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The Tithe Tradition

Submitted: 11/6/2004
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Question: I read your article on tithing. It dealt a lot with the Old Testament and the law. Since you are talking about the glorious church which Jesus himself is building and has laid that pattern or blue print in the Bible when he established His church through the apostles, Paul, Peter and the others, I was looking for the function or evidence of that system of giving as you were able to outline the home church and small groups, the deacons and the elders, etc. from that church that the apostles functioned in. I can see no evidence of it in the New Testament church as I can see no evidence of Sabbath keeping which was established in Genesis. Are we not holding onto traditions here rather than looking at the biblical pattern for giving as it relates to this Glorious Church where giving is a function of the Spirit, grace, giving as God purposed in your heart as Paul states in Corinthians, which is the law of the Spirit that you mentioned, rather than the written law on tablets of stone?

The Galatian church was struggling to understand the relationship between law and faith. Paul wrote to them, “What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come...” (3:19). In other words, because His people were not behaving properly, God gave the law to guide them and restrain them until such time as the Messiah arrived. The law was a temporary intervention.

Paul then asked, “Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not!” (3:21). The law does not in any way contradict or contravene the way God wants His people to live today. It is simply a written expression of what God intends today to embody in our hearts by His Spirit. It may be incomplete, up it is not inaccurate.

“But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (3:23-25). Now that Jesus Christ has come and made faith available to us, we are no longer under the written code but the Spirit.

What we need to understand is that the Spirit does not eliminate the law, but rather fulfills it. The Spirit takes us into a deeper reality. The Spirit says, “It’s not enough just to not commit adultery, now you must not even lust after a woman.” In a similar way, the Spirit does not do away with the tithe principle, which was established long ago in Genesis and was codified by Moses. Instead, the Spirit transforms tithes from mere compliance with a rule to a delightful display of faith. We should be glad to return the first tenth to God. When He said the tithe belonged to Him, He meant it. This has not changed. (See Leviticus 27:30)

I interpret the Bible as a whole. I do not believe that simply because a matter is not emphasized in the New Testament it is no longer relevant. This is the rationale the Church of Christ uses for saying we should not use musical instruments to praise God. They were used in the Old Testament, but are never mentioned in the New. This is a false approach to understanding Scripture. We cannot create doctrine out of what is not there.

At the time of Jesus, the principle of tithes was well-established in the Jewish community (Matthew 23:23). Since it was Jews who initiated the New Testament church, there is no reason to believe they ignored such an important and established principle as tithe. Instead, I believe they added to it, saying such things as “God loves a cheerful giver.” It seems to me that the burden of proof is on those who say we do not need to tithe. If this is true, then please make a scriptural case for it.

See other responses on this subject in our Q and A section. Also, please read our article The New Testament Tithe found in the Apostolic Free Library on Shelf 4.