No Tithe, No Ministry?

Question: “My church won’t let me serve unless I tithe. Is this Biblical?”

Answer: In some churches today, congregants are required to practice monetary ‘tithing’ in order to serve in ministry. This presents a problem for poor believers and for believers who know that monetary-tithing isn’t Biblical. They find themselves banned from serving, and in some cases, removed from a position, and even removed from the church, once it is discovered that they don’t practice or believe in monetary-tithing.

Although seemingly ‘noble’ reasons are given for requiring believers to give 10% of their paycheck in order to participate in ministry — this “pay to play” requirement contradicts the word of God on the subjects of tithing, New Covenant giving, and the priesthood of all believers.During the Old Covenant, the priesthood was limited to the male descendants of Aaron. But in the New Covenant, God has anointed and gifted the entire body of Christ as a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:5, 9, 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12:6-8). The New Testament shows that the apostles expected Believers to exercise their gifts accordingly and fulfill their ministry.

In Ephesians 4:11-13, Paul wrote that the purpose of leadership is to equip the rest of the saints to do the works of ministry. The apostles welcomed the active participation of believers in ministry. Nowhere in their writings or the entire New Testament does it teach that one’s participation in the priesthood of all believers is contingent upon practicing monetary-tithing.

The requirement to tithe money in order to serve is unheard of in the Old and New Testament. It undermines the priesthood of all believers, quenches the Holy Spirit, shows partiality (favoritism) to certain believers, and brings sorrow to those who are stirred up to do good works and want to serve.

If this monetary-tithing requirement existed in Biblical times, our Savior would not have been qualified to serve — because He did not tithe during His earthly ministry. Jesus was not required nor able to tithe because He was too poor, and He did not own any crops, herds, and flocks to tithe from (the Son of Man had nowhere to lay His head).

Peter the apostle would not have been qualified to serve either, because he was poor. On one occasion, Peter didn’t even have any money to give to a crippled beggar — but he did have the power of the Holy Spirit and the Good News. “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!” (Acts 3:6)

The practice of monetary-tithing is a man-made tradition. It contradicts both the tithing laws and New Covenant giving. It is preposterous for a religious organization to require believers to practice an unbiblical tradition in order to serve in ministry. In fact, it is hypocritical.

Jesus spoke against the observance of false traditions in the Gospels. The apostles also spoke against placing God’s people in a yoke of bondage to Old Covenant ordinances (Acts 15, Galatians). Requiring believers to tithe their income in order to serve is no different than requiring them to keep the law of physical circumcision, the dietary laws, or the sabbath laws in order to serve.

I pray that believers in such organizations find healthy Biblical New Covenant fellowships, where the priesthood of all believers is encouraged (not just verbally or in a statement of faith) but also lived out. . . where serving in ministry is not contingent upon keeping false traditions of men mixed with the law of Moses, but based upon knowing Christ and bearing the fruit of the Spirit.

The Tithing Laws and the Tribe of Levi

Knowing the historical background behind the tithing laws will give you a clearer picture of the Biblical tithe.

The first historical point is that the Biblical tithe had to come from within the land of Israel.

The second historical point is that the tithing laws were a part of the Old Covenant, which included blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience.

The third historical point is that the tithing laws required the Tribe of Levi (the Levitical priests and their Levite-assistants).

The Tribe of Levi descended from Levi, one of the twelve sons of Israel. The Tribe of Levi were also called Levites. Moses and his older brother Aaron were Levites. Aaron was the firstborn son in their family.

Since Aaron was the firstborn son in his family, God set him and his sons apart from the rest of the children of Israel to minister as priests (Exodus 28-29). From this point on during the Old Covenant, Aaron and his male descendants were the only ones who were allowed to come near God to serve as priests. Together, the sons of Aaron composed the Levitical priesthood.

What about the Levite-assistants?

In Exodus 32 during the false worship of the golden calf, the Tribe of Levi were the only ones who didn’t participate. When Moses came down the mountain and saw the rebellion, he stood at the entrance to the camp and shouted, “All of you who are on the Lord’s side, come here and join me.” And all the Levites gathered around him” (Exodus 32:25-26). Moses told the Levites that God said to take their swords and kill everyone who committed idolatry by worshiping the golden calf. “The Levites obeyed Moses’ command, and about 3,000 people died that day. Then Moses told the Levites, “Today you have ordained yourselves for the service of the Lord, for you obeyed him even though it meant killing your own sons and brothers. Today you have earned a blessing” (Exodus 32:28-29).

