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From the Tyranny of Tithing and the Curse of Corban


Time-honored church traditions must always be examined in light of the Word of God, as it applies to us today as New Testament believers. When they are not sanctioned by Scripture, they’ll do far more harm than good, and should be repudiated as false; even popular, deeply entrenched doctrines. The Gospel of Grace, as revealed to the original apostles,  must be the sole foundation upon which we practice our Christian faith (Galatians 1:8-9; Romans 2:16; Jude 3). NOT ONCE does Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles, ever command New Testament believers to tithe on their wages.  If he had mandated such a law, he could have lived in luxury, rather than saying: At this very hour we are hungry, and thirsty, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace (I Corinthians 4:11).


Today, plenty of televangelists can boast: “At this very hour we are feasting at five-star restaurants, sipping champagne, and wearing $1000 suits. We enjoy lavish  buffets on cruise ships and dwell in million-dollar mansions.” One eminent evangelist  boasts a stable full of pedigree Arabian horses. Another flies around in a gold-plated jet. Believe it or not, still another boasts that he wears a pair of new shoes only once   “because he has a shoe fetish”. Are God’s people to blame for waking up to their game? Are they to blame for not saying “amen” to the amenities enjoyed by carnal “ministers of the Word”? How do they get all that mad money  so easily?  They sure don’t get it by punching a time clock everyday!


One reliable source squeezed out of  Christians is the tithe.  But is the Christian tithing ordinance  God-given or man-mandated? What was the purpose of the biblical  tithe, what did it consist of, and to whom was this regulation really given?


The Tithe: An Edible Product


What launched me on the most exhaustive Bible study I have ever done on any  topic? A burning desire to know the real truth.  God has guided me in my search.  Here’s how it all began.


One day  I was taking a tour of the Word of God when I happened across a passage of Scripture I’d never head any preacher expound on in all my long life.  I thought my eyes must be playing tricks on me, so I read it again to make sure it really was in the Bible! It made me ask myself:  Could my suspicions be well-founded? As a student of the New Testament,   I’d always had a question nagging at the back of my mind:  Why didn’t the apostles ever  remind church-goers to pay their tithe every Sunday?


So I began digging and researching.  I accumulated an overwhelming body  of evidence to prove that no minister, whatever his credentials,  is authorized by Scripture to collect tithes today, only freewill offerings!


Those shocking Scriptures contradicted  a sacrosanct exhortation I’d heard  all my life:  DON’T EAT THE TITHE! But what was the original purpose of the tithe, and what did it  consist of?


Deuteronomy 14: 22-27  deals with the Festival Tithe, one of three tithes brought by the Israelites to their place of worship.


VERSE 22 Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase (harvest) of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year.


VERSE 23 And thou ( the tithe-payer!) shalt EAT before the LORD thy God, in the place which He shall chose to place His name there, the tithe of thy  corn, of thy wine, and of thy olive oil, and of the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always. What an eye-opener!


VERSE 24 introduces the only context in all of Holy Scripture where money is mentioned in conjunction with tithing!  Let’s read.  And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the Lord thy God shall choose to set His Name there, when the Lord thy God hath blessed thee;


VERSE 25 Then thou shalt turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the Lord thy God shalt choose:


VERSE 26 And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after; for oxen, or for sheep,  or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and THOU SHALT EAT  there before the Lord thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou and thy household,


VERSE 27  And the Levite that is within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee (in the Promised Land).


 The Tithe: Ancient Israel’s  Public Service and Social Welfare Tax


Even the prophet Malachi, so often quoted to keep the funds flowing, says the purpose of the tithe was to keep FOOD, NOT MONEY, in God’s House (Malachi 3:10). Why? God doesn’t need farm produce to stay alive! The Levites (priestly tribe of Israel) were denied an inheritance (of real estate) in the Promised Land. The tithe was their compensation for this, and their reward for their Tabernacle service (Numbers 18:21-24).


Three  tithes (Ma’aserah) were paid by the people, two each year, during a seven-year tithing cycle (the Shemittah cycle).  Every seventh year the Land was to lie fallow, to take its sabbath rest from being worked, even as the people rested every seventh day from physical labor. No tithes would be collected that year at all.   Have you ever heard of any churchgoer getting a rest every  seventh year from paying tithes?


Here’s how the Levitical tithing cycle worked:  The first tithe, the Ma’aser Rishon, 10% of all the produce of THE LAND,  went  for the support of the Levites (Numbers 18:21-32). This was paid once every year, except the seventh year. The second tithe, the Festival Tithe (Ma’aser sheni), was levied on  the remaining 90% of the crop, and   was eaten by the worshippers themselves, as well as the stranger, the fatherless, the widow, and the Levite. It was collected on the first, second, fourth, and fifth years of the Shemittah cycle. In the third and sixth years, the Poor Tithe, (Ma’aser  ani) was    tithed on the 90% remaining after bringing in the tithe for the Levites.  This one was paid  instead of the Festival Tithe.1 In all, 19% of Israel’s produce was brought in by the people as payment of tithes.2 Tithes  were collected to feed the  stranger, the fatherless, the widow, and the Levite (Deuteronomy 14:28-29; 26:12-15). Let’s see what Deuteronomy 14:28-29 says:   And at the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe  of thine increase the same year; and shalt lay it up within thy gates:  (And the Levite, because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee.) and the stranger (foreigner), and the fatherless and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come and eat and be satisfied; that the LORD they God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest. Notice, the landless Levites were counted among the poor! Thus, there were six Levitical tithes, four Festival Tithes, and two Poor Tithes in any given tithing cycle, followed  by a sabbatical (seventh) year of rest for the Land.  In every case, the tithe was eaten, not deposited in a bank account!


Finally, there was a fourth tithe paid not by the people, but  by the Levites on the tithe they received, 10% of the tithes offered by all the other tribes of Israel to the tribe of Levi., or 1% of all the produce of the land.  This tithe of the tithe  was hand-picked  and  presented by the Levites to the High Priest; who in turn presented it as a “heave offering”  to the Lord,  as described in  Numbers 18: 25-32.  This best part of the crop was eaten by the Priestly division of the tribe of Levi, who were descended from Aaron, brother of Moses. To qualify for the Levitical Priesthood, the highest calling among the Levites, only physically perfect  male specimens (no ladies, please!)  of Aaron’s clan qualified to serve as priests  at the Altar (Leviticus 21:16-24). All other Levites  ate the remainder of the Levite’s tithe (Ma’aser rishon) brought by the people.  It was their  wages for the service they rendered in the Tabernacle of the congregation, under the authority of the Priesthood.  These subordinate Levites played supporting roles. They served as policemen, health inspectors, and ministers of public education. Some Levites (the sons of Kohath) were responsible for transporting the sacred articles of the Tabernacle during the Israelites’ wilderness wanderings.   All priests had to be Levites (members of the Tribe of Levi) but not all Levites were priests; just like all Alabamians are Americans, but not all Americans are Alabamians.


It was the Land, not the Federal Mint, which produced the tithe!  Leviticus 27:30 says: And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s: it is holy unto the Lord.  It is safe to say that only landowners who reaped the fruits of livestock or land cultivation ever paid tithes in ancient Israel.  Fishermen surely did not tithe on their catch! Nor did God require tithes of manufactured articles, such as pottery, plows, tents  and sandals.


Most poor Christians do not  possess any Biblical inheritance (land), and  poor people must rent their living space at exorbitant rates. Surprisingly, a lot of “spiritual Levites” own luxurious mansions situated on   prime real estate (privately owned, of course), although Old Testament Levites were not given a stake in the land, except for a few scattered towns set aside for them to dwell in.


Again I emphasize: Numbers 18:21-24 makes it plain that only the  sons of Levi were ever authorized by God to collect tithes, and only from the children of Israel. No other tribes of Israel were ever  supposed to collect tithes, and certainly not Gentiles!


