By Oyewole Sarumi PhD
I have to once again commend Pst Sam Adeyemi for being bold, to affirm again the unbiblical nature of tithing as being prosecuted by most orthodox and Pentecostal churches in Nigeria and Africa
Millions of genuine believers in Christ have been brainwashed by their hungry and money-chasing leaders that they should tithe (defined as giving 10 percent of one’s income), and many use the language of “tithes and offerings” in worship services to the chagrin of all.
In the present currency of discourse, there are several others who are equally convinced tithing is not required for new believers, except you’re still tied to the apron of mosaic or Judaic sacrifices – which has already been abolished by Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection today.
This piece is to corroborate Pst Sam Adeyemi’s viewpoints and give further amplification to this issue so that discerning believers in Christ can learn, and grow in the Lord into maturity while freeing themselves from the self-inflicted bondage of Judaism.
I recently read Pst William Barcley’s treatise titled, “The Bible Commands Christians to Tithe” and wonder why church leaders always twisted scriptures because of earthly gains which are just ephemeral in nature! Such writing is in the public domain to confuse the unlearned and the fearful – and make them start asking “Which view is more faithful to God’s Word?” I will try to respond to this question shortly in this piece.
Not enough to break fellowship
My view is that the issue of tithing or not should not be a matter over which Christians should break or neglect fellowship. According to Paul the apostle in the book of First Corinthians chapter thirteen, love is far more important than our view on tithing. Nevertheless, I still maintain my stand that tithing is not required or even encouraged for believers in Jesus Christ anymore. I will take the liberty in this piece to put together my viewpoints from biblical worldviews rather than from tradition.
PERISCOPING TITHING IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
What does the Old Testament say about tithing? Pst Adeyemi dealt with this extensively. Let me add a few points even at the mercy of being repetitive. Abraham gave a tenth of his spoils of war to Melchizedek (Gen. 14:20), and Hebrews appeals to this account to support the superiority of Melchizedek’s priesthood over Levi’s (Heb. 7:4–10). God met Jacob at Bethel and promised him covenant blessings; the patriarch promised God a tenth of everything granted him (Gen. 28:22).
A tenth of Israel’s seed, fruit, and flocks were given to the Lord (Lev. 27:30–32; Deut. 14:22–24; cf. 2 Chron. 31:5–6; Neh. 13:5, 12). The people gave a tenth to the Levites to support them (Num. 18:21–24; cf. Neh. 10:38; 12:44), and the Levites, in turn, were to give a tenth to the chief priest (Num. 18:25–28). Those who didn’t tithe were threatened with a curse, while those who did tithe were promised a blessing (Mal. 3:8–10).
Thomas Schreiner’s piece
According to Thomas Schreiner, writing on “7 reasons why tithes is not required”, said that “though we might assume Old Testament Israel gave a total of 10 percent, it’s actually difficult to discern how much was given. We can’t linger over details in this short article, but some think the Israelites gave 14 tithes over seven years; others believe they gave 12. Regardless, when we add the required tithes together, the amount certainly exceeded 10 percent. In fact, the number was probably somewhere around 20 percent per year.” So, why are the tithe’s proponents not emphasised this? Hmmm!
WHY TITHING IS NOT REQUIRED TODAY
First, to challenge a few modern church practices, tithing was about food and never about money. There is not one passage of Scripture telling any Jew or Christian to give 10% of their money to a religious institution. Second, while tithing is biblical, it is not Christian. This was strictly a practice for the nation of Israel under the Old Covenant which has been fulfilled by Jesus Christ in the New Covenant. Furthermore, we do not see any instruction or example of a New Testament Christian tithing. Like temples, sacrifices, dietary laws, and priests-tithing has been nailed to the cross and no longer has an active role under the New Covenant. Period!
There are seven decisive reasons for saying Christians are not required to TITHE according to Schreiner, and they are highlighted below:
1. Believers are no longer under the Mosaic covenant (Rom. 6:14–15; 7:5–6; Gal. 3:15–4:7; 2 Cor. 3:4–18).
The commands stipulated in the Mosaic covenant are no longer in force for believers. Some appeal to the division between the civil, ceremonial, and moral law to support tithing. Yet these divisions, as observed, are not the basis Paul uses when addressing how the law applies to us today. And even if we use these distinctions, tithing is clearly not part of the moral law. It’s true the moral norms of the Old Testament are still in force today, and we discern them from the law of Christ in the New Testament, but tithing is not among these commands.
