Pro-tithers commonly label non-tithers as sinners (lawbreakers), and as being rebellious to God’s instructions on tithing. So let us address those accusations.
God’s Law clearly defines the tithe. Scriptural examples depict the true application of tithing. Together they provide for us two obvious facts that put the pro-tithe position down for the count before the discussion really even begins.
In your studies of the Bible, or histories like Josephus, or even in Bible dictionaries, or for that matter, in any factual reference source, you will find the following two scriptural confines of tithe law to be accurate and true: The Levitical tithe (not the poor tithe or festival tithe) is
- (1) Without exception only to be received by the tribe of Levi.
- (2) The Levitical tithe consists of food items only.
Let us investigate:
#1 – The tithe is commanded by God to be given only unto the tribe of Levi. Numbers 18:21-22 “And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation. Neither must the children of Israel [non-Levite] henceforth come nigh the tabernacle of the congregation, lest they bear sin, and die.
All the tithe of Israel; only unto the tribe of Levi. Of this tithe the Levites were to tithe 10% to the High Priesthood – Aaron’s descendants who were also of the tribe of Levi. 2Chronicles chapter 31 goes into this, and how the Levites had to prove their bloodline in order to partake of the tithed items. Verses 5-19 outline the fact that the tithe was food items, specifically given only to Levites of ancestral record. Nehemiah 13:10-12 spells this out as well. Leviticus
22:12&13 points out that even a high priest’s daughter loses her right to eat of the holy things (tithed items) if she marries outside of the tribe. Leviticus 22:10 says that even a guest at the Levite’s home cannot partake of tithed food.
Ezra 2:61-62 tells of some priests who were excluded from temple service (thus their entitlement to tithed food) because he could not document their pure Levite ancestry. Paul reiterates this special position of the Levites in Hebrews 7:5-6; how they alone could receive tithe substance, and what a noteworthy event it was when Melchizedek got a tithe from Abraham.
Even the prophets, those anointed men of YAHWEH, were not known to receive tithe. We might see gifts of food of course, but not money, and certainly not tithe. The Law is very clear: “only unto the tribe of Levi”.
Fact #2 – The tithe was food items only.
The second fact that defines the tithe is that in every example that we can find, in its original form the tithe was always food items, and based on agricultural increase. Grain, livestock, oil, wine, these are the sort of things that scripture identifies as being tithed.
The tithe of scripture could more accurately be called a “tithe of agricultural increase” because that is precisely what it is. Leviticus 27:30-34 “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.
And if a man will at all redeem ought of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof. And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the LORD.
He shall not search whether it be good or bad, neither shall he change it: and if he change it at all, then both it and the change thereof shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.
These are the commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses for the children of Israel in mount Sinai.”
This Law specifies a “tithe of the land” and a “tithe of the herd”. We see nothing in God’s Law that authorizes a tithe of anything beyond those bounds, and neither have the pro-tithers. Nor does scripture offer any anecdotal example of any tithing taking place outside of the above-mentioned guidelines.
Nehemiah 12:44 specifies “gathering the tithes out of the fields”: “And at that time were some appointed over the chambers for the treasures, for the offerings, for the firstfruits, and for the tithes, to gather into them out of the fields of the cities the portions of the law for the priests and Levites: for Judah rejoiced for the priests and for the Levites that waited.”
See for yourself – if you check a Strong’s concordance for “tithe”, ”tithes”, “tithing”, “tenth” or anything similar, it is always in reference to food and animals. In fact, for those who gave cash (obtained only from the direct sale of these food items) instead of the food items themselves, there was a penalty of an additional one-fifth for doing so (Lev 27:31). So 12% is the total due in that case, instead of 10%.
Why the extra 2% in addition to the 10%? I don’t know for sure, but other references to one-fifth in scripture are in regard to a penalty for sin having to do with theft or fraud (Lev 6:5; Numbers 5:7). Whatever the reason, it appears to indicate that a reliable food supply for the Levites was the primary reason for the tithe. Cash was discouraged by adding a one-fifth surcharge and was being accepted only as a second choice.
Let me put it another way:
There has never been any such thing as a Lawful cash “tithe” in Old Covenant scripture.
