Tithing is a hot-button topic that often sparks debate among Christians. So much so, that I had determined to put it off to a later date given that my views on it are not exactly conventional.

However, my recent encounter with an online preacher’s assertion that “If you don’t tithe, you open a door for Satan to come and attack you in your home,” reminded me of the core reason I wanted to delve into this topic in the first place.

Statements like these have become all too common. They are a prime example of what lengths greedy false teachers are willing to go to coerce and manipulate undiscerning congregants for money.

Proponents of the prosperity gospel, in particular, are notorious for exploiting the faith and good intentions of believers by coercing them to tithe under the false pretense that they will reap material blessings. 

And those who dare to defy are harshly warned that they will be “cursed with a curse” for supposedly “robbing God.” But is this frightful warning truly justified? Well, It’s with this in mind, that I want us to explore whether tithing is truly obligatory for believers in Jesus Christ. But before we dive in…

What is a Tithe?

Tithing is the practice of giving a specific portion of one’s income, typically one-tenth (10%). Often to a church or synagogue. 

In the Judeo-Christian context, tithing is often seen as a way of supporting the religious community, its leaders, and the needs of the church or synagogue. 

Tithing in the Old Testament

To examine the practice of tithing and understand its historical context, it is essential to begin with an exploration of the Old Testament. Therefore, let us carefully analyze the following passages to uncover what the Bible truly reveals on this matter:

Abraham and Melchizedek

The act of tithing has a longstanding history that predates the establishment of the Mosaic Law. The first example is found in Genesis 14, where Abraham voluntarily presents a tithe to Melchizedek:

"Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And 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.' And he gave him a tithe of all." Genesis 14:18-20 NIV

Because this event took place before the Mosaic Law was given, it’s cited by those who support the idea of tithing in the Christian context. 

However, it’s essential to note, that Abraham did not give a tenth of His income or possessions. Rather, he gave a tithe of the spoils he had recovered that belonged to Sodom after defeating Chedorlaomer. Hebrews 7:4 underscores this by stating. “See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils!

Upon giving a tenth of the spoils to Melchizedek he returned the rest, 90%, to the King of Sodom (Gen 14:21-24). Furthermore, we don’t see Abraham making a practice of tithing. This was instead a one-time event.

The Holy Bible in a black leather cover next to two pillars of coins representing tithing

Jacob’s Gratitude

We are also presented with another account of tithing in Genesis, where Jacob makes a vow to God to offer a tithe as an expression of his gratitude. It reads:

"Then Jacob made a vow, saying, 'If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father's household, then the Lord will be my God, and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me, I will give you a tenth.'" Genesis 28:20-22, NIV

Jacob makes this vow on his way to Haran to escape from his brother Esau’s anger and to find a wife from among his relatives. During a stop on his journey, he has a significant dream in which he sees a ladder reaching from Earth to Heaven, with angels ascending and descending upon it. It is in the wake of this dream and God’s promise to be with him that Jacob makes this vow.

Like the account of Abraham offering a tithe to Melchizedek, Jacob’s vow to give a tenth to God. was a one-time event. There is no clear evidence that he consistently gave God a tenth of his income.

Furthermore, it’s important to recognize that these two accounts are descriptive historical accounts, not prescriptive templates for Christian giving under the New Covenant. Although they predate the establishment of the Mosaic Law, they simply serve as examples of voluntary giving that we can learn from.

To learn more about the distinction between descriptive and prescriptive passages, check out our blog post on Bible Interpretation: Descriptive vs Prescriptive Passages

The Mosaic Covenant and Tithing

In ancient Israel, the laws regarding tithing were part of the Mosaic covenant. When God bestowed the Law upon the Israelites, He provided clear instructions regarding tithing, stating, “All the tithe of the land, whether it’s from the seed of the land or the fruit of the tree, belongs to the Lord. It is holy to the Lord” (Leviticus 27:30). As a result, tithes were required in ancient Israel, primarily in the form of agricultural produce and livestock from the holy land.

These tithes played a pivotal role in the framework of Israel’s theocracy. God designed Israel’s government in such a way that it required the people to support it through their tithes. Similar to how we pay income taxes to support our governments today.

As such, the law mandated several tithes to serve multiple purposes, including:

  • The First Tithe (Levitical Tithe): This tithe involved giving a tenth of agricultural products and livestock to the tribe of Levi, who were the priests and assistants in the Temple. The Levites did not receive a land inheritance, so the tithe served as their sustenance in exchange for their religious service (Num 18:21; 24; Deut 14:27)).
  • The Tithe of the Tithe: Sometimes considered a subset of the Levitical tithe, this was a tenth of what the Levites received, which went to the priests, who came from Aaron’s bloodline (Num 18:25-29; Neh 10:37-38).
  • The Second Tithe (Festival Tithe): This tithe was set aside for specific years when Hebrew people traveled to the Temple in Jerusalem for designated festivals. They would eat and drink this tithe in a celebration before the Lord (Deut 14:22-26). These festivals occurred in the first, second, fourth, and fifth years of a seven-year cycle (Deut 12:5-7).
  • The Third Tithe (Poor Tithe): This tithe was specifically for the poor, including the Levites, widows, fatherless, and strangers within ancient Israel. It was given twice during a seven-year cycle, in the third and sixth years, and provided for those in need within the towns (Deut 14:28-29).

