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Is Tithing Required for Christians?
The purpose of the tithe in the Old Testament was to provide for the Levitical priesthood. The Levites were the only tribe forbidden from having an inheritance in the land (Numbers 18). God provided for their inheritance through the tithes of the people. They relied on the other tribes for their sustenance, because their lives were devoted to offering sacrifices to cover the sins of the people. The storehouse referred to in Malachi 3:10 was a literal "storehouse" where firstfruits of the people could be held for the priests consumption and for making sacrifice to God.
As a result of the sacrifice of Jesus, man no longer has to perform to a "law", including that of a tithe (For more information on this topic, please see Are we still under the law?). We no longer have a Levitical priesthood to support, nor do we need one. As stated in Psalms 110:4 and Hebrews 5:6, Jesus is forever our priest. God Himself was the perfect sacrifice in the person of Jesus Christ, so no other sacrifice is needed. To continue to honor the Levitical priesthood through a tithe is to place yourself under the law, thereby disannulling the sacrifice of Jesus.
People often refer to Genesis 14:18-20 as proof that the tithe transcends the law. However, there are some key differences between Abraham's interaction with Melchizadek and the law of the tithe. First, Abraham was not mandated to give a tithe. This is something that he decided to do. Second, Abraham was not under the new covenant made possible by Jesus' death and resurrection. Third, consistent with the tithe of the Old Testament priesthood, Abraham was honoring God by giving a tithe to His most high priest, Melchizadek.
The question then becomes, "How do we now honor Jesus as our high priest?" First, we must acknowledge that Jesus never instructed His followers to pay a tithe. He did, however, instruct the scribes and Pharisees to pay a tithe because they were still under the law. Jesus also paid a tithe, because He came to fulfill the law (For more information on how Jesus fulfilled the law, please see Are we still under the law?).
Not only did Jesus not instruct His followers to continue a tithe, but the Apostles never instructed new Christians to tithe. In fact, we see the discussion among the Apostles and elders regarding the law occur in Acts Chapter 15. The instruction to have new believers adhere to the law was specifically referred to as a temptation of God, an unbearable yoke, and an attempt to subvert their souls (Acts 15:10, 24). Furthermore, when they came to agreement on exactly what they would instruct the believers to keep, the tithe is not even mentioned (Acts 15:24-29). If God expected us to continue in the tithe in honor of Jesus as our high priest, surely this instruction would have been passed on to new believers.
Since Scripture does not support the assertion that believers in Jesus are to continue a tithe, what should we do to honor Christ? Romans 12:1-2 gives a good summary of what God expects from Christians:
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
Jesus was the ransom for our lives, so God in turn expects us to lay down our lives for Him. This means forfeiting our will in favor of His, which is a much heavier and more meaningful commitment than a monetary 10%. Everything that we have is His, and our lives (time, money, resources) should be totally committed to spreading the Gospel.
While some undoubtedly preach the tithe in simple error, be aware of 2nd Peter 2:3: "And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not."
Hebrews Chapter 7 answers this question quite well. He says:"For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually. Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils. And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham: But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises. And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better. And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth. And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him. If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest: (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:) By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore."