The Bible defines "sin" as the transgression of law (1 John 3:4)—any law! And in the Bible the use of the word "sin" has to do with violating any law of God that God has given for people to observe. Another way of defining "sin" in the Bible is to apply the verbal elements of the word "sin" itself and we arrive at the phrase "to miss the mark" as its dictionary meaning. In common parlance "sin" simply means to miss the "bulls eye" in the center of a target and this means to violate any standard of conduct that God has decreed for people to observe. God has given certain positive laws to particular people to perform as well as certain negative laws telling people to refrain from practicing particular deeds. When one breaks any of these laws that God has ordained for certain people to do (things to perform or not to perform), that person is reckoned to be "sinning."
With this being the definition of "sin," there are multitudes of preachers, priests, evangelists and theologians who are "sinning" on a daily basis in regard to their use (or better yet, their misuse or their abuse) of the biblical tithe. There is nothing more clear in the Bible than the teaching of God about the ordained tithe. The Bible shows who were to pay the tithe, who were to receive the tithe, the types of products that were to be tithed, who was not to tithe, how the tithe was to be used, along with regulations that gave limitations and restrictions on its use, yet these laws of God are being violated wholesale by preachers, priests, evangelists and theologians who want a ready money supply for their religious or church work. In doing so, they are deliberately committing outright "sin."
The truth is, these religious men and women are often quite aware of what the ordained tithe of the Bible was designed to accomplish and to whom the produce or monies were to be paid, but these modern religious authorities have, in many cases, abandoned all sense of God’s directions and laws regarding the biblical tithe and they have appropriated those funds to themselves and for their own use in ways that the Bible never sanctions. Indeed, it is common in ministerial circles and among the church denominations for the religious authorities to demand the full biblical tithe from church members. Some authorities even threaten the plagues of God on those of their congregation if they fail to pay the tithe either in part or in full. Other ministers use the tactic of producing guilt in people’s minds through their sermons in order to extract the tithe from their congregations. It even has become a common notion among many Christian denominational teachings that the matter of exacting tithe from the people is a cardinal responsibility of the ministry in order to gain money to operate the church and its activities. But this is wrong. It is not biblical. And worse, it is "sinful."
Now don’t get me wrong. It is perfectly proper to have funds given to religious organizations (even generously if people so desire) in order for them to perform the works God has given them to do. People who are members of a church or a religious group that is doing a good work in teaching the Gospel or is providing a worthwhile service to the community and the world should be supported by its members. People should not let others pay for the upkeep of the religious work while they reap the benefits of it. But the securing of the necessary funds with which to operate those organizations is not what this book is speaking about. Having funds to operate is an essential factor for any religious organization, but the problem with preachers and church leaders is the manner in which those funds obtained.
The Bible has a clear and easily understood manner in which the teaching of the Gospel ought to be supported (and funded adequately) and all people who subscribe to those teachings should have their part in financing it, but in no way should the ordained tithe of the Bible be used (in the slightest capacity) in providing that support. That is what we are talking about. In simple terms, the biblical tithe should not be the means that Christian and/or Jewish religious organizations obtain their funds with which to function. Indeed, if a church or a synagogue uses such tithe, everyone who is party to such a scheme is sinning in the eyes of God! That is a fact, and this will be shown in this book.
These are strong words (and they may be shocking to some who have not studied the Scripture on the matter of tithing), but they can be shown to be true. When the tithing laws recorded in the Bible are really comprehended, it will be seen that their misuse by ministers today has degraded those sacred laws into a monstrous system of money gathering which can only be called (by its proper title) "The Sin of Tithing Today."
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.
Jews Do Not Tithe Today
Thankfully, Jewish theologians know better than their Christian counterparts. They are well aware that only Levites have the right to receive tithe of the people. After all, the Jewish leaders have the Old Testament as their Scripture and that’s what it commands. And since there is no Temple in existence (and consequently no ordained Levites or Priests serving in a Temple), then a major factor in fulfilling the laws of tithing does not exist in our modern world.
In regard to this, it may be profitable to relate an event that happened to me over thirty–five years ago when I was just starting to study theology in college. A letter had been given to me for answering. It was from a woman who heard that modern Jews were not tithing. She wanted to know whether the information was true, and if so, why the Jews seemingly violated the plain laws of the Bible which spoke of tithing as a law to be obeyed?
Having read the letter, I began to share her concern. To resolve the matter I telephoned three rabbis in the Los Angeles area for their explanation. Much to my dismay, all three independently of each other informed me that no religious Jew should tithe today. I was startled at their replies. This appeared to be evidence that the Jews were so lax with their biblical interpretation that they were abandoning even the simple words of their own Scripture about the laws of tithing.
