TITHING:  New Testament Practice or Old Testament Bondage?

Scriptural giving or control and greed within the churches?

Are you being led by God's Spirit, or legalistically giving your 10%?

By Craig Bluemel

 

 

As the questions above need careful examination, we must first define what is meant by the word "tithing."  Since tithing is mentioned in only one New Testament passage, we will first look at it's Old Testament meaning.

 

The Hebrew word "tithe" taken from Malachi 3:8,10 is "maasrah" (mah-as-rah): it means "one tenth." Quoting the NASB Version of these verses:

 

Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me!  But you say, ‘How have we robbed Thee?, in tithes (LIT: the tithe) and offerings..!  'Bring the whole tithe (LIT: all the tithe) into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this," says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you a blessing til it overflows."

 

When the text reads "whole tithe" the Hebrew word for "whole" is "kowl" (kole); it means "whole, all or every.  Kowl comes from a root word meaning, “to complete,: hence, to make perfect."  The "whole tithe" could then refer to:

 

 

Malachi 3:10 is the most frequently used text by Christian churches and ministers to validate the practice of "tithes" and "offerings."  In most churches there is a special time during the services when an announcement is made by the speaker, "Will the ushers please come forward and receive the offering."  What is meant by this announcement is that the members of the congregation are to write out a check, or pay cash, equivalent to 10% of their gross income, plus an additional "free-will offering."  Some churches allow their people to give the free-will offering to the ministry of their choice, but nearly all churches expect the tithe to be devoted to the local church.

 

While some churches use Malachi 3:10 to justify the New Testament practice of tithing, others will admit that tithing is clearly an Old Testament ritual.  Nevertheless, even such churches will attempt to rationalize the practice of tithing by making statements like, "Well if it was good enough for the Old Testament saints to pay 10%, how much more should we, the New Testament church be willing to give that same amount?  After all, don't we have more knowledge and revelation about Jesus Christ than the Old Testament believers?"  The question poses an important response, but this response must be based upon the Scriptures, not the opinions or traditions of man.

 

The first part of our study must therefore examine the origin of the practice of the tithe, along with the purpose for which it was instituted by God.  In Lev.27:30-33 the Hebrews were given a Law by God, through Moses, to tithe "the seed of the land" (crops),"the fruit of the tree," and "the herd, of ... flock."  Livestock was tithed by having the owner count the animals as they passed out to pasture, and every tenth one was given to God.  In this manner there was no possibility of selecting inferior animals for the tithing of the herds and flocks.  If one preferred to tithe the tenth of his grain and fruit in the form of monetary value he was free to do so.  He was not allowed to redeem the tenth of his flocks and herds in this way however.  (see Lev.27:31,33)

 

To whom were the tithes paid?  Numbers 18:21-29 (READ) states that the tithe was to be given to the Levites.  The Levites, because of the nature of their status and functions in the community, had no means of income, livelihood, or inheritance to ensure their support; therefore, and in return "for their service which they perform, the service of the tent of meeting", (Num.18:21,24), they were to receive "all the tenth in Israel."

 

The Levites were not allowed to keep the whole of the tenth that was given to them by the people.  They were instructed to offer up a 'heave offering', which was taken out of the tenth, which represented a tenth part of the tithe (Numbers 18:26).  This 'tithe of the tithe' was to be 'from all of the best of them' (vs.29), and was to be given to the priests (vs.28).  In Nehemiah 10:39 we see an example of the sons of Israel bringing the tithe, along with sons of Levi, to the priests.

 

There were two basic tithes required of each Hebrew citizen.  The first one already mentioned was one-tenth of his fields, trees, trees, flocks, and herds.  The portion of this tithe that was allowed to be redeemed in monetary value could be done so by adding one-fifth to its estimated value.  This valuation was determined by the priest, and the value could fluctuate depending on whether it was given before or after the Year of Jubilee.  The values set were based on the shekel of the sanctuary, which was 20 gerahs. The second tithe required of each landholder was one-tenth of the nine parts of his produce remaining after the first tithe, to be expended at the tabernacle or temple for use by the Levites, his own family, etc., changing it to money, if on account of his remoteness he chose to do so (Deu.12:11-19; 14:22-29; Ezekiel 8; Lev.27:25,30-33; Num.18:21-32;12:5ff).

