A Biblical Research Report by Myron Horst
Did you know that tithing 10% of one’s wages, is not in either the Old Testament or the New Testament? Many preachers teach tithing as if giving 10% of one’s income is a command in the Bible and applies to Christians today, even though they do not fully understand the Old Testament tithe themselves or who it was to be given to. Many preachers need the tithe money for their own income and to build their own personal church empire. This easy money has corrupted many churches. The more people there are attending a pastor’s church the more money there is. It is said that it is difficult for someone to see their error when their livelihood depends on them not understanding it. So, they teach that God will bless you for giving a tithe of your wages to the local church, and that too is not in Scripture.
The teaching on tithing one’s wages has been repeated over and over for many years by many outstanding Christian leaders and preachers and in most churches until almost all Christians have accepted the teaching on tithing to be true and have accepted that interpretation of Scripture without questioning it.
Did you know:
- The tithe in the Old Testament (OT) was only for agricultural producers and was to be paid as 10% of the actual agricultural products (food) that they produced to feed the Levites. That is why the Pharisees in carrying out the command to tithe, paid 10% tithe of mint, anise, cumin, and other herbs. Can you imagine carefully weighing the mint tea, parsley, or other herbs in your flower bed so you could tithe a tenth of it? (Matt. 23:23, Luke 11:42) In Malachi 3:10 God says: “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house.” Preachers tell us that we need to bring our tithes to the local church which they say is the storehouse God is talking about. How many churches are really storehouses that have large grain bins, and the preacher tells the farmers that they should tithe by bringing their tractor trailer loads of corn and soybeans to fill the grain bins? How many churches have walk-in coolers and freezers to store the tithes of fruits and vegetables, a root cellar to store potatoes, and a barn for the tithes of cows, pigs, sheep, and goats so that the preachers have food to eat? Preachers teach the church is the storehouse (but only for money?). No, pastors don’t want the actual OT tithe.
- The tithe in the Old Testament was not paid on a person’s wages, business profits, investment profits, or any income that was received in the form of money or trade. We often have a very naïve perspective that in OT times everyone was a self-employed farmer, and no one worked for money. That is not true according to Scripture. There were many who worked for wages. The Bible talks about farm workers that worked for wages, but there were many other supporting trades that are listed in the Bible that were needed as well: carpenters, masons, blacksmiths, goldsmiths, merchants, potters, shipbuilders, etc. We somehow in thinking about the tithe, ignore the fact that not everyone lived on farms in the country and that many lived in cities just like today. For example, the Proverbs 31 woman was a woman who lived in a city, who was a weaver and sold her merchandise, bought her weaving supplies of wool and flax, was like merchants’ ships and bought her food from distant places, she made her own money and bought land. God did not command any of these farm workers or trades people to pay a tithe of their wages or profits. Pastors have ignored this very important detail when they teach that God instructs tithing 10% of one’s wages, and other income.
- There is no command in the New Testament (NT) to tithe a tenth of one’s income or to pay the OT tithe of farm products.
- 10% tithe of all of one’s wages is a large modern day church tax. It is a higher tax rate than the total tax burden as a percentage of one’s income (property tax, income tax, and sales tax) in 46 of the 50 states in the USA as of 2023! https://wallethub.com/edu/states-with-highest-lowest-tax-burden/20494
- Pastors have misapplied the term “first fruits” to mean 10% of wages. In the Old Testament, first fruits referred to farm products.
- The tithe was to be paid to those in the tribe of Levi. The purpose of the OT tithe was to feed people – those in the work of the Lord. It was not for the operation of the Temple (or the local church). Many Jews believe that it is sin to pay the tithe to anyone other than to those who God said it was to be given to, and that it is sin to receive the tithe if one is not a Levite. Thus, a Rabbi who is not of the tribe of Levi can’t receive the tithe.
- The Levites paid a 10% tithe of the tithes they received and gave it to the priests.
- The Priests did not pay a tithe.
