Tithing

From: Christian Amoye (UK)

I am always perturbed by the current Christian practice of tithing. I am fully aware of the requirements as spelt out under the Levitical priesthood, but current practice has little or no semblance to the practice then. For example, we only get to hear about tithes to be paid to the church, but never about the other tithes to be shared with the poor, the fatherless, the widows and strangers (Deuteronomy 14:28, 29; Deuteronomy 26:12).

Beyond the need to support the work of God (which can be done in other ways: 1 Corinthians 9:7-14; 1 Corinthians 16:1-3), and seeing that neither Christ nor the apostles received tithes, please tell me what is the scriptural basis for Christian tithing?

The passages you referred to (Deuteronomy 14:28, 29; 26:12) are not talking about the tithe normally given to the priests and Levites. The SDA Bible Commentary, Vol. 1, pp. 1044, states: 'In the third year a tithe was to be given to the local poor – in addition to that always paid to the Levites.

Adventist author, Ellen White, further clarifies this 'second tithe' in Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 530:

'To promote the assembling of the people for religious service, as well as to provide for the poor, a second tithe of all the increase was required. Concerning the first tithe, the Lord had declared, "I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel" (Numbers 18:21). But in regard to the second He commanded, "Thou shalt eat before the Lord thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the Lord thy God always" (Deuteronomy 14:23, 29; 16:11-14). This tithe, or its equivalent in money, they were for two years to bring to the place where the sanctuary was established. After presenting a thank-offering to God, and a specified portion to the priest, the offerers were to use the remainder for a religious feast, in which the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow should participate. Thus provision was made for the thank-offerings and feasts at the yearly festivals, and the people were drawn to the society of the priests and Levites, that they might receive instruction and encouragement in the service of God.'

Every third year, however, this second tithe was to be used at home, in entertaining the Levite and the poor, as Moses said, 'That they may eat within thy gates, and be filled' (Deut. 26:12). This tithe would provide a fund for the uses of charity and hospitality.

Some Christians of my acquaintance – and I believe there are many more who do this – after paying their tithe to the church for the support of the ministry of the church, dedicate a second tithe of their income for charitable purposes, including church offerings other than the tithe; organisations helping the poor, the disabled; and organisations meeting various needs other than those cared for by the Government. The church also has its Good Samaritan Fund, specially dedicated to caring for the poor of the church.

The Christian basis for tithing is based on the text you refer to (1 Corinthians 9:7-14), in which Paul is pointing out that, though he never took advantage of it, the gospel worker is worthy of his hire. In the same way, he says, as those who serve at the altar (that is, the priests) shared in what was offered on the altar, 'the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.' The principle of tithing, then, is not only scriptural, but it is the best way of supporting the ministry of the church. So preachers, office workers in headquarters offices and those employed full-time in promoting the work of the church are, in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, supported by the tithe.

You state that neither Christ nor the apostles received tithes. So far as Christ and His disciples, during His earthly ministry, are concerned, you are probably right, as all the tithes were paid to the priests at the temple; and Jesus was not recognised by them, for He was not even a Levite. However, we are neither told that the apostles, after Pentecost, received tithes, nor that they did not. An argument from silence is not very helpful. But the reference in 1 Corinthians 9:7-14 is a clear indication that the tithing principle was one which God favoured, and it certainly has been of great benefit to the church organisations that have followed that plan, including the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

 

 

 

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