Tithing in the new covenant
Now let us consider whether tithing is required in the new covenant. Tithing is mentioned only three or four times in the New Testament. Jesus acknowledged that the Pharisees were very careful about tithing (Luke 18:12), and he said that they should not leave it undone (Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42). Tithing, like other old covenant rules and rituals, was a law at the time Jesus spoke. Jesus criticized the Pharisees not for tithing, but for treating tithing as more important than mercy, love, justice and faithfulness.
The only other New Testament mention of tithing is in Hebrews. The fact that Abraham was blessed by and paid tithes to Melchizedek illustrates the superiority of Melchizedek and Jesus Christ over the Levitical priesthood (Hebrews 7:1-10). The passage then goes on to note that “when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also” (verse 12).
There was a change of the priesthood from the Levites to Jesus Christ, and this implies a change in the law that assigned the Levites to be priests. How much has been changed? Hebrews says that the old covenant is obsolete. The package of laws that commanded tithes to be given to the Levites is obsolete.
Humans should honor God by voluntarily returning some of the blessings he gives them — this is still a valid principle. The only place that a percentage is required is within the old covenant. There is good precedent for tithing before Sinai, but no proof that it was required.
Link to full article : http://www.gci.org/law/tithing
1. The Apostle Paul NEVER ONCE appealed to tithing even though he obviously often suffered financial difficulties. However, he wrote rather a lot about FREELY giving financial support where one is able.
2. The early Church – prior to Constantine – DID NOT uphold tithing.
3. Tithing was a widespread practise in the ancient world – not something peculiar to Israel.
4. In our day, strongly tithing congregations often become very wealthy congregations with much to spend on various projects and with the minister enjoying an affluent lifestyle, even while many within that congregation might live in a financially very precarious world. Is this not at odds with the examples within the Book of Acts which show Christians within a congregation SHARING their substance so that none should suffer lack? Why do we ignore this clear NEW TESTAMENT example, while being quick to seize an Old Testament example which finds no real New Testament support?
5. 2 Corinthians 9:7 effectively bars tithing for the New Testament Church of God since it plainly states that Christians should not give (and the whole context is of financial giving) “under compulsion.”
A Summary of Historical Reasons to Reject Tithing
For the following reasons which have been supported by many reputable authorities in this chapter and elsewhere in this book, tithing cannot be supported as a valid doctrine found in early post-biblical history.
One: It is certain that Jewish-Christians in Palestine continued to send tithes to the temple as part of their obedience to the law (Acts 15 and 21) at least until A.D. 70. Post-biblical history proves that most of these never abandoned the Mosaic Law, refused full fellowship with Gentile Christians, rejected Paul, later split into factions, and disappeared around the end of the fourth century.
Two: Jewish Christians, like Paul, who had been trained in the strict traditions of the Mosaic Law would have never accepted full-time support for teaching the Old Testament Sacred Writings concerning Christ.
Three: Jewish Christians viewed tithing as purely law, which they specifically ordered Gentile Christians not to obey (Acts 15 and 21).
Four: Jewish Christians were taught to earn their living through a trade and not depend on charity. Both Jewish and Christian sages were supported by the communities through support of their trade.
Five: The secular crafts and trades of many rabbis and later church leaders are recorded in history. Many church historians comment on the fact that the early church leaders sustained themselves by a trade (rather than by tithing). This is documented by numerous footnotes in this book, especially the chapter on First Corinthians 9, Acts 20, and this chapter.
Six: The church was early considered “un-licensed (or illegal?)” and it was considered an “outlaw” since approximately A.D. 80. The Romans required all citizens to register their livelihood and proof of sustenance. For at least the first two hundred plus years after Calvary, anybody claiming to be a full-time gospel worker would have been arrested as an insurrectionist who had no evident means of support such as a trade.
Seven: Since Christians were sporadically killed by mobs and the government for much of the first three centuries, it seems improbable that the earliest leaders would openly reveal themselves (by not having an obvious trade) that they were full-time church leaders.
Eight: When the New Testament was written, very few, if any, of the churches were organized into a ruling-bishop system which would require or sustain a full-time minister. The churches were too primitive, too small, too poor, and often had to hide from the authorities to meet. Church buildings did not exist because they would not have been tolerated until about A.D. 200 and did not flourish until after A.D. 260 before being destroyed again in 303. Persecution varied widely around the Roman Empire.
Nine: The earliest churches did not distinguish between “clergy” and “laity” for several centuries. Gifted lay members preached and carried out other functions which were later restricted to full-time ordained clergy. For example, a gifted “administrator” may have been in charge while another gifted person “preached” and another gifted person “taught” the Word. This fact would preclude giving tithes when numerous laity exercised their spiritual gifts.
Ten: It is very likely that even slaves held leadership roles as elders and bishops in the early church. The noted scholar, F. F. Bruce, says that “Pius, bishop of the Roman church towards the middle of the second century, if not a slave himself, was at any rate the brother of a slave; and Callistus, bishop of the same church in the early part of the third century, was an ex-slave”. Slaves would certainly not accept tithes for their sustenance!
Eleven: Perhaps the best post-biblical argument against tithing in the Ante-Nicean church is the church’s overall attitude towards Christian virtues, ethics, poverty, and asceticism. To state it plainly, “Poverty was considered a virtue, especially among the clergy!” While still retaining fresh memories of the first apostles and disciples, the miracles of the first century, and, while still expecting a soon return of Jesus Christ, the pre-Constantine (pre-A.D. 325) church, was a charity organization which received offerings only to serve the poor, widows, and orphans of society. See Philip Schaff’s detailed comments in my chapter on First Corinthians 9.