Law and truth can be twisted|
Jews are still required to tithe by the Law of Moses, since Jesus did not abolish that Law (Matthew 5:17-19), and if you choose to live by it as a Jew then you must live by all its rules as God gave them, not as man changed or erroneously interprets (Galatians 5:3; Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32). For Christians or Messianic Jews, though, it's not obvious the New Testament speaks about the tithe. Does that mean we do not need to do it or handle it correctly?
I used to promote mandatory tithing, because I worked closely with a ministry that got some very convincing spiritual guidance about it[3.1.61]. However, now after many years I have found their guidance to be tainted by a false-christ spirit that claims to be the Lord, but actually is a spirit of slavery that gives false signs and confirmations for false guidance. I won't go into the details here, but will note that we are no longer slaves to law under Christ and we do not receive a spirit of slavery leading again to fear with the New Covenant (Romans 8:15; Luke 1:68-75; Galatians 5:1) (Details of the ministry in question and other examples of false guidance can be found in Light Within).
When we make tithing mandatory and connect it to eminent judgment if we do not tithe or tithe enough, as the ministry I worked with teaches, it puts all kinds of fear on us as we worry about tithing any bit of increase we get, even from things like money back coupons or welfare. I saw that ministry and myself living to fulfill law to avoid judgment, like the curses that ministry witnessed. Now though, I have many more years' experience dealing with false guidance and believe much of that ministry's spiritual guidance, signs, and wonders are not truly from God.
However, they did and likely continue to get some valid guidance from God. It is intermeshed with false guidance, though, and takes much experience to evaluate and pick out the truth. I learned that the hard way after getting a spirit of slavery, so I no longer simply accept any spiritual guidance or teaching without examining it very closely, even if it seems to be backed up by miraculous signs or wonders.
"We know in part and we prophesy in part" (1 Corinthians 13:9), and much of the spiritual guidance we get about tithing and money handling are pieces to a larger whole. However, it is often misconstrued with false guidance and bad interpretations, so it has taken me many years to understand what really is the truth.
This document will cover what is still important about tithe and offerings in the New Covenant Age and what is not.
What's important about the tithe?
The first piece noting that tithes and offerings are still important is an Old Testament prophecy at the end of the Book of Malachi. It prophesies about the New Testament period we're in now, since Malachi 3:1 speaks about John the Baptist, God's messenger coming with Christ's first coming, and through the end of Malachi it speaks about the day the Lord returns, His second coming. In the middle of that prophecy, God says His People rob Him of tithes and offerings (Malachi 3:8), so He is speaking about His People in the New Testament Age, now, which includes both Jews and Christians.
God also says in Malachi 4:4, "remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel." God reminds us about His laws, not because He wants us to follow the Law of Moses, but because His laws and covenants continue to define His kingdom and they are still in effect now. Remember, Jesus said He did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17).
In fact, God's laws and commands don't just go away, but are eternal as stated in Psalm 119: "Long ago, I learned from Your statutes that You established them to last forever? All Your words are true; all Your righteous laws are eternal..." (Psalm 119:152,160).
God's laws and commands are eternal; they are in force unless He says otherwise. But how do they apply to us now if they are universal laws for everyone and not just the Jews? The Old Testament has many of these universal laws, like the Ten Commandments and laws about sexual immorality. Those are easier to understand and haven't seemed to change for our age.
What about tithing? The quick answer is, we no longer have a mandatory tithe outside the Law of Moses. This is why Jesus asked Peter in Matthew 17:25 about paying the temple tax, "What do you think, Simon [Peter]? From who do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes - from their own sons or from others?"
Peter answered, "From others," and Jesus said, "Then the sons are exempt" (Matthew 17:26).
I believe Jesus asked Peter that question and answered, "The sons are exempt," to teach us that God does not tax His sons - the people of His kingdom - with a mandatory tithe under the New Covenant. However, there is more to the temple tax story than that.
It doesn't just teach about paying taxes either, which also is not absolutely mandatory even though Jesus also said, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's" (Matthew 22:21, Mark 12:17, Luke 20:25; also Romans 13:6-7). It is a very strong urging - something we should do, but not a commandment, since we also see in the temple tax story, the reason Jesus wants to pay the tax is so they do not offend the officials (Matthew 17:27). It isn't because He absolutely had to pay it.
The New Testament teaches being peaceable with everyone (Romans 12:18; 1 Corinthians 10:32-33; Hebrews 12:14-17; Galatians 6:10; 1 Peter 2:13-20, 3:8-12; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; Mark 9:50) and Jesus urges us to pay taxes and honor authority (1 Peter 2:13-20; Romans 13:1-7; Colossians 3:18-25), because God put government and authority into place so society as a whole would benefit, and so we could live under righteous authority. Our taxes help pay for those benefits and our world's infrastructure, such as roads, water treatment, etc. However, taxes can also be used to pay for unrighteous things, like supporting abortion or other sin, so it doesn't make sense to make paying all taxes a commandment.
Right now, though, we are talking about tithes. There is one more thing the temple tax story teaches. It is seen in how Jesus makes Peter go far out of the way to get money to pay the tax instead of using the money they had, which was why Peter went into the house after the tax collectors asked for the tax (Matthew 17:25)[3.1.61].
Instead, Jesus tells Peter to go fishing and use a coin found in the first fish he catches (Matthew 17:27). This gives us a clue that the money they had in the house couldn't be used to pay taxes. It was likely the same money bag or box that Judas was in charge of when they gave to the poor (John 12:6, 13:29). Since Jesus did not want to use that money, there must've been something special about it, like the Old Testament third year tithe, which God calls sacred (Deuteronomy 26:13).
