Since the apostasy at the Worldwide Church of God (WCG), many heresies have arisen, including among those who claim to still be part of the Church of God (COG).
Most who claim to be 'independent' of 'corporate churches' (their terms) have had to wrestle with the concept of tithing, for if you are truly 'independent' how could you send money to an organization you are not supportive of? Many, sadly, have then listened to various arguments (including their own) against tithing, and thus have convinced themselves that tithing is not necessary.
This article will attempt to answer some of the questions/statements these people have raised to support their view that tithing is no longer necessary.
Some of the questions/statements below are those that have been sent to me personally. Others are based on what I have read in either The Journal: News of the Churches of God or Servant's News. The anti-tithing questions/claims are shown below in bold italics my responses will not be.
Claim: Tithing was limited to agricultural produce. Since I am not a farmer, I do not need to tithe. How is limiting tithing to agricultural produce inconsistent with Scripture?
It is important to understand that there is not one scripture that says tithes are limited to agricultural produce.
Very few in Western societies are farmers. Thus the work of God would not be able to be done if tithing was limited to agricultural produce in this age.
"And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD's. It is holy to the LORD" (Leviticus 27:30-31).
This says that all the tithe of the land is the LORD's, it says it includes fruits and seeds but does not say that is all that it includes. Also notice the following:
Honor the LORD with your possessions, And with the firstfruits of all your increase; So your barns will be filled with plenty, And your vats will overflow with new wine (Proverbs 3:9-10).
Does it also include mined and manufactured items, or other wealth that derives from substantial human activity? Does not gold and silver come from the land? Is not wine manufactured? Do not our possessions include non-agricultural items?
"'The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,' says the LORD of hosts" (Haggai 2:8).
Furthermore, tithing included manufactured items such as wine and oil (Nehemiah 13:5,12), which do require substantial human labor to produce beyond planting and harvesting.
The Bible also makes clear,
"The earth is the LORD's, and all its fullness" (Psalm 24:1).
"...of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth" (Genesis 28:22)
This would have to include money--when Jacob said this, it was possible that God would have made him a merchant instead of a rancher, thus it seems clear to me that this supports tithing on actual money.
The scripture in Hebrews 7:4, also shows that tithes were not limited to agriculture as it included the spoils of war. The account in Genesis 14:20 says Abraham,
"...gave him (Melchizedek) a tithe of all".
Also the statement in Hebrews 7:2 says "Abraham gave a tenth part of all"--this seems to suggest that he gave him a tenth that was not necessarily related to the spoils of war--this is consistent with the rest of Hebrews 7 which says tithes were paid through Abraham (Hebrews 7:9).
It is also of interest to note that when praying, a Pharisee told God, "I give tithes of all that I possess" (Luke 18:12), thus demonstrating that he believed tithes were not limited to agricultural produce only.
If tithing were only limited to agricultural produce, then preachers could not be sent out. And preachers of the Gospel are supposed to be sent out,
"For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved." How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!" "(Rom 10:12-15).
And those ministers must be paid (I Corinthians 9:13-14).
Very few in the Church of God make their living from farming today--actually at the Feast in 2001 in Australia, I asked for a show of hands of how many primarily made their living from farming--there were none!
Remember that the Bible teaches,
"And you shall eat before the LORD your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name" (Deuteronomy 14:23).
This scripture does not limit the Feast attendees to those who are farmers only--if it did, almost no one in the COGs would be able to keep the Feast of Tabernacles! (See also Is Second Tithe and Third Tithe Still Valid Today?)
Claim: It is my money, so why can't I keep it?
You can chose to obey God or chose to disobey.
Notice that the Bible teaches:
"Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, 'In what way have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this," Says the LORD of hosts, "If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it" "(Malachi 3:8-10).
God thus expects both tithes and offerings.
Jesus taught, "Freely you have received, freely give" (Matthew 10:8 ).
Jesus warned "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21)--non-tithers may wish to mediate on this.
Claim: As far as compensation -what was Christ given as compensation (Mark 15:41-shows that He depended on freewill offerings)? He never sought to be materially well off (Matt.6:19-20 & vs.25-34).
Christ was not a Levite, and the provisions of tithing did not change until after His resurrection when He became our high priest (Hebrews 7).
Jesus taught that tithing was to be done on even the most minor increase (Luke 11:42).
Claim: The Apostle Paul earned what was not donated to him by making tents and gave a totally different picture of the lifestyle of an apostle than the one which Mr. Armstrong lived (I Cor.4:9-14).
Paul was entitled to be paid by the Corinthians and specifically wrote,
"If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more? Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel" (I Corinthians 9:11-14).