Because they remained faithful to God during the rebellion and obeyed Him when He said to kill the idolaters, the Levites ordained themselves for service unto God. Through this act, they became assistants to the Levitical priests.

So, to recap. . . Aaron and his male descendants became the Levitical priests. And the rest of the male Levites became assistants to the priests. Both the Levitical priests and their Levite-assistants played an integral role in Israel’s tithing system. It isn’t possible to keep the tithing laws without them.

The Tithing Laws and the Old Covenant

It’s important to know the historical background behind the tithing laws. This will help you understand how tithing was to be carried out during the Old Covenant.

In a previous post, I shared that God’s holy tithe had to come from the land of Israel. In this post, I will be sharing about the Old Covenant.

After God delivered the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt, He brought them to Mount Horeb and made a covenant with them. This covenant was the Old Covenant.

The Old Covenant is also called the book of the law of Moses, the book of the covenant, and the law of Moses. The Old Covenant is also referred to as the Mosaic Covenant, the Mosaic Law, and the Sinaitic Covenant.

The Old Covenant contained many instructions and stipulations. The children of Israel had to keep ALL of its laws to be blessed. But if they broke even ONE law, they broke the entire covenant and received curses (Deuteronomy 28).

The tithing laws were part of the Old Covenant, and as such, they had to be fully obeyed for the children of Israel to receive God’s blessings. A failure to tithe as God instructed resulted in a curse (as we see in Malachi 3:8-9).

The Tithing Laws and the Land of Israel

Some of you might already know the historical information in this article and it might seem repetitive. However, my hope is that you will see how this historical information provides context to the tithing laws and paints a clearer picture of how tithing was to be carried out during the Old Covenant.

According to Scripture, the tithe had to come from the land of Israel, so we will begin there.

In Genesis 12:1-3, God called Abraham out of his native country “to a land” that He would show him. This land was the land of Israel.

Just a few verses down in Genesis 12:7, the Lord told Abraham that He would give this promised land to his descendants. These descendants were the Twelve Tribes of Israel whom God delivered from slavery in Egypt.

In Exodus 3, the Lord spoke to Moses from a burning bush and told him that He came down to deliver His people from slavery in Egypt and bring them into the promised land, a land flowing with milk and honey.

In Joshua chapters 3-5, the children of Israel finally entered the promised land, and for the first time “the Israelites ate from the crops of Canaan.” (Joshua 5:12)

This geographical area (ancient Canaan) was the land that God commanded the people of Israel to tithe from. So when you read the tithing laws and see the word “land”, it was referring to the land of Israel.

“You’re Cursed With A Curse!!” [Malachi 3:8-9]

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Malachi 3:8-9 is one of the most misused and abused Scriptures in the Bible.

Many who quote this passage have never studied the entire book of Malachi (it’s only four chapters long). Therefore, they don’t know the historical background behind it. This lack of knowledge makes it very easy for religious leaders to misuse Malachi 3:8-9 for financial gain.

It is important to study the context surrounding a passage of Scripture so that we understand its meaning and won’t fall prey to Scripture-twisting.

Firstly, who was God rebuking when He said “you have robbed Me of tithes and offerings” and “you are cursed with a curse”? Malachi 1:6 and Malachi 2:1-9 indicate that God was specifically rebuking dishonest Levitical priests, not the general assembly of Israel or New Covenant Believers.

Secondly, when did this take place? Knowing the time period is important. Malachi 3:8-9 took place during the Old Covenant era while the curses of the law were still in effect (see Deuteronomy 28:15-68).

These curses are no longer in effect and do not apply to New Covenant Believers, because the Old Covenant is obsolete (Hebrews 8:7-13). God has replaced the Old Covenant with the New Covenant, which is a far better covenant based on better promises (Hebrews 8:6).

We are not under the Old Covenant law nor its curses. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Old Covenant law, having become a curse for us (Galatians 3:13). Pronouncing curses from the Old Covenant upon born-again Believers is anti-Gospel and equivalent to witchcraft.

Let’s look at the historical context surrounding Malachi 3:8-9.

During this time, the Levitical priests represented the nation of Israel before God. As such, not only did their disobedience bring a curse upon themselves, but also upon the entire nation of Israel whom they represented.

What did the Levitical priests do to bring a curse on themselves and the nation of Israel? Here are God’s charges against them:

They despised God’s name by presenting defiled food on the altar, they kept the best for themselves and offered God blemished sacrifices, they were swindlers, they complained about serving God, they caused many to stumble, they corrupted their priestly covenant (the covenant of Levi), they showed partiality, they mistreated their wives, they cheated employees of their wages, they oppressed widows and orphans, turned aside the stranger, and they robbed God of tithes and offerings.

