I have wanted very much to share with all of you a truth that I am very excited about, because I know it will set many of you free in a certain area, especially those of you who are following Christ out of the confining structure of the organized religion of "Babylon" and into the freedom of the Kingdom of God. For those of you who are very tied to the old, this wonderful truth that rings of freedom for the others, could be for you an inconvenient truth. It will be just one more aspect of the new that threatens to burst the dry inflexible wineskin of the old, to which many of you are still married. However, although you may choose to ignore this truth for a season, I'm confident for you as well, that the Lord will eventually "press the issue" in order to bring you into the glorious liberty of the children of God. Amen.
I have always been a student of Larry Burkett and Christian Financial Concepts, and I've always diligently tried to apply God's scriptural principles to my finances. My wife and I have always been faithful to tithe a tenth of our income (or at times more) to the local church, as we all have been taught, or to effective ministries when we were not a part of a local church, but as the Lord began leading us in a unique way, we found Him, little by little, changing the way we implemented and eventually thought about the tithe.
Several years ago, the Lord impressed on my wife and I that our tithe was to go to some friends of ours who are itinerant ministers. It went cross-ways with what I had always been taught about bringing all the tithes into the "storehouse," yet I could see a scriptural precedent for doing this, and we knew it was Jesus leading us, so we obeyed. It was easy, at the time, for we were in between churches.
We later became a part of a church, and the Lord began opening the doors for me to minister more and more in the church, preaching several Sunday morning services. Eventually, the leaders began talking to me about getting me "papers" with that particular denomination (one of my friends likes to call denominations "demonations"), so I could minister with their sanctioning in our church and in other churches of that denomination. We were still tithing, not to the church, but to our friends, so it didn't take long before the tithe issue came up. To make a long story short, one of the elders (board members of the 501c3 tax exempt corporation we call a church) said that I was in an "ungodly relationship" with my friend to whom we gave our tithes, and that I should no longer be allowed to minister in that church, unless (take a wild guess what they wanted. Yep, you guessed it) I started paying to that church my tithes (membership dues to that particular religious club we called a church). Needless to say, my ministry opportunities quickly dried up. I knew what God had said to me, and I continued to obey, in spite of the fact that it went so wrong with what I had been taught, along with so many others, about the tithe, and in spite of the fact that it was costly both for me and for the people of this church.
Later in life, the Lord again touched the tithe, and told my wife and me to start giving the bulk of it to orphans, which we did for some time. Then, one day, the Lord showed me that our finances were out of order. The Lord showed me that our finances were out of God's order because we had unsecured debt and no savings, and both of these, as I knew from my years of listening to Larry Burkett, were not in keeping with sound biblical principles on finance. The answer? The Lord told us to stop paying our tithes, and that the tithe money was to go toward getting out from under the unsecured portion of our debt in around two years and toward savings. When the bulk of our debt was paid off, it would free up a large amount of monthly income to go, not toward payments, but toward long and short term savings, paying off our secured debt, as well as other things, including giving. The main issue was debt. The Lord wanted us out of debt soon. Again, I knew the Lord was talking to me, but I wasn't about to take that step unless I could see it clearly taught in the scripture. So, I began a study of the tithe, and what I found was that I had never been taught correctly, or even biblically, concerning the tithe.
The Lord was leading me gently a step at a time in this area of my life, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little. I could see from a short, yet pretty thorough study of the tithe, that what the Lord was requiring of me was totally scriptural, as long as after two years, we gave the tithe of the third year back to the widow or orphan and the Levite (at the time, we considered that to be "the minister"), just as we were doing. So, I told the Lord, "Ok, we'll do it, but in the third year, we need to go back to what we were doing before." The Lord silently accepted my conditions, and we took one more step toward freedom in our finances, which was in keeping with all the other ways in which the Lord was leading us out of our old Babylonian ways of thinking. He was leading us step-by-step out of the religion of captivity, and into the Kingdom of God and true New Testament Christianity.