Read that line again and think about it. It is a Law of God that has been staring us right in the face.
The cash requirement of tithe law is 12% not 10%. Even the pro-tithe crowd will agree with that statement if you press them on the issue, though they ignore it in practice.
Tithe by the very definition of the word is 10%. How do you call a 12% payment (which is the cash requirement) a “tithe”? You can’t, because it is not 10%. It’s like calling 40 ounces a “quart”. Rather, this is a 12% cash payment made instead of the preferred and intended tithe of food items. Cash is a penalty payment of 12% that is made as a substitute for, or more accurately a redemption of a Lawful tithe of food items (Numbers 27:31). The only Lawful tithe by God’s definition has to be food items, not money; The Law is very clear on that.
Let me repeat that, just to be clear: The tithe of scripture is not money. That tithe always consisted of food items. Money is what the Israelites used to buy back their tithe of food items, if for whatever reason (drought, food shortage, etc) they wanted to keep the food that was otherwise designated for the tithe. This in turn incurred a one-fifth surcharge, making the total payment 12% (tithe+2%) instead of the original value of 10% in food items. You will never find a 10% cash tithe mentioned anywhere in the Bible, because it did not exist. A 10% cash tithe is a doctrine of man and a corrupted church, borrowed from ancient pagan cultures. It is not a commandment of God.
Furthermore, anyone who, even in Biblical times did not specifically have an agricultural increase, also did not pay 10% or 12%; they paid nothing because they owed nothing, according to God’s Law. This indicates that if you are a tither, and believe that it is a valid part of God’s
Law as it applies today, then you are defrauding your preacher of the extra 2% (or by their definition you are “robbing God”) every time you give him a cash tithe
instead of food produce or livestock. This produce or livestock must also be something that you or your family have personally raised and had an increase or gain on.
It doesn’t make sense to take a tenth of your paycheck from the office to go out and buy food for the purpose of tithing it to your preacher. That is not what the tithe was all about. The tithe of scripture was more or less a sharecropping arrangement – in essence it was a land-use tax for that time on agriculturally productive property.
Those who think they are following God’s Law when they tithe to their preacher, need to read the Law that they think they are following. It says what it says: food only, and for Levites only. Nowhere does scripture contradict or change itself to say that the tithe can be anything else, or that it can go to anyone but the tribe of Levi.
The vast majority of people today would have no lawful tithe to present at all, even if the true Mosaic tithe were valid today, because they do not participate in any kind of agricultural production.
I guess the pro-tithe preachers have not promoted a “12% tithe” because then they would have to explain why there is a difference between 10% and 12%, and that would be getting too close to the truth regarding the tithe as being food-only. For the pro-tithers, that can of worms is best left unopened.
However, the whole issue of how much tithe to pay is irrelevant today, because it all assumes that today’s income-tithe has legitimate standing, which it does not.
A Tithe on All Income?
The tithe-promoters would have you believe that the tithe is due on any income, from whatever source. They defy Scripture, which is very clear when it defines tithe as food items only.
Cash in lieu of tithes, as mentioned above, came only from the sale of the food items that were supposed to have been tithed in the first place, not from income derived from other sources.
The Cover Story
You may hear pro-tithers say that back then everyone was a farmer/rancher type, and that God really wanted cash, but that the people were too dumb to calculate how much money was due. Therefore the tithes were indicated in food items so these primitive simple folk could comply more easily.
This is not true at all. First off, it ignores the deliberate distinction made between the produce and cash. The stipulation of a one-fifth surcharge indicates that acquiring food was the primary purpose behind the food-based definitions in that Law.
Secondly, there were lots of non-agricultural occupations from which income was derived, but tithe law does not include as being tithable. Think about it – weavers, miners, woodcutters, smelters, blacksmiths, carpenters, leather workers, artisans, merchants, stone workers – the list goes on and on. Is there ever a single mention of a tithe of sandals, of cloth, of iron ore, or particularly a tithe of money? (There is in pagan literature, but not in the Christian Bible.) Yet these occupations and many more provided a means of living at the time, and should have been tithed from if today’s tithe-teaching preachers are correct.
