The Real Tithe of the Bible
Tithing is a biblical law. But so is circumcision and so is the sacrificing of animals. Does this mean that Christians today should ritualistically circumcise their children or sacrifice animals because these laws were once ordained in the Bible? Most Christians would not think such Old Testament legislation is obligatory for Christians who live in this age. And the Bible makes it clear that such ritualistic practices are not required any longer.
Tithing, however, has been looked on differently by many people, especially by certain Christian ministers who need a ready money supply to operate their organizations. It is often argued that God still demands tithing and that a person who does not give a tenth of his income for the maintenance of a Christian ministry is stealing from God. [By the way, the word "tithe" is an old English word which simply meant "tenth."] But ministers who use such threats do not have the slightest biblical authority to sustain their dogmatic assertions. The tithing laws of the Bible are no more valid today for Christians than the act of offering animal sacrifices. Indeed, even if all the legal factors governing the tithing laws were in force today, Christian ministers would still not have any authority from God to use a penny of such tithe for their ministerial functions.
Let us face the issue squarely without beating around the bush. The Bible makes it clear (from the time of Moses onward) that Israelites were to pay tithe. But in doing so, they were strictly ordered by God to pay the tithe (the tenth) to one group of people, and one group only. To whom was the tithe to be paid? They were the Levites who (among other things) ministered in the Temple. Note Numbers 18:21,
"And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service of the tabernacle of the congregation."
It was made abundantly plain that the biblical tithe was to be paid to the tribe of Levi, one of the twelve tribes of ancient Israel. In this initial law of tithing, no one else had the slightest authority to receive that tithe. Even Christ Jesus, while he was teaching on earth, did not use (nor did he demand) a penny of biblical tithe to fund his preaching activities or those of his apostles. After all, our Lord was descended in an adoptive way from Judah (Hebrews 7:14). He was not a Levite. This made him ineligible to receive any part of the biblical tithe that was ordained for use by the Levites at the time of Moses. For this reason, Christ did not use any tithe money to support his ministry.
The central fact was this: Only members of the tribe of Levi were at first ordained in the Bible to receive the tithe (the tenth). The Levites in turn were to give one tenth of that tithe to the Priests (Numbers 18:25–28) who did not tithe at all. In our modern age, however, even the Levites and Priests are disqualified from receiving any biblical tithe because there is no official body of men functioning as Levites.
Since there is no Temple in existence, there are also no Levites and Priests serving in the Temple. The tithe at first was brought into play by Moses to maintain the service of the Temple. With no Temple, the major factor for tithe paying does not exist as far as the biblical laws of tithing are concerned. For preachers and church leaders to change the direction of paying the tithe from that of the Temple to the service of a Christian ministry is to do so without any authority whatever from God. In fact, to use the tithing laws in a manner not sanctioned by the Word of God is to sin against biblical law. And that is what the preachers, priests and evangelists are doing today.
Let me give a modern example of how they violate the law of God. Now we are told in the Bible to pay all our debts to whom any debt is due. Suppose a person bought a refrigerator from Sears and Roebuck and was presented with a bill each month to pay on his debt until it was paid. This would be a reasonable thing to do. But suppose the person had a falling out with Sears half way through the payment schedule and the person refused to pay them what was owed to Sears. In fact, on one of the bills he might write: "I am trading at K-Mart from now on and I will be paying them the remainder of the money I owe you for that refrigerator." Not only would Sears not like that, but they could take the person to court and make him pay off his debt to the party to whom the debt is owed.
It is precisely the same thing in paying the biblical tithe. A person must pay the Levites the debt owed to them, and not to pay it to K-Mart! No one has the right to choose to whom they pay the tithe that God has ordained to be paid to the Levites. Recall that a squabble came up in the time of Moses over who were to be the Priests. Korah and his group felt they had the right to be Priests just like Aaron and his sons, but God made Israel see very plainly that when He chooses people to perform a job and to be paid for it, no other person has the privilege to claim that right (Numbers 16:1–50). Korah and his group found out that God does not like other people usurping the role of his ordained Levitical Priests. It is time that the preachers and evangelists today ought to heed the teaching of this example of Korah and refrain from collecting tithe that belongs to the Levites.
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