Many believers have accepted the tradition of tithing as being for believers without realizing and understanding that the apostles’ taught believes to give and not to tithe. Gradually over time the early church departed from the apostles teaching concerning giving as tithing became more widely accepted. The Catholic Church departed from the original apostolic faith, doctrine, and practice of willful and cheerful spontaneous giving making tithing a requirement to support the clergy. Most believers have never been informed about the Catholic Church departing from the apostles’ faith, doctrine and practices concerning giving. 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.”
The Encyclopedia Americana confirms this concerning the “tithe.”
“It (tithing) was not practiced in the early Christian church but gradually became common (in the Roman Catholic Church in Western Europe) by the 6th Century. The Council of Tours in 567 and the 2nd Council of Macon in 585 advocated tithing. Made obligatory by civil law in the Carolingian empire in 765 and in England in the 10th Century… The Reformation did not abolish tithing and the practice was continued in the Roman Catholic Church and in Protestant countries (until it was) gradually replaced by other forms of taxation. The Roman Catholic Church still prescribes tithes in countries where they are sanctioned by law, and some Protestant bodies consider tithes obligatory.”
Many believers have never been taught or informed about Martin Luther or the Anabaptists who rejected tithing. As we study early church history we learn that during the Reformation Martin Luther, the founder and father of the Protestant Christian faith rejected tithing as being unbiblical in his sermon “How Christians Should Regard Moses” delivered on August 27, 1525. According to Martin Luther the Gentiles have never been subject to the Law of Moses, therefore they have never been required to tithe. The Anabaptists were the real radicals of their day surpassing the other reformers such as Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin in their desire to return completely to the faith and practices of the apostles. The Anabaptists were Spirit-filled believers who had visions and exercised the gifts of the Holy Spirit. They practiced the “priesthood of all believers” with every believer participating and functioning when they gathered together as the church. The Anabaptists also rejected tithing as being unbiblical and chose to return to the apostles’ example and teaching concerning giving.
Many believers have only been taught their denominations or churches traditions concerning tithing. They have never heard or been taught about tithing not even being suggested in the United States until 1873. According to James Hudnut-Beumler, Dean of Vanderbilt University, in his book “In Pursuit of the Almighty’s Dollar”, 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.
As believers we need to understand the Jewish Christians the apostle Paul dealt with were teaching that the Gentile Christians needed to be circumcised to be saved, after being circumcised they were obligated to obey the whole law of Moses which including tithing (Acts 15:5). However, Gentiles have never been under the Law of Moses at anytime and those of us who have accepted Christ are not obligated to tithe according to the Law of Moses, but are to give willingly according to grace (Acts15:22-29; 21:15-30; Gal. 5:1-5). According to the Word of God as believers we are now under the Headship and Lordship of Jesus Christ and His grace. In Christ, believers have been set free from the ritual observance of the Law of Moses with the rules and regulations. Therefore, we are not obligated to be circumcised, keep the Sabbath, to avoid unclean foods, or tithe (Col. 2:4-23).
The two New Testament examples of the Gentiles not being required to tithe are found in the book of Acts 15:22-29 and in 21:15-30. The first example is found 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.” The Gentiles were given no greater burden than three necessary things and tithing was not one of them.
The second example found in the book of Acts 21:20-25, the apostle Paul visits James and all the elders and they counsel him regarding the Jews 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 for the Gentile believers to observe.
The Word of God instructs us as believers concerning how we are to give due to being under grace. Giving is a gift of grace and is a result of the grace of God given to us to meet the needs of others according to our ability (Rom. 12:3-8). We should be both willing and generous in our giving and should being willing to give more than a tithe of ten percent giving all we can providing we have it to give. Due to being under grace our giving is to be done as we purpose in our hearts both willingly and generously in freedom as cheerful givers, not reluctantly or grudgingly out of obligation, duty, or requirement as a matter of law (2 Cor. 9:5-14). The purpose of our giving is so there may be equality among the believers that no one should suffer lack, not having enough to meet their needs (2 Cor. 8:1-15).
Today, some denominations and churches will not allow you to become a member and serve until you agree to support them by faithfully tithing. Those who fail to tithe lose their membership and the opportunity to serve the Lord in the church or denomination. This is very much like paying membership due to use gym or a club of some kind. This begs the questions are the churches and denominations that require you to pay a tithe obeying the Word of God or have or are they following a manmade tradition? And, are you as an individual believer obeying the Word of God in context, or are you following Scripture that has been taken out of context and made the Word of God of no effect due to a manmade tradition?
As we have seen tithing was not taught according to the apostles doctrine or teaching and was not practiced by the early Church. However, we should be willing to give freely that there may be equality among believers, so that no one should suffer lack not having enough to meet their needs. We also learned the reason tithing became necessary was to give a permanent salary to the clergy. We might say that tithing is necessary to keep the doors open, however this was unnecessary for the early church since they met in homes of believers (Rom. 16:5; 1 Cor. 16:19; Col. 4:15; Phm. 1:2). Jesus gave His apostles and disciples the method of starting churches in the homes of men of peace (Matt. 10:12; Luke 10:2). Today, meeting in the homes of believers is generally known as house church, organic church, or simple church.
As we study church history and acknowledge these biblical and historical truths as facts then we must make changes in regard to our beliefs and practices regarding tithing. Maybe we should consider returning to both the biblical practice of giving and meeting in homes of believers with every believer participating and functioning known as the “Priesthood of All Believers” instead of tithing to pay for costly buildings and salaries.