 

In addition to the two basic tithes, every third year a special provision was made for the poor, either out of the second tithe, or in addition to it.  This third year tithe provided for widows, orphans and aliens; those who were unable to provide for themselves.  (READ Deu.14:28-29; 26:10-13)  The Levites also partook of this tithe.

 

Where were the Hebrews to offer their tithes?  They were to bring them to, "...the place which the LORD your God shall choose from all your tribes." (Deu.12:5-7,11,12,17-21).  An offering of the tithes was to take the form of a ritual meal, in which the Levite was to share.  If Jerusalem was a long way off from a man's village and the transporting of the tithes of his crops might create a problem, he could always take his tithe of the crop (as mentioned previously) in the form of money (Deu.12:22-27).  The third year tithe was to be offered in each man's locality (Deu.14:28ff), although on these occasions he was still obligated to go up to Jerusalem to worship after the offering of his tithes, for this is where the house of God was. (Deu.26:12ff) 

 

In Nehemiah 10:37-39 the tithe brought to the Levites is at the "temple" (vs.1),and the "house of our God" (vs.34-39).  Apparently, within the walls of the temple was a special storehouse where the Levites are said to bring the "tenth of the tithes (vs.38).  The priests were appointed over this storehouse, and the tithes in the storehouse were for the temple workers.  After the captivity Tobiah's priestly households neglected this storehouse and used the storehouse for their own personal household goods, and were consequently expelled from temple service for neglecting the sons of Levi (Nehemiah 13:4-14).  Also compare with this Nehemiah 12:44-47.

 

The Law given to Moses was to govern the people.  It contained various ordinances which were to be strictly adhered to. Each law served a particular purpose.  The law of the tithe was a provision to feed and care for the Levites, who were without any land inheritance.  It was a tax of sorts on the produce of the land, herds & flocks of Hebrews with possessions.  The Levites in turn were expected to tithe of their tenth to the priests.  The priests, a sect of Levites were to oversee the storehouse in the house of God, and to make sure that temple workers, as well as widows, orphans and aliens were fed from the whole tithe brought in by the people.

 

Next we will examine the context of Malachi 3:10 to determine if New Testament churches have a Scriptural right to apply this verse to the modern day practice of "tithes" and "offerings."  Once this examination has been completed, we will venture into an in-depth study in the New Testament giving to see what Jesus requires of His church.

 

The context of Malachi chapter three shows that the sons of Levi are going to be purified because their Old Testament offerings were not presented in righteousness.  Malachi 3:1 is prophetic of Jesus Christ being the "Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight”.  God would introduce the children of Israel to a new covenant thru the blood of His only begotten Son, the only man who kept the Law of the LORD in every point. Consider the following verses in context:

 

Malachi 3:1  ...and He will purify the sons of Levi ... so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness.

 

Malachi 3:4   Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD, as in the days of old and as in former years.

 

Here in the text the LORD rebukes the sons of Levi for all the years of neglect to the law of tithes and offerings.  God says He will send a Messenger of a covenant who will make the offering of JUDAH pleasing.  There was no priestly lineage from the tribe of Judah in the Old Testament who could present offerings to the LORD which were pleasing. And once this messenger of the covenant comes, how would the sons of Levi present offerings to the LORD in righteousness since they don't have a righteousness derived from obedience to the Law?  Hadn't the Levites already failed to do what God had commanded them thru the Law of Moses?  Consider the LORD'S rebuke to the Levites in Malachi 3:5  "Then I will draw near to you for judgment... against those who oppress... the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien and do not fear Me," says the LORD.'

 

THIS CONTEXT IS A REBUKE TO THE OLD TESTAMENT LEVITES NOT TO NEW TESTAMENT BELIEVERS!!!