Eventually, the Lord was able to show me clearly and directly from His word what He had been gently leading me toward all along concerning the tithe. He showed me that the tithe is not a valid New Testament practice AT ALL. Now, before you close this window out and send me a "remove me from your list" email, you need to hear me out. I can show you clearly from scripture, just as the Lord showed me, that what I'm saying is true, and for many of you it will bring such freedom for you in your giving and in your finances that you will want to shout. I know in my heart that the Lord will show many of you in ten minutes this truth that took Him years of baby steps to show me. You will find in ten minutes the same freedom in your giving and hopefully in your finances that has taken me years to find. However, for some of you, it may be an inconvenient truth, especially if you are dependent upon the tithe of others for your church, ministry, or personal income. You may ignore it for a time, but the Lord will use financial stress to press the issue with you if you choose to ignore the truths of His word for the sake of comfort or ease, or to keep from "rocking the denominational boat."
Before going into why it is not a valid practice under the New Testament, let me say that I understand the myriad of reasons why many would just as soon remain under the ordinance of tithing, and if you chose to continue to pay tithes, then let me "challenge you", as I've heard so many pastors say to those who struggle to make ends meet as they've told them of their obligation to tithe and of the curse that surely awaits their finances if they don't, and of the financial blessings that come to those who tithe. Let me "challenge you", not to tithe, as these pastors challenge so many, but that if you are going to continue to tithe, that you at least do so biblically.
If you are to tithe biblically, here is what you must do: For the next two years, take one tenth (the tithe) of your gross income (income before taxes and deductions for health insurance, etc.), and with that money, go to where the Lord has set His name (hum, that must be your church building, otherwise you wouldn't be going to church there, now would you), and eat your tithe. That's right, eat your tithe. Of course, since we are not an agrarian culture, you will have to buy food with your money, rather than just bring a tenth of your produce, like God commanded the Israelites. You are to eat, at your church building, one tenth of your income. Yes, study it out for yourself, like I did. A good place to start might be Deuteronomy 14:22-29.
You are not to write a check and place it in the offering plate for the building fund, the mission fund, the food pantry, the administration costs, the pastor's salary (uh oh, I foresee a problem arising, do you?), but you are to consume it yourself. However, if the place where the Lord has chosen to place His name is too far away, like in the revival church in such-and-such city (I thought His dwelling place under the New Testament is in His people), then what you need to do is stick that money in your wallet, and go to the place that the Lord chooses, and buy with that tithe money "whatever your soul lusteth after", whether it's wine, strong drink, sheep (I don't suppose we would lust after a sheep today), or oxen (how about a Corvette instead?), and you are to rejoice, you and your family, as you consume the tithe upon your own lusts. This you are to do for two years. Then, in the third year, you need to support the pastor, widow, and orphan with your tithes. That is the biblical mandate for tithing, at least as accurately as I can translate it into our modern culture with our modern church system under the New Testament.
I can see some of you pastors having a cow (or an oxen) right about now. I can see you having visions of your church parking lot full of Corvettes as you lead your family to the local bread-line. However, if you are going to teach your people to tithe, you need to teach them to do it biblically, right? So, this Sunday when you preach on the tithe, don't forget to mention the Corvette, wine, and strong drink (is beer strong drink, or does it have to be whiskey?).
I write all of this tongue-n-cheek, to a certain degree, but I do it to make the point that we are often told to be biblical, and tithe, but we are never told to tithe biblically. Remember that biblical tithing was to teach the Israelites to "fear God" and it was to be consumed by the tither two out of three years, not given away (Deut. 14:23). As I read it, only in the third year was it given to others, and that to widows, orphans, and Levites.
You see, when you begin to try to implement the Old Testament practice of tithing under the New Testament and in the context of the modern church system, you will see, as I have seen from the very beginning, that it just doesn't seem to fit too well. However, as I pondered this problem over the years, I always said to myself, "Well, the tithe is not a part of the law, for it was instituted by Abraham before the law, therefore, it is an eternal principal that is applicable to us who are 'walking in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham'" (Rom. 4:12). However, I was wrong. Circumcision was also instituted by Abraham before the law, and yet, Paul wrote that if you be circumcised, you are obligated to keep the whole law, and Christ profits you nothing (Gal. 5:2, 3).
Circumcision was the sign of the Old Covenant, a type or a shadow of the good things to come under the new in Christ Jesus. We don't circumcise for spiritual reasons, though we may do so for other reasons. Yet, we all have been taught that we must tithe or we will be cursed with a curse (Mal 3:8-10). That in itself is proof that those who practice tithing are under the yoke of the law, for what does the law state? It says, "...Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them" (Gal. 3:10). Just as circumcision (instituted before the law by Abraham) foreshadowed the substance of what we are to enjoy under the new, so tithing is but a shadow of the good things to come in Christ (Heb. 10:1). That's why, when we attempt to implement the Old Testament ordinance of tithing under the new, it just doesn't fit. Abraham's tithe fits better, for it was not limited by the ordinance, but was the overflow of a grateful heart toward Melchizedek (a type of Christ), much like our giving should be under the New Testament. "So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7 NKJV).
