Luke 5:36-38 “Then He spoke a parable to them: “No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined.”
When you look at tithing, you see it before the Law, during the Law, and after the Law. This seems to establish a solid case to continue tithing as a principle for the Church. But should all these occurrence of tithing be used to support a universal tithing principle? There are five other ordinances that were also practiced prior to the Law but were torn down with the veil during Calvary – the Sabbath, clean animals, sacrifices, circumcision, & slavery. Let’s examine these four ordinances to understand why tithing was the only the law that found its way into mainstream, Church practices.
I play the devils advocate in this post, so please keep in mind that i’m not trying to convince you to obey these five ordinances; I’m just trying to prove that there’s less biblical support to obey tithing then there is to obey these other five laws that appear pre-Mosaic law, during the law, and in the New Testament .
1. The Sabbath
Pre Mosaic law
Genesis 2:3 “Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.“
The sabbath was ingrained in the fabric of the universe. If there is any law that should sustain its place in the Church’s totem pole of universal principles, the sabbath should be it. Wouldn’t you think? The bible says that God, “sanctified” it, which means to make holy.
During the Law
Most of us are familiar with the 10 commandments, and also realize that the Sabbath was included.
Exodus 20:8 says, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.“
We continue to honor the other 9 commandments that were also written on the same stone, but we’ve managed to chisel out this commandment without blinking an eye. Some advocates fight long, hard, legal battles to post the 10 commandments in public places; but we’ve forgotten that the law has been fulfilled, or we’ve decided to publicly post our hypocrisy because we plainly dishonor the fourth command.
In the New Testament
Hebrews 4:4 reiterates the meaning of the Sabbath.
“For he spake in a certain place of the seventh [day] on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works.“
If you are not getting it yet, the Sabbath is suppose to be honored on Saturday, not Sunday.
The Sabbath seems to establish itself as a principle we should continue, except for one obvious thing – we don’t continue it. Is it because there’s one measly little passage in Colossians 2 that doesn’t abolish it
Colossians 2:16-17 states, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath [days]: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body [is] of Christ.“
Colossians 2 does not say anything about stopping it.
In the New Testament, there’s no command to stop the Sabbath, but we do see a few examples where people met on Sunday to worship God. The funny thing is that tithing mirrors the same formula in the New Testament because there are no commands to stop tithing, but we do see examples of freewill, Spirit-led giving.
The Sabbath was embedded in the very laws of creation and reiterated long after the crucifixion. We even see literal examples of Paul honoring and practicing the Sabbath in Acts 13, 17, & 18, as well as Jesus teaching on the Sabbath. Tithing was not introduced in creation nor was it written in the 10 commandments, nor do we see it practiced by Paul or Jesus. Yet we defend tithing as if it was inserted as an eleventh commandment, created on the eighth day, and given by Jesus and Paul in an inspired epistle.
Summary: The Sabbath began during creation, and was sanctified. It was one of the 10 commandments. It was honored by Paul and also by Jesus, and there is no command to stop it.
2. Clean & Unclean Animals
Pre Mosaic Law
This is an early Old Testament law that most people actually overlook. Amazing how easy something is to overlook when there’s no money involved. Anyway, let’s read Genesis 7:2
“You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female”
If you are not familiar, that passage is talking about Noah separating the clean animals from the unclean. I feel that the clean animal law is most similar to the tithing law in that there’s no command prior to Noah’s practice; just like you don’t see any command to tithe prior to Abraham’s tithing practice.
Many feel that tithing may have been a command prior to Abraham because of his intuition to automatically give it, so should we assume the same about clean animals? It would seem that Noah instinctively understood it was a command.
During the Law
Leviticus 27:27 “And if it is an unclean animal, then he shall redeem it according to your valuation, and shall add one-fifth to it; or if it is not redeemed, then it shall be sold according to your valuation.“
Yes, i have posted this verse on purpose to insert a little irony, because this passage comes a few sentences prior to the mention of tithing. There are great principles to glean from the separation of clean and unclean animals. Many people have followed the Old Testament biblical diet and have benefited well from it. There are also spiritual principles we can glean from them as well. Are these benefits good enough to honor clean animals as a continuing principle within the Church? Maybe we should ask ourselves whether or not benefits are great causes to make tithing (or anything else for that matter) a continuing principle?
