-34 (TLV)
Isn’t this interesting? Here we have the parameters for individual Levites owning individual possessions within the Levitical towns that were in the various lands of the tribes of Israel. This shows us that the Levites were clearly allowed to own individual pieces of property, houses, and fields. Do you know that we actually have two solid examples of Levites in The Bible who owned property?
Jeremiah was a Prophet as we know, but he was also a Levite, the son of a priest. Jeremiah 1:1 (TLV) says, “The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the kohanim who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin.” If you are not familiar with the term kohanim, it is the Hebrew word for a Levite priest of the lineage of Aaron. So here was this Prophet Jeremiah who was the son of a Levite that lived in the land belonging to the tribe of Benjamin, likely in one of the Levite towns in that land. Now take a look at this:
So Jeremiah said: “The word of Adonai came to me, saying: ‘Hanamel, son of Shallum your uncle, will soon come to you saying: ‘Buy for yourself my field in Anathoth, for the right of redemption is yours to buy it.’” So my uncle’s son Hanamel came to me in the court of the guard as was the word of Adonai, and said to me: “Buy my field, please, which is in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin; for the right of inheritance is yours and the redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.” Then I knew that this was the word of Adonai. So I bought the field that was in Anathoth from the son of my uncle Hanamel, and weighed him the money—seventeen shekels of silver. I signed and sealed the deed, called in witnesses, and weighed the money on the scales. Then I took the purchase deed, both the sealed copy, containing the terms and conditions, and the open copy, and I gave the purchase deed to Baruch son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my uncle’s son Hanamel and in the presence of the witnesses that subscribed the purchase deed, before all the Jews that sat in the court of the guard. Then I charged Baruch before them, saying, thus says Adonai-Tzva’ot, the God of Israel, “Take these deeds—this purchase deed, both the sealed copy and the open copy—and put them in a clay jar, so they may last many days.” For thus says Adonai-Tzva’ot, the God of Israel: “Houses and fields and vineyards will yet again be bought in this land.” ~Jeremiah 32:6-15 (TLV)
So we see here that this Levite, Jeremiah the Prophet, was legally allowed to buy this field that he had a right to. This is because it is not a violation of Torah for a Levite to own a piece of property. The Levites simply had no major portion of Israel designated to them as a tribe, but they were given freedom to live anywhere in Israel as they were the appointed priesthood of Israel and there was a need to have them everywhere in the land, dispersed among all twelve tribes.
Now let’s look at another Levite. This one is particularly interesting because he was part of the crew who traveled with the Apostle Paul on his missionary journeys. This man is Barnabas.
Now Joseph, also called Barnabas by the emissaries (which is translated Son of Encouragement), was a Levite and native of Cyprus. He sold a field that he owned and brought the money and laid it at the feet of the emissaries. ~Acts 4:36-37 (TLV, emphasis added)
What I find more interesting than his ownership of a field is that Barnabas, one of the Apostolic leaders of The Way in the first century, was a Levite. That in itself is incredible. Most people probably miss this important point, but just like Acts 6:5 points out that a man named Nicolas from Antioch was a Gentile convert to Judaism, this small detail also emphasizes that the movement we read about in the Apostolic writings many call the “New Testament” was not the establishing of a new religion. Rather, these were Hebrews, mostly Jews, though we know Barnabas was a Levite and Paul was a Benjamite.
So the question remains: Assuming a Christian Pastor can legitimately receive a tithe, are they breaking Torah by owning a house? Probably not. As far as multi-million dollar mansions and other aspects of a lavish lifestyle, I’m not so sure that fits the model of God’s will in Scripture. It doesn’t seem like it’s God’s will for preachers to live at the pinnacle of American greed and power on the backs of parishioners who struggle to make ends meet but sure do get their tithe in because the preacher scared them into thinking they will go to hell if they don’t. That’s not the way of God, that’s the way of Pharaoh. Think about that.
There was a time when most Pastors were provided with a parsonage on the grounds of their Church. This probably would be a good practice to revisit, as it has mostly been abandoned today it seems, at least by the many progressive Pentecostal and non-denominational Churches that seem to be at the forefront of Christianity in modern times.
Who Robbed God?
“Will a man rob God? For you are robbing Me!”
But you say: “How have we robbed You?”