Let’s zoom in on God’s charge against them regarding the tithe. How did the Levitical priests rob God of tithes? What were they doing? In order to understand how they robbed God of tithes, you have to know how tithing worked during the Old Covenant. Pay close attention.

You may not be aware of this, but there were three different tithes during the Old Covenant: The Levitical Tithe, The Festival Tithe, and The Poor Tithe.

1. The Levitical Tithe was the first tithe. This tithe provided food for the Levites and the priests, since they received no inheritance of land in Israel (Numbers 18:21).

2. The Festival Tithe was the second tithe. This tithe provided food for festivals in Israel and was eaten/drank by tithers and their family (Deuteronomy 14:22-27).

3. The Poor Tithe was the third tithe. This tithe was stored in the nearest town and used as a “food pantry” for poor people in the local area (Deuteronomy 14:28-29).

These three tithes were carried out over a 7-year cycle, with a break from tithing during the 7th year because it was a Sabbath year of rest. No one was allowed to “work the soil” by sowing and reaping during Sabbath years, and thus, no one was suppose to tithe during Sabbath years. Sabbath years gave the soil in Israel a time to rest and replenish nutrients (Leviticus 25:3-7).

Now that we’ve briefly covered the three tithes in the Old Covenant, we’re going to talk a little bit more about The Levitical Tithe, because this is the tithe that God was rebuking the priests for stealing. Once you understand how The Levitical Tithe worked, Malachi 3:8-9 will make even more sense to you.

So, how did The Levitical Tithe work?

Once again, The Levitical Tithe was the first tithe. The purpose of this tithe was to provide food for the Tribe of Levi since they did not inherit land with the other tribes.

Here is how it was carried out. . .

The tithers in Israel (farmers and shepherds) would transport their tithe (one-tenth of their crops, herds, and flocks) to the Levites who lived in nearby Levitical cities (remember, there were 48 cities set aside for the Levites to live in because they did not inherit land with the other tribes).

The Levites would then transport *only* one-tenth of this tithe to the Old Covenant temple in Jerusalem when it was their turn to assist the priests. This is the ONLY portion of tithe that made it to the temple in Jerusalem. Let me make it plain: out of all 3 tithes — only 10% of The Levitical Tithe ever made it to the temple in Jerusalem.

Once that tenth of The Levitical tithe made it to the temple into the hands of the priests, the priests were supposed to present it as an offering to the Lord and put it in the storehouse so that there would be food in God’s house. The food in the storehouse was supposed to be shared with the poor and with the Levites who assisted the priests at the temple.

Yet Malachi 1:14 shows that the priests offered up the worst of this tithe to God and kept the best part for themselves — God considered this to be robbing HIM.

The priests did not put this tithe in the storehouse so that there would be food in God’s house to share with the poor and the Levites who assisted them at the temple — they kept it for themselves — God considered this to be robbing HIM.

As we can see, the issue was not that the general people were robbing God of tithes and offerings. The issue was that the PRIESTS (the religious leaders) were robbing God of tithes and offerings by keeping it for themselves and offering up the worst part to God.

There’s sin in the camp! Just like Achan’s sin, the priest’s disobedience impacted everyone, and God cursed the whole nation of Israel by sending devourers (pests and diseases) to consume their crops (Deuteronomy 28:18). He also shut up the windows of heaven (the clouds) by withholding rainfall which caused a drought (Deuteronomy 28:23-24).

Religious leaders who twist Malachi 3:8-9 to obtain 10% of your income are operating in witchcraft. It is divination and sorcery to misuse God’s word to pronounce empty curses on blood-bought Believers. Leaders who are guilty of such are the one’s robbing God.

If a leader claims that you are “robbing God” and “cursed with a curse” if you don’t pay 10% of your income to his 501 c3 organization, please know that he is lying on God, twisting the Scriptures like Satan, and in disobedience to God.

No weapon formed against you shall prosper. This is fear-mongering and condemnation, which utterly opposes the Gospel.

The God-robber is the person standing in the pulpit operating in witchcraft like Balaam who tried to curse God’s people for financial gain.

Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse will not land on its intended victim.” (Proverbs 26:2)

For further study, read the book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah and Malachi were contemporaries, and Nehemiah provides additional background information to Malachi 3:8-9.

Click here for the next article in this series.