Tithing and Your Paycheck
Was tithing only for ancient Israel?
Was it a form of national
taxation? Should non-Christians, as
well as Christians, tithe?
By Herman L. Hoeh
Few, it seems, understand how tithing began, who instituted it and why!
It is often assumed today that tithing was first instituted at Mt. Sinai, that it was a form of national taxation under the Old Covenant. Therefore, it is reasoned, tithing must be "Levitical."
Nothing could be further from the truth! Understand why.
Tithing not Levitical
Did you know your Bible reveals tithes were paid to the Creator God long before the first Israelite was born?
That tithing was, in fact, a divine institution centuries prior to the making of the covenant at Mt. Sinai?
And, that after everything that was nailed to the cross was ended, tithing continued on as a living principle under the New Testament?
The proof has been in your Bible all these years! You will find it in the book of Hebrews, the seventh chapter. In it Paul expounds the New Testament teaching on tithing.
Why Paul wrote Hebrews
Paul wrote the book of Hebrews to make plain to Christians the office and present duties of Jesus Christ as our Mediator and High Priest in Heaven.
But what does Christ's office as High Priest in heaven today have to do with tithing? Far more, perhaps, than you realize!
First, the apostle Paul explains that Jesus Christ, our High Priest, holds the rank office, or order - of Melchizedek (Hebrews 5:5-6). Who this Melchizedek is, very few understand!
Briefly, Melchizedek is called "priest of the Most High God" in Hebrews 7:1. One of His names is "king of peace" (verse 2). Is it coincidence that Christ is also a priest, and that the prophet Isaiah names Jesus Christ "Prince of Peace"? (Isaiah 9:6).
The priestly rank or office of Jesus Christ and Melchizedek is the same!
Furthermore Melchizedek, High Priest in ancient Abraham's day, is alive today - "having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually" (Hebrews 7:3).
Jesus Christ, too, is alive today!
Melchizedek - note was "made like the Son of God." Paul sees clearly that Melchizedek and Christ are one.
That one who had been priest of God Most High became the human Jesus. As a human being - God in the flesh He was also the Messiah or Christ - the Anointed.
And He is now, as He was before, High Priest. He has the same office or rank He had in Abraham's day, when He was known as Melchizedek meaning "King of righteousness"!
Consider, now, what Melchizedek or Christ, in His office as High Priest, received from the patriarch Abraham.
"For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings [see Genesis 14:18-20] and blessed him, to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all . . ." - a tenth is a tithe. (Tithe is an old English word for "tenth.")
Continuing: "Now consider how great this man was" - Melchizedek "to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth [a tithe] of the spoils" (Hebrews 7:1-2, 4).
Melchizedek who later became the human Jesus - collected from Abraham God's tenth - the tithe. That is one of the functions of Christ's priesthood that continues today.
But how did Abraham know to tithe? "Because Abraham," says God, "obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws" (Genesis 26:5).This was centuries before the law of Moses and before the Old Covenant!
God's laws are eternal principles. They have existed from the beginning. They are living, active principles today.
So tithing was a law centuries before the covenant ever was made at Sinai. Abraham was paying tithes about 130 years before Levi, the father of the Levites, and Abraham's great-grandson, was born. Tithing is therefore not "Levitical"!
Tithing, of course, was included in the laws revealed to the Hebrew ex-slaves at Sinai. It had to be. Tithing is a living financial law. It did not begin with Moses, and it did not end when the law of Moses ceased. The law of Moses could not end what it did not bring into existence!
Later we find Jacob, Abraham's grandson, promising God He would pay Him the tithe. "And of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth [the tithe] to You" (Genesis 28:22). It is important to whom the tithe is paid - "to You," said Jacob. Not to imposters!
What Christ does with the tithe
What is the purpose of the tithe? How did Melchizedek use the tithes He received in Abraham's day? To what use does Christ put tithes today?
There is a great purpose being worked out here below. Man can know nothing of that purpose unless it is revealed. That takes a Revelator. Christ is that Revelator. He reveals the Father's will. It is one of His duties as High Priest!
Now understand what the priesthood of Christ has to do with tithing.
God the Father works through Christ. But how does Christ work?
On occasion, He works in person on earth. He worked from time to time with the patriarchs. He worked continuously in the flesh for some three and a half years with the apostles. Most often - and for the past 2000 years - He works from heaven through chosen humans.
But what is Christ's Work? What Work has Christ been carrying out through human instruments on earth these near 6,000 years?
The Work of preaching the good news the Gospel - of the Kingdom of God!
When on earth with the apostles, "Jesus went ... preaching the gospel of the kingdom" (Matthew 4:23). His commission today is, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). He carried on the same Work 4,000 years ago. As Melchizedek, He preached "the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, `In you all the nations shall be blessed' " (Galatians 3:8).