The Tithe:  Old Testament Law Reimposed By Men


Many clergymen simply do not trust God to inspire a spirit of liberality in His people. Compulsory tithing helps ensure a minimum contribution from each parishioner. In this paper I’ll present some solid support for my firm conviction that the early church did not compel its members to tithe.


According to McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature, “In the early Christian Church the custom of consecrating to religious purposes a tenth of income was voluntary, and it was not made obligatory until the Council of  Tours in 567 A.D.  The second Council of Macon in 585 A.D. enjoined the payment of tithes under pain of excommunication (article ‘tithes’).


The Encyclopedia of Catholicism  states:  “Paul’s instructions on the Jerusalem collection urge voluntary giving (I Corinthians 16:1-4; II Corinthians Chapters 8 and 9) which became the practice of Christians until religious and civil authorities (sixth and eighth centuries)  initiated legislation mandating tithing.”


By the beginning of  the Middle Ages (the sixth century  A.D.), Like a bloated bureaucracy, Big Religion had  grown so complex that it needed a more predictable  source of income than freewill offerings to keep its machinery running. It was hard for organised Christendom to subsist by faith alone.The prelates sitting on Church councils knew that  the poor peasants generally could neither read nor gain access to  the Scriptures, let alone scrutinize Church laws in the light of Paul’s Gospel.  So the council met with no serious resistance when they took material out of the Old Covenant and spun it into a panacea for their financial ills:  obligatory tithing on money.  And even though most modern Christians are well able to check this doctrine out for themselves, they are made to feel guilty for even questioning its validity. It would be too costly for organized Christendom if too many tithe-payers learned the truth. But why should modern Christians be burdened with   man’s  version of an ancient ordinance the early  Church didn’t have to keep? Jesus denounced the Pharisees for teaching as doctrines the commandments of men (Matt. 15:8-9; Mark 7: 6-7).


That logic escapes some ministers of modern-day Christendom who scarcely bother to “search the Scriptures to see if those things are so” (Acts 17:11). Perhaps they’re afraid to do this, for with knowledge comes responsibility to walk in the light of it. Nevertheless,  tithing is hardly ever held up to unbiased scrutiny by those who profit from it.  In one  American “Word church”, one non-tither was singled out for open censure from the pulpit for “helping satan hinder the spread of their ‘gospel’.


The Tithe: A Tax on Christian Liberty


To resurrect,  reinvent and reimpose part of a Law nailed to the Cross of Christ is contrary to the will of God, whatever the rationale behind it. Religious legalism is at enmity with our Liberty in Christ.  Paul admonishes us, as believers freed from the Curse of the Law,  to stand fast in our liberty (Galatians 5:1).


It is the business of politicians to “spin and grin” and compromise with lies in order to try and placate everyone at the same time. Religious opportunists do the same thing when they use the Word of God deceitfully to gain their own ends (II Corinthians 2:17;  4:2).  In Galatians 2:4-5, Paul warns of false brethren who come into the congregation to “spy out our liberty in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage.  Bondage to what?  The old Law of Moses, the 600-odd ceremonial ordinances which were added to the Ten Commandments.  He goes on to say firmly:  To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not so much as an hour; that the truth of the Gospel might continue with you.  This was the same apostle who  urged believers to “insofar as possible, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). It might ruffle some folks’ feathers,  but the truth of the Gospel of Grace is never open to compromise!


In fact, Paul, who said, “bless, and curse not” (Romans 12:14) pronounces a curse on anyone who preaches any other gospel than the one he himself presented (Galatians 1: 8). To drive home that point, he repeats that curse in verse 9. That in itself shows God’s disapproval of  seasoning the Gospel of Grace with  a little legalism!


Now for even more  Scriptural evidence that mandatory tithing violates your liberty in Christ Jesus.


Tithing Under the New Covenant Denies Who We Are in Christ


Nowhere in Scripture is any believer  authorized to waive the Old Testament preconditions of being a physically perfect  male descended from the line of Aaron in order to lay claim  to imaginary perks of that ancient  priesthood (Rolexes, perhaps?).  Nor is any pulpiteer supposed to officiate as a feudal lord  collecting rent in God’s name from lowly peasants out in the pews (at least that’s the way worshippers are often treated!). Even Pharaoh pressured God’s people with quotas. Tithing on money is an example of offering “strange fire before the Lord, which He commanded not” (Leviticus 10:1). If God’s people give a set  amount of money because some preacher threatens them with divine retribution,  that springs from fear-mongering, not  faith, and whatsoever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23). We who have entered into God’s perfect rest of faith (prefigured by the Jewish Sabbath) have ceased to rely on our own works to earn God’s approval (Hebrews  4: 1-13). Notice verse 10: He that has entered into his (God’s) rest,  he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.


God does indeed have a spiritual priesthood under the New Covenant,but that includes every member of the Body of Christ, not just a privileged few! Not only have WE (everyday believers) been made a royal priesthood and a holy nation in Christ  (I Peter 2:5,9), but we are the Temple of God (I Corinthians 3:16). What right does  anyone have to force us, the so-called laity (a man-made division in the Body of Christ) to pay tithe money to “spiritual Levites”, when every blood-washed believer in Christ is called a priest? A believer’s position under the New Covenant is a much more desirable one  than that enjoyed by any Old Testament Israelite or Levite. Why?


The term “laity” , as we understand it, could be applied to all Old Covenant Israelites not of the tribe of Levi, since these other tribes were not chosen to draw near unto God to perform sacred rituals. “Laity” is derived from a Greek word meaning “people”, and in this paper, I use it to distinguish the ministers of the Tabernacle  from those who are not chosen for such a vocation.  Although Israel was God’s Chosen People, only sons of Aaron,descended from Levi, were chosen by God to minister before Him at the Altar.   And of that one clan of Levi , only  the High Priest was allowed to pass beyond the inner Veil of the Tabernacle  into the Holiest Place of all, the  Holy of Holies, where the sacred Ark of the Covenant was.  And even he could only enter once a year (Hebrews 9:7), to sprinkle blood upon the Mercy Seat of the Ark, as an atonement  for himself and for the people.  Hebrews  10:19-22 assures us that now every true believer can enter into the Holiest Place and draw near unto God  because   the Blood of Christ makes us acceptable to Him. We who are saved by faith in Christ ARE the Temple of God, and God’s Holy Spirit dwells in us (I Corinthians 3:16; II Corinthians 6:16).


Preachers confuse the issue when they say only professional ministers  are spiritual Levites. Now if you’re gonna  spiritualize the chicken, you’d better spiritualize its eggs, or your analogy just won’t fly.


In time of warfare, men from all the tribes of  Israel were conscripted to  fight real flesh-and-blood foes on literal battle fields.  Not so the  Levites, who were exempt from military service.  II Corinthians 10:3-5 and Ephesians Chapter 6 speak of the spiritual warfare waged by believers.  Are  “spiritual Levites” (tithe-collectors) then exempt from having to fight spiritual battles with satan? On the contrary, a lot of preachers claim they fight the devil harder than anybody else!


Truly there is a spiritual Israel, which is the Household of Faith, composed of believing Jews and Gentiles (Galatians 6:10; Ephesians 2:11-22), who are built together into a Holy Temple of the Lord. I believe in the priesthood of all true believers in Christ, spoken of by the early apostles.   On that basis  I’m convinced that   there is no such thing as “spiritual Levites” in the Body of Christ, anymore than there are spiritual Benjamites, Gadites or Danites.  If you spiritualize one egg in a carton of twelve, you just gotta spiritualize all the others!


