Welcome to Volume 6 of Executed to Suppress His Message.
In Volume 1 we saw how money-funded, institutionalized religions suppress the teachings of Jesus Christ, so they can promote their own particular doctrines and beliefs. And now with this volume, we continue to address these suppressed teachings.
“Tithing” is a widely accepted method by which churches generate revenue. Pastors instruct Christians that 10% of everything they earn belongs to God; therefore members have an obligation to give a tenth of their gross yearly income to the church.
Yet in spite of these pastoral teachings, there is not a single biblical passage stating that Christians should tithe. In fact, Scripture never even mentions the words “tithe” and “tithing” with regard to Christians.
So by what authority do church pastors instruct their members to tithe?
1 — Christian Tithing
That tithing is God’s primary method for financing the evangelical, instructional, and fellowship operations within Christ’s Church.
But Jesus Christ taught:
Absolutely nothing about New Testament tithing. Tithing was an Old Covenant practice that provided agricultural products for the Tabernacle and Temple Levites. Old Testament worshipers did not tithe with money ― and neither Jesus nor His apostles commanded New Covenant Christians to tithe.
Tithing: The Revenue Generator
Envision an average United States Protestant church with 500 members. This congregation might consist of a mix of families with one or two children, a few married couples without children, some singles, and numerous elderly members. But to simplify this discussion, let’s assume the entire congregation consists of three person families: a working father, a stay-at-home mother, and a single child. Thus with a membership of five hundred, this congregation would contain 166 tithe-paying households, with each paying the church 10% of their gross yearly income.
The 2015 US Census states the median income for that year was $56,516 per household. And using this statistic, we can calculate that our average congregation would collect $938,165 in tithes each year. And with almost one million dollars of tax-free income every year, this church could construct a very nice worship center, hire several pastors and administrative staff members, and have enough money left over to support several evangelical operations.
In year 2014, one United States Protestant church reported a tithe and offering income of over $95 million. And with this much revenue, one can only imagine what could be built, hired and purchased.
Then there’s a particular Protestant denomination consisting of thousands of churches, all of which instruct their members to tithe. According to its 2014-15 yearly statement, this denomination reported an income of 11.5 billion dollars.
And with this much money at its disposal, this denomination can build and maintain large high quality facilities, pay the salaries of thousands of ministerial and support staff, buy radio and television time, produce printed materials, send evangelical ministries to other countries, and fund thousands of churches around the country, all of which are busy generating tithes.
Such staggering amounts of money can fund operations and activities the 1st Century disciples never dreamed of accomplishing.
So when we consider the power money can wield in the evangelical arena, any thinking person has to wonder why our Lord forgot to tell His apostles to tithe. Why didn’t Jesus take advantage of this astonishing revenue generator? Tithing could have provided the early church with buildings and Christian schools, training for new ministers, and written copies of Jesus’ teachings to help spread the gospel.
Yet Jesus said nothing about Christian tithing!
How and When Christians Began to Tithe
Almost immediately after the death of Jesus, church leaders began to think they could increase the effectiveness of their work by asking for money (Jude 1:11). It was then that preachers set aside our Lord’s commandment to never accept money for preaching, and a new age of money-driven Christianity was born.
Then with this new influx of money from worshipers, dedicated church buildings began to replace home assemblies. And once pastors began to collect regular salaries, a new kind of preacher was born: one who was no longer dependent upon God for his livelihood, but the congregation that paid him.
To justify taking money from worshipers — what Jesus called “robbery” in Matthew 23:12-13) — churches declared monetary donations equivalent to Old Covenant offerings. And once the brethren gave their hard-earned money, church leaders proclaimed this revenue to be “God’s money.”
Then years later when church organizations perceived a need for even more revenue, preachers began to instruct Christians to tithe on their earned income. This practice continued to grow and evolve until 585 CE, when the Synod of Macon embedded tithing in the canon law of the Catholic Church. Then approximately 1,000 years later, the Council of Trent added teeth to the tithing law, by ordering excommunication of any Catholic who refused to tithe.
The 16th Century Protestant Reformation gave Christian leaders an opportunity to do away with many of the abusive doctrines and practices of the Catholic Church. But financial offerings and tithes were retained, because just like the Catholics, Protestant preachers wanted to be paid for preaching.
