Q & A - Does Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek justify church tithing?

 

 

 

 

Hello Craig

Should tithes (10%) be collected by churches in the New Covenant?  Some say tithes are for today because Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek.  The rationale used to justify this position is taken from Paul’s mention of Jesus as High Priest in the Book of Hebrews, a priesthood after the order of Melchizedek; is that true?

Thank you.

Jay

 

Craig’s Reply:

 

Hi Jay~

 

In answer to your first inquiry, “Are tithes to be collected by churches under the New Covenant?” the answer is, “no.”  Regarding the second part of your question, the tithe Abraham gave Melchizedek has no bearing on the modern practice of church tithing whatsoever, so the answer again is, “no.”  In order for me to prove why Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek is not applicable to the modern practice of church tithing, a brief explanation of this practice is necessary.

 

The modern practice of church tithing is not supported by the teachings of scripture.  Church tithing began in the late nineteenth century when a Wesleyan Church in Cincinnati hosted multiple fund-raising events to erase its enormous debt.  Fledgling on the brink of bankruptcy and devoid of options, a layman came up with the idea of, “storehouse tithing.”  It was an instant success and soon the news spread like wildfire throughout Christendom and the practice of storehouse tithing caught on.  At the time, it seemed the answer to the debts and financial woes of churches whose church members gave indiscriminately. 

 

Today storehouse tithing is a deep-rooted tradition that is promoted on a regular basis by pastors that misuse the context of Malachi 3:8-11.  Pastors insist that every church member is obliged to pay 10% of his or her gross income.  For example, if someone’s job or career earns them a gross (before taxes) $2500 per-month (as wages or salary), he or she is obligated in scripture (Malachi 3:8) to tithe the minimum 10%, which amounts to $250.  In addition to the tithe that church members give, most churches teach that a, “freewill offering,” over and above the 10% tithe should be given to any charitable cause, with the stipulation that his or her “local church” is always to receive the “tithe.”  For more detailed information about tithing and new covenant giving, please click onto the following links:

 

Part 1: TITHING: New Testament Practice or Old Testament Bondage?

Part 2: TITHING: Giving God's Way

Part 3: TITHING: Supplemental Scriptures on New Testament Giving

Part 4: TITHING: Abraham's Tithe Prefigures Giving from the Heart

 

The answer to your question regarding Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek is actually very simple.  First, you must take time to read the entire context of Genesis 14:8-24, plus also read Hebrews 7:1-10.  After reading these passages, you should take time to go thru them, and determine who paid tithes, where did the tithes come from, to whom were they given and why.

 

Genesis 14:8-12 The kings of Sodom and Gomorrah (Plus their allies)  fought a battle against king Chedorlaomer king of Elam (plus his allies).  Chedorlaomer king of Elam and his allies won the battle and took all the food supply and other goods from Sodom.  They also took Lot, Abram's nephew, and his possessions and departed, for he (Lot) was living in Sodom. 

 

Genesis 14:9-17  The incident was reported to Abram and he took 318 of his trained servants and defeated Chedorlaomer king of Elam.  The Abram brought back all the goods, and also brought back his relative Lot with his possessions, and also the women, and the people.

 

Genesis 14:18-20 After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer, Abram was met by Melchizedek king of Salem and a Canaanite priest of God Most High, refreshing them with bread and wine and he blessed Abram.  The blessing was given to Abram, a very important fact to remember.  In response, Abram gave ONE-TENTH (10%) of all the goods of Sodom that were stolen by Chedorlaomer to Melchizedek. Abram did NOT tithe from his own possessions, an essential fact to refute tithing practices in the new covenant.

 

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, taking not one single item, to give honor to Yahweh, lest people say this pagan king of Sodom made him rich.  This is a very important point, because Abram took NO INCOME and the tithe he gave to Melchizedek did not come from his goods, but those of the Sodomites and 1/10 of Lot’s recovered goods.