Why were the  Levites were set apart from the rest of Israel in the first place?  God’s original intention is stated in Exodus 19: 5-6:  Now therefore if ye will obey my voice indeed, then ye shall be a peculiar (special) treasure unto me above all people:  for all the earth is mine.  And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests and an holy nation.  These are the words which ye shall speak unto the children of Israel.


Notice the little word “if”.  IF the Children of Israel obeyed God’s commandments the WHOLE nation, not just Levi, would belong to the priesthood.  But this CONDITIONAL promise was made a few chapters before they threw a wild orgy around the golden calf at the foot of Mount Sinai.


The Israelites blew it big time.  It was only through the intercessions of Moses that the entire nation wasn’t wiped off the face of the earth.  It was then an uneasy distance was created between God and the people because of rebellion. Only the Levites were willing to take sides with Moses against their idolatrous brothers.  Instead of the entire nation serving as priests, only the tribe of Levi would execute  that office.


But, contrary to popular belief, this division of God’s people does not apply to the Church of the New Covenant.The whole  Church, preachers and parishioners alike, are called to offer up spiritual sacrifices unto God.  The Church is not guilty of dancing around a golden calf, and it never incurred the penalty of losing its all-inclusive priesthood for doing so. As for obeying God’s voice, the obedient Son of God, the High Priest of a better Covenant, lives by faith in my heart, and God has written His Law of Liberty on my heart,  not on tables of stone (II Cor. 3:3; Rom. 2: 28-29; Phil. 3:3).  Christ is the One Who makes me worthy to  belong to the New Covenant priesthood.


But, some might say, there’s still a difference between a vocational evangelist who wins thousands of souls to Christ and somebody who toils at a secular job. Well, Paul made tents, and that didn’t make him any less of an apostle!  Somebody who prays with a friend over a cup of coffee at work is doing the same type of work on a smaller scale as a big-time evangelist, and who’s to say such obscure faithfulness is  not just as precious in God’s sight!


I might not be a seminarian, but I’m filled with the Spirit of the Living God, and He gives me a few  insights I’d otherwise miss.  I’d say it is much more wonderful to have the Spirit of God dwelling in our hearts by faith than to live as an Old Testament Israelite; someone who truly loved the Lord but didn’t dare approach His glorious Presence within the Veil, for he would have died for doing so. Now if our position in Christ is far superior to what any of   the Levites had,   how can any religious leader exalt himself over us as God’s IRS agent?


You Just Can’t Improve on God’s Ways


King Saul performed an unauthorized religious rite out of personal expediency (I Samuel 13:8-14).On another occasion, he kept the best of what God ordered destroyed (I Samuel Chapter 15). These acts of self-will cost him his kingdom and led to his spiritual ruin.  Oh, it might “prosper” preachers to compromise the liberty of the saints by latching onto their favorite Mosaic ordinance,  but in the end they must answer to God for painting a picture of Him as a   stern landlord, rather than a loving Heavenly Father. Even innovations which seem to be spiritually motivated can ultimately spring from satan, who often appears as an angel of light in order to distort  the simplicity of the Gospel message (II Corinthians 11: 3, 14).


Contrary to what modern-day charlatans teach, we are to give freely, not tithe,  as God has already prospered us (I Corinthians 16:2).  And, if you choose to be part of  a  church which is paying off a big mortgage on a beautiful building, it is only fair that you contribute what you can to help pay it.  If you don’t feel right about worshipping there because you can’t afford the fixtures, go elsewhere, but don’t get caught in the tithing trap. Perhaps you could find a fellowship meeting in a private home  (Romans 16:5; I Cor. 16:19; Colossians 4:15; Philemon 2).  Some churches meet in storefronts, which is cheaper than paying a mortgage on a fancy building situated on prime real estate.


If the 10% standard of surrender to God transfers to money, it should transfer to everything else, don’t you think? Otherwise the whole equation gets a little lopsided. If 10% of your earnings belong to God, by inference, 90% is your property, and you, not Christ, are lord over it!    That means you can fritter it away as you like, and He has no say in the matter!  And what about  your most precious possession, your soul?  Does God own only 10% of that?  Christ is either Lord of all, or He’s not Lord at all!


By the way, a question is nagging at the back of my mind: Why aren’t preachers as eager to claim 10% of the squash and butter beans in people’s gardens as they are to demand a tithe of their other greenery? And yet these same preachers go on and on about people straying  from the inerrant Word of God! Talk about hypocrisy!


I suspect a lot of preachers who claim to feed on the pure Word of God add their own seasonings to it so they can get others to swallow the parts they like, sections they’ve yanked out of context and given a facelift. There’s money to be made from doing that.  Years ago, I would give away money on a tidal wave of emotion, stirred up by “faith teachers” who bamboozle people into giving to “God” out of their want. That can easily turn into an addictive bondage of gambling with “God”; a compulsion  to  mail off money your family needs  to “miracle” ministries in hopes God will multiply your “seed” of $20 into a bumper crop of $2000.  But it’s more likely you’ll suffer a spiritual  crop failure, following that slick sales pitch.


When the Temple was destroyed  in A.D. 70, the Levitical priesthood also ceased. Why should we Gentiles, who never were commanded to tithe at all,  bring the wrong kind of tithe to some church building which substitutes for a Temple which was reduced to rubble ages ago? God’s Spiritual House  now exists only in the form of the whole Body of Christ, which is His Royal Priesthood, of which I myself am a part!  I maintain that if a professional pulpiteer has the right to take tithes, I do too!


So What About Pre-Mosaic Tithing?


Didn’t some people tithe before the giving of the Law? Yes, two examples are cited. But they did it voluntarily, not to avoid breaking some law. One lone New Testament verse, Hebrews 7:8  is the only  Church Age scripture which some might use to construe that the Law of Tithing is still in force today, and only because of the present-tense italicized words which appear in the KJV: he receiveth them , which were added by translators to help the verse make grammatical sense. When this book was written, the Second Temple hadn’t been destroyed yet, and Jews (or Hebrews), not Gentile Christians, still presented tithes of agricultural produce to the Levites (the “men that die” the verse refers to).  I believe that  the  word “there” which appears before ‘he receiveth them’ points back to the time in Abraham’s day when He Who lives forever took tithes, voluntarily offered on one occasion by Abraham, out of the spoils of war (see  Genesis 14:18-20 and Hebrews 7:1-10.  In this context, the eternal nature of Christ’s perfect priesthood is contrasted with the temporary priesthood of mortal sons of Aaron.  It is always dangerous to build a major Christian doctrine on one lone verse, especially one   whose ambiguous  wording must be carefully interpreted in the light of the context in which it is found.


Abraham gave tithes of OTHER PEOPLE'S STUFF to Melchisedek, King of Salem (Genesis 14:18-20), who typifies the eternally living Christ. This  loot had been plundered from the citizens of Sodom by the Kings of the Plain, who were defeated in battle by Abraham’s men.  This was Abraham’s spoil.  But far from coveting this treasure he tells the King of Sodom in Genesis 14: 22-23: “In the Name of the Most High God, Possessor of heaven and earth, I will not take so much as a shoe latchet, lest you say you have made Abraham rich.”


Notice that inedible products must have been included in Abraham’s voluntary tithe (i,e, the “shoe latchet” he spoke of, and probably valuables like jewelry, gold or silver.  But mandatory tithing never included non-agricultural products! I really wouldn’t advise you to follow Abraham’s example in tithing anyway.  You would have to give away someone else’s possessions, and you could end up in the state pen!


