Our Christian Offering
Have You Been Lied to About Tithing?
Introduction: Today I am going to speak about a subject which is one of the most abused and misapplied topics in all of Christianity. Church people are filled with a misunderstanding of it because leaders either willingly or negligently pass on error.
Personally, it is the one issue that makes me more upset than any other and it is one that has led me to stop listening to some of what I used to consider are the best preachers around, because if they can’t handle this issue properly, then they cannot – in my opinion – be trusted to handle the rest properly either.
The subject is tithing and today you will hear directly from the Bible what tithing is and how it was to be applied. I hope, I trust, and I pray that you will listen carefully and then act properly and without coercion in your Christian giving in the future.
Text Verse: I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain. Galatians 2:21
Tithing is a concept mandated in the law. If we believe that we can somehow attain righteousness by adhering to this percept, found under the law, then we have a fundamentally flawed view of our relationship with God.
Paul says that if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain. What would be the point of Jesus coming if we could merit God’s favor apart from Him. It is wrong thinking, but this is what churches are full of, especially when it comes to this precept which is found only under the law and which is known as tithing.
Let us stand on the righteousness that comes not from our deeds, but the righteousness which comes from God through His Son, our Lord and Savior. And so… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.
I. Christ Our Provision
Last week we saw Jacob had a dream in the area of Bethel where the Lord stood above a ladder and spoke to him. When He did, He said this to Jacob – “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.”
Now that he’s awake and ready to continue his journey, Jacob utters a vow of promise to the Lord –
20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on,
The statement “If God will be with me” would rightly be stated “Since God will be with me.” Jacob isn’t doubting what the Lord said. Instead he has every reason to believe that He would be with Him, just as the vision indicated. In essence…
“Since I know that this is so,
And he will keep me in the way I go
And will meet all my needs
Thus will follow my righteous deeds
This is Jacob’s thought to us.
21 so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God.
In the previous verse Jacob said “If God will be with me…” Now he says, “then the Lord shall be my God.” We have to look all the way back to the beginning of the vision when Jacob lay down to sleep to understand this –
“Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 And behold, the Lord stood above it and said: “I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants.”
The Lord identified himself to Jacob in the vision. But Jacob already knew about the Lord from his past, including the blessing he received from his father. So we know that Jacob isn’t saying here that if God will do these things, he will accept the Lord as his God – that is already the case.
What he is saying is that he will be all the more eager and willing to serve the Lord. As I said, the previous verse gives us the idea of “Since God will be with me…” Because God will be with him he says, “The Lord will be my God.”
To help you understand, we can use two friends as an example. One is going on an adventure trip and the other has a lot of money and resources that he promises to help him out with during the trip. The one heading out says, “Since you will be with me and have ensured that I’ll be taken care of, you will certainly be my friend.”
They are already friends, but he is saying it in a manner which indicates not just friendly friendship, but helping friendship as well. Jacob is now saying this about the Lord. “Since you will be with me, you will be the Lord to me.”
And now we can see our relationship to Jesus in this as well. The book of Hebrews, quoting the Lord, has said to us, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” And our reply of confirmation would be “Since you will never leave me nor forsake me, you will be the Lord to me indeed.”
We’re not saying something that isn’t already true, we are saying something that is true in an absolutely certain way. It is an act of gratitude from our lips and it is the same from Jacob’s lips to the Lord. And how grateful we should be…
“Since you will never leave me
Nor will I be left as forsaken
To you all glory and honor and praises be
And in you my peace and rest is taken
II. Christ Our Reward
22 And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house,
If you missed the symbolism of the ladder, the stone, and everything else in Jacob’s vision in last week’s sermon, it would be good for you go back and watch that. The stone is a picture of Christ. He is the pillar of God’s house.
Jacob will be back someday to fulfill his vow. We will see his words realized in Genesis 35 –
So Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him. 7 And he built an altar there and called the place El Bethel, because there God appeared to him when he fled from the face of his brother.
Just as he spoke the vow, he fulfilled it. A vow is a solemn oath made by an individual and the Lord looks at these things as binding. When we make a promise, we are to keep our promise. When we make an oath, we are to live by that oath. When we sign a contract, we need to fulfill the requirements it contains.