Paul is thus stating that he had a right to their money, but felt they would not have been able to accept that understanding when he was with them. He later wrote Hebrews 7 to further show that the money the Church was entitled to included the tithes that previously had been paid to the Levites.
Mr. Armstrong was poor--incredibly poor--for much of his ministry. There is no scripture that says ministers are supposed to be poor. The Levites, on average, were better off financially than the other tribes of Israel--this is also consistent with the records of secular history--the high priest was also probably the wealthiest man in all Israel. However, if the Levites only received 10% of the net growth in agricultural wealth, after people ate what they needed as some who have departed from the faith now teach, the Levites would not have been able to survive.
Paul specifically wrote,
17 "Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. 18 For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain," and, "The laborer is worthy of his wages" " (I Timothy 5:17-18).
The expression double honor refers to salary/wages. Thus Paul was not saying ministers are supposed to be poor, but actually wealthier, on the whole, than the membership.
Claim: As for me I have chosen to get by on a very limited income as I do support the ministries that appear to give a true service of God to the people. I probably give more than a tenth of my social security. But in freewill offerings--just as the New Testament church did in Acts--which is an act of faith. Isn't that fine?
Jesus praised the poor widow who paid all her cash (Mark 12:42-43). If you give a minimum of 10%, you are doing well.
As far as being poor/low income, I have been that at least two times since coming into the Church, but am doing fine now. Either way, we paid tithes (1st tithe to the Church, 2nd for the Feast, and 3rd 2 of 7 years; see also Is Second Tithe and Third Tithe Still Valid Today?) irrespective of our income.
I believe it is an act of faith, and no matter how difficult it seems at times, God has always allowed it to work out--even when on paper it did not look possible. Whether or not you tithe is your decision. But as far as the Bible goes, tithing on all is clearly scriptural. Ministers are entitled to be paid. While it is true that some in the New Testament gave larger offerings than they needed to, it was not required (e.g. Acts 5:4). Tithes and offerings are the biblically correct way to support the Church (Malachi 3:8).
Some in the Bible have reasoned that they could give any type of offering they would chose and that that is all God wanted. Notice Genesis 4:1-7,
"Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, "I have acquired a man from the LORD." Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. So the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it."
Cain reasoned his offering was fine, God reasoned otherwise.
Cain is not the only one, either:
"You offer defiled food on My altar. But say, 'In what way have we defiled You?' By saying, 'The table of the LORD is contemptible.' And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?" Says the LORD of hosts" (Malachi 1:7-8).
Would physical leaders be pleased with poor offerings instead of their taxes? No, neither is God pleased with inadequate offerings from those that will not tithe!
Claim: Tithing is not a New Testament subject, so why would it be necessary for Christians?
The terms 'tithe', 'tithing', or giving a 'tenth' occur ten times in the New Testament (NKJ), thus it is a New Testament subject.
"For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone" (Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42).
"For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated "king of righteousness," and then also king of Salem, meaning "king of peace,"...Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives. Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, For he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him. Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law" (Hebrews 7:1-2,8-12).
Is this talking about a change so that the ministry receives the money instead of the Levites? Yes, "Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel" (I Corinthians 9:13-14).
If you are still not sure on whether you should tithe, you might also ask yourself, does God expect Christians to give less than the carnal Israelites?
Claim: Isn't tithing unnecessary, because the open door to proclaim the Gospel has been closed?
There is no scripture that ever says to not proclaim the Gospel. There is no scripture that says that the door to proclaim the Gospel can be closed by any man (Revelation 3:7). There is no scripture that says Jesus has or even will close the door. "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14). The end has not yet come, thus the Gospel must still be preached.
For additional information, please read the article Should the Church's Top Priority be Proclaiming the Gospel or Did Herbert Armstrong Change that Priority?
Claim: Even if tithing is mentioned in the bible, multiple tithes are not, they are an invention of Herbert Armstrong. Why should we have to listen to what he made up?
Herbert Armstrong did not make up the concept of multiple tithes. The Bible states,
"You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. And you shall eat before the LORD your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the LORD your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the LORD your God has blessed you, then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the LORD your God chooses. And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household...And at the end of every third year you shall bring out a tithe of your produce of that year and store it within your gates. And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the LORD your God will bless you in all the work of your hand which you do" (Deuteronomy 14:22-26,28-29).
God specifically calls the third tithe a "holy tithe" (Deuteronomy 26:13).
