Why We Wrote It
Nope. This isn't a retraction. Our last blog, “What About Tithing?”, couldn’t have received a more varied response. With over 1000 folks reading it in just a couple days, we received a lot of feedback, both public and private. We sincerely appreciated all of it, positive and negative, and we simply want to respond to some of the dialogues here.
"Why respond to the feedback?"
Simple. To bring clarity.
“To bring clarity to your position?”
That isn’t the point. Our motive is to promote clear thinking for those who’ve engaged the tithing topic. Defending our stance isn’t important. Helping people discover freedom is.
Let’s start with the simple questions and answers….
Who did you write the tithing blog for?
The tithing blog falls into the “family business” category. It’s meant to promote healthy/necessary discussion among those who consider themselves a part of the Jesus-following family of faith. If there is dysfunction in our family, we think it’s worth addressing. While some have said this type of discussion paints the Church in a negative light and isn’t a "good witness", we believe the opposite. We don’t want to pretend everything’s alright if it isn’t. Let’s lovingly work on what keeps us from being a healthy/whole family. It'll be uncomfortable in the moment but so worth it in the long run!
Understanding who this is written for will help you understand why we wrote it.
Why did you write it?
3 simple reasons:
First, we wanted to make L24’s stance clear, primarily for those engaging in our local community.
Over the past several months, we began hearing, “We need to give our tithe to a church. Can we give it to yours?” Initially, we addressed tithing the same way we’d answer any giving-related question. But then it hit us…
People are worried about tithing because they see giving 10% of their income to a church as a “Christian requirement!”
So we wrote “What About Tithing?" as a resource for understanding why we don’t preach traditional (Old Covenant) “tithing.” We want to promote cheerful giving as a response to God’s work in our lives—given in the amount and to the place He directs it.
Second, as a former Bible School student, pastor at a few churches, and consultant for over 15 others, I (Joe) observed what I believe to be a rampant issue in the family of God—one that undermines our familial identity. Many church attendees have had it so ingrained in them, through either manipulative or ignorant teaching, that God demands 10% of your gross income be given to your local church—a sort of parallelism between the temple and the church—the Levitical priesthood and the modern-day pastor. (This parallelism is dangerous, but we’ll save that for another article.)
We’ve also heard many “or else” statements based on an Old Testament reference in Malachi 3, scaring people into “paying up.”
Misleading teachings like these are what partially inspired this post.
Third, we wanted to encourage people in a “better way!” We want to see Jesus’ people live in the reality of the New Covenant—experiencing what we see demonstrated in the New Testament for ourselves. The unstoppable, generous, and sacrificial Early Church shows us what’s possible when we’re compelled by the love of Christ, not religious law’s demands.
Why We're Wrong
We love thought-through Biblical exposition and were very excited when a few people threw Scripture-based objections at us. As we wrote the responses here, we found that the tithing topic brought an even deeper issue to the surface and feel this post could have accurately been titled “A Case For New Covenant." Read the following dialogues to see exactly what we mean.
3 Scripture-based Dialogues (+1 That Isn't)
DIALOGUE 1: WE ARE STILL UNDER THE LAW’S REQUIREMENTS
“The Old Covenant is still valid today. After all, Jesus himself said ‘I did not come to abolish the Law.'”
First, let’s break down this whole “covenant” thing....
A “covenant” simply means an agreement or terms of a relationship.
Under the Old Covenant, the Israelites were required to obey God and keep the Law, and in return He protected and blessed them. (Deuteronomy 30:15-18; 1 Samuel 12:14–15; Malachi 3:6-12) But through Christ’s finished work, everything changed forever! Jesus said, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22:20) In other words, the terms of the relationship between man and God are rewritten by Jesus himself (Hebrews 10:1-18).
Second, let’s look at Jesus’ actual statement in Matthew 5:17, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
Jesus was not stating that the Mosaic Law would forever remain in effect. (See Romans 10:4, Galatians 3:23-25, and Ephesians 2:15) Jesus was saying that the Law was perfectly valid, thus the need for Him to complete its requirements. He completed what the prophets said He would (Luke 24:44)—not simply bringing an end to the sacrificial system, but to all other aspects as well.
"So, what was the purpose of the Old Covenant in the first place?"
To point people to Christ! Galatians 3:24-25 says, “The law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.”
"Then is the Old Covenant still valid today?"
Absolutely not! To say so would be to disregard the message of the entire New Testament! Galatians 5 actually goes so far as to say that those who still try to fulfill the requirements of the Old Covenant are enslaved (verse 1), make Christ’s sacrifice meaningless (verse 2), are under obligation to the entire Law (verse 3), and are severed from Christ entirely (verse 4). Using a marital analogy, it’s like saying “You can only be wedded to one or the other—Law or Christ.” (Read Romans 7:1-6 to unpack that analogy.)
To summarize, we are not under any part of the Old Covenant, its tithing requirements included.
Note: For more on why tithing was required under the Old Covenant in the first place, read our original article on tithing HERE.
DIALOGUE 2: TITHING PRE-DATES THE LAW
“But Abraham tithed before the Law of Moses came into existence. This sets a precedent for tithing that is not bound to the Old Covenant, thus it is still a valid religious requirement.”
