The first recorded offerings to the Lord were always freewill offerings. Even the tithe of Abraham to Melchizedek, and the tithe of Jacob, were freewill offerings. And these all took place hundreds of years before the Law of Moses.
Now, according to the Law of Moses:
- Only free will offerings were allowed to be used for the building of the house of God.
- The tithe offering (a tenth of your increase) was instituted and required of everyone principally to support the Temple workers, and to support the whole tribe of Levi in the rest of their spiritual responsibilities to the children of Israel.
- Note: the offerings for the poor were included in the tithe.
- Also note: Even those who received the tithe, also paid tithes of what they received.
Of a certainty, the full gospel of Jesus Christ did away with the old Mosaic law, because all things were fulfilled through the love of Christ and the Holy Spirit inspiring the heart and soul. The many requirements of the Mosaic Law were laid aside for the gentiles by the early Apostles and elders of the church in Acts 15. At that time they decided only four requirements were necessary for the gentiles, and tithing was not one of the four requirements.
But did Jesus Christ or his Apostles and disciples do away with free will offerings? Nothing in the New Testament would come close to implying that.
Let’s look at the first offering ever designated by God himself. He specified that it could only be accepted from a willing heart.
“Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering.” ~ Exodus 25:2
Coercion, fear, requirements for ministerial office, or desiring to be socially accepted amongst Christians, should never be the motivation for any offering to the Lord! God will not bless that offering nor accept it. Therefore a minister that cares about the spiritual welfare of the people and the work, should always direct the people to give of their free will, from the heart. Just as they should do with all their worship and service to God.
“And Moses spake unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying, This is the thing which the Lord commanded, saying, Take ye from among you an offering unto the Lord: whosoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it, an offering of the Lord; gold, and silver, and brass, And blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats’ hair, And rams’ skins dyed red, and badgers’ skins, and shittim wood, And oil for the light, and spices for anointing oil, and for the sweet incense, And onyx stones, and stones to be set for the ephod, and for the breastplate. And every wise hearted among you shall come, and make all that the Lord hath commanded;” ~ Exodus 35:4-10
“And they came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing, and they brought the Lord’s offering to the work of the tabernacle of the congregation, and for all his service, and for the holy garments. And they came, both men and women, as many as were willing hearted, and brought bracelets, and earrings, and rings, and tablets, all jewels of gold: and every man that offered offered an offering of gold unto the Lord.” ~ Exodus 35:21-22
“The children of Israel brought a willing offering unto the Lord, every man and woman, whose heart made them willing to bring for all manner of work, which the Lord had commanded to be made by the hand of Moses.” ~ Exodus 35:29
A willing sacrifice will always be sufficient for the Lord’s purpose. Others may coerce money from their congregants, and may build a large following with many buildings and other benefits. But it will not accomplish what the Lord intended in the hearts of the souls.
A true revival of holiness, only comes from those laboring together with a willing heart. And the consecration of individuals and a ministry is only possible through a completely willing heart. God will not force himself on anyone. These things come from the free will love offerings: in worship, in teaching, in ministering, and also in financial/prosperity offerings of any kind.
This standard of free will offerings from the heart, never changed! Even many years later after the Israelites returned to their homeland from Babylon, they still practiced their offerings this way.
“And afterward offered the continual burnt offering, both of the new moons, and of all the set feasts of the Lord that were consecrated, and of every one that willingly offered a freewill offering unto the Lord.” ~ Ezra 3:5
“And to carry the silver and gold, which the king and his counsellors have freely offered unto the God of Israel, whose habitation is in Jerusalem, And all the silver and gold that thou canst find in all the province of Babylon, with the freewill offering of the people, and of the priests, offering willingly for the house of their God which is in Jerusalem:” ~ Ezra 7:15-16
The Mosaic Law required tithing by commandment. And the tithe was specifically identified for the “ongoing” regular support of the Levitical ministry, and the poor.
“And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s: it is holy unto the Lord. And if a man will at all redeem ought of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof. And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord.” ~ Leviticus 27:30-32
The children of Israel were commanded to give a tithe to the tribe of Levi, to support them in all the work responsibilities that they had. This was so that the tribe of Levi would not become entangled in their own support, and then leave off their responsibilities to the Lord’s work.
“And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.” ~ Numbers 18:21
And from that tithe that the tribe of Levi received, they themselves were also to offer a tithe to the Lord.
“Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, When ye take of the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then ye shall offer up an heave offering of it for the Lord, even a tenth part of the tithe. And this your heave offering shall be reckoned unto you, as though it were the corn of the threshingfloor, and as the fulness of the winepress. Thus ye also shall offer an heave offering unto the Lord of all your tithes, which ye receive of the children of Israel; and ye shall give thereof the Lord’s heave offering to Aaron the priest.” ~ Numbers 18:26-28
The tithe was not just for giving to the Levitical ministry, but also to have something to give the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow – “within thy gates”
“When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase the third year, which is the year of tithing, and hast given it unto the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled” ~ Deuteronomy 26:12
So it is apparent that the tithe is focused on maintaining the “ongoing” work. Whereas the earlier mention of the offerings were for things beyond that: special needs, construction of the house of the Lord, etc.
