Jesus never taught nor endorsed tithing as a New Testament practice. What Jesus did was He made two incidental statements about tithing that fundraisers use out of context to justify their man-made system of money tithes.
Nonetheless, the modern tithe system is spoken of as though it’s actually a New Testament doctrine and command. This is shocking, since the New Testament indirectly strongly condemns it.
The enemies of Christian liberty will no doubt snicker in smug confidence at such indefensible blasphemy. Even some of my tithe-free allies may think this statement goes a bit too far. But I assure you that the New Testament clearly and emphatically condemns the mixture of the law of Moses and Christian doctrine.
Tithing Is Rarely Mentioned In The New Testament
The New Testament directly names tithing in only one chapter in one book: Hebrews 7. The only other places tithing is mentioned is Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42; 18:12.
Tithe preachers prominently display Matthew and Luke as part of their New Testament justification to demand financial tithes. But their attempt falls far short of the mark.
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are physically located in what we call the New Testament. But we must understand that although the Bible is the inspired Word of God, the chronological placement of its books are not.
The placement of all of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in what we call the New Testament was done by man. Technically, however, the New Testament begins when Jesus rises from the dead. He rose from the dead in Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20.
Therefore, everything in the Gospels prior to these chapters are Old Testament events. With this in mind, let’s look at the tithe Scriptures in Matthew and Luke.
Tithing in the Book of Matthew
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.Matthew 23:23
This Old Testament scripture records one of the many times Jesus criticized the religious leaders for their hypocrisy. He noted their bewildering and contradictory mixture of extreme tithing and injustice, unmercifulness, and faithlessness.
Sadly, as it is to be expected, tithe preachers focus on what Jesus said about tithing and nothing about what He said about justice, mercy, and faith.
It is true that Jesus commended and encouraged the Pharisees and scribes in their tithing. They were under the law of Moses, and this was its requirement. So we would expect Jesus to tell them to tithe.1 But what else did He say in that same verse?
Jesus compared the temporary ordinance of tithing to the eternal principles and qualities of justice, mercy, and faith. His verdict was that justice, mercy, and faith were “weightier,” or more important than tithing, and that Israel’s religious leaders were wrong to emphasize the latter over the former.
Our tithe preachers are similarly guilty of valuing (their version of) tithes above justice, mercy, and faith.
The Modern Financial Tithe System Is Unjust
Today’s tithe system and tithe preachers are unjust.
They are unjust because they raise money by requiring Christians to obey a twisted version of an obsolete Old Testament tithe law. They are unjust because their tithe law violates God’s law of fairness and equity.
The apostle Paul referred to the law of fairness and equity when he asked the Corinthian Christians to financially support the much poorer Jerusalem Christians:
For I do not mean that others should be eased and you be burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack—that there may be equality. As it is written, “He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack.2 Corinthians 8:13-15
The modern tithe system violates the law of fairness and equality because it requires much more of the poor than it does of the rich. It demands ten percent no matter how much we earn. But does this affect the poor, middle-class, and rich equally? Absolutely not.
It drives the poor into greater poverty and misery, while the middle-class gives with varying degrees of comfort or discomfort, based upon where they are on the middle-class ladder, and on the level of their debt.
And the rich? They effortlessly cut a check for ten percent and go back to living a life of ease and luxury, happy to be required to proportionately give so little of their money to the gospel.2
This system is one hundred percent unjust.
The Modern Financial Tithe System Is Unmerciful
Today’s tithe system and tithe preachers are unmerciful.
They are unmerciful because they routinely impose heartless economic cruelty upon the poor. They are unmerciful because they can look a family in the eyes who is overwhelmed with medical bills and demand ten percent of its income.
They are unmerciful because they don’t care about the negative effects of their economic demands upon God’s people.3
Somehow these preachers are able to harden their hearts and convince themselves that God approves of their brutality against the church. What is to be said of this kind of preacher?
Jesus prophetically said it all:
They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.John 16:2-3
Don’t underestimate the tithe doctrine’s murderous effect on the poor. It kills their safety, comfort, opportunity, and hope.
The Modern Financial Tithe System Is Faithless
Today’s tithe system and tithe preachers are faithless.
They are faithless because the modern tithe system is not based on a relationship of hearing and obeying Christ. It is based on a preacher’s ability to generate and sustain unqualified cash flow through bribes, threats, and manipulation of gullible Christians.
