Why I Don’t Tithe

Today I’d like to address why I don’t tithe, and why I believe tithing is not for the church today. To understand where I’m going with this, allow me to first talk a little about what tithing is.

If you’re like me, then you grew up in a church where each Sunday morning you were encouraged to give your “tithes and offerings’. The tithe was ten percent of your income, and your “offering” was anything you wanted to give above and beyond our tithe. In fact, within the tradition that I was raised, new church members were even asked to take a vow that they would support the church through their “tithes and offerings.” Now, outside the point that there is no record that the early church asked its new members to make any such vows, there is no evidence that the tithe is a doctrine that the New Testament church embraced.

In Numbers 18 we find the order given by Moses to Israel that they were to pay the tithe. Verse 21 says, “Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform…”

The Levites were the portion of Israelites who were not given any tracts of land. Instead, they were to make their living serving in the temple. They were responsible for the upkeep, maintenance, and all things necessary to keep the temple going. The Levites were supported by the rest of national Israel through the tithe. The tithe paid them their wages and also helped fund the temple and all of its activities.  In turn, the Levites were then required to take a tenth of their income and give it to the priests (Numbers 18:28). This is where the priests got their wages.

Now, here we are living in the New covenant. There is no Jewish temple to maintain, and no Levite to collect our support. Most importantly, there isn’t one single New Testament command, either by Jesus or any of the Apostles, admonishing us to pay a tithe. The tithe was part of the law, and as Christians we recognize that the law has been fulfilled in Christ.

Now, what’s typically argued is that the church building has replaced the temple, and that the modern-day pastor has replaced the Levite. Therefore, the Christian is still under obligation to pay the tithe. Let me first point out to anyone who would attempt that argument that they will be very hard-pressed to do so. There isn’t a single chapter or verse that would lend any encouragement to the belief that the church building has replaced the temple, or the pastor the Levite. In fact, I believe we have strong scriptural support to suggest that both the Jewish temple and Levite order have been fulfilled in Christ, specifically, the Body of Christ.

A little stronger argument is sometimes made that followers of Jesus should pay the tithe because the tithe didn’t go out with the law. Those who make this argument point out that the tithe was actually enacted prior to the law coming into effect. Therefore, it wasn’t necessarily part of the law and should still be observed. They point out that Abraham paid a tithe in Genesis chapter 14, and in Genesis chapter 28, Jacob vowed to pay God a tithe of all that he would earn upon returning to his father’s house.

I say that this is a little stronger argument only because it at quick glance it seems to have some merit. However, if we look at it closely it doesn’t appear very convincing at all. First of all, we have no evidence that either Abraham or Jacob paid a tithe regularly. The only thing we have are these two remote instances where they were recorded as paying a tithe. Second, we have no evidence that any of the other Godly men in their era paid a tithe, such as Enoch, Noah, or Joseph, just to name a few. Therefore, to build a doctrine on the fact that two men were described as doing something, each once, is very weak.

Keep in mind that these men also were recorded as sacrificing animals prior to the law of Moses. If we’re going to be consistent in our theology, then we should conclude that animal sacrifice also did not go out with the law. Yet, no one I know teaches that.

The word “tithe” does appear in the New Testament about three times. In Matthew 23 (and it’s parallel in Luke 11) we read Jesus pointing out that the Pharisees were paying tithes while omitting the weightier matters of the law. Although Jesus confirms that they ought to be paying their tithes, keep in mind that He is discussing people who were still living under the law, and therefore were bound by that law.

The second instance of a tithe being mentioned in the New Testament is in a parable taught by Jesus in Luke 18. The word appears in that parable as a Pharisee reminds God in his prayer that he pays a tithe of everything that he owns. This, however, can hardly be seen by a Christian as an admonishment to pay a tithe since the Pharisee in the parable becomes our antagonist whose prayer is compared to that of the tax collector’s, whom Jesus said went home justified; apparently without having recorded as having paid a tithe.

The final mention of a tithe in the New Testament is found in Hebrews 7. Here we have the story of Melchizedek, whom Abraham paid a tithe. However, the tithe only appears as having been done by Abraham without any command for us to do the same. Therefore, within these few mentions of a tithe in the new testament, we have no command for Christians to continue to fulfil this obligation. None.

