Are you really cursed if you do not pay tithes? Does God really require you to give 10% of your earnings? Will abstaining from paying tithes really disqualify you from receiving God’s blessings? These are controversial questions in churches today. More attention has been paid to it recently due to the rapid increase of millionaire pastors worldwide. These pastors flaunt wealth in the forms of megachurches, mansions and private jets and build schools with hardly affordable tuition – all on your tithes and offerings. Their poor tithe paying members can’t afford life’s essentials but keep paying 10 percent of their earnings out of fear of God’s curse or not getting God’s blessings. This is not a call to stop Christians from giving; however, in order to be like the Berean Christians who were referred to as “noble” because they searched the scriptures after Paul preached to determine if “those things were so” (Acts 17:11), let us therefore rightly divide the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15) to see for ourselves what the scriptures say. May the Spirit of the Lord in His infinite mercy, guide us as we do. Amen.
History of Tithes
Tithe means one-tenth of something. This was part of the Mosaic law where the tribes were obligated to pay 10 percent of their earnings to one tribe – the Levites. The Levites had no inheritance save the Lord (Joshua 18:7, Deuteronomy 18:1-2), so this was how the Lord catered to their needs as they ministered in His name. Their families could NOT partake in any other work outside of being ministers in Israel (Numbers 8:11-26). There were other kinds of tithes like the tithes for the strangers, fatherless, widows and the Levites which were paid once every three years (Deuteronomy 14:28-29, Deuteronomy 26:12), and the Potluck tithes (Deuteronomy 14:22-27) where every household was supposed to use their tithes to buy whatever consumable their souls lusted after and eat it in a place God chose.
Malachi 3 is a champion scripture used by most pastors when trying to convince members of their congregation to pay tithes. This tactic has succeeded in instilling deep fear within the hearts of the children of God who don’t willingly adhere to the practice. It says in verse 8 – 10 that the people of Israel had robbed God through tithes and offerings and therefore, they were cursed. To avoid the curse, they had to pay their tithes to the Lord’s houses. Doing this would attract the Lord’s blessings on the people. It is also important to point out that Malachi 2:1 says “And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you”. The Lord was talking to them. In light of this, Malachi 3:8-10 applies to the priests also. It could even suggest that the priests mishandled the tithes being paid to them. This passage doesn’t say tithes were not being paid. It however suggests that it wasn’t brought into the storehouse so that there would be meat in the Lord’s house (used for the work of the Lord). It would not be farfetched to interpret it this way. After all, in 1 Samuel 2:12-36, the sons of Eli the High Priest (Hophni and Phinehas) acted irresponsibly in the Lord’s house and this led to the deaths of both father and sons. It causes us to think, and compare this idea to what is going on with members’ funds in numerous churches today. Since this is the champion scripture used by most pastors, let us see what has been said about the child of God under the New Covenant.
The New Covenant
Before going into why a child of God in the New Covenant can’t be cursed by not adhering to an Old Covenant practice/law, let us first understand covenants and their significance in scriptures. A covenant is a promise or agreement. The Old Covenant was an agreement between the Jews and God in order to be made righteous by the law. Every year, the High Priest shed the blood of an animal as an atonement to renew this covenant for the Jews. The New Covenant is an agreement between Jews or Gentiles and God, mediated by the Lord Jesus where righteousness comes by faith and not the law (Galatians 2:21). It is the Word of Faith (Romans 10:8) which we are called to preach. Its foundation is “That if thou shall confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Romans 10:9. Its engine is the Holy Spirit. “But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you”.
The New Covenant commenced when Jesus Christ died and shed His blood once as atonement for our sins. Hebrews 9:15-17 says “And for this cause He is the mediator of the new testament (covenant), that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.” This ushered us into a new era of no longer living under the law but under grace. Christ became the END of the law for salvation to them that believe (Romans 10:4). This would now lead us to the meat of this write up – Galatians 2 – 3.
Galatians 2 – 3
As children of God under the New Covenant, we should no longer live under the law but under grace. Let us go through the verses to understand what the aforementioned statement means.
- 2:16-21 – Paying tithes to the Levites was a law in the Old Covenant. Another law that we are no longer justified by is calling the Gentiles unclean and therefore not eating with them. Paul speaking here was rebuking Peter about this from verse 11-21. Peter had refused to eat with the Gentiles because it was unlawful. However Paul said in verse 19 and 20 that we are dead to the law, so that we might be made alive in Christ. If righteousness comes by the law, then Christ died in vain.
- 3:1-9 – Here, Paul continues to convince the Galatians that were not justified by works of the law, but by the hearing of faith. If the Holy Spirit (the glorified Christ) came to dwell in us through faith, how can we then be made perfect by the flesh? Beloved, the goal is to be made perfect (Matthew 5:48, 1 Thessalonians 5:23) and achieving perfection is through life in the Spirit. This is what Paul was trying to get them to understand.
