Many stand before congregations and instruct worshippers about tithes and offerings; yet, what does the Bible say and what was the tradition of the early church? This article shall address the (1) definitions of these words (2) explore a brief chronological look at examples of Old Testament giving, (3) ask what Moses taught, (4) examine practices in the New Testament, (5) look at the teachings of some ‘Early Church Fathers,’ (6) asked if it is required and (7) offer some rewards of giving and final words.
(1) DEFINITIONS Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary; McClintock & Strong’s Cyclopedia…
Tithe: a tenth part of any thing; but appropriately, the tenth part of the increase annually arising from the profits of land and stock, allotted to the clergy for their support… to levy a tenth part on; to tax to the amount of a tenth.
Giving: Bestowing; conferring; imparting; granting; delivering.
Offering: presenting; proposing; sacrificing… That which is presented in divine service; an animal or a portion of bread… or of gold… or other valuable articles, presented to God as an atonement for sin, or as a return of thanks for His favors, or for other religious purpose; a sacrifice; an oblation. In the Mosaic economy, there were burnt-offerings, sin-offerings, peace-offerings, trespass-offerings, thank-offerings, wave-offerings, and wood-offerings. Pagan nations also present offerings to their deities. Christ by the offering of Himself has superseded the use of all other offerings, having made atonement for all men. “When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed” – Isaiah 53:10.
Offering (M&S Cyclopedia, 1880): Anything presented to God as a means of conciliating His favor; which being in the Jewish, as well as other religions, considered a s thee one thing needful, has always constituted an essential part of public worship and private piety… Three kinds: 1. Impetratoria… designed to procure some favor or benefit; 2. Eucharistica, those which are expressive of gratitude for bounties or mercies received; 3. Piacularia, those which are meant to atone for sins and propitiate the Deity…”
(2) Chronology of Old Testament Examples
Many Jewish sources concern the first week of creation of the Earth and Adam to be 3761 years before the Common Era (BC); and Bishop Ussher in his ‘Annuals…’ listed it as 4004. The Resse Chronological Bible uses 3976 BC as the first day. For our purpose we will mainly follow the Jewish sources such as JewishAmerica.com or the JewishVirtualLibrary.org.
c. 3631 BC: Genesis 4:3-7: “…In the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. So the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”
Barnes Notes states that the difference was in their faith. Keil & Delitzsch’s Commentary states: “…The different occupations of the brothers are not to be regarded as a proof of the difference in their dispositions… The sacrifices offered by Adam’s sons, and that not in consequence of a divine command, but from the free impulse of their nature as determined by God, were the first sacrifices of the human race… The first sacrifices were offered after the fall (sin of man), and therefore presupposed the spiritual separation of man from God… The offerings were expressive of gratitude to God, to whom they owed all that they had… To take the nourishment of the body literally and the clothing symbolically …is an arbitrary procedure… The reason why they were not equally acceptable to God is not… is to be found in the fact that Abel’s thanks came from the depth of his heart, whilst Cain merely offered his to keep on good terms with God – a difference that was manifested in the choice of the gifts, which each one brought of the produce of his occupation. This choice shows clearly ‘that it was the pious feeling, through which the worshipper put his heart as it were into the gift, which made the offering acceptable to God (Oebler);’ that the essence of the sacrifice was not the presentation of the gift to God, but that the offering was intended to shadow forth the dedication of the heart to God. At the same time, the desire of the worshipper, by the gem of that substitutionary meaning of sacrifice, which was afterwards expanded in connection with the deepening and heightening of the feeling of sin into a desire for forgiveness, led to the development of the idea of expiatory (atone of sins) sacrifice.”
c. 3000- BC: “Enoch walked with God 300 years… (Gen. 5:22).” Enoch also wrote history and prophecies such as spoken by Jude. It is very likely he made offerings as unto the Lord.
c. 2103 BC: “…Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the LORD smelled a soothing aroma. Then the LORD said in His heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.’ (Gen. 8:20-21).”
c.1900? BC: “Job… was blameless and upright (righteous)… And the Lord said… considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth…” And a day came when his servants in the field were killed by Sabeans and Chaldeans; and many sheep and servants killed by a natural disaster; his son’s house collapsed in a storm and killed his sons and daughters. Yet, “Job… tore his robe, shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped… ‘The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord…’” Job said to his wife, who suggested ‘curse God and die;’ ‘…Shall we accept only good from God, and not adversity?’(Job 1:1,8; chapters 1 and 2).”