 

After their captivity into Babylon, and in anticipation of the day when God would send the Messiah to deliver His people and purify the sons of Levi, the LORD points out the exact nature of the Levite's sin:

 

Malachi 3:7-11... you have turned aside from My statutes, and have not kept them.  Return to Me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD of hosts." But you say, 'How shall we return?' (*NOTE - The “we” spoken of here in the context is referring to the sons of Levi)

 

Malachi 3:8   "Will a MAN rob (LIT-defraud) God? Yet YOU are robbing Me!  But YOU say, ‘How have WE robbed Thee?’ In tithes and offerings (LIT-heave offerings).”

 

Malachi 3:9    (Rotherham's Emphasized Bible)  <With a curse> have YE been cursing, and yet <me> have YE been defrauding, the whole nation. (LIT-the nation, the whole of it). Malachi 3:10 - Bring the whole (LIT-the complete) tithe INTO THE STOREHOUSE so that THERE MAY BE FOOD in My house... "

 

Before continuing, READ Malachi 2:1-9.  This helps establish that the rebuke given to the Levites is consistent throughout the entire context.  With that in mind consider the following points:  

 

  1. God said the Levites had turned aside from His statutes.  We looked at these statutes earlier in Numbers 18:28-29 where the Levites were to give a tithe of the tenth they received. 

 

  1. God said it was a "MAN" (singular) who was robbing God.  Women could not hold the office of a priest, so this is further proof of who the rebuke is to.

 

  1. The Hebrew text says that the Levites had robbed God in "tithes" (plural) and the "heave offering."  The heave offering was the tithe of the tenth to be given to the LORD by the priests (see Numbers 18:25-30).  As a result of the greed of the Levites, who were to be the spiritual leaders of Israel, God said He did not receive a "whole" or completed tithe, and this was exemplified by the fact they were even neglecting to tithe on the tenth received from the people.  Remember the example given in Nehemiah 13:4-14 where the priestly household of Tobias was expelled from the oversight of the storehouse for greedily turning it into a place for their own use.

 

  1. God said that the sons of Levi had been defrauding Him, and cursing Him, yet God also equated this as a defrauding of the nation of Israel as well.  How did they defraud Israel?  Malachi 3:5 says that they failed to feed the widows, orphans and aliens.  The poor of the nation went neglected because of the greed and sorcery of these wicked priests.

 

  1. Malachi 3:10 says that they (the Levites) were to bring the COMPLETED TITHE into the STOREHOUSE.  As you recall from Nehemiah 12:44 and 13:4,5,13, it was the sons of Levi, and the priests, who were given charge over the storehouse.  This proof makes it abundantly clear that the context is dealing with Levites, not New Testament believers. 

 

  1. Although it was allowed, under provisions of the Mosaic Law, for a man to redeem his tithe of the crops and trees in monetary ways by adding 1/5 to it's value, Malachi 3:10 makes it clear that God is more concerned that He wanted FOOD in His house to be able to care for the needy.  This is important to understand because it refutes the notion of many churches that the "tithe" is in reference to one's monetary gift from their checkbook to finance a building. God is more concerned with human beings than He is with church programs and building projects.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS ON MALACHI CHAPTER THREE BY COMPARISON WITH THE NEW TESTAMENT:

 

1.  It is clear from Malachi 3:1 that when the Messenger of the covenant comes, He will purify the sons of Levi (vs.3) so that they might present offerings to the LORD in righteousness.  The question we must ask is this: “HOW can the sons of Levi (or anyone for that matter) present any offering to the LORD in righteousness without the shed blood of Jesus Christ?”

 

Acts 17:31  because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.  (NAS)

 

This verse states that Jesus was sent by God to judge the world in righteousness. Compare Malachi 3:5.

 

Rom 3:9-10 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, "There is none righteous, not even one; (NAS)

 

These verses state that of both Jews and Greeks that "there is NONE righteous, NOT EVEN ONE."

