There are increasing numbers of believers today who are pressing the glorious truth of the New Covenant in Jesus Christ to a point that is leading to very practical changes beyond what God intended. For some, to suggest that God still expects certain behavior from His New Covenant people that resembles that expected of His Old Covenant people creates a great concern. It seems that these brethren assume that "all things are become new" means that all that God expects of His New Covenant people is different from that expected of those in the Old Covenant. No doubt there has been made, of necessity, a change of the law (Heb. 7:12). But does this change wipe out all things in order to bring in a whole new list of expectations from God for His people?
To answer this question in full or to some level of satisfaction would require space beyond the point of this article. The point here is simply that some have dismissed the idea of tithing for God's people today based upon the reasoning that we are in the New Covenant, which no longer demands such a practice. That there has been a change in relation to the matter of tithing, most will readily admit. To teach that the practice of tithing is one of the ceremonies of the Old Covenant that was fulfilled by the death and resurrection of Christ is both wrong and hurtful. It is wrong because it does not properly represent the teaching of Scripture. It is hurtful because it may prove to be a stumblingblock for some believers that will lead them to miss out on the blessings associated with this act of worship.
It cannot be ignored that the matter of tithing unto the Lord preceded the giving of the law to Moses on Mt. Sinai. We see the first mention of this practice in Genesis 14:17-20. Abraham has gained spoils from war. On his return home he is met by Melchisedek, the king and priest of Salem. After receiving a blessing from Melchisedek, Abraham's response was to "tithe of all." Immediately after this incident the King of Sodom offered Abraham the goods that he had recovered for the King in his battle with the Kings of the valley. Abraham refused this act of generosity stating that he did not desire that any man get the praise for his wealth (vss. 22,23). Abraham's heart was not set upon wealth, but upon His God. It seems from the record given that Abraham not only tithed of all that he had possessed in the battle, but that he then returned all the goods that remained after the tithe. His heart was dependent completely upon the LORD, "the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth." God would provide. For his part, he would honor the Lord by way of the tithe.
Giving honor to the Lord by way of tithing is at least implied again in Proverbs 3:9. It seems quite clear that tithing unto the Lord is not merely an Old Covenant shadowy practice that would be abolished by the coming and work of Christ. It was a way that God's people from at least Abraham on have been able to express their honor to the God who has so blessed them with substance and increase of goods.
By the time Malachi the prophet, came on the scene, Israel had abandoned the practice of tithing. They also were neglecting the offerings prescribed under the law. God accuses them of robbing Him by not giving tithes and offerings (Malachi 3:8). Robbing God? Is that possible? Well, if you consider that all that we own is His and that we are simply stewards of that which we possess, then it is robbing when we do with the increase differently than the owner requires.
But does God still require a tithe of His people? Does He still want us to honor Him in the same way His people under the Old Covenant did? The answer is not as complicated as some try to make it. It seems that sometimes matters are made difficult in order to mask the real issue. Does the New Testament indicate that tithing is outdated for God's people today? Consider Matthew 23:23, Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Some have considered this a statement against tithing. First, since the Old Covenant was still in effect, Jesus would not have condemned tithing. Second, the statement is not condemning tithing, but rather exposing the inconsistencies of the Pharisees who were so meticulous about tithing, yet overlooked matters of the law that were considered more significant. Here Jesus could have taken the opportunity to let us know that tithing would soon be outdated, but He doesn't. He encourages its continuation.
Tithing is an act of worship. It is a giving honor to the One who is the giver of all good and perfect gifts. Christ's death, resurrection and institution of the New Covenant has given us greater reason to honor God. Rather than thinking that tithing is outdated, we should be considering tithing as a great way to honor our God. In fact, because of the increased spiritual emphasis of the New Covenant, we ought to view the tithing standards of the law as only a starting place in our financial giving. When the New Testament, through the Apostle Paul, speaks of financial giving for the work of God, references are made to the Old Testament to substantiate the argument (I Cor. 9:9,13,14; II Cor. 8:12 with Exo. 25:2). New Testament giving includes tithes and emphasizes offerings: Acts 11:29; II Cor. 9:6-8. It could easily be argued that more is expected of God's New Covenant people that His Old Covenant nation. In the New Covenant God has possession of every heart, whereas in the Old Covenant most were mere external participants. Heart giving should always exceed, in every way, mere giving out of duty.
Honoring God is not outdated! It is interesting that Melchisedek and the incident of Abraham's tithing is referenced in the New Testament. Hebrews 7 is setting forth Melchisedek as a type of Christ, or as some have argued, an Old Testament appearance of Christ. Just as Melchisedek was the King of Salem and an high priest of the LORD God, so Jesus Christ is the King of glory, the Prince of peace (salem) and the Great High Priest who makes reconciliation for the sins of all God's chosen. If Abraham tithed to Melchisedek as an act of honor and worship, isn't it reasonable to think that we who are of the same faith as Abraham and members of the New Covenant established in and by Jesus Christ should also tithe?
If we are going to tithe unto our Melchisedek, the question then is how? Abraham tithed to a visible person. As God developed His chosen people of the Old Testament we find them tithing to the LORD by way of the Levites in order to sustain this priestly family and the temple worship. Malachi refers to bringing all the tithes into the "storehouse" (Mal. 3:10). The priesthood of the Old Covenant is passed away. The temple worship of the Old Covenant is passed away. Jesus Christ has fulfilled both. The New Testament presents the church as the temple and the house of the living God (Eph. 2:21; I Tim. 3:15). The church is seen wherever God’s baptized saints are gathered together in covenant with one another to observe His ordinances and to carry out the commission Christ left them.
Tithing is done when the saint of God gives a tenth of all God blesses him with to be used of Christ’s church to sustain the ministry of the gospel in the way Christ has ordained. Offerings are those funds given above and beyond the tithe which are designated toward needs made known to the saints. Neither tithes nor offerings are outdated for the New Covenant people of God. May our hearts be stirred to give more and more as God blesses us. Next month we will look at the blessings associated with tithing.
Kyle White, Pastor