Does the Bible Support a “Tithing Contract”?

What the Adventist Church teaches about tithing and what the Bible says about tithes are two different concepts. This week’s Adult Bible Study Guide lesson attempts to use references to tithing in the Bible in order to legitimize a doctrine focused on giving 10 percent of one’s gross income to God via a denomination. (Please do not misunderstand my intention here. I do believe that Christians should give generously, sacrificially, and regularly in support of the ministry and other needs of their local congregations.)


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/12169
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Loved the article. It answered questions that came up while I was doing the lesson. I’m still convinced that to tithe but without the legalism.

Excellent analysis of OT tithing practices.
Giving generously to support local church activities in 21st C seems much closer to the original concept.

Gatekeepers and singers are Levites or “common” priests who tithed their income (tithe of tithes) and set them aside for Aaronic priests who didn’t tithe what they received.

Well written, easy to understand tithe principles of the OT. Now all we have to do is tell that to the masses this coming sabbath school!!

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As I study this week’s lesson I miss a discussion of Deuteronomy 14:22-29 and 26:12ff.

Very obviously these would be important biblical passages about aspects of tithing, as the article up here exposed.

Also my edition of 27 (sic) Fundamental Doctrines from 1988 doesn’t include references to these texts in chapter 20 about stewardship.

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So many Adventist struggle with this quote from the article: “ We know from the book of Hebrews and elsewhere in the New Testament that not everything in the Mosaic law applies to us. Since the tithes and offerings referenced there concern the Levitical priesthood that no longer exists, the blessings and curses in Malachi 3 have nothing to do with believers today.”

Today, tithe is nothing more than a system of financing the church. You could give this financing system any name. If the church truly believed that not paying tithe is actually robbing God as expressed in Malachi, you would think all non-tithers would be disfellowshipped for stealing openly from divinity, wouldn’t you?

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The reference to Abraham paying tithe (hich means one tenth) is to establish the notion that the tithing system was in place before the Lord required it of the Israelites or Jews and should not be limited to them. (This is the same principle that applies to Sabbath keeping.)

There is no evidence that Jesus abolished this system. Therefore, as Christians, we should conclude that we are required to continue to do likewise.

The story by Jesus about the man who built a bigger barn to store his surplus instead of giving it to others, demonstrates that the blessings and curses in the book of Malachi apply to us today.

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It’s worth going back to the story of Abraham and tithing in Genesis 14, his tithe was from the spoils of war not his annual increase and there is no mention that he continued to give the king an annual tithe. So there’s no way we can use that story to establish a tithing law.

If we also consider what the spoils of war was we should also accept that we tithe on human slaves which were part of the spoils of war in those days. To say that this confirms a tithing system is a real stretch.

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We not only return tithe on our income but on other sources of revenue or “increases” such as gifts and investments. In the case of Abraham, it was an “increase” from the spoils of a war.

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We may do that today but you can’t establish that biblically. Don’t get me wrong, the Bible is very clear about giving, especially supporting the poor, widowed and foreigner. The OT tithing was also about supporting the levitical priesthood (including their families) but the laws around that was quite specific.

Our tithing today is based on policy established by the church but not so much from a biblical perspective.

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No, it is not. The text was meant to show that Abraham’s one time tithe to Melchizedek shows the superiority of the priesthood of Jesus over the Aaronic priesthood. Levi, in the loins of Abraham, payed tithe to Melchizedek. This has zero to do with a perpetuation of the Levtical tithe. The system was tied to that priesthood, the temple itself, and was paid in produce and livestock brought to the storehouse in connection with the temple. To conclude as you have that this supports tithing in the NT church is to miss the whole point not only of this text, but of the entire book of Hebrews, that the Levitical system including tithe has been made obsolete by the coming, death, resurrection, enthronement, and priesthood of Christ, a priesthood after the order of Melchizedek, not Aaron.

On the contrary, there is no evidence that a system of tithe was imposed upon the post resurrection NT church. This can be seen especially in the letters that went to congregations in the Gentile world/empire. Paul, when addressing those churches, never speaks of tithe, never gives an alternative storehouse, and never imposes any type of tithe requirement upon them. Not once.

What he did talk about was giving freely, generously, and willingly as the appropriate response to God’s grace and indescribable gift in Christ. The churches and all its members are left free to respond as they determine. It’s called gospel freedom.

Yes, Jesus spoke of the ramifications having to do with living totally for ones own pleasure rather than for the good of others in this story…the idea of laying up treasures with God, and not just for oneself. This is not the same as the covenant curses in Malachi or has to do with imposed tithing. It has to do with the general principle of generosity as opposed to selfishness and hoarding. Living freely by such principle is not the same as a modern denomination imposing tithe upon its members as a baptismal requirement. A requirement that finds its roots in an ahistorical and a acontextual reading of the scriptures, the gospel, and the change of covenants.

If you’re convinced that tithing is the way to go for you to systematically give, that’s fine. It can be a good way to regularly do so. I had for years. Just don’t go imposing that upon others who are not convinced, and who choose different ways and means to give. That’s called legalism.

Frank

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The scriptures about Abraham’s encounter with Melchizedek not only makes the point Melchizedek was a priest of an order superior to that of Aaron, but also that tithing was an accepted institution/practice before God required it for the support of the levites. Therefore, tithing should not be limited to the levitical priesthood; it was instituted by God before the Exodus. Furthermore, there is no evidence in the New Testament that it was abolished; therefore, it is reasonable and logical to conclude that it remains binding on the Christian church.