In Genesis 28:20-22, Jacob makes a  VOLUNTARY vow to give back to God one-tenth of all that thou  (God) shalt (future tense) give me. But first Jacob attaches conditions.  First God must protect him from harm, provide the necessities of life for him, and bring him back again safely  to his father’s house.  Jacob didn’t get home for 20 years, so his vow wasn’t even payable until then!  A far cry from preachers who say God will disinherit you if you don’t keep their Law of Tithing to them, before you’ve provided for your family, regardless of the level of your faith!  No one has the right to use these two isolated  examples of voluntary tithing as an excuse to levy  an unscriptural religious tax on paychecks, a man-made statute which bears little resemblance to its supposed precedent in the Law of Moses, either in substance or implementation.


Tithing Ordinance Suspended During Babylonian Exile


After the destruction of the Temple of Solomon in  586-587 B.C., the Jewish nation was taken captive by Babylon, and deported from the Promised Land.  As a rule, while they were captive in Babylon, the Jews did not tithe on the fruits of the pagan soil where they lived.  Why?  Because Babylon was not holy unto the Lord.  It was not that “place which He had chosen to set His name there” (Deuteronomy 14:22-23).  Viewed strictly from an Old Covenant perspective, no other territories on earth are holy unto God except the land He promised the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and He did not desire tithes of the Gentiles’ agricultural produce, much less tithes of their money. The only tithing Jews did during the Exile was if a Jewish community wanted to tithe on crops grown in the lands of the Diaspora (dispersion in Gentile nations).  In that case, they had to get a special Rabbinical dispensation declaring that because a large number of Jews lived in their area, its produce was kosher enough to tithe on.  Nevertheless, the Law required tithes to be levied only on produce of Israel, not that of foreign lands.


Although mandatory  tithing ceased during the Exile, Jews of the Diaspora still found ways to look after their own poor, as Esther 9:22 shows. God’s beloved children live in all nations.  But where it concerns Mosaic ordinances given strictly to  God’s  Holy Land,  no other places on earth fall under their jurisdiction. Enforcing a tithing law in Oklahoma is just as ridiculous as trying to collect Nevada state property  taxes on an estate in New Jersey!




This same principle of time and place jurisdiction  applies to Jewish Temple worship. Even though synagogues may be built throughout the world, God   did not order  replicas of the Jewish Temple to be built in the Diaspora for animal sacrifice.    Only the  Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Israel, qualifies as THE place for a rebuilt Jewish Temple where adherents to Judaism might offer those sacrifices, and at the time of this writing, that hasn’t happened yet!


To show what God thinks of people tampering with His divinely ordained instructions I’ll give you a case in point.  After King Solomon died, his son Rehoboam took charge. First thing he did was leave no room for doubt as to who was boss. The elders of the Tribes came pleading with him to ease up on them, for  Solomon had been a hard taskmaster. But the new king let the elders  know they were in for a rough ride.  He would be an iron-fisted tyrant, and they’d better get used to the idea.


Rehoboam threw such a scare into the Chosen People that they were afraid not to rebel against him.  The northern tribes had an ongoing rivalry with giant Judah  anyway, and it had taken much delicate diplomacy for King David to weld them all together as a single powerful nation in the Middle East, and then pass that peaceful Kingdom on to Solomon. But crude, rude  Rehoboam blew it big-time.


So the ten northern tribes (Reuben, Simeon, Issachar, Ephraim, Zebulun, Manasseh, Dan, Asher, Naphtali and Gad) seized on this excuse to secede, leaving Rehoboam with only his own tribe of Judah and the loyal little tribe of Benjamin. The Levites were forbidden by Jeroboam to perform their divinely appointed duties so they also defected to Rehoboam (II Chronicles 11: 14-17). The Levites weren’t numbered among the Children of Israel  anyway when military  censuses were taken, as Numbers 1:47-54 and  2:33 show. The territory Jeroboam retained was called “Judah”.  The other ten tribes to the north formed the Northern Kingdom,  Israel”.


The northern tribes elected Jeroboam, foreman over Solomon’s forced labor and “a mighty man of valour” to be their king. God had earlier  promised to establish Jeroboam’s dynasty over Israel if only he would be faithful to walk in His ways as David did (I Kings 11: 26-40). But Jeroboam forgot God’s promises.  It made him sweat, just watching all his subjects go south to observe the Passover at the Temple in Jerusalem, which was in his rival’s territory of Judah. They just might defect to Rehoboam, he worried,  then his neck would be in the noose again.  He’d already spent time as a political exile in Egypt, afraid to return to Israel  until his nemesis King Solomon died.    It was because of Solomon’s idolatry that God had resolved to take ten of the twelve tribes away  from him in the first place.  After Solomon’s son Rehoboam  made his fatal  PR gaffe,  God  fulfilled His promise to set Jeroboam over the ten breakaway  tribes.  But Jeroboam didn’t think God had the power to keep him in power!   Just as medieval clerics invented the church tithe to keep the money rolling in,  Jeroboam resorted to clever religious innovations to safeguard his regime his own way.


I Kings 12: 25-33, and 13:33-34  relates how  Jeroboam set up two conveniently located worship centers; one  in Bethel, and one  in Dan.  He made up his own religious holidays.  He made priests of any Tom, Dick or Harry he owed a favor to, regardless of  tribal affiliation.  Kind of reminds me of the way knighthoods are passed out like candy to exciting celebrities.  Jeroboam said something like: “Hey, now, it’s too big a bother for you good people to make that long trip all the way to Jerusalem. And why not be able to see what you’re worshipping?”  So  the same folly committed in the Sinai desert was repeated.  Not one, but two golden calves were built to serve  his subjects’ worshipping needs. Not only that, he worshipped demons (II Chron. 11:15).


What an insult toward  the true God of Israel, Who had shown Jeroboam such incredible favor!  Jeroboam’s clever ideas didn’t get a rubber stamp from God, they only made God mad. Not only had Jeroboam deliberately violated God’s divine order for sacrifice and worship, he committed and promoted idolatry, the very same sin which had cost Solomon’s dynasty ten tribes.


Because of Jeroboam’s convenient innovations,  terrible judgment was pronounced  upon his nation (see I Kings 14:1-18).  The prophet Ahijah predicted the doom of Jeroboam’s family. Only his little son found favor with the Lord.  But even he died, though he was the only one who got a decent burial. Jeroboam’s rebellion against God was the seed which would be harvested in the future dispersion of the Ten Tribes of Israel to Assyria and beyond.


No, not just any ol’ place will do. If you’re intent on keeping an old Testament ordinance given exclusively to Jews living in the Promised Land, you’d better do it according to Old Testament guidelines, or you’ll be guilty of sin like Jeroboam. Regardless of whether your “tithe” is a twenty or even a hundred,  paying money in fulfillment of a tithing law  is still unscriptural and wrong. If you feel God wants you to donate money in a New Testament church service, better  just call it a gift.  And always give out of love, not because you feel forced to do it.


Liberality vs. Legalism


Jesus was born and raised in the Holy Land long after  the Jews ( who were mostly members of the tribe of Judah, along with some Benjamites and Levites)  returned from Babylonian captivity and their Temple was rebuilt.  Didn’t Jesus mention tithing in the Gospels? He sure did,  but  always in a negative context.  In Matthew 23:23, Jesus is  rebuking some Pharisees   for  neglecting the Love of God. He says to them: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin , and have omitted the weightier matters of the Law, judgment, mercy, and faith; these ye ought to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”


Aha! So Jesus did approve of tithing!   But don’t forget, Jesus hadn’t yet been sacrificed for our sins, and His hearers were still living under the Old Covenant. Jesus never taught  tithing on money, nor did He ever support His ministry with such an innovation. Sometimes He had  to forage for food, and He had no certain dwelling place (Matthew 8:20; Mark 11: 12-13). At the time of Christ, coinage was in circulation, so no one can say people were merely substituting garden herbs for money in a primitive society.  If the Lord had meant the tithe to be reinstated as a perpetual tax on the wages of saints, surely He would have made that clear from the very inception of the Church Age!


