Do Gentile Christians Have To Tithe?
1. The Famous Guilt Passage Is Aimed at Self-Seeking Preachers, not Gentiles
Many a leader in a church today tries to exhort payments to his church by means of Malachi. We have all heard it:
"Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it." - Mal. 3:9,10.
Is this ethical? Or is this self-serving guilt thrown on a congregant?
The way it is used today, it is largely unethical self-serving preaching, and it contradicts Malachi in context.
First, let's begin with Malachi. The prophet encourages us to actually remember what the Law given Moses says:
4 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules[b] that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. Malachi 4:4 ESV.
Most leaders in church today ignore every other doctrine than tithing, saying the Law has faded away, was nailed to a tree, fulfilled in Christ, etc.
What they ignore is that the tithe under the Law is to benefit the Gentile (which the Law identified as sojourners), the orphan, the fatherless, the poor oppressed, and not only the Levites. See Deuteronomy 26:11-13, quoted below.
However, in Malachi, the Levites were taking all the tithe, and not properly sharing it with the sojourners, the orphan, the fatherless, and the poor oppressed. This is what immediately precedes Malachi 3:9-10, and explains who is robbing whom.
First, the Levites -- temple leaders -- are lambasted in verse 3 and says "the sons of Levi must be purified." So the evil you to whom Malachi is speaking is the Levites. This becomes clear when the following list of those who are being denied God's righteous protection are listed but it omits the Levites:
5 “Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3:5.)
So the ones robbing God were robbing the tithe's beneficiaries other than the Levites -- the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, and the poor (spoken about as being oppressed of his wages). All these categories appear in the Law given Moses as the AIM of the triennial tithe, as we shall show below.
These are the ones who were denied the tithe in Malachi 3:9-10, and THEREBY God was robbed of his tithe. The only one not being robbed were the Levites, and are not mentioned in Malachi 3:5 as victims of unrighteousness. It is obvious in context that the Levites were the robbers who in verse 3 must be "purified" for their evil robbing of the tithe from the intended beneficiaries other than themselves listed in verse 5.
2. Limited Scope of Tithe
The tithe was 10% of one's agricultural produce, the herd and flock.
30 “Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord's; it is holy to the Lord.31 If a man wishes to redeem some of his tithe, he shall add a fifth to it.32 And every tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman's staff, shall be holy to the Lord. (Leviticus 27:30-32 ESV.)
It was not a tithe on income, but only on one's produce from the land - whether from seed in the ground, fruits from trees or animals born on the land See also Deut 26 below.
In fact, it was illegal to sell the produce, and bring money instead (Lev. 27:28) unless it was a long journey to Jerusalem, and then you could sell it, and bring money instead. (Deut 14:24-26.) Hence, the second reason to know the tithe was never on money earned was because it was illegal generally to convert it into money. Hence, it was solely on agricultural produce or farm animals.
As a result, the tithe never fell upon anyone who had no land or farm animals, whether Israelite or Gentile.
3. Was The Command On Israelites Only? Or Upon Gentiles Too?
Did it fall on the Gentile who had land or a farm animal? No, the duty was exclusively upon Israelites.
It begins in Deuteronomy 26, and as it progresses it is decisively only upon Israelites:
“When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance and have taken possession of it and live in it,2 you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from your land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket, and you shall go to the place that the Lord your God will choose, to make his name to dwell there. (Deut 26:1-2 ESV.)
Verses 5-11 make it quite clear that we are only talking about Israelites who were "brought out of Egypt" who are subject to this command:
5 “And you shall make response before the Lord your God, ‘A wandering Aramean was my father. And he went down into Egypt and sojourned there, few in number, and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous.6 And the Egyptians treated us harshly and humiliated us and laid on us hard labor.7 Then we cried to the Lord, the God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression.8 And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great deeds of terror,[a] with signs and wonders.9 And he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.10 And behold, now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground, which you, O Lord, have given me.’
Furthermore, one of the objects of the tithe were Gentiles, whether poor or not. Hence, this makes it nonsensical to put the tithe as an obligation upon Gentiles. This was known as the triennial tithe.
