Seventh-Day Adventists/Tithing

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Question
Dear Bro. Sal:

I know you don't believe in tithing as you don't believe in other SDA teachings such as God's Holy Sabbath. Yet tithing is clearly taught in the Bible and tithers will be blessed mightily by God. I have experienced this blessing in my own life. "Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return?  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" (Mal. 3:7-10). This is very clear that we are to bring our tithes to the storehouse which today is the church and we will be blessed. This passage is very clear and obvious. I must tell you that you are cursed and so are all those that you mislead into not tithing.

Bro. Bill

Answer
Dear Brother Bill:

I appreciate your enthusiasm for tithing. I'm glad that you were blessed. God blesses all who give willingly with a cheerful heart. However, these things do not change the biblical fact that tithing is not a New Covenant doctrine. It ceased to be necessary even for the Jews when the temple was destroyed in AD 70. "Why is that?",  you might ask. The answer is that the biblical tithe was used to support the tribe of Levi as they served their brethren in the temple. “I give to the Levites all the tithes in Israel as their inheritance in return for the work they do while serving at the tent of meeting" (Numbers 18:21 NIV). So once there was no place for the priests to offer sacrifices they no longer needed to be supported by the other tribes of Israel. There were actually three separate tithes--one for the tribe of Levi, one for the festivals to be celebrated in Jerusalem (cf. Deuteronomy 12:5-7; 14:22-23), and one for the poor (cf. Deuteronomy 26:12). However, you are only concerned with the tithe to the temple so I will likewise focus only on that one tithe as well. Many tithe payers do not realize that the biblical tithe was a tithe of food (produce of the land) not money. The priests and Levites did not receive a monetary tithe as tithe preachers call for today. That is why in the passage that you quoted God says, "that there may be meat in mine house." Meat is food not money. Some examples of Bibles that have "food" where the KJV has "meat" are NKJV, NIV, NASB, ASV, ESV, GNT, TLB, NLT, and YLT.



You believe that we must, like Israel, give our whole tithe to the church which you believe to be the temple of God. Many things are wrong with such a belief. First, Israel did not give the whole tithe to the temple. They gave their whole tithe to the Levites who in turn gave a tithe of the tithe to the temple.



"Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Moreover, you shall speak to the Levites and say to them, When you take from the sons of Israel the tithe which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall present an offering from it to the Lord, a tithe of the tithe.  Your offering shall be reckoned to you as the grain from the threshing floor or the full produce from the wine vat.  So you shall also present an offering to the Lord from your tithes, which you receive from the sons of Israel; and from it you shall give the Lord’s offering to Aaron the priest'" (Numbers 18:25-28 NASB).




Therefore, the people's whole tithe did not go to the storehouse of God. Only a tenth of their tithe or 1% went to the storehouse of God. The rest went to the Levitical cities. Would your pastor be satisfied with the congregation giving a "tithe" of 1% of their income? That is what Israel gave to the temple, 1% of their increase. Therefore, if you believe that Christians must give to the church as Israel gave to the temple then 1% is the biblical figure. Second, the church is not the temple of God. We born-again Christians are the temples of God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  "Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16 NASB; cf. 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16). Third, the tithe was only paid by those Israelites who farmed or had herds or flocks on the Promised Land. "Thus all the tithe of the land, of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord. If, therefore, a man wishes to redeem part of his tithe, he shall add to it one-fifth of it. For every tenth part of herd or flock, whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the Lord" (Leviticus 27:30-32 NASB).




It makes perfect sense that only a small portion (1%) of the Israelite's tithe would actually go to support the temple since only a small portion of the Levite men were actually priests or their assistances working in the temple at any given time. The vast majority of Levites lived in the Levitical cities (cf. Numbers 35:1-8; Joshua 21:1-8). The Levite men who did work in the temple, and consequently needed tithes for sustenance, were divided into 24 classes or divisions that worked one week rotations in the temple (cf. 2 Chronicles 23:8). I hope you can see that the tithe preachers requesting to be the recipients of your tithe today are not at all like the biblical tithe recipients of the Old Covenant. The tithe is an Old Covenant law and the church operates under the Holy Spirit not the written law. "He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life" (2 Corinthians 3:6 NIV). Christian giving should be willingly and cheerfully given not because of the legal requirements of some obsolete law (cf. Hebrews 8:13).