The book of Hebrews clearly ties the tithe to the law, just as it ties circumcision to the law. Hebrews 7:5 says, "And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham" (NKJV emphasis mine). Here we see the tithe instituted "according to the law", and the following shows that there came a "change in the law." "Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law" (Heb 7:11, 12 NKJV). And finally, we see an annulling, or a canceling of the law: "For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God" (Heb. 7:18, 19 NKJV).
Study the tithe for yourself, and implement it as best you can in the new landscape of the church system, if you so desire. However, if you are being led of the Holy Spirit out of the impoverished religious structure as are we, then you will want to see the Kingdom of God coming on earth as in heaven in every area of your life, including your finances. As the Lord brings us back to the Promised Land of New Testament Christianity, He has brought us more and more out from under the yoke of the law and into grace. The religious church speaks much of grace, but experiences little. They see grace as license or covering for sin, rather than the power that defeats sin in our lives and brings us into union with Him who is Holy. "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Rom. 8:2-4). Many Christians still live under the yoke of the law and slavery to sin because they have not yet come into grace. Therefore, it's not surprising that many would desire to labor under the yoke of the ordinance of the tithe, even while struggling financially, or perhaps going further into debt, and not recognize the tithe as the "law of a carnal commandment" (Heb. 7:16) when Jesus offers to us "the power of an endless life" (Heb. 7:17). Many labor under the letter that kills, rather than rejoicing in the Spirit that gives life in Him whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light.
As with all Old Testament shadows, the tithe that Abraham gave to the King of Peace and the tithe commanded under Levitical law are meant to show us the way to some precious reality in the life of the Spirit. God said, "I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people" (Heb. 8:10). What the law forced the Jews to do under the old, the Spirit will direct the sons of God to do under the new, and once we come out from under the law, we can be free to do with our funds or property whatever the Spirit of Christ tells us to do, whenever He tells us to do it, Hallelujah! Even if some will never come into all that Christ intends for us in His Kingdom, I still believe there is no reason to remain in bondage to the letter that kills, at least for mature sons (huios) of God. In other words, even if one does not live as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven where one is willing to give up "all that he has" (Luke 14:33), or "sell all and distribute it to the poor" (Luke 18:22), or allow our neighbor to have a legitimate claim on all that we own ("love your neighbor as yourself" Mat. 22:39), I still do not believe that we are under any obligation to "pay our tithes", which is an ordinance of the law that has been done away with in Christ, for those who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
As you begin to give as you have purposed in your heart, joyfully and cheerfully, and not of necessity, this truth will bring freedom and joy to many of you. However, for some of you, it will be an inconvenient truth. I know that many of you are true elders and overseers and shepherds (as well as the other ministry gifts) in the Kingdom, and many of you already know what I'm writing about the tithe to be true. However, some of you are not making the transition, but are still tied to the old religious system which can never work without the tithe. Some of you pastor a traditional church, and you don't believe there is any way your people, if given freedom from the tithe, would be led of the Spirit in their giving. You surely see the tithe as a necessary ordinance, and the threat of financial cursing a necessary motivation in order for your people to give. That's what may make this truth, for you, an inconvenient truth. I understand. I wrote this primarily to see God's people set free from bondage, and in some cases debt or poverty. For you, however, this may look more like a ticket to debt or poverty. I won't be offended in the least if you send me a "please remove me from your list" email (Well, maybe a little). I will definitely understand.
For you who find this to be an inconvenient truth, I believe that the Lord will use, if He hasn't already, financial pressures, as well as other pressures, in order to help move you out of the old and into the new. For those of you who are a part of a traditional church or a denomination, my heart goes out to you, because I know the price you will have to pay to move from the old to the new... the same price many have had to pay. Make the move, or find the Spirit passing you by. The tabernacle stood for some time at Gibeon, but the ark of God had long since been transported to the tent that David pitched for it in Jerusalem, and the old religious church system will remain standing for some time, but you will find God moving, yeah residing, in a "new tabernacle" under a new system without all the trappings of a religion that separates man from his God.
