To Tithe or Not to Tithe that is the question

I recently had an opportunity to minister on the tithe at my home church. I thought I would post some further thoughts that I did not get to fully explore – limited amount of time to teach on this subject.

I am hoping to engage you in some deep thinking regarding this matter. What I don’t want is hostility. Whether you believe in the tithe or not, it’s not a bad principle for one to follow in this life.

I understand that there is a danger to only give a tenth, but based on the statistics that are out there concerning giving, it appears that is something we don’t need to worry about. Some of the statistics that I read stated that church goers give less than 3% of their income.

The basic argument against tithing is that it is part of the Law. However, if we take a closer look at the scriptures tithing predates the Law. Not only does it predate the Law, but it is associated with Abraham, or Abram since his name has not been changed just yet.

Lets read the text and then we can proceed.
Text: Genesis 14:17-24

17After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer (Che-do-lo-a-mar) and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). 18And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) 19And he blessed him and said,

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
20and blessed be God Most High,
who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”

And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

Let’s look at another verse Hebrews 6:20

where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek

Let’s keep reading further in Hebrews chapter 7

1 For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 2and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. 3He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.

4See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils!

Why is there an exclamation point here? There is some excitement going on here regarding the tithe that Abraham gave to this great man. Also, no where are we told in the text (or anywhere in Hebrews not to give a tenth).

5And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers, though these also are descended from Abraham. 6But this man who does not have his descent from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises.

The Levities were obligated to collect the tithe, as they were commanded to do so. But Abraham was under no obligation to give a tenth. Melchizedek accepted the tenth from the man who was blessed and possessed the promise.

7It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. 8In the one case tithes are received by mortal men, but in the other case, by one of whom it is testified that he lives. 9One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, 10for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.

This verse is most interesting. What exactly is being said here? Is the implication being stated that the tenth given by Abraham was given to the one that lives forever more? Is it implying that by faith Abraham gave the tenth to Christ? Apparently this point is so great, that it states the even Levi himself gave the tithe through Abraham (Levi is a great grandchild of Abraham) to this Priest that Lives.

Again stressing the tenth in a positive manner, and showing the importance that this order of priest were greater than the Levitcal priest, in that they even tithed to Melchizedek. If Abraham, and the Levites all tithed to Melchizedek, what is they trying to tell us? Maybe that we should also give a tenth to the Priest after the order of Melechizedek? Again, shades of faith being displayed by Abraham, if he had given because it was mandated, then fine case closed. But Abraham gave of his own free will, by faith. It is interesting that this event transpired right before Abraham was declared righteous by God.

11Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? 12For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. 13For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. 14For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.

This almost sounds like the sort of reasoning that Paul would use. If perfection could be achieved through the Levitical priesthood, then why would we need another priest to rise up? It’s the same argument “because by works of the law no one will be justified” Galatians 2:16

15This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, 16who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. 17For it is witnessed of him,

“You are a priest forever,
after the order of Melchizedek.

18On the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness 19(for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.

The new priest is not of the order of the Levitical Priesthood, but rather after the order of Melchizedek, and yes the Levites had to collect tithes, but in Christ we are free, and like Abraham we can give to this New Order of Priest (Christ our Perfect Priest who lives forever) a free will tenth. If Abraham is our example of faith, why not our example of giving?

It is easy to make some big jumps here, but all I am trying to do is connect the dots. No where in the New Testament are we told not to give a tenth. Unlike circumcision, which Paul was against, never do we read that Paul was against the tithe. I think that if we look at the tenth from the perspective of freedom, and of our own free will given to the Perfect Priest, and following an example that Abraham gave for us, then I think we at least have a precedent to follow.

I think that there is plenty of room here for some consideration, reconsideration for those of you who have abandon the tenth completely. I pray that Holy Spirit will guide each of you as you study the Scriptures.

Robert Jimenez

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard VersionĀ®, copyright Ā© 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.