Are we ‘BOUND’ by the PRINCIPLE of TITHING today? Then the Lord said to Aaron: "You shall have no inheritance in their land, nor shall you have any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel…For the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer up as a heave offering to the Lord, I have given to the Levites as an inheritance; therefore I have said to them, 'Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.'" (Num. 18:20, 24)
The above passage is first instance in the scriptures of God allocating the tribe of Levi to receive one-tenth of the agricultural produce of the Israelites belonging to the other tribes, even though the principle of tithing has been mentioned previously in other contexts (see Gen. 14:20; 28:22; Lev. 27:30–33). This was in lieu as their compensation for owning no land in Israel initially (see Matt. 10:9, 10; 1 Cor. 9:6–14), but were allotted 48 ‘cities of refuge’ later that were scattered throughout the land (34:16–35:8). The tithe was also a payment for their services at the tabernacle of the congregation (v. 21).
God commanded the Israelites in the Old Testament to periodically part with one-tenth of their produce or income for four reasons: to celebrate the abundance that He had provided (14:22–26); to provide for the Levites, who owned no land because they were responsible for the tabernacle and worship (14:27; Num. 18:20–24); to support various feasts and sacrifices (Deut. 14:22–26); and to provide for the poor (Deut. 14:28–29). In the New Testament, however, neither Jesus Christ nor the apostles gave any explicit instructions about tithing. However, Jesus clearly endorsed it, as He did all the Old Testament Law (Matt. 5:17–20; 23:23).
So, are we bound by the principle of tithing today? We should consider some key issues before we make a summary conclusion in this matter.
- As Christians, our allegiance is not to the Old Testament Law, which was primarily given to Israel, but to Christ.
- Our giving needs to spring from our love for supporting the Church, the bride of Christ, and not just to obey a percentage standard. Throughout Scripture, loving God and worshiping Him are at the heart of tithing.
- All of what we have ultimately comes from and belongs to God alone, so He has total claim on 100% of our income, not just 10%. Even though God did not need our income, but by giving them, we are reminded that God is our source of our abundance.
- Finally, the New Testament is clear that vocational Christian workers have a right to financial support from those to whom they minister (1 Cor. 9:13–14; Gal. 6:6).
Let us be clear that we are not bound by the law of the tithe today. However, the principles still apply—to celebrate God’s blessing, to support those in vocational Christian work, and to provide for the poor. When we observe these disciplines out of our financial resources, God will in turn bless us through the cycle of abundance. Let us give cheerfully to God’s kingdom in order to receive His all abounding grace, His sufficiency in all things and His abundance for every good work!
"So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work." (2 Cor. 9:7-8)