Which brings us back to penniless Paul, who repeatedly exhorts the saints (preachers and parishioners alike) to follow his own example  in following Christ (I Cor. 4:16;11:1; Phil. 3:17). He plainly says to the tightwad Corinthians:  We seek not yours, but you (II Cor. 12:14).


Now if tithing was  mandatory under the New Covenant, why didn’t Paul mention that minor point  when he defended  his right to financial support (I Cor. 9: 1-11)? If modern preachers profess to  follow Paul’s example,  why do they do something he didn’t do: dun parishioners  for 10% of their salaries and wages? And that, in spite of the fact Paul, a descendant of the tribe of Benjamin, compares himself to a priest who serves at the Altar, and ought to live off the things offered upon it.


Have I just painted myself into a corner? Not at all. All true believers in Christ are priests. And again, it was edible things, not money, which Levitical priests  offered upon the Altar. In Leviticus 6:14-18, the bread offering is given to Aaron and his sons to eat, as is the sin offering (flesh food)  in verses 24-29. If Paul was after their money, he would have plainly said: If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great  thing if we shall reap your money? Try eating a dollar bill.  Chances are, it’ll taste nasty, and give you the worst case of heartburn you ever had.The  “carnal things” Paul said he needed were likened to the fruit of the vineyard and the milk of the flock  (I Corinthians 9:7); food, period. Paul was definitely not money-motivated.  He declared his determination to preach the gospel free of charge ( verse 18). In I Timothy 6:10 Paul says:  And having food and raiment (no mention of money!) let us be therewith content.


Paul rightly expected,  being in full-time ministry,  that his basic needs should be met by the saints, and he shouldn’t have to go hungry or in rags.  Jesus told His evangelizing disciples to  eat and drink such things as their hosts offered, for the laborer is worthy of his hire (Luke 10:3-8). Amazingly, Jesus told them  to take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse!


Here’s one Scripture I have never ONCE heard any Prosperity preacher expound on:  III John 7 (yes, there’s 3 epistles written by the Apostle John, in addition to the Gospel of John). That tiny gem of a book comes right before Jude and Revelation.  That one little verse throws a monkey wrench into the notion that money must be collected at each and every church meeting.  It says:Because that for His Name’s sake they went forth, taking NOTHING of the Gentiles.  Even today, most of God’s Church is composed of Gentiles.  It is perfectly scriptural and often necessary to collect  offerings from people, but even freewill offerings aren’t compulsory under the New Covenant, or they cease to be freewill offerings.  Obedience to God, however,  is mandatory for believers, and if He tells you to give, by all means give, or you’ll feel like you’ve missed an opportunity to do good for God’s Kingdom.  God desires His people to have  a liberal heart;  then the giving and  good works will follow, as you are truly able. In this  context, John’s fellow laborers in the Gospel chose not to take donations from poor Gentiles they preached to.


A vast proportion of Paul’s converts were unpaid, penniless slaves. But the prosperous Corinthians were without excuse. In refusing to lighten  Paul’s heavy load, they disobeyed the heart of the Law:  Thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself (Galatians 6:2; James 2:8).  In I Corinthians 4:6-18, Paul draws a sharp contrast between their wealth and his privations. He says in verse 8: Now ye are full.  Now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us. Clearly, these people were abusing their  liberty, and Paul was suffering need as a result. But never once did he ever use that as an excuse to suspend  their God-given liberty and impose a new tithing tax upon them.


In II Corinthians 11:5-11 Paul reiterates his resolve not to be burdensome to these affluent Christians, and to minister to them free of charge.  Another, much poorer, church gladly met his need ( II Corinthians 8:1-6; 11:9; Philippians 4:15-19). In verse 18 he lets the Philippians of Macedonia  know he has received the things (their giving meant more than money) sent from them, and  calls their freewill offering “an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God.”   At that time, these Macedonian brethren were the only Christians Paul could depend on for steady support!


If love for God won’t inspire godly liberality, some ministers think, fear of His punishment might.   Paul might have threatened the much wealthier Corinthians with the wrath of God  for refusing to share their bounty with him, but he didn’t.  If Paul knew that tithing on wages was binding on Christians and still refused to teach this doctrine, even out of softheartedness, he  stands guilty of gross negligence and failure to declare the whole counsel of God. But he didn’t fail on that point (Acts 20:27).


Tithing:  Money Just Doesn’t Fill the Bill


One  unscriptural scripture preachers use as leverage over the “laity” is:  “The first tenth of your paycheck  belongs to God”. Wrong!  It ALL belongs to God, because we ourselves are His purchased possession!


Some  think they’re doing God a favor by reinventing and transplanting Old Testament Laws (ones they deem profitable) into the Body of Christ. But did God really tell the people to take the first item off the pile to pay as a tithe, or the tenth?   Let’s dig into a little more Scripture, and you just might get an even more vivid  picture of how ridiculous it is, trying to marry the Old Covenant, with its obsolete rules and regulations,  to the New, which is a Covenant of Liberty in Christ Jesus. Talk about strange bedfellows!


Let’s review our definition of tithable commodities  with Leviticus 27: verse 30: And all the tithe OF THE LAND, whether OF THE SEED or OF THE LAND, or OF THE FRUIT OF THE TREE, is the LORD’S.  It (not money) is holy unto the Lord.


VERSE 31: And if a man will at all redeem ought of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof. How can a dirty dollar bill, which has passed through countless sinful hands, possibly be redeemed as a holy thing?  How can you redeem money with money anyway? Does God run a Savings and Loan, authorizing His supposed representatives to charge His children a prime rate of 20% interest? I maintain that if some of the rules of Old Testament tithing on farm produce apply to tithing on a New Testament Christian’s cash wages, then they all do! If you “borrow” $100  of “tithe money” to go see the doctor, you’ve gotta pay “God” (the preacher?) back $120, or you break that same Law you’re so anxious to return to, and you’re counted as a transgressor!


VERSE 32: And concerning the tithe OF THE HERD, OR OF THE FLOCK, EVEN OF WHATSOEVER PASSETH UNDER THE ROD (Ever seen a twenty-$ bill  toddling on two legs to pass under the rod?) , the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord.


Hang onto your hat: VERSE 33: HE SHALL NOT SEARCH WHETHER IT BE GOOD OR BAD, NEITHER SHALL HE CHANGE IT: and if he change it at all, both it and the change shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed. How comical, the idea of applying this principle to filthy lucre.  Imagine dividing your $1000 salary into 10 $100 bills, then putting them in a bag to shuffle them up.  Then you pull them out one by one, till you get to the last one. That one, not the first, counts as the “tithe”.  And even if it’s a dirty, faded bill,  you’ve still got to count that one as the tithe. But  money-hungry preachers tell you, regarding tithing: “Give of your best and first  tithe  (money) to the Master, before you meet every other obligation.” But the aforementioned passage is proof that it was the TENTH item counted in a series of tithable commodities which was set aside by  farmers and herdsmen as the holy tithe under the Old Law; not the first, and not necessarily the best one. The word “tithe” simply means “tenth”. Even if a rancher’s tenth cow was the scrawniest of the whole lot,  it was still counted as the tithe. The “best of the tithes”, or a mere 1% of the total, were to be   offered by the Levites, not the laity, as described earlier.


Offerings brought to the Altar always had to be without spot or blemish (Deuteronomy 15:21). Since  tithes were taken at random from every tenth item counted, and worshippers were not to “search (check) a  tithed animal whether it be good or bad” before counting it as the tithe, the people’s tithe didn’t qualify for the Altar anyway. All this sanctimonious spin about rank-and-file Gentile Christian “laity”   offering up “tithe” money, an inedible item on the Altar just doesn’t wash with Scripture! Only that 1% of all the produce OF THE LAND OF ISRAEL, the Heave Offering (KJV) hand-picked from the people’s tithe and PAID BY THE LEVITES to the High Priest, was ever presented at the Altar!