Jesus' money, though, wasn't Old Testament Law of Moses tithe, since those tithes were brought to the temple in Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 12:5-6, 14:22-23; Nehemiah 12:44, 13:12) or the local storehouse (Deuteronomy 26:12-14), and it was not money, but produce and animals (Deuteronomy 14:22-23; Leviticus 27:30-33).
Jesus' money must be a sacred portion that belonged to God, like the Old Testament tithe but something different. I will just call it God's tithe or His money, because that's what it is. When something is declared sacred or belonging to God, then it truly belongs to Him and can only be used as He specifies. That brings us back to Malachi and robbing God of tithes and offerings.
How do we rob God if we mishandle tithe and offerings?
For Jews under the Law of Moses, this is easier to understand, since God specified how tithes and offerings were to be distributed and used. However, most modern Jews no longer follow what God told them to do in regard to tithes and offerings and so rob God when they do not tithe or distribute the goods properly.
For Christians, it is harder to understand, because God was not straightforward about many things in the New Testament, but hid them in parables and pieces that need more knowledge to understand. An example of this is the hidden knowledge behind the True Gospel that I was given much guidance about.
I also got guidance about the tithe and handling money and offerings, and from my experience and what I was leading to in the story of the temple tax was that God's tithe money cannot be used for just anything, like taxes. So if you give God tithe, it is considered sacred and dedicated to certain purposes. If that money doesn't go to those purposes, then we can be accused of robbing God.
God's tithe money today is still supposed to be used for the same things as the tithe in the Law of Moses, which was to supply the Feast of Tabernacles (Deuteronomy 12:7, 12:12, 12:18-19, 14:22-29) and given to Levites (priests; Deuteronomy 12:12, 12:18-19, 14:27, 26:12-13), orphans, widows, and strangers/aliens (non-Jews or Gentiles in the Law of Moses or non-believers for the New Covenant Age) (Deuteronomy 26:12-13).
This use of the tithe today is backed up in the New Testament by John 13:29 where the disciples think Jesus told Judas Iscariot to buy something for the feast or give to the poor, since he had the money bag. The disciples would not have thought that if Jesus didn't teach them it was ok to use His money that way or if they weren't familiar with how His money was used.
That was during the Lord's Last Supper, which was a Passover feast, not Tabernacles, which the Old Testament tithe was used for. This further shows a change in how God wants His tithe used. It can supply more of God's feasts then Tabernacles (see a list of feasts below).
We can also see in John 13:29 that God's money or tithe was also used for the poor in general and not only for priests, strangers, orphans, and widows.
Given this knowledge, we can see that if the church uses God's money in other ways, like for taxes, buildings, other property and utilities, and the salaries of people who are not supposed to be paid by the tithe, it is robbing God of His money, because it is sacred and meant to be used as He specifies.
How the tithe is supposed to be used
In Malachi 3:10, God says, "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house. Test Me in this." God wants the whole tithe because it has been spent on things we cannot use it for. God's sacred portion can only be used in specific ways: To give directly to certain people or to supply appointed feasts.
Tithe money can be distributed to the following people:
- "Levites"/God's Full-Time Servants (Deuteronomy 14:29, 26:12-13) - Today, these are the full-time servants of Christ who are the: Apostles, Prophets, Teachers, Evangelists, Pastors, Door/Gate Keepers, Porters (not people who carry but gatekeepers-janitors; 1 Chronicles 9:17-27; Ezra 2:42, 7:7; Nehemiah 7:1, 12:45-47)[3.1.61], Singers/Minstrels (not the choir but God's minstrels or psalmists who use song and poetry, often working as Worship or Creative Arts Pastors today; 1 Chronicles 9:33; 2 Chronicles 5:12-13; Ezra 2:41, 7:7; Nehemiah 7:1, 12:45-47, 13:10)[3.1.61], and Other Church Servants (Ezra 2:43-58, 7:7).
Supplying this group is important, since God mentioned them specifically whenever He spoke of the tithe (Deuteronomy 12:12, 12:18-19, 14:27, 26:12-13) and said we are not to be neglect them (Deuteronomy 12:19; Nehemiah 10:37-39, 13:10-11). These people get most of their income from the tithe, so obviously need to be supplied if we are to keep our churches and ministries functioning.
- Aliens/Strangers/Non-believers/Foreigners-to-Christ (Deuteronomy 14:29, 26:12-13) - They are the "unsaved" who do not know Christ but are in need[3.1.61]. When we deliver God's money in His name, it brings the focus to Him, which He can use to bring unsaved or lost people into salvation when they see the money connected to Christ (see Delivering The Tithe below for more details)
- The Fatherless (Deuteronomy 14:29, 26:12-13) - These are orphans, including children whose fathers abandoned them[3.1.61].
- Widows-In-Need are also eligible for the tithe (Deuteronomy 14:29, 26:12-13), but only those whose families don't or can't take care of them. Remember it is a godly obligation for a family to care for their widows (1 Timothy 5:16)[3.1.61].
- The Oppressed, Poor, or Anyone In Desperate Need (2 Corinthians 9:9; John 13:29)[3.1.61] - You may give the tithe to charities or campaigns that give the funds directly to the parties in need as long as no fees are involved. Do not give your tithe to charities that pay for organization and staff costs with your donation. Most charities fall into this category.
The tithe is not meant to fund organizations or their staff and there have been many cases where very large amounts of money disappear or are stolen from the bank accounts of charities and ministries. I even went to a church who admitted they lost over a hundred thousand dollars, a lot which would have been God's tithe. This is a common area where the tithe is stolen from God, so limit giving your tithes to campaigns that give the funds directly to the intended recipients. If in doubt, don't give your tithe to that campaign. Use general funds instead.