This is not faith; it’s faithlessness.
Tithing In the Book of Luke
But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.Luke 11:42
This is Luke’s narrative of the same incident reported by Matthew. So I’ll only comment on a phrase that powerfully illustrates the wickedness of the modern tithe system.
Jesus said the ancient tithe preachers “passed by justice and the love of God.” Use your imagination for a moment. When you drive a car to reach a destination, you pass by many things. You don’t stop by them because they are not your destination.
Similarly, the ancient tithe preachers had a destination that was not justice or the love of God; so they passed by them. Today’s tithe preachers make the same grievous mistake. Their destination is cash flow at all costs.
If it means they must pass by justice and the love of God to build their kingdoms in the name of Christ, they will do so.
If it means they must cause wrecks or even run over pedestrians as they pass by justice and the love of God to reach their destination of cash flow, they will do so.
Tithe preachers are like drunk ambulance drivers who turn on their sirens and flashing lights and irresponsibly run over anyone in their path. This is bad enough, but what makes the crime even more evil is the preachers feel no remorse for their actions.
Through some dark mental process, they justify the broken, bloodied bodies of God’s people simply as the cost of helping the hurting and saving the lost. It never dawns on them that it is demonic wisdom that justifies destroying the church to save the world.
More Tithing In the Book of Luke
Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’
And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’
I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.Luke 18:9-14
This story reveals one of the great sins of the tithing system: It encourages self-righteousness. Many tithers pat themselves on the back for giving the institutional church ten percent of their income.
They won’t actually say, “Look at me; I’m great for giving God ten percent of my money.” No, that’s too obnoxious and obvious.
The way to properly congratulate yourself is to give a public testimony of how you were blessed through tithing. This way it appears that you are giving glory to God, but you are actually letting everyone know you are a tither.
This will make you look like an obedient Christian who loves God and His church, and may even help you get a nice unpaid position on the church staff.
The public testimony effectively draws attention to yourself, but it is also a great ministry fundraiser. This is one reason why preachers love public testimonies of how God has supposedly blessed someone for tithing. It satisfies the tither’s need to be noticed and the preacher’s need to convince people to tithe.
In Jesus’ story, notice that the preacher was quite proud of himself for being a tither. His tithing was part of his delusion that he pleased God and that he was better than those who didn’t tithe.
Many so-called tithers suffer from this same delusion. They believe their tithing is evidence of their spirituality. I believe it can be a sign of their lack of spirituality. How could a spiritually mature Christian be convinced to live under a perversion of part of the obsolete law of Moses and pat himself on the back for doing so?
It is obvious that Jesus used this story to expose religious hypocrisy and self-righteousness. But He also used it to reveal righteousness apart from the law. The tax collector in the story was condemned by the tither, but he was accepted by God.
Condemned by man, yet accepted by God!
The church is filled with people who are justified by God, but condemned by people who claim to speak for God. It is no wonder that Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors [thieves] and harlots [whores] enter the kingdom of God before you [self-righteous preachers]” (Matthew 21:31).
Summary of Tithing in the Gospels
The gospels mention tithing in three places, and two of those places refer to the same incident. So the gospels actually mention two incidents of tithing. Both of these examples speak negatively of the tithers.
Furthermore, in both examples, Jesus explained that the preachers had erroneously placed tithing above the more important issues of justice, mercy, faith, and humility.
What tithe preacher teaches that these qualities are more important than the modern tithe? Personally, in forty-two years of serving Christ, I have never heard—or heard of—a tithe preacher who publicly ranks the modern tithe beneath these Christian virtues.
This should come as no surprise. Justice, mercy, faith, and humility are enemies of the modern tithe system. Do you now see how ridiculous it is for tithe preachers to use the Gospels to justify their demand for our money?
- Who Created the Financial Tithe?: A History of the Tithe.
- What Are Tithes In the Bible?
- Should I Tithe Or Pay My Bills?
- Did People Tithe Before The Law?
- Does The New Testament Teach Tithing?
1. Telling Old Testament Jews to keep the law was routine for Jesus. He also told a leper who was healed to “go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them” (Matthew 8:4). This was a requirement of the law.
2. It is not what percent you give, but how much money you have left over after you give that determines the “true” amount of your giving to God:
“And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, ‘Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had” (Luke 21:1-4).
3. If you cared, you’d immediately stop this extortion. How will you defend this behavior on Judgment Day?
4. “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:1-4).
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