TITHING IN THE NEW COVENANT

by Ruel Guerrero
A very controversial issue in the church is the place of tithing under the New Covenant. Tithing is undoubtedly an Old Covenant law. However, many, if not most, churches, denominations, and leaders teach tithing as a New Covenant principle taught by Jesus. If tithing is to be practiced in the New Covenant, how are we to practice it? If not, what is the basis for excluding it from the New Covenant? Tithing in the Old Covenant There are three tithes commanded under the Old Covenant. 1. The first tithe is a tithe of agricultural and farm produce (Lev. 27:30-33). All 12 tribes were to pay the tithe to support the 13th tribe — the Levites, who did not receive any inheritance in the division of the Promised Land (Num. 18:21-24). God specifically gave them the first tithe as their inheritance. They had no land and had to live among the other tribes. From the Levites came the Temple priests. Aaron was of the tribe of Levi. His descendants formed the Aaronic priesthood and from them came the high priest. 2. The second tithe is a tithe of each harvest (Deut. 14:22-27). The Israelites were to go to Jerusalem three times a year — on the Feast of Unleavened Bread (spring harvest), the Feast of Weeks (summer harvest), and the Feast of Tabernacles (autumn harvest) and eat the tithe there. 3. The third tithe is an additional tithe every third and sixth year out of seven years (Deut. 14:28-29). It was meant to feed (again) the Levite plus the widows and orphans of Israel, and also foreigners in the land. It served as Israel's welfare system. Additionally, the Levites were to tithe on what they received (Num. 18:26-28). This is the tithe of the tithe. This tithe was sent to the Temple and placed in the storehouse. This is the tithe referred to in Malachi which God said the Levites failed to pay to God. This is 1% of the entire income of Israel. Through the history of Israel, tithing, and related laws like the sabbatical year (observed every seven years) and the year of jubilee (observed every 50 years) were hardly ever obeyed. In fact, not once was the jubilee ever celebrated. It was too difficult for the Israelite leaders and the landed to give up the real estate properties they had acquired through the years and return them to their rightful original owners for free. Imagine if all rich people in the country gave up their rights to their huge landholdings and returned them to the original inhabitants of the land? Tithing as Mentioned in the New Testament There are only two incidences where tithing seems to have been supported in the New Testament. • Jesus in his diatribe against the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 23:23; Luke 11:42)

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Abraham in paying a tithe of the spoils of war to Melchizedek (Heb. 7:1-10).

In the first, Jesus scolded the scribes and Pharisees, who were under the Old Covenant, to do mercy, love, justice, and faithfulness as virtues above and beyond tithing. In the second, the writer of Hebrews stated that Aaron and the Levites, who received Israel's tithes, actually paid a tithe to Melchizedek through Abraham. In essence, if anyone deserved to receive the tithe, it was Melchizedek (the King of Righteousness and the King of Peace — Jesus himself). Transferring Tithing Principles into the New Covenant If, for the sake of argument, the first tithe were commanded in the New Covenant, we would need to analyze the direction of our tithing so as to pay it correctly. Notice the following: • Tithing was paid by all tribes to the Levites who were their priests • The Levites and the priests served in the Temple In the New Covenant, however, the Temple is no longer a building. Now it is composed of the children of God through Jesus Christ. We, who believe in Jesus, are the Temple of God. According to Peter, we are also the priests in the New Temple. To extend tithing would mean that the tithe should be paid to the New Covenant priests (us) and that it should be used for the New Temple (us). We who are the new priesthood and the New Temple should receive the tithe. We includes not only church leaders but also, equally, all widows, orphans, the poor among us, children, youth, those who do not serve in church ministries, and new believers! Why is it then that the modern-day tithe is used to support the few — to pay the salaries of the clergy, the staff, the building, the utilities, and the programs? What happened to the share of all those who equally deserve the tithe? Who Pays the Temple Tax? Again, when Peter was asked whether Jesus paid the temple tax, he affirmed it. But when he came to Jesus, he asked Peter who should pay taxes, the King's sons or others. The answer of course is that the King's sons are exempted from paying taxes. Instead, they are beneficiaries of the kingdom's tax revenues. (See Matt. 17:24-27.) In the same manner, the children of the King of Righteousness are exempted from paying tithes. Instead, they are beneficiaries of the King's revenues. From the Part to the Whole A very important principle in the move from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant is the principle of the part to the whole. In the Old Covenant, one day was set aside by God for Israel as a holy day, a time to rest. This was the Sabbath — the seventh day — the fourth commandment. In the New Covenant, however, Jesus has become our Sabbath. He is the Lord of the Sabbath, and he is our rest. When we come to him and leave behind our life of sin, we enter into

