If They Overlap
They Aren’t Equal
Some would suggest the tithe was simply a form of taxation in the Old Testament but tithes and taxes are two very different issues. I do concede that the Levites, who were supported by tithes, did a few things that are funded these days by taxes but there primary responsibilities were spiritual. Their civil responsibilities were minimal.
- Tithing was not legally enforced and was used mostly to serve spiritual purposes.
- Taxation is imposed and monitored by government regulation. They support government structures only.
- Tithing was practiced before the law and incorporated in the law. Taxes were introduced much later.
When the Israelites first arrived in Canaan they had no government to support. They were under the rule of God (theocracy).
Later, when they requested a king, Samuel warned them that heavy taxes would be required to support their monarchy and that is when taxation began (1 Sam. 8:10-18). From this, we understand that tithes and taxes were separately instituted issues. Tithes supported the Levitical system and taxes supported the government.
The people might have used their tithes to pay their taxes (that still happens today) but there was no justification for doing so. The Levitical system and the priesthood operated separately to and required funding apart from the government. You can’t mix the two issues.
One way in which tithing is similar to taxes is the fact that both are required. The difference is:
- Tithing represents a fixed amount for everyone, no brackets, which is fair and equal.
See why tithes should be calculated after taxes.
In Tithing: Test Me In This (Ancient Practices), Douglas Leblanc provides much more than a narrow discussion on a traditional issue. It isn’t the same old arguments presented the same boringly technical way.
Instead, and probably because he is “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 endorse tithing for a very similar reason: selflessness.
Gregory Vincent says
Thank you very much Mr. Ennis, I appreciate your time!
We grew up in a catholic church, which pretty much stipulates that you’re damned if you don’t live a good enough life. But how good is good enough? It was basically hitting the same brick wall as the muslims. Best case scenario, was being sent to purgatory, a sort of mini hell to be ‘cleansed’. Each sin carried a specific time in ‘prison’.
A few of the laws stressed, was tithing, confessing, serving the church as its own entity, etc. essentially becoming a slave to their system, rather than free in Christ. After being saved, it changed my perspective, and Jesus saved my life as well and soul. And like I said before Mr. Ennis, and I stress, i’m not referencing you in my response, however, more often than not, televangelists are throwing around “so and so planting a seed, and receiving a thousand fold harvest to receive miracle money! You’re going to the phone, you’re going to the phone. Delayed obedience isn’t obedience.” As you said, making people vulnerable to emotional pleas for money. Paul too, warned the brethren against such people repeatedly and personally, it’s like being in the catholic church all over again.
It may sound weird, but, I’m not against tithing in the way of giving back to God, it even carries a promise for fulfilling it. i’m against those who use it as an excuse to thieve from those in the Body of Christ. To some degree, I’m also a little confused as to “when is something tithed?” Is it to the poor, local church, your own destitute family, is it an action, is it in goods as well as monetarily? Where does it begin and end type of thing.
To a large degree, it’s also ignorance on my part. I’m not ‘in’ a church proper so I don’t physically see the collection plate and how empty it is at the end of the passing, realizing that it can’t even pay the bills on a lightbulb, let alone the rent. And as Jude says, some learn by grace alone, while others learn by grace and fearing the very shirt they wear. Maybe some need to be told, while others have the gift of generosity.
You just don’t necessarily think about counting up, you know? If you start doing it, it doesn’t seem like it’s out of love. i.e. “I spent hundreds of trillions of hours reading the Bible.” That isn’t love speaking, that’s pride, and that’s someone who views the Word as clocking in, rather than enjoying it. Same thing with the tithe.
I think maybe my perspective is, if one says, give ten percent, as soon as that cap is reached, the listener’s wallet shuts down to all influence and movement by the Spirit. Maybe if churches said what they did with the funds, and explain the local, Christian community driven movements, the beloved would be more willing to give, and more than just the tithe. But then again, maybe not, it depends on the church I guess. Lack of perspective, and lack of experience on my part for sure. May the Lord help us in our time of need, and I hope I didn’t cause you any trouble. Take care!
No, you’re no trouble Vincent. I appreciate your openness and honesty. Sounds like you’ve had quite a journey in the faith. You make a lot of good points and ask some great questions.
What is happening today, to some degree, is tithing is being over simplified: “Just give ten percent to your church.” And then, when people do start asking questions, and answers aren’t forthcoming, tithing is shrouded in doubt – thrown out with the bath water.
I would encourage anyone to keep asking their questions and experiment with a few ideas to see how it works out. God can work with that approach. We can all learn from the experience.
No worries on the length Vincent. Thanks for sharing.
For the record, we both agree that obedience to the law is not required for salvation. In fact, I don’t personally know anyone who thinks it is. I’m sure some people say that but I don’t know them. I would go a step further, though, and say the same was true for the Old Testament. They were saved in the OT just like we are in the NT. OT folks believed in a coming Savior, we believe in one that came. If that is true, then even though we aren’t bound religiously by the law, using it as a guideline still makes good sense in the NT.
