The Bondage of Legalism

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. –Col 2:8

imagesThere are many traditions that our modern-day church follows and teach that were never taught by the early church. These traditions are made into laws and enforced throughout many denominations. These traditions become laws that are more important then they need to be. This is known as legalism. One of these legalistic traditions is called tithing.

Tithing as taught today basically means ten. It basically means that you take one tenth of your gross income before you pay taxes, and give it to God by giving that income to the local church. It is taught that if you do not do this then you are robbing God of what rightfully belongs to him. Therefore you are a thief. You are stealing from God. This belief is part of the foundation behind the prosperity gospel. As we will soon discover, there is no biblical principle found in the scriptures that support this belief.

There are no examples of this anywhere in the New Testament. Any scripture that is used to falsely support this narative has been taken out of context from the Old Testament. It is important to note that you won’t find one example of this doctrine among the early church. In fact, you won’t find tithing at all in the first 500 years of church history. So if this is the case then where did tithing come from? Why is it taught today? And what scriptures are used to support it?

Tithing in the Old Testament was always based on the harvest of crops. It was never based on money. Money was used in the Old Testament, but it was never tithed. Tithing as taught today is only found under the law. It was done to help the poor. It was also done because the Levites had no inheritance. It was a means of support for the priests. To accomplish all this there where actually four separate tithes from the harvest not one. Many scriptures are taken out of context to try to prove that tithing existed outside of the law found in the Old Testament. I am going to cover just a few of them.

stop tithingThe first claim of tithing by some modern-day ministers is found in the story of Adam. It is said that when Adam ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. By doing this he was robbing God of the tithe. This erroneous teaching goes on to declare that the original sin was actually stealing the tithe from God!

First and foremost there is no scripture to back up this claim and proper hermeneutics is never used to support this belief. You cannot add meaning to the scripture and make it say something it was never intended to say. There is nothing about the tithe ever taught with the original sin found in scripture. In Fact, God told Adam he could eat from any tree except that one tree. I happen to believe the Garden of Eden was a big place and it had a lot more than ten trees! This false doctrine originated from so-called ministers who rob the poor of their money and then they turn around and buy multi-million dollar jets to fly around in!

The next scripture used to try to prove tithing outside of the law is found in Genesis. The claim is that Abraham paid tithe.

Gen 14:18  And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.

Gen 14:19  And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth:

Gen 14:20  And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all. –KJV

A little study into this will reveal many things. First Abraham did not give a tithe from his own personal harvest, possessions, or money. Abraham went to war on behalf of his nephew lot. There were five kings that were conquered and Lot was carried off. When Abraham defeated those kings he took most of the spoils from that battle and returned them to their rightful owners. While he did give Melchizedek 10 percent, he gave the other kings 90 percent. He gave everyone back their stuff. The important point is none of the stuff Abraham gave away belonged to him and it did not come from his harvest.

Gen 14:22  And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth,

Gen 14:23  That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich:

Gen 14:24  Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion. –KJV

The next scripture used in a feeble attempt to try to prove tithing outside of the law is also found in Genesis

Gen 28:20  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,

Gen 28:21  So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God:

Gen 28:22  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. -KJV

This is a scripture used to claim that Jacob paid tithes in spite of the fact that there is no record in the bible that Jacob ever paid these so-called tithes. This is Jacob bargaining with God. He is trying to make a deal with God, and he places conditions on this tithe

  • 1. If God is with me
  • 2. If God will keep me safe
  • 3. If God will give me bread to eat
  • 4. If God gives me Clothes, (Raiment)
  • 5. If I come to my father’s house in peace.

Then I will give God 10 percent. All this happened 20 years later with no record of Jacob ever giving this tithe.

This is a much different attitude then what is taught about the tithe. Jacob is saying if God blesses me and meets these conditions then and only then I will give him 10 percent. That is the direct opposite of the way the tithe is taught in the church. The church says give ten percent to God and you will be blessed. Jacob says If God blesses me I will give ten percent.

It is important to note that Jacob is not talking about taking 10 percent of his money or crops and giving those things to a priest. Jacob is talking about making an animal sacrifice to God. In Abraham’s example he gave ten percent to someone else who was a king and a priest. In this example Jacob is talking about sacrificing 10 percent of his animals to God. He never did this. This is not the tithe as taught by the modern day church and this example is invalid.

That means that the tithe can only be found under the law and it suffered the same fate as circumcision. It was never practiced by the early church. Under the law there were 4 tithes. The first tithe was 10 percent of the harvest. It went to the Levites because they had no inheritance. The second tithe was 10 percent of the first tithe. It went to the family of Arron. They were priests and they received ten percent of the ten percent or one percent. The third tithe was another 10 percent of the harvest. It was meant to provide for the feasts and holiday festivals. An additional tithe of the harvest was taken every three years and it was for the poor. It was distributed by the Levites. We see a grand total of twenty three percent, not ten! In addition to this the farmers could not harvest the corners of their land. They had to leave that for the poor. So in total you see anywhere from twenty five to thirty percent of the harvest gone from the land owners. And in addition to this every 6 years they had to let the land rest.

Just how does this relate to giving ten percent of your gross income to the church today? The obvious answer is it doesn’t! If you attend a church then it is important to support that church financially. I give my church weekly financial gifts to help meet their needs. Their mission is to spread the gospel and they have physical needs. That is a noble thing to support, but you are not robbing God if you do not give ten percent of your gross income to the church. That is a legalistic and false doctrine. It places undo condemnation upon those who cannot afford to pay 10 percent and it brings bondage and separation from God! That is why this teaching is so dangerous.

Are we to believe that once you become a Christian your salvation will only cost you ten percent of your income for the rest of your life? Salvation is a free gift. The doctrine of tithing really cheapens this free gift that no human on earth could ever possibly afford. If you want to read the detailed research behind all of this, then click on the links below.

Tithing Part 1

Tithing Part 2

Tithing Part 3