Now, as mentioned earlier, prior to the Mosaic Law, Abraham willingly gave a tithe to the Lord.
“For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually. Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.” ~ Hebrews 7:1-4
Jacob followed his grandfather’s example and also vowed to give a tenth of his increase to the Lord.
“And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God: And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.” ~ Genesis 28:20-22
Now what did Jesus teach concerning tithing?
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.” ~ Matthew 23:23-24
It is clear from this scripture, when comparing the importance of things contained within the Law, tithing was of smaller consequence when compared to: judgement, mercy, and faith.
“But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” ~ Luke 11:42
Jesus used tithing to draw a comparison of importance. But in drawing that comparison he made sure they understood that he was not undercutting the Law to imply that tithing was not important.
But by this comparison, did Jesus say what he did, so that we would today consider tithing a commandment of the New Testament, like as it was in the Old Testament? There is nothing after his death and resurrection that would imply that to be so. Nor any record of the Apostles and disciples practicing tithing, while working with the Gentiles.
Now if we are to take this one incident where he used tithing to draw a comparison of importance, and make it into a New Testament commandment: what about the other parts of the Law that Jesus practiced and required? Should we not be consistent? Can we pick and choose what we want or think is important today from the Law of Moses?
Is this next part of the Law of Moses still part of a New Testament commandment? Do we offer a gift before a priest of Levi for this type of healing?
“And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.” ~ Matthew 8:3-4
Jesus certainly practiced the Law of Moses, but he also further taught us that he himself was the fulfillment of the Law.
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” ~ Matthew 5:17-19
But what does he mean when he says “I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill”? What is he fulfilling? It is important for us to understand this!
Man was originally created in God’s image: holy and pure from the contamination of sin in the heart.
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” ~ Genesis 1:26-27
That image is a spiritual one, not physical, because God is a Spirit. So it is talking about the spiritual righteousness of God’s very character. God created man with the same righteous character as himself. But man fell through giving into the temptations of Satan. Sinful selfish desires became the principal motivation of man’s heart after that. Therefore the Mosaic Law had to be added many years after the fall of man, to constrain the sin that was working within the heart.
“Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.” ~ Galatians 3:19
So the Law was given to constrain sin in man. But yet the Law was still based on righteous spiritual principles from almighty God.
“Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.” ~ Romans 7:12-14
And we know that Jesus came to change the inner man, and not to constrain sin by outer commandments. But rather to change the very heart inside man to make it pure and holy, so that from the heart we would willingly choose to do what we know to be right.
“因此，若有人在基督里，他就是新造的人：旧事已过；看哪，一切都变成新的了。” ~ 2 哥林多前书 5:17
So the specific letter of the Law is not what we are supposed to minister today. But rather the principles of the Law working in the heart, by the Spirit of God within us.
“谁也使我们成为新约的能干传道人；不是出于文字，而是出于精神：因为文字可以杀人，但精神可以赋予生命。” ~ 2 哥林多前书 3:6
So the Law is actually based on spiritual principles. And because Christ is the fulfillment of the Law in man: man now lives by the spiritual principles of the law working within the heart, and no longer by the letter of the Law through commandments.
For clarity, here is the definition of the word “principle”:
“a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning. (Example: The principle behind why we do what we do.)”
The principles behind the Mosaic Law have now been transferred into our hearts through Jesus Christ!
“For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” ~ John 1:17
“Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart.” ~ 2 Corinthians 3:3
And so these principles transferred into our hearts, cause us to willingly want, of our own freewill, to support the work of God.
And we are taught both in the Old Testament, and the New Testament, that if we do not willingly provide for the work of the Lord, we will not prosper.
“Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. 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.” ~ Malachi 3:8-10
Yes, there is even a promise here in the Old Testament, and also in the New Testament, of blessings for those who willingly from the heart give offerings to support the work of the Lord.
“But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever.” ~ 2 Corinthians 9:6-9
So today the Law of the tithe commandment has passed away with the Mosaic Law. But the principle behind the Law of tithing lives on. And the principles underlying the Mosaic Law relating to tithes are: fair, equal, balanced, and time proven.
- A fair method: as only a tenth of what everyone has received, whether we receive much or little.
- An equality method: as all are equal in Christ Jesus, no matter if one person’s tithe is bigger than the other person’s tithe.
- A balanced method: when given willingly and by faith and not coercion, it is a balanced amount that most can afford.
- A proven method: for the local community of the saints to support both the ministry, and the needs of the poor. Unless there are catastrophic circumstances or persecution, a local congregation will have all of their support needs met through regular tithing (and then still have some left over to help others).
Of a certainty, the New Testament teaches us that we should give offerings to support the Christian work and the needs of the poor. And the reality is, anyone laboring with all they’re heart for the Lord, will often find themselves giving beyond a tenth. Because they are being motivated by the needs that the Holy Spirit shows them, and not just a mathematical formula for calculating their giving.
