New Testament Model of Giving
By Lance Mosher
I have come across many people lately who are frustrated with their religious leaders and the constant focus on “tithing” in their churches. I suppose I would get frustrated, too, if I were serving under religious leaders stressing the tithing pattern, since tithing under Christ is not biblical.
When the nation of Israel was brought out of Egyptian slavery by the power of God, after some time in the wilderness, they were gifted with the promised land. Once possessed, each tribe of the Israelites was given a land inheritance, except for the Levites. With land inheritance comes work of harvest and livestock. Instead of an inheritance, God gave the Levites the most important job of the nation- to minister to the Israelites through the priesthood. With such an important job, they didn’t have time to take care of land. Therefore, they had to depend on the rest of the nation for livelihood, which was provided through God’s tithing system (Num. 18:21-24).
Many religious groups teach on “tithing” today. However, we need to recognise two fundamental things about tithing in the Bible.
“Thus all the tithe of the land, of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord. If, therefore, a man wishes to redeem part of his tithe, he shall add to it one-fifth of it. For every tenth part of herd or flock, whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the Lord. He is not to be concerned whether it is good or bad, nor shall he exchange it; or if he does exchange it, then both it and its substitute shall become holy. It shall not be redeemed.” These are the commandments which the Lord commanded Moses for the sons of Israel at Mount Sinai.
As long as the Levitical priesthood was in effect, the rule of tithing was in effect. However, Christ came with a new covenant, which made the first covenant obsolete (Heb. 8:6-13). Christ now serves as a high priest, not according to the order of Aaron and the Levites, but according to the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 5-7).
For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also.
Since Christians do not serve under Levitical priests, there is no reason for the tithing system to still exist. Instead, the law on giving has changed with the change of the priesthood. Christ serves as High Priest, and every single Christian serves as a priest in the spiritual nation of God (1 Pet. 2:4-10).
Christ came to earth to give everything (Mark 10:41-45). We who want to be like Christ should have the same attitude, since we understand that it is from God that we receive any blessing (Jas. 1:16-18). The reason why God abundantly blesses us is so that we “may have an abundance for every good deed” (2 Cor. 9:8). What does that have to do with giving? A friend recently asked it this way: “Why does God need money?” The truth is, He doesn’t! However, He has commissioned His people to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15). God does not need money, but His people need money in order to spread the gospel (1 Cor. 9:9-14).
So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.
In addition to providing funds to spread the gospel, Christians also need to provide funds for those in need.
Now at this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up and began to indicate by the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world. And this took place in the reign of Claudius. And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea. And this they did, sending it in charge of Barnabas and Saul to the elders.
For those in the New Testament, following in the Spirit of Christ, giving was a blessing. So it should be with Christians today.
With Old Testament tithing, ten percent of food was specified. In New Testament giving, tithing is irrelevant. Instead, putting all of this together, Christians are to give according to their income, as they have purposed in their hearts, every first day of the week, bountifully, cheerfully, not grudgingly, and not under compulsion. It’s a blessing to give when we realise that it all belongs to the Lord, anyway, and the more we give, the more the gospel spreads. We can learn from the poor Christians in Macedonia, who were able to give abundantly, because “they first gave themselves to the Lord” (2 Cor. 8:1-5).
Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure–pressed down, shaken together, and running over.
Except where noted, Scripture quotations are taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation