Tithes: Are They Necessary Today?

Are Christians bound to give 10 per-cent?

The Pastor’s Message

It’s a common sight at many Christian churches around the world. The pastor stands up the front and begins preaching. The thrust of the message is that if the congregation give money, they will be blessed. The more money they give, the more they will be blessed! The congregation, motivated by their love for God and trust in the speaker’s word, throw handfuls of cash into the collection basket. Some write out cheques, others give their credit card numbers.

The question is, does God need all that money? This is a serious question, and one with dramatic consequences. If God needs money, it is right that Christians should give until they can give no more. If God doesn’t need money, then large numbers of people have been deceived by their preachers and have given money that could have gone to more worthy causes.

The subject of tithes is emotional. Some people feel that because they have donated a lot of money to their pastor, they will be blessed by God. However, the Bible is the only source of guidance that should be consulted on the matter, and a careful study of its pages reveals the truth about tithes.

Simon and the Bribe

A Christian called Simon once saw the apostles Peter and John perform a miracle (read the story for yourself in Acts 8:4-25). The miracle was that Peter and John put their hands on some of the Christians in Samaria, and those Christians received gifts of the Holy Spirit. Simon was amazed! He saw that only the apostles could pass gifts of the Holy Spirit to other people. Those who received the gifts of the Holy Spirit from the apostles could perform miracles, but they couldn’t pass the gifts of the Holy Spirit to others.  Gifts of the Holy Spirit such as talking in tongues and healing are not available to people at the time of writing this leaflet, although there are other passages showing that they will be present once again at the time of Christ’s return to the earth.

For more information on gifts of the Holy Spirit, click here: The Holy Spirit

Only the apostles could pass on the power of the Holy Spirit to perform miraculous healings etc. What a gift! Simon didn’t hesitate to pounce on this opportunity. Simon brings bribe-money to Peter and John and says, "Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit." (Acts 8:192);

Note: All scripture quoted in this leaflet is taken from the English Standard Version of the Bible.

How does Peter reply?

"May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity." (Acts 8:20-23)

This passage is clear. God doesn’t need money! God’s blessings are given for free, because He loves His children. So why do so many pastors ask for money?

Just What is a Tithe Anyway?

Religious leaders often refer to the money they ask for as "tithes”. Let’s look at the word "tithe” and what it means. The first time that the word "tithe” appears in the English Standard Version of the Bible is in the book of Leviticus. Prior to this, though, the principle of the tithe is established in Genesis 14 and 28. We will focus on these passages, and then return to Leviticus.

In Genesis 14, Abraham returns from rescuing his nephew Lot and his family who had been captured by an enemy. Abraham is met by a man whose name is Melchizedek, and Genesis 14:20 tells us that

"Abram [whose name was changed later to Abraham] gave him a tenth of everything."

In the King James Version of the Bible, we are told that Abraham gave "tithes of all." Genesis 28:22 is similar, in that Jacob (Abraham’s grandson) pledges that he will give God "a full tenth" of everything he is blessed with. As will become clear as you read this booklet, the "tenth," otherwise known as a "tithe," was limited to specific items.

Consider that Abraham had a wife, servants, money, tents and many other blessings from God. Did Abraham truly give Melchizedek a tenth of everything? Did Jacob actually give God a tenth of all he was blessed with? Later in this leaflet we will look more closely at this man Melchizedek. For now, let’s turn to the book of Leviticus. We will see from the following passages what the "tenth" or "tithe" refers to.

Leviticus 27:30-32 says, "Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the LORD's; it is holy to the LORD. If a man wishes to redeem some of his tithe, he shall add a fifth to it. And every tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman's staff, shall be holy to the LORD." (Leviticus 27:30-32)

This passage tells us what a tithe was in the time of the Old Testament. A tithe was a tenth part of crops, fruit and animals that was given to God. So a tithe was given to God from the produce of the land. How was it given to God? Numbers 18:20-21,24 gives the answer.

