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 The Tithing Heresy and Spiritual Abuse

By Patricia Backora


Romans 8:2; Galatians 5:1; I Corinthians 16:1-3; 

Hebrews 7:1-10; 8:10; I Pet. 2:9


Don’t eat the tithe, they say.  Even if your fridge is empty, pay your tithe on time. What a merciless, hard-hearted attitude!  Although God has set believers free from the ordinances of Old Testament Mosaic Law, Church rulers often keep their people under subjection to the ones they like. If they insist on enforcing the ordinances of ancient Israel, why not do it in the scriptural way? The purpose of the true Biblical tithe WAS to eat it. What else could be done with grain, grapes, olive oil, and honey? And who do you think ate that stuff? God? No, at least not before He came to earth in the Person of Christ. God already owns everything, and He says in His Word: If I were not hungry, I would not tell thee (Psalms 50:12). Did the priests of Israel eat the tithe? Yes, but, more surprisingly, it was also consumed by the poor, the fatherless, widows and aliens in the land, and even by the worshipper himself at Festival Time when it was brought in. This was seen by God as a supreme act of worship, a time when His children gathered together around His table to fellowship with Him in praise and thanksgiving.


So their tithe ended up not in some bank vault, but in the tither’s stomach.  Does that shock you? I refer you to Deuteronomy 12: 5-21 and Deuteronomy 14:22-29. Tithe-paying time was the Israelite’s version of Thanksgiving, a time when they helped the priests and the poor of the land eat the Lord’s tithe! The Festival Tithe (Ma’aser Sheni) was used to provide choice foods for the worshipper and his family, as well as for the landless poor, and the Levites.  The Levites were considered financially poor simply because they owned no "inheritance" (shares of real estate in the Land of Israel), except for a few towns they lived in. Instead, the Lord was their Inheritance (Num. 18:20; Ezek. 44:28).


The Levitical tithe (Ma’aser Rishon) paid by the other eleven tribes of Israel was the Levites’ inheritance also. Each year they would receive the first 10% taken out of the yield of the Land, and the Festival tithe would be taken out of the 90% remaining after the first tithe was taken.  Altogether the laity of the Children of Israel paid 19% of their total crop in tithes. There was one tithe paid not by the people but by the Levites themselves.  The lower-ranking Levites would take out the choicest 10%  of the tithe they themselves had received and give it to the High Priest for his consumption and that of his family, who belonged to Aaron’s branch of the Tribe of Levi. This tithe was called the "heave offering" or "Terumah" and it was 1% of the total crop of the Land, spoken of in Numbers 18:21-32.


The High Priest, who served at the altar, did not pay tithes, nor did his own family. The Levites had an Outer Court ministry where they had more direct interaction with the people  They performed the more mundane tasks of the Tabernacle of the congregation.  They were not allowed to come near God’s Holy Presence at any time, for any reason, or to even look upon God’s Holy things in the Tabernacle. Why?  Because their ancestors had rebelled against Moses’ authority in the desert. (see Numbers 16:1-35).  As a penalty, all Levites except the sons of Aaron were excluded permanently from approaching the Holy Place of the Tabarnacle to minister unto the Lord (Num. 18:1-3; Ezek. 44:10-13).


In reality, the Lord’s original plan had been to have all twelve tribes of Israel minister unto Him as a holy nation of priests (Ex. 19:5-6).  But Israel as a nation did not fulfill the conditions of that promise.  Later on in Chapter 32 they worshipped the Golden Calf in the Desert of Sinai and were punished for it, losing their privilege of being a nation of priests.  After that, the priesthood was limited to just one tribe: Levi. And this privilege was further limited to just one branch of that Levites after Korah rebelled against Moses in Numbers Chapter 16. But we, God’s New Covenant Nation, are allowed full access to the Presence of God through the precious Blood of Christ, in a far more glorious way than that ancient Aaronic Priesthood could approach God  (Eph. 2:18; I Pet. 2:5; Heb. 4:16). Our  privilege as a New Testament believer is even greater than that of Aaron the High Priest who did not tithe.  So when we pay "tithes" to those who claim superiority over us, we are denying our own God-given priesthood in Christ!


