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14. (N.T.) Tithing during the time of Jesus


The Tithe?

14.  New Testament
Tithing During the Tme of Jesus
(Please read all previous articles on tithing first)

During the time of Jesus, the tithe, under the Law of Moses, was still in operation. In fact, there were other taxes required as well. All people had to pay taxes to the province and the empire; however the agrarian Jews and herdsmen had to pay more because they were responsible for the tithe off of their land as well. A Jewish agrarian or herdsmen’s yearly tax and tithing expenses looked something like this:

  • Ten percent tax (monetary) went to the Roman Empire
  • If there were any spoils of war, 10% (not the tithe) went to Rome
  • Ten percent (monetary) went to the province for King Herod’s tax.
  • Ten percent first tithe of the fruit of the land was given to the Levitical priest who then took 10% of its proceeds and brought them to the temple for the high priest and priests.
  • Ten percent second tithe (off of the land) went for the celebration festivals. All Jews were required to bring their tithes as a potluck for everyone to enjoy. It was meant to give honor to God.
  • A 10% tithe was given once every three years as the third tithe, amounting to 3% tax (off of the land) each year, which was designated to the poor.
  • Other taxes and offerings included road taxes, bridge taxes, temple shekel, free-will offerings, and many other religious and royal taxes were required.

Bare minimum was 40% that was due agrarian or herdsmen Jews in monetary taxes or tithes off of the land.

It is interesting to note that there is no place in the Law of Moses where tithes were given for any civil or religious ceremony other than the second yearly tithe for the feast celebration to the LORD. All other tithes were given to the Levitical priesthood to be distributed to the high priest, priests, among themselves, and the poor. Funds for everything else came from free-will offerings (Ex 20-23, 29, 34 & 36), and later taxes.

The Word "Tithe" is Listed in Only Four New Testament Scriptures

The words tithe, or any reference to it, appears in only four scriptural passages in the New Testament - its contents consisting of eight verses (Matt 23:23; Luke 11:42; 18:12; Heb 7:5-6,8-9). The verses in Matthew and Luke are referring to Old Testament usage and current Jewish practice at that time, with Jesus scorning the Pharisees over extremism or misuse of the Levitical tithe. Jesus never required His followers to tithe. The passages in Hebrews referred to Abram giving tithes to Melchizedek, which was referring back to the Old Testament scriptures in Genesis where it showed: 1) The tithe given by Abram predated the requirements for the Levitical tithe under the Law of Moses, 2) Abram gave a tithe from the spoils of war and the 90% balance back to its owner, which has nothing to do with him tithing off of his land, or anything else that belonged to him, and 3) the tithe was probably given as a pagan custom to a Arab king - he was simply giving back what was not his to keep.

No Evidence of the Tithe for Christians in the New Testament

Jesus never mentioned tithing as a practice for his followers. There is no example of the early Church, as listed in the book of Acts, which shows that believers should tithe. The Jerusalem first apostolic council in chapter 15 of Acts is silent on the subject of tithing, but is clear that Gentiles are not required to keep any aspects of the Law of Moses. That would include tithing. The Apostle Paul was a Jew and believed in the tithe before coming to Christ. While he writes a great deal about finances and giving in his writings, he never instructed anyone in the Church to tithe or receive tithes. Peter, nor any other New Testament writer, with the exception of the author of the book of Hebrews, spoke of the biblical tithe in any of their teachings. Throughout the Epistles, tithing is not mentioned as a command, nor is anything stated about changing tithing food to tithing money. Since the Epistles were written for the Church at large, it becomes very important to see that tithing is not even mentioned. There is no place in the New Testament that shows that Christian believers should tithe. This demonstrates clearly that tithing was not meant to be a Christian practice - it had no relevance to believers in the 1st century and none today. Remember, tithing came from the produce of the inherited land of Canaan for agrarian Jews and had no monetary value connected to it.

To continue on to section #15 on tithing, click here 

Written by Pastor Joyce A. Erickson

Believers Bible School, Founder https://believersbibleschool.com/