You state that those who do not pay tithes are cursed. The curse for not tithing is found in the Old Covenant Law (cf. Deuteronomy 27:26). We Christians have been saved from the curse of the Old Covenant Law by the blood of Christ. "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree'—" (Galatians 3:13 NRSV). We are not under the Old Covenant Law.  "But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law" (Galatians 5:18 NASB).   There are no New Covenant laws for tithing. There are no New Covenant curses for Christians who do not tithe. I believe it is common sense that Christians should support their church financially. However, as with the Sabbath issue, SDAs take an Old Covenant law for a specific time and a specific people and bring it over into the New Covenant without biblical support. They take the excellent ideas of devoting time to God and supporting one's church and go overboard making them necessary moral laws without biblical support.




There is not a single verse in the Bible that informs Christians that the church is now the storehouse of God. There is not a single verse in the Bible that informs Christians that we should bring our whole tithe to the church. The tithing doctrine as taught by Christian tithe preachers is a heresy. Such a doctrine is not found in the Bible and is contrary to what the New Testament teaches concerning Christian giving. Doesn't it make you wonder why with all the talk about Christian giving that is in the Bible why tithing is never mentioned in connection with Christians? Why doesn't any New Testament writer even incidentally mention that Christians should give a tithe to the church? Why are there no examples of Christians tithing? You may resort to the line used by some SDAs when confronted with the lack of a New Testament command for Christians to observe the 7th day Sabbath. "There's no command because everyone knew to observe the Sabbath/tithe." (In both the Sabbath and tithing issues non-Israelite converts are conveniently ignored.)  Did all Israelites know about tithing? Yes. Did all Israelites tithe? No. Why not? Precisely because they knew the God-ordained tithing requirements either forgotten or ignored by tithe preachers. Only Israelites who were farmers or herdsmen living on the Promised Land gave a tithe.




"Thus all the tithe of the land, of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord. If, therefore, a man wishes to redeem part of his tithe, he shall add to it one-fifth of it. For every tenth part of herd or flock, whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the Lord" (Leviticus 27:30-32 NASB).




Jesus, a carpenter (cf. Mark 6:3), never gave a tithe. Paul, a tent maker (cf. Acts 18:2-3), never gave a tithe. Their occupations did not produce the proper tithe offering--food. Selfish, greedy  preachers have promoted this unbiblical change in the tithe from food to money. Jesus in rebuking the Pharisees could have said the same thing to the tithe preachers of today.




"And he said to them, 'Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,


This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.' And he said to them, 'You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!'" (Mark 7:6-9 ESV).




For the tithe preachers I believe we could rewrite the last sentence to read,  "You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition of demanding 10% of all income be given to you!"




Tithe preachers have no biblical right to tell Christians how much they must give to the church. To do so is the exact opposite of Christian giving as expounded in the New Testament. Christians are not to feel compelled to give.  "Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:6-7 NIV). Here Paul gives us the essence of Christian giving: to give generously from a cheerful heart as the Holy Spirit leads. Sadly, some churches will not accept one as a member until he agrees to pay a tithe. Then they require a tax return so that they can determine how much they can compel him to give! These tithe preachers have failed to learn from Paul that Christian giving is not a legalistic set amount. Unfortunately, it is precisely its legalistic nature that attracts so many weak Christians to tithing. Indeed tithing which was once useful among the Israelites has become obsolete and outdated among Christians just as has the entire Old Covenant way.  "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).