In short, the law isn’t the means of our righteousness but it is still the standard to follow. Whatever practical purpose the law served in the OT, it still serves today.
As for the idea that we should support the needy, I agree. Where we might disagree is how to do that. I’ve known a few situations where religious organizations, including churches, have done this well, but they didn’t do anything without receiving contributions and, for me, the best way to accomplish that is by tithing.
If you contribute occasionally (only when the mood strikes) instead of regularly, there’s no faith there. If you give whatever you think you can, instead of a set amount, you are vulnerable to emotional pleas for money.
Thanks for the discussion. All the best.
Greg Vincent says
It looked shorter in the comment box
Greg Vincent says
Thank you very much for your reply Ennis! I wasn’t expecting it, and i heartily appreciate it. 🙂
My reference to all Christians should receive a tithe, was a little joke. Priests received tithes from the laity, and since Jesus made us children of God, kings and priests, we are all equally entitled to tithes.
Before answering your points, frankly, i’m inspired by the early apostles, in their bravery and selflessness and would want to model it as closely as possible to how God ordained it. How i understand it was done in the days of Jesus’s ministry and Acts Christianity, is that some gave everything they had, all of their equity liquidated, while others gave at least something to a pool of money. From there it was equally divided amongst the people of the church so that none were in need.
That style of giving didn’t seem mandatory however, as Paul later seems to define differing styles of those churches who gave much, and those who ‘robbed’, but each according to their generosity or lack thereof. Gifts from the church did seem to be given amongst widows especially, but even then Paul suggested the believing family do it to relieve the church of the service.
They weren’t told to tithe to the church, nor were they given a fixed percentage, or type, but were told instead to support their own extended family. In a sense, show them your love imparted by God Himself, and be a witness.
As to answering your question.
Who gets the money would be a local, completely voluntary organization within the church itself, redistributing to those who can’t work, and with either no family, or a stingy unbelieving family. That continues until either their status changes, or they die. Those that don’t work, don’t eat. That’s the Biblical definition thereof. If necessary, one could also add those who can’t find a job, but still volunteer for the church or community service.
Overall, New Testament giving never seemed to be classified under a necessary tithe. We are dead to the law, which includes tithes to priests, the only four things that gentiles were told to follow upon entrance, avoid food sacrificed to idols, avoid fornication, avoid bloody meat, and avoid strangled meats. One could add to that the most important facets of Christian doctrine in love for God and neighbor as well as faith, but tithes weren’t mandated to the gentiles.
Even with the gifts given, besides to the needy of the church, Paul redistributed to the Jews, and to evangelize. It was not entirely given to him. Some was of course, but it certainly didn’t sound like much, considering the life he endured with grace and humility.
If one still considers a tithe a necessity, then it must be given directly to God, not even the local church, for we are all priests. Moreover, Jesus says that what you do to the least of those, you do to Him, therefore that is the only way to give directly to God.
As to who is the least (in reference to the world’s view at least), it was who Jesus referred to, the poor, the widows, disabled, etc. Whether it be a waitress at your restaurant, a hard worker in your organization, the homeless person on your street, or your injured family, etc. you don’t have to look to far to find someone worse off than oneself. Even if you’re broke, you are free to do as Peter did, acknowledge them and impart a blessing if they’re willing.
Am I saying to be stingy monetarily? Absolutely not. But why make it law again? Jesus died to free us from them so we serve in love from our own free will and the Holy Spirit within us. In other words, not guilted into it, but given from and in Faith, because anything that isn’t of faith, is sin.
Finally, in my view, politics and spirituality/religion should never be run as a business, as then it becomes self serving and seeks job security. The pharisees tithed the people’s gifts directly to God in the temple, yet Jesus chided them for neglecting the latter part of love. (Matt. 23:23)
By all means, i’m not accusing you Mr. Ennis, i saw this article when looking up to see if the temple tax was a tithe, when Jesus asked who was immune to taxation. Right now, I have this mental picture of so called preachers, who use tithing as an excuse for their greed, which drives me into a frenzy, sorry to take it out on your blog, but hope it helps any that read it.
I’m saying to any deceived by those types of televangelists, that according to Christian doctrine, the Bible itself, the only things required for absolute, continual salvation, in every way, is to believe Jesus as Messiah. Paul goes further than what Jesus said, by saying you Know you are saved if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that He’s resurrected.
From what God’s given me in understanding, tithing isn’t necessary. Though if i am mistaken, let me know and where Biblically, so then I’ll give it directly to those in need. Take care Mr. Ennis, and thank you for your time.
That’s an interesting idea but it raises many questions.
Should we give the whole tithe directly to people or to an organization that helps these people? If we give it directly to people, do we give to one person or more than one person? Do we qualify the people we give to and if so how? On what basis are brethren qualified as “least?” How long will we give to the particularly people designated to receive the money and so on?