There are also dishonest panhandlers on the street that lie about being homeless or needy, which the tithe should not go to. People like this should not stop us from giving to others on the street, though. It does mean tithe money should be handled better to account for this. See Delivering the Tithe below for more details.
In addition, the tithe can be used to supply some feasts (Deuteronomy 14:22-27; John 13:29)
. There is no restriction on what may be purchased for them, since the Lord said we can use the yearly "feast tithe" to exchange for money and buy whatever our hearts desire (Deuteronomy 14:22-27)[3.1.8]
. Sales tax that goes with buying food and things for feasts may also be paid from the tithe, so you do not have to separate funds to account for that.
The reason God lets the tithe be used for feasts is because He wants us to share in His blessings with others and rejoice together with Him. All the following verses explicitly note rejoicing in appointed feasts with your household and servants and all the designated recipients of the tithe listed above - foreigners, orphans, widows, priests, etc. - Deuteronomy 12:7, 12:12, 12:18, 14:26, 16:11, 16:14, 26:11. The whole community is supposed to be included, so no-one is left out[3.1.9]
Another reason God wants us to observe holidays and sabbaths is so we get time off of work, including ministry, and rest. Graeme Carlé talked about the importance of this in his study of tithing[3.1.9]
. He even called some of the tithe, "holiday pay" for us to enjoy[3.1.10]
, which isn't stretching the truth considering what's said above about exchanging the tithe for money to buy what we want during Tabernacles. It doesn't mean we can do that with God's New Testament tithe, but it does show God's character of generous, gracious giving and desire for our well-being[3.1.11]
I don't agree with all Graeme says about tithing and doctrine, but his point about the Lord wanting us to take holiday is valid. It should be a regular part of our lives, so we can recharge and be at our best. Who can do their best work if they are mentally and physically drained? This is also a reason why God still wants us to observe the weekly Sabbath[3.2.18]
Another character of God the tithe reveals is His sternness, since He said of tithing, it is "so that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always" (Deuteronomy 14:23)
. Graeme notes how this fear motivates him to serve the Lord afresh after taking that "tithe holiday"[3.1.11]
. However, he doesn't connect it with what the Lord actually meant - to fear judgment if the tithe, a sacred portion that belongs to Him, is mistreated or neglected, which is why Malachi 3:9 states, "You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you!"
With that in mind, I suggest the following feasts and holidays the tithe can supply. See The Lord's Holidays and Sabbaths for details about each one. You may wish to supply more or less as God directs you. Just keep in mind the tithe is sacred, so I prefer to stick with holidays I know should be celebrated and have a sabbath rest commanded with them in scripture. Some church holidays may not be God's wish to celebrate, so the tithe should not be used for them.
The following feasts can be supplied with the tithe:
Robbing God of Offerings
God said His People rob Him of both tithes and offerings in Malachi 3:8. Again, this applies to Jews and Christians alike, since that prophecy is for the New Testament Age. Like the tithe, offerings for the Jews were given explicit instructions on their use in the Law of Moses, but for Christians it isn't clear how we can rob offerings. However, I was guided on this issue over the years.
Keep Funds Separate
General offerings do not have restrictions on their usage, like the tithe or an offering purposed for a specific reason. But if we collect money for a specific need or purpose, such as disaster relief, or if we declare profits to be given to God's purposes, then the funds should immediately be kept separate for their declared purposes and not used for anything else. We will see why in the next section, Vowed Offerings - Handling Pledges of Profit
If all offerings are put into a single general bank account, then you need to keep an accurate total of how much money was collected for a specific purpose and ensure every cent goes to that purpose. Not delivering all the money declared for a specific purpose can be considered stealing if it was not accidental.
God's tithe money should also be kept separate from other money, so it isn't used for something it shouldn't be used for. That's the reason why Jesus tells Peter to go far out of the way to get money for the temple tax we discussed above. This shows that God's money really is sacred (Deuteronomy 26:13) and should be treated as He wants. That is one reason why Malachi 4 talks about remembering the Law of Moses (Malachi 4:4). Sacred things belonging to God still need to be treated with extra care.
I use separate bank accounts for the tithe and general operation. I used to keep some of the tithe as cash on hand to give to the poor as needed wherever I encounter them, but because there are dishonest people on the street who lie about being homeless or needy, I don't recommend you keep tithe on hand anymore.
Instead, split your giving into tithe and general donation. The amount of the split is up to you. I bind cash I want to use for giving with a Post-It and label it, so it stays separate from my personal or any other cash I carry. Simply folding a Post-It note over the money with "God bless you in Christ Jesus" written on it has worked for me.
We should also be filled with the Holy Spirit daily to help direct our actions in giving things to people, since it can be God's will that we do not help certain people or causes (Ephesians 5:15-18)[3.1.7].
Vowed Offerings - Handling Pledges Of Profit
If you pledge portions of profit or vow money to God or His purposes, then set aside those funds immediately and place them into your tithe fund or reserve them for what purpose you pledged them for. Do not spend that portion on other things even if you have not made a profit overall (had not paid off all your debt from producing and delivering a product).
Any vows we give to God should be given highest priority (Deuteronomy 23:21-23; Psalm 50:14, 76:11; Ecclesiastes 5:1-7), and if you spend pledged money for things it was not meant for, then you can be accused of robbing God in offerings (Malachi 3:8), since you promised God an offering but took away from it or neglected it.
I fell in that when I pledged a portion of profits to God's purposes from selling my first book in 2009. However, I did not realize back then how God wants us to treat vows to Him, and when I sold books, I did not immediately take out the portion I pledged. It didn't matter that the book had no net profit from the sales because of the debt in making it. God wants what is pledged.
