Tithing Under Grace

Two kings

Tithing has become the hot-button issue of our day. Just as the early church was divided on the issue of circumcision, the modern church is divided on the issue of tithing. “You should do it.” “You should not.”

In this three-part series we’ll look at the tithe and its place in the new covenant.

Abram’s tithe

Let’s begin with the story of the first tithe. As you read this story, don’t go looking for principles or moral lessons. Instead, go looking for Jesus. (Hint: he’s represented by one of the characters in this story.)

When Abram came back from his victory over Chedorlaomer and the other kings, the king of Sodom went out to meet him in Shaveh Valley (also called King’s Valley). And Melchizedek, who was king of Salem and also a priest of the Most High God, brought bread and wine to Abram, blessed him, and said, “May the Most High God, who made heaven and earth, bless Abram! May the Most High God, who gave you victory over your enemies, be praised!” And Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the loot he had recovered.

The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Keep the loot, but give me back all my people.” Abram answered, “I solemnly swear before the Lord, the Most High God, Maker of heaven and earth, that I will not keep anything of yours, not even a thread or a sandal strap. Then you can never say, ‘I am the one who made Abram rich.’” (Gen 14:17-23, GNB)

This is a story of two kings. First, we have the King of Salem who represents Jesus. His name means king of righteousness and he is the prince of Salem which means peace.

Melchizedek-who-represents-Jesus shows up unexpectedly and does a most Jesusy thing: he serves communion. Remember, this was before Passover and the cross. Melchizedek appears, as out of thin air, with bread and wine and saying, “Let’s give praise and thanks to God.”

And why should we thank God? “Because, Abe, God has been good to you! He gave you this extraordinary victory. One small clan against four professional armies. Do you really think you won on your own?”

Abram could have replied, “My goodness, you’re right. We should’ve been slaughtered. Surely God was with us!” The lights go on and Abram has an encounter with grace. What does he do next? He gives God’s man a tenth of all the loot, thus treating him as a partner in his endeavor.

Now for the second king. The king of Sodom speaks a generous line – “keep the loot” – yet Abram refuses his gesture. “I want nothing from you. Not even a sandal strap.” A minute ago Abram was gushy and grateful; now he’s proud and hard. “I don’t want anyone saying you helped me.”

Clearly something has changed.

The two kings

If Melchizedek represents Jesus, the king of Sodom represents self. (Remember, Abram would not have gone to war except his nephew Lot found Sodom pleasing to the eye. Lot walked by sight, trusted his own judgment, and the result was a disaster.)

There are some neat contrasts between these two kings: Melchizedek promotes trust in God; Sodom inspires self-trust. Melchizedek is the king of righteousness; Sodom is self-righteous. Melchizedek gives grace; Sodom gives law. Melchizedek asks for nothing; Sodom says “give me.”

What do we learn from this?

If you are thinking, “God gives us grace so we can tithe,” you’ve missed Melchizedek and found Sodom. Like Lot, you’re relying on your own understanding to draw a moral lesson that is not there.

Melchizedek does not appear in the story for the purpose of extracting money from Abram. He shows up to draw attention to God’s goodness. “God gave you…” And if Melchizedek showed up unexpectedly in your story, he would say the same thing. “You are blessed because God has given you …” This is grace, and when you see it you will respond with generosity because grace begets grace. It happens effortlessly.

Melchizedek 2.0

A similar thing happened when Jesus had dinner with Zacchaeus. Like Melchizedek, Jesus showed up unexpectedly bringing the favor of God to a man who did not deserve it, and the result was generosity.

Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount. (Luke 19:8)

No one told Zac to give half his stuff away. It was a spontaneous and joyful act made in response to grace. When you meet the Giver of all good things, it makes you want to give.

A personal example: The other night I was driving home alone and talking to Jesus when suddenly I felt his presence with me in the car. It was so wonderful. Do you know what the first thought that came to my mind was? “I want to buy Christmas presents for my kids.” In June! This was a crazy idea yet I couldn’t wait to do it. We dressed up, had a full-on party, and it was fun.

Do you see the difference between law and grace? The law demands generosity and kills it. “You’re not getting a sandal strap!” But grace boasts of God’s goodness and asks for nothing, and the fruit is crazy generosity.

Melchizedek vs Sodom

Tithing under grace?