In the New Testament
Clean and unclean animals are also distinguished in Revelation as well.
Revelation 18:2, “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!’She has become a dwelling for demons and a haunt for every impure spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable animal”.
I would consider it a strong sign if i found a law written in Genesis and then confirmed in Revelation. I’m not trying to confuse your beliefs about clean or unclean animals here, but if i were to follow the laws of tithing instead of following the laws of clean animals, i would be doing so with less biblical support. Clearly, the antiquity and longevity of clean animals in the bible supersedes the antiquity and longevity of tithing.
Summary: It is the only law that is referenced at the beginning of Genesis and then again at the end of Revelation. The separation of clean animals contains examples of both natural and spiritual wisdom.
Pre Mosaic Law
The first sacrifice was initiated shortly after the fall of man in Genesis – years and years prior to the advent of Abraham. Most believe that God made the first sacrifice when he made coats of skin for Adam & Eve. But nonetheless, we see their two sons bringing an offering in Genesis 4:3-4
“And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering“
Sacrifices were practiced so early that the bible has not made any mention yet of a priest, nor of clean animals, nor of circumcision.
During the Law
Exodus 29:28 “It shall be from the children of Israel for Aaron and his sons by a statute forever. For it is a heave offering; it shall be a heave offering from the children of Israel from the sacrifices of their peace offerings, that is, their heave offering to the LORD.“
One thing to remember that not all the sacrifices and offerings were done for atonement of sins, or sanctification. Many offerings were just given as thanks to God. It was a harmless, freewill, non-legalistic action that represented their thankfulness towards God.
In the New Testament
Since we don’t have a priesthood that continues to offer earthly sacrifices, why must we continue tithing as if it still does exist? Most of us acknowledge that Jesus was announced as the ultimate sacrifice (Hebrews 10:12), which is a solid reason to cease animal sacrifices.
Although we have no need for earthly sacrifices nor earthly priests, we are still bringing our tithe into something we think is the storehouse temple, and paying someone we think is the a resemblance of the priesthood.
Let’s look at this in another way. Symbolically, Jesus holds two titles – He is both a high priest and also the Lamb of God. Not only does his dual status represent him as the sacrifice being presented but also as the priest receiving it. So if Jesus dual status does not require animals sacrifices anymore, how can his simple title as high priest require tithing?
I don’t know? Maybe it’s okay to practice sacrifices and tithing without all the legalistic stuff attached? With Spiritual liberty, we don’t need to pay attention to all the details behind the tithing and sacrificial laws. We should be able to follow the examples that came before the law, and then mold them both to fit our culture. This should be okay with God.
Summary: Sacrifices were offered prior to the establishment of a priesthood. Many sacrifices were optional and offered through one’s grace. God’s continuing priesthood does not command the continuation of sacrifices.
Pre Mosaic Law
Genesis 17:13 “He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.“
This sacrament, established as an everlasting token from God, was ended in the New Covenant. It was a command by God to keep in remembrance he made with his covenant with Abraham. A covenant that we benefit from today. . .
During the Law
Leviticus 12:3 “And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.“
If you read in Exodus 12:48, you even see that when strangers were brought into the household, and wanted to become a native of the land and participate in the Passover, they had to be circumcised. I may be incorrect in my assumption here, but it would seem that even Gentiles were circumcised in this case. Many of the Old Testament laws restricted the Gentiles from participating in Jewish rituals, but circumcision was not one of those laws.
My point is that this law didn’t just pertain to the Jews, it also included the Gentiles. This makes circumcision extraordinary since it was not constrained within the ‘physical‘ lineage of Abraham, but instead it was truly practiced within the ‘spiritual’ lineage of Abraham.