“In the tithe and the offering. You have been cursed with the curse, yet you keep robbing Me—the whole nation! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse. Then there will be food in My House. Now test Me in this”—says Adonai-Tzva’ot—“if I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out blessing for you, until no one is without enough. ~Malachi 3:8-10 (TLV)
When you hear people preaching on tithing in Christian Churches, the all-time favorite passage seems to be Malachi 3:8-10. They love to point out that if you don’t pay your tithe to the Church that you are stealing God’s money. And, of course, the “local Church” is the modern equivalent of the ancient Levitical storehouse.
But there is one major gaping hole in this teaching that so many preachers for so many decades, perhaps even centuries, have taught. They fail to take into consideration the actual context of the prophetic Book of Malachi.
“So now, kohanim, this commandment is for you.” ~Malachi 2:1 (TLV)
Malachi 2:1 begins a prophetic oracle that carries through the remainder of the Prophet’s declaration, and it is clear that those being addressed were the Levite priests—the kohanim. This is important because we are not even addressing the non-priestly Levites here, but the actual priests. So the people who were robbing God were the priests and the portion they were stealing was a portion that was intended for their use.
Having just shown that it is not wrong for those who received tithes to own land, fields, and houses, it may not be wrong for a modern Pastor to both receive tithes and own possessions such as these. There are, however, some other things we need to consider. If the modern Pastor is the equivalent of the Levite priest, then it seems they should only be receiving one percent of the congregational tithe, and that divided among the entire Pastoral staff or leadership of a congregation. The Senior Pastor may be entitled to a “larger portion”, but they are still dividing one percent of the tithe, not the whole of the initial tithe of the people.
With this in mind, if the modern Christian Pastor is receiving ten percent directly from the general congregation and then, as a result, living a lavish lifestyle with a big house, expensive cars, designer clothes, and the like, then it begs the question: Are these modern ministers the ones actually robbing God?
Think about this. They will berate their parishioners, shaming them and making them feel like they are stealing God’s money for not paying a tithe to the Church when in reality if they are receiving more than they should be and as a result living the good life, they are the thieves and they will meet God’s wrath for what they are doing. You don’t want to be on the receiving end of God’s wrath. I promise you that.
Now, to be fair, I have been told of some Pastors who have nice cars and nice clothes because they have influenced a wealthy person who bought those things for them as a personal act of gratitude. So you cannot look at a Pastor and judge them for what they have, because you have no idea how they got it.
Some years ago I heard a story of a young preacher who received a pen from his staff as a gift. It was one of those high-end pens that cost about a hundred dollars and you have to buy from a jewelry store. Well, as you can imagine, being as the Church teaches tithing, many people saw this pen and got upset, believing that tithe money was being used for such vanity. So the Pastor got the pen out one Sunday morning and preached a sermon about how he received the pen. I’m sure several people left that morning quite embarrassed about their false accusations. The point is, don’t assume a well-off minister is stealing the tithes to live that way. Though many of them are.
Should Pastors Be Paid?
For we are not like the many who market God’s message for profit. ~2 Corinthians 2:17 (HCSB)
The famous Rabbi Hillel, whose school the Apostle Paul was trained in under Rabbi Gamaliel, is quoted as saying: He who makes a worldly crown of the Torah shall waste away. Isn’t it interesting that Paul would make this statement in his second epistle to the fellowship of Believers in Corinth after having been trained in the school of Jewish thought where such a belief was held. In the book Pagan Christianity: Exploring The Roots Of Our Church Practices authors Frank Viola and George Barna state:
The concept of the ‘paid teaching specialist’ came from Greece, not Judaism. It was the custom of Jewish rabbis to take up a trade so as to not charge a fee for their teaching.
It was not until the fourth century, three hundred years after Christ, that some Christian leaders began to advocate tithing as a Christian practice to support the clergy. But it did not become widespread among Christians until the eighth century.
I find it equally interesting that the record in Acts 18 tells us that Paul held a specific trade in tent-making. Then in 1 Thessalonians 2:9 (TLV) Paul tells us: “For you recall, brothers and sisters, our labor and hardship—working night and day, so as not to burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the Good News of God.”
It would appear, at least based on Paul’s teachings—what a large part of modern Christianity seems to hold as authoritative even over the teachings of our Messiah—that the concept of a paid career minister is unbiblical. Now, this in and of itself is not grounds to say that tithing in modern Christian practice is in error. It simply means that those who preach and teach the Word of God maybe should not be profiting from it.