By the time I spoke with the last rabbi, my youthful indignation was beginning to emerge. But that rabbi then wisely began to show me my ignorance (not his) in the whole matter. First, he admitted that none of his congregation paid one penny of tithe that was demanded in the Old Testament. He then said: "If any member of my synagogue paid tithe in the scriptural manner, he would be disobeying the law of God—he would be sinning against God."
I was staggered by his answer. He went on to inform me that since the Bible demands that the tithe be paid to Levites, he said it would be wrong to pay it to anyone else. And further, because there is presently no official Levitical order of Priests ministering at a Temple in Jerusalem, this makes it illegal at this period to pay any biblical tithe. He went on to say, however, that the moment a Temple is rebuilt, with its altar in operation and with the priesthood officiating at that altar (and the Levites there to assist them), then every Jew who lives in the tithing zones mentioned in the Bible will be required to tithe according to the biblical commands.
This teaching was a revelation to me (as it may be to some of our readers), but the rabbi gave the proper biblical answers. To pay the biblical tithe at this time, without Levites and Priests in their regular ordained offices and doing service in the Temple, would be "sin" both to the giver and the receiver. The rabbi told me: "If we are to obey the law, we cannot pay tithe unless we pay it to the ones ordained by God to accept that tithe."
The rabbi explained that though he was the chief rabbi of his synagogue, he was not a Levite. He said he was descended from the tribe of Judah and was thereby not eligible to receive tithe. The same disqualification applied even to Christ Jesus while he was on earth since he was also reckoned as having come from the tribe of Judah. This same restriction was applicable to the activities of the apostle Peter (because he was as well from Judah) and it applied to the apostle Paul (because he was from the tribe of Benjamin). Neither Christ nor those apostles were Levites so they were all disqualified from receiving any part of the biblical tithe. It is just that simple. And listen, if Christ, Peter and Paul did not use the biblical tithe for any of their work in the teaching the Gospel, Christian ministers today should not use the biblical tithe either. The Jewish religious authorities are wise enough to read what the Word of God states about the tithe and, thankfully, they abide by it. But our Gentile preachers and priests care very little what the biblical texts actually state and go merrily on their way by devising their own laws of tithing which are different from those of the Bible.
The rabbi then gave me some information on the method that many Jews use today to secure adequate funds with which to operate their religious organizations. He went on to say that the activities of his synagogue were financially supported through the adoption of the "patron system" by its members. That is, families would buy seats in the synagogue for various prices each year. The rabbi mentioned that many of his congregation actually paid more than a tenth of their income to get better seats in the synagogue. This method for raising funds is perfectly proper (from the biblical point of view) if Jews wish to use it. This is because the money is paid to the synagogue and not to an ordained Levitical priesthood.
The final rabbi was correctly interpreting the teaching of the Holy Scripture. While many Christian ministers today teach that Christians may be in danger of missing salvation itself if they do not pay tithe to the church, Jewish rabbis know better than to say such a thing. They realize that it is biblically improper (actually, it is a blatant disobedience to the laws of the Bible) for anyone to pay or to receive the biblical tithe today. And any minister or ecclesiastical leader who uses the biblical tithe (or any one who pays to a minister the biblical tithe) is a sinnerin the eyes of God.
The Dilemma Facing Christian Ministers
We now arrive at the real problem regarding the doctrine of tithing. The matter actually has nothing to do with the need to raise funds to support evangelistic and church activities. It ought to be a foregone conclusion that any minister or church organization that is benefiting the Christians they serve ought to be supported (even generously) by those who associate with the organization and love Christ and his teachings. This is especially so if those Christians are being properly edified and educated in the real teachings of the Holy Scriptures. There is nothing wrong in raising funds for Christian activities, but it should be done in accordance with biblical principles, not by misusing the tithing laws of the Bible.
As I am showing in this book, the matter of raising funds for Christian activities is not the problem. It is the method that is being used by ministers and churches to raise those funds that is at issue. It is whether ecclesiastical authorities should use deceptive methods to gain funds (by teaching that church members are obligated to pay the biblical tithe today). Such a method for raising funds is totally counter to biblical teaching. Let’s face it, if ministers or preachers wish to use the biblical tithe, then they ought to follow the biblical directions for its use in a precise way. The trouble is, it is now impossible to put into action the biblical tithe in the way the Bible describes that it should be used. This is where the difficulty arises. We will show in this book just what the laws of the biblical tithe are, and without doubt not one of them is being used by the preachers today in the manner the Bible commands. They simply make up their own minds which way to use the tithe and then they manufacture their own regulations regarding it. This is not using the Bible as a book of direction. It is going absolutely counter to it!