It cost money for the apostles to travel from city to city, to rent halls in which to speak, to have letters laboriously handwritten.
Even in Abraham's day it cost to carry out the Work of God. Abraham had at least 300 men in his employ (Genesis 14:14).Including wives and children there must have been between 1,000 and 1,500 who traveled with him. To preach the Gospel to them, facilities had to be provided in which to meet for special occasions and for weekly services.
Today, to reach the whole world with the Gospel of the Kingdom of God on the superpower facilities of radio and television and via the printing press costs large sums of money.
To pay for His Work, God ordained from the beginning a definite financial plan - tithing. God does not come down to earth today and ask owners of radio stations and printing presses for their facilities free. God believes in justly paying humans for the facilities He entrusts to them.
What the Creator does is to reserve for Himself, out of all that is produced out of the earth He created, only 10 percent. The remaining 90 percent He willingly releases to man for his personal use after man first renders the first 10 percent to his Maker.
God commissioned Christ, as High Priest, to collect that 10 percent - the tithe - from those who voluntarily want to become
co-workers with Him.
As Melchizedek, Christ received it personally in Abraham's day. Today and ever since His ascension in A.D. 31 - Christ, as High Priest, authorizes His servants whom He has chosen as His ministers to receive it for Him and to disperse it, as He directs, for the Work of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.
How many of you knew that is one of the functions of Christ, our High Priest, today? It's time we understood why tithing is included in the one book in all the New Testament that specifically explains Christ's priesthood!
"But," some will ask, "what about the Levitical priesthood? Didn't the Levites receive tithes?"
That is just the point Paul makes! If the Levites - a priesthood of merely human rank - received tithes under the Mosaic dispensation, how much more worthy to receive tithes is Christ, who, since His resurrection, has again the rank of Melchizedek - the "King of righteousness"?
Why the Levitical priesthood
The Mosaic dispensation was purely materialistic, fleshy, with physical rituals and sacrifices. In Hebrews 4:2 we read:
"For indeed the gospel was preached to us" - in New Testament times - "as well as to them; [Old Testament times] but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it."
Yet this lesser priesthood had to be financed. Again God used the tithing system. "And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law" (Hebrews 7:5).
Since tithing is God's permanent, continuous financing system, it continued through the Mosaic dispensation. During that period, when the Levites were the ministers, their physical work had to be financed.
But when Christ came and the priesthood was changed, God did not change His financing system. Christians in Paul's day did not need to be instructed that tithing is an obligatory and permanent law of God. They did need to have it made clear that the Levitical priesthood was superseded in the Church of God by that of Jesus Christ - the Melchizedek priesthood restored! The only question was to which priesthood tithes were now to be paid.
To make this point plain, Paul explains the superiority of the Melchizedek priesthood: "Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils. And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham; but he whose genealogy is not derived from them [the Levites] received tithes from Abraham and blessed him [Abraham] who had the promises. Now beyond all contradiction the lesser [Abraham] is blessed by the better [Melchizedek]" (Hebrews 7:4-7).
Continuing the comparison of the two priesthoods: "Here mortal men [the Levites] receive tithes, but there he [Melchizedek] receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives" - as He does today, in heaven, as our High Priest!
"Even Levi," continues Paul, "who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him" (verses 8-10).
Figuratively, even Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek - that is, the One who became Christ. Similarly, Judah, the father of the Jews and the brother of Levi, paid tithes "in Abraham" hundreds of years before Sinai! The Melchizedek priesthood is far superior. It has precedence! It is again in force under Christ.
Christ is now carrying out the Work of God. It, too, has to be financed.
So we read: "For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law" (verse 12).
New Testament law!
Paul does not say the law was abolished. The change in priesthoods makes necessary a change in the law. What law was thus changed? The very law this chapter is instructing Christians about the tithing law!
"The sons of Levi ... have a commandment to receive tithes ... according to the law" (verse 5).
Tithing, far from being abolished, is New Testament law! Actually, the law is merely restored as it was from the beginning!
Jesus Christ personally taught tithing
In speaking to the scribes and Pharisees, who often made a self righteous display of strictly keeping some of the smaller points of God's law, Jesus said: "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 [these weightier matters], without leaving the others undone" (Matthew 23:23).
Isn't that clear enough? Jesus said that carefully and strictly paying tithes on every little plant that might grow in your garden ought not be put ahead of spiritual qualities such as mercy and faith.
But Christ said "without leaving the others undone" not to fail to pay your full tithes as God has commanded!
Tithing is God's law - His system for financing His Work today. It's commanded, now!
Let each one say, "That means me!"