That’s enough to persuade me tithing is not legally binding on Christians. But I want to pound more nails in the coffin of tithing. In rightly dividing the Word of Truth, consistency is called for or your case collapses like a house of cards. In order for you to transfer a law, you must also transfer all its terms and conditions for it to be kosher. Now, if God commanded His ancient people to tithe on the fruits of their inheritance (in that case, land) it follows that the same principle of tithing only on the fruits of your inheritance would also apply if you wanted to enforce tithing today.  And what (or Who) IS our Inheritance as spiritual Israelites?  None other than the Blessed Holy Spirit is cited in Ephesians 1:14 as the earnest (guarantee) of our heavenly Inheritance. Years ago, you could put an item on layaway at a department store if you couldn’t finish paying for it the same day you picked it out.  To persuade store staff to set it aside for you, you would pay a small amount of the price as a guarantee you’d be back later to pick the item up. On the glad day you were able to pay the rest of the price you could take your new possession home with you. You had redeemed your purchased possession.


But in God’s case, He has already bestowed the greatest part of our Inheritance upon us, His Blessed Holy Spirit. At God’s set time He will give us the rest of our Inheritance (our glorified body is part of it), and God will then be able to take us to our heavenly home.  Like the Levites of old, the Lord is our Inheritance, but in a much more wonderful way, in that He dwells in our hearts by faith.  So how can ordinary saints be classed as the laity who owe tithes to the leadership? Now here’s the clincher: How on earth can you tithe on the fruits of your Heavenly Inheritance, the Holy Spirit? Can you put 10% of His love, joy and peace into the offering plate?  If the deception being carried out today weren’t so tragic, that would tickle my funny bone!


Anyone who still insists on enforcing the tithing law as a deeply spiritual practice for modern believers might as well go all the way.  Deuteronomy 14:26 encourages the worshipper to even buy beer or wine as part of that fellowship meal, if he so desires! Anybody for a Bud?


Kidding aside, the spiritual benefit of keeping the tithing ordinance seemed to be (1) fellowshipping with God in thankfulness toward Him for His provision and (2) showing care and concern for Levites and poor widows who were fed by  the tithed agricultural produce. Helping the poor is the spirit behind that ordinance, and we ought still to look after their welfare today. Every third year, a special tithe (the poor tithe, or Ma’aser Ani) was collected instead of the Festival Tithe to provide sustenance not only for the landless Levites, but also for the needy among what is now termed "the laity": widows, orphans and even hungry aliens in the land. The poorest Israelites and foreigners in the Land owned no real estate to produce tithable commodities on, so they were not subject to this ordinance. Instead they helped eat the tithe. Every year except the seventh year the people would first tithe to the Levites and then, depending on which year it was of the seven-year (Shemittah cycle), they would pay either the Festival Tithe or the Poor Tithe.  That amounted to 10% of 100% of the crop plus 10% of the 90% remaining of that crop.  Altogether, 19% of the produce of the Land of Israel would have been brought in each year as tithes, except for the non-tithable seventh year of the 7-year tithing cycle.


When I was a kid in church, I was always puzzled when Malachi 3:10 was read, you know, that part about "meat in Mine House." I knew no better than to take the word "meat" at face value. How odd, I thought, I don’t smell any roast beef roasting in church!  But "meat" I later learned, is really King James English for "food". It didn’t say:  "That there might be money in Mine church building." That passage means what it says. The "meat" (i.e. grain and other food) stored in the priest’s storehouses helped feed landless Levites  as well as the needy. Money can indeed buy food for the poor, but there was  no mention of money in conjunction with the tithing ordinance of ancient Israel, except in one case: In Deut. 14:24-26, the worshipper is given permission to exchange his tithed produce for money if he lives too far  from the Lord’s chosen place of worship to haul it there. But when he arrived he didn’t simply hand that cash over to the priest.  He used it to buy a new tithe to present before the Lord.  He used that money to spend on whatever foods or drinks he desired, for himself and his family, and to share with the needy and with the Levites.  That sure is a far cry from the version of tithing observed today!  Today it’s the poor who support the rich!