"And the LORD said to Aaron, You shall have no inheritance in their land, neither shall you have any portion among them. I am your portion and your inheritance among the people of Israel. To the Levites I have given every tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service that they do, their service in the tent of meeting…" (Numbers 18:20-21)

"For the tithe of the people of Israel, which they present as a contribution to the LORD, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance. Therefore I have said of them that they shall have no inheritance among the people of Israel." (Numbers 18:24)

The beginning of Numbers 18 tells us that Aaron and his tribe, the tribe of Levi, were the ones who were set apart to work in the tabernacle (Numbers 18:1-7), which was the tent that was a symbol of God’s presence with the Israelites. In the passage quoted from Numbers 18:20-21,24, God tells the tribe of Levi that they are not allowed to own land. This creates an issue. If the Levites didn’t own land, how were they supposed to produce food to eat? The answer is simple – the other eleven tribes of Israel were to donate the tenth part of their produce to "the LORD," or to the tribe of Levi who did His work on earth, and this gave them enough to eat.

Did the tithe that the Israelites were commanded to give the tribe of Levi ever include money? The word "tithe" appears fourteen times in the King James Version of the Bible, and twenty-two times in the English Standard Version. The English Standard Version will be used as a basis for this study, as it mentions the word more often. The word "tithe" appears twenty times in the Old Testament and twice in the New Testament. Let’s look at these passages to find out whether money was ever mentioned.

We have already looked at the first five passages where the word tithe occurs (Leviticus 27:30-32, Numbers 18:20-21,24). What about the rest? Before we move on to the other passages, however, it is worthwhile to consider the topic of money.

Money, Money, Money…

Some people who advocate the paying of tithes have been known to say that even though produce is what is tithed in the Bible, this was only because people traded produce as money didn’t exist. This is unbiblical and incorrect. The first passage we looked at was Leviticus 27:30-32. If we go back a few verses, this is what is found: "Every valuation shall be according to the shekel of the sanctuary: twenty gerahs shall make a shekel." (Leviticus 27:25)

It can be seen then that money did exist – the Israelites had the gerah and the shekel, and twenty gerahs equaled one shekel according to God’s commandment. If God had wanted the priests and Levites to be paid with money, He would have then gone on to say how much they should be paid (in gerahs and shekels), but He doesn’t! God simply talks later of the produce that is to be tithed. It is a good idea to read all of Leviticus 27 to see for yourself that this is the case.

Psalm 119:4 says "You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently." The only way we can find out about what God’s precepts (or laws) are is to read the Bible regularly (see Psalm 119:97 and Acts 17:10-12).

If you would like to read the Bible regularly, but don’t know where to start, please go to: www.dailyreadings.org.uk for further information.

To Tithe or Not to Tithe?

We will now move on to look at the other passages where the word "tithe" occurs.

"Moreover, you shall speak and say to the Levites, 'When you take from the people of Israel the tithe that I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall present a contribution from it to the LORD, a tithe of the tithe.'" (Numbers 18:26)

This passage follows on from the one we looked at previously. Simply put, the Levites took a tenth part of the tithe of crops, fruit and animals that they received, and dedicated it to God by giving it to the High Priest (Numbers 18:28). So this passage doesn’t mention money. What about the others?

"You may not eat within your towns the tithe of your grain or of your wine or of your oil, or the firstborn of your herd or of your flock…" (Deuteronomy 12:17)

So this does not refer to money either. The next four occurrences of the word "tithe” appear in one chapter.

"You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. And before the LORD your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. And if the way is too long for you to carry the tithe, when the LORD your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the LORD your God chooses, to set his name there, then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the LORD your God chooses and spend the money for whatever you desire--oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household. And you shall not neglect the Levite who is within your towns, for he has no portion or inheritance with you. At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do." (Deuteronomy 14:22-29)

Interestingly, the word "money" is mentioned in association with the word "tithe" twice in this passage. The Israelites were told that if the place where they had to take the tithe to was a long distance away, and because God had blessed them so much that they weren’t able to transport the tithe easily, they were to sell the tithe and take with them the money they had gained. Then what were they to do with the money? They were to:

  • "…spend the money for whatever you desire — oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household." (Deuteronomy 14:26).
  • "feed…the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow…" Deuteronomy 14:29).

We can see from Deuteronomy 14 that the money made from the original tithe was to be used to buy food once the Israelites had arrived at the place God had designated for the celebration, and the food was to be put towards a banquet — a feast to which the Levites and the disadvantaged were also invited. So whilst this passage mentions money, it can be seen that the money was only used for convenience, until such time as it could be converted back into food again.