Nehemiah 13:31 for example specifically mentions firewood as an “offering” for the temple. Why would they need to have volunteers to cut firewood if they were being tithed 10% of all the wood cut in Israel? If people were supposedly tithing all this cash, why didn’t the Levites just use some of the money to buy the firewood?
You may think that a tithe on food production (only) just cannot be – it is unfair to impose an obligation on farmers, ranchers, and vineyards, while everyone else gets off scot free. But God is just; don’t forget everyone in Israel had to eat sooner or later. The obligation of the tithe upon those in agriculture would merely increase their overhead, and thus their selling price of food by ten percent. So it would be a hidden tax to everyone else in society who did not produce food items.
So for instance, if half the population of Israel were in agriculture, and they withheld 10% of their production for the Levites, and that cost were spread out over the rest of Israel via higher food costs, that means that by comparison and on average, religious and social structure of Israel was being run on a food budget of 5% from the tithe, not 10%. This is in addition to whatever various offerings and other non-tithe benefits of office the Levites may have received.
In other words, today’s tithe-minded preachers want 10% of the entire congregation’s total net income from all sources, when the ancient Levites never,
even during those times when Israel was on its best behavior concerning God’s Law – never ever received 10% of the across-the-board Israelite national net profit and increase through the tithe system. If Israel consisted of 75% agriculturalists, then the rate was 7.5%, but it was never a full 10% of national net income because there was always a significant percent of the population that had other types of occupations, who bought their food instead of producing it, and were not subject to tithe. If a man was a full time blacksmith for example, but raised a garden for family use, then they were expected to tithe on the garden increase only, not on his smithing income. The tithe was on the amount of food harvested; it had nothing to do with how much of that food was sold.
The tithe had its particular purpose at one time. It was an integral part of the sacrificial system society. It has served its purpose of feeding the Levites back in that era, but is now obsolete.
Today’s purported “New Covenant tithe” is what is known as a stolen concept, or anachronistic thinking. That is, taking a concept that is applicable to one situation or time period and misapplying it to another situation that is totally unlike the first. It would be like taking up a collection today to support the widows of Confederate soldiers, or imposing a tax to install a new nation-wide system of telegraph lines and offices. These efforts were appropriate at one time, but obviously not for today.
The Logic of God’s Law
If you think about it, in Old Covenant times the tithe made perfect sense. You had one tribe out of twelve that was dedicated to the service of God (Numbers chapter 3 and 1Chronicles 15:2). This group could own homes, but not operate farmland (though they did maintain pastureland to hold the tithed live animals). When eleven tribes each give 10 percent of their produce to the tribe of Levi, it evens out the food supply almost perfectly. The Levites ended up with proportionally 110% as much food as the other tribes had. They in turn tithed 10% of that amount to the high priests. Thus giving Levites an almost an exactly equal share. This afforded them the time to perform their various Temple and administrative duties, rather than deal with issues of raising food. This is precisely what the tithe was originally meant to do.
This tithe as described in the Bible was not instituted to make a few preachers very wealthy, as is the case today; or to create corporate mega-church mon$trosities, or even to build world-wide internet, radio, and television ministries.
The tithe was not even there to build, equip, repair or maintain the temple or any of the utensils used therein. It never has been, even in Old Covenant times.
The tithe was there to feed people; lots of people. Specifically one entire tribe of Israel designated to administer all aspects of the temple, the Law, and the associated society. This included everyone from judges, priests, scribes, and musicians, to the men who hauled out the rumens of sacrificed animals and mopped the temple floors. Not to mention feeding and providing for the families of all these men.
This, by the way, did not include the builders and craftsmen who built or repaired the temple. These were usually non-Levite contractors who volunteered or were hired to do the job with money that was willingly gifted to the project, and had nothing to do with the tithe (2Kings 12:11-12; 2Chronicles 24:11-12).
Think about this: It is almost like taking all of today’s Christian clergy, of all denominations, and the choirs and Sunday school teachers and adding all your local, city, county, state, and federal administrative employees and their families to the lot, and supporting all of these people out of your tithe. Imagine the costs involved of supporting basically every twelfth person you would meet on the street. This is what the situation was in the ancient days of Israel.