Were there ever cases in Scripture when inedible things were offered as tithes?  Yes, two cases were cited, and both occurred centuries before Moses was born or the Law was given. Importantly, these two were examples of voluntary, not obligatory, tithing. In Genesis 14:20 Abraham presented tithes of the spoils of war to Melchizedek, a priest of the Most High God, who was of mysterious origin. This was a voluntary act of thanksgiving to God, Who had helped Abraham defeat the heathen kings who had kidnapped his nephew Lot and pillaged the City of Sodom. Abraham’s tithes did not come out of his personal fortune in response to some law laid down on him. That tithe came from loot stolen from other people’s homes by bandits.  It wouldn’t be advisible to follow Abraham’s example in tithing and donate other people’s property to the church!


The other example of pre-Mosaic tithing occurs in Genesis 28:20-22. Jacob promises God he will give Him a tenth (tithe) of all he possesses in the future IF God first fulfills certain conditions; namely, if God protects Jacob, provides for him and brings him back to his family home in peace.  But Jacob was away from home a very long time, and his tithe wasn’t even payable until he got home.


But where it concerns enforcing the Mosaic tithing tax, it never was levied on non-agricultural products, just the fruit of the Land. God didn’t even demand tithes of other nations, because these lands were not holy unto Him as Israel was. After the Exile, tithing was only re-established as a national ordinance after the Jews had returned to the Land of Israel from Babylon (Neh. 13:5),


Some will object that Jesus commanded his hearers to meticulously observe all the ordinances proscribed by the Jewish religious leaders, including the tithing of tiny garden herbs (Luke 11:42).  In the same breath, He rebuked the Pharisees for neglecting the weightier issues of the Love and Mercy of God.   When that scene transpired, Jesus and the Pharisees were still living under the laws of the Old Covenant, before Jesus made a final Atonement for our sins. The Book of Hebrews in the New Testament mentions the collection of tithes by the Levitical Priesthood, but that scripture was penned before the destruction of Herod’s Temple in 70 A.D. At the time of its writing animal sacrifices were still being offered up in the Jewish Temple and all the ordinances, including tithing, were still practiced by those of the Jewish faith.


Ever since the Resurrection of Christ, God’s people have lived under a New Covenant of Grace. Self-appointed religious tax agents have no right to chain Christ’s redeemed ones to their version of their favorite ordinance of Jewish Law.   Enforcing such an edict of legal compulsion upon God’s New Covenant children is contrary to the Spirit of Christ, Who has set His people free to walk in holy liberty. Your salvation is free, not a taxable commodity!


The epistles of Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles, never bind upon his flock the heavy yoke of tithing.  He exhorted his followers to give liberally, according to how God has prospered them.  God is able to pour upon His own obedient children a Spirit of Liberality in supporting the true works of God, and out of gratitude for all God has done for them they ought to respond to needs upon His heart. A little given in love by a poor saint pleases God much more than a big "tithe" grudgingly paid by a millionaire who had the law laid down on him from the pulpit. There is the written Law, and there is the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus, which God writes upon the hearts of His New Testament saints.


The Jews were very familiar with the tithing ordinances of Israel.  In the Book of Hebrews, the writer strives to reason with Jewish Christians who long to return to life under the Law of Moses. Christ, the only Mediator between God and men, still receives freewill gifts (not compulsory tithes to a bygone Levitical priesthood) and all giving is to be done out of a willing heart of love and faith. Whatsoever is not of faith is  sin (Rom. 14:23).  That includes the wrong kind of giving.  I Cor. 13:3 lets us know that even the most painful sacrifice you can make is unacceptable to God unless it is an act of love.


Always act according to the true degree of faith and maturity to which you have grown, and you will be rewarded for being a faithful steward. Put the things of God’s Kingdom first, and He will surely recompense you.


