The book of Acts demonstrates that all early Christians gave much more than a tithe and set an example for others to follow.
a prominent Baptist television speaker and author in Atlanta, Georgia,
insists that tithe-giving is demonstrated in the first chapters of Acts. He also says that the difference between “not
being under law, but under grace” means “not operating on the basis of the minimum, but on the basis of loving
God” (Audio MA146, The Key to Financial Blessing).
2:44-46 And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them
to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread
from house to house, did eat their food with gladness and singleness of heart,
One: This is an example of freewill offerings to the extreme and is not an example
of tithing in the early church.
Two: The pastor-author referred to above does not practice what he preaches and does
not live in a communal house and share equally with all the poor.
Three: The radical selling of property and communal living seen in the early chapters
of Acts was God’s opening “kick-off” of the gospel glory and was not habitually repeated after the initial
Four: These events have absolutely nothing to do with tithing laws because the majority
of the Jewish Christians around Jerusalem never stopped paying tithes to the system (Acts 15 an 21).
Five: There is no reason to believe that the poor had anything to contribute.
The rich followed gospel principles and gave according to their ability.
Six: It is very doubtful that many of those who advocate this viewpoint have followed
the very same example of so-called above-tithe-giving by selling all their property and by sharing everything in common.
Seven:Stanley’s definition of the difference between the law and grace concerning tithing
is flippant. Fortunately, he does not use similar principles of interpretation when discussing other Bible doctrines.
Eight: When the first great influx of money was gone, the Jerusalem church soon became destitute of funds and even had to ask other churches for famine relief. What would happen today
if church members “sold [all] their possessions and goods” and lived until the resources expired?
Note: This chapter must
be read in the context of my chapter 16 on Acts 15 and 21.
Objection: Tithing is not mentioned because it was not an issue.
In the same
audio tape as above, Charles Stanley also says that all of the early churches of the first century A.D. accepted and practiced
tithing. This would naturally include Gentile Christians as well as Jewish Christians. His logic is that, since no New Testament
writer accused any individual or any church of not tithing, this proves that all did tithe. Therefore, since
they all tithed (the assumption claims), there was no need to address a problem that did not exist. Thus the silence, or absence
of an argument, proves tithing was faithfully observed. In other words, “no texts” are the “texts.”
also assumes that Jewish Christians switched from tithing to the temple priests towards tithing to the church, and that Gentile
Christians accepted this one ordinance of the Mosaic Law, while rejecting the rest of its ordinances as non-New Covenant.
While misunderstanding parts of the gospel, early Christians, they say, faithfully paid tithes to support church pastors and
For the following
reasons, this argument from silence must be rejected:
One: Church historians (and probably theologians)
of most denominations normally reject this kind of argument.
Two: The “silence” is caused by the fact that the New Testament does
not contain a single reference or command for any Christian to tithe. This presents a major dilemma for those who support
tithing. Beyond quoting Old Covenant texts which are either pagan in origin (such as in Genesis 14) or only refer to national
Israel under the Mosaic Law, they have no texts to use from the New Testament after
Three: If tithing were indeed a genuine New Covenant doctrine, then it must be the
only “silent” doctrine NOT supported by a single post-Calvary text. This is embarrassing because most conservatives
who advocate tithing also insist that all doctrine should come from the post-Calvary New Testament.
Four: If the “argument from silence” is the major defense of tithing,
it is a poor argument. This approach simply cannot stand alone.
Five: Actually, there was no “silence” from Jewish Christians. It is conclusive
from Acts 15 and 21, all of Romans, all of Galatians, all of Hebrews, and most church historians that many (if not most) Jewish
Christians had simply added Christianity to Judaism. Those in Israel
had continued regular worship at the temple and supported the temple financially, including tithing. It is very obvious that
many Jewish Christians wanted all Gentile Christians to become circumcised, observe all of the law, and pay temple tithes
(Acts 15:1-5; Gal. 2:4).
Six: The Jewish Christians who did tithe gave their tithes, not to the church, but
to the temple because they still considered themselves to be Jews first, and under obligation to keep the entire Mosaic Law.
Compare Acts 15; -24; 28:17. There is simply no other way to explain Acts 21:21-24 except to admit
that this church was still totally obedient to the Mosaic Law and Temple about 30 years
Seven: There was also no “silence” about the Gentile Christians. The Jewish
church in Jerusalem specifically excluded them from the necessity of keeping any part of the Mosaic
Law, including tithing. Compare Acts 15:19-30; -25.
Eight: Some in Israel had
been rebuked by God for their failure to pay tithes under the law. God would certainly have rebuked the church for the same
sin if the church were in violation. Yet, while Paul, Peter, John, James and Jude correct the church for a very wide variety
of sins, including not giving offerings for the poor, they never correct it for not tithing. This is inconceivable if tithing
were a legitimate doctrine. It is especially inconceivable that the church at Corinth would
be guilty of so many other sins, yet continue to pay tithes.
