Questions and Answers: Is tithing really a part of New Testament teaching?

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Is tithing really a part of New Testament teaching?

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He said: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin [that is, various 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 [tithes] undone" (Matthew 23:23; compare Luke 11:42, emphasis added throughout).

Here, only days before His death by crucifixion, Christ plainly confirmed that tithing should be practiced, along with spiritual adherence to the "weightier" matters that the scribes and Pharisees were obviously neglecting.

God had earlier instructed the Israelites to support the tribe of Levi for its temple service. They did this by giving the Levites God's tithe—this support providing the means for Israel to worship the Creator and be taught according to His will.

But with the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70, the functioning of the Levitical priesthood in the national worship system was not able to continue in the same way. Moreover, Jesus had given the awesome responsibility to proclaim God's truth to the Church He built (Matthew 16:18; Matthew 28:18-20).

Even prior to the temple's destruction, members of God's Church and followers of the gospel message gave monetary and other types of aid to Jesus and His apostles, disciples and later other laborers helping to spread the gospel. The work Christ had given His Church to do had to be supported (1 Corinthians 9:9-14).

Anticipating the end of the national worship system, Hebrews 7:12 refers to a change in the administration of tithing that accompanied a change in the priesthood. In Hebrews 7:1-19 it's explained that the ancestor of the Levites, Abraham, paid tithes to the priest-king Melchizedek—a figure called the "king of righteousness" and "king of peace," with no beginning or end, who was evidently the preincarnate Jesus (see the Bible study aid Who Is God?). And now the tithes would go directly to Melchizedek again through His representatives. 

The New Testament Church—the spiritual temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 2:19-22)—was superior to the physical temple that was destroyed when Jerusalem fell to the Roman army. And as the Church's representatives, the New Testament apostles became the recipients of the tithes of God's people (see Acts 4:35-37).

When we carefully explore the New Testament and the experience of the early Church, we should understand that the emergence of the Church did not mean a radical departure from the religious practices of the nation of Israel. Both the apostles Peter and Paul clearly upheld Old Testament teachings (2 Peter 1:20-21; 2 Peter 3:2, 2 Timothy 2:15; 2 Timothy 3:15-17).

Not until several decades after the founding of the New Testament Church does the book of Hebrews clarify the impact this new spiritual administration involving tithing had on the Church.

Because of its continuance in Old Testament practices, though sometimes applied in a new way, for decades the Church was regarded by outsiders as merely another sect of the Jews, but one that believed in the divinity of Jesus Christ. The Church is the spiritual forerunner in Israel's New Covenant relationship with God and is even called "the Israel of God" in Galatians 6:16.

The opportunity for salvation was extended beyond the nation of Israel and offered to non-Israelites—those who would be called into the Church from all nations, being thereby grafted into Israel (see Romans 11:1-36; Ephesians 2:11-19; 1 Peter 2:9-10). This new spiritual nation would provide obedience through a converted heart (Matthew 21:43).

Therefore, no sharp break in the application of laws and principles from the Old Testament is indicated in the New Testament, one third of which is composed of either quotations or allusions from the Hebrew Scriptures. The Church was "built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone" (Ephesians 2:20).

The teachings and specific examples from the Old Testament were written for the benefit of the New Testament Church through the ages (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11). We should play very close attention to the Hebrew Scriptures. In a prophecy before Christ's second coming, we are admonished to "remember the Law of Moses" (Malachi 4:4).

Tithing is a God-given law. That law (and the proper application of its principles) has continuing relevance for the 21st-century Church, its members and prospective members—everyone who is in contact with God's truth. (To understand the true relationship between the law of God and basic New Testament teaching, see the Bible study aid The New Covenant: Does It Abolish God's Law?)

Supporting the work of God's Church today remains very important. Not only is it proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom of God to all nations (Matthew 24:14), but it is also preparing those who will assist Christ in bringing God's righteousness to this earth during His coming millennial reign. For a more in-depth explanation of tithing, read the online Bible study aid What Does the Bible Teach About Tithing?


  • Herochild

    May people decided to ask questions in order to escape payment of their tithes. Some just asked because they don't even want to pay the at all and they seeking for way out. We always desired the blessing side of Abraham but we are trying so hard to run away from the commitment side of him. The matter about tithe is, if you want God’s blessing, you have to fulfill the commandment of tithing. Period! It's a matter of forcefulness but of willfulness.

