Editor: AMBASSADOR REVIEW does not intend to take a position on controversial theological issues. We are, however, publishing this thoroughly researched, theological article because of the insight it gives into the inner workings of the W.C.G. and Ambassador College.
For more than three years the Armstrongs and their evangelists have been deluged with over 40 research papers demonstrating that a Christian is NOT required, by the Bible, to give God a tenth of his gross (or net) monetary income. Many ministers, top headquarters administrators and department heads have come to understand the biblical theology of tithing and admit privately that the church has no proof or authority for requiring a tithe on monetary income. Unfortunately, the W.C.G. leaders have time and again refused to refute the new facts that have come to light, and they attempt to silence those who would spotlight their futile attempts to cover up this important new data. The W.C.G. leaders are guilty of “grave procedural errors” in dealing with the numerous papers on tithing. Even today they falsely claim the only questions about tithing are “administrative,” not doctrinal.
But why this article? Jesus said that when a number of people go to a brother, tell him his fault, and he still refuses to hear those people, then those people should take the matter directly to the church (Matt. 18:15-17; see also Acts 15:4,6 22-3). You who comprise the Church of God are seeing this long overlooked biblical principle put into practice before your very eyes. When you read the following facts distilled from the scores of papers presented to the W.C.G. Doctrinal Committee, you’ll see how simple it is to understand tithing. You’ll see information that has been suppressed and hidden from widows who can ill afford to tithe-vital information that has been withheld from thousands of members who are barely able to properly feed and clothe their families while paying over two-tenths of their income to the W.C.G. The following facts have been “held back” (Rom. 1:18) by W.C.G. leaders who seem to lack the faith to really believe that God rewards those who honestly seek him (read Heb. 11:6). Don’t take my word for it, read on and do your own research.
I. GENESIS 14:18-24. Abraham gave Melchizedek a tenth of the spoils from war.
Abraham gave Melchizedek a tenth of the spoils taken in battle (Heb. 7:4), but Abraham refused to keep the rest of them.
Abraham had not labored at any occupation to produce the goods he acquired in battle.
The Bible never shows Israel tithing on spoils of war. See Num. 31:9, 27-29 and find out what part of the spoils the Israelite soldiers gave God.
Nowhere does scripture ever say that Abraham was commanded to give Melchizedek a tenth of anything.
Abraham was the father of the faithful. If the fact that he gave a tenth of the spoils makes tithing obligatory for Christians, then the fact that he participated in battle means Christians can fight in war and probably should in order to be able to tithe on spoils as did Abraham. But nowhere does the Bible state that the personal actions of Abraham-or Joseph or Jeremiah-must be faithfully practiced by a Christian today.
II. GENESIS 28:20-22. Jacob vowed to give a tenth to God.
Nowhere does scripture say Jacob was required to tithe or give a tenth of his goods to God.
Nowhere does scripture state that tithing was a law in Jacob’s day.
Jacob made a personal vow to give God a tenth of all his goods if and on the condition that God would be with him and bless him.
III. LEVITICUS 27:30-33. Israel was required by the old covenant law to tithe on agricultural produce and livestock.
The Israelites were commanded to tithe solely on every tenth animal and on farming produce (Lev. 27:30-33).
Israel was never commanded to tithe on fish, milk, wool, or the money made from selling pottery, horses, carvings, furniture, books, clothes, construction work, etc.
Only the Levites could accept the Israelites’ tithes (Num. 18:21). The Levites then had to give a tenth of the tithes they received to the priests. (Read Num. 18:26-21 8 in the Jewish translation.)
The priests didn’t tithe.
The Israelites sent their tithes to the tabernacle or Temple (Deut. 12:5-6, 11 ). Every third year in a seven year cycle it appears that they retained their tithes in their cities for use by the poor, widows, strangers, Levites, etc. (Deut. 14:28-29). (See Jewish reference sources.)
Only landowners who were ranchers and/or farmers were commanded to tithe by the law of Moses (Lev. 27:30-33).
Every seventh year was a sabbatical year. No tithes were permissible in that year. (See under “tithe” in THE JEWISH ENCYCLOPEDIA, vol. 12, p. 151.)
The tithes were tithes only from the land of Palestine. The produce of Gentile lands was considered impure until certain rabbis allowed the tithes of a few Gentile lands to be accepted because so many Jews dwelled there. (See JUDAISM by George Moore, vol. II, pp. 70-71 and THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JESUS THE MESSIAH by Alfred Edersheim, vol. I. p. 9, et. al.)
IV. MALACHI 3:6-12. Malachi commands native Israelites of his day to tithe.
Malachi is writing to the Jewish nation returned from captivity (sons of Jacob-verse 6) in the time of Ezra-Nehemiah.