- In Matthew 23:23, in addressing the tithe, Jesus acknowledged that the scribes and Pharisees should tithe but He also said that they should apply the weightier matters of the Law which are, judgment, mercy, and faith. Here Jesus was speaking to Jewish men who were still under the Law. It was before Jesus died and rose again making the Law of Moses of no affect for the Christian.
- In the OT, there are types that represent spiritual things or truths in the NT. In the OT the priests were a type of the Christian. In 1 Peter 2:5,9 we as Christians are referred to as a royal priesthood.
- In the OT, the people had to go to the priests to have access to God. As Christians, we are like the priests, we have direct access to God and do not have to go to God through a mediator or a pastor.
- The priests were part of the 13th tribe of Israel, the tribe of Levi. Even though the Levies were a tribe, they were separated for the work of the Lord, and thus were not counted with the 12 tribes of Israel. All Christians, like the priests, are separated unto the work of the Lord, not just pastors and missionaries.
- The priests did not pay a tithe. We as Christians have not been commanded to pay a tithe either.
- The Levites and priests were not part of the military and did not fight in war. We are commanded to love our enemies and to do good to those who hate us.
- Because the Levites did not own land and were not counted in the 12 tribes of Israel, they, like us as Christians, represented that they were in the world but not part of it. We as Christians are referred to as strangers and pilgrims. 1 Peter 2:11
- Teaching error, in this case on tithing, has consequences that are greater than one might imagine. Satan uses this false teaching on tithing to mislead Christians from following what Jesus has commanded us in the NT on giving. Giving a tithe has resulted in many Christians mistakenly thinking that they are serving the Lord and have fulfilled their duty as a Christian because they have given a tenth of their income to the local church.
- In reality, they have not given their tithe to the Lord but to the local church.
- Often, most of the money that a church receives is spent on non-spiritual things – a really nice building, heating and air conditioning, building maintenance, comforts for the church attendees (paved parking lots, padded pews, snacks, etc.) A small percentage of the tithes are spent on spiritual things or on expanding Christ’s kingdom and carrying out the Great Commission.
- People are taught that the tithe goes to the local church first. Many do not feel that they have enough money left after giving the tithe to give to the needs of other Christians as God has commanded.
- By stating that the tithe needs to be given to the local church, it is implied that it is not okay to give any of your 10% tithe money to a Christian friend who is in real financial need, but it is fine for the church to use your tithe money to buy coffee and donuts for snack time for those who do not need it?!!
- Those who tithe tend to feel like they have met their obligations and it is the church’s responsibility to care for the needs of the poor in the church, not their own responsibility. Christians today tend not to be that concerned about the financial needs of other Christians.
Malachi 3:8-11 has been used by many preachers to teach the importance of tithing, implying that not giving 10% to the local church is robbing God, and that God will bless those who tithe their wages to their church. “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 3:8-11)
- This is an Old Testament passage and does not apply to Christians who are no longer under the Old Testament Law of Moses.
- The tithe in this passage is not 10% of one’s wages, but 10% of agricultural products. The storehouse is not the local church, but the building in the local region that held the food for the Levites of that area.
- Using this passage to teach the false teaching that God blesses the Christian who tithes 10% of their wages, leads Christians to look down on and/or judge Christians who are poor – thinking that if they were tithing properly, or living “right”, they would be blessed and would not be poor.
- The exact opposite is true of what many pastors teach about God blessing a person for tithing. God tells us that anyone who tries to keep even one OT law is cursed. Galatians 3:10-12 “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. (11) But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. (12) And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.”
- God makes it plain in Galations 3:11 that no one is justified or made righteous and therefore qualified to be blessed because they tithe 10% of their wages. The modern teaching on tithing is a false works-based teaching.
- There are many people who attend church who have become rich by making compromises and have done things contrary Scripture in their jobs. Their wealth is not a result of God blessing them for tithing. Tithe from this “sin” money is given to the church and has also made many churches rich. As a result of this wealth, many churches have made doctrinal compromises and have become like the world.