You MAY resolve to render a minimum of 10% of your disposable income to God’s work, if the Lord so leads you as an individual. But beware of coming under spiritual bondage to wrong ways of thinking. You are not living under a law which demands a set amount of money to come out of your pocket each and every time you give, regardless of your own family’s needs. Yet hard taskmasters will pressure you to tithe even if you are poor and struggling to buy food or medicine or keep a roof over your head.  Tithes were used to keep food in God’s own house (see Malachi 3:10). And who eats the food at their Father’s Table? God’s children, not just religious leaders!  Do you think God wants compulsory tithing for church upkeep to be a white elephant on the backs of His overtaxed and underpaid children? A thousand times, no. What can we give God except the genuine kind of love which will bring forth good fruits? God already owns us, and everything we have. What about our soul? Does God only own 10% of that?


If you were a sandalmaker or tentmaker in Israel instead of a farmer, you didn’t tithe on those things. Nevertheless, a saint with a giving heart will look after the true needs of someone in full-time ministry. If he needs a pair of shoes, provide some for him as an act of love. If a shepherd of God’s flock shares with you  spiritual things you ought to contribute to his support as the Lord leads. Any pastor who has enough faith to allow his flock to walk in liberty will allow God’s Spirit to lead each saint in the matter of contributing to the work of the ministry, rather than resorting to veiled threats to exact a tithe tax from them.


Tithing on money is a lucrative, man-made tradition which overbearing ministers eagerly enforce to keep "the laity" in line, because they’re really afraid to let them walk in liberty!  Actually, there is no such thing as a laity in the true Body of Christ.  All God’s New Covenant children are called to be a Holy Priesthood and a Holy Nation.  So when you say today’s paid clergy are the equivalent of Old Testament priests and make yourselves their bondservants, so as to surrender to them 10% of your salaries and wages as forced tribute, you deny your own priesthood in God’s Holy Nation.


A great many of today’s ministers KNOW that compulsory tithing on money is nowhere sanctioned in God’s Word! Yet they also know that most of their sheep are not nearly so Scripture-savvy as they are, and being afraid to question what they are taught, people will go along with their dictates on any issue! God will hold false teachers accountable for deviating from His Word in order to keep the money rolling in.


King Saul of Israel also claimed that it was zeal for the Lord’s offering which made him deviate from God’s instructions "just a little". But the Prophet Samuel’s response to that was:  "Does the Lord delight as much in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord?" (I Sam. 15:22).


Despite long-standing traditions of men, God never gave anyone permission to add one single commandment to His written Word, much less transplant and genetically modify their favorite Old Testament ordinance to extort money out of fearful saints! The handwriting of ordinances was nailed to the Cross of Christ (Col. 2:14). So it is wicked deception to say that all of them are to remain nailed there except the one moneymaker!


Funny how preachers think they can put the Old Covenant tithing law on their flock while conveniently ignoring who that ordinance was intended for in the first place.  And they have forgotten to transfer all the terms and conditions of that Tithing Law to the New Covenant. Daniel 7:25 shows us that it is a wicked thing to change God’s times and laws.  Here are just a few of the ways the tithing ordinance has been genetically modified to line the pockets of unscrupulous men of the cloth:


1. It purpose was to feed the poor, not fleece the poor as is being done today by greedy preachers. Nor was its purpose to raise up fancy buildings or finance luxuries for the church elite.

2. Tithes were to be collected only on the yield of the Land, and from flocks and herds (Lev. 27:30-32; II Chron. 31:5-6). Tithes might come from mint leaves, but not the Federal Mint! God had a different kind of greenery in mind.

3. Tithes were to be collected only at Festival time when the harvest was brought in, not every week of the year!  Most surprisingly, none was collected at all every seventh year. Instead, the land was to lie fallow so it could enjoy its Sabbath Year Rest. So there was no harvest to tithe on in the seventh year. But who ever heard of modern-day Gentile church people getting a break every seventh year from paying ten percent of their salaries and wages to their religious overlords?

4. In order to qualify for collecting tithes, you had to be descended from the priestly Tribe of Levi (Numbers 18:21-26). And as for 21st-century Gentile preachers claiming to be the modern equivalents of the Levitical priests, only male offspring of Aaron the High Priest who were without blemish qualified to be in the Levitical priesthood (Lev. 21:16-21; Num. 18:26; Deut. 21:5).  Not just any old Jew could go round collecting tithes, and certainly not some Duke’s Mixture Gentile of whatever gender.