In his misery Job wish he was never born; but he never blamed God or cursed God. Yet, in his love, faith and understanding of God and even knowledge in sort of Christ, Job says, “Though He slay my, I will trust Him… He shall be my salvation… (13:15);” “Do not withdraw Your hand far from me… (13:21);” “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand on the Earth (19:25).” And after the Lord spoke to Job (chapters 38-41), “Job replied to the Lord, ‘I know that You can do all things… (42:1);” and then the Lord rebuked Eliphaz and told him to “take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your foolishness…”
c. 1742: When God called Abram out of his former land, Abraham obeyed God and soon afterwards received the Covenant and the promise of the land to Israel. Soon after, and after he delivered his nephew Lot from Sodom; “Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine; and he was the priest of the Most High God. And he said… ‘Blessed be Abram of the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be the Most High God, which has delivered your enemies into your hand…’ And Abram give him tithes of all… After these things the Lord… said, ‘Abram, I AM your shield and great reward…’ and promised Abraham a multitude of descendants… and Abram believed in the Lord and God counted it to him for righteousness… (Genesis chapters 14 and 15).”
c. 1677: Abraham was willing to offer Isaac (a willing adult) as a sacrifice when called to the test. Abraham prepared Isaac for the sacrifice on Mount Moriah; “God tested Abraham… go to the region of Moriah.” (Genesis 22:1-2). According to the Book of Jasher (mentioned in the Bible; Joshua 10:13 and 2Sam.1:18), “Abraham went with Isaac his son to bring him up as an offering before the Lord, as the Lord had commanded (to test) him… And Abraham went with Isaac toward the place that God had told him. And on the third day he lifted up his eyes and saw the place at a distance… and a pillar of fire appeared… and a cloud of glory upon the mountain… and the glory of the Lord was seen upon the cloud. …And Isaac said I see a pillar of fire and a cloud… And Abraham knew that his son Isaac was accepted before the Lord for a burnt offering. And Abraham said unto Eliezer and unto Ishmael his son (who had travel with them to that distance), ‘do you also see that which we see on the mountain…’ And they answered, ‘we see nothing more than like the other mountains; and Abraham knew that they were not accepted to go with them further… And (when they reached the place) Abraham took the wood and placed it on the altar he had built… And Isaac said ‘bind me securely… lest I should move… and break loose… and Abraham bound his son Isaac… and stretched forth his hand to slay his son as a burnt offering before the Lord… At that time the Lord appeared unto Abraham, calling him from heaven, …’lay not your hand upon him…’ And Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw a ram… which the Lord God had created… offered it as a burnt offering instead of Isaac (Jasher 23:20-73).” According to Jewish Midrash and the Book of Jasher (22:41), Isaac was 37 years old at that time.
c. 1580 BC: After Jacob wrestled with an angel; in time the Lord spoke to Jacob, grandson of Abraham and told him his name would be “Israel.” And at a certain time the Lord said, “Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there; and make an altar…’ Then Jacob told his household, ‘put away the strange gods that are among you…’ and they went to Bethel… and Jacob built there an altar … (Genesis, chapter 35).”
c. 1530 BC: Joseph, son of Jacob and a prince of Israel, after he was sold into slavery by his brothers, still worshiped and feared God. And he kept himself righteous before God, and after many years of servitude, offered his life as a service to God, serving both the Israelites and Egyptians, as their viceroy.
c. 1300 BC: After the Exodus Passover; the Lord told Moses His name and gave Moses the Torah (the Laws). “The Lord God… cut two tablets of stone like the first ones. Then Moses rose early in the morning and went up Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him; and he took in his hand the two tablets of stone. Now the Lord descended in the cloud and …and proclaimed the name of the Lord… ‘The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.’ So Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped… (Exodus 34:4-8).”
And Moses gave the children of Israel the Levitical System and Laws in which there were not only commandments, such as the Ten Commandments; but also a system of offerings. For example, there were Burnt Offerings, Meat Offerings, Peace Offerings, Sin Offerings and Trespass Offerings (Leviticus, chapters 1-5). The Burnt Offering was the most common and mentioned in the Scriptures almost 200 times. It was a Voluntary Offering as the Meat Offering and the Peace Offering. The Burnt Offering required the offering to be totally consumed; the Meat Offering was a living sacrifice; and the Peace Offering was the only in which the offerer could eat. Jesus Christ fulfilled all of these offerings in His sacrifice on the Cross for the forgiveness of our sins.
Moses taught the essence of the Torah to hundreds of millions that would read what the Lord gave to him for us: “…What does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good (Deuteronomy 10:12-13)?”
c. 860 BC: King David give many kinds of offerings to the Lord God. David was ‘a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22),’ because he believed the words of the Lord, obeyed Him and worshipped God with a depth faith. David said ‘at midnight I will rise to give thanks to You… I am a companion of all who fear You, and who keep Your laws… Accept, I pray, the FREEWILL OFFERINGS of my mouth… O Lord… Seven times a day I praise You… I long for Your Salvation… (Psalms 119).” “Bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord… lift up your hands… (Psa. 134).” David gave the people opportunity and example to praise God.
