Tithing, Like Gravity
Is Not A Law To Ignore
Some people would suggest that tithing is not for the New Testament and they offer several arguments to support their theory.
This post is an attempt at answering one of those arguments:
Tithing was part of the Old Testament law and was eliminated in the New Testament.
This statement is partly true but very misleading on several points. Firstly, the tithes were the means of support for the entire Levitical system which involved three distinct areas of responsibility:
- Tabernacle service
- Teaching the law throughout the land
- Making judgments in personal matters when necessary
The only item on this list which was eliminated by the death of Jesus was the Tabernacle service and only a very small part of the tithe was used to support that system.
In the New Testament the believer becomes the dwelling place of God and the sacrificial system is rendered unnecessary because a new and better sacrifice (Christ) has been offered (Hebrews 9 & 10). We still have the responsibility to teach the principles of Scripture and we still have the responsibility to apply God’s judgments when necessary, both of which are done by God’s people. These responsibilities are still supported by the offerings of God’s people and tithing is still the method of choice. In addition, New Testament believers have the enormous burden of carrying the Gospel to every person. That is an expensive undertaking.
Paul, after quoting the Old Testament said, “they which preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel” (1 Cor. 9:14).
In Galatians Paul further states, “Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teaches in all good things” (6:6) and in 1 Timothy 5:17 he said, “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.
The idea that the law is eliminated by the death of Jesus is more fictional than truth. Paul in the above reference was quoting the Old Testament as the basis for supporting New Testament ministers and we have no reason to believe he wasn’t endorsing tithes as a means of doing so. Obviously, he didn’t endorse the idea that the OT is completely rescinded by the New and we shouldn’t be too quick to eliminate everything in the OT either.
There are other connections between OT law and NT ideology in the statements of Jesus and the writings of Paul:
- Jesus gave us two great commandments both of which are valid for today and both of which are based on Old Testament Law (Matt. 22:36-40)
- Paul quoted the law to illustrate the binding nature of a marriage contract (Rom. 7:2 & 1 Cor. 7:39).
- The only thing Jesus eliminated on the cross was the curse of the law not the law (Gal. 3:13).
The Law is not the means of our righteousness but it still represents the standard of righteousness. When there is a question as to how we should live and the judgments we should make we still look to the law of the Old Testament for guidance.
For example, in the Old Testament if a man was faithful to his wife he was said to be obeying the law. If he was unfaithful to his wife they didn’t say he was disobeying the law they said he was an adulterer.
In the New Testament if a man is faithful to his wife we say he is obeying the spirit of the law. If he is unfaithful to his wife we don’t say he is living under grace we still say he is committing adultery. The only difference has to do with the penalty for transgression (the curse). The penalty for adultery in the OT was execution by stoning. We don’t do that in the NT.
What about tithing? In the Old Testament if a man paid his tithe he was said to be obeying the law. If he didn’t pay his tithe they didn’t say he was disobeying the law they said he was robbing God (Mal. 3:8). In the New Testament if a man pays his tithes we say he is obeying the spirit of the law. If he doesn’t pay his tithes we still say he is robbing God.
Tithing, of course, was practiced long before the law was introduced so we cannot designate it as just another legalism to be shunned. But, even if tithing was introduced by the law that is no justification for eliminating it as a practice. It served practical purposes in the OT and will do the same in the New.
In Tithing, Douglas Leblanc provides much more than a narrow discussion on a traditional issue. He doesn’t repeat the same worn out arguments the same boringly technical way.
Instead, and probably because he admits to being “no theologian or exegetical writer,” Douglas has found an intriguing way to cut to the real heart of the issue. He shares the experiences of eleven different couples and one lone Monsignor, all of whom practice tithing for a very similar reason: selflessness.