Making a vow and performing it is something humans have had a tough time with throughout history, but it is something the Lord asks us to do. In the 50th Psalm, David tell us to…
Offer to God thanksgiving,
And pay your vows to the Most High. Psalm 50:14
In the 76th Psalm, Asaph tells us the same…
Make vows to the Lord your God, and pay them; Psalm 76:11
And the writer of the 66th Psalm almost mirrors the concept of Jacob’s life now when he wrote these words –
I will go into Your house with burnt offerings;
I will pay You my vows,
14 Which my lips have uttered
And my mouth has spoken when I was in trouble. Psalm 66:13, 14
A vow is something offered by our free will and therefore it is something that was not required. By making a vow, we are giving our word. If our vows mean nothing, then our words cannot be trusted. And there is nothing less exciting than being around someone who can’t be trusted.
Each one of us has made vows and we have all failed in them, certainly. But past failure is no indication of future results, so let us do our utmost to determine before others, and especially before God, that we will stand by our words and be counted as trustworthy people.
22 (con’t) and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”
Jacob now vows a tenth of what the Lord gives him back to the Lord. Notice that it doesn’t say how the tenth will be given and the Lord doesn’t use money. Therefore the discretion for the giving is left up to Jacob. Will he give a tenth for taking care of the poor?
Will he give a tenth for building and maintaining an altar? Will he throw a party for his family and rejoice in the Lord through songs and praise? It doesn’t say and there is no indication later as to what he did. The promise is made and nothing else is stated.
This is important and we can’t skip over this fact. Also, what is equally important is that these verses are descriptive, not prescriptive. They describe to us what happened, but they in no way prescribe to us something we are required to do.
The first time giving a tenth is mentioned in any real way was back in Genesis 14 after Abraham defeated the 4 kings of the east. At that time it said this –
“Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. 19 And he blessed him and said:
“Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
20 And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”
And he gave him a tithe of all.” (18-20)
This account of Abraham is, like the account with Jacob, descriptive, not prescriptive. It describes to us what happened, but it in no way prescribes to us that we must do the same.
This is the first time I’ve ever brought up Christian giving in any real sense in any sermon that I know of. I’ve spoken about it in Bible studies many times and I have a page dedicated to it on my website, but now I will preach on it and I’d really like you to pay close attention.
My first point for you is something every person here either already knows or they haven’t been paying attention. We are not under the Law of Moses. In fact, the New Testament says often and explicitly that the law is set aside in Christ; it is obsolete, it is done, it is finished…
We cannot insert the Old Testament law into New Testament Christian living without inserting heresy. It is that simple. We are, as the Bible tells us, living in the dispensation of grace. I’m going to cite several verses here so that you can get a small taste of this –
For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17
Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,.. Romans 5:20
For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:14
I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain. Galatians 2:21
You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. Galatians 5:4
18 For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, 19 for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. Hebrews 7:18, 19
We could cite many more verses, but the Bible is clear – in Jesus, the law is set aside. If we attempt to be justified by that law, meaning living deeds of the law to be please God, then we have fallen from the very grace that was bestowed on us in Christ.
Just as it should be, we are to hold to salvation by the grace of Jesus and His mercy through faith, not deeds of the law. This is what brings us salvation. This is what preachers around America will tell you again and again… week after week.
And yet when it comes to money, all of this grace is thrown to the wind and the law almost inevitably gets reintroduced. One of the most common Bible quotes that you will hear on the subject of giving is from Malachi 3:8 –
Will a man rob God?
Yet you have robbed Me!
But you say,
‘In what way have we robbed You?’
In tithes and offerings.
After hearing this, you’ll be given an hour sermon on how you’re stealing from God if you don’t give ten percent just as the Bible says – and make it pre-tax because of course taxes don’t count.
You’re made to feel guilty about it and shamed if you don’t follow through with what they tell you. Never mind that Malachi was written when? …under the law.
The concept of tithing is mentioned in only two contexts in the New Testament. The first was Jesus speaking, under the law, about the wrong intent of the scribes and Pharisees in the giving of their tithes. These can be found in Matthew 23, Luke 11, and Luke 18.
The second is found in Hebrews 7, which I just cited about the law being annulled, and is merely using the giving of tithes under the Old Testament to demonstrate the greatness of Melchizedek, not as any sort of requirement.
Having said this, tithing is not – in any way, a New Testament concept. It was a practice given to the people of Israel and to them alone. It is, like the rest of the law, set aside in Christ. Does everybody follow so far?
But I want you to understand exactly what tithing meant even in the Old Testament so that you are never duped again by preachers who would so mishandle the Bible. I’m going to read you the pertinent tithing verses, directly from the Bible, and I want you to listen very carefully as I do.
