It is incumbent upon any man asserting any truth to be able to biblically defend that truth, and do so in a manner that is not unbecoming of the honest student of God’s Word. While I have rarely preached on the subject over the last few years, I have at this place sought to stand up for this principle. Primarily because I have a personal resentment toward any insinuation that preachers who teach the tithe are less than honest in their ministry, or are disingenuous, or should be labeled as a false teacher. While some may disagree with our conclusions about the teachings of the text, it is irresponsible to imply that all preachers who teach the tithe to their people are dishonest with their motives, ignorant about the scriptures or are somehow not on the up and up. Now that being said, I once again, and probably for the last time (Lord willing), want to explain the principle of the tithe rightly divided and clearly proclaimed.
1.) The Definition of the Tithe
First of all, when we are dealing with the Biblical text of the “tithe” we must not fall for the bait and switch. We must see it’s plain simple definition. The Biblical word, “tithe”, in Hebrew, Greek, English, Latin, and Piglatin speaks expressly of one-tenth, or 10%. Ten percent of mashed potatoes is a “tithe” of mashed potatoes. Ten percent of all of the left handed footballs in the world, is a “tithe” of all the left handed footballs in the world. Ten percent of all the dill pickles in the United States is a “tithe” of all the dill pickles in the United States. I think you get the point. In order to rightly understand the concept, you must stick with the clear meaning of the word.
The problem is that the opponents of the tithe principle do not do that. They attempt to use God’s word and their own dictionary. While the word for “tithe” speaks of an amount, they continually want to tie to a “medium”. They demand that the tithe is always tied to “flocks, fruits, herds, produce, grain, etc.” While the word deals with a percentage, they want it to deal with produce. Whatever the motive, they seem to very legalistically see the tithe concept tied expressly to a medium when that is simply not the case. This is another example of what I mean when I say, we do not use the law to teach the tithe, it is they who use the law to avoid it. The fact is that the word is speaking of the “amount of a medium“, not the “amount AND medium.” It is the legalistic approach that demands that the definition of the word include the medium of whatever context it is nestled in.
For example, their favorite passage of scripture to tear apart; Malachi 3:8 “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. ” Note what the scripture does not say. The scripture does not say that they were giving “nothing”. The rebuke of Israel was not that they weren’t giving something, the rebuke was that they weren’t giving the right “percentage.” I find it strange that were the tithe tied to the medium, the Lord did not specify which medium it was that they were holding back. The fact is that His rebuke was a rebuke of the amount of their giving not the medium of their giving.
Furthermore, 10 percent is 10 percent, before the law, during the law, and after the law. Whatever else may be said, 10 per cent has not changed mathematically. Now I have not addressed the “compulsion” to tithe yet, merely that the word tithe means 10 percent, and ten percent alone, regardless of medium, and regardless of dispensation.
2.) The Dispensation of the Tithe
The next question that we must deal with is the “when” of the tithe. For the sake of clarity I am going to leave the Mosaic Law out of this.
Of course we are given the example of Abraham giving 10 percent of the spoils of war to Melchizedek long before the Mosaic law was ever given. Now those who reject this as any form of compulsion quickly point to the medium of the tithe to say it has nothing to do with us. Once again, that’s a bait and switch discussion. While we want to talk about the “tithe” of the treasure, they want to talk about the “kind of the treasure, or the source of the treasure.” Now whatever else may be said, had Abraham had ten thousand bucket fulls of chicken, he would have given Melchizedek 10 percent. Had Abraham had 4o million U.S. dollars, He would have given Melchizedek a tithe of that too. The Bible says very plainly that Abram “gave him tithes of all.” (uh – hmm – amount, not medium)
Let’s not miss the example given. We have the High Priest of God receiving a “tenth” of the increase of Abraham, the “Friend of God” Prior to the law, and not under any legal compulsion. Freely given without hesitation.