Sadly, the collection of a salary for the “full-time minister” today is not where it stops. Some Churches today require those who would become leaders within their Church to be a so-called “ten percent biblical tither” (something we have already seen is likely in error) prior to being approved for such a role. And you better believe that they will check the tithing records and see if you are giving your tithe. Again, Viola and Barna have something to say about this:
In some churches, if you are not a tither, you will be barred from holding a ministry position. A friend of mine was considered for eldership in one well-known congregation. However, because he believed in giving anonymously (he didn’t use checks), he was barred from being an elder. The reason? He was told that the church had to know who was obeying God by tithing and who wasn’t. This was the across-the-board policy of that particular denomination. Only tithers could be elders.
Isn’t that interesting? In this Church, and many others, you have to be on record as giving ten percent of your income to the Church or you cannot hold a prominent leadership position. The problem, of course, as I have shown throughout this message, is that “obeying God by tithing” doesn’t necessarily mean you give ten percent of your income to the Church. It could mean that you give just one percent. It would also mean that you celebrate the biblical Feasts. If the prerequisite to being an “elder” or some other type of leader is that you are “a tither”, how many such Churches are asking for proof that the candidates for leadership celebrate God’s Feasts in their home with their family as commanded by the same Torah where tithing is talked about?
I stopped leaving a record of any money I might give to any ministry outside of my own a long time ago. I have determined that if I am to take any type of position with any ministry it will be because I feel God Himself opened the door and because of the anointing and the call of God on my life. If that is not enough for a ministry, then I probably wouldn’t want to work with them in that capacity anyway.
Something else to consider here is that, seeing as tithes in the Levitical system were mostly produce and livestock (not money), then the application of a monetary tithe would seem to authorize alternatives to the tithe. So why couldn’t time be an equal alternative to the tithe? Let’s think about this for a moment.
A person’s income is merely the exchange of their time for payment to an employer. So a person’s time is at least equally as valuable as the money it is exchanged for. Since the standard workweek in modern society is 40 hours, whose to say that giving 4 hours of your time to service in the local Church would not be equal to giving ten percent of your income? In some cases, the time given would even be of more value to the ministry if a person’s wages were on the lower end of the income scale and/or if the service the volunteer provided would cost the church a great deal if they had to pay for it.
Now think about this: The priests did not pay tithes, they received them. Many modern tithe-teaching Pastors say that they pay tithes themselves to some ministry they are “submitted to”. But is that even biblical? A kohen does not pay tithes, so if Pastors really are equivalent to Israel’s priests, what are they doing paying tithes? Perhaps, because the priests gave their TIME to ministry, that was their tithe. Just something to think about.
Now, if a person were being considered for leadership in your Church, “Pastor”, would you rather have someone who has “proven themselves” by giving money or someone who has “proven themselves” by laboring intensely for the advancement of the Kingdom? I find it interesting, as well, that so often it is the people who give large sums of money who often complain and make wild demands, apparently thinking that they have a right to control what they “paid for”, and the people who give the most time to ministry work who have nothing but praise for the things being accomplished through the efforts of faithful Kingdom servants. Perhaps Churches should rethink how they qualify leaders in their Churches.
But I may be getting ahead of myself a bit here. The question is whether or not Pastors or any other clergy should be paid for their role. If you study out the writings of the Apostles in the cultural context from which they were written, you can find out some interesting things. First, there was no such thing as a “Church” in the way we know it today. The people met from house to house, their “Churches” were their homes. The “Pastor” was merely the person who led these home gatherings and taught people the Word of God, likely not so much through sermonizing but through engaging question-led discussions. These “Pastors”—if it is even right to call them that—were not paid for this, they held regular jobs where they earned their living from. Finally, as we have seen in the teachings of Paul, the leaders of the first-century Movement known as The Way held a belief that they should work to earn wages so as to not receive wages for preaching the Gospel and teaching the Torah and Prophets with a Messianic application.
There is one other resource to take a quick look at. It is the first century document believed to be the “beginner’s guide” of sorts used to get converts started in the ways of The Way known as The Didache. In this document, attributed to being the teachings of the Apostles themselves, it says some things about “preachers” or “prophets” who ask the people for money.