This is the tithe that was spoken about in Malachi -- the preachers (Levites) were robbing God of His tithe that went to the fatherless, the widow, the sojourner (Gentile), and the poor. See Malachi 3:5 quoted above.
Every third year, the tithe went to widows / orphans / the poor / gentiles (called 'sojourners') and Levites (who as a tribe no longer exist today). Scholars sometimes call it the poor tithe, but that is not its Biblical name.
This aspect of the tithe rule is in Deuteronomy 26:11-13:
11 And you shall rejoice in all the good that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house, you, and the Levite, and the sojourner who is among you.
12 “When you have finished paying all the tithe of your produce in the third year, which is the year of tithing, giving it to the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your towns and be filled, 13 then you shall say before the Lord your God, ‘I have removed the sacred portion out of my house, and moreover, I have given it to the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all your commandment that you have commanded me. I have not transgressed any of your commandments, nor have I forgotten them.
4. As Levites Are Gone, Does A Preacher to Israelite-Christians Have A Right to the Tithe?
So what if a preacher teaches an Israelite Christian -- who is the only one today subject to a tithe -- to pay a tithe? What is the scope of the tithe today to whom it properly applies?
First, the tithe was never to the temple building upkeep, or financing a building purchase, etc. Every third year, it went to not only the poor and Gentiles, as listed above, but also in part to the tribe of Levi.
It was not payable at the Temple, but had to be collected within the "gates" of each city, and distributed there. This is why the third-year tithe continues as an obligation upon Jewish Christians:
28 At the end of every three years you shall bring all the tithe of your increase in the same year, and shall store it within your gates. 29 The Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the foreigner living among you, and the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that Yahweh your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.
Why were the Levites included as co-beneficiaries of the 3d year tithe? Verse 29 explains that it is because the "Levite has no portion nor inheritance with you." What does this mean? The Law provided the Levites were to never own any land, and thus had no inheritance in Israel. The compensation? It was their participation in the tithe as a beneficiary every third year. It was their compensation for their temple service year round, year after year. We read in Numbers 18:20-21:
“To the Levites I have given every tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service that they do, their service in the tent of meeting, 20 And the Lord said to Aaron, “You shall have no inheritance in their land, neither shall you have any portion among them. I am your portion and your inheritance among the people of Israel."
(This third-year tithe rule did not mean the Levites could take the entire tithe that year which the law authorized them to collect. Likewise, the first and second year tithes they collected, but the tither was only encouraged not to "forget" the Levite when the tithe in years one and two of the triennial tithe were enjoyed in a party at Jerusalem by the tither.)
Thus, we cannot confuse temple service of the Levites with money for the temple upkeep itself. The tithe was not supposed to go to what we today call the 'church.' It went to individuals in certain groups -- orphans, widows, Gentiles (called sojourners), the poor, and the Levites.
Second, in whether to give a preacher money as a tithe, I must be cautious because in Malachi's day, the Levites took it all, and robbed God of the tithe owed the widows, fatherless, sojourner (Gentile) and the poor. This is what Malachi 3:9-10 is truly about. I must be sure the money that represents the tithe goes exclusively to the latter, and not the preacher.
So as an Israelite-Christian, if I were one, I would have to seriously wonder whether to pay a non-Levite preacher who asks for money to support himself. What should I do? Should I analogize him to a Levite and pay him for his preacher service as a tithe?
Let's listen to Jesus for Jesus teaches in Matthew 10:7-11 that a preacher can only be supported by the Law of Hospitality (from Leviticus 25:6, discussed at this link). The preacher must seek out a house of a worthy person to live in, and do the chores of cleaning, farm work, etc., to earn his keep while under another's roof. Lev. 25:6. This is the passage in the Law to which Jesus clearly alludes. Otherwise, as a preacher, I must take no wage for preaching:
(7) And as you go, preach, saying, ‘Turn, Turn, the kingdom of the heavens is at hand!’ (8) Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons. Do not take wages. Freely you received. Freely give. For you received for nothing. And for nothing you shall give . (9) Possess neither gold nor silver nor money in yourmoney belts. (10) Neither pack for your journeya change of clothes nor shoes nor staff in your hand. For the workman is worthy to receive enough for his food. (11) And into whatever city or region you shall enter,ask who is good and honorable among them, and there live until you leave. OGM
Preachers today should seek to support themselves other than by taking pay from their congregants. If someone wishes to pay them for their sermons as a publishing project, that is ok. Or they can get a normal job. That is also obviously ok. But they should never ask or take money from their congregants for themselves. Jesus forbids it. Their pay is only for a "workman worthy of his wage" from one whose household the preacher supports by actual service.