So if we borrow money to deliver a product and still have not gotten an overall net profit from your sales, then you should take out what you pledged to God from that immediate net profit and then use the remainder as you see fit. Do not just pocket the money without taking care of what you pledged to God, because the Lord expects us to honor our vows to Him speedily (Deuteronomy 23:21; Ecclesiastes 5:4).
For example, let's say you borrowed $10,000 to deliver a product and you said you would give half the profit to God. You make $10 in immediate net profit from the sale of one instance of the product (gross receipt minus taxes, shipping, and other immediate delivery expenses). Then you should immediately take out $5 for God (the half vowed to Him) and use the rest of the profit as you see fit.
It would also be ok to put all the immediate net profit into paying off the debt and wait to pay the portion pledged to God until the debt is paid off, since there is no true net profit until the debt is paid, but this is usually impractical in most circumstances, since most business debts take years to pay off. It is better to spend your immediate profit righteously by honoring your vow to God first and then use the remainder for other expenses and debt.
You may wonder if God still cares that much about vows to Him that I would even mention this. God said in Zechariah 8:17, "Do not swear falsely," because the He hates it, and the New Testament also tells us not to swear by anything, because if we do and lie or do not commit to our promise, it is a sin. "But above all, my brethren, do not swear, not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your "Yes" be yes, and your "No," no, so that you may not fall under judgment" (James 5:12; Matthew 5:34-35).
I imagine the disciples learned some things, like making vows, the hard way - by experience - as I have, so I share for all to benefit. Don’t make promises to God lightly. He holds us accountable to our word and it’s a sin to break a promise to Him (Ecclesiastes 5:2-7; Deuteronomy 23:21-23). If you find you’ve broken your word or see that you cannot keep it, then ask the Lord to release you from the promise. If you didn’t keep your word, ask God’s forgiveness and break any curses from it.
Sometimes we are too hasty in our emotions and even well-intentioned promises can backfire. However well-intentioned a promise is, if we break one to God, it is still sin, and He will judge it. He judges everyone’s sin (Romans 2:5-11; Ephesians 6:5-8; Colossians 3:25; Jeremiah 32:19; Numbers 14:18; Nahum 1:3; Proverbs 24:12; Hebrews 12:4-11) and not even angels are exempt (2 Peter 2:4-9; Jude 1:6-7), so it’s best not to make vows.
In Judges 11:30-40, Jephthah made a tragic vow to the Lord. He vowed that if he would get victory in battle, then whatever came out of his house to meet him when he returned would be the Lord's and be given as a burnt offering. When he returned victorious, his daughter and only child came out to meet him and he was forced to keep his vow. They grieved, but I don't believe his daughter was sacrificed to God. He never wanted human sacrifices and since people that belonged to Him, like every firstborn male, could be redeemed (paid for to be released from belonging to God; Numbers 18:15), she could have been released in some way.
However, it appears Jephthah and the Jews at the time did not try to get Jephthah's daughter out of the pledge and she was forced to live as a single woman to honor it, though, there is nothing in the Law of Moses that requires a woman to remain a virgin if she serves the Lord or belongs to Him in some way.
What happens if I rob God?
The ministry I used to work with who taught mandatory tithing[3.1.61] got guidance about getting judgment if we decide to stop tithing or tithed incorrectly. However, years ago I told them they were overzealous about tithing and that we can get curses from any sin and not just from tithing related problems.
More recently, I realized they were getting false signs to validate their mandatory tithing guidance, as well as for what they call Brideship, which is also taught as mandatory for the church. Much of their spiritual guidance, though, is coming from a false-christ spirit that spreads a spirit of slavery, which I've found puts spiritual shackles on anyone who tries to refuse the mandatory tithing and Brideship principles after they accepted them.
Someone reported to them that when they stopped tithing they became clumsy and started getting other "curses." I experienced this same clumsiness, but was able to identify it as a spirit of slavery that shackled me when I resisted false teaching about tithing and Brideship. These "curses" do not appear to be judgment for real sin, but are from the spirit retaliating for resisting it.
This requires a more detailed discussion of spiritual warfare, so I will not go into it here (see Light Within for details)
. I will just note that if you submit to false teachings from imposters of the Lord, His saints, and angels, it gives them greater influence on you and can make it harder to get rid of them. Also remember, we do not receive a spirit of slavery that leads to fear again with Christ and the New Covenant (Romans 8:15; Luke 1:68-75; Galatians 5:1)
Still, we can rob God by stealing from tithe and offerings, as I have covered, so getting curses or judgment from it is a real issue. Judgment for sin can come many years after the sin is committed, so people think that because they do not get bad consequences right away from handling tithes and offerings wrong, it means that sin related to it isn't real.
However, the most serious curses for sin, like getting bad accidents, cancer, and such, often don't come swiftly after we sin. We can also suffer less serious curses for our sin, like bad health or the loss of property or income, that people often don't connect with being judgment from robbing God or other sins.
We need to be in tune with God's Spirit and what He tries to tell us, so when bad things constantly happen, we should seek God's guidance about why and how to correct it. Constantly recurring curses, like so called "bad luck", accidents and loss, are a sign that you are consistently sinning. The sin of robbing God of tithes and offerings is one that most people overlook when they consider what they're doing wrong, so make note of what is taught here to correct any issues with handling the tithe, offerings, and your money.
How to correct back debt from robbing God & The Parable Of The Shrewd Manager
If you suspect you are not handling tithes or offerings correctly, then the first thing you need to do is ask God's forgiveness, because it is a sin to rob God of tithes and offerings (Malachi 3:8-9). Then ask the Lord for an amount to repay the lost portion and for who or what ministry to give that back debt to. Once you deliver the back debt, declare any curses from robbing God be broken. Then continue forward in handling tithes and offerings correctly, so that you cannot be accused of robbing God again.