The next two times the word "tithe" appears are in Deuteronomy 26:

"When you have finished paying all the tithe of your produce in the third year, which is the year of tithing, giving it to the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your towns and be filled, then you shall say before the LORD your God, 'I have removed the sacred portion out of my house, and moreover, I have given it to the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all your commandment that you have commanded me. I have not transgressed any of your commandments, nor have I forgotten them. I have not eaten of the tithe while I was mourning, or removed any of it while I was unclean, or offered any of it to the dead. I have obeyed the voice of the LORD my God. I have done according to all that you have commanded me.'" (Deuteronomy 26:12-14)

Once again, as can be seen, the tithe relates to produce that had to be given to the Levites and disadvantaged people. This pattern continues in 2 Chronicles 31.

"As soon as the command was spread abroad, the people of Israel gave in abundance the first-fruits of grain, wine, oil, honey, and of all the produce of the field. And they brought in abundantly the tithe of everything. And the people of Israel and Judah who lived in the cities of Judah also brought in the tithe of cattle and sheep, and the tithe of the dedicated things that had been dedicated to the LORD their God, and laid them in heaps." (2 Chronicles 31:5-6)

Interestingly the phrase "tithe of everything" is stated in this passage as referring specifically to "grain, wine, oil, honey, and all the produce of the field." It is therefore easy to recognize that Abraham and Jacob, in the passages in Genesis 14 and 28 already discussed, did not tithe literally "everything," but simply everything they produced. The next two occurrences of the word "tithe" are in the book of Nehemiah.

"And the priest, the son of Aaron, shall be with the Levites when the Levites receive the tithes. And the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes to the house of our God, to the chambers of the storehouse." (Nehemiah 10:38)

"Then all Judah brought the tithe of the grain, wine, and oil into the storehouses." (Nehemiah 13:12)

In Nehemiah 10:38 we see that the Levites kept the commandment of Numbers 18:2628 that has been mentioned previously: that a tenth part of the tithe that was brought to them should be kept for the High Priest. In Nehemiah 13:12 we see once again that the tithe is of produce, and not money!

By now it should be clear that the word "tithe," when used in the Bible, refers to produce. The question has to be asked then, why do many modern pastors and religious leaders ask for tithes of money?

Count and See

Having looked at the twenty times that the word "tithe" appears in the Old Testament, it is now time to look at the two occasions on which it appears in the New Testament. Before the two passages are studied, however, it is worthwhile to pause and consider the number of times the word "tithe" appears in the Bible. Words such as "tithe," "tithes," and "tithing," all appear infrequently in the New Testament. While these words combine to appear thirty-four times in the English Standard Version of the Old Testament, they only appear a total of eight times in the New Testament (the word "tithing," doesn’t appear at all in the New Testament). This automatically tells the true Bible student that a change has taken place. When a concept or doctrine that was a feature of Israelite worship in the Old Testament ceases to be important in the New Testament, it is the duty of the Bible reader to find out why! This change will be studied later in this booklet.

As has been shown, each time the word "tithe” appears in the Old Testament it always refers to produce, or the selling and purchase of produce. The words "tithes" and "tithing" are no different. It is necessary NOT to take this booklet’s word for it, though. The following references are where the words "tithe” and "tithing” appear in the Old Testament. As part of your personal Bible study, look up these passages and see whether they refer to produce or money: Numbers 18:28; Deuteronomy 12:6,11; 2 Chronicles 31:12 (we have already dealt with 2 Chronicles 31:5-6); Nehemiah 10:37-38, 12:44; 13:5 (we have already dealt with Nehemiah 10:38); Amos 4:4 and Malachi 3:8-10.

As you will see from these passages, tithing refers to produce, and never to money. In the cases where the passage mentions neither produce nor money, it is simply a case of understanding that the Bible assumes that the reader already knows what a tithe is.

The tithe was defined in Leviticus 27:30-32, which has already been shown to refer to produce.

From the Old to the New

The New Testament passages that mention the words "tithe" and "tithes" will now be studied (as previously mentioned, the word "tithing" does not appear in the New Testament). It will be seen here that a change has taken place between the Old Testament and the New Testament, and that tithes are no longer required! The first two examples are records of the same speech of Jesus Christ.