Like Moses (Exodus 35), when King David called for gold and materials to build the TEMPLE, it was a FREEWILL OFFERIING; נְדָבָה or nedabah: voluntariness, freewill offering (Strong’s Concordance: 5071). The “people rejoiced, for they had offered willingly, because with a loyal heart they had offered willingly to the Lord…” And after receiving the offering he “Blessed” the Lord is a psalm (1 Chronicles 29).
c. 725 BC: Isaiah prophesies about what is to come, “I will gather all nations… and they will come and see My glory… and they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the Lord out of all nations… to the Holy mountain in Jerusalem… and they shall declare My glory among the gentiles… says the Lord (Isaiah 66:18-).”
c. 540 BC: Daniel trusted in the Lord and knew that “God in heaven… reveals secrets” and hidden things to His faithful. Without fear of man (Matt. 10:28), Daniel “…in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, knelt down on his knees three times… and prayed and gave thanks before God, as was his custom… (Dan. 6:10).” Daniel would “set (his) face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting… (Dan. 9).”
Concerning the Tithe in the Old Testament McClintock and Strong, in their Cyclopedia of Biblical… Literature (c.1880) instruct us, “That one tenth of the whole produce of the soil assigned to the maintenance of the Levites… Josephus distinctly says that one tenth was to be given to the priests and Levites, one tenth was to be applied to feasts in the metropolis, and that a tenth besides these was every third year to be given to the poor…”
Remember the Lord Jesus after teaching how to pray, said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you… (Matt. 6:33).” What things? Our daily bread, spiritually and for physical strength, and what we wear… not worldly riches… but our portion (Prov. 30:8). The tithe was to bless the priests and the poor with food and shelter. Nevertheless, some faithful, “all who died in faith… and whom the world was not worthy of… had trials of mockings and scourging and of imprisonment; and …were tortured… and destitute… yet all these, obtained a good testimony through faith… (Hebrews 11:13, 36-).” Some to these were unable to tithe, but not unable to give.
(3) WHAT DID MOSES TEACH?
“You shall tithe all the produce of your seed which comes forth from the field year by year (Deut 14:22).” “…All the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Y”H’s: it is holy unto the LORD. And if a man will at all redeem ought of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof. And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock… the tenth shall be holy to the Lord (Lev. 27:30-32).” The tithe was edible – food; not money.
Yet, as to MONEY – after Moses spoke of the “altar to burn incense (as prayer unto God in Revelation ), he said, “When you take the census of Israel… every man shall give a ransom for himself to the Lord… half a shekel shall be the offering… from everyone 20 years old and above… rich and poor… atonement money …for the service of the tabernacle… (Exodus 30:13).”
And after war, the plunder from the battles, “the Lord said to Moses… levy a tribute for the Lord on the men of war who went out to battle; one of every five hundred (1/500) of the persons, the cattle, donkeys, sheep; take it from their half… as a heave offering to the Lord. And from the children of Israel’s half you shall take one of every fifty… from all the livestock (1/50) (Numbers 31:25-30).”
And of the firstborn, “everything that first opens the womb of all flesh… man or beast… shall be redeem… when one month old… for five shekels of silver… But the firstborn of a cow… sheep… goat… you shall not redeem; they are holy (set apart). You shall sprinkle their blood on the altar, and burn their fat as an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma to the Lord. Then their flesh shall be yours… (Numbers 18:15-).” It was about acknowledge that all we have comes from the Lord, not about the cost – which as for the animals – was still food for the family, after the sacrifice. It was part of a ‘heave offering’ a wave offering, a FREEWILL OFFERING (Deut. 12:15-17) as in lifting your hands and praising the Lord with a wave.
“You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. And you shall eat before the LORD your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the LORD your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the LORD your God has blessed you, then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the LORD your God chooses. And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household. Yet, you shall not forsake the Levite who is within your gates, for he has no part nor inheritance with you. At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do (Deut. 14:22-29).” Amos 4:4, “Bring your sacrifices every morning and tithes every 3 years.”
