As far as many pastors are concerned, the most important scripture of all is not to be found in the word of Jesus. Neither is it even in the New Testament. That scripture says: “‘Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and try me now in this,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.’” (Malachi 3:10).
This scripture is drummed repeatedly into Christians on Sundays. However, the only time Jesus mentioned tithing in scripture, he pointed out that it was not a weighty matter of the law. (Matthew 23:23). Hebrews says people only receive tithes “according to the law.” (Hebrews 7:5). It then insists tithing (and everything else under the law) has been annulled: “The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless.” (Hebrews 7:18-19). Nevertheless, mercenary pastors continue to insist on the payment of tithes.
Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for keeping part instead of the whole law. (Matthew 23:23). That is what tithe-collecting pastors do today. If we insist our congregants must pay tithes, we must also insist that they keep the rest of the law. James says: “Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10). Therefore, if we insist on tithing, we should also refrain from eating pork. We should stone adulterers, execute homosexuals, kill Sabbath violators and restore blood-sacrifices.
Tithe-collecting pastors counter this by maintaining the payment of tithes pre-dated the law. Here Abraham is cited as the cardinal example of someone who paid tithes before the promulgation of the Law of Moses, as did Jacob, his grandson. However, such arguments are disingenuous.
Before the law, tithing was at best an example but not a commandment. Moreover, pastors fail to mention that Abraham only tithed once in his lifetime. When he did, he did not even tithe his own money: he tithed the spoils of war. He gave ten percent of the plunder he took when he rescued Lot to Melchisedec, king of Salem. But then he did not even keep the rest but returned it (all ninety percent) to the king of Sodom.
For his part, Jacob also tithed only once. He did this in a “let’s make a deal” arrangement he offered to God: “Jacob made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will surely give a tenth to you.’” (Genesis 28:20-22). This kind of deal about accepting God only under certain self-serving conditions should certainly not be a term of reference for any serious believer.
Lies upon lies
The first lie pastors tell Christians is what some have referred to as “the eleventh commandment:” “Thou shalt pay thy tithes to thy local church.” But the bible says no such thing. The storehouse of Malachi was not a church. It was a place where food was kept.
Pastors also conveniently fail to teach the biblical tithe. The principles of tithing were not laid down by Malachi. They were laid down by Moses. The study of Moses’ guidelines quickly reveals that the biblical tithe has no application whatsoever to Christians and is mischievously violated by tithe-collecting pastors today.
According to the Law of Moses, the tithe was divided into three allocations. The first year, it was given to the Levite. The second year, it was given to widows, orphans and the poor. The third year, it was eaten in the company of the faithful before the Lord as thanksgiving for his faithfulness. (Deuteronomy 14:22-28). In the seventh year, there was no planting and no reaping and therefore no tithing.
So the next time your pastor asks you to pay tithe, ask him about the seventh-year reprieve. Also ask him if you can give your tithe to the orphanage, or bring it as food items to be eaten in church. Believe me; he will not agree with you because it is your money he is after.
Inapplicability of tithes
Tithing was only applicable to Jews and to the land of Israel. When large populations of Jews lived in Babylon, Ammon, Moab, Egypt, and Syria, these lands became tithe-able lands. However, tithes were not acceptable from strictly Gentile lands. So you need to ask your pastor how come he is collecting tithes in Nigeria.
Servants or slaves who worked on the land did not tithe because the land did not belong to them. Since only agricultural and animal resources were included, a fisherman gave no tithe of his fisheries. Neither did a miner or a carpenter pay tithes, nor anyone from the various professional occupations. So if you are not a farmer or a keeper of livestock, tell your 419 pastor tithing is biblically inapplicable to you.
Moreover, the only people authorised to receive tithes were the Levites. (Hebrews 7:5). So if your Pastor is a “tithe-collector,” ask him if he happens to be a Jew. Remind him that, even though a Jew, Jesus could not receive the tithe because he was not from the tribe of Levi but from that of Judah.
The trick, of course, is for pastors today to claim we are “Levites.” If your pastor is one such dissembler, ask him if he lives as a Levite. Remind him that Levites had no land and did not have private property. Ask him also how he knows he is from the tribe of Levi, which happens to be one of the lost tribes of Israel. Point out to him that even Jewish rabbis don’t claim to be Levites today because all Jewish genealogical records were lost with the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, ensuring that it is no longer possible to ascertain the true identity of Levites.
Therefore, if Jews no longer tithe because the Levites are a lost tribe, how can Christian pastors collect tithes when we are not even Jewish, how much more Levites? If Jewish rabbis, whose terms of reference remain the Old Testament no longer collect tithes, then pastors who insist Christians are under a New Testament have no business doing so.
The conclusion then is inescapable. Every pastor who collects tithes is nothing but “a thief and a robber.” (John 10:1).
Femi Aribisala is the fellowship coordinator of Healing Wings. Healing Wings is a pentecostal Christian fellowship which meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He blogs at Femi Aribisala .