"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 faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others." (Matthew 23:23)

"But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others." (Luke 11:42)

Why did Jesus condemn the Pharisees, even though they apparently did the correct thing under the law by tithing produce like herbs? Jesus himself gives us the answer – they tithed, but they didn’t fulfill the other parts of the Law of Moses that they claimed to know! They ignored the parts of the Law of Moses that talked of justice, mercy and faithfulness. Jesus tells them that they should have practiced all of the Law of Moses, but instead, they only performed the parts they wanted to and could easily manage. The following passage demonstrates this point clearly.

"He [Jesus] also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18:9-14)

Who was justified before God? The Pharisee who kept the Law of Moses to the letter yet disregarded the fact that God requires humility and faith, or the tax collector who recognized his sin and asked his Father in heaven to forgive him? The answer is obvious. The books of Micah and Hosea also make this point:

"He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8)

"For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings."; (Hosea 6:6)

Are Donations Allowed?

You may be convinced by now that tithes are no longer necessary. But what about giving money to church groups? It is mentioned in the Bible that donations were given for the temple, so does that mean that we should give money to religious organizations now? The answer is yes; however, there are two things that must be considered when giving money to a church or church organisation:

  1. Does the money go directly towards the normal costs that are part of running a church and preaching the Gospel, or is it used to pay the wages of priests, ministers, pastors etc?
  2. Does the church group preach the truth of the Bible, or their own version of it?

These are two extremely serious questions, and must be answered in the following way:

  1. The money should go directly towards the maintenance of the congregation's meeting place, as well as programs such as preaching, charitable works and the like. If any of the money is used to pay the wages of someone who is a minister, pastor, priest, etc, NO money should be donated. See 2 Kings 12:4-16 for further details. Note that in 2 Kings 12:16, money is mentioned that was given to the priests. Barne’s Bible Commentary makes the following point: "In all cases of injury done to another, a man was bound by the Law to make compensation to the sufferer, if possible; or if not, to his nearest kinsman. If the man was dead and had left no kinsmen, then the compensation was to be made to the priest (Numbers 5:8)" It should still be noted, however, that as per Deuteronomy 14:22-29, the priests were not allowed to own land, and so this money was obviously used once again to purchase food so that they could eat.
  2. Bible truth MUST be preached. For example, if your church teaches that tithing is still necessary today, but you now know that it is incorrect to do so, you need to leave that church and find one that preaches the truth. John 4:24 says that "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." God requires truth to be a basis of His relationship with His children. See 2 Timothy 4:3-4 for further details. This passage tells us that we have to be wary of false teaching. The only way to guard against false teaching is to read the Bible for ourselves, regularly. If you want a system that shows you how to read the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice every year, go to this site to see thoughts on the Daily Readings.: www.dailyreadings.org.uk

So the answer is clear: if the church teaches truth (which you must constantly check against the Bible to make sure it is truth), and the money goes towards the maintenance of the church and its welfare and preaching programs (and not to pay the wages of ministers, priests, pastors etc), it is a worthwhile thing to donate money (remembering that the donation must be made in secret as per Matthew 6:1-4, which will be studied later in this leaflet). 

Hebrews Gives the Answer About Tithes

Having dealt with all the passages mentioning the word "tithe," we will now look at the rest of the occurrences of the word "tithes." It will once again be shown that tithes are no longer necessary, as we are under a new law, a new covenant in Christ.

"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 [the king and priest Melchizedek] 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…" (Hebrews 7:5-9)

This is an obscure passage, but it is made clearer when the entire chapter is read. It is best if at this point you pause and read Genesis 14:17-20. This passage talks about Abram (later to be named "Abraham") and a priest that he met with, by the name of Melchizedek. That passage will give you the context needed to understand Hebrews 7. Once you have read Genesis 14:17-20, turn to Hebrews 7 and read it all. You may need to read it a few times to understand the point that is being made.

As can be seen from reading Hebrews 7, the tithing issue is mentioned in past tense, merely retelling the story of Melchizedek and Abraham. At no point does the author say that we have to follow the example of Abraham and tithe ourselves. In fact, it says entirely the opposite. Consider Hebrews 7:18-19:

"On the one hand, a former commandment [the Law of Moses] is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God." (Hebrews 7:18-19)

What is this "better hope?"