This repayment of back debt to God is referred to in the Parable of the Shrewd Manager or Unrighteous Steward (Luke 16:1-13). The parable is one of the few instances in the New Testament that addresses a tithing related issue, but its meaning is hidden until revealed by God. Matthew 17:24-27 about the temple tax discussed above is another example of hidden meaning that can only be revealed by knowledge from God.
The Parable of the Shrewd Manager is hard to understand by itself because God it speaks in analogy, which obscures its meaning unless you have more knowledge to go with it. This is like many other parables and how God speaks sometimes in ways that can be easily misunderstood if we do not have important pieces of the picture.
Another example of this is when Jesus talks about cleaning the inside of the bowl or cup in Matthew 23:26 and its parallel, Luke 11:40-41. He tells the Pharisees to clean the inside of the cup or bowl first, then all things will be clean for them. He wasn't just telling them to have righteous hearts or give to the poor, since that in itself will not make everything clean for them.
Jesus was also saying they must be saved through belief in Him and follow His ways of love and charity. That is really the only way all things could become clean for them and also how their insides (spirits) could be washed clean by the rebirth of God's Spirit in them when they became truly saved (see Myth: There's only one way to interpret scripture and God's guidance in Light Within for more on that Scripture).
The riddle of the Parable of the Shrewd Manager is already hard to understand without the proper context, but translation of God's original Words makes its meaning even harder to see. The parable talks about a "rich man," who represents the Lord, and a manager or steward who handles His property. The manager represents believers who handle or steward God's money and property, such as the tithe, offerings, and other wealth or property. This steward is mismanaging God's wealth to represent how the church and believers mismanage the tithe and other sacred offerings that belong to God, and they will need to give an accounting of it.
God says the manager can no longer steward His wealth, so the manager decides to do something in order for him to be received by people after losing his job.
The next part of the parable talks about how the manager reduces debts that people have to the Lord and that God commends the manager for doing so. This is hard to understand unless you know the guidance about paying our back debts to God above, which are reduced amounts of the total that we robbed from the complete or whole tithe and offerings. I believe the ministry I used to work with were the first to teach this paying back of debt to God[3.1.62], which shows they do get some valid guidance, but it is misconstrued by demons in their midst.
This repayment of our back debt is similar to how banks and other authorities pardon the whole debt if we pay a reduced amount immediately. That is referred to in the parable when God says, "The people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of light" (Luke 16:8). It notes how the people of this world (the banks and authorities) know better how to deal with debts than believers do, since many people reject this knowledge of repaying our debts to God.
Next in the parable God says, "I tell you, use unrighteous or worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings" (Luke 16:9). This seems to say we should "buy" our friends and that it will get us into heaven, however, that is not what God means and translation of Scripture misconstrues things further. For example, the KJV says, "...Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations." That hardly makes things easier to understand.
We can only understand that verse by connecting it with how the tithe is supposed to be handled and that we should give it in God's name. More specifically, the parable is saying, make friends of the aliens or strangers to Christ when we give them tithe money. These people are those who are not saved, but they can become saved when they see the money connected with Christ[3.1.63]. That is how we "make friends" who will "welcome/receive us into everlasting habitations/houses" (Luke 16:4, 16:9). The everlasting houses refer to our next life in heaven with our fellow brethren in Christ.
Another part of the parable in Luke 16:9 says something about receiving our eternal friends when the "unrighteous or worldly wealth is gone or fails" or when "you fail" in the KJV. This shows how incorrect translation of God's words easily makes us misunderstand what is really meant. Is God talking about us failing or about wealth failing or stopping? If you understand that He is talking about our next life in heaven, then we see that the correct translation is, when the wealth is gone, because we will not need material wealth in our resurrected lives.
These differences in translation point to the fact that we cannot rely on only one or two Bibles for study. We need multiple good translations along with the original language references (see Choosing A Bible for advice on selecting Bibles).
Another part of Luke 16:9 refers to "unrighteous" (KJV, NASB) wealth while other translations say "worldly" wealth (NIV). "Unrighteous" is better because "worldly" only suggests physical/material wealth. The tithe is worldly, material wealth, but the Greek word in that verse means "unrighteous" or "violating law"[2.900.1] that is translated "the mammon/money of unrighteousness" by the KJV. God was referring to unrighteous money, but why would He say we should use unrighteous or unlawful money to get our eternal friends?
The unrighteous money could simply refer to money gotten by general sin or crime, but that does not completely fit into the parable. We have to go back to the paying of back debt to God and how He wants us to give His tithe to save people. His tithe is not unrighteous wealth, but our back debt is unrighteous or unlawful money, because it is paying back what we stole from God, since His money was used unrighteously for the wrong purposes. That is why the money used to "buy" our eternal friends in the parable is called unrighteous or unlawful. It is referring to the back debt we owe God, because of our sins in robbing Him.
Once we understand the deeper meanings hidden in the Parable of the Shrewd Manager, we can also see how God really has given instruction on how to handle tithes and robbing Him in the New Testament.
Further Proof of the Voluntary Tithe
The examples of tithing in the Old Testament outside the Law of Moses are both voluntary. The first is from Abraham to Melchizedek - a one-time tithe or tenth (tithe means a "tenth part"[2.900.7]) (Genesis 14:20), and the second was a tithe of everything Jacob got from God, presumably for the rest of his life after he made the vow (Genesis 28:22)[3.1.8]. There is nothing in the Bible saying their tithes were mandatory.