Think About This
Under the Old Covenant, God never commanded His people to give 10% of their financial income to spiritual leaders or religious institutions. While under the New Covenant, Jesus never commanded His followers to tithe.
So why are Christians tithing?
2 — Old Covenant Tithing
Tithing was an Old Covenant practice instituted to support the livelihood of those who maintained the ancient Tabernacle. The nature of the tithe was embedded in the Hebrew word mah·as·ār’, which means tenth part. Thus the tithe was always one-tenth of something else.
The first biblical reference to this “tenth” principle is found in Genesis 14. Here Chedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goiim made war against the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah. During this war, Abram’s nephew Lot was captured and carried off as a prisoner. So Abram took his private army and defeated the attacking kings and their armies, bringing Lot back home, along with the spoils of war.
Let’s pick up the story in Genesis 14:18-20, where God’s priest was celebrating Abram’s victory:
And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. 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.” He (Abram) gave him a tenth of all.
In this particular circumstance, Abram made a voluntary offering of a tenth of the spoils of war, which God had delivered to him (remember that point). God had not yet instituted tithing laws, but somehow Abram decided a “tenth” was the proper amount to give back to God101.
And there’s one more ancient reference to this “tenth” principle in Genesis 28:22:
Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear, and I return to my father’s house in safety, then the LORD will be my God. This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”
Here again we see this desire to give back to God. But notice how Jacob only promised to give God a tenth, if God gave him food and clothing, and protected him on his journey.
The first biblical references to giving God 10% of something (tithing) resulted from wanting to “give back” to God.
What Did the Israelites Tithe?
Hundreds of years later after Jacob’s descendants entered the Promised Land, God instituted tithing laws. What follows is a list of all the Old Testament Scriptures using the Hebrew word mah·as·ār’ (the tithe). These passages are informative, because they describe precisely “what” was being tithed.
As you read through these verses, be on the alert for any reference to money (what was tithed is shown in italics):
Leviticus 27:30 Thus all the tithe of the land, of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the LORD
Leviticus 27:32 For every tenth part of herd or flock, whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the LORD.
Deuteronomy 12:17 You are not allowed to eat within your gates the tithe of your grain or new wine or oil, or the firstborn of your herd or flock, or any of your votive offerings which you vow, or your freewill offerings, or the contribution of your hand.
Deuteronomy 14:23 You shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God, at the place where He chooses to establish His name, the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and your flock, so that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always.
Deuteronomy 14:28 At the end of every third year you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall deposit it in your town.
II Chronicles 31:5-6 As soon as the order spread, the sons of Israel provided in abundance the first fruits of grain, new wine, oil, honey and of all the produce of the field; and they brought in abundantly the tithe of all. The sons of Israel and Judah who lived in the cities of Judah also brought in the tithe of oxen and sheep, and the tithe of sacred gifts which were consecrated to the LORD their God, and placed them in heaps [Hebrew: sheaves of corn or grain].
Nehemiah 10:37 We will also bring the first of our dough, our contributions [Hebrew: sacrifices], the fruit of every tree, the new wine and the oil to the priests at the chambers of the house of our God, and the tithe of our ground to the Levites, for the Levites are they who receive the tithes in all the rural towns.
Nehemiah 12:44 On that day men were also appointed over the chambers for the stores, the contributions, the first fruits and the tithes, to gather into them from the fields of the cities the portions required by the law for the priests and Levites; for Judah rejoiced over the priests and Levites who served.
Nehemiah 13:4-5 Now prior to this, Eliashib the priest, who was appointed over the chambers of the house of our God, being related to Tobiah, had prepared a large room for him, where formerly they put the grain offerings, the frankincense, the utensils and the tithes of grain, wine and oil prescribed for the Levites, the singers and the gatekeepers, and the contributions for the priests.
Nehemiah 13:12 All Judah then brought the tithe of the grain, wine and oil into the storehouses.
Malachi 3:10 Bring the whole 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 until it overflows.
Think About This
In each and every one of these passages, mah·as·ār’ (the tithe) refers to agricultural products. None of these Old Testament passages mention money or earned income in association with the tithe.
