NT Giving and OT Tithing Contrasted
It is a blessing that the Christian is not obligated to observe the ordinances of the Old Covenant. Peter said that the law was, “…a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear” (Acts 15:10). Paul said regarding the law that Jesus had “abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances” (Ephesians 2:15). Part of the burden that the Jews were not able to bear was the laws in respect to tithing and along with all other aspects of the Old Covenant, the laws related to tithing were also abolished. It is a great blessing that the Christian is obliged only to give “as God hath prospered him” (1 Corinthians 16:2). Hence, it is within the discretion of the individual Christian as to the amount he ought to give in relationship to his income. For some Christians this may be less than the Old Testament law of tithing. However, for other Christians, they may elect to give more than the law required. Their conscience is their only limit in regard to the actual proportion chosen. Having these things in mind, I would like to pursue the notion in this article that the law of tithing in the Old Covenant provides an adequate guideline for the Christian to give.
Tithing was commanded in the Old Covenant for the purposes of supporting the tribe of Levi. This was because the Levites did not have an earthly inheritance along with the other tribes. Numbers 18:24 says, “But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer as an heave offering unto the LORD, I have given to the Levites to inherit: therefore I have said unto them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.” The responsibilities of the Levites included work of the priesthood, the caretaking of the temple, and other social functions in the various Israelite communities. In essence the offerings were intended to go to the work of edifying the nation spiritually.
There is a similar purpose to giving in the New Testament insomuch as the funds collected are used to further the work of the church. Galatians 6:6 teaches this principle: “Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.” The word “communicate” means to share or have fellowship with. The context indicates that this would be the sharing of physical things whether monies, foodstuffs, clothing, or other material blessings. Such blessings may also be used to aid the poor, support the physical requirements of worship, provide a stipend for good leaders, and be used to aid missionaries.
Comparing these similar purposes, we turn to contrast the spiritual benefits. The book of Hebrews points out that we have a better Mediator, a better covenant, and a better High Priest. If we were to stop at just these blessings, that would be sufficient, however, we note also that we are under a system of grace, that salvation is available to all who respond in faith, that we have the blessing of God’s earthly kingdom, the church, and that we all enjoy fellowship with God as priests in His service. Numerous other blessings could be enumerated and each discussed in detail pointing out the superior situation under Christ than under the Mosaic Law.
This leads us to ask a pertinent question in relationship to the subject under consideration. Ought we not to give due consideration to the great blessings of the New Covenant when we consider the amount we give each week to the church? If those under the Old Covenant were commanded to give a minimum of one tenth as part of a physical law, we may all surely consider that an adequate guideline for what to give under the law of liberty. Most, however (and these individuals know who they are by virtue of their income), ought to consider that the minimum amount to give and give due consideration to giving above and beyond that. Keeping these things in mind will ensure that our giving will both be spiritually motivated and appropriately proportional.