 

Rom 4:1-9  What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found?  For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about; but not before God.          For what does the Scripture say? "And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness."  Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due.  But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works:  "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered.  "Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account."  Is this blessing then upon the circumcised, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say, "Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness."  (NAS)

 

These verses speak of a righteousness experienced by Abraham apart from the works of the Law (e.g.-tithes & offerings).  This is a direct tie to the prophecy of the Messiah in Malachi 3, because Mal.3:4 says that after Jesus comes the offerings will be pleasing to the LORD, as in the days of  old & as in former years; that is, years former to the Levitical priesthood.

 

Rom 4:13  For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith.

(NAS)

 

This verse says that righteousness was not through the Law, but on the basis of faith.  (See verses 22-25)

 

Rom 5:17-21  For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.  So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.  For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.  And the Law came in that the transgression might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  (NAS)

 

These verses show that thru one act of righteousness by Jesus Christ, the many will be made righteous.  These verses also show that the Law and its requirements only serve to increase our transgression by making us more aware of our unrighteousness.

 

Rom 8:10  And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.  (NAS)

 

If Christ is in you, your spirit is alive because of His righteousness.

 

Rom 9:30-33  What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, just as it is written, "Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed."  (NAS)

 

These verses show that righteousness did not come to Israel on the basis of obedience to the Law, but it came to the Gentiles on the basis of faith in Christ, the only One who fulfilled the Law.  This again proves that the sons of Levi presenting offerings in righteousness are not on the basis of there paying the tithe, but on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ.

 

Rom 10:4-11  For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.  For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness.  But the righteousness based on faith speaks thus, "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?' (that is, to bring Christ down), or 'Who will descend into the abyss?' (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead)."      But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart"-- that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus {as} Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved;             for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.  For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed."  (NAS)

 

Christ is THE END OF THE LAW FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS!  Our offerings in righteousness are not based on the Mosaic Law of tithing, but on Christ. (see 1 Cor. 1:30; Philippians 3:9)

 

2 Cor 3:9-11  For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory.  For indeed what had glory, in this case has no glory on account of the glory that surpasses {it.}  For if that which fades away {was} with glory, much more that which remains {is} in glory.  (NAS)

 

These verses compare the glory of the Law with Christ's glory; the Law is called the ministry of condemnation, Christ's the ministry of righteousness.

 

Gal 2:21  "I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness {comes} through the Law, then Christ died needlessly."  (NAS)

 

This verse slams our point home; the Levites, representative of Israel, could only make offerings in righteousness on the basis of Christ.  (READ Galatians 3:1-12,21-26)

 

Phil 1:11  having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which {comes} through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.  (NAS)

 

This verse says the "fruit of righteousness" comes through Jesus Christ; this "fruit" in the New Testament is the counterpart to the heave offering given by the Levites to God.

 

2.  Now that we know that the “offerings in righteousness” come by faith in Jesus Christ, and not on the basis of obedience to the ordinances of the Law, a brief look at some of

the Scriptures dealing with "the covenant" prophesied of in Malachi chapter three will be helpful in finishing our study on Old Testament tithes and offerings.  What kind of covenant will the LORD'S Messenger bring?  Will it be the same as the old covenant under the Law of Moses?  Will the covenant fulfill God's promise to Israel? 

 

Rom 9:4-8   Who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the {temple} service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.  But {it is} not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are {descended} from Israel; neither are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants, but: "through Isaac your descendants will be named."  That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.  (NAS)

 

These verses state that although Israel was given the Old Testament covenants, this did not make them heirs to the promises of God given to Abraham.  It was not the children if the flesh who were the true Israel of God, but the children of the promise, which came by faith.  (See Galatians 3:15-26)

 

Eph 2:11-16  Therefore remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called "Uncircumcision" by the so-called "Circumcision," {which is} performed in the flesh by human hands - {remember} that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For He Himself is our peace, who made both {groups into} one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall,     by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, {which is} the Law of commandments {contained} in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, {thus} establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.  (NAS)

 

These verses show that though the Gentiles were alienated from God under the covenants of the Law, yet thru the blood of Christ they have been made a part of the new covenant and made one with the commonwealth of spiritual Israel.