If I were a Jewish Christian, I would continue the third-year tithe, and not regard the 'preacher' as a Levite. I would also doubt I must hold festivals in Jerusalem in years 1 and 2 that depended, in their commands, on the existance of the Temple. The wording of the third year tithe command in Deut 14:28-29 did not depend upon the Temple at all, as the tithe was collected and distributed within the "gates" of each city in which everyone lived. Hence, it alone clearly continues despite the destruction of the Temple, And it only applies to Sons of Israel.
5. When A Tithe Applies Other Than the Triennial Tithe, No One Has A Share Anyway Other Than the Tither
Furthermore, the other 2 years of the 3 year cycle of tithing was offerings that the tither then enjoyed in a festival party at the temple -- in other words, it was returned to the tither in a festival he enjoyed. In addition, in that era, only the Levites should not be "neglected" from sharing in years 1 and 2. But since there are no more Levites, that provision is moot today.
Here is what Deut 14:26-29 says about the first two years of the three year cycle of tithes and then the triennial tithe:
And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household. 27 And you shall not neglect the Levite who is within your towns, for he has no portion or inheritance with you.
28 “At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. 29 And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.
So again, the preacher must preach that in years 1 and 2 the tithe is solely for a party of the tithers, and they should not 'neglect' sharing only with a Levite. Since there are no Levites any more (who the Law denied land-ownership, thus justifying receipt of the tithe), that aspect of the tithe command is no longer an issue. Hence, the modern-day preacher has no right to any of the 1st and 2d year tithes, nor the 3d. Only the Law of Hospitality can be invoked by a preacher as a right to sustain himself -- by a wage for the value of the work he performs in someone's house in which he boards, or to whom he otherwise provides home-upkeep services. The preacher has no greater position than than any of his congregants -- just as Jesus intended in Matthew 10.
The way Malachi is quoted to congregants by many modern day preachers is unethical. It is typically self-serving. It seeks money given to a church which the preacher runs. It funds a fixed wage. This contradicts Jesus' words. It contradicts the Law of tithing.
The preacher also typically does not explain that the tithe is nothing more than a tithe on produce / animals on the land. Nor does the preacher teach that the tithe only applies to Israelites, and not upon Gentiles. The truth would gut the entire aim of the preacher -- to gain money for his self-support.
Nor is it explained by preachers that the food / proceeds of the tithe would go today exclusively back to the tither in years 1 and 2. Nor is it explained that it must be shared only in year 3 among Gentiles, orphans and widows -- and no one else as Levites are no more.
The Tithe law barely has only a single application today except to an Israelite Christian who has land with crops and / or animals, and the beneficiaries are himself in years 1 and 2, and then in year 3 the orphans, widows, and Gentiles.
As a result, the use of Malachi with Gentiles is an unethical use of the Law to make one of the Law's true intended recipients of the tithe to feel guilty that instead he must comply with the tithe. And then this wrong is aggravated by not telling such a Gentile that the tithe is supposed to return to the tither in a festival under the Law for year 1 and 2 of the three-year tithe cycle.
Typically, the one delivering this message has a self-interested agenda that the money end up in his pocket. This is exactly what was happening in Malach 3:9-10 -- the leaders at the temple - the Levites -- were robbing gentiles, orphans and widows of what belonged to them under the law of the Tithe, and in doing so the religious leaders who collected the tithe only for their own benefit robbed God who had commanded how to distribute such a tithe.
For more information, see our article at http://www.jesuswordsonly.com/images/stories/Lessons/es%20app%20on%20tithing.pdf
For general law applicable to gentiles, and also as another beneficiary of the tithes, see Law Applicable to Gentiles at http://www.jesuswordsonly.com/JWO/law-applicable-today.html