Should we tithe as christians?
As recorded in Matthew 23:23, Jesus Christ clearly upheld the practice of tithing: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin [types of herbs], and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone" (Matthew 23:23, emphasis added throughout). Jesus Himself clearly upheld the Old Testament scriptures (Matthew 5:17-19; Luke 16:17).
In this event, only days before His death, Jesus plainly confirmed that tithing should indeed be practiced, along with sincere adherence to the "weightier" spiritual matters of the law the scribes and Pharisees were obviously neglecting. In the Old Testament, God had instructed the Israelites to support the tribe of Levi for its service to God at the temple and throughout the land by giving to the Levites God's tithe—a tithe being a tenth of one's increase.
They, in turn, tithed to Aaron's family, the priesthood. This support provided the means for Israel to worship God and be taught according to His will. With the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70, the Levitical priesthood was no longer able to function in the capacity laid out in the law of Moses. And the responsibility for teaching God's message had been given by God to the New Testament Church.
The supporters of the gospel message gave monetary and other types of aid to Jesus, to His disciples and later to other laborers in the Church to support them in doing the work Christ had given His true followers to accomplish. Examples of such giving, and principles relating to it, are found in New Testament passages such as Luke 8:3, Luke 10:7-8, 2 Corinthians 11:7-9 and Philippians 4:14-18.
Hebrews 7 does describe a change in administration of the law. The New Testament Church—the spiritual temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 2:19-22)—is more important than the physical temple. In early New Testament times, money was given to the leaders of the Church as Christ's representatives (see Acts 4:35-37).
When we explore the New Testament and the experiences of the early Church, we should carefully consider the fact that the emergence of the Church did not herald a radical departure from the religious practices of the nation of Israel.
Not until several decades after the founding of the New Testament Church does the book of Hebrews clarify the impact the new spiritual administration of Christ had on the Church and the existing priesthood. Most of the laws relating to Israel were not annulled, but they were sometimes applied differently, especially after the destruction of the temple.
For decades, because of its practices, the Church was regarded by outsiders as merely another sect of the Jews, but one that believed in the divinity of Jesus Christ. The opportunity for salvation was soon extended beyond the physical nation of Israel and offered to others—those who would be called into the Church from all nations (Matthew 21:43; 1 Peter 2:9-10).
The Church is the spiritual nation of Israel and is even called "the Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16). This new spiritual nation would provide the obedience God desired, through a converted heart.
No sharp break in the application of laws and principles from the Old Testament is found in history or Scripture during this time. The New Testament had not yet been written, but the Church was "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone" (Ephesians 2:20).
Not long before His martyrdom, the apostle Peter reminded Church members of the priceless value of the Hebrew Scriptures, today called the Old Testament: "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:20-21). He further explained that his purpose in writing them was "that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandments of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior" (2 Peter 3:2).
The apostle Paul was in full agreement with Peter's approach to the Old Testament (see Acts 24:14; 2 Timothy 2:15; 3:15-17). Paul also wrote that the teachings and specific examples from the Old Testament were written for the benefit of the New Testament Church (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11).
In a prophecy with the time setting of Christ's second coming, God admonishes us to "remember the Law of Moses, My servant" (Malachi 4:4). It was God Himself who gave His law to Israel through Moses. That law (and the proper application of its principles) has continuing relevance for mankind today. (To understand the true relationship between God's law and New Testament teaching, read our free book The New Covenant: Does It Abolish God's Law? )
Supporting the work of God's Church is very important today. Not only is it proclaiming the biblical message of hope that Jesus Christ will bring world peace in His coming Kingdom, but it is also preparing those who will assist Him in bringing righteousness to the earth. For a more in-depth explanation, read our free booklet What Does the Bible Teach About Tithing?