Occasionally, preachers will admit to their congregations that the tithe is not necessarily commanded in the New Testament. However, they will point out that in Malachi chapter 3 Israel is accused of robbing God by not bringing their tithe to the storehouse.

These preachers will suggest that the storehouse is where food is kept. They will point out that that the New Testament parallel is to bring our tithes to the place where we are spiritually fed. Generally, they imply that if you are being spiritually fed at your local church then you need to tithe to that local church. Of course, the first problem with this argument is that the Bible never makes that parallel for us. Second, the storehouse isn’t where Israel went to get their food. I believe that the reference to the storehouse was about locations in the Jewish temple where food was kept for the priests, not the people. Finally, it’s not really clear to me what it means to be “spiritually fed.” I have many sources in my life from which I draw from. I read books, I listen to podcasts, I’m edified by some videos on Youtube; I have friends who will share a word with me, and of course I have the Holy Spirit who guides me daily. To which of these do I owe my money?

Okay, you say, so Christians aren’t ordered to pay a tithe. Does that mean we are no longer obligated to give? Of course not.

I believe within the new covenant we have a different kind of obligation. For example, whereas in the Old Covenant one day of the week was set aside as onto the Lord – the Sabbath –  I believe in the new covenant every day of the week now belongs to God. In the old covenant a tenth belonged to the Lord, in the new covenant 100% belongs to the Lord.

I see the Christian life as a life of stewardship. A steward is a servant who has been placed in complete charge of property that is owned by another. Joseph of the old testament was in a sense a steward. He was first placed as an overseer in charge of Potiphar’s house, and then eventually as a steward to the Pharaoh. He didn’t actually own any of the property that he was in charge of. Rather, he was ordered to manage those resources for his master.

In the same way I believe we as Christians are called to live. None of the property or power that comes across our hands actually belongs to us. We may say that this is my home, or my family, or my car, or my shirt. But really, the Christian must learn that these resources ultimately belong to God. And He can do with them what He wants. Perhaps for a time God has given them to us, but if He has, it is only for us to manage for Him.

One might argue that in the Old Testament ten percent belonged to God, and ninety percent belonged to the individual. Well, in the new testament the Christian must grow to the understanding that 100% belongs to God, while none of it belongs to us.

Alright, you ask, then what percentage of my income am I supposed to give to God? One hundred percent? Well, there’s the problem. Giving is not supposed to be a mathematical formula. If it were, then we just need a calculator to lead us in our spiritual giving. We simply punch in the numbers, write a check, and our spiritual giving is complete. The problem with that is that the biggest part of giving has been omitted. That is, what is the Spirit of God saying to us? We’ve replaced the Spirit of God with a calculator!

You see, the Christian experience is a relational one. It’s not based on math, but rather on the heart of God. What if we took our paychecks, prayed over them, and asked God what He would have us do? Since you are His steward, God understands that you have financial obligations that must be met. You have bills to pay; creditors to satisfy. It would not look good for God that His children are using resources that they are not paying for. Unbelievers might be expected to steal resources, not the children of God. Therefore, I believe that God desires for us to pay our financial obligations. But we are also responsible to God to use his resources for the building of His Kingdom. Maybe God is funneling a surplus of money, time, authority, or talent your way. If so, then I think it can be assumed that this is because He expects you to invest these into the Kingdom of God. How much of this surplus do we invest, and where do we invest it? Don’t look to me for an answer to that question. I’m a steward like you. We both look to our master for those answers.

One may say that this complicates giving because we may don’t have a fixed amount that we are to give. Actually, I think the opposite is true. New Testament giving is very easy. First, God loves a cheerful giver. Therefore, we give as much as we can and still be cheerful. Also, once we begin to realize that the money we have access to doesn’t really belong to us, but to God, it becomes remarkably easy to be generous with it. How hard is it to be generous with something that doesn’t belong to us!

Understanding that the tithe is no longer for the Christian has freed me up incredibly to be more generous with the resources God has given me. I hope that as you learn that you are no longer under this obligation that you also become recklessly generous with the resources God has given you.



Dane Cramer is a backpacker, follower-of-Jesus blogger, jail chaplain, amateur filmmakerPodcast host, and author of two books: Romancing the Trail and The Nephilim: A Monster Among Us , and has worked as an investigator for over 35 years.





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