Let every emissary who comes to you be received as the Lord. He shall stay only one day, but if it is absolutely necessary, he may stay another day. However, if he stays three days he is a false prophet. And when the emissary leaves, let him take nothing except bread to sustain him until he finds a new place to stay. But if he asks for money, he is a false prophet. —Didache 11:4-6 (Toby Janicki translation from The Way Of Life)
But whoever might say in the Spirit, “Give me money,” or something else, do not obey him. —Didache 11:12 (Toby Janicki translation from The Way Of Life)
The latter reference was part of a longer segment dealing with prophets, as opposed to emissaries. So, essentially, it is warning Believers against those who make demands for money. I find this particularly interesting that the leaders of the first century movement called The Way worked secular jobs to provide for their needs and warned that those who ask for money—whether emissaries, prophets, or anything else really—are false prophets that we are not to obey. So, really, what it comes down to is that we are probably being told by the Apostles themselves not to obey any of these modern-day preachers in “Churchianity” when they ask for money—including when they say we should be paying them tithes.
Tithing Should Not Be A Burden
For this is the love of God—that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. ~1 John 5:3 (TLV)
Sometimes I think I should plant an apple tree in my backyard and start putting the tithe of the apples—every tenth apple to ripen—into the offering of a local church. I’m sure that would go over big, but when you think about it that would probably be a lot closer to a truly “biblical tithe” than what I see being done by most of today’s Christian religion.
As noted earlier, there is a third tithe for the orphan, the widow, and the sojourner (literally referring to Gentiles, non-Jews, who have become a part of Israel). Let me talk first about orphans and widows, who would have been considered the “poor” in the land. We know throughout other texts that these were also those granted to glean in the fields and reap from the corners, a prominent theme in the Book of Ruth.
The poor did not tithe in Israel. While I don’t agree with everything he says, Russell Earl Kelly, Ph.D., brings up several interesting points of consideration in his book Should The Church Teach Tithing?: A Christian Theologian’s Conclusions On The Taboo Doctrine. Of the poor, Kelly offers these thoughts:
The Old Covenant does not command the poor to tithe! As a matter of biblical fact, just the opposite is true. The Mosaic Law commanded the people of Israel, especially the priests, to feed and care for the poor, widows, fatherless, strangers, and Levites from the tithe. The poor received from the tithes, offerings, gleanings, and Israel’s bounty.
The Code of Jewish Law says, “He who has barely sufficient for his own needs, is not obligated to give charity, for his own sustenance takes precedence over another’s.” The Jewish Mishnah contains other exemptions of poor persons. Unfortunately, it is all too common to find large churches with many poor who give above and beyond their means out of fear of the Old Covenant curse of Malachi 3:9. Expecting the poor to pay tithes from welfare and Social Security checks is a disgrace. Many poor who tithe are then forced to depend even more on welfare because the church does not give more back to the poor then it receives from them. Such treatment of the poor is a modern scandal.
Another interesting point comes from Mark Allen Powell, Ph.D., a Professor of New Testament at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, in his book Giving To God: The Bible’s Good News About Living A Generous Life. Says Powell:
The matter gets even more complicated, however, when various questions of application arise: should Christians tithe on their “gross income” or “net income”? On their income before or after taxes? The Bible offers little help with such questions because the passages in the Bible that deal with tithing envision a cultural and economic situation quite different from our own. Some have suggested that a literal institution of tithing would involve a greater hardship for persons in our current environment than it did for people in biblical times. The temple to which the tithe was usually paid in ancient Israel was both a religious institution and a political one. At least some of what was covered by the tithe in that context (for example, social welfare for the poor) might be covered by taxes in ours — and it is worth noting that the Israelites were never expected to give 10 percent of their income to the temple in addition to paying 33 percent to the government in income tax.
These are interesting points. While I do not think they necessarily warrant an argument that tithing today is “wrong” in and of themselves, we need to ask a very important question: In today’s society, where people are heavily taxed, what should be consider “the poor”?
Is the poor someone, as Dr. Kelly notes, who receives welfare or Social Security payments and has no other income? Would it be someone who is homeless and literally has no income, but since the welfare or Social Security recipient still receives income they should tithe? Would it be someone who qualifies for any type of financial assistance based on their income? Would it be, as Kelly notes from The Mishnah, anyone who is just trying to make ends meet—which would include most of today’s “middle-class” as well?
In some cases, such as financial assistance for medically related hospital visits, people can qualify for financial aid if they make less that 400% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. That means they can make 4 times the amount of what is deemed the poverty level and might still be considered “too poor” for the purposes of who is exempt from tithing, depending where the undefined line is drawn. Would such a person then qualify as “the poor” in regard to tithing? That may seem a stretch to the hardened pro-tithe preacher, but it is an important question. At what point is someone considered “the poor” and exempted from tithing?