2. The examples of Abraham and Jacob are not normative patterns.
Some think tithing is required because both Abraham and Jacob gave a tenth, and they both lived before the Mosaic covenant was in place. Such examples hardly prove tithing is for all time, however. Abraham’s gift to Melchizedek was a one-time event; there is no evidence he regularly gave God a tenth.
Jacob’s giving of a tenth signified his gratefulness to God for promising to be with him and to protect him. His gratefulness and generosity still speak to us today, but a historical description of what Jacob gave doesn’t support the idea that all believers must give God a tenth of their income.
Furthermore, why don’t we follow Abraham, Jacob, etc. to practice polygamy? Why pick on tithing alone?
3. Tithes were given to the Levites and priests, but there are no Levites and priests in the new covenant.
Levites and priests were tied to the sacrificial system of the old covenant. Now all believers are priests (1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 1:6; 5:10; 20:6), with Jesus as our Melchizedekian High Priest (Heb. 7).
4. The tithe is tied to the land Israel received under the old covenant.
Israel was supposed to celebrate a tithe every three years in Jerusalem. But that requirement cannot apply to Christians today. It’s related to the Jews as a nation—to Jews who lived in the land of promise. With the coming of Christ, the Jewish nation is no longer the locus of God’s people, though individual Jews are part of the church through faith in Jesus.
The earthly Jerusalem is no longer central to God’s purposes (Gal. 4:25). Believers are part of the heavenly Jerusalem (Gal. 4:26) and look forward to the city to come (Heb. 11:10), to the new heavens and new earth (Rev. 21:1–22:5). Abraham isn’t heir of the land of Israel, but of the whole world (Rom. 4:13).
5. If tithing is required today, how much should we give?
As already emphasised earlier, the number was certainly more than 10 percent and closer to 20 percent. Those who advocate tithing should probably settle on 20 percent. (all the best).
6. When Jesus affirmed the tithe, it was before the dawn of the new covenant.
Some defend tithing by saying Jesus praised tithing, even if he said it was less important than other things (Matt. 23:23; Luke 11:42). This argument appears strong, but it’s not persuasive. Jesus also mentioned offering sacrifices in the temple (Matt. 5:23–24), but Christians don’t think—even if the temple were rebuilt—that we should do that. Our Lord’s words are understandable when we think about his location in redemptive history.
Jesus spoke about sacrifices and tithing before the cross and resurrection, before the dawn of the new covenant. He used tithing and sacrifices as illustrations when addressing his contemporaries. He kept the law since he was “born under the law” (Gal. 4:4). But we can no more take his words as a commendation for tithing today than we can his words about offering sacrifices.
7. Nowhere is tithing mentioned when commands to give generously are found in the New Testament.
When Christians are instructed to give to the poor, they aren’t commanded to give “the poor tithe.” Instead, they are instructed to be generous in helping those in need (Acts 2:43–47; 4:32–37; 11:27–30; Gal. 2:10; 1 Cor. 16:1–4; 2 Cor. 8:1–9:15). For example, 1 Corinthians 16:1–4—a passage often cited in popular circles in support—doesn’t mention tithing; it relates to a one-time gift for poor saints in Jerusalem.
IF PEOPLE DON’T HAVE TO PAY TITHE, HOW WILL THE CHURCH MAKE MONEY?
The above subtopic is the question that most church leaders propagating tithing are wont to ask, but they dare not! Why? To disannul tithing looks like suicide for many of them, but it is not. It depends on approach, and if its God’s work you’re called into, God is able to make available provisions for the work without you twisting the scriptures, to help God!
Let me make a suggestion on how church leaders can navigate this turf. In the New Testament, the key to giving is that firstly, your people must have yielded their lives to Christ fully, and then they will give cheerfully and generously to the work of God in your hands.
Teaching your congregation on cheerful and generous giving starts with embracing real discipleship. Have you discipled your congregation? There are so many believers today in our churches, only a few disciples! Discipleship takes time and many church leaders aren’t ready to go the long haul. Once a believer has completely yielded his or her life to Christ, it won’t be difficult for such disciples to give generously to the work or church of God. We are then like the Macedonian church who first yielded their lives to God, then surrendered to the Apostles, and gave to the churches around them even out of their poverty!
Even though tithing isn’t required today, genuine believers won’t hoard their possessions as the journey into discipleship has defrosted their hands, and palpated their hearts with the love of God, which they are ready to share with others without fear, compulsion, or intimidation as we see in today’s churches.
