“And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.” (Genesis 14:18-20)
This text gives the first record of tithing, and it was some four hundred years before the giving of the Law of Moses for Abraham lived over four hundred years before Moses. (Galatians 3:16-17) However, nothing is said in the Genesis text to show that this was a new thing even in Abraham’s day. What is suggested is that, inasmuch as Abraham is the “father of all the believe” (Romans 4:11), and Melchizedek was an outstanding type of Christ (Hebrews 7:15-17), therefore Abraham’s paying of tithes is an example to believers today, who are to tithe to the representative of Christ, the local assembly. We must remember that Bible examples are equally as authoritative as commands where there are no commands to the contrary.
Many Christians reject tithing, but their rejection of it must be for one of two reasons: (1) Ignorance of the duty, or (2) Rebellion against that duty because of selfishness. Sometimes it is objected that “I earned what I have by my own labor, and it’s mine to do with as I please.” But this is to ignore the teaching of Deuteronomy 8:17-18. “And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for IT IS HE THAT GIVETH THEE POWER TO GET WEALTH, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.” Tithing, the paying of ten percent of our income to the Lord, is an acknowledgement of God’s ownership of all things, and that we are but stewards of what He has committed to our hands.
Tithing is not just based upon a need, for every believer has the duty of tithing regardless of the condition of the church treasury. Tithing is an established duty; and it is established by law, but not just by the Law of Moses, for it is not a mere legal duty to be forgotten when one becomes a Christian. Tithing is not legalism any more than any other duty, such as repentance, faith, baptism or consecration is, for they are all the commands of the Lord to His children, and it is but an attempt to becloud the issue to call it legalism.
IT IS ESTABLISHED BY THE LAW OF THE LORD
The proof-text for this is Leviticus 27:30. “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s: it is holy unto the Lord.” All the tithe of all produce was holy, and not to be used for selfish purposes except, in some cases when one wished to keep some especially good grain for seed, by adding 20 percent to it. (verse 31) But when the animals were run under the rod to count them, there could be no changing of the tenth for the ninth or eleventh, as one might be tempted to do, if the tenth appeared to be a superior breeding animal. (verses 32-33) These things are here couched in pastoral terms for the Israelites were a pastoral people.
But, of course, the immediate objection that is lodged by non-tithers is: “O, but that was before Christ came. That was in the Old Testament.” May we be permitted to ask, “What difference can that possibly make? Do we serve a different God than Israel did?” Before we assume that anything in the Old Testament has been abrogated, we must see a specific command revoking it. Such a revocation of the law of tithing does not appear in the New Testament. But a specific statement is made in the New Testament which does bear upon the very issue at hand. “Think not that I am come to DESTROY THE LAW, or the prophets: I AM NOT COME TO DESTROY, BUT TO FULFILL. But verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Mat 5:17-18) Our Lord declares that He did not come to disannul or abrogate the law. Who dares to argue with this? Let him be ready to answer for his rebellion against the revealed will of God if he does.
But even more specific in this matter is the inspired comment of Paul on this issue in 1 Corinthians 9:13-14. “Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? EVEN SO HATH THE LORD ORDAINED THAT THEY WHICH PREACH THE GOSPEL SHOULD LIVE OF THE GOSPEL” The reference in verse 3 is to the support of the ministry of the Tabernacle and Temple by tithes and offerings. The Lord has “ordained” that the ministry of the church is to be supported “even so,” or “in this manner” as the word is also rendered. This ought to be clear enough, shouldn’t it? What then will you do about this duty?
IT IS ESTABLISHED BY THE LAW OF LOVE
Our Lord Himself said in John 14:15, “If ye love me, keep my commandments,” and the law of tithing is as much a commandment from Jesus Christ as it is from the Father. In proof of this, we have but to recall 1 Corinthians 9:14; the Lord Jesus has “ordained” the tithes for the support of His churches and the ministry of the Word. The word rendered “ordained” appears sixteen times in the New Testament, and is rendered “commanded” seven times; “appointed” four times; “ordained” three times; “set in order” once; and “give order” once. Clearly, the word is used in the sense of an authoritative command. Who dares to disobey this commandment?
Who can claim to love the Lord while disobeying Him. Such is a strange kind of love. When we eat in a restaurant, we “tip” the waitress, yet it is an unwritten law that the tip shall be at least a minimum of ten percent of the check. Does the Christian love that often unknown waitress more than he loves the Lord who died for him? Shame on him if his love is no deeper than this!
Who can claim to love the Lord while robbing Him of that portion of his material possessions that He claims as His own? Malachi 3:8-9 says, “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? in tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.” Tithing has always been a test of the Lord’s people. (1) It tests their love. Do they love Him more than Mammon, the god of riches? (Luke 16:10-13) (2) It tests their faith. Do they believe God’s promises? (Matthew 6:24-25; 33-34) (3) It tests their concern for the souls of men. Do they love souls enough to give to get the gospel preached? (I Corinthians 9:14) Tithing is intimately associated with the gospel, both in the church and on the mission field.
This law of love also is concerned with those who preach the gospel, for those who hear are to share their material possessions with those who do the preaching. “Let him that is taught in the Word COMMUNICATE unto (share with) him that teacheth in all good things.” (Galatians 6:6) Interestingly, this same word is used of giving for the preaching of the Word on foreign fields in Philippians 4:15. “Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church COMMUNICATED with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.”
