TITHING IN THE ASSEMBLY OF GOD
Reviewed by Russell Earl Kelly
January 15, 2010
AOG: The Assemblies of God has always been a proponent of tithing (or giving one-tenth of one’s personal income to support the work of God).
Kelly: No reputable church historian teaches that the early church taught tithing or that it became an enforced law before the 8th century. In the USA tithing was not even studied until the 1870s and gradually became church doctrine between 1895 and 1963.
AOG: We believe tithing is a recognition that everything we have comes from God.
Kelly: This was also true in the Old Covenant but tithes were always only food from inside Israel. Money is not found in 16 texts which describe real holy tithes for over 1500 years from Leviticus to Luke. The Old Covenant was only given to Israel in order to elevate it above other nations. The Law was never commanded to either Gentiles or the Church (Ex 19:5-6; Acts 15 and 21).
AOG: The practice checks our greed, promotes personal discipline and thrift, testifies to our faith, promotes God’s work in the world, and alleviates human need.
Kelly: This is also true of freewill generous sacrificial giving. The statement does not prove that tithing is a valid New Covenant command for the church.
AOG: While we do not believe tithing to be a condition for salvation, we do believe it is a very important biblical model, one which should set the minimal standard for Christian giving for people in all income ranges.
Kelly: Calling the tithe a minimum standard is based on the false assumption that everybody in the Old Covenant was expected to begin the giving level at ten per cent. This is not biblical. Only food producers who lived inside Israel qualified as tithe-payers. Craftsmen and traders who lived in villages did not tithe. The poor did not tithe. And those living outside Israel did not tithe. Jesus, Peter and Paul did not tithe.
AOG: Though some people believe tithing was an Old Testament practice not intended for New Testament Christians….
Kelly: Nothing about Old Covenant tithing is followed by Christians today. (1) Abraham and Jacob’s tithes came from defiled pagan soil and were spoils of war which were not holy under the law. Numbers 18 is the tithing statute. (2) Tithes were only food from inside Israel. (3) Levitical tithes were given to the servants of the priests who correspond to our ushers, deacons, choir, musicians and politicians (1 Chron 23-26). (4) The priests only received a tenth of the tithe. (5) Priests were to kill anybody who dared enter the sanctuary to worship God directly. And (6) tithe recipients were not allowed to own or inherit property.
AOG: … the Assemblies of God believes and teaches that tithing is still God’s design for supporting the ministry and reaching the world with the gospel.
Kelly: Everything about tithing ended at Calvary: (1) its covenant, (2) its priests, (3) its definition as food, (4) its temple and (5) its sacrificial system. Tithes were never used to fund buildings or missionaries.
AOG: Our bylaws state, “We recognize the duty of tithing and urge all our people to pay tithes to God” (Article IX, Section 7a.)
Kelly: Who wrote the bylaws? Those who have the most to gain? Do they accept tithes and also own and inherit property?
AOG: It is true there is no direct commandment in the New Testament saying, “You must tithe to God one-tenth of your income”; but there is also no statement declaring the Old Testament plan as no longer valid.
Kelly: Repeat. Everything about tithing ended at Calvary: (1) its covenant, (2) its priests, (3) its definition as food, (4) its temple and (5) its sacrificial system. Tithes were never used to fund buildings or missionaries. What part of the Old Testament plan for supporting the Temple is still followed today? They had other means of support per Numbers 18:1-20.
AOG: Some oppose tithing today quoting Matthew 23:23 as proof text. In doing so they actually twist Jesus’ words to teach just the opposite of what Jesus clearly said. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices… But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness.” Stopping at that point in the verse might allow some misinterpretation. But Jesus continued, “You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”
Kelly: The context of Mt 23:23 is “matters of the law.” This was before Calvary while the law was still in full effect (Gal 4:4-5). The “you” he was speaking to were hypocritical Pharisees. This was not addressed to the Church after Calvary.
AOG: From here we see that Jesus regarded the Old Testament practice of tithing as continuing into the new covenant under which we now live.
Kelly: No. “Matters of the law.”
AOG: The practice of tithing predates the giving of the Old Testament law.