As you can see, contrary to the common assumption that Israelites contributed only 10% of their income, the actual figure was likely much higher. Estimated to be between 20% and 30% annually.

What about Malachi 3:10?

It would be a crime to talk about tithing without bringing up Malachi 3:10, It reads:

"Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need." Malachi 3:10, ESV

This particular Scripture is frequently cited by proponents of the “Prosperity Gospel,”  to lure believers into the practice of tithing despite it not having a bearing in the New Covenant. 

However, this is not how this verse is supposed to be applied. To prove this to you, let’s approach Malachi 3:10 with proper exegesis to understand its intended meaning and application. This involves considering the following:

  • Historical Context: Malachi is one of the prophetic books in the Old Testament, and it was written to address the spiritual and moral decline among the Israelites. The people had neglected their covenant relationship with God, including their tithing responsibilities.
  • Literary context within Malachi: The book of Malachi contains a series of dialogues between God and the Israelites, where God rebukes them for their disobedience and challenges them to return to Him. In Malachi 3, God specifically addresses the issue of robbing Him through the neglect of tithes and offerings (Malachi 3:8).
  • Interpretation: The interpretation of Malachi 3:10 should be understood within the context of this rebuke. It was a specific message to a particular group of people at a particular time in history. God is calling the Israelites to return to Him and to be faithful in their covenant obligations.  

With this in mind, you can see that this verse is not a universal command for all time but rather a message to the Israelites in a specific historical and religious context. It was directed at Israel within the context of the old covenant between them and God.

And if we consider the whole council of Scripture, we see that it’s a promise that harks back to Deuteronomy 28. In Deuteronomy 28, God outlines a series of blessings (for obedience) and curses (for disobedience) linked to Israel’s faithfulness to their covenant with Him.

As a Christian seeking to apply this verse in context, it’s essential to also consider that the Old Testament law, including tithing, was fulfilled and replaced by the New Covenant in Jesus Christ.

This, however, does not nullify its application.

While it’s not a prescription for tithing in the New Covenant, it’s a reminder of the importance of obedience in the faithful and generous giving to support the work of the church and the ministry. This is because, in the New Covenant, there is a shift away from the legalistic practice of tithing to a more voluntary, grace-based system of giving as we shall see. 

If you’re interested in knowing more about interpreting the Bible correctly, please check out our Bible study archives. In there, you’ll find resourceful articles to help you in your personal study.

Tithes in the New Testament.

Here, we are going to examine the New Testament verses that are often referenced to argue for the continued practice of tithing within the context of Christianity.

Jesus’ Teaching on Tithing in the New Testament

In the New Testament, Jesus mentioned tithing on a few occasions. Usually as a rebuke to the Pharisees (Lk 11:42; 18:11-14; Matt 23:23). One of the key passages where Jesus addresses tithing is found in Matthew 23:

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others." Matthew 23:23, ESV

In this verse, Jesus was not necessarily advocating for tithing. Rather, He was calling out the religious leaders for their hypocrisy and their rigid adherence to the minor details of the law, including tithing, while neglecting the more significant aspects of God’s law, such as justice, mercy, and faith.

Furthermore, His mention of tithing was in the context of the Old Covenant. Remember, this was before the dawn of the New Covenant; Jesus hadn’t yet been crucified. Therefore, the old covenant was still in place. As such, citing this verse isn’t exactly persuasive because His words are not addressed to Christians.

The Book of Hebrews on Tithing

The only other mention of tithing in the New Testament, is in the Letter to the Hebrews, particularly in Chapter 7. Here’s the passage:

"And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers, though these also are descended from Abraham. But this man who does not have his descent from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. In the one case, tithes are received by mortal men, but in the other case, by one of whom it is testified that he lives. One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him." Hebrews 7:1-10, ESV

Far from promoting tithing among Christians, the writer of Hebrews uses the example of Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek to highlight the greatness of Melchizedek’s priesthood compared to the Levitical priesthood established under the Mosaic Law.

The writer of Hebrews is essentially teaching that Jesus Christ’s priesthood, being after the order of Melchizedek, is superior to the Levitical priesthood. He uses this passage to illustrate the change from the Old Covenant (Law of Moses) to the New Covenant (Jesus Christ) while emphasizing the superiority and permanence of Jesus’ priesthood. 

Therefore, citing this verse in the promotion of tithing for believers is self-defeating, given that the New Covenant is by far greater than the Old Covenant. And it doesn’t contain the laws on tithing.