 

CONCLUSION: If Abram’s aforementioned encounter is used by your pastor to justify the practice of tithing from one’s gross income, then he is justifying Christians paying 10% of goods and money they do not own!  Even worse, paying tithes this way means they have to find someone who has be robbed and recover the stolen goods.  For example, if jewelry was stolen in a burglary, the tithing Christian must first return the stolen goods to the rightful owner, who must not be a Christian, (in keeping true to the symbolism of Abram and Melchizedek) and then use 10% of the recovered goods as a tithe to the church.  This is an outlandishly absurd example and it ought to be ample proof for rejecting this false doctrine of church tithing.  There are a few other reasons why Abram’s tithe to Melchizedek cannot be used to justify church tithing as a practice.

 

REASON #1 – The reason why Jesus is said to be a high priest ‘after the order’ of Melchizedek simply relates to the manner of succession, in that both Melchizedek and Jesus hold a priesthood that does not have a traceable human genealogy, but equally important, both have priesthoods that are non-transferable, meaning the cannot be passed on to successor.

 

Hebrews 7:11 If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchizedek, and not be called after the order of Aaron? KJV

 

The Greek word meanings for, “after the order of,” Melchizedek in most Bible translations are misleading because it makes the two priesthoods of Melchizedek and Jesus seem alike and they are not alike.  The wording of the original Greek text differs greatly and is rendered literally as, “arranged down in successive order in time as.”  Below is the KJV with the literal Greek inserted to replace the words, “after the order of.”

 

Hebrews 7:11 If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise, arranged down in successive order in time as that of Melchizedek, and not be called after the order of Aaron? KJV

 

Like Melchizedek Jesus has been arranged down in successive in time with priestly descendents that follow his exact priesthood position (i.e. – as High Priest).  Neither Melchizedek’s birth or death, mother or father were recorded, although he was born, died, and had parents.  Because Melchizedek’s parental line is omitted in the Genesis text, and because he is only a, “priest” and not a “high priest” he typifies Christ in that he cannot be connected genetically to the Levitical priesthood.  To be included as a Levite priest, your father must originate from that bloodline.  Jesus’ does not relate to the Levitical priesthood either because his Father is God.  However, Jesus became the final “High Priest,” in his role and function as the only mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). 

 

The only other similarity, which occurs often in the Old Testament scripture, is the meaning of names.  For example, Melchizedek was the king and high priest of Salem (later Jerusalem).  The name means “king of righteousness” or “the king is righteous.”  Christ is king of God’s heavenly kingdom at this time, and he makes us “righteous” thru his blood that was shed.

 

Jesus Christ is THE “High Priest” to God, whereas Melchizedek is NEVER called a, “high priest.”  In Genesis 14:18, Melchizedek king of Salem, (later called Jerusalem), is called, “… the priest of God Most High,” and again in Hebrews 7:1, Melchizedek, king of Salem is also called, “… priest of the Most High God.”  The parallels or similarities between Jesus and Melchizedek do NOT relate to their actual function as, “priests.”  Jesus became “THE High Priest,” in that his propitiatory sacrifice for sin ended the Levitical priesthood and its mediatory functions forever.  Melchizedek’s role as, “a priest,” is a TYPE (symbol) of Jesus Christ, but only in respect to the relationship of his lineage (or descent). 

 

Jesus Christ obtained a ministry and priesthood far greater than that of the Levitical, whose priests died year after year, requiring a replacement, whereas Jesus was resurrected from the dead and made alive again for the PURPOSE of becoming the eternal High Priest forever.  Melchizedek on the other hand is mentioned as a “mortal” man, and therefore it is wrong to compare him as a priesthood to Jesus Christ.  Melchizedek was a priest to the Canaanites, but not priest to God’s covenant people Israel.  Jesus became the High Priest to both Israel and Gentiles.

 

Once Jesus sat down at God’s right hand, he mediates for and on behalf of any past, present or future Levitical priests, and his relationship as God’s only high priest to Israel shows a mediatory relationship to them, which Melchizedek did not possess or exercise.  Thus, the priestly symbolical similarities between Melchizedek and Jesus are mentioned only because each is uniquely separate and distinct from the Levitical.  Therefore, it is wrong to use this symbolic priestly example as a proof text to justify or rationalize the practice of new covenant tithing in the church.