In the New Testament, there is no mention of a mandatory tithe for Christians, but it's obvious freewill giving "under our own compulsion" is encouraged (2 Corinthians 9:7). Both Chapters 8 and 9 in 2 Corinthians talk about this freewill giving - it is righteousness that shows our love for people (2 Corinthians 9:10-11; 1 John 3:17-1812; Proverbs 22:9, 28:27; Daniel 4:27). Paul also notes this giving is not a commandment by saying, "I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others, the sincerity of your love also" (2 Corinthians 8:8), which supports what was stated about Matthew 17:26 above when Jesus said, "Then the sons are exempt" to mean we are exempt from mandatory tithing under the New Covenant.
Paul also says, "Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:6-7). Paul is speaking about having a righteous attitude towards giving to people in general, especially to those who are in need (2 Corinthians 8:13-15, 9:9). This cheerful, willing generosity is also the same attitude we should have if we tithe, because the tithe is meant to benefit people that need it, such as the poor and servants of the Lord. However, we should remember God's blessing for generous giving is not bound only to tithing, but to giving in general.
When tithing is mentioned in the New Testament it either refers to tithing by Jews or voluntary tithing that does not have to do with Christian tithing, like Matthew 23:23 and its parallel Luke 11:42[3.1.12], where Jesus says, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth (tithe) of your spices - mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law - justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former."
These verses don't speak of Christian tithing, but note how the Jews tithed obediently by the Law of Moses, yet did not obey the more important commandments regarding loving God and our neighbors and judging righteously.
Another place where tithing is mentioned in the New Testament is Luke 18:12, where Jesus talks about a Pharisee boasting about his righteousness, which includes tithing everythinhg[3.1.12]. However, that is an example of a voluntary tithe like Jacob's was, since he speaks of tithing "all that I get," which was not required of the Jews.
The Law of Moses did not require Jews to tithe money or just any increase in wealth. They were required to tithe on their crops, any produce of their land, like fruit and wine, and on animals from their flocks and herds (Leviticus 27:30-33; Deuteronomy 12:17, 14:22-23, 14:28, 26:12; Nehemiah 10:37). I found no mention in the Old Testament of the need to tithe wealth in the form of money, though God often speaks of money in the value of redeeming sacrifices, offerings, and other things. God also allowed the Jews to exchange the tithe for money and spend as they wished if Jerusalem was too far away to celebrate Tabernacles (Deuteronomy 14:24-26)[3.1.10].
You could argue that the Hebrew word, תבואה "tebuah", meaning "produce", "income", or "increase"[2.900.10], used in Deuteronomy 26:12 and other verses concerning the tithe could be interpreted to mean to tithe any kind of income or increase. However, when the tithe is spoken of in the Old Testament, it always refers to produce of sowing crops and of flocks and does not talk about currency.
Proverbs 3:9 also uses תבואה "tebuah" when it says, "Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your tebuah/crops/produce/increase.
" That can also be interpreted to mean monetary wealth from any kind of increase, though for Jews, "firstfruits" doesn't refer to tithing. It refers to the offering of firstfruits or the very first produce of crops of the season in the Festival of Weeks or First Fruits
, which is also called Pentecost (Exodus 34:22, 34:26; Deuteronomy 16:9-11; Leviticus 23:9-21; Numbers 28:26-31)[3.1.23]
It's also important to note that the offering for First Fruits
was a freewill or voluntary offering, meaning the Jews could give as much or little as they wanted (Deuteronomy 16:10)
. It didn't mean they could choose to neglect observing Fruit Fruits
, since they were told to observe the feast perpetually, throughout their generations wherever they lived (Leviticus 23:14, 23:21)
, and that it was required for every male to appear before the Lord for it, not empty-handed, but with what "he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord
" (Leviticus 16:16-17; Exodus 34:22-23)
Proverbs 3:9, though, is part of many statements that are relevant for all believers and not just Jews, such as, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding... Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones... Do not despise the Lord's discipline and do not resent His rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, as a Father the son He delights in" (Proverbs 3:5-12).
Given all these things, Proverbs 3:9, "Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your produce," then is understood to mean we should use our wealth to honor God and not for unrighteous things, and if we wish to tithe it is voluntary and should be calculated from the "first" of our income or gross income before taxes, since that is the amount we actually earn. This also means there is still nothing supporting mandatory tithing for the New Covenant Age.
The last mentions of tithing in the New Testament are all in Hebrews 7 about Abraham giving the one-time tithe to Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:1-10)[3.1.13]
. This chapter is mainly about comparing Jesus to Melchizedek, though, and does not command a tithe in the New Testament.
God's Fingerprint in a Voluntary Tithe
All the points given here should be enough for everyone to understand tithing in the New Covenant Age, but God is gracious and has given even more evidence of the truth for people who need a little more, like Thomas who would not believe Jesus was resurrected until he could see and touch His wounds (John 20:24-29).
I came across this evidence in December of 2011 when I was searching for "loby hearts" that matched spiritual guidance I got. I found an article about ancient coins from Gibraltar that were minted in the 1700's. The coins shown below have different types of hearts cut out of them. It is noted that the authentic coins on the left, have a "loby"-shaped heart, while the fakes have more regularly shaped hearts in them.
Why is this important? First, loby-shaped hearts represent "fleshiness" and in regards to the New Covenant, it goes with how God "will put [His] law within [us] and on [our hearts He] will write it" (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Romans 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:22, 3:3; Colossians 3:15; Hebrews 8:8-12). When we are saved by the New Covenant, we are reborn with God's Spirit who writes on the tablets of our human hearts (see The True Gospel and Imposters for details on how this works).
So when you understand that, the symbolism of the loby hearts on the authentic coins refer to how God also stamped into our fleshy hearts, a voluntary will to give to others, whether it is by tithing, offerings, or other means. It is voluntary freewill giving and tithing that is the authentic law in the New Covenant. The fake coins, however, then represent rigid law, like mandatory tithing and the Law of Moses written on tablets of stone instead of our hearts (2 Corinthians 3:3).
