As we continue our series ‘Tithing on Trial’, let’s evaluate another argument used to defend tithing. Many believe that Jesus taught tithing so it should be required for Christians. Let’s read through and examine scripture to answer the question – Did Jesus teach tithing for the Church?
In Matthew 23:23, Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees and says this, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.”
Undoubtedly because these words come out of the mouth of Jesus, many believe this settles the tithing issue for them. But this assumption is made out of ignorance and the conclusion is not within scriptural context. If you read the whole chapter of Matthew 23 and research the other Old Testament commands that Jesus taught, we can reveal that the tithing issue is not settled by the words of Jesus.
If you were to understand what Jesus was talking about, who he was talking to, and under what circumstances in Matthew 23:23, then we need to start at the very begging on the passage and understand its context. shouldn’t surprise us that Jesus still taught aspects of the Law since the Bible records him observing the Passover in Matthew 26:17.
Matthew 23:1 begins by saying, “Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe,[a] that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.“
At the beginning of Matthew 23, Jesus confirms that the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat, and then commands the disciples to obey the Pharisees (which is surprising). The introduction in Matthew 23 reveals that Jesus upheld the Mosaic law, and still commanded it. One of the keys to remember in this passage is that we can learn from the teachings of Jesus, but it doesn’t mean Jesus’ address to the disciples and the Israelites is a personal plea for the New Testament Church. If you believe Church leaders sit in Moses’ seat and that we are to observe the Mosaic laws, then i can see why you believe that everything Jesus’ commanded back then should be commanded now.
In another example of Jesus teaching the law, we read Matthew 5:23-24, “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
Considering that this was near the end of Jesus’ life on earth and somewhat close to the birth of the Church, I am somewhat shocked that Jesus is still giving the Israelites instructions on how to worship on an altar.
Luke 5:14 is another passage of Jesus upholding the law when he commands a healed man to show himself to the priest. If you read more scripture, you will see that Jesus observed the Passover and attended the feasts prescribed in the Mosaic law. There was no question that Jesus obeyed the law, practiced the law, and taught the law. So, who is to say that Jesus was commanding the New Testament Church to tithe?
Let’s review Matthew 23:23 again where Jesus highlights how meticulous the Pharisees were tithing the small herbs in their crops, and then criticizes them for omitting justice, mercy, and faith. If you have an understanding of how tithing was practiced in the Mosaic law, you would know that the only items that could be tithed upon were crops and animals. This means that neither money nor goods were accepted for the tithe. What’s important to remember here is that Jesus did not ridicule them for their obedience to the specifics of the Mosaic law; he approved their obedience to the Law. So, if you believe Jesus commendation to tithe is applicable to us, then you must also believe that only the tithes of animals or from crops is applicable.
If you need some sort of litmus test to determine what laws in the old testament are commanded today and what laws are not, you could likely use the actions of the Pharisees as your test. We know the Pharisees excelled at keeping the Mosaic law but did not excel at obeying universal principles such as justice, mercy, and faith. So, you could abstain from any of the laws that the Pharisees were religious about without worrying if you are doing the wrong thing. In regards to tithing, please take note that the Pharisees excelled in this area.
In a final note, if Jesus’ words confirmed tithing for us, then it is confirmation that all the requirements and meticulous regulations that went with tithing should be continued as well. We can’t just take parts of Jesus’ words about tithing and cherry-pick the parts we wanted to obey. For instance, the Jews could only give from their crops or their animals. Yet, all the churches are ok with giving money, which was illegal to give as a tithe.
Now that the evidence has been given in this court of law, it is your turn to decide; Did Jesus Teach Tithing for the Church – Guilty or not guilty?
YOU BE THE JUDGE