Abraham and Jacob tithed, didn’t they?

HomeChristianity and the BibleAbraham and Jacob tithed, didn’t they?
Yes, and No.
Tithing did occur before the Mosaic Law was given. There are actually three kinds of tithing in the Bible…the way Abraham did it, the way Jacob did it, and the way that the Jews did it.
Abraham (Genesis 14):
Abraham tithed to Melchizadek…he gave a tenth of the spoils of war. If we’re to tithe as Abraham did, we should give a tenth of the spoils of war to the king. Since that’s all the information we have, that’s all we should presume about the passage.
Jacob (Genesis 28):
Jacob tithed directly to God out of gratitude…if you want to tithe out of gratitude, that’s between you and God. Since that’s all the information we have, that’s all we should presume about the passage.
The Jews:
As I’ve written elsewhere, the tithe was a debt owed by Jews to God with specific instructions on who could collect it, how it was to be used, etc. If we’re to tithe as the Jews did, we need to read and understand and follow the instructions given to the Jews. If your pastor has done his homework, he can tell you that this isn’t happening. Other than the examples of Abraham and Jacob, everything we read in the Bible about tithing is directed at Jews. Unless your pastor is willing to put himself under the entire Mosaic Law, there’s no Scriptural reason for him to say that you should tithe. Abraham tithed to the king and Jacob tithed to God Himself. Where do we find instructions that Christians should tithe to the church? There aren’t any.
I do believe in giving.
I believe that Christians should be very generous, and that the New Testament example is to give cheerfully and generously to those in need as the Holy Spirit leads us. Anyone who tells you that the Bible tells Christians to tithe is either ignorant or lying, because it simply isn’t there. Hey, if someone wants to give ten percent of their income to the church, that’s their business…but if someone says “God wants Christians to tithe to the church” I want to know which book and which verse they say tells them that. What could be more reasonable than that?
Here’s what I’d suggest:
Get a pen and paper and then ask your pastor for a list of Bible verses that teach Christians to tithe. If he doesn’t have a list for you, ask him if he will make one for you. Whatever he tells you, write it down and look it up. See for yourself what the Bible says, and compare what you think with what the pastor says. If (after doing your homework) you disagree with your pastor, go to him respectfully and ask to talk about it. His response will go a long way toward understanding what sort of spiritual leader he is.

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4 responses to “Abraham and Jacob tithed, didn’t they?”

  1. Jim Parenti says:

    Tithing aside. How does the local church survive? What method to keep church doors open should be used?

    • Tony says:


      Good question. There are all kinds of ways to support ministry at local churches. We do have a model in the New Testament, of course. People who followed Jesus paid out of their pockets in what is often called ‘freewill offerings.’ That is, they valued the work that was being done, and supported it with their money. This is how Jesus’ own ministry was funded, of course. Judas had the moneybag because there was money that needed managing. Some wealthy women (and, presumably, a bunch of not-so-wealthy folks) supported Him.

      Beyond what the first-century churches did, there are a bunch of ways to get money. Certainly churches can provide products and services to the public. Individual ministers like Paul did this, supporting his own ministry by making tents. Groups can do this, like Trappist Monks, who produce beer for sale. Many churches need no finances, as they meet in homes or under trees, and have no paid ministers. We who follow Jesus should take ministry seriously, and – where needed and possible – support those who do it well. This is a biblical ideal, spelled out plainly.

      Also: where there is a real need for money, God can and does provide. Here’s an example. George Mueller ran an orphanage in England in the 1800’s. He took no funding, but survived only on donations. During his lifetime, he cared for more than 10,000 orphans, provided education for 120,000 children, distributed over 285,000 full Bibles, almost 1.5 million New Testaments, and over 200,000 religious texts in twenty other languages. The money Mueller received was also used to support other missionaries around the world, like Hudson Taylor. His ministry continues to this day… and George Mueller never requested financial assistance from anyone. He also never went into debt. He relied completely on God to provide. God did provide. He wrote down some of these incidents. For example, on one morning there was no food for the children. They sat at the table and gave thanks, despite having nothing. While they were praying, a baker knocked on the door with enough bread for everyone. Then a milkman’s cart broke down in the street… and, rather than letting his milk spoil, he gave it to the orphans. These were apparently not isolated incidents.

      God does not need our money. He has all the resources He needs. When He wants to use us, He will make sure we have all we need… including money. The New Testament teaches Christians to gladly give generously to those in need, as the Holy Spirit leads, as we determine in our hearts to give. That’s enough, I’d say.

      The point of my articles on tithing is not, of course, to discourage anyone from supporting effective, biblical ministries. I’d love a few donations myself, to be honest. However: money is the least of my worries. God has provided for me and my family, and will continue. My articles are simply meant to provide the biblical information needed to show that preachers and teachers should not claim that God demands that all Christians tithe money to their local church. I hope that my work does what’s intended, and that others will see the same benefit that I’ve seen as a result of knowing the Scriptures better: that 10% of my money is not nearly enough for God. He wants 100% of me, so I can use 100% of HIS money, with which I’m entrusted, wisely.

      Does that make sense, Jim?

  2. Connie says:

    The church I went to before for about 30 years and we were told if we didn’t tithe we would not be blessed of God. I was afraid not to

    • Tony says:

      I’m sorry to hear that, Connie. I understand that it can be hard to go against tradition… but tithing in the church is a tradition, and it goes against what we find in Scripture. Pastors and teachers should know better, but too many do not. Even worse, some use it as a way to manipulate others to enrich themselves, or as a crutch to finance ministries by causing people to feel fear and guilt. I wish it weren’t so.

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