The recent surge in opposition to tithing, and the forceful attempt to dissuade others from tithing can be traced to three underlying factors: (i) sincere ignorance of what the Bible teaches on the subject, (ii) the love of money, and (iii) pride- exalting human opinions and sentiments above what the Bible teaches. However, we are given the following admonition in 2 Peter 3:17, “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness”. While these attacks continue and intensify, we are warned to be on our guard so that we do not fall away from the truth by joining those who have erred and encourage others to follow them. We are shown how to do this in Acts 17:11: “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). Therefore, let us be like the people of Berea and examine what the Bible says about tithing under the new covenant.
In Hebrews 7, the Bible emphasizes the two forms of priesthood: the Levitical priesthood, with its foundation in the Law and the Melchizedek priesthood, which is established by the power of an indestructible life (Hebrews 7:1-28). Throughout the Chapter, the two priesthoods are compared and contrasted. In the verse 8, we read this, according to the Greek rendering of the text: In this case mortal men receive tithes, but in that case one receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives on (Hebrews 7:8). A very important point to note here is that the original Greek text of Hebrews 7:8 did not base the comparison on names of persons but rather on case. The only case in the entire chapter, and the entire Bible, where mortal men receive tithes is the case of the order of priesthood after Levi (Hebrews 7:5, 25). Thus, the Scriptures clearly establish that the case or situation being compared and contrasted in Hebrews 7:8, is the “order of priesthood”, specifically the Levitical priesthood and the Melchizedek priesthood (e.g. Hebrews 7:8, Hebrews 7:11). Here, the Bible emphasizes that in the Levitical priesthood, mortal men receive tithe, but in the Melchizedek priesthood, one of whom it is witnessed that he lives on RECEIVES the tithe. Now, the Scriptures, in multiple places declare that God has made Jesus Christ a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 5:6; Hebrews 6:20; Hebrews 7:17). By being appointed to serve as a priest in the order of Melchizedek, the Scriptures clearly establish that Jesus in His priesthood order under the new covenant receives tithes – as the Scriptures establish receiving tithe as a characteristic feature of the Melchizedek priesthood, from which Jesus serves as priest for His church (Hebrews 4:14-15; Hebrews 7:17; Hebrews 7:8).
It is worth noting that the word “tithe” used in Hebrews 7:8 is referenced to a tenth of one’s increase given by God’s people as a sacred offering unto God; that which is holy and belongs to God (e.g. Leviticus 27:30; Hebrews 7:8). By this, the Bible affirms that under the Melchizedek priesthood, the tithe is deemed as a sacred portion that belongs to God. Jesus also gave this instruction: “Give to God what belongs to God (Mark 12:17)”. This was not a suggestion but a command. Since the tithe belongs to God, and Jesus receives the tithe in His position as a priest after the order of Melchizedek, how could we even entertain the thought of hording the tithe? Now, if we decide to take for ourselves that which belongs to another, what do we suppose we are? Any wonder God called those who refuse to give their tithe thieves?
Some have argued that, if we will give the tithe then we must do it according to how it was done under the law. Such a statement reveals a lack of basic understanding of the truth that the Melchizedek priesthood has replaced the Levitical priesthood (Hebrews 7). Hebrews 7:12 says “For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also”. Therefore, because the Levitical priesthood has been done away with, we are not bound under the new covenant to give our tithes according to the laws that were given for the Levitical priesthood, e.g. physically sending our tithes to certain geographic areas to make it acceptable (e.g. Deuteronomy 14). Rather, under Jesus’ Melchizedek priesthood of the new covenant, the Scriptures only establishes that Jesus receives the tithes (Hebrews 7:8), which is referenced to a tenth of one’s income or increase given as a sacred portion that belongs to God (Hebrews 7:8; Leviticus 27:30). And Jesus Himself has put some as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers in His church as His representatives to carry out His instructions on His behalf (Ephesians 4:11-12; Hebrews 13:17; Colossians 1:25; 1 Corinthians 12:27).
To refuse to tithe is simply to disobey a very direct command from Jesus and His Word. This is where the sin lies – disobedience, which may be rooted in ignorance of what the Scriptures teach. Ignorance however, does not justify sin (Luke 12:48). But if we still continue in our disobedience, after we have been presented with the truth, then we allow the love of money to control our lives, which only leads to more evil and deviation from the faith: “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away [erred] from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs (1 Timothy 6:10). May we not be guilty on the day of judgement for deviating from the truth, and teaching others to follow after us for it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:13).