  • rob mcfall
    I been studying/teaching the bible for many years and to be quite blunt ...tithing was part of the Jewish law....I'm not Jewish so it never applied to me. If you are a tither, do you also do your sacrifices as required ?
  • Skip Miller

    Hello Rob,
    I hope that even though Lena's reply came after 2 years, you will read it.
    It is so true and helpful! Did you read the article ? Many people think that
    the New Testament replaced the Old but that is simply not true.
    The Old Testament pointed the way to Jesus Christ and
    the New Testament, about Jesus Christ, validated what was said in the Old.
    Read the articles about which laws we keep and why.
    God never changes but implementing some rules do.
    Circumcision is replaced by Baptism but the purpose remains:
    God wants to have US realize the seriousness of our commitment to God.

  • Lena VanAusdle

    Hi Rob, and to your comment about the required sacrifices, Jesus came to be our sacrifice, His sacrifice was perfect and took away the need for the ceremonial sacrifices. Tithing and sacrifices are not the same thing.

  • Lena VanAusdle

    Hi Rob, I'm curious how you reconcile that stance with Jesus telling the Pharisees, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin [that is, various 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 [tithes] undone” (Matthew 23:23; compare Luke 11:42). Jesus Christ was teaching the Jews how to follow Him (thereby becoming Christians), shouldn't we follow His teachings?

  • Malachi 3_16-18
    Hi Gary, Yes, in the Bible, tithes & offerings were typically animals or produce (Gen 14:20; Deut 12:5-7; Mal 3:8-12; Mt 23:23). But they could be converted to money for convenience, and it's indicated they were at times (Deut 14:22-25). Yes, under the Old Covenant, tithing was given to Israel alone. However, God’s Church today is spiritual Israel (Gal 6:16; 1 Pet 2:5, 9-10), & the spiritual priesthood under Christ our High Priest (Heb 7:5) collects the tithes & offerings to finance God’s Work today. But I agree that we should give our tithes to God w/ a joyful & thankful attitude, as with a freewill offering, rather than just out of obligation (2 Cor 9:6-7). Though it's a part of the New Testament teaching, & as such we're required to tithe on our increase, we should give from a heart filled with love & gratitude for our Savior, who gave the ultimate sacrifice. How could we do any less? From a physical standpoint, tithing doesn’t appear to make sense, esp. to those of us who struggle to make ends meet. But it's amazing to see the blessings poured back by God to those who are faithful (Mal 3:8-12). The whole earth is His (Ps 24:1; Hag 2:8), yet He only asks for one tenth.
  • Steven Britt
    Gary, There is every reason to think that monetary tithing was observed for those outside of agriculture. It's true that the only professions specifically addressed in the tithing laws were agricultural; however, EVERYONE was required to bring tithe to celebrate God's feasts. This is what we refer to as 2nd tithe (see Deuteronomy 12:17-18) which was not given to the Levites, but rather was consumed by the worshiper on God's annual Holy Days (see Leviticus 23). The command for the 2nd tithe was to "rejoice in ALL to which you put your hands." There is no catch that says "if you're a farmer," and Deuteronomy 16:16 proves that every man was required to attend and do this. Also, offerings were just as much a part of the Old Covenant law as tithing. There were NO regularly commanded offerings of money, but lots of commanded offerings of animals (Leviticus 1&3). Indeed, we SHOULD be keeping the whole law - James 2:10-12 makes that clear using similar language to what you have said! This is not bondage, as you say, for he calls it a "law of liberty." God sets us free from sin by calling us to observe His law - His grace, which we don't deserve or earn, is what makes us clean from sin!
  • Gary Amadeus
    It is also important to remember that tithing was NEVER money. It was a part of the law given to Israel alone. But most importantly we must remember that what we call a "tithe" had better not be a tithe, but rather an offering. Why? Because if you are trying to complete the law as though under obligation then you are obliged to keep the whole law, and you have fallen from grace.
  • Skip Miller
    Hello Musica, You make a good point. We need to quote God's Word within(& for) the context that it is given. With that in mind I think the point of using Acts 4:35--37 was to show that the Apostles had authority to ask & tell those members of God's Church how & where there was a need & how & where to help those needy. I do not think the author meant that these free will offerings were necessarily "tithes."
  • marge
    we tithe where we are fed.
  • musica
    One should be very careful regarding quoting scriptures out of context. Acts 4:35-37 does not talk about tithing at all. " 35And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need." What was laid to them? To understand, we need to read just a few verses before, which was not quoted in this article. "32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. 33And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. 34Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, 35And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need." And what was the "prices of the things that were sold" of verse 34? It is the greek timas (strong 5092) which means a value, proceeds (from the sale). This was not a tenth (tithe) of an increase. It was a way of living and sharing common purse...
  • Depenney
    With the uncertain financial condition of our nations, making God our partner in Tithing is the only way to protect us from the ups and downs of the economy. God never fails us, so trusting in Him and obeying the laws of tithing is a blessing for God's people. I've had a lifetime of obeying this law and it is amazing how God works things out. God is a Great God.
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