The biblical system of tithing has been a point of controversy among Christians for years. Its opponents claim it is part of the Old Covenant, and thus it was instituted solely for the support of the Levitical priesthood. They often acknowledge that the principle of giving to support the ministry is still valid, but say God does not command paying a set percentage of one's income. Yet this ignores clear passages throughout the Bible.
From Genesis to Revelation, tithing is the only financial system God endorses. He shows that blessings accrue to those who faithfully tithe of the increase God has bestowed upon them. Through the tithing system, God provides for the preaching of the gospel and the feeding of His flock (Matthew 28:19-20). In so doing, faithful tithing expresses love toward God and love toward neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). In this first Bible study on tithing, we will see that these laws—still in force today—are important for personal spiritual growth.
1. Who really possesses all things? Job 41:11; Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 10:14; I Chronicles 29:11, 14; Psalm 24:1-2; 50:10-12; Haggai 2:8.
Comment: Everything that exists belongs to God, He has the right to keep everything for Himself, but He chooses to share with human beings. He does not need to pay or repay anyone, or ask us for anything. Silver and gold are symbolic of everything of value.
2. What is tithing? Genesis 28:22.
Comment: Tithing, in its simplest form, is returning one-tenth of one's income (increase) to God for His use. The patriarch Jacob, knowing about God's command to tithe, promises to give God a tenth of his blessing or increase.
3. How did Jacob know about tithing? Genesis 14:18-20.
Comment: Jacob must have been taught about tithing by his grandfather, Abraham, and his father, Isaac. Genesis 14 succinctly reveals several principles of tithing. First, the tithe goes to God through His representative, the priest. Second, the Bible repeats that it is one-tenth. Third, this law was in effect long before God commanded it through Moses. Fourth, Abram, blessed for his faithfulness to God, gave tithes in recognition of God's rulership and providence.
4. For what purpose did Israel give tithes? Leviticus 27:30; Numbers 18:20-24.
Comment: Israelites gave tithes to the Levites to perform the work of the Tabernacle and later the Temple. Because they were involved in God's work and had no significant land of their own, the Levites had to be supported by the rest of the congregation of Israel.
5. Did Jesus give His approval of the tithing system during His ministry? Matthew 23:23.
Comment: In this denunciation of the Pharisees, Jesus does not condemn tithing—or even punctilious observance of it. Instead, He denounces their lack of justice, mercy and faith! To the contrary, He supports tithing: "These you ought to have done [justice, mercy and faith], without leaving the others [tithing] undone."
6. Was the law of tithing changed? Hebrews 7:1-17. Is the principle of supporting the ministers of God's work in force in the New Testament church? Matthew 10:8-10; 24:14; 28:19-20; Mark 16:15; I Corinthians 9:13-14.
Comment: A vital principle to remember concerning the Old and New Covenants is that what did not originate with the Old Covenant did not die with it. The gist of the argument in Hebrews 7 is that, since the Levitical priesthood has no authority under the New Covenant, the ritual laws pertaining to the priesthood are no longer valid. The priesthood has been conferred on Christ, now our High Priest "according to the order of Melchizedek" (Hebrews 6:20). This "change of the law"—the ceremonial law of sacrifices, ritual washings and other rites pertaining to the Tabernacle/Temple and priesthood—applies only to the administration of tithing (verse 12). Since the tithing law predates the Levitical priesthood, and is thus still in force, tithes are now to be given to Jesus Christ, our High Priest, for use by the church. The church is commissioned to preach the gospel free of charge. The tithe pays for this important responsibility.
7. Does God bestow blessings on those who tithe—and withhold them from those who do not? Proverbs 3:9-10; II Corinthians 9:7; Acts 20:35; Malachi 3:8-12.
Comment: When we give God back the tithe that is His to begin with, He blesses us abundantly spiritually and physically. Notice that God says He commands tithes so "that there may be food in My house" (Malachi 3:10). Tithes are primarily used to feed His people spiritually! If we support the work God is doing through His faithful ministers, He promises to bless us far above anything we could imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21)!