Tithing is only mentioned a couple of times in the New Testament as a historical reference. There is no place in the New Testament where Christians are given explicit directions concerning tithing.
Pastor, Bible teacher, and author, John MacArthur points out that in the Old Testament Jews were to give a “Levite’s Tithe each year of 10% of all they produced. Israel was a theocracy, that is, it was ruled by God through priests. There were thousands upon thousands of priests who served as government officials.
Levi was the priestly tribe and they owned nothing. They were supported by all the other tribes. When you gave your 10% each year, you gave it to the priestly government for the care of the nation. In addition, you gave another 10% every year to support the religious convocations of the nation that were held in Jerusalem. Then you paid another 10% every third year, which went to the poor and the widows. If you break it down, you are at about 23.3% per year. According to MacArthur:
[W]hen people today say, “We want to tithe now like they did in the Old Testament,” they can’t stop at 10%, they have got 23.3% to start with. In addition to that, you paid a half shekel temple tax every year, in addition to that, if you had a field, you had to harvest the field in a circle and leave the corners open for the poor. It was a profit-sharing plan. If you dropped a bail of hay off your wagon, on the way to the barn, you had to leave that for the poor. So you start adding that up and you are looking at about 25% of their income went to fund the national entity of the government. Now when you get into the New Testament, the Jews were still doing that, because they still had a nation, even though they were an occupied nation, they were still a nation. They were occupied by the Romans, but they weren’t run by the Romans. They had their own religious hierarchy, they had their own school systems, they had their own festivals, and all that stuff, and so they had to take care of that. They had their own priesthood; it all had to go on, that is why Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” in other words, pay the Romans what they asked, and render to God the things that are God’s. So just to clarify that at the very beginning, when you are talking about a tithe, you are talking about “taxation. . . .”
Now you come to 2 Corinthians, chapter eight, and you learn how the church gave. The church knew there was a need so the church gave. How did they give? Well, it wasn’t 10%, it says, “The churches in Macedonia, 2Cor 8:1, gave abundantly out of deep poverty. It says that their deep poverty abounded to the riches of their liberality.” Here was a very poor church in Macedonia, very poor, but they gave generously, out of their hearts liberally. In fact, verse three says, they gave beyond their ability. They gave more than they should have given–more then they could of given, and the reason they did that was in verse five, because they first gave themselves. I mean when you give yourself then everything you have belongs to the Lord. So, Paul is saying to the Corinthians, “If you want a lesson in giving, look at these people–out of deep poverty they gave everything they had.” In fact, they gave more than they should have, but they did that because they had already given themselves to the Lord. Now you have the key motive in giving; what is the right motive in giving? It is not to get anything. It is in that whole hearted abandonment, “they gave everything. . . .”
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The excerpt above is taken from a sermon John MacArthur preached at Grace Community Church, Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412. The sermon is available on cassette tape #GC 70-1, and is titled, “Bible Questions and Answers.”
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