We recently received a question concerning tithing on our AskMark page:
What about tithing? And the use of Malichi in teaching it as a minimum amount of giving...
Is this a reasonable teaching or is it a misuse of Old Testament requirement in teaching giving today?
Thanks for the question! It is one that many people are asking right now. As more people begin to see that the New Covenant is based more on the responding to the Spirit inside of us and not threats or demands, questions about things we've done based on Old Testament practices naturally come up.
What Was The Purpose of Tithing in the Old Testament?
The word "tithe" means 10%. It was the basic principle of giving in the Old Testament. It is important to realize that Israel was a nation with all the expenses a nation of people would incur. The building and upkeep of the Temple, the support of the Levites who had no land to farm for their own support, the huge expense of maintaining a monarchy, king's palace, servants, gifts to honor and maintain relationships with other tribes/countries, armies to defend various parts of the kingdom, and many more costs.
In the New Covenant, we are His temple, we are all priests, and we do not maintain a monarchy, palace or nation. But, we do have poor who need our help, we do need facilities and equipment to make it possible to minister, and we do need qualified full time workers to help feed and care for the sheep.
Is Tithing Taught in the New Testament Epistles?
The word "tithe" is not used or taught in the epistles of the New Testament. And to use the "curse" passage in Malachi 3 is a serious misuse of the verse since Christ has clearly "redeemed us from the curse of the law."
However, we should not completely ignore the biblical idea of giving 10% to the work of the Lord. In writing to the churches in Corinth, Paul does refer to what the Law teaches about giving as an example for us to consider. He does draw a connection between giving in the Old Testament for the support of the ministering Levites and giving for the support of those who are fruitful enough to the church to enable them to be "full time" in the work.
1 Cor 9:7-14- Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock? 8 I am not speaking these things according to human judgment, am I? Or does not the Law also say these things? 9
For it is written in the Law of Moses, "YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING." God is not concerned about oxen, is He? 10 Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops. 11 If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ. 13
Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar? 14 So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel. NASU
So Where Does That Leave Us?
In the New Covenant:
Galatians 6 tells us the law of sowing and reaping is in the New Covenant and we must grow in our ability to use it correctly and benefit from it. Paul made it simple by stating, "He who plants a little, harvests a little."
Sadly, some manipulate people for selfish, greedy reasons. But that doesn't negate the true purpose of the law of sowing and reaping.
The real reason for this law? To grow our faith and trust in God to take care of us. All the trials we face are designed to enable us to grow our trust in His faithful care. But, we have no control over when and how those trials come. But we do have a real measure of control over our giving. Choosing to give or not give is the only way we can actually choose to challenge our faith and grow it by choosing to give more.
The heart of the matter of giving is this:
New Covenant Grace will always lead us to do more than Law ever could.
Mark Drake is an internationally known author, teacher and leader. He focuses on equipping leaders around the world in New Covenant Grace.