 

Luke 22:20  And in the same way {He took} the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.  (NAS)

 

Jesus said His blood was that of the "new covenant."  This blood was for the forgiveness of sins.  (Matt.26:28; 1 Cor.11:25)

 

Rom 11:27  "And this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins."

(NAS)

 

Romans 11 deals with Israel as a nation being broken off from the covenant and promise of God because of their rejection of His Son Jesus.  However, God says this hardening of Israel's heart toward the gospel is only temporary, and when the Deliverer (Christ) comes from Zion (Christ's return to save Israel at the Second Coming), His covenant to them will be fulfilled.

 

2 Cor 3:6  Who also made us adequate {as} servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.  (NAS)

 

2 Cor 3:14-16  But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ.  But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.  (NAS)

 

Heb 7:22  so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.  (NAS)

 

Heb 8:6  But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.  (NAS)

 

Heb 8:7-9  For if that first {covenant} had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.  For finding fault with them, He says, "Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, when I will effect a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; Not like the covenant which I made with their fathers On the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in My covenant, and I did not care for them, says the Lord.  (NAS)

 

This verse is especially important in the fulfillment of Malachi 3:4, which is prophetic of Jesus Christ, the Messenger of the covenant.  When Jesus comes, "then the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD." 

 

As pointed out earlier, the lineage of Judah was not part of the Old Testament Levitical priesthood.  However in the New Testament,Judah is representative of Jesus Christ and the New Covenant because Jesus is called, "the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah" (Rev. 5:5).  Jesus' offering of Himself as a sacrifice for mankind was pleasing to Yahweh, and so we, the church and the "new Jerusalem" when we offer up ourselves as "living sacrifices" are pleasing to Yahweh as well.  (See Rev. 21:2,10; 3:12; Hebrews 12:22; Galatians 4:26 and Romans 12:1.)

 

READ: Hebrews 9:15-28; 10:15-22,28-29;12:22-24;13:20; Rev.11:19

 

CONCLUSIONS:

 

1.      Malachi 3:10 is speaking to the Old Testament sons of Levi, the priests, who acted wickedly by withholding their "tithe of the tithe" given to them. God equates this with fraud against Him and against His people Israel, because it deprives the needy of food & care.

 

2.      The context of Malachi chapter three is dealing with a prophecy regarding the coming of the "Messenger of the covenant." Other New Testament texts prove beyond any doubt that this messenger is Jesus Christ who effects a new covenant, and replaces the old covenant under the Law of Moses.

 

3.      The Law of the "tithe" in its various forms is part of the Law of Moses and is no longer applicable to the New Testament church.  The sons of Levi cannot make "offerings in righteousness" on the basis of obedience to the Law of the tithe, but only on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ, the Lion from the Tribe of Judah.

 

4.      The purpose of the "tithe" was to care for the needs of the Levites because they had no land inheritance. The Levitical priesthood has been done away with in Christ.  The tithe was also to care for widows, orphans, and aliens; but New Testament giving covers these important needs, which will be examined later.

 

NEXT SECTION:  Hebrews 7:1-28 and 8:1-13

 (with comments added for clarification )

 

Now that the Law of the tithe has been refuted as a New Testament practice, let us examine, the one and only text in the New Testament where a "tenth" is mentioned.  The reference is in Hebrews chapter 7, which is a recounting of the first occasion recorded in Scripture of a "tenth" part being offered to God. Genesis 14:20 tells us about this first account, long before the Law of Moses was instituted:

 

Gen 14:18-20  And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High.   And he blessed him and said, "Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand." And he gave him a tenth of all.  (NAS)

 

·        Heb 7:1-2  For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham apportioned a tenth part of all the spoils  was first of all, by the translation of his name king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace.  (NAS)

 

COMMENTS: 

 

Note that in the Genesis account Melchizedek called him "Abram,” but in the New Testament account he is called "Abraham."  Abram in Hebrew means "exalted father" or "the father is exalted."  Abram's name was later changed to Abraham meaning, "father of multitudes." (See Genesis 17:5) 

 

There is a spiritual truth seen here because the faith of Abraham, whose coming was long before the Law of Moses (which included the Law of the tithe), is used in many New Testament examples as being part of the New Covenant and superior to the Law of Moses. 