 

REASON #2 – Abraham paid a tithe of his nephew’s recovered goods to this Canaanite priest of the Most High God.  He did not tithe a tenth of his crops, herds, etc, as the Law commanded.  In fact, Abraham was not even giving tithes of his own stuff!  So it is totally wrong to use this passage to justify tithing in the church. Hebrews 7:9-10 reads, “A person might even say that Levi, the father of the priestly tribe, himself, who received tithes (the tenth), paid tithes through Abraham.  For he {Levi} was still in the of his forefather Abraham when Melchizedek met him [Abraham]. AMP

 

In the Law, which God gave to Moses, certain statutes required a tithe from every person that belonged to the tribes of Israel (Jacob).  They were to set aside a tenth of their crops, herds, and fruit, and then bring their tithe to the Levites; this is how God made provision for the Levites, the lone tribe that comprised the priesthood.  The reason God made provision for the Levites is that they were not allotted a land inheritance as their counterpart Israelite brethren were given.  So to compensate them (the Levites) for fulfilling their priestly duty, God made provision in the Law in this manner.  However, you MUST understand and factor into your consideration is that the Levites, who were the priests, were also commanded by God (in the Law) to pay their own 10% as a tithe. 

 

There was also measurable difference between the quality of the tithe that God required the Levites to give versus the quality of the tithe that God required the average Israelite to pay.  The average Israelite was allowed by God in the statutes of the Law, to give any one of ten apples harvested, or any one of ten bushels of wheat, or any one of ten cattle, sheep, or goats raised, etc.   The tithe required of the Levites by God in the statutes of the law required a much better quality 10%.  In fact, the tithe required of the Levites judged according to the top 10%.  This meant Levites had to tithe the very best of the best 10% of whatever they had received from the people of Israel.  If you read Hebrews 7:4, you’ll find Abraham gave Melchizedek the “choicest goods” as tithe.

 

Hebrews 7:4 Now observe how great this man was to whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth of the choicest spoils.

 

If Abraham paying a tenth of Lot’s recovered goods to Melchizedek represents proof of new covenant tithing practice, then to be fair, the type must be brought to its furthest conclusion.  Abraham in Hebrews 7:9-10 represents LEVI the priest paying tithes through Abraham!  The Levites being spiritual leaders therefore represent spiritual leaders in the church, and in your case Jay, your PASTOR should be the one paying tithes here!  I’m being facetious, but doing so to prove a point.

 

The Levites as priests were required in the Law to give the very best one of ten sheep received; they had to give the very best one of ten apples received, they had to give the very best one of ten bushels of wheat received, etc.  The text of Hebrews 7:9-10 confirms this interpretation, “… LEVI, the father of the priestly tribe, HIMSELF, who received tithes (the tenth), ALSO PAID TITHES through Abraham.”

 

The Levites, whose tithe is mentioned in the Book of Malachi 3:8-10, were commanded by God in the Law to give their tithe and place it inside the temple “storehouse,” where it would be used to feed the widow, orphan, gatekeepers, and strangers that visit.  Malachi is a rebuke to the LEVITES at the time because they had selfishly neglected paying the choicest tithe and therefore Malachi represents church leaders and pastors who selfishly take tithes and offerings from church members, and don’t give back to help the needy.  If indeed the Levites were required to pay their choicest tithe of whatever they received, as spiritual leaders, their New Testament counterpart would be the church pastors! 

 

Of course tithing is not a new covenant requirement, and if you continue reading the Book of Hebrews, the New Testament scriptures affirm that even Melchizedek is only intended to foreshadow “heavenly” things, not earthly tithe.  The Law and Melchizedek are done away for something far more excellent in the person of God’s son, the man Christ Jesus, the only mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5).