What then does that have to do with now? Hebrews 7:8 – “And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.” Hebrews 7:8 is post law, and under grace. Jesus state plainly that “the law and the prophets were until John, since that time the Kingdom of God is preached . . .” Luke 16:16. Yet here in Hebrews 7:8, the writer, (Luke in my opinion) explains the difference between the earthly priests and our Great High Priest. In his discourse concerning Christ being our High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, and not after the order of the Levites, expresses the fact that “here, men that die receive tithes” referencing the law, and the Old Covenant. “but there he receiveth them of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.” “There” being reference to priestly order of Melchizedek which comes to our Great High priest Jesus Christ, of which it is clearly taught that He that is living is still receiving “tithes”. (amounts, not mediums)
Our Great High Priest, “post law,” separate from the Levitical compulsion is pictured for us as being receptive to the “tithes” of increases.
3.) The Dedication of the Tithe
There is a difference between a law and a principle. While we are not under the law of the Mosaic system, we are clearly under the authority of all Biblical principles. A principle is a concept, a system of thought, a fundamental idea. The Old Testament (even apart from the law) pictures for us “principles” to learn. The Apostle Paul explained that those things which were written aforetime were written for our learning.
The primary problem with those people who argue with the tithe, do so from the standpoint of law, and legality. They have rightly said that there is no “legal compulsion” in scripture for the New Testament Christian to tithe. THEY ARE RIGHT! There is no legal compulsion for the New Testament Christian to be in the practice of giving 10% of his income to the Lord, through the church.
Teaching the tithe rightly understood has nothing to do with “legal complusion”, but legal compulsions are not the only “compulsions” in the Bible. We are compelled by examples. We are compelled by patterns, We are compelled by Principles. Because there is no legal compulsion does not mean that there is no compulsions at all! Because there is not a legal compulsion to tithe, does not mean that there are not other compulsions within the text that lead us and direct us to do so.
The example of Baptism carries with it all of the authority needed to practice immersion as the only Biblical method to accept! The example of the disciples meeting on the first day of the week is enough authority all by itself to compel us to meet on Sundays. The principles of praying, praising and preaching, are all throughout the Bible, and are authoritative principles that formulate the structure, and substance of each, yet there are no spelled out laws.
Christians have the example and lesson of the Friend of God tithing to the High Priest of God, before and after the law. Christians have the principle of 10 percent, being expressed as the hearts desire of God throughout the scriptures. Christians have the simple definition of the word and concept. Now all of that being said, “to knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”
4.) The Disagreement with the Tithe
I do not want to impune the motives of every person on planet earth that genuinely disagrees with me. Some just do not see what I am saying, and as Paul said, “let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” That’s just fine. If I can talk you into it, someone else can talk you out of it. When the Lord talks you into it, you’re there!
Some however, just simply do not want to tithe. It’s too much. They don’t like giving that much money “to the church.” They have a lifestyle that would have to be downsized in order for them to practice tithing. They are accustomed to a certain level of living and tithing infringes upon that. Their problems are not textual, their problems are deeper than that.
Some assert that the tithe is an “undue burden.” They will always, and I mean always attempt to use a “health issue” or “medicine need” or “food need” as the primary target against those who teach the tithe, with accusations of heartlessness, or spiritual brutality, or carelessness or whatever they want to say. Of course they do so not understanding the spiritual purpose of the tithe, which I haven’t even gotten in to yet, and won’t here for time and space.
But I will say this. Ten percent is not the “live or die” question that most of these men want to make it. I have learned first hand, that I cannot afford, NOT to tithe. The Lord makes my 80+% (after tithe and offering) go farther for my family of 6, than 94-95% seems to. The “live or die” argument is the last line of defense for those who do not like the tithe. More often than not, that argument is intended to impune the teacher, rather than disagree with the tithe.
While I have not exhausted my full defense of the principle, I have exhausted my time allotted for posting this article. Gone over it actually. Lord willing, I am done with this subject. If I had my druthers, I’d much rather see people give their hearts to Jesus, than worry about how much money people are giving to the Lord through the church. I’ve never worried about it before, so I don’t plan on starting now. I will however continue to teach this principle to new and growing believers as the Lord gives me opportunity. When I realized the difference that it made in my life it was a wonderful change worth making.