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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.






22 May 2009

Designating One’s Tithe


Q: Does my tithe always have to go to my church? We’re in fine financial shape while another church in our city ministers to the poor. I’d like to give one year’s tithe to them. My husband tithes from his money to our church. I tithe from my personal account.

MitesA: When God commanded tithing, the tithe was given directly to His Church and thus, through it, to Him. Numbers 18:24 tells us that “the people of Israel” made this contribution “to the Lord” who told Israel, “I have given [the tithe] to the Levites for an inheritance.”

Thus, it served two purposes. On a pragmatic basis, it fed, clothed, and housed the Levites, the tribe that had no land inheritance but served the Lord while receiving support from the other tribes. The tithe also had underlying spiritual value, teaching Israel that the Lord would provide more than they needed so they would learn to always trust in Him to provide.

If you look at Old Testament evidence only, you would be presenting your tithe to the ministers of God and they, in turn, would devote “a tithe of the tithe (Numbers 18:26)” to the Lord. However, we don’t have Levites, tabernacle or temple, animal sacrifices, and the like. We don’t have one central location of worship or one united church. What do we do now?

We turn to the New Testament! We read about Jesus pronouncing “woe” upon hypocritical “scribes and Pharisees” who followed tithing regulations while neglecting “the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. (Matthew 23:23)” Luke 18 introduces Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee who said, “I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get. (v. 12)” Instead of honoring a man who so slavishly kept the Law, Jesus commended a “tax collector” who “beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ (v. 13)” Neither account encourages tithing.

Abraham Tithing MelchizedekThe only other mention of tithing in the entire New Testament comes in Hebrews 7. The tithe referenced here didn’t come from Israelite worship but from the life of Israel’s (Jacob’s) grandfather Abram, who “gave a tenth of the spoils (v. 4)” to Melchizedek, king of Salem after the king blessed him (cf. Genesis 14:18-20).

When we read through Acts and the epistles, we find no mention of tithing anywhere in the Christian Church. Why? Because the tithe was commanded only to Israel, under the Mosaic covenant.

We Christians are free to give however we want. If people want to give a tenth, they can — however, they don’t have to. The Lord wants our riches freely given in response to His free lover for us: “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)”

Meeting your question directly, you have a degree of freedom to give as you see fit. Help the needy? Paul commended the believers in “Macedonia and Achaia” for their “contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. (Romans 15:26)” Sustain existing ministry? The Epistles commend (and command) offerings given to support the ministers of the Gospel (e.g., 1 Corinthians 9:14; 1 Timothy 5:17-18; Galatians 6:6-7).

Offering PlateUsing Scripture as a guide, think about a “both-and” rather than an “either-or” response. Your gifts to your own congregation support the proclamation of the Gospel there while gifts to the other flock bring both the Word and physical blessings to those in need. Instead of wondering how much you should give to each, consider how much you’re able to give.

Generally speaking, I think that we often use a faulty model for our offerings and alms. How often are we encouraged to “give until it hurts”? Would it not be more Scripturally accurate and God-pleasing to “give until it feels good”?

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

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Walter Snyder is a Lutheran pastor, conference speaker, author of the book What Do Lutherans Believe, and writer of numerous published devotions, prayers, and sermons.

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Newspaper column #585:1

3 Comments:

Blogger Russell Earl Kelly said...

Thanks for being honest on the doctrine of tithing. I have an article by Luther on my web stie plus over 150 other articles on tithing. Please email me separately and tell me which branch of the Lutheran Church you represent. I was under the impresion that that LCMS favored teaching tihing but the Wisconsin Synod did not.

22 May, 2009 12:26  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My question is this, since many Pastors/Church Leaders uphold tithing as still a carry over from the Old Covenant into New Testament Christian Churches then why aren't they teaching to Keep the Sabbath which is to cease from all activity /work from Friday eve. till Saturday night. It is obvious that the Tithe teachers are picking & choosing which Old Covenant law is still in vogue. God demanded from the Jews that all of his Old Covenant laws be kept.

The change came by way of Jesus who fulfilled the law, paid our fines for breaking God's laws and now gives his people free grace for every need free of charge.

In most Tithe teaching Churches tithing has now replaced the payment Jesus made on the cross and all the credit/glory is now given to the tither for tithing.The payment Jesus made is being ignored. That paid in full payment covers the promises of daily provision, blessing along with Salvation. It gives the believer to ask in Jesus name for his daily needs, not your tithing record.
Shame Shame on the tithe teachers for this, may God open their eyes to the scam they have been running on the body of Christ! If they do not keep the Sabbath they have no right to teach on keeping any OLD Covenant law. All of them were a requirement. Paul the Apostle said to give (voluntary) as one had purposed in his own heart 2nd Corinthian 9:7 No where did he mandate to the Gentiles mandatory tithe paying. Gentiles were never given this mandate after the Cross. Galatians 3:13 declares Christ has now redeemed us from the curse of the (as in the tithe law) law! I hope God opens their eyes and convict them of this heresy that has lead to materialism, greed, pride and tithing braggarts stealing away Gods credit for answered prayers with their tithe works.

26 November, 2009 14:19  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jesus said to his Disciples that they can Ask the Father in His (Jesus) name and God will bless. I don't recall Jesus saying Pay your tithes and God will bless you. In Matthew 23:23 Jesus said tithing was not even the most important matter of the law and he was talking to Jews only still under the laws of Moses because he had not yet died to fulfill the law for his people! Abraham gave tithes one time this was not the practice of faithful ongoing tithing,nor did God give this as Covenant. The Covenant was Abraham's faith. Hebrews 7:22 & 8:6 goes on to speak of Jesus as the NEW and Better Covenant. Don't expect brainwashed people to accept Free Grace over their tithe works. Blind people don't wish to see or give up their bragging rights as God's favorites.
Sounds like Modern day Pharisees to me. Give but don't slander the reputation of Jesus by saying he is charging for answers to prayers.
"If God did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, He will also with Him (His Son Jesus) freely give us all things" Romans 8:32 To the Tithe Police Look up freely in the dictionary!

26 November, 2009 14:33  

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