Nine: Likewise, a prominent issue with Paul was the failure of Corinth to give “offerings” to help the poor saints in Judea. It is unlikely that they would be faithful
in tithing, yet unfaithful in offerings to the poor.
Ten: In reality, then and now, failure to support God’s program is usually the
very first sign of unfaithfulness—not the last one! Why would failure to support the church possibly be the very
last sin and the very least committed that would require a rebuke? Thus, the basic assumption is illogical.
Eleven: According to First Corinthians 9:15-19, Paul would have refused tithes, or any
offer of full-time support, in order to fully preach the gospel unhindered. Neither was Paul’s action disobedience to
Christ’s command in . In Acts 20:26-35, at the end of Paul’s many years of missionary service,
he still refused a salary and worked for a living. Furthermore, he urged other preachers to follow his example.
Twelve: The “not an issue” claim ignores the strong “issue”
of Mosaic Law ordinances found prominently in Acts, Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, and Hebrews. The Mosaic Law
was an issue! Since tithing was so easy to ascertain, it was particularly enforced in the Mishnah. Legalistic Jewish
Christians tried to force the Mosaic Law on the church. Scripture records that Sabbath-keeping, circumcision, feast-keeping,
and food laws were among the law practices they tried to force on the church. If tithing were not viewed as something solely
due to the Levites and Aaronic priests, then every Jewish-Christian who had been a Pharisee would have certainly tried to
impose some kind of tithing on the church also. The very fact that the Judaizers did not try to impose it on the church along
with these other laws is a strong argument against tithing in the early church.
Thirteen: An “argument from silence” much better fits the contention that
tithing is not taught for the New Covenant believer. Other than Hebrews 7, which concludes that tithing was abolished along
with all other priestly ordinances, the word does not once appear in the inspired writings after Calvary.
Fourteen: The “silence” argument ignores the fact that Paul and early Jewish
church leaders came from a tradition which forbade them from giving up a trade and expecting to be supported by others. It
would take centuries for this tradition to be erased by the escalation of the clergy over the laity and the removal of the
my satire by using the Living Bible as a guide for Galatians 3:1-5:
Gal. 3:1 O foolish preachers, who has placed an evil spell on you, that you should not obey the whole truth about
tithing and other abolished, blotted out, and disannulled ordinances of the Mosaic Law? The meaning of the crucifixion was
clearly set forth before you. What do you think was nailed to the cross with him at his crucifixion? What do you think happened
to law ordinances when the veil ripped?
Gal. 3:2 I want you to answer
one serious question for me. Were you filled with the Spirit because of your obedience to the Mosaic Law, or because of your
faith? Should not this logic apply to ALL laws not repeated under the principles of faith?
Gal. 3:3 Your logic is foolish.
(You have gone completely crazy: The Living Bible). You began your Christian experience by receiving the Spirit through
faith. You needed the Spirit because the law never gave you spiritual life in any sense! How can you possibly turn back to
the law and try to attain spiritual maturity by works of law? How can the church teach salvation by grace through faith, and
then teach financial success by re-applying the unprofitable Mosaic Law of tithing?
Gal. 3:4 If such is your
logic, then you have wasted your time! You are discarding every principle you have learned about the gospel. The law is not
Gal. 3:5 God will work miracles,
financially and otherwise, only “when you believe in Christ and fully trust in Him.”
Objection: Since New Covenant standards are higher than Old Covenant standards, the tithe is the “minimum”
For the following
reasons, this objection is also rejected:
One: This is another argument from silence which tries to avoid the major dilemma
that there are no specific post-Calvary/post-law texts which command tithing to the New Covenant Christian.
Two: While the principle of interpretation sounds good, the assumption is wrong.
In order words, while it is true that New Covenant principles are higher than Old Covenant principles, this does not lead
to the conclusion that all Christians should begin their giving at the ten percentage level.
erroneous assumption is that ALL Israelites under the Mosaic Law were required to tithe and started at ten percent. In fact, only landowners and herdsmen of the land were required to tithe and
start at ten percent. Actually, tithing was a targeted ordinance which placed burdens on land owners while not affecting hundreds
of tradesman and craftsman occupations who only gave freewill offerings. This is exactly why many Jews stopped farming and
went into banking and commerce during the Middle Ages.
