"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." ~ 1 Peter 3:15-16

Tithing and New Covenant

Does tithing belong exclusively to the Law or should modern believers continue to tithe? Will we invoke God's curses and punishments if we do not tithe? Or are we promised with more material blessings by tithing? It seems that this is a recurring theme especially among the youths, so I thought...

If we are aware of the Old Covenant and New Covenant, with the understanding that we are now under the New Covenant and not the Old Covenant, it would probably make more sense why we are not required to tithe, which is part of the Old Covenant. Briefly, under the Old Covenant, God deals with mankind by giving a certain standard and then requiring man to meet up to that standard. Under the New Covenant, God deals with mankind by freely giving grace or unmerited favor, not because we are able to meet that standard, but precisely because we are unable to meet that standard.

Consider Heb 8:7, "For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another" and in Heb 8:13, "By calling this covenant "new", he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear." And in Heb 10:9, "Then he said, 'Here I am, I have come to do your will.' He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." So we see that Christ’s blood inaugurated a New Covenant. And as the New Covenant is superior to the Old Covenant, NT giving is superior to and of higher standard than OT tithing.

If we care to think about it, to say that believers must continue to tithe like in the days of the OT, in order to gain God's blessings or avoid God's curses or to fulfill God's requirement, is actually a serious distortion of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, it outrightly contradicts the message of grace that came freely through Christ. If God did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, do you think He will withhold good things from us (Rom 8:32)? Does He who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph 1:3), really require us to tithe after giving us His very own Son? It was Christ whose blood set men free from the law’s curse in order for them to exult in the grace of God. So tithing actually put believers back under the law.

And if we want to understand why God has given the law to begin with, Galatians 3 has the answer. The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith (Gal 3:24). So the intention of the law is to humble us and lead us to Christ, and therefore Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes (Rom 10:4).

If you wish to explore further on this topic, I will definitely recommend "Tithing: Low-Realm, Obsolete & Defunct" by Matthew E. Narramore because it's comprehensive and the online version is available for free. I will end with a passage taken from the book's website, which I thought nicely summarized the issue on tithing.

"Understanding what it means to be in Christ is the key to understanding why tithing is not part of the New Covenant. In Christ, we are no longer just servants of God who live by laws and principles as people did before the cross and the resurrection. We are now spiritually re-born of God and live by the indwelling Christ himself. Tithing was instituted for people who had a different relation to God than we now have in Christ. Tithing is inconsistent with the most important aspects of the New Covenant and the believer's new nature in Christ. This book examines all the arguments for tithing and compares them to the finished work of Christ at the cross. It explains who we are in Christ and how we can be led by the Spirit in our giving."


Parc Sen said...

I've heard this position. I've considered and studied it. And I can't find any Scripture verse that supports it. Yes, there is an Old and New Covenant but they are not exclusive of each other. In fact they are integral. Animal sacrifice, for example, is obsolete because we are told it is no longer required. Tithe has not been superceeded since Christ, or any of the apostles did not explicitly teach it. It is, at best, inferred.

Suppose this position is correct. Suppose that tithe is of the Old Covenant. What in the New Covenant then replaces it? It is giving of everything. How many times did Jesus tell people who came to Him seeking eternal life to sell all they have and give the money to the poor? Didn't Christ say "Sell all you have and give alms"? Are you prepared to do that? If not, giving of the tithe is a good place to start in honoring God.

Elvin said...

Thanks Parc Sen for your comment.

You have asked a challenging question. If the Lord tells me to give away all my possessions to be distributed, but I am unwilling to part with them, then I disobey the Lord. If Christ tells us to sell everything we have, will we do that? This is something that I think all of us should consider, that we will always ready to act when He calls.

Now, I don't think it's wise to justify tithing because men are unwilling to part with everything. By tithing, I take it that you meant a tenth or 10%. Do we then bribe God with 10% simply because we are unwilling to part with the full 100%? Interestingly, you mentioned it's a good place to start. Since it's only a starting point, then what is the end point? And why start with 10%? Why not start with 5% or 23.3% to be strictly in line with the OT in view of the various tithes?

That said, I am not against using 10% as a voluntary guideline (in contrast to a mandatory requirement or commandment), in order that we discipline ourselves into giving. But that is the individual's matter before God, we can encourage or challenge but cannot impose a certain amount or percentage on others. It is one's business whether one chooses to give from a range of 5%, 10%, 20%, 30% or even 90%. If you are happy with 10%, I am happy for you.

We should also not major on how much people give, but how deep are their relationships with God. If we are truly connected to the Lord who is our Head, the Head will direct us to give as He pleases. Why? Because He lives in us. As we continue to grow in the Lord, the appetite to give will grow proportionately.

And I will beg to differ on the point that the tithe continues from OT to NT, as the tithe wasn't instituted for the Gentiles to begin with. The burden of proof is on the advocates of tithing to prove from the Scripture that tithing is applicable to NT believers, not the other way round.

Again, the OT tithe is inconsistent with many of the NT principles. Note also that not tithing is not tantamount to not giving. We give because we love, just as the Father does not withhold the Son from us.


Edward said...

The best resource I have ever come across on this subject is Randy Alcorn's book Money, Possessions and Eternity. It clears up a lot of confusion on the matters of tithing and giving in general. Randy believes that tithing is a good starting place for giving, the "training wheels" of giving he calls it. You should definitely read it.

Elvin said...

Thanks Edward for the highlight.

In fact, Randy was giving away copies of "Money, Possessions and Eternity" just recently. Sad to say, I didn't manage to get a free copy. :)

Again, I have no issue with using 10% as a starting guide, or "training wheels" as Randy calls it, for giving. But it must be crystal clear that that is not really "OT tithing" in nature, but NT giving in training. IMO, it will actually be helpful to do away with the term "tithing" in favor of "giving", in view that we are not commanded to tithe (OT sense).

KumMeng said...

Hi Elvin, excellent thoughts on Christian giving. I do strongly believe that tithing no longer be needed, but replaced by Christian giving. There's a great difference between the two - tithing is giving out of 'law' while Christian giving is out of freedom in Christ.
Just as Christ had demonstrated in the Sermon on the Mount that it is not the 'law' as was given that we are to obey, but the Spirit of the law. It is not a fixed amount or giving by guilt that God wants from us, it is wholehearted generosity and worship to Him. 'Freely I receive and freely I give.'.

Elvin said...

Thanks Kum Meng for your comments.

I like the way you summarized the essence of NT giving. Indeed, freely we receive, freely we shall give. :)