5. In order to qualify for PAYING tithes to the Levites, you had to be a landowner who raised crops or livestock for a living.  It was not the responsibility of the poor laborer who worked for the landowner to pay tithes, and the tithe was not garnished from his meager pay. The majority of today’s tithe payers do not own an Old Testament-style inheritance of land. Yet they are dunned every week for first dibs on their paychecks.

6. "Tithe" simply means "tenth", not the first.  It was not the first animal counted but the tenth which was set aside the tithe (Lev. 27:32). Other Bible versions might say something different but my trusty King James  says in verse 33: "He (the tither) shall not search whether it be good or bad, neither shall he change it." Whatever his motive, whether noble or selfish, the tither wasn’t supposed to swap the tenth animal which passed under the rod for another one. But if he did, both animals would be counted as holy unto the Lord. It says the same back in verse 10: "He shall not alter it, nor change it, a good for a bad, or a bad for a good: and if he shall at all change beast for beast then it and the exchange thereof shall be holy." No matter how inferior that tenth animal was, it counted as the tithe. Today, preachers demand the first crisp twenties out of your paycheck before you pay any other bill. But they could care less about taking 10% of the greenery out of your veggie garden.

7. There is no Temple in Jerusalem to take tithes to.  Instead, God says we, His people, ARE His Temple! (I Cor. 3:16; II Cor. 6:16). But now we see people from every national origin collecting the wrong kind of tithe, from the wrong people, at all seasons of the year, every year, in the wrong lands, and for the wrong purposes!


Paul aimed for equality of well-being in the Body of Christ.  II Cor. 8:12 says: For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.


Notice a key point in verse 13:FOR I MEAN NOT THAT OTHER MEN BE EASED, AND YE BE BURDENED. And what do we see today, but rich preachers flitting from one exciting tourist trap to the other with other people’s hard-earned cash, wearing the finest designer clothes and living in obscene luxury, while other Christians are going hungry!


Verses 14 and 15: But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for their want: THAT THERE MAY BE EQUALITY.  As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.


What equality do you see today in the Body of Christ? No more than you see in the world, with its wide gap between the haves and the have nots. Instead of humility and charity you hear smug exhortations from "successful" religious leaders that sound like the boast of a proud Pharisee:   "God has rewarded ME for MY faithfulness.  I am rich and possess all things, and am in need of nothing (Revelation 3:17). True New Testament giving (never tithing) was done to bring an EQUALITY of well-being to the Body of Christ, not to impoverish it for the benefit of a few church celebrities. When you eat, food is distributed to ALL parts of your body, not just the prettiest parts.  But what do we see in the Church today, but extremes of wealth and poverty?  If these men in fancy suits boast that they stick to the inerrant Word of God, let them sell a few of their surplus mansions and give to poor Christian families who are about to be evicted because they cannot keep up with their rent! Let there be true Biblical equality!


Way too many elderly saints have been eaten up by guilt because they paid off pressing debts or bought a decent meal with their Social Security check instead of paying a full tithe.  Then, out of fear, not faith, they would struggle to repay their "debt" to God so He wouldn’t punish them!  All because some erring preacher bound their hearts with fear that they would fall under a curse if they didn’t.


A few gladly give more than 10% of their disposable income to God’s work, for they have prospered in this world. But aside from the fact that monetary tithing is unscriptural anyway, some people are taught that God requires them to tithe on their before-taxes income. This can give rise to the most grievous bondage of weariness instead of the Rest of Faith into which God has called His children. It can cause resentment and envy of the privileged church leadership in people who must slave away at an extra job just to meet their own needs after tax-paying and tithing on the first paycheck. Do you think God takes pleasure in the fact these harried churchgoers must neglect time with their own families to do this? So much for the "family values" promoted by religious leaders out to push their own agenda.


Romans 13:8 says: Owe no man any thing, but to love one another.  If tithing is binding upon 21st-Century Gentile believers, whether it be on a million-dollar boardroom salary or a $400-a-month Social Security check, then adherents to the tithing doctrine have to  disobey that Scripture all the time.  Why?  Because from now until they leave this earth, they owe a standing debt to preachers.  They owe them 10% of all their future earnings as well as what they’ve got now.  Mandatory tithing forces Christians to owe pulpit pilots more than just love.