What about those times where terms like “without spot or blemish”,  “firstfruits” or “redemption money” are applicable? Let’s dig up a few more Old Testament observances, and after reading the following sections tell me whether you’d like to go back to keeping this mind-bogglingly  complicated Scroll of the Law, with its 600-odd ordinances. Or rather, just read it so you can better appreciate what a colossal burden Christ has delivered you  from!



The Law: Fulfilled In Christ, but Misapplied


God has opened my eyes.  Now I am able to see through the religious hoopla going on in churches and “miracle crusades”  presided over by Prosperity gurus.  One favorite fund-raising gimmick is to prime the pump of pious fervor by throwing around a lot of Old Testament  buzzwords, and doing it with the right theatrics. At least once I was in a meeting where the preacher appealed to his flock to present  a “wave offering to the Lord” (with cabbage of the highest denominations, what else?).


Knowing his trusting, bah-h-h-ing sheep would readily follow, the man said, “God loves a cheerful giver.  Let’s see you wave your biggest bill as your firstfruits offering unto the Lord.  That’s it! Wave those bills high now, and make a joyful noise unto the Lord.”


Now, in a crowd of thousands of excited people, you must have enough sanctified common sense to   master your own emotions and be grounded in God’s truth enough to judge the collective “blessing” by the strict yardstick of Scripture.   Have you ever read of the Apostle Peter groaning to organ music and appealing to Levitical laws to make the money flow like milk and honey? What did  the Firstfruits offering and the Wave offering consist of anyway, and what was the significance of these ancient rituals?


It was upon the Altar that the Firstfruits, the very first ripening fruits of a harvest, were brought in a basket (not a checkbook) by the Israelite farmer (see Exodus 23:19; Numbers 18:13; Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Nehemiah 10: 35-37).  From this the “wavesheaf” was taken and offered up as holy unto the Lord (Leviticus 23: 9-12; ). This ritual was performed on the second day of Passover, or 7 weeks before Pentecost (verse 15).


The Firstfruits is not synonymous with the tithe of the whole harvest offered by the laity of the Nation of Israel. The tithe was payable later in the season, when the whole crop ripened. Nehemiah Chapter 10 describes how sacrifices, tithes, and offerings were resumed after being discontinued in exile. Notice in verse 37: And to bring the firstfruits of our DOUGH (bread dough, that is!) and our offerings, and the FRUIT OF ALL MANNER OF TREES, unto the priests, to the chambers of the House of our God; and the tithes OF OUR GROUND (the Firstfruits and the  tithes are listed separately) unto the Levites (who receive the people’s 10%). And remember, the  LEVITE’S tithe of the  tithe (Or 1% of  Israel’s agricultural output) comprised the Heave Offering (Numbers 18:25-28 KJV), (Heb.”Terumah”).


Christ, our unblemished Passover Lamb, fulfilled the Wavesheaf offering when he offered Himself  up to God once and for all for our redemption from sin (see Hebrews Chapter 10). Paul the Apostle compares the dying and burial of the natural body to the sowing of a seed which results in a harvest, where that seed is changed into a new, far more glorious form, speaking of our own resurrection to immortality (I Corinthians 15:35-44).  Christ is the Firstfruits from the dead (verses 20-23), and the First to be resurrected to immortality and offered to God, in happy anticipation of the resurrection of His saints. Christ IS the Fulfillment of both the Firstfruits and the Wave Sheaf offerings, even as as He fulfilled in His own sacrificial death the animal sacrifices of ancient Israel.   I suspect God is offended by the way fishers for funds make a big haul by perverting the simplicity of the Gospel of Christ with appeals to people’s religious sensibilities.


In the Book of Nehemiah, the exiles of Judah are returning from captivity   after a 70-year absence.  Now Temple worship was being reinstituted, along with all the various  ordinances which could only be  kept in the Land of Israel.  Turn to Chapter 10: 38 to get a real thrill: And the priests the sons of Aaron shall be with the Levites, when the Levites take tithes: and the Levites shall bring up the TITHE OF THE TITHES into the House of our God, to the chambers, unto the treasure house (Now, get this!) That’s the very same “storehouse” (Hebrew: outsair ) so often quoted from Malachi 3:10 ( the  lone verse  tithing teachers base most of their doctrine on!) That was the place where THE LEVITES (whom modern preachers readily identify with) took their own tithe (1% of the total) to THE PRIESTS (again, “Levite” and “Priest” are not synonymous terms!) These are the same Levites who are cited by Malachi as being guilty of withholding the best of the tithe from God! They, NOT THE LAITY, were the ones primarily responsible for keeping this treasure house full of good things!


Pick One Law, You Marry ‘Em All


If any religious leader still insists on playing Levite, let him go the whole gamut and keep all the 600-odd points of the Old Law.   Stop eating pork, ham and shrimp. Southerners, you’ll have to give up catfish, as that has no scales (Deut. 14:9-10).  Cease all work on Saturdays. Wear  a beard and  side locks. Don’t order cheese on your Big Mac, or you’ll break he law against consuming meat with dairy products.  If your brother dies childless, marry his widow to raise up a son to perpetuate his name. It works both ways, now!


“Ah, but I couldn’t do that,” you say.  Why?  “Well, Paul says church leaders are to be the husband of only one wife.” Yes, he did say that. You are not expected to follow the ancient custom of levirate marriage.  Neither are believers bound by the old Law of Tithing, which never was on money to begin with.


Under the Old Covenant, the first-born of every man and beast was the Lord’s (Exodus 13:1-2; Numbers 18:15-16; Leviticus 27: 26-27). Human males under 5 had to be redeemed with a payment of 5 Temple shekels, 3 for females. The redemption fee was higher for an older person. The firstborn of all unclean (non-kosher) animals had to be redeemed instead of being offered, e.g. the jackass (Exodus  13:13; Leviticus. 27:27)  This is one example of hundreds of Mosaic ordinances preachers have neglected to transfer over to our Dispensation of Grace.   James 2:10 says: For whosoever shall keep the whole Law, and yet offend in ONE point, he is guilty of ALL. Where commitment is concerned, the Law of Moses is indivisible. If you vow faithfulness to one law, you yoke yourself to the whole clan.  You can’t just covenant with God to  keep one law you like and shine off on all the rest. How long has it been since anybody sent their friendly TV preacher a redemption fee for  a firstborn kitten or puppy!  If  anybody hopes to score points with God by observance of one Mosaic ordinance, that individual must place himself under ALL of the Law of Moses! It’s a package deal!  If one Mosaic ordinance is transferable to the New Testament Age of Grace, every other Mosaic ordinance is transferable and binding, not just the money-makers! The whole Law includes circumcision for men, periodical  seclusion and  pigeon offerings  for women, ritual cleansings and washings, animal sacrifices, physical inactivity on the Sabbath, abstinence from pork BBQ, going to the Priest to have your zits checked, and paying a redemption fee for your firstborn child.Thanks to Christ, we are redeemed from the condemnation of imperfect Law-keeping, without having to muddle through all those Levitical Laws and fees (Isaiah 52:3; I Peter 1:18).


You really open up a can of worms when you try to enforce Old Testament Laws in this Dispensation of Grace. Even if monetary fees still had to be paid today in fulfillment of ancient Levitical law, God wouldn’t accept U.S. currency, with  its mystical inscriptions and  images of  men, as these violate His Law against    making images  (Exodus 20:4). Ministers simply couldn’t accept $3.00 as a redemption fee for a baby girl, instead of three Shekels of the Sanctuary!  The Jews of Christ’s time had to exchange their  Roman coins, engraved with images of Caesar, for acceptable Temple shekels (Matthew 21:12).  Even then, those coins were not used to pay tithes, but taxes for the maintenance of the Temple, as in the census tax taken of every  Israelite over twenty (Exodus 30: 11-16).  Each person, whether rich or poor, was charged the same amount--half a shekel. That would  constitute far less than 10 %of a rich man’s income. Under Nehemiah’s leadership, God allowed this small sum to be reduced  to one-third of a shekel, perhaps because the people at that time were under foreign tribute and needed a bit of relief.  This is one example of God’s compassion.