3 — Exploited Scriptures
Now let’s address that Old Testament passage so often used to compel Christians to tithe off their earned income:
Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, “How have we robbed You?” In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole 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 until it overflows (Malachi 3:8-10).
When yelled from the pulpit as they often are, these verses certainly get our attention. No Christian wants to rob God; neither would they want to disobey God and forsake His blessings. So obviously, this passage is telling church members to tithe on their earned income, right?
Don’t allow preachers to place these verses in a neat little package with a bow on top, telling you what the package means. Take time to read, contemplate and pray over these verses on your own. And as you do, notice the following:
1) God speaks of cursing “the whole nation.” Why? Because God was speaking specifically to Old Covenant Israel — not the Christian Church;
2) These verses contain not a single word that refers to money;
3) God said the tithes were providing “food” for His house (the Old Covenant Temple), not revenue for His New Covenant Church;
4) When God promised to “open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing,” the Bible identifies the windows of heaven as rain (see II Kings 7:2).
5) The blessings of rain produced abundant agricultural products for ancient Israel, not financial blessings for the New Testament Church.
Think About This
Malachi 3:8-10 promised the ancient Israelites blessings of abundant crops (through rain) when they faithfully brought their agricultural tithes to the tabernacle or temple.
There is nothing in this passage about money or the Christian Church.
Jesus Defines the Tithe
Jesus provided His own definition for the tithe. During a discussion with the scribes and Pharisees, the Lord mentioned how these Old Covenant officials were tithing. Notice what Jesus said:
Matthew 23:23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.
Luke 11:42 But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.
Just like we saw in Malachi, the Old Covenant religious officials were paying tithes that consisted of agricultural products such as mint, anise, cumin, rue, and herbs. And even though they were swimming in money (see Executed to Suppress His Message, Volume 1), Jesus didn’t provide the slightest indication that these people were tithing off the money they received for their duties102.
Think About This
Given that the Old Covenant Israelites never tithed on the money they received for their labors, by what authority should Christians do so?
4 — Tithe on My Increase?
If you’re a tithing Christian, you’ve probably heard sermons or read articles stating you must tithe on the “increase” of your labors. So let’s consider this proposition.
Suppose you work as a supermarket clerk. Your job is to run a cash register for eight hours a day. And for your efforts the store pays you $15.00 per hour. So during an 8 hour day, what is your “increase”?
You see, you had no increase whatsoever, because you simply exchanged 8 hours of labor for $120 of pay.
So what’s all this “increase” business about? To understand, we need to look at how older Bible translations use the English word “increase” with respect to tithing. In the following verses, the Hebrew word teb-oo-aw’ is translated into the English “increase.” This word can mean either produce (fruit and vegetables) or income from monetary revenue.
So knowing this fact, review each of the following passages and determine for yourself how the Bible uses this word in relation to tithing:
Deuteronomy 14:22-23 (KJV) Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year. And 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 14:28-29 (KJV) At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates. And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.
Deuteronomy 26:12 When you have finished paying all the tithe of your increase in the third year, the year of tithing, then you shall give it to the Levite, to the stranger, to the orphan and to the widow, that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.
II Chronicles 31:5 (KJV) And as soon as the commandment came abroad, the children of Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of corn, wine, and oil, and honey, and of all the increase of the field; and the tithe of all things brought they in abundantly.
I hope you noticed how in each of these verses where teb-oo-aw’ is used, the tithe consisted of agricultural products. And this is why several modern translations use the word “produce” instead of “increase.”
Yet the King James translation to the English “increase” is informative, in the sense that it conveys how agricultural products miraculously increase from seed to harvested plant without any involvement by human beings. Man plants the seed, but God causes the plant to grow. Thus plant growth is a divine miracle for which we all should be grateful, because it’s by this miracle that humans and animals obtain their daily nourishment103.
Think About This
Just as we saw with Abraham and Jacob, “giving a tenth” honors God’s labors — not yours.