I’ll stop from time to time to explain what’s being said, but I want you to remember, I didn’t write these, they’re right in your Bible –
And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s. It is holy to the Lord. 31 If a man wants at all to redeem any of his tithes, he shall add one-fifth to it. 32 And concerning the tithe of the herd or the flock, of whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the Lord. Leviticus 27
This tells us that the tithe is holy to the Lord, but it doesn’t tell what to do with it. In Numbers 18 it begins to explain what was to be done with the tithes. It says there that the Levites are given the tithes in Israel for the work they perform. In that explanation it says,
“24 For the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer up as a heave offering to the Lord, I have given to the Levites as an inheritance; therefore I have said to them, ‘Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.’”
After this, the Levites, were to offer up their own heave offering to the priests – “Thus you shall also offer a heave offering to the Lord from all your tithes which you receive from the children of Israel, and you shall give the Lord’s heave offering from it to Aaron the priest.”
This is clear and I’m sure any preacher would use it to justify his stand to tell you that you should be giving a tenth to them out of what you make. But the silence becomes deafening when we get to Deuteronomy. There we will see the entire picture of what the tithe meant within the nation of Israel.
But when you cross over the Jordan and dwell in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all your enemies round about, so that you dwell in safety, 11 then there will be the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide. There you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, and all your choice offerings which you vow to the Lord. 12 And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your sons and your daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levite who is within your gates, since he has no portion nor inheritance with you. Deuteronomy 12:10-12
Only the holy things which you have, and your vowed offerings, you shall take and go to the place which the LORD chooses. And you shall offer your burnt offerings, the meat and the blood, on the altar of the LORD your God; and the blood of your sacrifices shall be poured out on the altar of the LORD your God, and you shall eat the meat. Deuteronomy 12:26, 27
“You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. And you shall eat before the LORD your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the LORD your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the LORD your God has blessed you, then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the LORD your God chooses. And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires (whatsoever thy soul lusteth after (KJV)) ; you shall eat there before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household. You shall not forsake the Levite who is within your gates, for he has no part nor inheritance with you. “At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.” Deuteronomy 14:22-29
“When you have finished laying aside all the tithe of your increase in the third year—the year of tithing—and have given it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be filled, then you shall say before the LORD your God: ‘I have removed the holy tithe from my house, and also have given them to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed Your commandments, nor have I forgotten them.” Deuteronomy 26:12, 13
“Come to Bethel, and transgress; at Gilgal multiply transgression; and bring your sacrifices every morning, and your tithes after three years.” Amos 4:4 (KJV)
In Deuteronomy, and for the rest of the Old Testament, tithing is mandatory, but we learn that for the first two years it is to be spent by the one tithing and his family in the presence of the LORD – for food, for drink, for rejoicing. Only in the third year is the tithe to be entirely given away.
The only additional requirement besides spending the entire tithe on a party in the presence of the LORD for the first two years is the sentence, “You shall not forsake the Levite who is within your gates, for he has no part nor inheritance with you.” This explains the verses back in Numbers 18.
This became a means of stimulating economic growth and yet tending to the needy without any undue burden on the people of the land. It was to remind them of the provision of the Lord and the blessings He had given.
Three times the Bible clearly shows us that the third year is the year of giving away the tithe. Despite this, it is almost never mentioned by anyone. Instead, preachers shame their congregation into giving – and that… from an Old Testament principle which doesn’t even apply anymore.
But what is even more despicable is that there are preachers who actually say that the words we’ve read about the third year is an extra tithe on top of a regular tithe. This is flat out lying. One who would do this is the prime example of someone who should never be allowed to preach again. It is greed over grace.
Imagine the nerve of standing in the pulpit and saying this, knowing that not a person in their church would question his authority or even bother to go check. And you wonder why I tell you week after week to check things for yourself.
I saw a highly respected, supposedly, preacher say exactly this on TV one day and to me it was the single most shameful display of lying I’ve ever witnessed on the subject of giving in my life.
Another ploy by preachers is to say that with the tithing, plus all the other required sacrifices, almost thirty percent of what an Israelite made would have been required.
Again, this is simply not correct. That’s why I showed you those verses too. Many of the required sacrifices, as we noted, were eaten by the one who brought them after the removal of the sacred portion by the priests. These arguments simply have no basis in the truth.
The passages I’ve cited clearly show that the third year tithe alone was given away in its entirety and the other two years’ tithes were enjoyed by the giver in the presence of the Lord at Jerusalem with some being given to take care of the Levites.