Now as part of a foundation for teaching Christian freewill offerings, the principles behind tithing do provide us understanding in an effective, balanced, and time-proven way to support the financial needs of a local Christian work. But we must always allow the Christian to give the amount according to what their faith takes in under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Always allow them the liberty to freely do what they understand, and what their faith takes in, from their heart!
Now of a certainty the Apostle Paul spoke clearly about a minister’s need to be supported by the local congregation. But his Epistles about this topic were to the gentiles, and it is interesting that he never made reference to tithing when talking about it. Although he did refer to the principles of the Law that teach us that we should support the Ministry.
“Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working? Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.” ~ 1 Corinthians 9:6-14
Additionally, the Apostle Paul gave directions to the gentile churches on how to gather an offering for those in need. In this particular case, it was for the Christian Jews in Jerusalem who were suffering greatly under persecution for their Christian testimony.
“Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem.” ~ 1 Corinthians 16:1-3
Notice they were to prepare the offering “as God hath prospered him…” But there was no mention that it should be at least a tenth according to a tithe. It would seem if the Apostle Paul was intending on establishing the enforcement of the tithe as the global all time standard for the church, that he certainly would have mentioned it here. Because he was asking them to take the offering based on how God had prospered each of them.
Also remember that Paul was specifically sent to the gentiles to preach the gospel. And even when he was sent by the Apostles, they requested of Paul that he would ask the gentiles for an offering for the suffering Christians in Jerusalem. But again there is no context of a tithe being part of this request.
“And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.” ~ Galatians 2:9-10
Now for a certainty, the first Christians were Jews, who also followed the Law. The Bible is clear on this both from the gospels and from Acts. So that being the case, the first Christians definitely tithed and gave offerings. But, because of the general persecution that the Jewish Christians received, many of them from the heart gave all that they had. So the giving of a tithe was essentially a moot issue with them. From the heart they were directly answering the call of Holy Ghost for the then critical need.
“And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” ~ Acts 4:32-37
But it was also evident, by this actual example documented in Acts, that they were free to give as they were led of the Lord. They were not to do it for show or pretense. So right after this movement of giving from the heart began, there were some who wanted to be seen as part of this heart movement, but they really were not being moved from the heart. They were being moved to be seen and recognized by the others.
“But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.” ~ Acts 5:1-11
What this shows us is that when the people are moved of their own will, from the heart, that the actual presence of the Holy Spirit himself will keep pretenders from being able to “slip in” amongst God’s people. This is why the people should always be taught and allowed to move by the faith they have, willingly from the heart. Any other pressure method will cause people to make moves out of fear, rather than faith. So this means we do not look down upon someone who does not have the faith to make a certain move for the Lord, including tithes and offerings. And we do not find fault with any other congregations of people who do not practice their offerings the same way we would. What we give to the Lord and how we give to the Lord, should never be a comparison issue!
This is why it is counter productive for a minister to try to implement and protect righteousness in the local congregation via the strong letter of commandments or human fear. Because the people will then only learn to move by commandment and human fear. And the presence of God’s Holy Spirit will become distant from that local congregation. God is love. Expressions of love towards God from the heart is what attracts God and brings God close to us! Nurturing this kind of divine love from the heart, is what will protect righteousness in the local congregation! It is also what will bring revival in the church.
Now concerning supporting missionary work (of whom Paul was a missionary) we also have direction and examples from Paul’s writings.
“I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service. And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself.” ~ 2 Corinthians 11:8-9
So in this special case, the Apostle Paul had other congregations supporting him as he labored temporarily in breaking new ground among the Corinthians. This was not money sent under the control of a missionary board, with strings of control attached. This was a free-will offering, with confidence in the Apostle Paul to use under the direction of the Holy Spirit. And this was a case by case situation, because there were other times when people took Paul into their home and provided for his needs while he labored among them. And there were other times that the Apostle Paul labored himself, to pay for his own support needs.
But what is clear from all the New Testament (including Paul’s writings) is that the people who received the gospel in the missionary fields of labor, we’re all taught to take up their own offerings to support their own local ministerial needs. Unless there was a special need, a catastrophe, or persecution, every local congregation was to take up their own offerings to support their own local work.
There are actually a number of important spiritual reasons why a local congregation, (no matter how rich or poor), should learn to support themselves on a regular basis, through the freewill offerings of the members of that same local congregation.
As stated before, the freewill offering is part of each individual’s spiritual faith, as yet another way for them to show their love devotion to God and his purpose. This will draw them closer to God as a congregation, and will cause them to more keenly have an ear to hear the specific directions the Holy Spirit has for them.
Regular support offerings coming from outside the local congregation, will tend to create a weak spiritual connection with God. The local Ministry and congregation will tend to look to that outside support source for their spiritual direction, instead of learning to wait on the direction from the Holy Ghost themselves.
So in summary:
- All offerings, whether it is considered a tithe offering, or a special offering, or any other type of offering to the Lord: should be done by faith, and of the freewill, from the heart.
- In the giving of offerings, no individuals should be compared to one another, and no congregations should be compared to one another.
- The members of each local congregation should provide offerings to support the local work.
- Special offerings typically would be given and used for special needs or projects locally, or in other places including supporting the needs of: missionary workers breaking into new territory, catastrophes, and persecutions.