Romans 4:16 states, “Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all“
In the Old Testament, Whether or not you were a direct descendant or a Spiritual child of Abraham, the tithes were only gathered from within the land of Israel. Regardless of the land owners faith, no tithes were collected from the Gentile land. Considering we are a part of the Spiritual lineage of Abraham, I must question how we find ourselves today practicing tithing and not circumcision?
In the New Testament
Galatians 3:7, 14, “Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.” … “that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
The strange part about circumcision is that it seems to have been relinquished within the Church, but the covenant promise that God passed along to Abraham seems to have continued to benefit us. Why would we inherit the promises given to Abraham but not inherit the everlasting token along with it?
Once again we find Jesus in a conflict with the Pharisees. This time instead of tithing, it’s about the Sabbath and circumcision. The Pharisees were angry with Him about healing on the Sabbath, and Jesus asked them if they would circumcise on the 8th day even if it was a Sabbath? After Jesus’ rebuke, He does not command them to stop circumcising, or to to leave it undone.
Matthew 23:23 – “These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.“
Why wouldn’t Jesus even give a hint that circumcision was irrelevant?
Yes. There are passages in the New Testament that clearly eradicate this practice, but why shouldn’t we adopt this principle due to its beneficial qualities? Circumcision is recommended for hygienic reasons and to prevent infections and diseases. Sure, there are alternatives to circumcision, but why seek out alternatives when we can just adopt such a simple practice for its clear, positive results?
Maybe we adopted tithing because of its ability to pay bills or for its simplistic solution. Or maybe we adopted tithing because we thought liberty doesn’t open the door to alternative styles of giving. Maybe we’ve adopted tithing instead of circumcision because circumcision simply doesn’t bring money. . . Something to think about.
Summary: Circumcision was connected with the promise to Abraham. Gentiles, who adopted the faith within the household of Israel, were circumcised. Jesus did not abolish it. It also has positive benefits.
Genesis 9:24-27 When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.” He also said, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May God extend Japheth’sterritory; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.”
Genesis 16:1-2 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”
Abraham, the first to tithe, was a slave owner and slept with the slave to bear a son. Noah, even before him had literally cursed someone into being a slave.
During the Law
Leviticus 25:44 ‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves.’
Exodus 22:3 Anyone who steals must certainly make restitution, but if they have nothing, they must be sold to pay for their theft.
Here it is directly God authorizing and giving instructions on slavery.
In the New Testament
Ephesians 6:5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.
Titus 2:9 Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them
If slavery was unbiblical, why would Titus instruct slaves to be subject to their masters and obey them?
Summary: If Slavery was unbiblical then why would there be a command in the New Testament to do something that was against God? Since the days of Noah, we can see that slavery has been an integral part of society.
In all the debates over tithing, the most common defense can be summed up into one thought. Tithing came before the Law, was practiced during the Law, and was there after the Law. After comparing the tithe with the other five laws, you ought to be embarrassed if your argument is more powerful in defending sacrifices, clean animals, the Sabbath, circumcision & slavery than it is to defend tithing. Another law that had appearances before, during and after the Mosaic law were slavery was the leverite law, which required the nearest male relative to marry a widow. Maybe we’ll get into that another day.
Although tithing is displayed a principle we must exhibit within the New Testament Church, it is mixed with pieces of cloth that was torn from top to bottom. We have decided to pick up the fragments left over from the torn veil and mend them into the fibers of brand new cloth. Luke 5:36-38
The Church, motivated by grace and influenced by the Holy Spirit, does not need a prosthetic tool to accomplish God’s will. The gifts of the Spirit were given to empower and equip us with the capabilities to accomplish our mission. God didn’t leave tithing in place so we could attach a pair of prosthetic training wheels. I’m not saying that tools are not helpful, but remember that tools are not part of our spiritual anatomy and cannot be required.
The words of Jesus spoke in John 15:26, “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.“
The word ‘testify’ comes from the word we get ‘martyr’ from. If the Holy Spirit is capable of calling any man to the darkest region of the world, and risk his family and their lives; is He not capable of calling others to ‘testify’ of God through the simple task of giving? Last i checked, authors write books about those who gave their life, not 10%.