None of this really matters though because all of this comes from the law – the Old Testament – and it is over, done with, obsolete, and gone. Please don’t ever forget this lesson today and get drawn back into the bondage of pressure and legalism.
Having shown you what the law states and that it doesn’t even apply anymore, what are we to do about giving? Is there a rule or a guideline for us in the New Testament? The answer is, “Yes” and it’s found in 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2 –
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: 2 On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.
There you have the only real direction given to any New Testament saint – lay something aside weekly, storing up as you may prosper. What is prospering? It doesn’t say. It is different for each individual. Have you been freed from an addiction like gambling, alcohol, or smoking?
The money you used to spend on that could be given away. Aren’t you prospering because of the change? If you didn’t need it for something else then, why do you need it now? Or, if you can give 10 percent, then the Lord has prospered you to give 10 percent.
I heard one about a guy who started by giving 10 percent of what he made and the Lord blessed him to where he finally gave 90 percent of what he made. That is a true and heartfelt acknowledgement of the Lord having prospered him.
As John Wesley states “The tenth is a very fit proportion to be devoted to God, and employed for him; though as circumstances vary, it may be more or less, as God prospers us.”
In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul tells us about the spirit of giving and the reaping which results from it –
6 But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.
We don’t want to misapply theses verses like so many preachers do. When it says that those who sow bountifully also reap bountifully, it does not mean that God is an ATM machine. We cannot expect to put in and get more out.
Our reaping may be in money, or it may simply be in joy from having given. It is shameful how many preachers misuse these verses to get people to give them money. And the people that believe what they hear and expect a windfall are giving with the wrong heart in the first place.
I will be as honest as I can with you, if you don’t give to this ministry now that we have a building, this ministry won’t last. We can’t survive in a building with expenses such as insurance, property taxes, maintenance, and a pastor’s salary to support his wife and home, unless attendees give. This is reality.
In support of this, we come to Galatians 6:6 – “Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.”
But when you give, may it be with a grateful heart for what you’ve been given and expecting nothing more in return except the satisfaction that you are furthering the ministry of God and the Gospel of Jesus.
So for today’s lesson, the next time someone tells you that you’re stealing from God if you don’t tithe, ask him to show you the standard for tithing in the Bible. If he can find it at all, then ask him if you’re under law or grace.
Finally, if he still insists on an Old Testament tithe, ask why he’s not instructing you to give in the biblical fashion – every third year. In any case, he is trying to have his cake and eat it too.
If a pastor or teacher reads these passages in the Bible, understands them, and continues to instruct incorrectly, they have put their personal desire for financial gain above what the Bible instructs. Error in doctrine is sin – how much worse if it is intentional!
If you are willing to give out of a grateful heart and not a sense of obligation or expectancy of a profit from God, then may the Lord bless you in your giving and may those who receive your gifts be appreciative of what has been given.
Personally, I’d say 10% is a good starting point, but that we should give based on how we are reflecting appreciation to God for the immeasurable gift He gave us in the person of Jesus Christ. This attitude is clearly proclaimed in Scripture as well.
Now that we’ve come to the end of this sermon, please allow me just a few more minutes to share with you the greatest Gift of all and how you too can receive it…
Closing Verse: Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. 19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. 20 Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. Philippians 4:18-20
Next Week: Resurrection Day
A Portion Returned
Then Jacob made a vow saying
If God will be with me and keep me in this way
That I am going and for which I have been praying
And give me my bread and clothing from day to day
So that I come back to my father’s house in peace
Then the Lord shall be my God, my devotion will never cease
And this stone which I have set
As a pillar shall be God’s house – Bethel
And of all that You give me I won’t forget
I will surely give a tenth to you, this I tell
A lesson for us from the Bible’s pages
Is that we are to fulfill the vows that we speak
We need to be faithful throughout the ages
Performing our vows even when we feel weak
And also we need to remember how we’ve been blessed
God has given us so much, let us return some back
He has filled us with food and in good clothes we are dressed
With a willing heart let us give and not be slack
Lord, help us to live rightly in your eyes
And help us to give in a way which will honor you
When You look upon our gifts may You not despise
But rather may our accounts much credit accrue
May our gifts and offerings be abundantly pleasing in your sight
May also our actions be wholesome, holy, and right
O God be with us throughout all of our days
Guiding us with your word, a light for our feet
And may You be glorified through our resounding praise
Here on this earth or when finally in heaven we meet
Glorious, wonderful God above
Thank You for your unending love
Hallelujah and Amen…