Four: The error of this assumption reveals why New Covenant giving principles are actually
higher than Old Covenant tithing. Once the tithe had been paid on the land by the landowner, all those who lived on
that land and were sustained by that land were required to give nothing at all. The hired servants were already
covered by the tithe of the owner.
problem with tithing is pointed out in several quotations in the discussion of First Corinthians 16:2. While an Old Covenant
wealthy person could STOP giving at ten percent and meet the requirements of the Mosaic Law, this same wealthy person is violating
the higher New Covenant principles when he stops at ten percent!
The New Covenant
higher principle of equality expects ALL believers to give freewill offerings spontaneously because they have a new nature
and want to give above that which they normally would. While all give spontaneously from a willing heart, the “above
ten percent” of the wealthy should more than offset the “below ten percent” of the poor (2 Cor. -15).
of “equality giving” is a higher standard of grace giving. It does not operate on the principle of law. Neither
does it shame or “curse” the poor for not being able to pay a minimum of ten percent. “Equality giving”
does not encourage the poor to stay away from worship in order to avoid being made a spectacle for not giving much. On the
contrary, New Covenant giving allows the poor to have some degree of self-respect in knowing that they gave all possible without
depriving their families of essential food and shelter (again 2 Cor. 8:12-15).
Five: The New Covenant replaces Mosaic Law tithing with many general principles which
range from zero percent to one hundred percent. Although they may actually give less than ten percent, even the poor are commended
for giving above and beyond their ability (2 Cor. 8:2-3). “Ability,” not “compulsion,” is the operating
principle of New Covenant motivation! To this we can add “love” and “the desire to see souls saved”—neither
of which were required motivations for law-tithing.
Six: While the New Covenant is full of “freewill giving” principles,
it contains no exact giving percentages because we are no longer under the law but under grace.
Objection: Tithing was not a form of taxation
“The tithe was not a form of taxation. The Old Covenant Jews under the authority of kings paid taxes in addition to
the tithe (see 1 Sam. ; 2 Kings ; Ezra , 20; Neh. 5:4). Prior to the monarchy there was no need for taxation.
Israel operated as a theocracy and there was no government to fund.”
that tithes were not a form of taxation because “Israel operated as a theocracy and there was no government to fund” is contrary to both common sense and most theological
authorities. An earlier chapter in this book on “Kings, Tithes, and Taxes” discusses this objection.
One: The very definition of “theocracy” is “a form of government
in which God is the supreme civil ruler.” It is a direct government by God. A “theocracy” IS a “government.”
As a government, even a theocracy needs funds for the sustenance of its authority figures who administer law and justice.
In the theocracy portrayed in the Pentateuch, the Levites performed government-type duties and were sustained by tithes and
Two: Many biblical authorities define the tithe as a tax, or tithing as a form of
taxation, including the Encyclopedia Judaica and Eklund’s own Southern Baptist Holman Bible Dictionary and
Three: The “not a tax” argument ignores the church-state nature of Old
Covenant tithing. Although, from King Saul to King Hezekiah, hundreds of years, tithing is not mentioned in the Bible, yet,
it is evident that King David and King Solomon assumed the responsibility to gather tithes and redistribute them to the Levites
as government officials and religious leaders. However, the prophets registered no complain that this violated the Mosaic
Law’s underlying purpose of tithing.
This book has thus far completed an exhaustive study of every tithing text in the Bible. Every Christian can, and
should, take a few minutes to check the doctrine out personally. Read the texts in several versions if necessary. Become like
the Bereans and do not take anything on the basis of what somebody else says. The Bereans “searched the scriptures daily,
whether those things were so” because they were “more noble…in that they received the word with all readiness
of mind” (Acts ).
exhaustive Bible concordance and look up the words “tithe” and “tenth.” As you check each reference
in context, you will discover that the words do not occur in the New Testament after Calvary, except in Hebrews, chapter 7.
The new church
had the tremendous task of taking the gospel to the entire world. Yet from the day of Pentecost to the last words of Revelation,
not a word occurs which in the least implies that any kind of tithing is expected from the Christian living under grace.
reference books end their discussion on ‘tithe’ with statements similar to The Oxford Companion to the Bible,
“The New Testament nowhere explicitly requires tithing to maintain a ministry or a place of assembly.” The New Catholic Encyclopedia says, “No law of tithing is found in the New Testament, although the principle
of church support is laid down in Matt. (see also Luke
10:7) and echoed in 1 Corinthians -14.” One can be sure that both Protestants and Roman Catholics would certainly promote and expect tithes from a biblical basis
if it were a legitimate benefit for them.
Holman Bible Dictionary and Concordance (Giant Print) (Nashville: Holman, 1999),
s.v. “tithe.” Note: This is a Southern Baptist publication. It differs from the full-sized Holman Bible Dictionary
which does not define the tithe as a form of taxation.
Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan,
Oxford Companion to the Bible (New York: Oxford UP, 1993), s.v. “tithe.”