Seventh-Day Adventists/Abraham's Tithing
I’m not surprised that you deny tithing just as you do God’s Holy Sabbath. Both practices are essential for true Christianity. Abraham’s tithing in Genesis 14 is highly instructive to the discerning Christian but you completely missed this. I just wanted to make you aware of this.
God bless, Samuel
Dear Brother Samuel:
Let’s look at Abraham’s tithing to Melchizedek and see what we can discern from this short passage.
“And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. He blessed him and said, ‘Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.’ He gave him a tenth of all” (Genesis 14:18-20 NASB).
Let’s note that Abraham did not give any of his personal wealth. He only gave a tenth of the spoils of war to Melchizedek. This fact is confirmed by the New Testament witness. “Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils” (Hebrews 7:4 NKJV). Abraham ultimately gave away 100% of what he had recovered. He gave Melchizedek 10% and the king of Sodom 90% minus what Abraham’s warriors ate and the portion of the spoils that rightfully belonged to his allies (see Genesis 14:24). This passage describes what occurred not what Christians must do. In other words, this passage is descriptive not prescriptive.
Further Abraham’s “tithe” was a one-time event. We never hear of Abraham offering a second tithe. Christians are often told to tithe weekly or monthly; however, that is not the example set by the Bible. Abraham gave a one-time offering to Melchizedek. Christians are told to give a tithe of their personal income. Abraham’s example is to give a tenth of acquired property not personal income.
Do you believe that the inspired writers of the New Testament were discerning Christians? If so, it should be very informative to realize that the New Testament writers never taught tithing. We have no letters from apostles giving instructions on tithing for the Church. Even the Jewish Christians were not instructed to continue tithing nor were they told to now give their tithe instead to the apostles or other church leaders. The reason for this is that the early Church viewed tithing as an Old Covenant practice whose usefulness was outdated once the New Covenant arrived. I suggest that Christians today should view tithing in the same way, as an obsolete Old Covenant practice. “By calling this covenant ‘new,’ he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear” (Hebrews 8:13 NIV).
Let’s note, too, that even Moses never used what he wrote in Genesis 14:18-20 to support tithing under the Old Covenant. This is indeed astounding if the Abraham/Melchizedek incident was as important evidence for tithing as you and other Christian tithers believe.
Let’s review. Abraham gave 10% of what he had won in battle to the priest-king Melchizedek. Abraham actually gave away all that he had won in battle. He gave 0% of his own income or property. He only gave this “tithe” once. Do these facts support Christian tithing? Christians are told to give 10% of their income to the church on a regular basis. In all honesty does the Abraham/Melchizedek incident in any way support this practice?
Let me mention that I do believe that Christians should support the Church. However, we should support not with a required tithe, but freely out of a grateful heart. “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7 NASB). Christians are not required to tithe in order to support the Church, but to give as one has been blessed. “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income…” (1 Corinthians 16:2 NIV).
One final point often overlooked in the discussion of Genesis 14:18-20 is what actually is the point of chapter 14? Since this is the only mention of tithing prior to the Exodus those who promote tithing often focus on vs. 18-20. The point of chapter 14 is actually found in vs. 21-23.
“The king of Sodom said to Abram, ‘Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself.’ Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘I have sworn to the Lord God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, ‘I have made Abram rich’” (NASB).
The point of the chapter is not Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek that incident only sets up the main point which is Abraham’s faithfulness to Yahweh. Abraham refused to accept the king of Sodom’s offer to keep all the property taken in the victory over the four kings. Instead he gave it all away and he trusted in God to provide all he needed.
In conclusion, the Abraham/Melchizedek incident does not lend support to Christian tithing. The New Testament is clear that Christians are not under any compulsion to give a tithe. However, this should not be used in any way to avoid supporting the Church financially if one is able. This passage does not teach us Christian tithing. It does, however, teach us to emulate Abraham’s complete faith in God.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
God Be With You,