Monday, March 19, 2018

Tithing (6) New Testament

The truth that tithing is redundant is confirmed by the fact that it is rarely mentioned in the New Testament. Tithing is mentioned or three occasions.

  • The letter to the Hebrews links Jesus to Melchizedek (Hebrews 7). The passage describes Abrahams tithe to Melchizedek, but it does not link tithing forward to followers of Jesus. It just describes a situation that existed before the law had been given, without any application of tithing to the present. This passage cannot be used to justify tithing under the new covenant.

  • Jesus criticised the scribes and Pharisees for forcing people to tithe on herbs.

    Woe to you Pharisees, because you take a tenth of mint, rue and other garden herbs, but you are passing by justice and the love of God. Now these it was binding for you to do, and not let go those (Luke 11:42).
    Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are taking tithes of spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you are leaving the heavier matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. Now, these it was binding for you to do, and not leave those (Matt 23:23).
    The scribes and Pharisees were placing a burden on the people that was too heavy to bear. This was an unfair use of the law.
    When Jesus was speaking, the temple was still functioning, and the Levites were still undertaking their service, so the two roles for tithing specified in the law were still practical, although they were mostly being neglected. However, Jesus never stated that he expected his followers continue tithing after his death and resurrection. This is a massive gap for those who expect Christians to tithe.

  • The parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14) is part of a series of parables about unrighteous wealth. Jesus explained in this parable that tithing on unrighteous wealth does not make it righteous. The righteousness of wealth depends on how it is acquired, not on how much is tithed. Acquisition of wealth must be consistent with God’s Instructions for Economic Life. The Pharisee failed to meet that standard, so he was benefiting from unrighteous wealth. His wealth looked fine on the outside, but it was actually no better than the tax collector’s. The tax collector knew he was living unrighteous wealth, whereas the Pharisee did not.

These are the only references to tithing in the New Testament, and none of them state that followers of Jesus are expected to tithe. Because the temple sacrifices would come to an end and the temple would be destroyed, and the Levites would be scattered around the world, the role of tithing would need to change if it was to continue into the New Testament age. Jesus, or one of the New Testament writers, would have explained that change and described the new role for tithing, but that was not done. Therefore we can assume that tithing does not carry through to people living in the new covenant.

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