I saw this on pinterest and wanted to pass this question along because I wouldn’t know how to answer this correctly. If old testament law does not apply today, then why do people still tithe?
This is a great question, and honestly one that gets asked often. But in answering this question we must first ask another one, does the law apply today? Honestly, I don’t fully know where people come up with this idea other than for possibly two reasons. One, they have heard this over and over and just believe it, or two, they misinterpret scripture. What does the New Testament say about the law?
1 Timothy 1:8 (NASB) says, “But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully.” Then Galatians 5:18 (NASB) says, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.” Some people take that to mean that we don’t have to follow the law. Maybe mixing that with the “idea” that Jesus fulfilled the law (I’ll get back to that in a moment). What Paul was saying to the Galatians is not that the law no longer mattered, but that living in the spirit leads us to fulfill the law. There is a big difference between the two. Now, that does not mean that we have to do everything that the law spells out, but that the Spirit of God living on the inside of us will lead us to righteous living. On top of this, there are many commandments that are repeated in the New Testament, as clear instruction to a believer who wants to be right.
Now let’s look at what Jesus said. Matthew 5:17-19 (NASB) “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” That Jesus fulfilled the law means that He did all that was required perfectly, not, as He clearly stated, abolished or threw it out. In fact, look again at verse 19. The one who teaches to abolish it will be called least in God’s kingdom! Now that’s a teaching you don’t hear often!
Next, let’s look at another idea. Biblical tithing actually predates the law. In other words, it was a practice that came around long before God gave any law to do so. This breaks into the bigger question, what is tithing all about anyway? I’ll give you a clue, it’s about man’s heart and gratitude toward God. The reason we use Malachi 3:10 so often is not because it is the only scripture about tithing and giving. It’s because it’s so clear and shows the heart of its purpose. God intended the tithe to supply His house. But the law was not, as I said, the beginning of the tithe.
In Genesis 14:18-20 (NASB) we read, “And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. He blessed him (Abram) and said, “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” He (Abram) gave him a tenth of all.” This, Abram (later Abraham) did this out of a heart of gratitude for all God had done for him and this brings us to the heart of tithe.
There is a rule of tithe and a heart of tithe and the two are very different. When the whole law of God was made, its purpose was to show man that his heart was wrong. God gave instructions to man to give them boundaries. But as we see in the teachings and life of Jesus, what mattered most to God was man’s heart to do good, not their obedience to the law to do good. The Pharisees prided themselves on obedience to rules but Jesus clearly showed their hearts were not right.
I’m going to say something that may shock you. I do not see a New Testament law to tithe. What I do see however, is a requirement in those who love God to do more. Let me explain. For God it wasn’t about percentages, as I said God cared about the heart. When it comes to tithing and giving we have to understand what it was always about. Because the tithes and the offerings supplied the work of the Lord, this was a good precedent to begin with. A tithe is like the basic level of sacrifice, essentially saying that everyone should strive to at least do their part in providing for the work of the Lord. For some, this is a much greater sacrifice than for others. For instance, for a millionaire to simply tithe isn’t much sacrifice compared to an average working family. Because some Christians can do so much more, really only fulfilling the tithe actually lessons their faithfulness. See in all of this, it was a way for man to connect his heart to what God wanted to do. Should a Christian tithe and give? Let me ask you, does God still desire to use man to fulfill His plans? The answer of course is yes. We connect to God’s plan when we put our lives into it! And, when our hearts are connected to something, truly, it’s not difficult to give into it.
People often fight against the concept of giving in the local church and there’s a couple of reasons that make this prominent. One is because of misuse of funds, and another is because of a wrong heart of the one being asked to give. This is why it’s imperative that we first know where God wants us to worship then throw ourselves completely into that. If we believe God put us somewhere and we seek Him on that basis, giving of ourselves to that work, He will bless and we can trust that. God will connect us right, and then we can with full assurance do whatever our part in that will require.
To understand this further I’d like to say, consider your own community. Taxes are not bothersome when we know they go for good. It’s nice to have police and firefighters and other first responders. It’s great to have roads plowed and public utilities. It’s wonderful to have parks and playgrounds and other things like that. And I’d say, that most people with common sense don’t mind paying for such things. Corruption is never fun and we should endeavor to mitigate that, but that some are corrupt does not mean we throw out a whole system that benefits us. The same goes with the local church. If we don’t take care of it and it’s work financially, it won’t get done. This is part of the work the Lord has clearly given to us.
In closing I’ll add, don’t be in bondage to these things but endeavor to participate in them. My wife and I have been faithful to tithe and give for nearly two decades. We have seen that because we have joined our hearts and finances with God, He has increased our ability to do it even more over the years. It wasn’t overnight, but it did happen and I’ve known this same thing for countless people. I love what a brother in the faith said to me once, “We (him and his wife) don’t give because we have to, but we are blessed that we do. We don’t go to church because we have to, but we are blessed that we do.” I think that is a good heart to have about all God calls us to, don’t you?