FREEWILL OFFERIING for the Tent Tabernacle in the Wilderness: “Moses gathered all the congregation of Israel and said, “…the Lord has commanded …work shall be done for six days, but the seventh day shall be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of rest to the Lord… (on penalty of death at that time – Exo. 35:2)… And Moses said… ‘the Lord commands, “Take from among you an OFFERING to the LORD. Whoever is of a WILLING (נְדָבָה or nedabah: voluntariness, freewill offering; Strong’s Concordance: 5071) heart, let them bring it as an offering to the LORD: gold, silver and bronze, blue, purple and scarlet thread, fine linen and goats hair; ram skins dyed red, badger skins, and acacia wood; oil for the light… and gem stones (for) …the ephod and in the breastplate (of the priest’s vest). All who are gifted artisans among you shall come… the tabernacle, its tent… the ARK… with the mercy seat (William Tyndale – English KJV first to add words ‘mercy seat’)… and the congregation departed and then everyone came WHOSE HEART WAS STIRRED, and everyone WHOSE SPIRIT was WILLING, and they brought the LORD’s Offering for the work of THE TABERNACLE (singular; one in 400 years; has only been three in over 3500 years)… they brought… earrings and nose rings, rings and necklaces… fine linen… (Exodus 35).”
“FOR the LORD your GOD is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great GOD… who shows no partially and takes no bribes. He administers justice for the orphan and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving them food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers… (Deut. 10:17-)” “WHAT DOES THE LORD REQUIRE OF YOU… (Duet. 10:12).”
WHAT are ‘THE WEIGHTIER’ or Most SIGNIFICANT THINGS? “The Lord has shown you what is good; and what does the Lord require of you – but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8).” (even giving and caring for the needy or orphan) “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? Behold, to obey (obedience) is better than sacrifice… (1 Samuel 15:22; Deut. 10:13).”
(4) Practices in the New Testament
Christ Jesus gave all He had on earth without expecting any temporal gift in return. He feed the multitudes; He gave the ‘bread of life’ – ‘the words of life;’ He gave His life.
Jesus said, “Give and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over… for with the measure you use it will be measured back to you (Luke 6:38)” First, this is a general principle concerning earth and heaven. Consider the fact the Stephen (Acts 7:59) and James (Acts 12:2) gave much, but their earthly lives were cut short as they were martyred for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet, “blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven… (Matt. 5:10-12).”
Christ also said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven… for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also… No one can serve two masters… you cannot serve God and money (Matt. 6:19-24).” If someone is concerned with this topic for the sake of gain, their heart is already in need of repentance.
And the measure is returned in various manners according to talents, favor, life’s random placement, life’s cares or troubles, sin and a multitude of variables. So do not let someone tell you that if you give to their cause or ministry, you will get a double portion or 100 times in return – that is foolishness. If it was true and a natural law like gravity; then the Churches would be overflowing with members and millionaires.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).” “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. We also ought to lay down (give) our lives for the brethren (1 John 3:16).” This kind of giving cannot simply be done with money. Christ Jesus said, “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me… whoever loses his life because of Me will find it… A servant is not above his Master… do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But fear God who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell… (Matt. 10:24-39).”
And Christ said, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven… ‘But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses…’ ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done…’ (Matthew, chapter 23; note Micah 6:8).”
Also He said, “Give to them who asks you, and don’t turn away from those who desire to borrow from you (Matthew 5:42; Luke 6:30).” This is a very difficult verse that when applied requires much discernment. But it also shows that because of the ‘cares and riches and pleasures of life (Luke 8:14)’ most people fall short of following the Word of God. If someone requires you to tithe to their cause or Church out of obligation; then ask them for their home, care and an interest free loan.
Christ said, “Therefore if you are offering your gift at the altar… (Matt. 5:23).” See it is a gift and not an obligation. Give to the brethren; and remember the poor, hungry, sick and imprisoned; even to your enemies (Matthew 25:35-; Luke 11:41; 6:32-). “Sell what you have and give gifts to the needy… store up treasure in heaven (Luke 12:33-).” “Jesus looking at him loved him and said, ‘one thing you lack. Go, sell whatever you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; come and follow Me… But his face fell at that saying and he went away sorrowful… Jesus said to his disciples, ‘how difficult it is for those who have riches to enter into the Kingdom of God! (Mark 10:21-).” Also see Luke 16:19- the parable of Lazarus and the rich man.
Jesus “looked up, and saw the rich people who were putting their gifts into the treasury. He saw a certain poor widow casting in two small brass coins. He said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow put in more than all of them, for all these put in gifts for God from their abundance, but she, out of her poverty, put in all that she had to live on’ (Luke 21:1-4).”
Paul the apostle said to the Corinthian believers: “Now concerning the ministering to the saints… I know your willingness, about which I boast of you to the Macedonians, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal has stirred up the majority. Yet I have sent the brethren… to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation. But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. As it is written: ‘He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever (Psalm 112:9).’ Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men, and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians, chapter 9).”
And Paul wanting to ‘give,’ said to the Romans, “I long to see you, that I may IMPART to you some SPIRITUAL GIFT, so that you may be established – that we may be encouraged together by our mutual faith (Rom. 1:11).”
