‘“Speak thus to the Levites and say to them: ‘When you take from the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them as your inheritance, then you shall offer up a heave offering of it to the LORD, a tenth of the tithe (Numbers 18:26).”’
The church of which I am a member does not have a policy of ‘mandatory’ tithing. I’m pleased about that, because in the New Testament the subject is barely mentioned, and a case is not made for it under the New Covenant (Matthew 26:28) and according to the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).
Jesus mentioned tithing in one of His parables – Luke 18:12. It was about a Pharisee and a tax collector, both of whom went to the temple to pray. The Pharisee was righteous in his own sight, and he boasted of giving tithes (Matthew 23:23) twice a week of all he possessed. He contrasted himself with the tax collector who stood afar off, and wouldn’t even look up. He obviously felt himself to be more worthy and holy on the grounds of his actions. By contrast the tax collector made no effort to justify himself. He knew he was an unworthy sinner in need of God’s forgiveness, and on those grounds he pleaded for mercy. Of the two, Jesus said the tax collector was justified on account of humbling himself, and he was the one who would be exalted (v 14) before God.
Well, what is a tithe?
There’s a fair mention of tithes in the Old Testament. The first citation is in Genesis, Chapter 14. Abram had defeated ‘Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him (v 17).’ On his return after rescuing his nephew Lot with his family and possessions, he met the King of Sodom, and Melchizedek, king of Salem, who was also ‘the priest of God Most High (v 18).’ Melchizedek blessed Abram. In return he gave him a tenth of the spoils he had acquired from his victory over Chedorlaomer.
Basically, a tithe is a gift of one tenth or thereabouts of one’s income. It is set aside for God’s purposes, and offered to Him. The giver may see it as a sacrifice of thanksgiving (Psalm 116:17). In today’s churches, offerings of money are used for promoting the gospel and for the remuneration of ministers (1 Timothy 5:18), i.e., those who lead and pastor the church.
In Old Testament times the Mosaic law required tithing of all manner of incomes. Tithes were to be given to the LORD (Leviticus 27:30). The main recipients were the Levites, who in turn were to offer one tenth of the peoples’ tithings as,‘’heave’ offerings to the LORD (Numbers 18:26).
The people were not to eat of tithes they had set aside except, ‘before the LORD’ their ‘God in the place’ chosen by Him (Deuteronomy 12:17, 18 ).’ These tithes were composed of grain, new wine, oil and the firstborn of the herd, plus other specified items. In the third year the tithe of their ‘increase’ was to be given to ‘the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow (Deuteronomy 26:12).
There can be no justifiable case for ‘mandatory’ tithing in Christ’s church today. Nowhere does He stipulate such a rule. Paul the Apostle, when writing to the Corinthian church, reminded them of their prior commitment to help the poor in the Jerusalem church (1 Corinthians 16:3). He said the Corinthians should set aside what they could afford on the first day of the week (v 2). In that way they would be able to fulfil their promise. This cannot be taken as a premise or an argument for tithing, because it isn’t.
On the other hand there is no reason whatsoever why Christians should not tithe, but of their own volition. A good many of the members of the church of which I am a member tithe on a monthly basis. The advantage of doing so is that the church operates as a charity; therefore it can legally claim tax *rebates [Gift Aid] on regular givings from its members. Paul was all for paying taxes (Romans 13:6, 7) and fortunately in the UK we have this legal benefit whereby charities can claim rebates on taxable incomes.
*Tax Relief when You Donate to Charity