And then there is the matter of the sojourner/stranger. As I have noted, this is a reference to Gentiles, non-Israelites. Could it then be argued that if you are not an Israelite by blood you have no obligation to tithe at all? Consider this too:
To Messiah’s seven communities in Asia:
Grace to you and shalom from Him who is and who was and who is to come, as well as from the seven spirits who are before His throne, and from Messiah Yeshua, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood and made us a kingdom, kohanim to His God and Father—to Him be glory and power forever! Amen! ~Revelation 1:4-6 (TLV, emphasis added)
So, according to the Apostle John, those who are Believers in the new covenant, grafted into the cultivated olive tree of Israel (Romans 11:17-24), are kohanim (priests), and priests do not pay tithes they receive tithes. That is certainly something to think about.
Tithing is biblical, I will not say otherwise. HOW we are to tithe, HOW MUCH we are to tithe, and WHO we are to tithe to—these are matters that need a lot of serious discussion and reform, for sure.
A number of years ago I did a survey of Christians about tithing. Of course there were responses for and against—that is to be expected. But one thing I noticed is that many spoke of the blessing they have through tithing and that they do not know a tither who is not blessed.
Well, I suppose if a “biblical tithe” in the present day truly is ten percent of one’s income, those who give that would be blessed. However, since it appears this is not the truth of the matter, then it is possible and should absolutely be considered that those wrapped up in what can only be called “tithe scams” within modern Christianity are, perhaps, receiving counterfeit blessings provided by the adversary, Satan himself, in order to keep them bound to the deception. Think about it for a moment. If you believe the plethora of unbiblical nonsense being taught today about tithing, and especially if you do not follow some of the other Torah instructions covered earlier in this message, and your act of giving ten percent of your money to a “church of lawlessness”—a church that does not lead you to follow all of The Torah—then whatever “blessing” you think is connected to your tithing may be nothing more than Satanic deception to make you think first that tithing blesses you and second that rejecting other parts of Torah is not putting you under a curse. And what most Christians I know today actually believe falls right in line with that exact scenario.
Some time ago I heard a pro-tithing megachurch preacher, a woman, trying really hard to discourage the people she was speaking to from reading a message just like this one. She was pushing real hard that just because someone can provide you with all the facts a message like this brings up doesn’t mean you should stop tithing. And, of course, she spoke about how many people are “blessed” by tithing. Well, the thing is, if they should not be tithing or if the way tithing is taught is totally unbiblical—as it appears it is—then the “blessing” she and others refer to is actually Satanic deception.
And what of the poor—the orphan, the widow, and the sojourner? These people seem to be exempted from tithing, so it would seem if they are being misled into thinking they are required to tithe then certainly God would bless their giving. But if they are not supposed to be tithing according to Torah then they are being misled into something that has them in violation of Torah, which would put them in the category of the curse.
And then there are the questions of WHO we tithe to. Remember, I have noted that Gentiles received tithes in the “old covenant” and in the “new covenant” we are all priests. Do we tithe to ourselves, the way we would for keeping the Feasts? Does Bill tithe to John and John tithe to Joe and Joe tithe to Matt and Matt tithe to Arnold until everyone has a fellow Believer, a “new covenant priest”, they tithe to? Obviously these examples would seem silly, but it is an important question: Who should we tithe to? Clearly the modern view of tithing to a Pastor, making him abundantly wealthy while the people struggle, is not a model that seems God would be pleased with—and I believe He is NOT pleased with it.
I do think there are ways to tithe in harmony with Torah, but clearly they are not the ways of tithing that are taught in most churches today. Perhaps there needs to be good discussion among Believers about this matter so that we do not deprive ourselves of a blessing connected to any legitimate form of tithing that may exist in the midst of religious perversion. Certainly there is much to consider.
I’m sure there is a lot more I could bring up, but since I have already said a lot about this and likely given you many things to think about I will end here. I hope that you will consider the points I have made. I understand they likely conflict with what you have been taught, but they are clearly based on Scripture. Hopefully this article has served its greater purpose to you in pushing you to dig into the Scripture for yourself and not just take the word of a preacher giving you only part of the message—the part that he or she most benefits from—or worse a distorted version of the truth—again, that he or she benefits from.
~Blessings and Shalom~ ©2020 Truth Ignited Ministry