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his eternal rest. Instead of giving one day to God, we give our entire lives to Jesus. This is the principle of the part to the whole. God does not ask for one small part of our lives anymore. He asked only a portion of the lives of those who had not received the Holy Spirit. But now He asks for our entire lives. "Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Matt. 10:39). The first and greatest commandment states, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matt. 22:37). God wants not just one day out of seven. He wants seven days each week. In modern parlance, God wants us 24/7. Tithing should be treated in the same manner. Tithing is a command where God asked for only 10% of a farmer's income in the Old Testament. However, in the New Covenant, God asks for one's entire life. "For every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills" (Ps. 50:10). He owns everything, therefore he has every right to claim 100% of our income. That is why Jesus had the nerve to tell the rich young man to sell everything he had, give the proceeds to the poor, and come follow him! That is exactly the same reason why the early church in Jerusalem sold their own properties and fed the poor among them. It is also the same reason why the Macedonians who, in their extreme poverty, gathered what they could and sent help to the brothers in Jerusalem who were going through a famine. If the Old Covenant commanded a part, the New Covenant demands the whole. The Principle of Equality In the wilderness, God provided manna to the Israelites. He commanded that everyone should gather manna in the morning to last him for the day (Exo. 16:4-5). The manna was not to be stored for the following day because it would rot and spoil. The children and the weak gathered only a little bit of manna. The stronger ones gathered more manna than they needed. But according to the story, no one had too much and no one lacked (Exo. 16:17-18). We tend to speculate that it was simply that the strong ate more and the weak ate less so no had too much and no one lacked. I submit that that is a fallacious conclusion. Paul encouraged the Corinthians to give to the people in Jerusalem because at this time they had more and the people in Jerusalem had less. He said the time will come when the Corinthians would also be in need and the people in Jerusalem would be in a position to help them. This is so that there would be equality. To Paul, equality did not mean that all of us had the same resources at the same time. But rather, equality meant that those who had more helped those who had less so that later those who had less will have more and will be able to help those who had more but now had less.
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The Israelites did not all gather the same amount of manna. But those who gathered more shared with those who gathered less. That is why no one had more than they needed and no one lacked. This is the principle of equality. Those who have more ought to share with those who have less. The same principle is expressed in 1 Corinthians 11 when Paul scolded the Corinthians for not waiting for everyone before they celebrated communion. Each believer must "consider the body" — that is, wait for the late-comers who were the poor and make sure that everyone is able to share in the meal which was their communion. The rich ought to share what they have with the poor. Conclusion If we are to keep tithing in the New Covenant, it is imperative that we also keep the Sabbath. In addition, we must pay all three tithes (not just one) and all ministers must pay the tithe of the tithe. Paul said that if we keep one part of the Law, we are obliged to keep the entire Law, otherwise we are guilty of breaking the entire Law. But then who are the New Covenant priests according to Peter? Are we not the children of Jesus and therefore the children of Melchizedek? If so, we deserve to receive the tithe from Abraham and all Israel, instead of being the ones to pay the tithe to a select group of individuals. The apostles reminded Paul to "not forget the poor." We are to take care of those who are needy among us. That is our first obligation. If we were to "tithe," it ought to go to the priests of the New Covenant — to us and to the poor among us. Remember, God wants seven days out of seven. He wants you 24 hours every day. He owns your entire life and all your possessions. He wants 100% and not just 10%. We are now under the New Covenant. The example of the New Testament church is that they gave all they had and even more for the sake of Jesus Christ. What will you do?
05 JUN 09

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