So, Are Christians Under the Obligation to Tithe?

The simple answer is, No. The laws on tithing are not binding for Christians and here is a summary of the reasons why:

  • Believers are not under the Mosaic Covenant.
  • There are no Levites and priests in the New Covenant.
  • Tithing is not commanded in the New Testament when commanding generosity.
  • Tithing was tied to the land of Israel and given in the form of agricultural products and livestock.
  • The examples of Abraham and Jacob are descriptive, not prescriptive.

In the New Covenant, however, believers are exhorted to give generously in response to what Jesus has done for them. We are not bound by obligation or compulsion. Rather, we are presented with the opportunity to give voluntarily and generously to support the work of the church and those in need (Gal 6:6; 1 Cor 9:9; Lk 6:30; Rom 12:13; Heb 13:16).

Generosity is not defined by a specific percentage but rather by the willingness to give sacrificially and joyfully. As 2 Corinthians 9:7 expresses, “God loves a joyful giver.” What is considered generous may vary from person to person, and it is a personal decision.

For some, being generous means giving five percent, ten percent, fifteen percent, etc. The key is to give from the heart and in response to the abundance of God’s blessings. Therefore, under the New Covenant, tithing is not based on obligation but on volition. There is no moral mandate in the New Testament to give ten percent of one’s income.

Christians are no more expected to tithe than they are to be circumcised. That requirement was specific to Israel under the theocratic system and is not reiterated in the New Testament. Instead, it’s replaced by a new approach, as exemplified in 2 Corinthians chapters 6–8.

But here’s the catch, God’s grace ought to inspire us to do far more than what the law would require of us. And for some people, this means giving significantly more than 10%.

“Under the New Covenant, tithing is not based on obligation but on volition.”

But Tithing Works For Me…

Many believers who advocate for tithing often do so based on their personal experiences. There is no shortage of testimonies from those who claim to have experienced financial breakthroughs since they began tithing. To them, tithing is seen as a key to unlocking blessings, making it inconceivable to suggest that it’s not a New Testament requirement.

However, allow me to challenge this perspective and emphasize that truth should not be determined solely by personal experiences. Instead, experiences should be evaluated based on truth; the Word of God

In this regard, Scripture underscores that our blessings are an act of God’s sovereign will and not merely the result of good works. 1 Chronicles says,

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. 1 Chronicles 29:11-12 ESV 

God is the ultimate owner of everything, and He bestows His blessings, including material wealth, to whomever He wills. James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.” As a result, every achievement in life should be acknowledged as a product of God’s grace rather than as evidence of our giving, efforts, or determination.

This is not to say that we do not reap what we sow. It is indeed more blessed to give than receive (Acts 20:35). And God promises to reward our generosity (2 Cor 9:6; Lk 6:38). But it’s crucial to remember that the rewards are not guaranteed to manifest in this earthly life.

This is evident in the reality that some believers tithe and give faithfully and yet they are not prosperous. Conversely, some of the wealthiest individuals in the world may not acknowledge God, let alone tithe, yet God has chosen to bestow prosperity upon them. This shows that tithing cannot explain away everybody’s success. But one thing can; God’s sovereign grace that we see painted in the Scriptures.

Therefore, our motivation for giving and tithing should not be rooted in the fact that it works for us. Instead, it should be from a posture of gratitude. Keeping in mind that God will ultimately reward and bless us, in His own time and according to His divine plan.

Whether or not these blessings manifest in our earthly lives, we can trust that they will be fully realized in the glory of eternity.

Final Thoughts

By now, I’ve probably raffled some feathers but I want to clarify my stance. I’m not suggesting that Christians should refrain from tithing. Not at all. In fact, I’ll admit that for many believers, tithing has many practical benefits including expressing gratitude, practicing generosity, faithful stewardship, and serving as an act of worship. Therefore, Christians have the freedom to tithe if they so desire.

However, what’s crucial to understand is that Christians are not obligated to tithe because Christ fulfilled the requirements of the Old Testament law on our behalf. This means that you should not be motivated to tithe because you’re afraid that you will come under a curse if you don’t. Neither should you do so because some greedy false teacher told you that you can use it to leverage God for blessings. 

Ultimately, my intention is to shed light on a topic that has been used to exploit believers and to empower you with an understanding of the Biblical truth surrounding it. At the end of the day, the decision to tithe should be a personal one made with conviction, not out of fear or manipulation.

Resources used:

For further research into this topic please check out the following debate on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okw70Ron6CQ&t=997s&ab_channel=ReachoutTrust


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  1. avatar
    charity says:

    I hail this statement: Therefore, our motivation for giving and tithing should not be rooted in the fact that it works for us. Instead, it should be from a posture of gratitude

    1. avatar
      Wanjiru Ng'ang'a says:

      I’m glad it resonated with you Charity.

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