Tithing With Money Was Not Allowed
Deuteronomy 14:22-23 (quoted above) is especially informative, because it discusses a special, additional tithe used to provide food for the yearly Israelite religious festivals. Regarding this special tithe, the Law made a provision for the case where a festival was located a great distance from home. This is found in Deuteronomy 14:24-25:
If the distance is so great for you that you are not able to bring the tithe, since the place where the LORD your God chooses to set His name is too far away from you when the LORD your God blesses you, then you shall exchange it for money, and bind the money in your hand and go to the place which the LORD your God chooses.
Exchange what for money?
If the distance was too far to transport the agricultural tithe, it could be sold and turned into money, which was easier to carry to distant locations.
Now let’s look at a few more Bible definitions for the tithe. Leviticus 27:30 (KJV):
And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s: it is holy unto the LORD.
This passage defines “all the tithe of the land” as either seed or fruit — things that grow off the land. So again, we see how the tithe involved agricultural products. And just as in all the other passages we have read, there is no mention of money.
Finally, let’s read Leviticus 27:31:
If, therefore, a man wishes to redeem part of his tithe, he shall add to it one-fifth of it.
This verse links back to Leviticus 27:12-13, where the Law specified how priests could set the value of an agricultural offering, and then that offering could be redeemed (bought back) with money.
This special procedure allowed an Israelite to present his agricultural tithe to a priest for valuation. The priest would set a financial value for the tithe, and then the Israelite could “buy back” his produce by giving the monetary value of the tithe, plus 20%.
And this 20% is important, because it shows that the Israelites could not directly substitute money for the tithe. When an Israelite exchanged money for his agricultural tithe, he had to pay 12%, not a “tithe,” which is 10%.
Think About This
The Israelites were not allowed to use money as a direct substitute for the tithe.
5 — Who Could Receive the Tithe?
God was very specific about who could receive tithes. Here are the biblical passages that specify the legal recipients of the tithe:
Numbers 18:21 To the sons of Levi, behold, I have given all the tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service which they perform, the service of the tent of meeting.
Numbers 18:24 For the tithe of the sons of Israel, which they offer as an offering to the LORD, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance; therefore I have said concerning them, ‘They shall have no inheritance among the sons of Israel.’
Numbers 18:26 Moreover, you shall speak to the Levites and say to them, ‘When you take from the sons of Israel the tithe which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall present an offering from it to the LORD, a tithe of the tithe.’
You may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, but you will not find a single passage authorizing participants of the New Covenant to receive tithes: only the Israelite family of Levi could accept God’s tithe.
Furthermore, we should note how in Numbers 8:24 (above), God specifically instructed the Levites to collect tithes from the sons of Israel. And since the Israelite people, their nation, the tabernacle, the temple, and the Levitical Priesthood have long ago passed into history, there no longer remains anyone authorized to accept or pay God’s tithe.
The New Covenant Priesthood
Some Christian churches claim the New Covenant has a special ministerial priesthood paralleling the Levites of the Old Covenant ― and that God has authorized this New Covenant priesthood to receive tithes. But Jesus strongly disagreed with this premise:
Matthew 23:8-10 But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ.
John 10:16 I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.
Rabbi is a title of religious honor. And the Lord commanded His followers to never use such a term when addressing other Christians. Furthermore, Jesus said there is only “one” New Testament Leader and Shepherd — not many.
Think About This
Jesus prohibited any type of authoritative, Old-Covenant style priesthood within His New Covenant Church.
The Real Christian Priesthood
The apostle Peter wrote about a New Covenant priesthood. And according to Peter, there indeed is such a priesthood. However, Peter wrote that every born again Christian is a co-equal member of this priesthood:
I Peter 2:5 … you (Christians) also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
I Peter 2:9 But you (Christians) are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
According to Peter, all Christians are co-equal members of God’s Royal New Covenant Priesthood.
There is no special New Covenant ministry having the authority to receive tithes.
But What About Church Authority?
Many Christians would be surprised to learn that Jesus specifically prohibited His disciples from establishing an authoritative teaching ministry over His church:
But Jesus called them (the apostles) to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave” (Matthew 20:25-27).
Jesus specifically prohibited all forms of hierarchical authority within His New Covenant Church — and this includes any supposed authority to collect tithes and offerings in God’s name.
Furthermore, the Lord declared all members of His New Testament Priesthood equal in authority, when He said the following:
Matthew 12:50 For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.