Paul did take up FREEWILL OFFERINGS and placed no one under burdens. He said to the church in Philippi, “I know how to be abased (poor), and I know how to abound. Everywhere …I have learned both to be full and to be hungry… I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Yet, you have done well that you shared in my distress… No church shared we me concerning giving and receiving but you only; for even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account… And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:12).”
Thus, Paul taught the Corinthians that “if there is a need, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what they do not have… by an equality… your abundance (of earthly treasures) may be a supply for their (natural) need, and their (spiritual) abundance a supply for your (spiritual) need… (2 Cor. 8:12-14).” And he who said, “follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ (1 Cor. 11:1);” also said, “if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice (Phil. 2:17).” Paul did not burden people (nor ask for himself – Acts 20:34), but did say, “Carry one another’s burdens, and fulfill the LAW of CHRIST… And let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap (all kinds of reaping; physical, spiritual, soul harvest, etc.)(Galatians 6:2,9).”
THE FIRST GENERATION CHURCH: ACTS, chapters 2
“And when the day of Pentecost came, they (the disciples of Jesus and their families with them) were all in one accord in one place… And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance… Now …the multitude in Jerusalem …heard them speak in their languages and were amazed… and Peter spoke to those who asked, ‘what shall we do to be saved?’ Peter answered, “Repent, and be baptized every one in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (John 14:26). This promise is to you and your descendants… And that day 3,000 souls were added to their number. And THEY CONTINUED in the APOSTLES’ DOCTRINE (Heb. 6:1) and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul; and signs and wonders were done by the apostles. AND ALL THAT BELIEVED were together, and HAD ALL THINGS COMMON; and sold their possessions and goods and gave to all men, as every man had NEED… And the Lord added to the CHURCH daily…”
“They were all FILLED with the HOLY SPIRIT… and the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared EVERYTHING (‘had all things in common’ – Tertullian said this and added ‘except our wives’) they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify… And from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money …to the apostles… Barnabas sold land and gave… But there was a man Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s knowledge and consent he kept back part of the money… and brought the rest to the apostles. Then Peter said, ‘Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some… It belong to you before it was sold; and …the money was yours to dispose. But you (gave as if it was one thing – all the money – and lied for the sake of pride, etc.) …lied to us and God… And Ananias …fell down and died. And great fear came over the people… About 3 hours later… Sapphira came in, not knowing what had happened earlier. Peter asked her, ‘Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land? ‘Yes’ she said… and Peter said, ‘How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord…?’ …And she fell down at his feet and died… (Acts 4:31-Acts 5:10).” The POINT was not that they did not give all in the FREE WILL Offering; but that they lied and acted in a very grievous way; such that the LORD wanted to make an example early in the Church. Same as the warning that those taking the LORD’s SUPPER “in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord… and many get sick… and a few even die in so doing (1 Cor. 11:27-30).”
(5) A few EARLY CHURCH FATHERS
Clement of Alexandria (2nd century AD) wrote many hundred pages, but very few on tithing – only 1 surviving in ‘Book II’ of his ‘Stromata’ or ‘Miscellanies:’ “…Fear God, who alone is powerful… He gives knowledge and wisdom… (to those who seek Him with) faith… By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God…” And he spoke on philosophy and concerning repentance; and voluntary actions, and against usury (interest on loans), and in ‘chapter 18’ said and quoted Scripture: “For the sacrifice of the wicked are abomination to the Lord; but the prayers of the upright are acceptable before Him,’ since ‘righteousness is more acceptable before God than sacrifice.’ Isaiah said, ‘to what purpose to ME is the multitude of your sacrifices, says the Lord…’ ‘Break every bond of wickedness; for this is the sacrifice that is acceptable to the Lord, a contrite heart that seeks its Maker.’ And ‘false balances are abomination before God…’” Clement added some teachings from Barnabas; and then said, “the tithes of the fruits and of the flocks taught both piety towards the Deity, and not covetously to grasp everything, but to communicate gifts of kindness to our neighbors… From these first-fruits the priests were maintained. We now therefore understand that we are instructed in piety, and in liberality, and in justice, and in humanity by the law. For the law says every 7th and 50th year to leave the land fallow… and allows the poor to (take from it then)… Alms (giving to the poor) and acts of faith are royal guards, and blessing of (the faithful one’s) live to the Creator of the human race…”
Irenaeus of Lyons (c.180), in his ‘Against Heresies (Book IV, 13:3),’ wrote, “…The LORD said, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ forbid even concupiscence (strong sexual lust for one not your spouse); and ‘…you shall not kill,’ the Lord prohibited anger (“be angry and sin not; don’t let the sun go down on your anger” – Eph. 4:26; Psa. 37:8; Eccl. 7:9); AND instead of the LAW enjoining the GIVING of TITHES, the Lord told us to SHARE ALL OUR POSSESSIONS WITH THE POOR (Matt. 19:21); and not to LOVE our NEIGHBORS only, but even our enemies; and not merely to be liberal givers and bestowers, but even that we should present a gratuitous gift to those who take away our goods. For ‘to him that takes away your coat,’ He says, ‘give to him your cloak also…’ ‘…The Father …sends rain upon the just and unjust (Matt. 5:45).’ Now all these laws, as I have already observed, were not done away with… (speaking of the Ten Commandments – not laws of tithing and washing, etc.), but were widened… that the more extensive operation of liberty… (can be show) towards our Liberator… He did not set us free… to depart from Him… but (to receive salvation) and …His grace… and to love Him.”