"…but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him: "The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, 'You are a priest forever.' This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant." (Hebrews 7:21-22)

"He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever." (Hebrews 7:27-28)

What we are being told in Hebrews 7 is this:

  • The Law of Moses in the Old Testament was necessary to demonstrate how the Israelites were supposed to conduct their lives
  • It was weak because it only demonstrated that following God faithfully and sinlessly was impossible (except for Jesus)
  • When Abraham and Melchizedek met, they symbolised the meeting that would occur between Jesus Christ and his true followers – Jesus would offer his body (bread) and blood (wine) for us, and his followers would come to him and offer their lives of dedication in return
  • Jesus’ example has "set aside" the Law of Moses and introduced "a better covenant." This is explained by the following passages that occur later in the book of Hebrews: "In speaking of a new covenant [the covenant in Christ], he makes the first one [the Law ofMoses] obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away." (Hebrews 8:13) "…According to this arrangement [the Law of Moses], gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation. But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for (9) all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption." (Hebrews 9:9-12)
  • The old law, the Law of Moses, has been fulfilled, in that Jesus Christ, a sinless man, was sacrificed and is now resurrected and glorified by God! The book of Hebrews tells us that the Law of Moses has now been fulfilled, and so all the individual regulations it contained (like tithes) are now obsolete. We don’t need to tithe anymore!

Should Priests Be Paid?

There are some people who call themselves priests (or pastors, ministers etc) still in existence today. If there are still priests, surely we should tithe so that they can receive wages? There is one simple fault with this question. Priests are no longer necessary! Jesus Christ is our High Priest, and he is the one who represents God to us. The Bible states that priests are not necessary today, as Christ is our high priest. In fact, the Bible tells us that all true followers of God are themselves priests!

"…from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." (Revelation 1:5-6)

As true believers are symbolic priests of God, it is their duty to continually study the scriptures for themselves to find out its truth. So if we are priests, does this mean we can set up our own churches and charge other people for our services? The Bible gives a very definite answer: no!

Consider the following passage:

"Hear this, you heads of the house of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel, who detest justice and make crooked all that is straight, who build Zion with blood and Jerusalem with iniquity. Its heads give judgment for a bribe; its priests teach for a price; its prophets practice divination for money; yet they lean on the LORD and say, Is not the LORD in the midst of us? No disaster shall come upon us. Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height." (Micah 3:9-12)

The priests of Israel in this passage charged money for their services, and were condemned for it. True believers of God must therefore not receive any income for their services – in fact, that is what Christ commanded us to do:

"…proclaim as you go, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.'…You received without paying; give without pay." (Matthew 10:7-8)

As this passage shows, the good news of the Bible is given for free, and so it is the duty of true believers to pass on the Gospel for free.

Please read: Do Christians Need Priests from the "Library” section of the site.

What About Preachers?

Many people who believe that tithing is still required of Christians today point to 1 Corinthians 9 as proof. Let’s look at these words closely to test this theory. First of all, it is interesting to note that in this chapter the words "tithe," "tithing," "tithes" and other similar words do not appear. However, Paul seems to make mention of earning a wage by preaching the Gospel.

"Do we not have the right to eat and drink? Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas (Peter)? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?" (1 Corinthians 9:4-7)

Paul then goes on to say:

"If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? …Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel." (1 Corinthians 9:11, 13-14)

It seems from this that Paul is advocating that people who preach the Gospel are entitled to a wage. However look closely at what he says.

"Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel." (1 Corinthians 9:13-14)

Paul is making here the same point that Jesus made to his disciples in Matthew 10.

"Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. Acquire no gold nor silver nor copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics nor sandals nor a staff, for the laborer deserves his food." (Matthew 10:8-10)

It seems that in this passage that Jesus contradicts himself – at first he says that the disciples are not to be paid for their work, and then he seems to say they are to be reimbursed! However this is not the case. 1 Corinthians 9 and Matthew 10 make the same point; that people who preach the Gospel should be fed by believers. Jesus continues his instructions to his disciples in Matthew 10:11, "And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart".

The disciples, while traveling to preach the Gospel, were to find believers and stay with them. The disciples were to live a life of poverty (Matthew 10:9-10), relying only on the kindness of believers for their food and accommodation. Paul understood this, and in 1 Corinthians 9, while advocating that preachers are entitled to be provided meals whilst traveling, mentions his reluctance to burden other believers when he writes:

"But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting. For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them." (1 Corinthians 9:15-19)

Consider what is recorded in the book of Acts about when Paul arrived in Corinth to preach the Gospel.

