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What Does the Bible Say About … TITHING IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

What does the New Testament say about tithing?  

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Tithe was an offering of one’s agricultural income to the Lord as an expression of thanks and dedication. In the Old Testament agricultural economy, tithes were paid not in cash, gold or goods but in crops or livestock, for only the agricultural fruit of the promised land was to be tithed—not other forms of income. There was also provision for freewill offerings and personal giving above and beyond the tithe, so that the tithe never stood alone. Tithes were given by the patriarchs Abraham (Genesis 4:17-20) and Jacob (Genesis 28:22); a system of tithes was instituted in the law of God given through Moses (Deuteronomy 12; Deuteronomy 14, Deuteronomy 26; and the prophets rebuked the children of Israel for failing to give the tithe to God (Malachi 3:8). The idea of the tithe is still present in the New Testament (Matthew 23:23), but it is never explicitly applied to believers. Instead, almost all Christians are called to more extravagant freewill giving in response to the gospel of the Lord Jesus, based on faith in God as Provider (2 Corinthians 9:6-10). The question is whether tithing is still relevant today? Just like God tells us to keep sex within marriage, to love one another, and to seek first His kingdom, tithing is a blessing to our lives and something that will help better our lives (as well as help the lives of others). We are not saved by works, thus failing to tithe will not necessarily send you to hell, but doing so will help improve your life and strengthen your relationship with God. Whether the tithe is only for Old Testament or if it is also included in the New Testament is probably the most debated issue.  The scripture most frequently referenced regarding the tithe is indeed in the Old Testament (Malachi 3:10-12), but the tithe is also referenced in the New Testament. In Matthew 23:23, Jesus talks to the Pharisees, condemning them for tithing to the penny but neglecting the more important issues of justice, mercy, and faith.  He then goes on to tell them that they should in fact tithe, but that they shouldn’t neglect the more important things. Jesus recognized the importance of keeping the tithe. There are many practices in the Old Testament that don’t make sense to us today, yet many of these ancient ways carry over to the New Testament law of grace as part of Christ’s promise to not abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). For instance, we no longer sacrifice animals but as believers, we are called to offer ourselves up as a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1).  Men no longer are required to be circumcised, but we all have a circumcision of the heart through the Holy Spirit (Rom 2:29).  Most of us don’t have grain and produce to bring to the storehouse, but we do have incomes that we can bring the first tenth of into the church. In other words, just because something is written in the Old Testament doesn’t mean it lacks application to us today in some way or another. While it is true that we are no longer under the old law, that we are under grace, we must not forget the purpose of grace: to help us live for God and do the things He wants us to do. Romans 8:4 tells us that Jesus came that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, not so that we could altogether dismiss it. And Romans 3:21-31 talks about how we have righteousness through faith and not through following the law, but verse 31 adds “Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.” God’s grace gives us the power and ability to tithe! — Joyfully His, Bro. Sammy Mwatha Associate Director of Bible Study Questions Answers2Prayer Ministries.