THESE THINGS – SHARE ALL – are foreign to the pass several generations; but before World War I and Central Banks such as the Federal Reserve, and before TAXES on the common citizen (were taxes on the super-rich since the Civil War), it was COMMON for neighbors, friends and families to help build each other’s ‘modest’ home and barn, etc. Now, it is difficult for all of us – for by the time with have a family, a home, cars, money in retirement, etc… is hurts to much to part with these things. Not that we must – for God only wants a FREE WILL OFFERING.
The Didache (‘Teachings’ of the Apostles) was written around c.100 AD and was included in the appendix of certain old Bibles, such as the Codex Hierosolymitanus (Greek: 11th century). It teaches “there are two ways, one of life and one of death… The way of life… you shall love God who made you; second, love your neighbor as yourself… And Bless those who curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those who persecute you. For what reward is there for loving those who love you? …you shall not commit murder… you shall not commit adultery… or fornication… or murder a child by abortion… Concerning teachers, apostles and prophets… if they teach these things… receive them… but only for two days… if he remains three days, he is a false prophet… And when the apostle goes away, let him take nothing but bread until he lodges elsewhere. If he asks for money, he is a false prophet… Whoever says in the Spirit, give me money… you shall not listen to him. But if he tells you to give for other’s sake who are in need, let no one judge him… Whoever comes in the name of the Lord, prove and know him… Now every true prophet who wants to live among you is worthy of his support. So also a true teacher… Every first-fruit …of the wine-press and threshing-floor, of oxen and sheep, you shall take and give to the prophets… but if you have no prophet, give it to the poor… Every Lord’s Day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your sins and trespasses, that your sacrifice may be pure… Appoint for yourselves bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men meek, and not lovers of money, and truthful and proved…”
Justin Martyr (c.140, disciple of John) wrote in his First Apology (chapter 67), “…And the wealthy among us help the needy, and we always keep together, and for all things by which we are supplied, we bless the Maker of all through His Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Ghost. And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then… the presider or president instructs and exhorts… Then we all rise and pray; and then bread and wine and water are brought… and prayers and thanksgivings offered by the overseer according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is distribution to each… And they who are well to do, and WILLING, give what each thinks fit, and what is collected is deposited with the president (overseers), who cares for the orphans and widows and those who,, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us… Sunday is the day which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day of which God… made the world and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead. He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday)… the day of the Sun… He appeared to His apostles and taught them these things, which we have submitted to you…”
Tertullian, 2nd century bishop of North Africa, wrote in his Apology… (Chapter 39) explaining ‘the Christian society or community,’ saying, “…We are a body knit together as such by a common religious profession, by unity of discipline, and by the bond of a common hope. We meet together as an assembly and congregation, that, offering up prayer to God as with united force, we may wrestle with Him in our supplications. This violence God delights in. We pray, too, for the emperors, for their ministers and for all in authority, for the welfare of the world, for the prevalence of peace, for the delay of the final consummation. We assemble to read our sacred writings… The tried men of our elders preside over us, obtaining that honor not by purchase, but by established character. There is no buying and selling of any sort in the things of God. Though we have our treasure-chest, it is not made up of purchase-money, as of a religion that has its price. On the monthly day, if he likes, each puts in a small donation; but only if it be his pleasure, and only if he be able: for there is no compulsion; all is voluntary.
These gifts are, as it were, piety’s deposit fund. For they are not taken thence and spent on feasts, and drinking-bouts, and eating-houses, but to support and bury poor people, to supply the wants of orphans destitute of means, and of old persons confined now to the house; such, too, as have suffered shipwreck; and if there happen to be any in the mines, or banished to the islands, or shut up in the prisons, for nothing but their fidelity to the cause of God’s Church, they become the nurslings of their confession.