 

Gal 3:29  And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.  (NAS)

 

Since God's promise to make Abraham a father of many nations came before the Law of Moses, anyone who is of the faith seed of Abraham, believing in Christ's righteousness becomes a son of God by faith. (See:  Gal. 3:26; Romans 9:6-8; James 2:21; Romans 4:9-16; Gal. 3:6-18) 

 

The promise given to Abraham by the Spirit came 400 years before the Law was given to Moses, therefore the Law cannot invalidate a previous promise.  Jesus said in John 8:56, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad."   Abraham looked for the One who would redeem his people from the curse of sin, long before the Law was given as a schoolmaster, and he believed God for the promised seed, Isaac, to carry on the Messianic lineage.  Abraham therefore becomes the "father of a multitude" of believers in both the old and new covenants who demonstrate the same faith in God. 

 

The reason this is important in our study of tithing is because ABRAHAM GAVE A TENTH PART of spoils without having to receive a command of the Law to do so.  In other words, he gave to Melchizedek out of the gratitude in his heart to God, not out of compulsion to obey a written commandment in stone.  In this, Abraham becomes our New Testament example for motivation. 

 

Because Melchizedek's name means "king of righteousness" and "king of peace," he is an obvious type of Jesus Christ, as the context will bear out.  So, it is as though Abraham is sharing (in type) with Christ the spoils, or booty, of that which was given to him by God, and He is doing so voluntarily.  The Greek word for "apportioned" in Heb 7:2 is “merizo” and it means, "to part bestow or share."  Interestingly enough, this same Greek word is used in the context of Luke 12:13 where someone told Jesus, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide (merizo) the family inheritance with me." Jesus responded by saying, "...be on your guard against every form of greed..." (see Luke 12:15-21,31-34)

 

·        Heb 7:3  Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he abides a priest perpetually.  (NAS)

 

Melchizedek was a priest to God even before the Aaronic priesthood was established, and unlike the priests in Aaron's line (i.e.-the Levites) his lineage is not mentioned in

either the Old Testament or the New Testament text.  The Holy Spirit inspired both the writer of Genesis and Hebrews to omit his lineage so that he could be representative of the priesthood of Jesus Christ.  Christ's priesthood was to be perpetual and nontransferable; in other words, “He is the Great High Priest of God in the New Covenant forever.” 

 

·        Heb 7:4-10  Now observe how great this man was to whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth of the choicest spoils.  And those indeed of the sons of Levi who receive the priest's office have commandment in the Law to collect a tenth from the people, that is, from their brethren, although these are descended from Abraham.  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.  And in this case mortal men receive tithes, but in that case one {receives them} of whom it is witnessed that he lives on.  And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.  (NAS)

 

COMMENTS:

 

1.      Abraham, the patriarch of the Levites, considered Melchizedek such a great man in the sight of God that he was prompted out of faith and thanksgiving to give this king/priest a tenth of the choicest spoils from the battles he had won against the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah.  The Scripture doesn't say why Abraham did this, however Abraham's faith in God's promises and his friendship with God prompted obedience from his heart to do the LORD'S will.  Unlike the Law of Moses which commanded a tenth of a man's crops and herds and flocks, that which Abraham gave voluntarily was booty from the warfare he had won.  Perhaps in this we can see a type of spiritual warfare and the choicest prizes going to Melchizedek as a type of Christ who inherits the kingdom.