For those who accept the Spirit of Prophecy as divinely inspired, this is what it says about our obligation to tithe:
“The New Tes­tament does not re-enact the law of the tithe, as it does not that of the Sabbath; for the validity of both is assumed, and their deep spiritual import explained.”—Counsels on Stewardship, p. 66.

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That’s not the point of the passage or of the argument in Hebrews, at all. You’re trying to extrapolate a one off giving by Abraham from the spoils of warfare as if it was an indication of systematic tithing before there was a Levitcal priesthood and temple. It is not. There is no evidence of such. Your argument is deeply flawed not only from the standpoint from Hebrews but also from the OT itself.

Abraham paid a one off tithe of war booty to Melchizedek, not systematic tithe to any form of an Aaronic priesthood. In fact, Aaron is said to have paid tithe in that instance to Melchizedek through Abraham, indicating the subordination of his priesthood to that of Melchizedek. This is to make the point that the priesthood of Jesus is superior to that of Aaron. It also is part of the larger point that the temple, its priesthood, and its services were fading away and being made obsolete. Nowhere is tithing being endorsed for NT churches. In fact, it was part of this obsolete system.

There is no evidence that any form of systematic tithing was instituted before the Exodus. The Abrahamic one off encounter with Melchizedek is no proof of such. This is an extraordinarily weak argument not based on what the Torah or the NT is actually saying but upon the desire to support the Adventist church’s practice of imposing tithing as if its actually based on solid biblical evidence. It just isn’t.

This is an argument from silence, which interpreters acknowledge are weak. Likewise, there is no evidence that it was imposed upon the post resurrection NT churches. Paul never mentions it to largely Gentile congregations. If he did, where would they have brought their livestock and produce? It becomes a ludicrous argument.

What Paul did mention was freewill giving. Generous giving. Giving that comes from consideration and purpose. If one wants to use the principle of a systematic tithe to do so, they are free to. That this was imposed upon Paul’s congregations is not supportable from the NT itself.

That is simply a rank assumption made by EGW based again on an argument of silence from the NT. It holds little to no water. She was influenced by the men around her, who ended up deciding to impose tithe on the church to finance it.

Her supposed authority is also a bad argument. Invoking outside authority proves nothing.

Frank

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what do you think of Jacob’s tithing, Gen 28:20-22:

“And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God: And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.”

thx for this text, Beverley…i’ve been trying to think where i’ve read it for some time…:slight_smile:

Unironically you just made Franks point very nicely.

It was Jacob who made a vow to God to provide a tenth. Notice it was not God who asked Jacob for a tenth. Get it, Jacob gives a freewill offering and commitment to do so going forward. No command from God, no indication that Jacob was making a commitment for anyone but himself.

The examples in the New Testament are similar in nature with people making freewill offerings to God.

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where do you think Jacob got the idea of returning a freewill offering to God of a tenth of his earnings…why not a third, or an eighth, or a variable amount, depending on circumstances…

do you think maybe Jacob got the idea of returning a tenth to God from his father Isaac, and that maybe Isaac got it from his father Abraham, whom God said “obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws,” Gen 26.5, which is a remarkably similar phrase to the collection of commandments, statutes and laws given to Israel at Sinai through Moses, eg. Lev 26:46, etc…

what do you think all of this means…do you think God gave commandments, statutes and laws to his people living before Israel so that his people living after Israel could do away with them…do you think Jacob demonstrated the law written in his heart, or do you think this phrase of having the law written in the heart, that we see in the books of Jeremiah and Hebrews, is meaningless because the apostle Paul has taught us to do away with the concept of law…

do you think an operating set of commandments, statutes and laws always indicates a legalistic religion, or do you think it can sometimes indicate a genuine working relationship with God…what do you think Jesus meant when he said “if ye love me, keep my commandments,” Jn 14:15.

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Thank you again, you have demonstrated Franks original point.

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If you read the whole narrative about Jacobs journey, what you’ll find is the genesis of the levitical laws laid out later on by Moses. Jacob had a dream where God reminded him of the promise he gave to his father and grandfather, that his desendants will occupy the land he’s currently sleeping on. When he wakes, he realises that he’s on holy land, he builds an alter and renames the spot and then he vows with God asking for his protection while on his journey and if he protects him, feeds him and gets him back home then whenever he returns to that land, he will give a tenth of its increase.

That is why the tithing only applied to the land of Israel and not elsewhere, the vow he made was passed to the generations after him and they were obligated to keep the vow once they had possession of the land. Two things you get from this, there’s no record of him fulfilling his side of the vow as he didn’t return to the promised land therefore he didn’t pay the tithe in his lifetime. Secondly, the tithe was a food tithe, from the produce of the land and elsewhere in the bible confirms this multiple times.

All that to say that you cannot establish a tithing system today based on the examples of Abraham, Issac or Jacob, (or Moses via the law) the closest we can get to is the freewill gifts as mentioned by others already.

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Jacob made the vow, not God issuing a requirement. In fact, it is as if Jacob is again trying to strike a bargain…if you do this for me, I’ll do this for you. This is hardly the basis of the Levitical tithe, although Noel makes a good case regarding the vow being so, and provides no evidence for systematic tithing being imposed upon members of the post resurrection NT churches. In fact, the NT provides no indication of this.

This from Noel, Jeremy.

You betray how you regard scriptural interpretation. You don’t really care about finding out what they are saying on their own terms, you care about what EGW said about them more. For you, she is the ultimate voice…not the scriptures, nor as the the NT reveals, the gosepl and Jesus himself.

Frank

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