Kelly: There is a difference between “tithing” (ten per cent) and “holy biblical tithing” (only food from inside Israel). The fact that tithing was practiced by most pagan idol worshippers of Abraham’s day does not make it an eternal moral principle. So also was idolatry, child sacrifice and temple prostitution.
AOG: Abraham tithed in response to God’s blessing and faithfulness (Genesis 14:18-20) and was no doubt blessed because of his faithful tithing.
Kelly: The Bible does not state that Abraham voluntarily gave. He may have been obeying the law of the land which required tithes of spoils to the king-priest.
AOG: Under the law, proceeds from the tithes were directed primarily for the support of the Levites and priests who provided religious leadership (Numbers 18:21-29) and for the relief of the needy (Deuteronomy 14:22-29).
Kelly: The New Covenant priesthood consists of every believer and the Temple is within the believer. OT tithes (Heb 7:5) were changed (Heb 7:12) and that change was its disannulment (Heb 7:18).
AOG: Today’s church still relies on the support of tithers.
Kelly: There is no evidence of this in the Bible or early Christian history. Second Corinthians 9:13 proves too much because it demands much more than tithing to be borrowed from the Old Covenant. In 9:14 the gospel principles are those of grace and faith, not law.
AOG: Christians can miss out on God’s abundant blessing by looking on the tithe as the entire requirement for giving.
Kelly: No texts.
AOG: The tithe is only one aspect of support for the church and its ministry of spreading the gospel.
Kelly: There is no text for this. The true biblical holy tithe could only come from inside Israel and most of the Church is outside of it.
AOG: The Bible also mentions voluntary offerings given by God’s people over and above the required tithe.
Kelly: No texts.
AOG: Of course, the attitude with which both tithes and offerings are given is very important. God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). The giving of either tithes or offerings with a grudging spirit loses much of the blessing that can come as we faithfully give out of love rather than obligation.
Kelly: The first Levitical tithe was cold hard law and must be given only by food producers inside Israel whether grudgingly or not.
AOG: The Assemblies of God is also concerned about people who withhold tithes when they do not like decisions and directions espoused by spiritual leaders.
Kelly: No texts.
AOG: Christians should fellowship with a local body of believers and bring their whole tithes into that storehouse (Malachi 3:10). Though some of the Israelites may not have liked decisions made by Moses and his successors, they were given no alternatives.
Kelly: (1) Malachi is only addressed to the nation of Israel under the Old Covenant (Neh 10:20; Mal 4:4). (2) According to Nehemiah 10:37b tithes were brought by the people to the Levitical cities, therefore Malachi 3:10 has been mis-interpreted. (3) The church is never called a storehouse. The early church did not even have its own buildings for over 200 years after Calvary.
AOG: While we may designate some of our offerings (beyond the tithes) to ministries outside the local church, the tithes rightfully belong in the church with which the Christian identifies.
Kelly: No texts.
AOG: If one is not identifying with a local body of believers, he or she disregards God’s instruction that we not forsake assembling together with believers (Hebrews 10:25).
AOG: Some Christians do not tithe, claiming they cannot afford to give up 10 percent of their income. Simple arithmetic may suggest that 90 percent will not go as far as 100 percent in satisfying essential family needs. But God has built a multiplication factor into our giving of tithes and offerings. Malachi recorded God’s words, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse… Test me in this… and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it” (Malachi 3:10).
Kelly: The whole law was a test and not merely tithing (Ex 19:5-6; Neh 10:29; Mal 4:4). God now rules the Church according to better New Covenant giving principles. The only way for a Hebrew to claim blessings from tithing was to observe the whole law of commandments, statutes and judgments. See Gal 3:10.
AOG: Though we do not give to God in order to get more back, as some suggest we should, God’s promises are still true–if our giving is according to His instruction.
Kelly: Only promises in the context of the New Covenant.
AOG: The above statement is based upon our common understanding of scriptural teaching. The official delineation of this position is found in the General Council Bylaws, Article IX, Section 7a.
Kelly: Again, tithing was not even studied as a doctrine in non-state churches until the 1870s. It is a relatively new doctrine.