But it is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us. See, they say, how they love one another… how they are ready even to die for one another… And they are wroth with us, too, because we call each other brethren… But we are your brethren as well, by the law of our common mother nature… At the same time, how much more fittingly they are called and counted brothers who have been led to the knowledge of God as their common Father, who have drunk in one spirit of holiness, who from the same womb of a common ignorance have agonized into the same light of truth!
…(We are) one in mind and soul, we do not hesitate to share our earthly goods with one another. All things are common among us but our wives. We give up our community where it is practiced alone by others, who not only take possession of the wives of their friends, but most tolerantly also accommodate their friends with theirs, following the example, I believe, of those wise men of ancient times, the Greek Socrates and the Roman Cato, who shared with their friends the wives whom they had married… Why should they have any care over their chastity, when their husbands so readily bestowed it away? O noble example of Attic wisdom, of Roman gravity–the philosopher and the censor playing pimps!
…What wonder if that great love of Christians towards one another is desecrated by you! For you also speak wrong of our humble feasts… saying as Diogenes: “The people of Megara feast as though they were going to die on the morrow…!” But one sees more readily the mote in another’s eye than the beam in his own… Yet about the modest supper-room of the Christians alone a great ado is made. Our feast explains itself by its name; the Greeks call it agape or affection. …It is an act of religious service; it permits no vileness. The participants, before reclining, taste first of prayer to God. As much is eaten as satisfies the cravings of hunger; as much is drunk as befits the chaste… After ablution (washing of hands; and maybe feet), and the bringing in of lights, each is asked to stand forth and sing, as able, a hymn to God, either one from the holy Scriptures or one of their own composing… As the feast commenced with prayer, so with prayer it is closed. We go from it, not like troops of mischief-doers, or vagabonds, nor to break out into licentious acts, but to have as much care of our modesty and chastity as if we had been at a school of virtue rather than a banquet… We are in our congregations just what we are when separated from each other; we are as a community… we injure nobody, we trouble nobody. When the upright, when the virtuous meet together, when the pious, when the pure assemble in congregation, you ought not to call that a faction, but a curia (court of God).”
(6) IS TITHING REQUIRED? IS GIVING REQUIRED?
Are they required for what? If you ask, is tithing required for Salvation, you will find from the aforementioned and in this section that it is not. Let us first explain this and then address – giving. NOW, there was a serious conflict, where “certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, ‘unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’ To which, Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them; so they decided that Paul and Barnabas and certain others should go to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question (Acts 15:1-3).”
JERUSALEM COUNCIL (Acts, chapter 15): “Now went they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them. But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, ‘It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the Law of Moses.’ Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.”
Then the entire multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles. And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me: Simon (Peter) has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written (Amos 9:11-):
‘After this I will return; and will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up; so that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the LORD who will do these things…’
(Then James said) “It is my judgment, that we should not trouble (burden) those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality (fornication; 1 Cor. 6:9; Gal. 5:19), from things strangled, and from (eating the) blood (‘life in the blood’ – Gen. 9:4; Lev. 17:11; Deut. 12:23). As Moses has been preached… and read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”
“Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas …and Silas, leading men among the brethren. They wrote this letter by them:”
The Point of this is to show that the same would have been said of Tithing; that it is not required as a commandment for salvation, sacrifice or practice. The Apostles did not put that “burden” on the early church or us. Yet, this was a simple letter, was to be ‘read’ by all the churches – along with the Holy Scriptures of Moses, the Prophets, the gospels accounts and words of Christ Jesus, as well as the letters that would follow from Peter, John and Paul.
Then, IF a Christian desired to Tithe – than that was and is a good thing, if done with humility and giving to be used for the sake of the gospel of Christ Jesus, or for the needy, orphans or widows; and other such causes – or according to the acceptance of the giver – but not out of obligation – yet, as a FREEWILL OFFERING; as one might take a vow – as unto the Lord – as the Nazarite – in part – never to drink intoxicating drinks. For the Scriptures say do not be a drunkard, or to the priests – do not drink strong drinks.
And as to OFFERINGS and GIVING; how many can walk as Christ, giving all of their earthly possessions and their life? This burden is not placed on most Christians. Nevertheless, as James says, “Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation (praise), but the rich in his humility; for (like all men)… the rich man will fade away… But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves… If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world… Listen now my brethren: Has God not chosen the poor to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor… dragging them into the courts and with oppression… The royal law of the Scripture is ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ but if you show partially, you sin… And what does it profit if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith SAVE him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not GIVE them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus, FAITH without works is dead. …Show me your faith without works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well; yet, even the demons believe and tremble! … Abraham our father was justified by works… and likewise Rahab… but as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also (James, chapters 1 and 2).”