In some ways the teaching that Christians are to tithe their wages is part of the false Christian Replacement Theology – that Christians are the new Israel and that the local church is the temple. The life of the local church usually revolves around the meetings in the building (temple). Pastors are treated like priests whose job is through music and preaching to connect the attendees with God and to be the messenger communicating God’s direction for their lives to them (When God is already living in the heart of the believer and giving them direction. You can’t be more connected with God than that!).
- But God does not dwell in a temple or church building made with hands. To worship God, we as Christians do not need to enter a designated church building.
- “But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;” (Hebrews 9:11)
- “But Solomon built him an house. Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest?” (Acts 7:47-49)
New Testament instructions on Giving
God does not need our money; He wants us, and He wants us to serve Him with all our heart. In the NT we are to first give of ourselves to the work of the Lord. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)
Christians are to Give to Poor Christians
In the New Testament, we are instructed to give to poor Christians and to do it in a way that others don’t know that we did it. That way the person gives God the glory for providing, and does not glorify the person who gave. “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.” (Matthew 6:1-4)
In disobedience to what Jesus said about giving in secret, many churches pass an offering plate, and others can see if you put money in the offering plate or not. There is peer pressure to be seen giving your tithe to the church. Jesus said that you will not receive a reward from God for giving in this manner. This is the opposite of what preachers teach using Malachi 3.
Jesus said to give to the poor in secret and God will reward us for our kindness.
“Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem.”
(1 Corinthians 16:1-3)
- There were poor Christians in Jerusalem – “For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.” (Romans 15:26)
- I have heard preachers use this passage to support people paying the tithe to the church each week because it says on “the first day of the week”. They have totally taken this passage out of context. It was an offering for the poor, not a tithe for the local church.
2 Corinthians chapters 8,9 address the importance of giving to other Christians who are in need. It is in this passage that we find this blessing on giving (not giving the tithe to the local church but giving to Christians who are in need): “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7)
“Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”
(1 Timothy 6:17-19)
“But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” (1 John 3:17)
Christians are to give financial support to pastors and missionaries
In the New Testament it is stated that pastors and missionaries are to be supported by other Christians.
“Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:7-14)
“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction. Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God. But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:10-19)
“Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.” (1 Timothy 5:17-18)
Consequences of the false teaching about the tithe
The false teaching that the Christian needs to tithe 10% of their wages and income is a significant false teaching, and it has had a significant impact on what church is, what is taught/preached, and on how church is done in America and around the world.
The teaching on tithing has created a confusion in the Church on the role that the Old Testament has on the life of the Believer. Christians are no longer under the OT Law, and yet many pastors continue to go to the OT and pull-out things such as tithing, women wearing dresses, other OT commands, and examples of actions of OT people, to state how Christians are to live their lives today when the New Testament does not teach what they say.
The building centered local church that we have today is not found in the New Testament. In the New Testament, the local church is a group of Christians (people), not the building. The false teaching of tithing has brought in a lot of money for pastors and allowed them to build big lavish buildings and campuses – personal empires.
The tithe has resulted in pastors not stating that certain sins are sin, because they do not want to offend people and lose their tithe money. The teaching on tithing has probably resulted in a number of other false teachings, and the neglect of important New Testament doctrines.
God warns us a number of times in the Bible that money would corrupt the church and that pastors should not preach for money or for pay:
2 Peter 2:1-3 “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.”
Titus 1:10-11 “For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.”
Jude 1:11, 14-16 “Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core… (14) And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, (15) To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. (16) These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage.”
1 Peter 5:1-3 “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: (2) Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; (3) Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.”
John 10:11-13 “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. (12) But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. (13) The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.”
At this point, we do not know all the ways that the false teaching of tithing has affected and corrupted the church. As Christians reject this false teaching and start applying the New Testament teachings on giving, more of the ways that tithing has affected the church will be discovered.
Do not assume that you know what truth is, even if 1000 preachers all with PhDs tell you it is true!! You have a God given responsibility to verify for yourself what truth is and to live your life based on truth that you have verified, not on false assumptions. Many people have lived their entire lives and died, assuming God commanded Christians to tithe 10% of their wages, when He never did.