He is not addressing Christians today; verses 6-12 are not an end-time prophecy.
Again, the tithe Malachi is discussing is agricultural in nature. It was stored in a Temple storehouse (II Chron. 31:4-12; Neh. 10:38).
V. THE NEW TESTAMENT MINISTRY was supported solely by freewill offerings.
Christ told the Pharisees and scribes to tithe (Mat. 23:23). They were still under the Mosaic law at that time, the Temple still stood, and the Levites still ministered at the Temple. The Christian dispensation had not yet begun.
The scribes and Pharisees were said to be tithing on mint, cummin, and anise-all agricultural in nature.
The apostles couldn’t receive tithes because they weren’t Levites serving at the Temple. Most were Jewish. Jesus himself was Jewish (Heb. 7:12-14) and couldn’t accept tithes or he would have broken the law.
Jesus, the ministry, and the needy were supported and assisted by freewill offerings from church members not by tithes. (No doubt some gave 50% of their monetary income and others less than 1%. See Mat. 6:25-34; Luke 10:4-8; Acts 4:32-35, 20:33-35; II Cor. 8:2-15; 9:6-12; 11:8-9; I John 3:17-18.)
The N.T. ministry is NOT the Melchizedek priesthood, nor does Heb. 7 say it is.
Jesus is the only member of the “Melchizedek priesthood” (Heb. 7:24).
The change in the law (Heb. 7:12) refers to the priesthood being changed, not tithing being transferred to the New Testament ministry.
The fact that Heb. 7 mentions that Abraham tithed to Melchizedek does not prove that a Christian should tithe. This example was cited to illustrate the superiority of the Melchizedek priesthood over the Levitical priesthood.
I Cor. 9 shows that a minister has a right to earn a living from preaching the gospel, but it never says he can take tithes or demand a tenth of one’s net or gross monetary income.
THE CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA admits that tithing was first forced on Christians by the Council of Macon’s decision in 585.
Nowhere does the Bible, Jesus, or the apostles tell a Christian to tithe.
A man is worse than an infidel if he doesn’t provide for his family or relatives. (See I Tim. 5:8.)
Many W.C.G. ministers have admitted and written papers stating that in a number of cases it proved to be impossible for a head of a household to give one tenth of his gross monetary income and yet properly feed, clothe, and shelter his family, as well as accumulate a small savings for emergencies.
God never required a tithe on monetary income anywhere in the Bible.
Jesus told the Pharisees in Mat. 22:21 to “render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” This statement was made to Pharisees, not to Christians. Jesus did not say this meant that the Pharisee should tithe, nor did Jesus by taking a coin somehow imply a monetary tithe, because the law with which lie was very familiar never required any such thing.
VI. TITHING & CHURCH GOVERNMENT
Nowhere does the Bible say the church has the right to take an Old Testament law, delete part of it, reword it, twist it, and then require a Christian to keep the “new, improved” law.
Since the N.T. shows that the N.T. ministry was supported by freewill, voluntary offerings, the church has absolutely no right or authority to require Christians to give a tenth of their monetary income.
The church has no right to bind on members a rule or “law” that is in contradiction to God’s Word.
If a church can change God’s laws around and change N.T. church practices, then the Catholic church would also have the right to institute Easter, worship on Sunday, etc. Either God’s Word is the authority for tithing, or it isn’t. If it isn’t, then the church, by commanding monetary tithing, is following the commandments of men and perhaps worshipping God in vain.
The authority to bind and loose was given only to Peter and the original apostles-not to the church down to the end of the age. See Matt. 16: 16-19. And they had only the power to bind what had already been bound in heaven (see the William’s translation and the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE for the best overall rendering of these verses).
VII. VALUABLE SOURCES. Please refer to some of the following works on the subject of “tithes”.
THE CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA
NEW CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA
THE JEWISH ENCYCLOPEDIA
THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF JEWISH RELIGION
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF RELIGION AND ETHICS (Hastings)
UNGER’S BIBLE DICTIONARY
JUDAISM, vol. II, pp. 70-71 by George F. Moore
Almost all of the preceding facts were taken from the over 40 papers on tithing turned in to the top leaders of the W.C.G. during the last three years. As of May 1976, the W.C.G. leadership has still utterly refused either to openly acknowledge the existence of these facts or to disprove them. The recent tithing booklet was put out in spite of the fact that many of the members of the doctrinal committee didn’t agree with its contents. Since H.W.A. & G.T.A. have constantly preached to T.V. and radio audiences to not just believe them, but to compare what they say with their Bibles, surely they wouldn’t object to your examining the veracity of the objections to tithing which the W.C.G.’s top scholars have raised during the past two years-or would they?