Ministers who teach that God commands Christians to pay the biblical tithe to them or their churches (and citing some scriptural verses on tithing to support their claims) are taking biblical teachings out of context and making God teach something that he has never taught. This tactic is outright deception on the part of those ministers. Sadly, this procedure is being used on a wide scale today and ministers are brazenly showing an attitude of arrogance in regard to this erroneous teaching. It is this reckless application of biblical laws that do not apply to modern Christians that is the difficulty. It is really an attitude problem with the preachers. The wrong attitudes of many ministers on the question of tithing are so engraved in stone that they think nothing of telling Christians that they must pay them the biblical tithe or suffer the consequences of God’s wrath for their so-called "disobedience" to God.
Such teaching is an outrageous example of the misuse (or abuse) of scriptural doctrine. In no way is their teaching correct. There are strict laws that govern and regulate the biblical tithe and these must be obeyed to the letter if one wishes to abide by the biblical revelation that many preachers say they do. The fact is, most of the preachers and priests are not even close to abiding by the tithing laws of the Bible when they exact tithe from their congregations.
What is sad is the fact that most of the preachers know they are taking the teaching of tithing completely out of context in the Bible when they use it to get funds to operate their Christian work. Let us note what their misapplication of Scripture is like, and sadly they usually perform their tasks without the slightest blushing for their transgressions of biblical law.
Look at the example of the commission that God gave to Jonah the Prophet when he was told to go and preach repentance to the Assyrians some nine centuries before the birth of Christ. All the preachers know this story of Jonah and the Fish and the commission God gave to the prophet, and they also know and teach that the particular commission God gave to Jonah pertained to him, and to him alone. Indeed, most preachers would readily censure one of their church members who read the Book of Jonah and applied its precise message to himself today. Let us say a lay person who read Jonah went to a minister and said that God had given him the same commission to preach repentance to the Assyrians in this modern era. The minister would no doubt ask where he got knowledge of this commission and the man would reply that he read it in the Book of Jonah. But the minister would rightly tell the man that God gave that commission only to Jonah almost three thousand years ago. The commission could hardly be repeated today for even the Assyrians to whom Jonah was to preach long ago perished from the earth. There is nothing in the text that would suggest that any modern person could be selected to do the same thing Jonah did (that is, misapplying the commission to himself that God gave to Jonah).
Yes, the minister would be correct in telling the man the error of his ways by taking the teaching of the Book of Jonah out of context and misdirecting it to himself. But, strangely, this is precisely what ministers do when they apply the tithing laws to themselves (and not to the ancient Levites to whom the commission exclusively belonged). It is often claimed by modern preachers that they are the ones who are now doing the work of the Levites. Some claim they are the modern "Levites" (a title they have appropriated to themselves and by their own authority) and that all the teachings about the ancient Levites now pertain (in principle, they say) to modern Christian ministers. It is utter nonsense to claim such a thing. The man who claimed the commission of Jonah was doing the same thing, and it was also wrong.
This flagrant misapplication of the Scriptures by modern Christian ministers concerning the biblical laws of tithing needs to cease. They should give up their erroneous methods (their illegal ways) for gathering monies to themselves to support their religious activities and return to the true biblical manner for Christians to finance their work.
What our modern religious leaders really need to do is to change their attitudes and quit deceiving the people on this matter of tithing. It is really their recklessness in misapplying the laws of the Bible that is at issue. Their flippancy in taking scriptures out of context and erroneously applying them to themselves to support their denominational teachings shows a non-caring attitude to what God has written in his sacred word. Showing such an attitude in regard to the laws of tithing, indicates that they may also do the same thing with other important doctrinal teachings of the Bible. The modern preachers and priests need to abandon this false and slipshod method of using (misusing) the Scriptures and get back to a careful and accurate teaching of the doctrines of God.
Let me make it plain. From the biblical point of view, the ministers are stealing from the Levites the tithe that was designed to go to them (and exclusively to them), and the lay persons who give the ministers the tithe that should be going to the Levites are equally guilty by giving the sacred tithe to the wrong people! This activity is a disrespectful approach to (and a violation of) the laws of God. It shows an attitude of carelessness with the explicit commands of God.
Ernest L. Martin, Founder Associates for Scriptural Knowledge
Thanks for posting this study on tithing again. I read this article when it was posted the last time. It inspired me to examine the scriptures and opened my understanding on subject. I now know that the New Testament church is not to be subjected to the law of tithing because it has been extinct over 2 milleniums ago as the Levitical Priesthood and the Jewish Temple ceased to exist. I have talked to one of the Pastors of my church about it and he insisted that tithing is still in effect, but he did not have a solid scriptural leg to stand on. I will probably be labeled a heretic or worse, but I am willing to accept whatever they throw at me for the sake of standing for the truth.