Genuine believers in Christ are commanded to support those who preach the gospel (Matt. 10:10; Luke 10:7; 1 Cor. 9:6–14; 1 Tim. 5:17–18). And while we should enjoy the good things God gives us, we are also called to be generous to those in need (1 Tim. 6:17–19; 2 Cor. 8–9). It’s during discipleship training, that believers are taught explicitly that wealth can easily become an idol, leading us to abandon the Lord, so it is not worth it in the end.
Since God is to be our treasure, believers are to give generously and freely. To whom? To the needy or poor amongst us, the saints and the shepherd around you. The scriptures don’t command believers in Christ to give a tenth—and I hereby submit that scripture is our rule and authority, not tradition or custom handed over by the “Fathers” outside the precinct of the Bible.
Someone asked me years ago, Pastor, can I make heaven without paying tithe? My response was, “Yes, you can make to heaven without tithing. Tithing is an Old Covenant command that was eliminated when Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose from the grave. There’s nowhere in the New Testament or New Covenant are believers commanded to tithe or give a tenth of their income to the church.”
Simply put, there is nothing you can do to go to heaven except for one thing— and that is accept God’s free gift of salvation by faith in Jesus, accept Him as your personal Lord and Saviour. Then, start living righteous, be obedient to the Word of God, etc. You can’t tithe your way into heaven, you can’t buy your way into heaven, you can’t work your way into heaven. You can only go there based on accepting God’s free gift of salvation through Christ (Acts 4:12). And you can tithe till the marines come home, and if you haven’t accepted Jesus you’re not going to go to heaven. Plain and simple…salvation is free.
The universally accepted summary of Christian belief is the Apostles’ Creed. Nowhere is tithing named as a prerequisite belief for salvation. Christianity is a belief system.
The Church, however, is an organisation. Beliefs are free; organisations need money. Do not confuse the two. When you eventually find a church which emphasizes knowing God (discipleship) instead of the money it needs, stay within that place, and make every effort your conscience demands to assist it to continue existing by giving generously to the work.
James D. Squiggle in his classic book titled “Why Christians Should Not Tithe: A History of Tithing and a Biblical Paradigm for Christian Giving”, said that “the premise of Why Christians Should Not Tithe is simple: God, having freed his people from the Law through faith in Jesus Christ, does not place on them a burden from the Law. The thesis is equally as simple: Christian giving is not a tithe. Christ challenges the believer to give himself and his possessions to the gospel cause, but the tithe fixes a limit and implies nothing more is needed.”
If we church leaders can be meticulous enough to study the Acts of Apostles, there are about twenty-one principles of giving that are tenable today as developed by the apostles in Acts and the epistles (more on this under a different title).
The New Testament has given us believers a new paradigm for giving not based on the tithe, but on the apostles’ doctrine of Christian giving. The earlier Orthodox and Pentecostal churches running riot with tithing stop this act, the more the dignity of our faith is sustainably enhanced by ensuring that what we do in our assemblies is in conformity with the habits or attitudes of the apostles, and as new Covenant believers, we ought to follow their footsteps.
Once again, the phrase “tithing is in the Bible” is not weighty enough, because polygamy, incense burning, sodomy, killing people, etc. are in the Bible, but that does not mean we are to do them as New Covenant Christians. So, why are we going about differentiating what Christ’s death has nullified on the cross of Calvary?
This is the fact: tithing is not the New Testament standard for giving. Perhaps more than any other factor, giving reflects the condition of our hearts: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:21).
Let’s note that it’s not about tithing, it’s about giving. Giving generously. Giving, however, is difficult for the flesh, that’s why many congregations need discipleship. Money, like God, has the ability to give you what you wish for. That’s why it has become an idol for many who are yet to deny themselves and undergo a self-denial journey. Methinks that tithing is easy because it formulates the heart, as there is no discernment in tithing—simply give 10% of your income to the church. However, it is not that easy when you embrace biblical generosity unless you’re already a disciple of Jesus who has yielded self and possession to the Lord. The fact is that if the message of generosity hurts you, it’s likely that you’re not yet His disciple, and greed is occupying a place in your heart that Christ alone should be, but if you put His yoke upon your neck, it will be easy for you, and become generous in giving with cheerfulness of heart in the Lord. That grace is available in Christ alone!
Blessings and Grace to you all.