So is there such a thing as giving a tithe under grace? The answer has to be yes, because Abram did it. But the answer can also be no, because it didn’t happen anywhere else in scripture. It was a one-off, spur of the moment decision made in response to grace. Just because he did it doesn’t mean you should.

So what’s the takeaway?

When we imagine God speaking to us with the words of Sodom – “Give me” – we put ourselves under law. We’ll either give out of self-righteous pride, or we’ll bristle like Abram. “Not even a sandal strap!”

But when we hear Jesus speaking to us with the words of Melchizedek – “You are blessed by God Most High and he has given to you!” – we will give because grace begets grace. A generous Father has generous children. It’s in our DNA.

What should you give? There is nothing you should give but plenty you could give. You may give a tithe or a mite or half your possessions. There are no rules. You are free to give anything you like in any way you like.

You may even give Christmas presents to children in June.

___________

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22 Comments on Tithing Under Grace

  1. Two things from scripture settle it for me, ( Old testament ) 1 Chron 29 v 14 knowing the grace of God, means that whatever we give to Father God,we acknowledge it’s all His in any case, and so free to listen to what the Holy Spirit tells us to give, 2 Cor 9 v 7.purposing in your heart before hand, been lead and guided by the Holy Spirit makes us a cheerful giver, filled with joy. So simple Paul. Thanks Paul for the share. So setting free.

  2. Last Sunday at church we were told that if you are not a tither your salvation is not complete because where your treasure is that is where your heart will be.

  3. HN Vrijenhoek // September 14, 2017 at 7:04 pm // Reply

    Hi Paul, in Genesis the tenth was called a gift and in Hebrews 7:9 it is called a payment.
    Why is it also called a payment if it was just a spontaneous gift? Could it be that the tithe that Abraham gave and payed was not only a type of Jesus but also something that belongs to God in our days?

  4. Seems like some confusion here on “giving” the “tithe”. In the old covenant the tithe was never considered giving but an obligation, more like a tax. Even Christians who teach tithing as an obligation, by definition rule out it being a gift. Anything one is forced to do can never be considered giving. I see this confusion perpetuated all the time in discussions about tithing.

  5. Christian Miller // October 15, 2017 at 1:48 am // Reply

    Very powerful, freeing message! I would only ask this, when giving, does it specifically require to give material things like (money, possessions, etc) or are we tithing when we give (love, time, and grace to others in the name of Jesus)?

    • Christian Miller // October 16, 2017 at 6:34 am // Reply

      Just wondering if your insight on the above question Paul. Would love to hear feedback(:

    • The “tithe” in the Old Testament is specifically stated to be a tenth of the increase in ones physical possessions: what is a tenth of one’s love? In James 2:14-17, James gives the example of a man who gives only a blessing to a naked and starving Christian brother, but not anything tangible and substantial.
      Thus, what we should “give” should be based on the needs at hand, and should actually relieve those needs.

      If there was a New Testament apostolic scripture commanding or recommending that Christians should tithe, the burden of providing that reference falls to the tithe-advocates. I continue to wait for book, chapter, and verse.

  6. Berris-Dale Joseph // October 15, 2017 at 2:31 pm // Reply

    I have written on the topic of tithing up to the last time, days ago. I was awaiting the return of the posted messages to read what others were saying, and to also see if my message went out to the reading audience, but I did not see it return until today…

  7. This nothing but the Spirit of God displaying the whole Truth thank you!

  8. Controversy about tithing aren’t equivalent to the controversy over circumcision. The controversy over circumcision was about righteousness and salvation. Judaizer theology maintained that you have to convert to Judaism and faithfully live by the Torah in order to be righteous and expect eternal life. The question of tithing is more like questions about certain foods, or whether to abide by certain religious calendars. What does Paul say about that? See Romans 14.

  9. Mt 23:23 Jesus assumed the tithe. “You teachers of the law and you Pharisees even take one of each 10 of your mint leaves and give it without being just, merciful or faithful. Those latter things are more important – do those things with passionate intention, while also giving the tithe.” (my paraphrase) Sounds like Jesus thinks we ‘ought’ to tithe without much fuss, and work on things that are significantly more important.