If you “bury your talents” as the “unfaithful servant” (Matt. 25:14-30); and keep your goods to yourself and your family; then you will be judged according to those actions! Christians are to imitate Christ and the apostles; let the weak see the strong – strong in the faith and actions of boldness in giving and speaking as led by the Holy Spirit.
And do not place burdens on the poor or chastise them in their poverty; or correct them in their freewill offerings – unless you are also willing to bear their burdens and share with them from your abundance. John told us, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren (1 John 3:16).”
And if a Christian is under heavy usury (interest on loans; Deut. 23:19), and is subject to losing their home or vehicle; then before you lecture them on proper budgets and sacrifice, be willing to love them and show your love and understanding that the Lord desires none to perish and has given every nation treasures to support their poor and even has bless many churches with abundance. And many ministers of the gospel have homes with enough space to take a strange beggar, or poor worshiper in need. Walk with them through their troubles, guide them in love, wisdom and towards provisions; and then they will sincerely listen (though many will fail).
(7) Rewards of Giving and some Conclusions
Tithing, Offering and Giving all have been practiced by some Jews and Christians since their understanding of their traditions. Before looking at some benefits of Giving, let us begin with “the conclusion of the matter: fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the duty of man (Eccl. 12:13).” The early church, after the Lord Jesus Christ had ascended to heaven and when apostles were guiding the church by the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; Acts 2:4, 38), faced many questions. The Council at Jerusalem do not place burdens, our lord over the flock (); yet, the did instruct with the Scriptures (); teaching “whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the LORD Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Christ (Col. 3:17).”
True Christians are people of the Word and with good deeds or works. AND “Everyone of us will give an account to God… for the things we have done… and those who have done good will be rewarded with the resurrection of everlasting life; but those who have done evil will rise to condemnation and shame; …for God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil (Rom. 14:12; 2 Cor. 5:10; John 5:29; Dan. 12:2; Eccl. 12:14).”
“The LORD searches the heart (soul) and tests the mind (spirit), to REWARD Every Person according to their conduct (practices, ways, or actions)… (Jeremiah 17:10).” “Without Faith it is impossible to please God… (yet) He rewards those who earnestly seek Him (Heb. 11:6).”
“Let every person give as they are able, according to the blessing of the Lord (Deut. 16:17);” and do not “rob God… in tithes and offerings (Mal. 3:8)”– bringing FREEING that which you chose in sincerity; not lying to the Spirit of the Lord, but desiring to help his living creations in need of salvation and daily bread. But, even “test the Lord and see (that He says), I will open for you the windows of heaven (Mal. 3:10).”
Yet, understand in context; Malachi said to the children of Israel, ‘bring the whole tithe into the storehouse… (Mal. 3:10).’ This was as Moses said, “…Bring your offerings and sacrifices and tithes (to the storehouses; note Joseph – Genesis 41:56)… Obey the Lord and all His commands… and the Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of His bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. And you will lend to the nations… but if you do not obey the Lord… all these curses will come on you and overtake you… diseases, oppression (etc.)… (Deut. 12:6; and chapter 28).” These storehouses were managed by the Levities for the service of the Temple; as well as for the multitude of needy, in famine or daily need; and not for “lovers of money (1 Tim. 6:10; 2 Tim. 3:2).”
The Catholics teach that “the earliest legislation on the” tithe “subject seems to be contained in the letter of the bishops assembled at Tours in 567… and the Council of Macon in 585… then we find the payment of tithes made obligatory by ecclesiastical enactments… by the capitularies of Charlemagne, at the end of the eighth century… however, in English statute, the first mention of tithes is found is the Statute of Westminster of 1285…”
But these things of laws of men and not God; let us place no more burdens than by that of the apostles and of the Spirit of the Lord as God convicts us to righteousness and good works; not which harm our loved ones, but which bless all. And do not forget to “sacrifice offerings of thanks to God (Psa. 50:14);’ and to “praise God in His sanctuary; and in His mighty heavens (Psa. 150).’
Now before concluding, note, in most nations the vast majority of adults pay taxes which are used in part to care for old widows and the poor.
In conclusion, “be faithful, even to the point of death, and the Lord will give you the crown of life (Rev. 2:10).” “Honor the LORD with your wealth and abundance… one person gives FREELY, yet gains more; another withholds improperly, and comes to poverty (Proverbs 3:9; 11:24);’ “Be merciful, as your Father is merciful… Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over… (Luke 6:36-38).”
And remember “WHAT THE LORD your GOD REQUIRES: “…but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to obey His commands… and to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God… for it is time for judgment to begin with us (God’s household); yet, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God (Deut. 10:12, 13; Micah 6:8; 1 Peter 4:17)?”