Love for the Lord and love for the souls of men will compel the believer to tithe every time, for Christian love (that highest of all kinds of loves as signified by the Greek word agape) is always a GIVING type of love, not a selfish kind of love. (John 3:16; I Corinthians 13:5)
IT IS ESTABLISHED BY THE LAW OF LOGIC
One of the objections lodged against tithing is that the New Testament says so little about it. But it is unnecessary to say much about that which is already established. What the New Testament does say, strengthens rather than takes away from its authority. “And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the lions of Abraham: But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises. And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better. And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.” (Hebrews 7:5-8) This is in reference to the text in Genesis 14, and notice the contrast that is drawn in verse 8. “Here” refers to the Levitical priesthood (under the Law which had just been dealt with, while “there” refers to the Melchizedecan priesthood which typified Christ’s priesthood under the New Testament dispensation. The conclusion is irresistible: tithes are to be received in the New Testament dispensation as well as under the old dispensation. This is the only logical meaning of this text.
Some argue that the reference to tithing in Matthew 23:23, which says, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for YE PAY TITHE of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: THESE OUGHT YE TO HAVE DONE, and not to leave the other undone,” had only to do with “a self-righteous Pharisee,” and so could have no bearing on Christians. It is true that it was addressed to the Jewish leaders, many of whom were self-righteous hypocrites, but is it logical that we who have received so much more under grace would be required to do less than they? Does love obligate us to less or more than mere law does? Find a person who really loves the Lord, and he will give at least a tithe every time. This is the logic of love. We knew a godly deacon once who expressed his doubts about tithing being the duty of believers in this age, but when pressed about his own practice, he admitted that he personally gave a double tithe. His love for the Lord overpowered his mental reservations against tithing. And it will ever be, but until the heart-strings are strongly attached to the Lord Jesus, and there is a compelling love for the Lord, the purse-strings will be tightly shut and the idol Mammon will continue to reign in the heart.
Logically, no church can survive unless it has many, many non-tithers putting in their pitiful one dollar per week, but on the other hand, a small church that is made up mostly of tithers can be very successful in missionary and evangelistic work. Ten family heads who are tithers can support a pastor adequately. The writer was called some years ago to pastor a small church whose attendance only ran thirty to fifty, but he was told by the church treasurer that all the adult members were tithers, and the result was that the church was able to pay the pastor an adequate salary, support numerous mission works, plus purchase a nice parsonage, yet without any financial problems whatsoever. But it is illogical to expect a church to fulfill its work when one is not willing to give to pay its expenses. The church is the Body of Christ, and He never meant for His Body to be a beggar. He has decreed, not only the correct means to do His work, but also the correct way to support that work, and nothing else works just as well.
Notice how Paul was inspired to establish tithing logically in the context of I Corinthians 9:13-14. In verses 7-10 he shows that: 1. Soldiers are not expected to supply their own support, but they are decreed a daily ration. (verse 7) 2. The keeper of the vineyard is permitted to eat of the fruit (verse 7) 3. The shepherd eats of the flock (verse 7) The law decreed this. 4. Thus, even the ox that treads out the grain was permitted to take bites of it, (verse 9) and this fact is intended as an instructive example to Christians. (verses 9-10) 5. The farmer likewise labors in the assurance that he will partake of the fruits of his labors. 6. Then he shows that on the basis of these facts, it is but logical that the same principle holds true in spiritual things as well. (verse 11) 7. And he declares that this was the practice of other preachers of his day, though he personally had not asked for this support. (verse 12) All of which leads up to the declaration that just as the ministers in the Tabernacle and Temple were supported by the tithes and offerings, so those who labor in the gospel ministry likewise are commanded by the Lord to be so supported.
Logically it may not seem that one can get by and prosper easier on the nine-tents left after tithing than on the whole ten-tenths, but this is only because we often forget God, the sometimes unseen factor in all things. If we but take into account the threat against non-tithers and the promise to tithers in Malachi 3:9-11, immediately the logic changes in favor of the tither. Every tither has seen how that God sometimes seemed to miraculously make the nine-tenths go further in paying the bills than even the ten-tenths would. And every non-tither, though he may not have considered this, has had unexpected bills come from every direction because God’s curse was on the work of his hands.
It is both foolish and sinful for church people to expect outsiders to support their church through sales, suppers, subscriptions, etc., if the members themselves are unwilling to support the church. In so doing, they give their own estimation of their church, i.e., that it is unworthy of support. Someone once well said of Christ that “He is either worth everything, or He is worth nothing.” We believe that since every true church is a Body of Christ, the same thing may be said of it.
Tithing is the only equal means of support for the Lord’s work, wherein everyone from the poverty-stricken widow to the millionaire has the same responsibility: duty according to ability. Someone has well said that every Christian is a tither, but from many God must go and collect the tithes, and He is a good collector, and He often charges an additional collection fee when His children refuse to respond to their duty.
Tithing is established upon three strong pillars: the law of the Lord, the law of love and the law of logic. Nothing can or will raise its voice against tithing except one of two things: ignorance or greed, and neither of these is a Christian virtue. Are you a faithful tither? If not, why not begin today to honor the Lord with the firstfruits of all thine increase? (Proverbs 3:9-10) It will be a blessing to you, your church, your minister and your missionaries.