The expression tithes (the plural of tithe) is used 17 times in the Old Testament. The fact that there are multiple tithes is also confirmed in the New Testament from a Pharisee who stated, "I give tithes of all I possess" (Luke 18:12). In Hebrews it shows that, "those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law" (7:5) and that Abraham paid tithes (vs. 9).
Paul said, "I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem" (Acts 18:21); the money had to come from somewhere to get there. Remember Paul wrote, Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1) and Jesus said, " 'You go up to this feast'...But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast" (John 7:8,10). Second tithe supports festival attendance.
Jewish historian Josephus wrote 1800 years before Herbert Armstrong's birth,
"Besides those two tithes, which I have already said you are to pay every year, the one for the Levites, the other for the festivals, you are to bring every third year, a third tithe to be distributed to those that want" (Antiquities of the Jews. Book IV, Chapter VIII, Paragraph 22).
Another secular writer confirmed this even earlier in Tobit 1:6-8,
"Taking the first fruits and the tithes of my produce and the first shearings, I would give these to the priests, the sons of Aaron, at the altar. Of all my produce I would give a tenth to the sons of Levi who ministered at Jerusalem; a second tenth I would sell, and I would go and spend the proceeds each year at Jerusalem; the third tenth I would give to those to whom it was my duty".
Thus, multiple tithes were not an invention of Herbert Armstrong and were understood to exist around the time of Jesus.
The concept of second and third tithe was something that Herbert Armstrong claimed in his 12/17/83 sermon was one of the truths he restored to the Philadelphia era of the Church of God. He claimed that this was one of the truths that the Sardis era did not have, but that at least one of the earlier eras of the Church of God had.
Here is a quote explaining why WCG used to believe that at least part of the Thyatira era of the Church paid multiple tithes:
Hence, even if one argues that multiple tithing is not necessarily a specific command in the New Testament (anti-Sabbatarians make similar arguments), one should recognize that multiple tithes have been a practice and tradition of the true Church of God for some time. We in the Continuing Church of God do teach first, second, and third tithe.
"The three-part division of tithes paid the Waldensian Church is significant. Even in the 1500's the same division continued. "The money given us by the people is carried to the aforesaid general council, and is delivered in the presence of all, and there it is received by the most ancients (the elders), and part thereof is given to those that are wayfaring men, according to their necessities, and part unto the poor" (George Morel, Waldensian elder, quoted by Lennard, "History of the Waldenses"). 1. Compare this practice with Num. 18:21 and Deut. 14:22-25, 28-29. Isn't it exactly what the Bible commands?... Most authors have ASSUMED the "wayfaring men" were the traveling "barbel." But THEIR expenses would have been paid from the money given the elders, at EVERY time of year, for the direct conduct of the Work -- "first" tithe and offerings. Notice that in Numbers 18:21. What Morel then mentions is a "second" tithe, for those traveling to and from the festivals -- wayfaring men; and following it, the "third" to the poor. See the explanation in Deut. 14. Feast goers who had more "second tithe" than they needed shared their excess with those who had need, even as they do today! (LESSON 51 (1968) AMBASSADOR COLLEGE BIBLE CORRESPONDENCE COURSE "And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place ..." Rev. 12:6).
Claim: Third tithe is done away because 'Uncle Sam took it'.
This has been the United Church of God's (UCG) position (though they have relooked at it) as well as that held by many independents and many groups once affiliated with Church of God, International (CGI).
As the scriptures in Deuteronomy show, the primary purpose of this third tithe was to provide for the Levites.
Secondarily, it was to help support the "the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates". Most who do not believe that third tithe is required anymore like to say that the government has taken over these responsibilities. Others, who cited a decision made by Herbert Armstrong to exempt some in countries outside the USA, say there is no reason that Americans should have to pay third tithe (whether this exemption is or was correct will not be the subject of this article).
Since I live in the USA, I would like to confine the following comments to the USA. First, in spite of various government programs, there are often gaps which do not always cover those four groups mentioned in Deuteronomy. Second, while Herbert Armstrong was alive, the US ministry did not pay into Social Security (in the US it is possible for religious organizations to be totally or partially exempt). Thirdly, the WCG did not have (according to the 11/2000 issue of the Worldwide News) a compulsory retirement system. This means that many of those who were in the ministry do not have Social Security or similar programs to support them.
Also, there are many problems with the USA welfare system which means that it does not always help those in the Church of God who need assistance. Thus, the Churches of God who do not teach their members to pay third tithe are faced with the choices of 1) not properly compensating the ministry, 2) not providing third tithe assistance to those who need it, 3) not providing for a retirement for those ministers who attempted to remain faithful, and finally 4) diverting money which should have been used to proclaim the Gospel to providing this type of assistance. Sadly, all of these have been done by those groups and individuals who no longer believe that Church members need to pay third tithe. These are the 'fruits' of not paying third tithe. We in the Continuing Church of God teach third tithe.