Here is a word of admonition from God to us: “But realize this, that in the last days… men will be lovers of self, lovers of money…, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God… Avoid such men as these” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
-Kwadwo Omari, PhD
© Aug. 28, 2018.
Questions and Answers
Question 1: If the giving of tithes under the new covenant is because we serve under the Melchizedek priesthood, then how do you account for the fact that Abram/Abraham paid tithe once, and this from the spoils (Heb 7:4): how does that translate into income earned?
1. No where in the entire Bible has it been said or even suggested that new covenant / testament tithing is established on the fact that Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek. Under the new covenant, we give our tithes because receiving tithes is Scripturally established as being characteristic of the Melchizedek priesthood from which Jesus Christ ministers as our High Priest. It was not Abraham (or his actions) who established the Melchizedek priesthood, neither is it Abraham (or his actions) who defines the terms of the Melchizedek priesthood. Therefore, to attempt to establish the new covenant or any part of it, on Abraham or his actions, and not on Jesus and the terms of the new covenant given us in His Word, is to be in error (1 Cor 3:11).
2. Again, the Scriptures teach that the Melchizedek priesthood existed way before Abraham was ever born (Heb 7), and in this priesthood from which Jesus serves us our High priest, the tithe IS RECEIVED (You may want to check the original Greek rendering of Heb 7:8). Therefore, for Abraham to meet Melchizedek, and for him to go ahead and perform a requirement in the priesthood order according to Melchizedek, could only have been by divine inspiration. Even so, the Bible DOES NOT TEACH that Abraham lived his life with Melchizedek serving as his priest before God. Therefore, he wasn’t bound to serve God under the terms of the Melchizedek priesthood which did not apply to him. He actually met Melchizedek only one time in his life. Therefore, there is no wonder that he gave tithe once to a person he only met once, and to whom he owed no obligation or service to his priesthood. On the contrary, the Bible teaches that in the new covenant, Jesus serves as a High Priest FOREVER for His church under the Melchizedek priesthood, and in Jesus’ priesthood order the tithe IS RECEIVED. It is upon these terms of Jesus’ new covenant priesthood that tithing in the new testament is established, not on Abraham and his actions.
3. Concerning everything we have, including the income we may boast of, this is what the Bible says: “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1 Cor 4:7). You may want to do a word study of the word tithe used in Hebrews 7:8 and in the entire Bible, and you will find that the word tithe is referenced to a tenth of one’s increase given by God’s people to their priest, as a sacred portion that belongs to God. “Income” is simply a modern way most of us in the 21st century express/measure our increase. Therefore, it is only reasonable, according to the Scriptures, that when I am fulfilling my responsibility to tithe because I serve under the Melchizedek priesthood, I tithe from my income. Most of us have been blessed by God to receive this increase biweekly or monthly. Again, it only makes Scriptural sense to tithe accordingly. Yet for some, even in the 21st century, their increase may not be income based, but may be the produce of their field which they may gather in annually. It is required according to the Scriptures that we tithe out of our increase accordingly. At that one time Abraham met Melchizedek, he had just gotten an increase of spoils. Any wonder he gave a tenth of the increase of spoils he had gotten?
Question 2: So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity… (2 Cor 9:7). This should sum up giving in the New Testament, and thereby exclude tithes?
Answer: Failure to provide the entire context of 2 Corinthians 9, as well as failure to show the limited scope addressed by this chapter, only leads to conclusions contrary to what the chapter is saying. In 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9, we read that the people of Corinth had promised to make contributions to some saints. Paul sent people ahead of him to get them prepared to fulfill their promise so that he would not be put to shame before others by putting so much confidence in them and boasting about their generosity. He then told them to give as they had purposed in their heart to give not out of compulsion because God loves a cheerful giver. His address to them made no mention of the tithe but only touched on their free will offering they had purposed to give. Therefore, to neglect Scriptures in the New Testament that directly affirm the receiving of tithes under Jesus’ Melchizedek priesthood, and only resort to some of Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 9, is to fail to provide the full picture of New Testament giving shown in Scripture: both free will offerings and tithing. Again, the phrase “God loves a cheerful giver” has nothing in it that disproves tithing, since all through Scripture, including the New Testament, it is established that in all of God’s commands, He expects His people to obey them wholeheartedly and cheerfully, without murmuring and complaining (see Philippians 2:14-15; Colossians 3:23-24; Philippians 4:4) – and this definitely includes tithing in Jesus’ priesthood after the order of Melchizedek.
Question 3: Which Apostle or New Testament Church Collected tithe? If we can’t find any, then tithing must not be for the New Testament.