But these people or their modern day counterparts do not exist in Christian society today. We do not have approximately one out of twelve people in our society to support with a tithe. Instead, we have a relatively few preachers and various clergymen, many with congregations numbering in the hundreds, some in the thousands.
Of this group, we have an even smaller subset of today’s preachers that promote a tithe, or a “full tithe”, “Kingdom tithe”, “the Lord’s tithe”, “power tithing”, “prosperity tithing” or whatever other feel-good, brand name marketing prefix they want to add to it to make the concept sell with the congregation. These tithe promoters actually expect you to give all this wealth (that far exceeds the food-based tithe that formerly supported nearly a tenth of the population) to them! In other words – much, much more wealth going to far fewer people. Let’s get real about this.
In fact I have been told that the Methodists want a five percent tithe, because they say the original tithe was also used to run the government with
(which is not necessarily true) and since their church is not involved with that, they would settle for the half of the tithe that only supported religious activities.
What’s not to love about that? Where else can you get in to Heaven for a fifty percent discount? What a deal.
In reality however, we know that half of a fraud is still a fraud. Similarly, one pro-tithe preacher stated that he knew he did not have the
whole tithe coming to him. He said that under the “Israel Kingdom” paradigm that he himself promoted, the tithe is meant to support all government activity (Again, not true. See Chapter 20, The “Kingdom Tax Canard”), with the preachers getting only a tenth of the tithe, like the Aaronite priests of old got.
In short, he admitted that by his own standards of how he understood God’s Law, he really should be getting 1% of the congregation’s income, not 10%, but he is demanding a full tithe from these people anyway. He says he does this, in essence, just so they do not get too lazy or spoiled by paying the lower amount. In other words – “It’s good practice for you, so when the Kingdom does get here you will have been trained in the habit of tithing properly”, or words to that effect.
In an open discussion, I would ask him why doesn’t he just take the 1% that he says is his legitimate share so that he is well practiced in that habit “when the Kingdom gets here”.
Obviously, I disagree with his whole modern tithe premise, but the reason for even mentioning this in the first place is to show how convoluted and inaccurate their information is, and how bold and indifferent they are about admitting and rationalizing their fraud. They demand that the congregation adhere to the strict letter of the Law, while they think nothing of playing fast and loose with the double, triple, and even quadruple standard that the pro tithers vacillate between. In other words they are saying: “Hey, it’s just money, so what’s the harm in giving me ten times more than I believe I really should be getting? You don’t want to be a God robber, do you?”
A Few Specifics
God’s Law may endure forever, and of course He said “I change not, my people change”, but some people do not seem to understand that certain laws
were meant by God to be temporary in order to suit God’s purpose. (Hebrews 9:10)
Specific laws (like the tithe) related to specific people (like the Levites and Aaronites) who performed specific duties for a specified time period (the sacrificial covenant of the Levitical Era).
This entire sacrificial system was specifically made obsolete and superseded (read Hebrews) by a new (Covenant) system.
Therefore it can rightly and reasonably be concluded that the only scripturally defined and lawful tithe-accepting position ever created which was held by the Levite tribe became obsolete the moment that the system that they were specifically an integral part of was made void and defunct. As we know – this all happened about 2000 years ago when the “veil of the temple was rent in two from top to bottom” (Matt 27:51, Mark 15:38, Luke 23:45).
Their contract expired when the New Covenant began; it is as simple as that. (See Hebrews, Chapter 7. Also see “The Big Kibosh” in Chapter 15 “Prophesy Says ‘We Still Have Levites’ – They’re Us, the Preachers”)
The tithe was a special tax used to support the Levites only. Moses, though a Levite did not benefit financially by any tithe, the prophets did not receive tithe; John the Baptist also a Levite (Luke 1:5-13), accepted no tithe that we know of, the Apostles and Jesus had nothing to do with it; but somehow certain preachers brazenly defy scriptures by demanding a right to a tenth of the money that you and your family have worked for.
Pro Church-tithe Technique
There is a pattern of behavior called sophistry that can be identified in pro-tithe preaching:
They will use Bible stories that lend to subjective interpretations, and explain to you what those stories imply or really mean in an arbitrarily pro-tithe manner.