Finer Details For The Tithe And Taxes
Delivering The Tithe
In addition to the types of people and purposes the tithe can go to (see How the tithe should be used above), it should be delivered in the Lord's name. The tithe is God's money, so when we give it to someone the Lord's name should be tied to it"[3.1.63]. I simply wrap the money in a Post-It note with blessings from Lord, as I stated above.
We should not try to promote any church or ministry when we deliver the tithe, but use the leanings of God's Spirit in you as you speak with them. They may need or want more information or Godly wisdom that you can give.
Once the tithe is in the recipient's hands, it is their money to use as they see fit, so do not suggest they use the money for anything in particular. There are no restrictions on it at this point, since it is no longer God's sacred portion.
Remember the final destination of the tithe are the following categories of people: Full-Time Servants of Christ, Aliens to Christ or the "Unsaved", the Fatherless and Orphans, Widows-In-Need, and the Oppressed, Poor, or Anyone In Dire Need. The tithe may also be used to supply certain feasts as well. See How the tithe should be used above for a complete description of each category.
There is also the issue of dishonest panhandlers who lie about being homeless or needy. These people should not be getting God's tithe and since it can be hard to tell if a beggar is truly in need, I suggest splitting your giving into tithe and general donation money, such as a 50-50 split. Then you can give your tithe to people or ministries that it should go to and the general funds can be given freely without worry that God's money is stolen from. Just give the general donation money to anyone you feel could use it, whether they are lying about being needy or not.
We should not let swindlers discourage us from giving to people in general, so evaluate each situation and give as you feel you should. It's only that the tithe should kept from being stolen and so we should try to give it only to people and things it was meant for.
I also suggest through prayer in the name of Christ Jesus, declare that your giving of tithes and offerings is on the people you give it to and you are not responsible afterwards. This removes your accountability from money being stolen from God when you give in faith. You only need to do this once, but it is important to remove your accountability in any mishandling of tithes and offerings.
Handling Income & Increase In Wealth
Tithing is voluntary and the amount you give is up to you. However, it is easy to forget about tithing, so if you wish to tithe regularly, I suggest you get in the habit of taking out the tithe immediately from whatever income you get and separate it from the rest of your money, so it does not get misused. Setting aside money regularly is how Apostle Paul told people to collect funds for their giving (1 Corinthians 16:2).
You should also give your tithe to churches and ministries that understand how it should be used as well, since their "robbing God" translates to you if you give them your tithe and you didn't declare your accountability be removed as I noted above. If you don't want to worry about that or that your churches and ministries come to judgment for mishandling tithes, then don't give your tithe to them or only give to their general offering, which doesn't need care in its accounting.
Tithe means "a tenth"[2.900.7] so giving ten percent of your income is a good value. And since God is supposed to be given the firstfruits or first portion (Proverbs 3:9, Exodus 34:22, 34:26; Leviticus 23:10; Deuteronomy 26:10), it is appropriate to tithe on our gross income or simple net profit (gross sales minus the cost of delivering the goods or services), if you have a business or sell something yourself. That is unadjusted income before taxes.
You shouldn't feel the need to tithe on gifts or money that is considered a gift or handout for the needy, like grants, scholarships, and government aid. That would be like feeling obliged to give back tithe that someone gives you. It's supposed to a gracious gift from God. The only exception to that are servants of the Lord paid by the tithe, which makes it their gross income. This parallels the Law of Moses, which required Levites to tithe on the tithe they received (Numbers 18:26-28; Nehemiah 10:38, 12:47).
We also do not need to tithe on credit or loans, like credit used on credit cards, money from student or car loans or mortgages. Loans are not really income, since we have to pay back the loan. However, if we sell property, like a house or car, then the net profit from that can be considered income you could tithe on.
Inheritance of wealth and property after someone's death should be considered a gift. It isn't only a gift from loved ones, but God's gift to our children and generations to come. It is a good thing to leave an inheritance for your descendants (Proverbs 13:22) and very bad to deny the gifts of inheritance, which ultimately come from God. God hated Esau for giving up his birthright and being Godless or conducting his life as if He did not matter or exist (Malachi 1:3; Romans 9:13; Hebrews 12:16-17).
Keep Your Giving Secret
I do not endorse reporting tithes, offerings, or other charity on tax returns or to any 3rd-Parties, because seeking a return on charity (including esteem) negates the righteousness of giving[3.1.70]. "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven... But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you" (Matthew 6:1-4).
Don't even keep track yourself of how much you give. Jesus didn't have a ledger of how much He gave to whom when He gave to the poor, and knowing how much you give in total can give self-satisfaction. "Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing," (Matthew 6:3) so just give and leave it at that.
Paying Your Taxes
God urges but does not command us to pay our taxes (Matthew 17:24-26, 22:21; Mark 12:17; Luke 20:25; also Romans 13:6-7)
, which was talked about in What's Important About The Tithe
above. We should pay our taxes conscientiously without trying to get out of paying what we truly owe, because the Lord hates dishonest gain (Jeremiah 22:13-17; Habukkuk 2:6; Psalm 119:36; Ezekiel 22:13-14; 1 Timothy 3:8; Titus 1:7, 1:10-11; 1 Peter 5:2)
. So when you do tax returns, don't take tax deductions you are not eligible for or exaggerate them to reduce your taxes.
However, I say paying our taxes is not a commandment, because we also see
in the temple tax story of Matthew 17, the reason Jesus wants to pay the
tax is so they do not offend the officials (Matthew 17:27). It isn't because He absolutely had to pay it.
Just try to follow tax code wherever you are. Though, I would not be legalistic about it, like reporting every cent you got from selling odd things around the house. Tax code in the U.S. doesn't care about those kind of sales until they reach a high amount anyways.