Before taking a look at what I believe this passage means allow me to ask: Does it even make any sense for God to tell the Israelites to bring the whole tithe to the temple storehouse? God certainly was aware that the vast majority of those to whom He wanted the tithes to support lived outside of Jerusalem. Those Levites needed the tithes to sustain them. Wouldn't it be cruel of God to have the temple storehouse overflow with more food than the priests and their assistants could consume while allowing the women and children living in the Levitical cities to go hungry? Further, the priests and their assistants only served for about 2 weeks in a year or one week every 24 weeks. So they would have abundant food for those weeks at the temple, but have little the rest of the year. Does this make sense to you? Don't forget 9/10 of the people's tithe went not to the temple, but to the Levitical cities. Only 1/10 of the people's tithe went to the temple by way of the Levites tithe (cf. Numbers 18:25-28; Nehemiah 10:38-39).




So the question must be asked: Is your belief even viable in the face of the Bible truth?






7 “From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My statutes and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord of hosts. “But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ 8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the  Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows." (Malachi 3:7-10 NASB).




In v. 8 we learn that someone was robbing God of tithes and offerings. You believe that it was the people and that this should serve as a warning to Christians to tithe to the church. Yet the people never gave a tithe to the temple. It was the Levites who gave a tithe of what was tithed to them. "And the priest, the son of Aaron, shall be with the Levites when the Levites receive the tithes. And the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes to the house of our God, to the chambers of the storehouse" (Nehemiah 10:38 ESV). This means that the people actually gave only 1% of their increase to the temple and 9% to the Levitical cities. Again, would your preacher accept 1% of your income as an acceptable "tithe"?




"Then the  Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Moreover, you shall speak to the Levites and say to them, ‘When you take from the sons of Israel the tithe which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall present an offering from it to the Lord, a tithe of the tithe. Your offering shall be reckoned to you as the grain from the threshing floor or the full produce from the wine vat. So you shall also present an offering to the  Lord from your tithes, which you receive from the sons of Israel; and from it you shall give the Lord’s offering to Aaron the priest'" (Numbers 18:25-28 NASB).




Based on these Scriptures, "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse" cannot refer to the people. There are two viable interpretation as I see it. God may be speaking to the Levites who were not bringing their whole tithe to the temple storehouse. Since God mentions "tithes and offerings" in v. 8 it is possible that the people following the bad example of the Levites were neglecting their offerings to the temple as well. This interpretation seems to be supported by v. 9 where the whole nation is said to be cursed for robbing God. Although some say that "the whole nation of you" refers to the priestly nation not all Israel. Nonetheless, Scripture is clear that it was the Levites who gave their whole tithe ( "a tithe of the tithes") to the temple.  Therefore, God must be telling the Levites, and not the people, to bring their whole tithe to the storehouse of God. This fact alone seems to negate your belief that Christians must bring their whole tithe to the church or suffer a curse.    




The other probable interpretation is that the Levites did bring their whole tithe to the storehouse, but the priests were taking more than their fair share of the Levites' tithe. In other words, the priests were robbing the storehouse. This interpretation is supported by the context of Malachi. In this book the priests are rebuked by God for their corruption. In chapter one the prophet begins denouncing the priests for dishonoring God.  “A son honors his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the Lord Almighty. “It is you priests who show contempt for my name. “But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’" (v. 6 NIV).  He goes on to say that the priests were offering blind, sickly, and lame animals for sacrifice (v. 8). This was strickly forbidden by the Law (cf. Leviticus 1:3, 10; Deuteronomy 17:1). God wishes that there was at least one righteous priest to put a halt to the unacceptable offerings (v. 10). Then we learn that the priests have been stealing from the tithes. "You also say, ‘My, how tiresome it is!’ And you disdainfully sniff at it,” says the  Lord of hosts, “and you bring what was taken by robbery and what is lame or sick; so you bring the offering! Should I receive that from your hand?” says the  Lord (v. 13 NASB). Malachi continues to announce God's disdain for the priests into chapter two (vs. 1-2). God next compares the priests to Levi showing how corrupt they have become (vs. 4-9). He labels them as hypocrites for presenting unacceptable offerings and then crying when God does not accept their offering that they know is unacceptable (v. 13). Malachi continues to highlight the short comings of the priests in chapter three. They need to be purified and offer sacrifice (vs. 3-4). They are likened to sorcerers, adulterers, and perjurers (v. 5). They do evil to workers, widows, orphans, and strangers (v. 5).  Then follows the passage that we are considering (vs. 7-10). So the context of Malachi is the cursing of the evil priests. That is why some see v. 9 as referring to the priestly nation and not all Israel. "You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you!"