They will habitually use both Old and New Covenant scriptures on offerings and freewill giving as being scriptures about the tithe. Or they will braid together scriptures in order to make the two concepts into one, when scripture routinely and specifically delineates between the tithes, offerings, and other
types of giving. The misuse of 1Chronicles chapter 29 and 2Corinthians chapter 9 are two of many good examples. (See also Chapter 8 “Cain and Abel’s Offering, Chapter 13 “Haggai and the Tithe”, Chapter 21 “Kinda Similar, Sorta Sounds Like…” for more examples)
They will relate extended and one-sided interpretations of prophecy that go on so long that they often sound more like a filibuster, and tell you how it all means that you must either tithe or be cursed. Even though you or anyone else might never have gotten that impression if you read those prophesies on your own. (Chapter 15 “Prophesy Says ‘We Still Have Levites’ – They’re Us, the Preachers”) This is not because of the preacher’s superior scriptural understanding, it is instead the result of outcome-based preaching: they first have a desired conclusion, and then design their preaching to arrive at that outcome.
They will use time-tested psychological tactics that play on the exploitable emotions of guilt, greed, and fear, among others, in order to get you to tithe. This includes intensive use of heart-tugging emotional appeals and awe-inspiring rags-to-riches stories of how “having the faith and courage” to tithe made the tither wealthy. Depending on their church doctrine, they may make pie-in-the-sky promises of God’s Kingdom here on Earth, if everyone would start to tithe.
Of course that last tactic is mitigated by the disclaimer that this Kingdom, as well as the blessings of Malachi 3, may not materialize until all Christians are active tithers. Until then, this provides a perpetual cop-out for those preachers when the pie-mobile never quite arrives and society continues its downhill slide.
They will reverently quote other pro-tithe preacher’s opinions, catch phrases, and commentaries as if those preachers had some extraordinary insight, authority, or direct hot-line to God. Then those who quote these opinions of other preachers and authors may then in turn be quoted by still other preachers, particularly if they use a clever turn of a phrase or memorably pithy statement. These can become pyramid schemes of quotes with minimal, if any, scriptural substance at its source.
They will extensively rationalize the tithe with specious reasoning of any sort that they can come up with. I am sure you have heard some of them, such as “You have this rotten, corrupt government because people don’t tithe”; “To deny
the tithe is to affirm slavery”; “Tithing is how you fund God’s morality” (Does God’s morality consist of lies and fraud?); “Would you rather tithe to God, or pay income tax to the government?”, as if one causes the other to disappear; or the incredible “You’re robbing widows and orphans by not tithing”, which as we shall see, is the exact crime that tithe promoters themselves commit according to New Covenant scriptures (See Chapter 26 “True Giving to God”).
Or how about that old bromide: “You’ll tip a waitress 15-20%, but you won’t give God 10%?”
These tactics are commonly used sales pitches; attempted end runs around the scriptural facts as they pertain to the tithe. They appeal to emotion using a false reasoning that comes right out of a “how to sell and get rich” seminar. If you have not already noticed these tactics, start to pay attention to pro-tithe presentations and you will hear rhetoric and techniques like this all the time.
One thing they will not do is they will not go to God’s Law to define the terms of tithing as they would with other subjects, except to then tell you that the Law does not mean what it says.
Nor will they delve into the historical backdrop of the scriptures that they use for pro-tithe purposes. For example the fact that tithing was a common custom for many political and pagan purposes back in Abraham’s time.
Nor will they volunteer to address the many scriptures that support the no-tithe position to give their listeners a balanced view. This type of one-sided teaching is generally known as indoctrination.
Nor will they deal with Jesus’ specific, clearly worded statements in regard to the subject of freewill giving to others (non-preachers), and His specific instructions regarding the limited nature of a preacher’s pay.
Nor will they openly discuss their pro-tithe position with someone reasonably knowledgeable on the subject who can disprove their points.
If they cannot provide direct and clear answers to your questions, this should give you a big clue as to the veracity of their teaching.
Like Hootie, the Radioactive Owl says: “Be wise, and beware”. Particularly when it involves the great corruptor – money.