Tithing was a demand in the Old Covenant. It went to support the Priest and the Levites, the temple ministry, and to help the poor and needy. But how is it in the New Covenant? Is tithing a mandatory requirement today? (Please note that I am not trying to answer whether giving tithes is good or not, but whether it is a demand from God or not).
What I am about to say now might chock you or go against what you have been taught. The purpose of this teaching is not to tap any person, or organization, on the back. The question is: What is the truth?
There is not one single verse in the whole New Testament, after the death and resurrection of Jesus, that either encourages us to tithe, or tells us that tithing is a demand in the New Covenant. Not one single verse! If you study church history, you will discover that mandatory tithing was not practiced within the early church during the time of the Apostles, nor during the following centuries of the Christian faith.
In the beginning of the book of Acts, in the midst of revival, people were so grateful to God because of His grace that they sold their houses and land and laid the money at the feet of the Apostles. No one back then wanted to discuss 10 %. People gave all they had (100 %).
When Jesus, before the cross, mentioned tithing He criticized the Scribes and Pharisees for giving tithe of vegetables, while at the same time neglecting the more “weightier matters of the law”. He said:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone”. (Mt. 23:23)
Jesus made clear that tithing was “of the law”. However, after the cross we are no longer under the law, and the conclusion must therefore be that we are no longer under a demand to tithe in the New Covenant!
A common argument for tithing in the New Covenant, has to do with that we are the children of faith of Abraham. Abraham, who lived before the law, gave tithe to Melchizedek, who was on Old Testament type and shadow of Jesus. Therefore, some argue, we who believe in Jesus today, are obligated to tithe in the New Covenant. However, if we honestly study the context, we will find that Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils from a war – he gave 10 % of things that didn’t even belong to him in the first place, and this was a once in a lifetime occurrence. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that Abraham tithed on a regular basis.
Also, Hebrews chapter 7 explains that there is a hidden symbolic message in the fact that Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek. The 10 first verses explains that when Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek, it wasn’t really he who did it, but Levi, who, although he was not yet born, was present in the loins of Abraham! Levi was the father of the tribe which had exclusive rights to receive tithes from the people of Israel. The author of Hebrews is making the point that Jesus represents a higher priesthood – after the order of Melchizedek – than that of the Levitical priesthood of the Old Covenant. In this context, Levi is a picture of the law and the Old Covenant, while Melchizedek is a picture of Jesus, the mediator of the New Covenant. The fact that Levi, through Abraham, gave tithes to Melchizedek and received a blessing from him, simply means that the New Covenant is greater than the Old. Why? Because the one who receives the tithes and blesses the other (Melchizedek/Jesus) is greater than the one who gives the tithes and receives the blessing (Abraham/Levi). (See Heb. 7:1-10.)
That Abraham, once in a lifetime, gave tithes to Melchizedek of things that did not even belong to him, should not be interpreted as if we in the New Covenant live under a constant obligation to tithe regularly from what actually belongs to us. What it means is that the New Covenant is superior to the Old.
In the New Covenant, we are not living under a demand to give a certain percentage of our wealth or income. We are free to give as we purpose in our own hearts – on a voluntary basis (2 Cor. 9:7). If you give tithes today with joy, I encourage you to continue doing so. But if you do not tithe, and because of that feel condemned or as a second-class Christian, I want to encourage you by saying: You are free. Give what you want from a joyful, grateful and merry heart, because God loves a cheerful giver.