Be free from the bondage of the tithe. Be free from the letter that kills and from the threat of the curse for those who don't keep it. Under the New Testament, God doesn't want a tithe. He wants, and demands all. "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they [these and no others, as Vines says] are the sons of God" (Rom. 8:14). "But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law" (Gal. 5:18).
My intention in writing this is not to give an exhaustive teaching concerning the tithe, the law, or concerning New Testament giving (study it for yourself!), but to show you the simple truth that the ordinance of the tithe is an ordinance of the law that is only a shadow of the substance that we find in Christ Jesus. You all know as well as I that everything in the law from the animal sacrifices, to the laws of cleansing, to circumcision, to the Passover, to dietary and washing laws, are not laws to be observed today under the New Testament, but are only a type or "a shadow of the good things to come" (Heb. 10:1). Why then do we insist on observing the law in regards to the tithe? Start giving freely, not grudgingly or of necessity, but cheerfully (2 Cor. 9:7), and "by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality:" (2 Cor. 8:14).
Of course, I understand that under the New Covenant, we are not only free from the law, but free to keep the law, as well, if the Spirit leads us to do so (Acts 21:24, 1 Cor. 9:20-21). So, if Jesus leads you to pay tithes, then by all means, feel free to do so willingly and joyfully and not out of compulsion or fear of cursing, and I hope you will do so mindful that traditional tithing has not necessarily been biblical tithing.
If you are in want (not due to slothfulness, a lack of self-control or discipline, or due to violating God's principles), then I believe others should be giving to you. If you are in want because of a character flaw, or because of mismanagement or ignorance, then wouldn't it be wonderful if those who have an abundance, both of funds and of financial experience and wisdom, could share both with you as the Spirit leads? The possibilities for growth and for establishing true relationship are endless. Or, we could just keep writing out our checks to pay for the building and the corporate organization that the building represents; something that often saps 90% of the resources to be used 2% of the time. I made my choice a long time ago. I'm confident many of you will make the same choice, and I'm excited to see what God does for you, as He sets you free from the law of the tithe and begins to bring you into the life of the Spirit in every area of your life, including your finances.
I think in this article that I may have raised more questions than I answered. Good! Do what the noble Bereans did, and search the scripture to see if these things be so. I'm confident that the Spirit of Truth will do just as He promised to do, and that is to lead you into all truth. I'm also confident that once you are free from the legalism of "paying your tithe" like you pay your taxes (yuck!), you will begin to be led of the Spirit in your giving (or in saving, or in paying off debt), and that our financial resources will begin to go more fully to that which is a priority to the Spirit of God. Look especially into the New Testament pattern for giving, and see how the New Testament priority is people, and not an organization that, like all organizations, saps a huge amount of resources with "over-head". Remember, the true church is an organism, not an organization, a family, not a corporation, and the early church met primarily from house to house, and did not believe that anything they owned was there own, but had all things common. They shared like family.
The New Testament priority for giving seems to me to be people, people who are the dwelling place of God under the New Covenant. The law required the tithe in order to pay for the massive organization of the outward religious system that was only a shadow of the real and substantial that was to come in Christ. Unfortunately, most Christians still tithe because they continue to live under the law that expresses, not a life in the Spirit, as we the people of God grow unto a holy temple in the Lord, but rather, an outward religious system with a massive organization that looks more like the old than it does the new. The Kingdom of God does not come with observation. You can't say here it is or there it is, for the Kingdom of God is within you.
To sum it up very simply; the tithe is an ordinance of the Old Covenant, and giving freely from the heart as led by the Spirit is an expression of New Covenant life. This message is to the sons of God who are led of the Spirit of God. If you are not led of the Spirit, then for you, the law of the tithe may be God's will for you while you are still under the law. It may be safe parameters for you until the Lord can bring you into the life in the Spirit where the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in those who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. However, if you are led of the Spirit in more and more areas of your life, then be free from the confining walls of the tithe in order to be led of the Spirit in your giving. Be free to do with the finances, over which God has placed you as a steward, whatever He tells you to do, without fear of a curse for not paying taxes to the church. Be free from "the law of commandments contained in ordinances" (Eph. 2:15). Be free from the law of the tithe! Be free!More On The Tithe