The idea needs to be fleshed out a bit more.
Greg Vincent says
Christians are kings and priests, therefore ALL Christians are owed a tithe. 😉 In truth, we owe our tithe to God, thus we give to the least of our brethren.
Charles Carboo says
Greg, did you know that Israel was also a kingdom of priests to God yet they were required to bring their tithe to those who served in the temple ( Levites)
Greg Vincent says
Interesting point Mr. Carboo, and thank you very much for the reply. That verse honestly never came to mind. But how does that apply to today under grace, Mr. Carboo?
Abraham, before the law (as Paul referenced for justification before circumcision), brought a tithe to Melchizedek, who was a type of Jesus Christ, and was both a king and a priest (as are we). However, you want to give to Jesus then, as He is after the order of Melchizedek and our High Priest. He said, “That which you do for the least of these, My Brethren, you’ve done for me.”
Why not give something to the pastor for, hopefully, expounding the Word of God dutifully and the evangelist hitting the streets and getting people saved. Do it out of love for them to stay focused on the mission without worry of temporal things. But also the single mother in the congregation that’s having a tough time with her light bill? Or the family working three jobs to support their children? Why isn’t that considered a tithe? Deut. 26:12. Why add more pressure to the preachers to wait tables when they’re called to grow the Body?
If we can’t even care for our Brethren around us, but spend thousands to build stuff, or make a bigger buildings or getting people in, we aren’t caring for our Family in the church, why would that growth be rewarded by God if you can’t care for what He already gave?
Why stop at a mere 10 percent? God gave of Himself and His Son for our salvation, and He did it so we could love and do from the heart, and not a mere percentage point, arguing over should we do it according gross or net. Give out of the capacity God gave us.
I don’t say this in condemnation of you, but God’s giving a rebuke to me. I’m not doing enough, nor loving enough, but by the Grace of the Living God, I won’t stay here but press forward.
Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ to you and yours.
Dale Dyer says
I can see both points of view. My girlfriend is a Seventh-day Adventist and I’m not, and I’ve had some strong discussions with her over the Tithe. She was raised to believe in it because her parents and her Church pushed it as a sacred obligation to please God. And I was raised a Baptist, but later on in my 20s joined the SDA Church. And I went initially went along with the Tithe. But then the “tithe abuse” started happening to me. The Church treasurer was a gossip and told the other church members the amount I tithed. And then at the beginning of the new year I got a letter from the Church conference itemizing my tithe and a little memo that read “THIS INFORMATION HAS BEEN PROVIDED TO THE IRS.” All because I stupidly wrote my name and address on the tithe envelope and my tithe check had my name/address on it. And I remembered that Jesus said to do your alms in secret and not to be like the Pharisees who announce with a trumpet the amount they drop into the Temple coin box. And so I got mad at some busybody in Church telling everyone of the embarrassing 10 percent I tithed (I’m a poor churchmouse). I kept paying tithe but put different pseuodnyms on the tithe envelope: Superman, Batman, Mickey Mouse, Buggs Bunny. And legally, the church treasurer has to keep a record of the name of the “tither” per requirements for non-profit donations. I’m sure they did not. After dealing with this issue of “tithe abuse” and the Church finding out about and ridiculing my “two mites”, I gave it up.
For me, informing the goverment about a private, sacred trust was like breaking down the separation of Church and State. Isn’t there an option that I can choose, such as checking a box, “NO, I DO NOT WISH TO SHARE THIS INFORMATION WITH THE GOVERNMENT.” They don’t give you the right to choose to be a silent partner. I need for the Tithe to be private. But the local Church blabbed it, the regional conference and the national conference counted it and put me on their mailing list for “more giving beyond your Tithe”, and now the government was involved, and everyone in Church just assumed it is their business. It just makes me think of how the money changers were counting a “tenth” of this and a “tenth” of that, and if someone like Jesus overturned the Church treasurer’s table and made her lose count, the Church would be out for blood. I know, because one time I opened the wrong door in Church and saw the treasurer counting the tithe and offerings – during Church service – and I wonder, if I had overturned her table, would the minister or head deacon have called the police? Surely.
So many people in the U.S. pay tithe and then claim the Tithe as a deduction on their income tax return. And so I asked my SDA Church friends, “So, do you pay tithe on that tax return check the govenment sends you?” And they say “No! I already paid tithe on it!” But I never did claim the deduction. Never. It made me feel like I was profitting on something that the Lord meant us to give as a sacrifice.
And so, I have a different reason for objecting to the Tithe. It’s the one Jesus gave. Do your giving to the Lord in secret. It’s between you and God. You cannot even claim it on your tax return because some IRS agent will be looking at it. Third party involvement is forbidden, according to Christ. And that’s the Lord’s command. Matthew 6.