Often, the example of Abram’s tithe to Melchizedek in Genesis 14:17-24 is used as an attempt to show that Abram tithed by faith before the Law of Moses was given to the Israelites. Many have tried to use this example to justify tithing as being required by Gentile believers. However, it has been taken out of context by failing to mention that Abram tithed to both the king of Salem and the king of Sodom. In context Abram also tithed from the spoils of war and not on his personal income, which would have been similar to tithing on a once in a lifetime event like the winnings from a Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes.
Abram gave a tithe, of 10% of the spoils of war to Melcizedek king of Salem, yet most have failed to mention the fact that Abram also tithed the other 90% to the king of Sodom. These amounts of course did not include what the young men had eaten and the portion for the men who went with Abram. So in context, Abram gave a tithe, or 10%, to Melchizedek king of Salem and also tithed to the king of Sodom the remaining 90%, with the exception of what the young men had eaten and a portion for the men who were with Abram. If Abram would have tithed 100% of his personal income that he had earned, he would not have anything to live on.
Most would agree Abram’s tithe of 10% to Melchizedek king of Salem represents our tithe to the Lord Jesus Christ. However, Abram tithed the other 90% to the king of Sodom. Who does the king of Sodom represent? You probably thought, the devil, Satan, or maybe the world under the sway of the wicked one. Remember, Abram’s tithe did not come from his personal income he had earned, his tithe came from the spoils of war, and he kept none of it for himself. This was a once in a life time event in which he gave it all away to the king of Salem and to the king of Sodom. As believers following the same principle on tithing, we would not tithe from our personal income, because if we did we would not have any money to live on. We would tithe 100% from our once in a life time event such as winning Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes, a lottery, or receiving an inheritance, keeping none of in for ourselves.
Jesus spoke to the Jewish scribes and Pharisees regarding paying their tithe’s in the book of Matthew 23:23 saying, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! 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.” It is clear that Jesus was speaking to the Jews who were under the Law of Moses when He said, “These you ought to have done”. Jesus was not speaking to the Gentile believers who were not subject to the Law of Moses. However, the Gentile believers who wanted to accept and commit to the Jewish religion could do so by becoming a proselyte. The Gentile proselyte was baptized, circumcised, and would have been obligated to obey the Law of Moses which included tithing (Matt.23:15; Acts 6:5).
However, Gentiles have never been subject to the Law of Moses and therefore, were never required to tithe. The apostles never taught Gentile believers to tithe, we have two New Testament examples of the Gentiles not being required to tithe in Acts 15:22-29 and in 21:15-30. For Example in Acts 15:28-29 it says, “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”
In Acts 21:15-30 Paul visits James and all the elders and they counsel him regarding the Jews in Acts 21:20-24 saying, “And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law; “but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs.”What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will hear that you have come. “Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow.” Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law.” But notice in Acts 21:25 what they had written specifically regarding Gentile believers, “But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.” Tithing was not mentioned.
Gradually, over time there was a departure from the apostles’ faith, teachings, and practices. The departure of the Catholic Church from the apostles teaching on giving to tithing is documented in their own history. The Catholic Church documents their own departure from the apostles’ doctrine in the Catholic Encyclopedia 1912 edition concerning tithing,
“In the beginning [provision] was supplied by the spontaneous support of the faithful. In the course of time, however, as the Church expanded and various institutions arose, it became necessary to make laws which would insure the proper and permanent support of the clergy. The payment of tithes was adopted from the Old Law, and early writers speak of it as a divine ordinance and an obligation of the conscience. The earliest positive legislation on the subject seems to be contained in the letter of the bishops assembled at Tours in 567 and the Canons of the Council of Macon in 585.” [For more conformation on the history of the tithe check out the Encyclopedia Americana, the Encyclopedia Britannica, and the Roman Catholic Encyclopedia.]
In fact Martin Luther, the founder of the Protestant Christian faith, rejected the idea of tithing and taught against tithing as it pertained to the Gentile believers. Martin Luther in his sermon on August 27, 1525 titled “How Christians Should Regard Moses” spoke of the Law of Moses as being only for the Jews and not for the Gentiles. Martin Luther states in his sermon, “The Law of Moses binds only the Jews and not the Gentiles. Here the Law of Moses has its place. It is no longer binding on us, because it was given only to the people of Israel. And Israel accepted this law for itself and its descendants, while the Gentiles were excluded.” “Moses has nothing to do with us. If I were to accept Moses in one commandment, I would have to accept the entire Moses.” “We will not regard him as our lawgiver – unless he agrees with both the New Testament and the natural law.” “For not one little period in Moses pertains to us.” Martin Luther’s viewpoint in this sermon was due to the fact that the Jews were subject to the Law of Moses, and the Law of Moses included the tithe.
Unfortunately today, most Christian believers do not follow the same apostolic traditions handed down by the apostles. James Hudnut-Beumler, Dean of Vanderbilt University, in his book “In Pursuit of the Almighty’s Dollar”, states that tithing was not taught, practiced, or even suggested in the United States of America until 1873. He also goes on to reveal that tithing was first introduced to the Southern Baptist Convention on May 11, 1895, and was rejected by the believers at that time.
This is a call for us as Christian believers to be like the Berean believers who searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so, and then return to the apostles’ teachings (Acts 17:11).