 

In Hebrews 7:6-7 we read, “ But the one whose genealogy is not traced from them collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed the one who had the promises.  But without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater.  Recall I mentioned earlier how important it was to note that Melchizedek “blessed” Abraham in the Genesis 14:18-20 account, and here we read that even though Melchizedek RECEIVED THE “TITHE” FROM Abram, yet Abraham is called the “greater” because he was the one that had the promises. 

 

What this means typologically is that Abraham symbolizes Christ MORE than Melchizedek does!  Now how does that line up with your pastor’s teaching about tithing?  If he uses Abram’s tithe to Melchizedek to justify why the church should give tithes to the church, then followed to its final logic, without realizing it he has inadvertently made the church “greater” than Christ.  Again, this is absurd, but so is using Old Testament typology to build new covenant doctrinal exegesis.

 

It’s important you not lean on just my interpretation of scripture Jay.  Dig into yourself, sop you become convinced, not because some teacher or pastor says so, but because you have been a workman that need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.  Take time to learn what the scriptures teach about this issue and read the entire text in Hebrews 7:1-28.

 

We are no longer under the Law brother and in the text of Hebrews 8:1-13 you will find this so.

 

The Old Testament characters serve as a copy and shadow of what is in heaven.  But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises.  If there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, we would not have to seek another.  In this covenant, God thru Jesus Christ puts His laws in our minds and He writes them on their hearts.  In the new covenant, each one of us is responsible to know the Lord, because Jesus made it possible for all to know God thru him, from the least of them to the greatest.

By calling this covenant "new," God has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete.

 

Just because we live in the new covenant age, doesn’t mean we should release ourselves from being held accountable to give.  To him whom much has been given, the same shall also be required of much.  Giving to God’s kingdom should not cease merely because tithing has ceased.  Every believer ought to be regularly giving of themselves, of their time, their money, their heart, soul, spirit and body to build up the kingdom of heaven.  God loves a cheerful giver, but the greedy and selfish God finds no pleasure in.

 

Giving should come from your heart in gratitude to God for Jesus Christ; all giving should also be motivated by love.  When we give motivated by God’s love, we are to exercise same impartiality our Father in heaven does.  Giving mindlessly week-after-week on Sunday morning as the offering plate is passed around the church assembly finds little personal reward.  However, if you devote your life to helping others, and serving them as Christ serves, the joy in giving is witnessed when you give a carload of groceries to an elderly couple short of money, or pay for an automobile tune-up or a set of new tires for a single mom and her three kids, struggling to make it on public assistance.

 

Giving isn’t always measured by the amount of money given either Jay.  Jesus commands us to love and give, even to those that cannot or will not love in reciprocation.  In fact, Jesus says we are to love in such a way, that it fulfills his commandment to, “Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

 

 

Matthew 5:42-48 Jesus said, “Give to him who keeps on begging from you, and do not turn away from him who would borrow at interest from you.  You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy’; But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, to show that you are the children of your Father Who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the wicked and on the good, and makes the rain fall upon the upright and the wrongdoers alike.  For if you love those who love you, what reward can you have?  Do not even the tax collectors do that?  And if you greet only your brethren, what more than others are you doing?  Do not even the Gentiles (the heathen) do that?  You, therefore, must be perfect, growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” [Deuteronomy 15:8; Proverbs 24:29; 25:21,22; Leviticus 19:2,18; Psalms 139:21,22]  AMP

 

God bless you as you seek first the kingdom of God my brother!

 

Craig Bluemel - The Bible Answer Stand Ministry (www.bibleanswerstand.org) 

1 Peter 3:15 Always be ready to give a logical defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope that is in you, but do it courteously and respectfully.   

 

 

 


 

 

Links to the Entire "Tithing” Series:

Tithing Series Part 1: New Testament Practice of Old Testament Bondage?

Tithing Series Part 2: Giving God’s Way

Tithing Series Part 3: Supplemental Scriptures on New Testament Giving

Tithing Series Part 4: Abraham’s Tithe Prefigures Giving from the Heart

Tithing Series Part 5: Q & A Series – Does Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek justify church tithing?

 

 


 

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