The Temple Tax, however,  cannot be used to argue that money paid for the  eternal redemption of the Israelites, even if this tax was easily affordable by most everyone. Psalms 49: 7-8 tells us that nothing we can give God can ransom anyone’s soul from death, and the redemption of our soul is precious (costly).    It is the Blood which makes atonement for sin (Leviticus 17:11;  Hebrews 9:22).  Rather, paying that  census tax  was a tangible reminder (memorial) of  the faith each person directed toward the God Who inhabited the Temple, and also symbolized the fact each Old Testament saint had an equal vested interest in  the benefits of its rites. The money paid  for the upkeep of a Temple which performed substitutionary animal sacrifices on their behalf. These rites were crucial in the salvation of believing Israelites in that they served as “promissory notes” before God until  their ultimate fulfilment in Christ, the perfect Lamb of God.  The Blood of Christ, not silver and gold, has redeemed us (John 1:29; John 1:29;  I Peter 1: 18-19).  Faithfulness to ritual obligations, as in paying  the Temple tax, showed their faith in the future coming of the final Sacrifice for sins, Jesus.  In every dispensation, good works spring from true faith  ( James   2:26).


Back then, census-taking was a sin unless God authorized it.  King David, a man after God’s own heart, committed a  census sin once. He,  rather than the Lord,  ordered a national census taken of Israel, God’s heritage. He wanted to know how many  warriors he had on hand to protect his kingdom. As a result of this transgression, a plague fell on Israel ( II Samuel Chapter 24).Some preachers  keep a watchful eye on who gives what by requesting that envelopes be filled out, supposedly for purposes of tax deduction. Carnal preachers feel their kingdom is more secure, just knowing  they have a core group of big tithers they can count on. It’s easier to trust in the Lord if the projected numbers for the coming fiscal year are already predictably high.  Then the building committee can go ahead and set a firm time frame for the new choir loft, or the renovations on the parsonage.  But that doesn’t excuse the tithe. Besides, drawing attention to  your big contributions  is not God’s way.  Jesus prefers us to give in secret (Matthew 6:1-4).


Lay Your Money Down....Where?


Monetary gifts and tax money could enter the Temple, as when Jesus referred to “the gold of the Sanctuary” in Matthew 23:17  But gold was never placed on the Altar but in the treasury (Luke 21:1). When Jesus referred to “placing a gift on the Altar” ( verse 18) he clearly meant animal sacrifices, as He did when he told one leper he had cleansed:  ‘Go and offer the gift that Moses commanded as a testimony to others (of his cleansing).  This process of ceremonial, in contrast to the actual cleansing Jesus did, was a complicated business:  The first  phase of the gift  consisted of  an initial offering of two sparrows, and then, after a week of shaving, washing, and ritual seclusion,  another offering had to be given, comprised either of two  lambs, or one lamb and two birds. (Leviticus chapter 14).


Actually,  there were two altars in the Temple; one the Brazen Altar, where animal sacrifices were offered by fire ( a picture of the spotless Offering of Christ), the other, the Altar of Incense, where sweet incense (which pictures the worship of saints) was burned.  But money was never sacrificed on either Altar!  Can you imagine a pile of fat checks and $20 bills going up in smoke? That would be a televangelist’s worst nightmare! So much for preachers pleading: ‘If you don’t lay your money on the Altar, you can’t offer yourself to the Lord, either!  Paul says in Romans 12:1:  I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present YOUR BODIES (no mention of money!) a  living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. Giving, not tithing, as God leads to meet genuine needs comes  as a result of a transformed heart.  The Law of Moses had the power to show a person his faults, but never to impart righteousness to him (Romans 8:3). When we walk according to the Love of the living Christ within, we walk in the the Law of Liberty.  We obey His leadings  out of love, rather than  fear. For example, Acts Chapter 4:35 says believers were “of one heart and one soul (true unity) and there was none that lacked”.


Distribution was made to each person (not just the “clergy” ) according to his  need, not his greed!


Those same preachers who so eagerly seize upon the Old Testament Law of tithing to increase funds  dismiss as impractical  the example of the newborn Church, where nobody claimed exclusive ownership of anything.


A Hypothetical Case:

Sally in Titheland


“Sally”, a widow with a two-year-old son, makes $300 a week at her nursing  job.   30% of her salary goes for Social Security, state and federal tax, BEFORE she even tackles her spiralling rent, which seems to increase every other month.  More goes for child care, utilities, work-related expenses, and car payments.  Her net income, before paying all those whopping bills, is only $210, but her pastor habitually warns: (I actually heard something like this once):  “Just try and withhold God’s tithe.  If you break this Law He has set in motion, you’ll reap the consequences.  God will withdraw His protection and you’ll end up paying it anyway, either through a hospital bill, or  for medicine and doctors!”


Sally looks at her little son. Fear has tied her to the tithe.  What responsible mother could risk her own child’s safety and well-being over a little money?  So with more heaviness than hilarity she writes out a check for $35. The extra $5.00 constitutes her “love offering”, so “God” won’t think she’s a tightwad.  The $30 was one-tenth (the tithe) of her gross income, but exactly one-seventh of her net (disposable) income. By appealing to the punitive force of a “law” God never meant for  New Covenant believers, tithe teachers snag much more than 10% of a person’s take-home pay.


So what is poor Sally to do, moonlight at McDonald’s so she can afford to  tithe on her first paycheck? Doesn’t she deserve a few minutes of quality time each night with her son so she can read him a bedtime story and tell him how much Jesus loves him? Doesn’t she deserve a decent home life at least as much as the tithe-extractors do?  Does God really prefer sacrifice to mercy? Is He, as some insinuate, only pleased with His children when they are suffering privation “for the Kingdom of God”?


Sally tosses and turns all Saturday night.  Next morning, she’s way too tired to go to church.  She can just go for the evening service.  Surely, she reasons, the church won’t go bankrupt before she delivers her  tithe check.


But does Sally have the right to fulfill her inner need  to break  free?  Is it safe to even  investigate the validity of her pastor’s claim on her money? She flips open her Bible to  I Thessalonians 5:21.  Prove all things, hold fast that which is good.


Sally must know for sure.  She prays for guidance.  Far from rebuking Sally from wanting to be sure, God honors her prayer. He shows her where to dig to find the nuggets of truth she needs, in her own Bible reference books and on the Internet. She discovers a host of other souls who have been set free to examine teachings in the light of Scripture, people who have learned to reject that which is  false.


How odd, she thinks, her pastor has never preached on THESE Scriptures!  A weight of oppression lifts from her soul.  She “has church” right there in the privacy of her home, worshipping and praising God.


Sally tears up her tithe.  That’s one pastor she just can’t afford.


Sally has been liberated from fear imposed on her by a manipulative, money-obsessed pastor who appeals to negative forces to punish people who dare to break free from flawed religious traditions.      One modern heresy  making the rounds is that “laws” (impersonal forces) govern everything, and even God is subject to them.  Don’t buy this lie!  God still sits on the Throne of the universe.   Hold fast to the truth as revealed in the Gospel of Grace.  Trust in God to be your Defender against all the deceiving spirits who would fill your heart with fear of breaking with bad traditions.  He will give you courage to hold fast to the truth, although others might prefer traditions of men to truth, and would deny  your liberty as a blood-washed, Spirit-indwelt child of God.