Although the true Biblical tithe consisted only of stuff like vegetables, grains, fruits, and cattle, and although the Pharisees tithed on garden herbs, I have yet to see any preacher lay claim to 10% of the radishes and tomatoes in people’s home gardens.  Truth is, the only greenery fishers for funds thrive on has numbers on it!


I Timothy 5:8 says: But if any provide not for his own, AND SPECIALLY FOR THOSE OF HIS OWN HOUSE, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.  It doesn’t say: "and specially for the preacher bellowing in the pulpit".  If anything, this shows me that our own families’ needs have priority with God, not some church treasury. Lots of Christians find that the windfall blessings promised for tithing to men don’t always materialize. So their kids have to go to school with torn track shoes and poorly nourished because of bondage to the tithing doctrine.  That 10% sacrifice could make the difference between eating rubbish and eating nutritious food.  When you force poor parents to tithe, you force them to be infidels who don’t provide adequately for their family’s needs.


With mandatory tithing, come hell or high water, 10% of a struggling family’s income is siphoned off, even when the church treasury has a surplus and there are no outstanding needs to be met.  Paul raised money for churches going through emergencies such as local famines, but he wasn’t continually begging for money like today’s preachers. And Paul never asked for tithes, but voluntary offerings given in faith, not out of fear. When the need ceases the sacrifice should also cease!


Let’s look at II Peter 2:1-3, and I’ll share my understanding of it as we go along, though others might view the passage from a different angle. The Apostle Peter himself says of fishers-for-funds In II Peter 2:1-3:


Verse One: But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily (in a sneaky way) shall bring in damnable heresies (including monetary tithing), even denying the Lord that bought them (selling out for money, as Judas did), and bring upon themselves swift destruction (self-explanatory),


Verse Two: And many shall follow their pernicious (harmful) ways, by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.  How true.  Multitudes have forsaken the Way of Truth because they’ve been burnt by religious racketeers who sold them an expensive lie and brought them to financial and spiritual ruin. Because of such greedy wolves in sheep’s clothing, TV comedians lampoon preachers fishing for funds, and the lost have found a ready-made excuse for rejecting Christ: Stay home from church and save 10%.  And church might be flowing with  milk and honey, but the honey flows only in one direction and the cream of the milk rises to the top.


Verse Three: And through covetousness (lust for what belongs to another) shall they make merchandise of you: whose judgment of a long time lingereth not, and their DAMNATION slumbereth not.  That doesn’t hold out much hope for unrepentant fraudsters, does it?


Mark 7:7 Howbeit in vain, do they worship Me, TEACHING FOR DOCTRINES THE COMMANDMENTS OF MEN.


Hebrews 4:10: For he that is entered into his (God’s) rest, he also hath ceased  from his own works, as God did from his.  Tithing is one of the works done by people who have been deceived that keeping their very salvation hinges upon its observance! I’m sick and tired of the way preachers hang guilt complexes on God’s people whom He has called unto His rest of faith!  If anybody’s going to bust hell wide open it’s those leeches on TV who swindle money out of little peons who actually have to go out and sweat their guts out to EARN the elusive stuff. Little old ladies eat cat food so grinning religious clowns on TV can dine on prime rib and lobster. Some own not one, but several mansions, while poor slaves have to struggle to pay rent on a matchbox apartment. At least one sadistic preacher finds the Sin against the Holy Ghost a very convenient crowbar to pry tithes out of poor people. There is no torment in heaven or on earth so terrible as the fear of having committed an unforgiveable sin.  This fear has driven many true Christians insane. Those who deliberately foist fear of that sin onto vulnerable hurting people to fatten their bank accounts are going to roast in hell with the likes of money-hungry Judas Iscariot.


God is our loving Heavenly Father, not the cruel taskmaster religious liars paint Him to be. Rich preachers have money, fame, PR people, and scary lies on their side.  But the poor people they hurt need somebody to stick up for them. Let all of us who love the Faith Once Delivered Unto the Saints (Jude 3)  do that in whatever way God enables us.