    • HN Vrijenhoek // May 4, 2018 at 3:03 am // Reply

      Hi Jeff could it be that Jesus gave them this compliment about the tenth because they where still under the Law the new testament hadn’t started yet… I am for the tenth but not as a law but as something that belongs to God like honor and praise also belong to God (-:

  10. P. Dale Gardner // May 6, 2018 at 1:45 pm // Reply

    If you’re in a Biblical church and you don’t support its work — its pastors, the preaching of the gospel, the making disciples taught to obey all that Christ has commanded — then you’ve ignored dozens of passages in the Bible that speak to the responsibility we have as stewards of the gospel and of the talents and resources God has given us to serve the purpose for which we were created: to glorify Him. The church has a mission, and one of the means by which it will be accomplished is Christians’ faithful giving. It’s our obligation — to God and to all the unsaved in all the world. And it ought to be our desire and our joy.

    • Well, we have NOT been created to glorify God. Before the creation of men, God had a bunch of different angels (with 2 wings, with 4 wings, with 6 wings, with several faces, etc) to glorify Him so if God creates man to do the same thing, I guess God has a problem, however, we know God does NOT have a problem because we have been created to be loved and to love, we have been created to enjoy our God and have a relationship with Him . . .
      We don’t give because “it’s our obligation”, Paul clearly states:
      “Let each man give according as he has determined in his heart; not grudgingly, or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver.”
      2 Corinthians 9:7
      So we don’t give under compulsion, we give under grace and this means giving freely . . . how can you be cheerful giving under compulsion??? But . . . Oh the joy of living and giving under grace !!!
      Grace and Peace

      • P. Dale Gardner // May 8, 2018 at 12:13 am //

        Westminster Shorter Catechism
        Question 1

        Q: What is the chief end of man?
        A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

        1 Corinthians 10:31. Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Romans 11:36. For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

    • momzilla76 // May 7, 2018 at 1:20 am // Reply

      But supporting or ministers or missionaries is not tithing. It is just basic giving from the heart. Tithing is a specific 10% rule of giving everything we have acquired in order to not be cursed by God. Something the NT does not support in the least. You do not need to teach tithing in order to encourage people to give to support the pastor, missionaries or other things. You just teach gratitude and helping others.

  11. P. Dale Gardner // May 8, 2018 at 12:31 am // Reply

    With regard to tithing in the New Testament, J.C. Ryle wrote: Tithing is even more obligatory on the saints of the New Testament than it was upon God’s people in Old Testament days—not equally binding, but more binding, and that for two reasons: first, on the principle of “unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” (Luke 12:48). The obligations of God’s saints today are much greater than the obligations of the saints in Old Testament times, because our privileges and our blessings are greater. As grace is more potent than law, as love is more constraining than fear, as the Holy Spirit is more powerful than the flesh, so our obligations to tithe are greater, for we have a deeper incentive to do that which is pleasing to God. Listen! The Christian should tithe for the very same reason he keeps all the other commandments of God, and for the same reason he keeps the laws of his country—not because he must do so, but because he desires to do so. As a law abiding citizen in the kingdom of God, he desires to maintain the government of God and to do that which is pleasing in His sight.

    • momzilla76 // May 8, 2018 at 8:32 am // Reply

      Greater obligation? Yet he, as well as you, seem to think the solution is to place people back under the laws of the old covenant. 😦 The old covenant is defined in Deuteronomy 4:13 & 9:9 Check it out might surprise you.
      Greater obligation? A hearty yes! But you do not inspire people to give in proportion to what they have been given by thumping a rule from a covenant that is obsolete. Jesus followers are new creations with indwelling Holy Spirit. Giving out of gratitude and as God leads is going to surpass a measly ol’ 10% and encompasses those too poor to give more than their mites.
      Another sad thing is that tithing is a rule people run back to out of fear when they do not deeply trust that God actually provides. They(preachers/teachers) keep people under that rule in order to assure a steady cash flow so no scary trust is required.
      Sticky things about religious rules. They have to be applied evenly across the board so the poorest have to cough up what they need to survive while the wealthiest can get away with giving only what amounts to pocket change with their 10%. God and the new covenant are bigger than 10%.

  12. HN Vrijenhoek // May 16, 2018 at 1:48 am // Reply

    Hebr 7:9, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham
    My question is why the writer of Hebrews wrote that Levi payed tithes in Abraham and not gave tithes in Abraham. If the tithes that Abraham gave where just a gift it is a mystery for me that it is written payed tithes in Abraham the word payed doesn’t seem that it was just a gift or do I miss something?

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