- 3:10-14 – I was present at a sermon recently where the pastor was reading from Malachi 3. He said we needed to pay our tithes to avoid God’s curse on us. Beloved, let us read Galatians 3:13 together. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree”. No being should ever tell you again that you are cursed, if you have Christ. Jesus paid it all! Verse 10 further explains this. It says everyone that continues to try to be justified by the works of the law, continue to be under the curse. This is because for you to be justified by the law, you have to observe “ALL THINGS” written in the book of the law! How many of us obey the Sabbath? Or wash our hands before any meal? Or observe the feasts of Pentecost, Passover or the Tabernacle? Or eat pork? Well, then why do we pay tithes? No man is justified by the law in the sight of God, “THE JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH”. So we might ask, why was the law given?
- 3:19-29 – Verse 19 tells us that the law was given because of transgressions, till the seed (Jesus) should come to whom the promise was made. Verse 23 tells us that before faith came, we were kept under the law, but Jesus Christ revealed faith which set us free from the law. Verse 24 further explains the purpose of the law. It was our school master (tutor) to bring us to Christ, so we could then be justified by faith. So if it brought us to Christ, and we have put on Christ, why do we still try to be justified by a tutor? We have faith, so we are no longer under a tutor.
Christ’s approach to the law
Let us look at Matthew 12:1-13. Jesus’s disciples plucked corn in the field to eat on the Sabbath day. The Pharisees pointed out that this act was unlawful. But Jesus in verse 3 reminded them of 1 Samuel 1-5. David and his men unlawfully ate the shewbread in the house of God. It was meant for the priests only. He also said in verse 12 that it was lawful to do good works on the Sabbath. The fact that He was even bringing up the law was because of the era He lived in. He had not yet been crucified, so there was not yet a provision for the New Covenant. This is also why He did not condemn the Pharisees for paying their tithes in Matthew 23:23 but instead rebuked them for ignoring the weightier matters of the law (judgement, mercy and faith). It was a way of weaning them away from the law and unto Him, revealed in whosoever believes and overcomes. This is why Jesus took time to address some practices in Matthew 5:38-48 (an eye for an eye etc.). This was Him fulfilling the law and not abolishing it. While He was on earth, people still kept trying to be justified by the law. Feasts were observed, people still went to the temple to pray, the Sabbath, washing of hands, not relating with the Samaritans etc. However, He didn’t expect these to continue after He established the New Covenant by us receiving salvation by faith, through His death on the cross.
What the New Testament says about giving
Beloved, we are called to give. Jesus in Luke 6:38 shed some light on this. He said give, and it shall be given unto you. This is a spiritual law, and we all should be encouraged to give as the Spirit allows us to. However, we cannot buy God’s blessings. The motive for giving should be because of our love for God and not what we can get from Him. He has already blessed us. Read Matthew 6. We show that we have love for Him when we give. We show His character when we give. He loved us so much that He GAVE us Jesus (John 3:16).
Also, let us consider 2 Corinthians 9:7. “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” The keyword here is “not of necessity”. This means out of compulsion or obligation. Does subtracting 10 percent of every paycheck qualify under this category? I would think so. We should give everything. Not just money, but our time, efforts and other resources. As we learnt earlier, our Christian race is about achieving perfection. It is about Christ revealed in us.
So how should the church give?
This question will lead us on a needful journey that the Lord in His mercies actually wants us to embark on. Revelations 18:4 says “…Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” “Her” here is Babylon which is described as the backslidden church in Revelations 17:5-6 and Isaiah 1:21. Numerous institutions of man have been established in the form of “churches”. These institutions can only be sustained through tithes and offerings, hence, why this problem seems not to have a solution. How will these mega churches be funded? How will the bills be paid and the lights kept on? How will that pastor of that mega church buy his fleet of cars or private jet? How will “my church’s” university be built? How will “God’s blessings” show on the “man of God”?
Returning the church back to its original purpose of edification (building one another up in the Lord), eliminates these money problems created by man. God is not found in man made buildings, nor is He found within four walls; He is found in us. We are His dwelling place, not a building (study Hebrews 9). God desires to be found in His people. The “House of the Lord” is His people. As His people, there lies an onus on us to shine light in the darkened places (Zechariah 14:7). We should give to one another as the need arises, fund missions to spread the gospel and encourage fellow brethren across the globe. Giving to the poor, the widows, and the less fortunate are ways the church should give. Giving mustn’t always be monetary. Give your time, kindness, spiritual gifts, and what you’re able to out of a cheerful heart.
Do we really love God, or do we just love His benefits? What is fueling your prayer life? Yes, God rewards those that diligently seek Him, but those rewards shouldn’t be the reason that we come to Him. How would you feel if someone only came to you when they needed something? It’s not about what we can get from God, but rather, what we can do for Him. We must approach Him with a pure heart. God knows when He’s being used. He’s not a genie. Let your relationship with Him be sincere and not driven by ulterior motives. The perks are just additional bonuses. Seek Him first. Everything else will follow suit.
Food for thought: “By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, and honour, and life.” Proverbs 22:4