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 Matthew 23:23Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought you to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
American King James Version×; compare Luke 11:42 Luke 11:42But woe to you, Pharisees! for you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought you to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
American King James Version×, 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 16:18And I say also to you, That you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
American King James Version×; Matthew 28:18-20 Matthew 28:18-20 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you: and, see, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Amen.
American King James Version×).
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 1 Corinthians 9:9-14 9 For it is written in the law of Moses, You shall not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treads out the corn. Does God take care for oxen?
10 Or said he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that plows should plow in hope; and that he that threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope.
11 If we have sown to you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?
12 If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.
13 Do you not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?
14 Even so has the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.
American King James Version×).
Anticipating the end of the national worship system, Hebrews 7:12 Hebrews 7:12For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
American King James Version×refers to a change in the administration of tithing that accompanied a change in the priesthood. In Hebrews 7:1-19 Hebrews 7:1-19 1 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; 2 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; 3 Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like to the Son of God; stays a priest continually. 4 Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils. 5 And truly 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 brothers, though they come out of the loins of Abraham: 6 But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises. 7 And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better. 8 And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives. 9 And as I may so say, Levi also, who receives tithes, paid tithes in Abraham. 10 For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him. 11 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? 12 For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. 13 For he of whom these things are spoken pertains to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. 15 And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there rises another priest, 16 Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. 17 For he testifies, You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. 18 For there is truly a cancellation of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. 19 For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw near to God.
American King James Version×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 1 Corinthians 3:16Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
American King James Version×; Ephesians 2:19-22 Ephesians 2:19-22 19 Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together grows to an holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom you also are built together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
American King James Version×)—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 Acts 4:35-37 35 And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made to every man according as he had need. 36 And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, 37 Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
American King James Version×).
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 1:20-21 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
American King James Version×; 2 Peter 3:2 2 Peter 3:2That you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Savior:
American King James Version×, 2 Timothy 2:15 2 Timothy 2:15Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
American King James Version×; 2 Timothy 3:15-17 2 Timothy 3:15-17 15 And that from a child you have known the holy scriptures, which are able to make you wise to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished to all good works.
American King James Version×).
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 Galatians 6:16And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and on the Israel of God.
American King James Version×.
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 Romans 11:1-36 1 I say then, Has God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
2 God has not cast away his people which he foreknew. Know you not what the scripture said of Elias? how he makes intercession to God against Israel saying,
3 Lord, they have killed your prophets, and dig down your altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.
4 But what said the answer of God to him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.
5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.
7 What then? Israel has not obtained that which he seeks for; but the election has obtained it, and the rest were blinded.
8 (According as it is written, God has given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) to this day.
9 And David said, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumbling block, and a recompense to them:
10 Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back always.
11 I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come to the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.
12 Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness?
13 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify my office:
14 If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.
15 For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?
16 For if the first fruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.
17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them partake of the root and fatness of the olive tree;
18 Boast not against the branches. But if you boast, you bore not the root, but the root you.
19 You will say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.
20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Be not high minded, but fear:
21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not you.
22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in his goodness: otherwise you also shall be cut off.
23 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again.
24 For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?
25 For I would not, brothers, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.
26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
27 For this is my covenant to them, when I shall take away their sins.
28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the father’s sakes.
29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
30 For as you in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:
31 Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.
32 For God has concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy on all.
33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
34 For who has known the mind of the Lord? or who has been his counselor?
35 Or who has first given to him, and it shall be recompensed to him again?
36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
American King James Version×; Ephesians 2:11-19 Ephesians 2:11-19 11 Why remember, that you being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 12 That at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who sometimes were far off are made near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of two one new man, so making peace; 16 And that he might reconcile both to God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were near. 18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. 19 Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
American King James Version×; 1 Peter 2:9-10 1 Peter 2:9-10 9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light; 10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
American King James Version×). This new spiritual nation would provide obedience through a converted heart (Matthew 21:43 Matthew 21:43Therefore say I to you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
American King James Version×).
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 Ephesians 2:20And are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
American King James Version×).
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 Romans 15:4For whatever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
American King James Version×; 1 Corinthians 10:11 1 Corinthians 10:11Now all these things happened to them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the world are come.
American King James Version×). 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 Malachi 4:4Remember you the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded to him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.
American King James Version×).
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 Matthew 24:14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come.
American King James Version×), 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?