Paying our taxes conscientiously honors important values, like being peaceable with everyone (Romans 12:18; 1 Corinthians 10:32-33; Hebrews 12:14-17; Galatians 6:10; 1 Peter 2:13-20, 3:8-12; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; Mark 9:50) and honoring authority (1 Peter 2:13-20; Romans 13:1-7; Colossians 3:18-25). God put government and authority into place so we can live under righteous authority and so society would would benefit as a whole. Our taxes help pay for those benefits and our world's infrastructure. However, taxes can also be used to pay for unrighteous things, like supporting abortion or other sin, so it doesn't make sense to make paying all taxes a commandment.
Also, churches in the United States are automatically tax exempt, but most other non-profits, including religious organizations and ministries are not automatically tax exempt. If you run a ministry or non-profit organization that is not a church, then you need to file for 501(c) tax exemption status. Otherwise, donations to your organization need to be reported to the government and are taxable, which would be a misuse of the tithe if you give your tithe to these kinds of charities.
Handling Credit Card & Payment Service Fees
Churches and ministries that collect tithes and offerings from credit cards or money transfer services, like PayPal, need to tell people fees will be taken out of their offering, so their actual offering is the amount they give minus fees. Otherwise you would have to pay for those fees from general funds.
If tithe money needs to be transferred electronically and fees cannot be avoided, the amount of tithe given should be transferred to a general account where it can be transferred from and the fees may be covered from the general fund.
Funds given to a general offering do not need to be treated with such care, because God does not consider it purposed for a specific reason, like an offering for disaster relief, nor is it sacred money, like the tithe.
Remember, the tithe is not supposed to fund organizations or banks, even if they are charities. The tithe needs to go to its intended recipients and purposes, which were given above
Churches and ministries should not constantly ask people to give their tithe or other donations. Persistent soliciting tends to overwhelm people and they will tune out the requests over time, so gently remind them less often and in ways that do not pressure them. Certainly do not misconstrue scripture or guidance to guilt people into giving.
We need to let God work through His Spirit in people to give money where He wants it to go. Persistently praying for and asking for funds does not show faith in God to provide. He knows what we need and wants to provide for His People, so do not treat Him like the unjust judge in the Parable of the Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-8). God wants us to pray with great faith instead. But if our prayers go unmet then we need to ask the Lord why and how to correct things, if needed, because faith, sin, and God's will all affect whether and when He gives our requests (Matthew 21:22; Mark 11:24; James 1:6-8; 1 Peter 3:7; 1 John 5:14-15; Isaiah 1:15-17).
When teaching about tithing and giving, we should emphasize that our motives for it should be in loving the Lord and others, which are to fulfill the first two greatest commandments (Matthew 19:19, 22:39, 5:43-44; Mark 12:31-33; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:13-14; James 2:8; Leviticus 19:18). Our desire to handle the tithe and offerings correctly should not only be to avoid curses or attain blessings either. Think about how many more people could be helped or even saved into eternity if the whole tithe were available and delivered as it was meant to be.
We should also not focus too much on judgment when teaching about the tithe and money. Some people have gotten things wrong by stating that we can be cursed if we don't tithe at all. I've heard people state that we can get generational curses of poverty for not tithing. That is not true for Christian tithing, but we can be cursed for ignoring or oppressing the poor and needy (Deuteronomy 15:7-11; Psalm 112:5, 112:9; Proverbs 14:21, 14:31, 17:5, 21:13, 22:16, 22:22, 28:8, 28:27, 29:7; Isaiah 3:14, 10:1-2; Jeremiah 5:25-28; Ezekiel 16:49, 18:11-20, 22:29; Amos 4:1-3, 5:11-15; Zechariah 7:9-10), which can manifest as generational curses on our children and descendants. "But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?" (1 John 3:17)
God's People, Jew and Christian alike, need to acknowledge the truth in all these things and learn how to treat the tithe as the sacred portion it is, and pay any debt to God from robbing tithes and offerings. It's not something we let slip, because the curses brought by robbing God are real (Malachi 3:9), and the people who are supposed to receive the full tithe are not getting their share.
It's God's desire to give it to them because they're the most in need, but God's vast amount of wealth isn't going where He wants. Can you see how His desire to help and unite people is not being fulfilled? It isn't just hurting the church, but also people who are truly in need, not just of money, but of being saved by the New Covenant and spiritual teaching.
A big reason why Jesus made Peter go far out of his way to pay the tax in Matthew 17 is to teach us we need to do the same. We must go out of our way to ensure God's money is used properly and see that all funds collected for a purpose remain separated. Our vows and pledges of money to God and certain purposes also need to be given priority and not be mistreated. The church and all ministries who collect tithes and offerings must learn how to keep everything in its correct place and use the money correctly.
We need to distribute the whole tithe as it is meant to be used. Only then can we receive the blessings God promises when we stop robbing Him (Malachi 3:10-12). God said to test Him on this in Malachi 3:10, so we should not hesitate to change our ways and handle money right.
Tithing correctly is not just the responsibility of church leaders. All believers are responsible for seeing that their tithe is kept and used correctly, so be diligent to ensure your tithe goes to the correct places or to ministries that know how to handle God's money without robbing Him.
All ministry expenses that the tithe cannot be used for must be paid with a separate offering or out of our own pockets. We must keep these things straight and balanced so we do not become guilty of robbing God again.
Handling God's money properly isn't just about the curses and blessings associated with it or about being obedient and loyal to Him. It's also about righteousness, helping the needy, and helping to save the unsaved through it. God's kingdom would function more effectively if everyone tithed correctly, so the money was available and went where it's supposed to go.
The Lord bless you with the knowledge here, through HaMashiach Yehoshua - Christ Jesus. Amen.