Answer: The Bible is emphatic that Christian doctrine is only built on direct teachings and instructions from the Word of God to us (e.g. 2 Timothy 3:16-17), not on the actions of the apostles or early church. This is basic Christianity. When we neglect this basic truth, we only build on foundations other than Christ or His Word, and end up with false doctrines (Colossians 2:8; Matthew 7:24-27). Therefore, to neglect any established truth in Scripture on the thinking that we don’t see a written record of the early church/apostles doing so, is to err. If we want to make the written actions of the apostles or the early church the standard of Christianity, then every apostle in our day must also be writing letters that could qualify as Scripture since we find early apostles doing same. But obviously, these don’t constitute what it takes to be an apostle, because the actions of the early church or apostles are never given for the establishment of doctrine, but teachings and instructions from the Word of God alone.
Question 4: The tithe in Hebrews 7 is also cross referenced to the tithe under the law. Does this not mean that tithing is only under the law?
Answer: In Ephesians 6:1-3, the Bible commands children, under the New Covenant, to obey their parents in the Lord. This same obedience with its reward is referenced to the obedience required of children to their parents under the law (Deuteronomy 5:16; Exodus 20:12). Now, because this very obedience required under the new covenant, is also referenced to the same obedience required under the law, does this mean that children are no longer required to obey their parents because the obedience required of them in the covenant is referenced to the obedience required under the law? Certainly not. Why? Because, in the new covenant, we are told that this same obedience, referenced to the law is, required. Already, we are told that the law was a shadow of things to come, the substance or reality of those things are found in Christ: the law only pointed to things that were to come in the New Covenant we have in Christ (Colossians 2:16-17; Hebrews 10:1). Thus, when we come to the new covenant we can see how those very things, that existed as shadows in the law, do apply or what they represent in the new covenant. We don’t get to choose how those things in the law do apply or what they represent in the new covenant; the New Testament clearly instructs us on that. An example is obedience to parents in the new covenant, which is required just as it was required under the law. Again, in the law, which was a shadow of things to come, adultery was disallowed. When we come to the new covenant, the reality, this same adultery is also forbidden. And there is nothing alarming about both the old and the new covenants having the same “forbidden” view on adultery because the Scripture teaches us that this is how it ought to be. Another example is Worship. Worship was a principal thing in the Old Covenant, which was a shadow of things to come. And when we come to the new covenant, worship is still central in our relationship with God (e.g. Romans 21:1), but the procedure of worshipping, which involved having to go to a specific geographic region (e.g. Deut 12:4-5; 2 Chronicles 6:6), has been changed in the new covenant (John 4:21; 23-24). But the same virtue of worship is still required under the New Covenant. Similarly, with regards to tithing, Hebrews 7, literally say that in the Melchizedek priesthood of the New Covenant, where Jesus now serves as a priest for his church, the tithe is received. And Jesus commands us to give to God that which belongs to God (Mark 12:17). This tithe is also referenced to the sacred portion that belongs to God just as it was in the old covenant. And there is nothing strange about having a truth that exists in both the old and the new covenant, e.g. obedience to parents, staying away from adultery, and tithing.
Question 5: Although the Melchizedek priesthood has authority to accept tithes, there is no law of tithing associated with that priesthood.
Answer: Now, Jesus said to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God (Mark 12:17). This is never an old Testament law or some meaningless words Jesus happened to have offered unto no account (Matthew 24:35). It is a simple command from Jesus to His disciples, and as we are told in Scripture the apostles only built on what Jesus taught; the Scripture literally say that they preached Jesus Christ (Acts 5:42) – they did not go about contradicting him (Acts 5:42; 1 Cor 1:23). All through the New Testament, it is established that God requires us to give to Caesar (or the government) that which belongs to Caesar (e.g. Romans 13; Titus 3:1) and to God that which belongs to God (e.g. Acts 12:23; Acts 14:14-23). Now, we are told that in the Jesus’ Melchizedek priesthood of the new covenant the tithe is received, and the word tithe is referenced to the sacred portion which belongs to God, which the Priest receives from the people of God, for purposes such as providing “meat” in His house. If we can see that the Melchizedek priesthood has authority to receive tithes, how can we also fail to realize that the one who has authority to receive tithes, even Jesus, a priest after the order of Melchizedek, commands that we give to God that which belongs to God, including the tithes He has authority to receive? (cf. Mark 12:17). If Jesus who commands us to give to God that which belongs to God, receives the tithe in His priesthood, how could we not give it to Him, seeing that He commands us to do so? If we are therefore mandated under the new covenant to give to God that which belongs to God, how could we possibly exclude the tithe seeing that under Jesus Melchizedek priesthood, the tithe is still deemed a holy thing that belongs to God? We simply can’t just pick and choose what New Covenant truths we want to obey; we are called to walk in obedience to all of God’s truth established for us in Christ. Being obedient to Jesus is not to be legalistic as one living under the law. It is actually how Jesus defines our love for Him (John 14:15;1 John 5:3).
