Posted by: minnow | April 7, 2008

Biblical Tithing

Every year right about this time of year Churches preach their tithing messages. The bottom line is always, “give more” and the reason some variation of “It’s Biblical”. But, is it really?

Some contend Jesus spoke more about money than any other topic. Others say He had more to say about hell. And, a few are not sure there is a difference. The truth is He often discussed stewardship, taxes, the poor, and the wealthy. All of these directly or indirectly address the issue of money. He told the Pharisees they should seek justice without neglecting their tithe (Luke 11:42). He warned His disciples that, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24). And, He gave his followers comfort and assurance that their heavenly Father would meet their needs like the lilies of the field (Luke 12:27-28).

Whenever Jesus talks about money His underlying message is the same: Do not adopt the world’s perspective. There is a better way. Several times throughout His ministry the religious leaders tried to trap Him. One such incident is recorded in Matthew 22:17-21. Here the Pharisees sent their disciples along with some Herodians to question Jesus:

“Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used to pay taxes.” They brought Him a denarius, and He asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then He said to them, “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s.”

If Jesus had answered “no” to their question the Herodians would have reported him to the Roman officials. If He had simply said “yes” the Pharisees would have denounced Him. Instead, Jesus displayed respect for the Roman Emperor and at the same time set God above all earthly authority. He effectively turned the tables on those who were motivated by self importance, operating in a legalistic religious spirit, and stuck in their narrow world views.

From the temple tax in Matthew 17 to the widow’s mite in Mark 12, throughout the Sermon on the Mount and by dining with Zacchaeus in Luke 19 Jesus challenges our financial paradigms and false sense of security. He is the Alpha and the Omega (Revelation 1:8). The world and everything in it is His (Psalm 24:1, John 17:10). So, why do we, His people, have such a difficult time embracing His economy? In our worship we claim, “Our hope is in You, Lord” but our bank accounts, heartburn medication, and sleep aids tell a different story. Jesus warns us that we cannot serve two masters–God and money (Matthew 6:24)–but we keep on trying.

A growing reputation for the Church is that it just wants our money. Televangelists have had a bad reputation in the money department for quite a while. However, Building-Based Christianity is not far behind. The biggest differences is–televangelists do not contribute to mainstream Christianity’s bad press nearly as often as mainstream Christianity contributes to theirs.

So does the criticism have a legitimate leg to stand on? Or, are the hard-hearted pew mumblers just unwilling to give back to God what is rightfully His? Perhaps we should take a look at what Building-Based Christianity is saying about finances and in turn whether or not scripture backs up what is taught.

In every fellowship I have attended as an adult the tithe has been the central message regarding finances. (My present fellowship has a mini giving message every Sunday). But, what is the tithe? In the Old Testament the tithe was a tenth of everything from the land, the herd and the flock. (Leviticus 27:30-33) Annually it was brought before the Lord to a place He had chosen so a portion could be consumed in His presence (12:6-7) and the rest given to the Levites (Numbers 18:21-24, Deuteronomy 14:22-27). If the place designated by the Lord was too far away, the tithe could be exchanged for money and then when one got to the place of God’s choosing the money was to be used to repurchase the necessary items for the tithe. Every third year the tithe was to be stored so that the poor as well as the Levites could be satisfied (14:28-29). The first fruits, while often associated with the tithe in modern day doctrine, were actually what the Israelites used to celebrate the Feast of the Harvest, one of three annual feasts (Exodus 23:16).

Given the present day emphasis on the tithe, the New Testament is unexpectedly quiet. In Luke 11:42 Jesus admonishes the Pharisees for the surface appearance of godliness–giving a tenth but neglecting justice and the love of God. In 18:12 He used an example of a bragging (because he tithed) Pharisee as an illustration of sinful pride. Other than a parallel scripture in Matthew 23:23, which accuses the Pharisee of neglecting mercy and faithfulness in addition to justice, the subject of tithing is ignored.

So, that is what the Bible has to say about tithing. Next time we will look at what Building-Based Christianity has to say about it.



  1. For over 150 articles on tithing pleae check out my web site. I do not believe that it is for the church today.

    In Christ’s love
    Russ Kelly

  2. […] in traditional settings is not supported Biblically.  For more on that issue check my other posts here, here, and here.  Now let us get on with our original […]

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