 

2.      One whose genealogy is not traced collects a voluntary tithe from Abraham. Melchizedek, the king/priest then blesses Abraham, the one to whom God had made the promises.  Even though Melchizedek is called a "mortal" man (one who would eventually die) who received tithes, he is termed as the "greater" who blesses the "lesser" (Abraham).  His mortality is mentioned so that we won't think of him as anything superhuman or God-like because of his genealogy being omitted.  Nevertheless, Melchizedek is called the "greater" because he received the tithe of the "choicest" spoils, which corresponds to the "tithe of the tithe" that the sons of Levi were to give to the priests.  As you may recall, the Levites were commanded in the Law to give the choicest tenth when they tithed.  This means that even though God had not yet given the Law of the tithe, with it's stipulation that the sons of Levi tithe of the tenth that they received, yet Abraham's faith and obedience from the heart caused him to fulfill the Levitical obligation.  He didn't need a Law written in stone to command him to do it, because Abraham had it in his heart to do so.

 

3.      Melchizedek, a man whose genealogy is not traced from the Levites received the tithe from Abraham.  The Levites were commanded to collect the tithe from fellow Hebrews, but Melchizedek not only collected the tithe from Abraham, but like the Son of God, he was not from the priestly line of Aaron. God is trying to show us here that something greater than the Levitical priesthood with its compulsory commands to collect tithing is in view.  Like verse 3 says, the priesthood of the Son of God will never end; it is perpetual, unlike the line of Aaron.

 

 

 

 

COMMENTS:

 

1.      The point in mentioning the priesthood of Melchizedek is to draw a parallel between the similarities of Christ's priesthood.  A new and better priesthood had to be introduced because perfection was not attainable thru the Levitical priesthood (7:11).

 

2.      When the Levitical priesthood is changed of necessity a change of Law must take place as well.  The change of Law, including the Law of the compulsory tithe, was necessary because this Law was given thru the Levitical priesthood (7:12).

 

3.      The new priesthood, that which replaces the Levites (descendents of Aaron), is not based on a Law of physical requirements (7:16), but "..according to the power of an indestructible life."(7:16) Like the prophecy mentioned previously in Malachi 3:4 which says, "..the offering of Judah ... will be pleasing to Yahweh", our Lord's offering of Himself to purchase for God men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation with His own blood pleased God so much, that He raised Jesus from the dead to live an indestructible life as our Great High Priest and Mediator of the New Covenant. (see Rev.5:9-10,15)  Our Lord descended from the tribe of Judah, not Levi, proving that His priesthood was not based on physical requirements of the Levitical Law.

 

4.      Because Jesus' priesthood has brought about a change of the Law also, the physical requirement of the tithe, clearly mentioned in the context, has been set aside because of it's weakness and uselessness (7:18).  This weakness can be clearly seen in the fact that not even the priests themselves were able to keep the Law of the tithe.  The Law made nothing perfect, it only ministered condemnation.  But Jesus is the guarantee of a better covenant that allows us to draw near to God through Him.

 

5.      Jesus is the only One who is able to save those who draw near to God thru Him.  Unlike the weak men who were appointed as priests under the Law, Jesus did not have to offer up sacrifice for Himself first, then for the people.  Jesus offered Himself up once for all, the sinless Lamb of God.  Therefore God also highly  exalted Him and made Him a priest forever. (7:21-27)

 

6.      Because the first covenant had faults, God instituted a  second, and a better covenant.  The new covenant was similar to the promise of Abraham, who gave his tithe of the choicest spoils, not because he was commanded to by Law, but because it was in his heart to do so.  When Christ became our High Priest, God  began to write His laws in our minds and hearts.  The tablets of stone under Moses )with  its physical requirements to tithe by command) have become obsolete and have disappeared. 

 

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Our study will now progress to the function of the church and it's giving under the new covenant, a giving motivated by God's Spirit in response to His love, and obedience to His will.   (See  Giving God’s Way”)

 

 

 

SELAH…Pause and reflect

 

 

 


 

 

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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