Yes, in Genesis 14:8-24 Abraham gives a tithe to the priest and king Melchizadek. It was a beautiful act of thanksgiving and worship, but it does not (a) mirror the Old Covenant law requiring tithing to the Levites, nor does it (b) set a precedent for the common “10% of your gross income to the institutionalized church” we hear about today.
Let’s take a closer look at the passage and ask ourselves:
Where did the tithes come from?
To whom were they given and why?
Genesis 14:8-12 - The kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fought a battle against king Chedorlaomer king of Elam. Chedorlaomer won the battle and robbed Sodom blind. They also captured Lot (Abram’s nephew) and his possessions.
Genesis 14:9-17 - When Abram received this news, he rallied his men and defeated Chedorlaomer king of Elam. Abram recovered all that was taken, and rescued Lot and all others captured.
Genesis 14:18-20 - After Abram’s victory, he was met by Melchizedek king of Salem and a Canaanite priest of God Most High. Refreshing them with bread and wine, Melchizadek blessed Abram. (It’s interesting to note that the blessing preceded what happens next.) In response, Abram gave 10% of all the goods of Sodom that were stolen by Chedorlaomer to Melchizedek. (See also Hebrews 7:4) Abram did not tithe from his own possessions.
Genesis 14:21-24 - The king of Sodom offered to give Abram all the goods of Sodom that were recovered for himself, but Abram refused. He gave all honor to God, not taking a single item for himself, lest people attribute Abram’s wealth to a pagan king’s generosity. So, Abram took no income at all.
So what do we clearly see in this story?
This was not a tenth of Abraham’s possessions.
This was not a tenth of Abraham’s annual income.
This was not a regular offering which Abraham made to the local priest.
This was a one-time gift from possessions which Abraham had just captured in war with the remainder returned to the original owners.
There is no instruction, command, or requirement here given to all people of all time about the necessity to give 10% of their income to God, a minister, or a church.
It can also be noted that Abram was following a cultural custom of his time. Tithing to a deity after victory was common practice for many ancient cultures (Phoenecians, Greeks, etc.).
And what do we clearly see in the whole context of Scripture?
The command for God’s people to consistently give a portion of their possessions to the priesthood did not come until later with the introduction of Mosaic Law.
Note: For more on the significance of tithing to the Levitical priesthood under the Old Covenant, read our original article on tithing HERE.
DIALOGUE 3: TITHING IS REQUIRED IN THE NEW COVENANT
“How does one who holds the view that tithing is obsolete grapple with Hebrews 7, which clearly states that New Testament church tithing is rooted, not in the Levitical Priesthood, but in the Melkizedekian Priesthood, which predates the Law and continues forever? Perhaps tithing in the New Covenant is not completely done away with so much as it is no longer under Levitical directives. It still seems clear that God expects us to give 10% toward His kingdom…”
This is a good one! We’ll start by saying, we used to think the same way. Now we don’t. Here’s why….
The purpose of the entire epistle is to help Hebrew believers, with a very deep/rich law-based heritage, move from Old Covenant to New Covenant so that they would not "neglect such a great salvation” under the new and better terms of relationship (Hebrews 7:20-22; 8:6-7; 8:13).
The author focuses the first several chapters of Hebrews establishing the superiority of Christ over the Prophets, angels, Moses, and Joshua. The superiority of Christ, the means of the New Covenant, is being clearly laid out.
Chapter 7 simply reinforces what the first few chapters seek to establish—Christ’s superiority. It digs into how important the tithe was under the Law, but focuses on the High Priest who fulfilled the Law. Tithing, as a part of the Law, was given on the basis of the Levitical Priesthood (Hebrews 7:7-9).
The reference to Abraham giving a tithe to Melchizadek prior to the Law and the reference to Christ being “of the order of Melchizadek” (relating to successive order) reveals the superiority of both Melchizadek's and Jesus’ priesthood over the Levitical priesthood (Hebrews 7:1-10).
Verse 12 notes that “when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also.” The change of the priesthood, from Levites to Jesus, means that the law that assigned the Levites to be priests and commanded tithes be given to the Levites has also changed and is now finished—fulfilled—no longer possesses authority.
So we do not exegete this passage to mean that tithing is still applicable under the New Covenant. (Hebrews 7:18-19 seems to make short work of that idea.) The point of the passage actually has nothing to do with tithing at all! The reference to Melchizadek, Levites, and tithing is found within the context of establishing the preeminence of Christ who fulfilled the Law.
DIALOGUE 4: YOU’RE REBELLIOUS AND JUST WRONG
“You clearly have an issue with submission and are trying to proof-text your way out of obeying God’s clear commands. You’re wrong for so many reasons.”
Well, there’s not a whole lot we can say to that. We’d have to get pretty defensive and it just isn’t necessary. Looking objectively at tradition can be really uncomfortable and this entrenched issue is not an easy one. We understand your initial reaction and simply hope, over time, you’ll dig into what we’ve written and look at the fruit of our lives to come to a different conclusion.
All the above has not been a case against giving God our first and best. It is not a case against generous giving. We are 100% for both of these!
Let His Spirit guide you in how you give.