"After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tent-makers by trade. And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks." (Acts 18:1-4)

Paul, it seems, paid his own way by resorting to his trade – tent making. It can be seen from Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9 and Jesus’ words in Matthew 10 that preachers are entitled to be accommodated and fed by believers, and a life of poverty is the only choice people taking this option have. Paul discusses his choice to preach the word in poverty in Acts 20:33-35.

"I coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"

Receiving money for passing on God’s message has been shown to be erroneous. Some people, though, use 2 Corinthians 11 to try and prove that Paul took money in return for his preaching services.

"Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached God's gospel to you free of charge? I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way." (2 Corinthians 11:7-9)

It can be seen from this passage that Paul received something from the Macedonians and other churches so that he could preach in Corinth. The original Greek word that is translated as "support" in 2 Corinthians 11:8 is "opsonion," which means "rations for a soldier… stipend or pay"

Does this mean that Paul received an income in return for preaching the Gospel, or that he simply received the basic necessities so his work could continue? One commentator puts it in the following way:

"This part of the sentence is explained by the latter, taking wages to do you service… the pay of money and provisions given daily to a Roman soldier. As if he had said: "I received food and raiment, the bare necessaries of life, from other Churches while laboring for your salvation. Will you esteem this a crime?"

Another commentary says, "to do you service... — Greek, with a view to ministration to you… implying, he brought with him from the Macedonians, supplies towards his maintenance at Corinth; and… when those resources failed he received a new supply, while there, from the same source." (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary.)

In a similar way, Philippians 4:15-17 is sometimes used to attempt to prove that Paul was financially rewarded for his preaching efforts, however the explanation that applies to 2 Corinthians 11 also applies in this case. Paul’s comments therefore do not contradict what has already been identified about taking money in return for his preaching – that Paul chose a life of poverty, allowing in a few cases the churches to supply his basic needs while he spread the Gospel, and that accommodation and food provided by true believers is the only benefit if any that preachers should receive.

Ssshhh… it’s a Secret!

Tithes are no longer necessary. Priests who charge money for their services are condemned in the Bible. Preachers are only entitled to food and board from believers, and must pass on God’s message for free. But doesn’t Jesus tell us we must give to worthy causes? Of course he does! This is a different matter altogether. Tithes are usually requested by church organizations and individual religious leaders to pay wages, which has been shown to be wrong. Giving to charities and non-profit organizations that do good work is entirely different. Let’s consider Christ’s words:

"Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." (Matthew 6:1-4)

In our modern society, it is not a cultural practice to play a trumpet before we give to charity like it was in Christ’s time! However, think about what he is saying. We have all seen people who like to make donations to charity in front of other people. Jesus says that that is wrong; when we give our donations, we should give them secretly, so that no one knows how much, how often, or to whom or what we give. God sees everything, and He knows what we do. He will reward us – that is all that matters. Consider the words of 2 Corinthians:

"Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." (2 Corinthians 9:7)

Notice that we are to give cheerfully, graciously and without being forced to do so – God appreciates the kind donations given by His worshipers!

Let’s Summarize

  • Tithes were originally instituted by God so that His priests could eat and be satisfied.
  • If money was involved in the tithe, the money was to be spent on food.
  • Tithes for priests are no longer necessary, as all true believers of God are priests, and our high priest now is Jesus Christ.
  • The Bible condemns people who charge money for religious services.
  • Preachers are only entitled to food and board from believers, and riches are not to be gained from preaching the Gospel
  • Donations to worthy causes are encouraged by the Bible, and these donations must be made without other people knowing about it. These donations are to be voluntary (no-one should force you to donate) and given cheerfully!
  • Jesus tells us that as we have received the truth of the God’s message for free, we must also give it to others for free.

It is hoped that some of your questions about tithes have been answered in this booklet.

Please check all the quotes mentioned in this study in the Bible to make sure they say what we have said actually matches the scripture quoted. If it does, and your preacher is telling you that you have to tithe, you have to make a hard decision. You need to reject the false teaching of your preacher and seek the true teaching of the Bible. The people who distribute this study (the Christadelphians) would be very happy to help you with this.

May God bless you in your quest for truth!

— Author: Stephen Schwer

—Edited by: Cathy Morgan