Many believe Nehemiah was a contemporary of Malachi. If so, he lends credence to the belief of those who see the priests as the target of God's righteous anger in Malachi 3:7-10. Nehemiah learned on his return to Jerusalem that the Levites had left working in the temple and returned home due to the lack of tithed food.  







"I also learned that the portions assigned to the Levites had not been given to them, and that all the Levites and musicians responsible for the service had gone back to their own fields.  So I rebuked the officials and asked them, 'Why is the house of God neglected?' Then I called them together and stationed them at their posts.  All Judah brought the tithes of grain, new wine and olive oil into the storerooms" (Nehemiah 13:10-12 NIV).




It may be that the priests were stealing the portion of the tithes that belonged to their Levitical assistants. Note that Nehemiah mentions that the Levites and the musicians left the temple due to lack of food, but the priests are not mentioned. Perhaps this is because the priests had stolen the portions of the tithe that were meant for the Levites and the musicians. Admittedly, this situation narrated by Nehemiah is not exactly the same as in Malachi 3, but it is similar. So we do have at least some support from else where in the Bible for the priests being the ones who were robbing God in Malachi 3:9.




I have presented much Bible evidence for you to consider. I hope that at the very least you see that this passage is not so "very clear and obvious" as you originally thought. To sum up: Malachi 3:7-10 gives no support for mandatory Christian tithing. Like Sabbath-keeping, tithing is optional for Christians. The Old Covenant people of God did not give a tithe to the temple. Only the Levites tithed to the temple and they gave only a "tithe of the tithe"; therefore, actually only 1% of the people's "income" went to the temple. Remember, too, that all Israelites did not tithe only the Israelites who made a living off of the Promised Land; i.e. farmers, and those with livestock paid a tithe. This in no way translates into all Christians being required to pay a tithe to the church. If a preacher wants to teach that Christians must give 10% of their income to the church he should not use Malachi 3:7-10 as a proof text. To do so is to be at best ignorant and at worst a willful deceiver with ulterior motives.  




One final thought, this passage in Malachi is the premier text that tithe preachers turn to in support of Christian tithing 10% of their income to the church. I find it interesting that while tithe preachers find this passage eminently important not one New Testament writer ever quotes or refers to it in support of Christian tithing. The reason for this big difference is that the early church did not promote tithing. To say that it did is to fly in the face of the Bible and Church history. The early church followed Paul's lead concerning Christian giving which is free will offerings from the heart as the Holy Spirit leads not a legalistic set amount. Every tithe preacher should heed the words of Peter.  "Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers-not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve" (1 Peter 5:2 NIV '84).

God Bless You,
Brother Sal





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Sal

Expertise

I am privileged to be able to offer an alternative insight into the complicated world of Seventh-Day Adventists (SDA) theology. I will rely heavily on the Bible, but will also consider history and use logic in exposing deficiencies in SDA teachings. I would ask anyone who is considering becoming a SDA or if you are already in the SDA church, but are searching for the truth, to please allow me to offer a different explanation for the claims of the SDA. Remember : "The truth will set you free" (John 8:32). I can answer your questions pertaining to the beliefs and history of the SDA. I am not able to answer questions concerning spirituality or church discipline.

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I have extensively studied the theology of the Seventh-Day Adventists (SDA) for a number of years. I have many books and tape sets produced by experts in this field of study. I have debated current members of the SDA church. I have a great desire to help these people see the truth.

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M.S. degree in Food, Nutrition, and Dietetics

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