As a general rule, is it appropriate to take resources that should be used to proclaim the Gospel and instead use it for third tithe purposes? The Book of Acts suggests that it is not.
"Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, 'It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word' " (Acts 6:1-4).
This not only suggests that the work should not be affected for this purpose, but that providing for the widows was still needed in New Testament times by Gentiles! Interestingly, Jesus addressed the specific issue of monetary substitution with the Pharisees,
"He answered and said to them, "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.' But you say, 'Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God"-- Then he need not honor his father or mother.' Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.' " " (Matthew 15:3-9).
Thus, Jesus' words suggest that He did not endorse monetary substitution practices authorized by the religious leaders of His day. Would He agree that third tithe need not be paid? The book of Proverbs has a verse those who do not pay third tithe may wish to meditate on, "He who gives to the poor will not lack, But he who hides his eyes will have many curses" (Proverbs 28:27). For more information on third tithe, please see the article Is Second Tithe and Third Tithe Still Valid Today? (There are also articles at the cogwriter home page on the specific teachings of UCG, CGI, and others which discuss this matter).
Early Writings and Missionary Support
The idea of tithing was not foreign to those who originally professed Christ. The following was written in the early 200s:
Those of the tribes offer to God, through the levites and priests, tithes and first fruits; not everything which they possess do they regard as tithe or first fruit. The levites and priests, on the other hand, have no possessions but tithes and first fruits; yet they also in turn offer tithes to God through the high-priests, and, I believe, first fruits too. The same is the case with those who approach Christian studies (Origen. Commentary on the Gospel of John, Book I, Chapter 3).
Some of the tithe money, at least by the faithful, was apparently used to finance gospel-proclaiming missionaries. Related to the first one or two centuries A.D. Dr. T. V. Moore noted:
The type of Christianity which first was favored, then raised to leadership by Constantine was that of the Roman Papacy. But this was not the type of Christianity that first penetrated Syria, northern Italy, southern France, and Great Britain. The ancient records of the first believers in Christ in those parts, disclose a Christianity which is not Roman but apostolic. These lands were first penetrated by missionaries, not from Rome, but from Palestine and Asia Minor. The Greek New Testament, the Received Text, they brought with them, or its translation, was of the type from which the Protestant Bibles, as the King James in the English, and the Lutheran in German, were translated. (Moore, D.V. The Culdee Church, chapters 3 and 4, and Wilkinson, Our Authorized Bible Vindicated, pp. 25, 26 (As cited in Dugger, A History of True Religion, pp. 90-91)
In the mid-late 200s, the apocryphal Apostolic Constitution claims that the Apostle Matthias (Acts 1:26) endorsed the payment of first-fruit offerings and tithes ( Apostolic Constitutions (Book VIII, Section IV, Chapter XXX) Translated by James Donaldson. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 7. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/07158.htm>), which seems consistent with this view as does chapter 13 of the Didache (a first or second century document). The Catholic Encyclopedia claims “The payment of tithes was adopted from the Old Law, and early writers speak of it as a divine ordinance and an obligation of conscience” (Fanning, William. Tithes. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. Nihil Obstat. July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York. Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 1 Nov. 2012 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14741b.htm>).
So Origen in the second/third century, something alleged related to Matthias (Acts 1:26-29), and the Thyatirans in the 1500s, taught that Christians were to pay tithes (see also Is Second Tithe and Third Tithe Still Valid Today?). And that seems to be how certain missionaries were at least partially financed. Offerings were undoubtedly also given (2 Corinthians 9:7) and used.
Historical proof exists that multiple tithes, including third tithe, were paid by the Jews. Tithing is mentioned 10 times in the New Testament. Ministers are entitled to be paid (I should comment that I am not a minister and receive no income from any Church).
"For where your treasure is, your heart is also" (Luke 12:34).
The bottom line is that the 'fruits' of not paying tithes are not good. Does God expect Christians to give less than the carnal Israelites?
The apostles felt that the work should not be hindered in administering to the widows, but that providing for the widows needed to be done--both needed to be done, both needed financial support.
Paul kept the Feast of Tabernacles, and we should as well, and it does cost money to get to the place God chooses.
Jesus taught that humanly devised substitutes do not add up as far as God is concerned. The logical conclusion, then, is that tithes should be paid by Christians. We in the Continuing Church of God do teach first, second, and third tithe.
Those who wish to send tithes and offerings to support the work of God can send them to:
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