Sally would have found tithing much more merciful under the Old Covenant. As  a landless widow, she wouldn’t have been expected to tithe at all.  She would have helped consume the tithe instead of paying a religious tax on her limited income.


Speaking of tax-paying, so long as the Israelites remained under God’s original theocratic government with judges as their leaders instead of kings,    they never had imposed upon them other big income taxes  in addition to bringing in the tithe of the land. Big taxes only came with “big government”, after Israel demanded that God give them an earthly king.   Today’s tithers pay heavy secular taxes before tithing on the original figure, which is never even in their possession.


Tithe Takers Play on Fear and Ignorance


The tithe, as preached and enforced by legalistic ministers of Christendom, allows  no exemptions  for poverty or personal hardship. When the candy-coated religious veneer is stripped away, any Spirit-guided student of the Word can see what sternly enforced, mandatory tithing truly  is:  Paying protection money to men in fancy suits who, for all practical purposes, paint a picture of a ruthless  “godfather”. No mercy is shown by such carnal, greedy men whose appetite for “the finer things in life” is insatiable (Isaiah 56:11). They play on the fact that while most adults can read, lots of folks can’t yet “rightly divide the Word of Truth” in order to discern solid truth from hyped-up error based on one or two  Scriptures twisted and taken out of context.  By playing on people's nagging fears of offending God,  these wolves in sheep’s clothing judge those who refuse to cough the money up  as being “cursed with a curse” for not giving in to their arm-twisting!


These greedy wolves dare paint our dear Heavenly Father as just another wolf at the door!  Shame on them!


And, in the minds of petrified parishioners,  those self-serving “lords over God’s Heritage” are equated with God Himself, to be paid off with fear and trembling. 


Liberty Must Be Defended


Be on your guard.  Let the Scriptural truths I have just shared with you fortify you against the wiles of the devil, who appears as an angel of light.  He will even use zealous,  unscriptural sermons to try to shame you  into tithing anyway, to try to steal   more and more your God-given liberty  by degrees. Give satan an inch and he’ll surely demand a mile.  He has as his end the impoverishment of the Bride of Christ, and its re-enslavement into the  bondage of fear.  So he uses spiritually blind religious leaders to enforce a Law of Tithing by using his favorite below-the-belt tactic: instill guilt toward God into a people who, at conversion, received the gift of peace with God through faith. Those who are keen on filling their coffers but can’t fool believers who have studied their Bible will say:  “If you really loved Jesus, you wouldn’t be so contentious  about it, or resort to intellectual arguments to get out of it.”  Lacking Scriptural backing for this destructive doctrine, they’ll resort to mysticism, and wrest (twist) Scripture to their own advantage, as Peter warns in II Peter 3:16. Scripture correctly applied in context must be the final authority, not the biased reasonings of someone who has an extensive seminary education.


I once read a booklet written by a well-known expounder of Scripture.  In it, he gives a bird’s eye synopsis of the major themes of the minor prophets, one of which is Malachi. In that section he zooms  straight up to...guess what?  The Tithing Scripture in Malachi chapter 3!  Despite his glowing enthusiasm he says nothing new, just what I’ve heard preachers say before:  “Just imagine, tithing is YOUR chance to prove God!” His little blurb was  like a pep talk,  encouraging people to master their misgivings and  put God to the test, because that’s one area where “God puts Himself in a box”!


His articles on science and world events are well-researched, but on the subject of tithing he misses by a country mile. Without any Scriptural backing he  just glibly  assumes it’s a given that the tithe applies to modern Christians, and applies to money, and it should fill Christians with joy to comply with this tradition.  The central theme of Malachi  is never mentioned:  God’s efforts to set a crooked priesthood straight.  I, a housewife with a Junior College degree  and 30-odd years’  informal teaching by the Holy Spirit, have  already shared more than enough solid evidence to rest my case on that point, and I’d be surprised if  tithe-collecting  theologians  have never come across or wondered about the very Scriptures I’ve shared with you. Peter and John didn’t even have  a high school diploma (Acts 4:13),  but their words rang with a truth which set people free.  Even Jesus held his own in the Temple when He was a boy of twelve discoursing with some very learned Rabbis.


One argument I’ve heard for obligatory donations  is:  “You must die to self (i.e. your own feelings and needs).  You might think you know the truth, tithe-teachers will tell you,  “but you’d better shut up and pay up anyway,  or your heart isn’t right with God, and you’re just being selfish and divisive.”


Hogwash!  If anybody’s being greedy, it’s those blind leaders of the blind who are living like royalty  at the expense of the Body of Christ! And the more luxuries they enjoy, the more they want.


Lots of Christians believe in defending their Constitutional liberties, because they realize much blood was shed in the past to secure those freedoms.  I maintain that it is infinitely more important to defend your spiritual liberty in Christ from unwarranted encroachment. Jesus did indeed shed His own precious Blood so we could live in liberty. Scripture instructs us to earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints (Jude 3).  Paul tells us to prove ALL things (even deeply entrenched religious traditions); hold fast that which is good (I Thessalonians 5:21). And the flip side of the coin is to reject that which isn’t good. Never, never, never shrink away from your God-given right and duty to examine all teachings in the light of Scripture just because some bigwig in a fancy suit tries to pull rank on you to lay claim to the fruits of your labor.  Remember your position in Christ Jesus as an heir of God, and joint-heir of Christ (Romans 8: 14-17).  You have the mind of Christ, and He will reveal all truth to you through the Spirit, so that you are able to distinguish between doctrine which springs from man’s so-called wisdom and  the true counsel of God (John 6:45; 14:26; 16:13, I Corinthians 2:11-16; I John 2:20, 27). We are not to be bound by questionable doctrines, but our hearts are to be deeply rooted in the grace of God ( Hebrews 13:9).


We’ve feasted on the solid meat of the Word, now for the dessert:


In Numbers 18:20 the Lord says to Aaron:  Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I AM thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel.


So we read that the Lord Himself was the inheritance of the Levites, rather than the land which grew the tithe.  In Ephesians 1: 12-14 it says:  That we should be to the praise of His Glory, who first trusted in Christ.  In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation: In whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory.  Like the Levites, we can truly say the Lord Himself is our inheritance!


Now remember, it was  the fruits of the Old Testament worshipper’s inheritance that mandatory tithes were paid on, and nothing else! The burden of producing the tithe was laid on the land, never on the backs of poor wage earners!  In applying principles of Scripture, you must do it strictly by God’s rules,  or your doubtful doctrine is built on shifting sand, and  collapses like a house of cards!  Now if we must  tithe, we ought to do it the Biblical way, don’t you think? That means we must tithe just like the Israelites did,  on the  inheritance God has given us!  Now I challenge any “expert on Christian finance”    to answer me this:  How can a modern believer tithe on the fruits of his God-given inheritance, which is a heavenly inheritance, of which the Holy Spirit Himself is the down payment! Can you tithe on the fruits of the Spirit?  Nonsense! How do you put 10% of the Spirit’s love, joy, and  peace into the offering plate!?!


Acts Chapter 15 tells of a great theological dispute among early church leaders. Were non-Jewish believers obligated to keep the Law of Moses in order to earn and keep their salvation?  None other than the Apostle Peter says that if the Old Law was hard for Jews to bear, why should Gentile believers, who were already justified by faith, have that burdensome yoke placed on them?


The apostles reached a sensible decision.  Only four restrictions would be placed upon the  liberty of the Gentile believers:


   To refrain from:


     1. Foods offered to Idols

     2. Fornication

     3. Meat from strangled animals

     4. The consumption of blood


Those original builders of the Church believed that if just those four things were observed, God could surely take care of the rest. Conspicuous by its absence is the Law of Tithing.