Question 6: Who receives the tithes, and how do I give my tithes under the new Covenant?
Answer: Jesus Christ, our high priest after the order of Melchizdek receives the tithes (Hebrews 5:6; Hebrews 6:20; Hebrews 7:17) – seeing that in the new covenant receiving of tithes is established under Jesus’ Melchizedek priesthood. And we are commanded to give to God that which belongs to God. So this question is simply asking how do we give to God, especially that which God specifically lay claim on that it belongs to Him? We should never fail to recognize that in the New covenant, Jesus has established His church, on this earth, He being the head, and the church being His body. Again, the Scriptures teach that He is always present in His church (Matthew 28:20; Heb 13:5), guiding and leading us in ways He has provided us in His Word (2 Tim 3:16-17). And the Scriptures teach that He Himself has set some in place as apostles, prophets, pastors, who act as His representatives in these leadership roles or offices and to also carry out His instructions on his behalf (Ephesians 4:7-11; Col 1:24-25; 1 Cor 4:2). Therefore, when I bring my tithe to the Lord’s church, it is not unto men that I give my tithe but unto the Lord Jesus Christ Himself who is ever present as the head of the church. For those occupying these leadership role or offices who receive the tithes, are only occupying offices put in place by the Lord Jesus Himself, with delegated authority to act on His behalf, and they are under obligation to use the tithe for the purposes He directs them to use it for (e.g. 1 Cor 4:2; Col 1:24-25). Someone, occupying an office for the Lord may indeed misuse that which belongs to the Lord, using it for purposes the Lord never intended it for. However, they are answerable to the Lord and their disobedience is never an excuse for us to also disobey the Lord by refusing to give to God that which belongs to Him. This same tithe that Jesus receives in His priesthood is also intended to provide meat in His house, and hence should be brought to His house where He Himself is ever present.
Question 7: It’s erroneous to assume that this change of the law involved the direction in which the tithe was to be paid. In the first place, the change was in the priesthood itself. Paul said that the Levitical priesthood had been “set aside” and was no longer in force (Hebrews 7:18).
Answer: The Law and the Levitical priesthood were not just simply set aside or annulled. Rather, the Scripture is emphatic that the Law has been replaced by the New Covenant following the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the Melchizedek priesthood of the new covenant has also replaced the Levitical priesthood of the old covenant. So that under the new covenant we serve God following Christ, and the terms of the New Covenant He has given us in His word. We only have to study the Bible so as to know what this new covenant entail; our rights as well as our responsibilities. And in this New Covenant, we need not to make any assumption about the truth that in the Melchizedek priesthood, the tithe, is received by the one who occupies this priesthood, i.e. Jesus serving as a priest for His church. And He Himself commands us to give to God that which belongs to God, including God’s scared portion – the tithe
Question 8: Another problem that arises when we try to present tithing as a New Testament command is the question of what we should we tithe on. In the Old Testament, tithes were paid on the ‘increase’. In today’s term, assuming my income is $5,000, do I pay tithes on the whole amount or on the remainder after deducting expenses (note that this will be the true reflection of an ‘increase’)?
Answer: If we have decided to follow Jesus, and His Word, let us look to the Bible’s definition of what increase is. The Bible says in 1 Timothy 6:7 that “For we have brought nothing into the world”. Again the Bible says that all that we have including the income we may boast of as coming from our own hard work, actually comes from the Lord: “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1 Cor 4:7)”. Therefore, if you brought nothing into this world, and God says that whatever increase we receive came from him, then we should have no problem realizing that receiving $5000 is an increase God gave you. And you should not have a problem giving a tithe of the increase God has given to you. It is from this same increase that God expects us to give unto Ceasar that which Caesar demands, and to give to God that which belongs to God. It’s God we are called to attend to first (cf. Matthew 6:33). Therefore to use the increase God gives you on yourself first, before attending to God is simply to get our priorities mixed up, and disobey Him. If we understand this truth from God’s word, the issue of giving our tithe from gross or net will not be a problem at all. We give our tithes on ail the increase God gives – not some of them.
-Kwadwo Omari, PhD