Mark 3:35 For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.
Matthew 23:8 But do not be called Rabbi (a title used by Jews to address their spiritual teachers); for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers.
Think About This
According to the Lord and Savior Christians claim to follow, all members of His Church have co-equal status as spiritual brothers and sisters and children of God.
There is no “special” group of Christians authorized to receive tithes and offerings (or to do anything else).
6 — Conclusion
Let’s summarize what we have learned:
1) Old Covenant tithes consisted of agricultural products;
2) Jesus referred to the tithe as agricultural products;
3) When the Bible uses the phrase “tithe on your increase,” the original language meant “tithe on your agricultural produce;”
4) The Israelites could not directly substitute money for the agricultural tithe;
5) Jesus prohibited Christians from exercising any type of authority over their spiritual brothers and sisters;
6) Under the New Covenant, there’s no specially-called, ministerial priesthood. All Christians are equal participants of God’s New Covenant priesthood;
7) God never authorized any Christian to collect money, tithes, or offerings on His behalf.
Finally, let’s review something we learned in Executed His Message, Volume 1.
In Exodus 30:12, God enacted a yearly monetary ransom [Hebrew: price of life] from all male citizens to protect them against plagues that might result from counting males during a census. But then hundreds of years later, the Jews misapplied this ancient command to justify collecting a tax to support their Temple facilities.
So notice what happened when the Jews asked Peter if Jesus paid this Temple tax:
When they came to Capernaum, those who collected the two-drachma tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?” He said, “Yes.” (Matthew 17:24 and first part of verse 25).
Some churches use this passage as proof that members should support their church with financial offerings. However, these same churches always neglect to quote the rest of what Jesus said — and for good reason.
Notice how Jesus specifically exempts Christians from paying for anything associated with God’s religion:
And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?” When Peter said, “From strangers,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are exempt.” (the rest of Matthew 17:25 and verse 26).
Jesus wanted His disciples to understand how kings do not take tribute from their own children: thus the king’s children remain free from all types of taxation and tribute. And this was important information, because Christians are the children of God, the ultimate King.
Therefore according to Jesus Christ, God never exacts any form of taxation, offering, tribute, or monetary tithe from His New Covenant children. And then in verse 27, the Lord said He only paid the Temple tax but because He didn’t want to offend the religious authorities. Remember, it was these same authorities who eventually put Him to death; therefore, Jesus did not want to unnecessarily offend them at this point in His ministry.
And especially note this: Jesus did not ask His disciples to pay the tax from their own financial resources. Instead, He paid the tax with His own money, while the disciples remained exempt from the tax.
Think About This
According to Jesus Christ, Christians have no obligation to provide financial support to church organizations and their employees. New Testament tithing is a pure fiction created by those who want to extract money from unwary Christians.
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost (Revelation 22:17).
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7 — Footnotes
101 For all we know, Abram’s decision to give one-tenth could have been the origin of the tithing principle. Abram was the father of Israel (Jacob), so God might have honored him by basing the tithing command on Abram’s decision to give back a tenth.
102 Levites who maintained the Temple were not required to tithe. But the Jews officiating at the 1st Century Temple were not descendants of the tribe of Levi, so they were required to pay the tithe.
103 In I Corinthians 3:7, the apostle Paul (who never accepted money for preaching) acknowledged how this principle also applies to the spiritual growth that results from hearing God’s word: it’s not the one speaking that provides the increase, but God.
8 — Scripture References
Jude 1:11 Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.
Matthew 21:12-13 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER’, but you are making it a ROBBERS‘ DEN.”
II Kings 7:2 (II Kings 7 discusses a famine brought about by drought) The royal officer on whose hand the king was leaning answered the man of God and said, “Behold, if the LORD should make windows in heaven (for rain to end the drought), could this thing be?” Then he said, “Behold, you will see it with your own eyes, but you will not eat of it.”
Leviticus 27:12-13 The priest shall value it as either good or bad; as you, the priest, value it, so it shall be. But if he should ever wish to redeem it, then he shall add one-fifth of it to your valuation.
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D. A. Taylor
D. A. Taylor
Copyright 2016 by D. A. Taylor
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