A CLOSER LOOK AT TITHING
By: Victor T. Stephens
"People often claim to hunger for truth, but seldom like the taste when it's served up."
~ George R.R. Martin
OLD TESTAMENT TITHING PRIOR TO THE MOSAIC LAW
The only instructions to tithe which we find in Scripture are in relation to the Mosaic Law that God gave to the nation of Israel. The Law of Moses was never applicable to Gentiles and the new covenant church. Proponents of tithing, however, claim that giving ten percent of one's income to God is a divine commandment that predated the Mosaic Law; thus it is still applicable today for Christians under the new covenant. Advocates of pre-law tithing use the accounts of Abram's and Jacob's tithe (Gen. 14:20, 28:22) to support their argument.
In addition, in their frantic attempt to coerce believers to pay tithes, some church leaders have the temerity to use passages of scripture that have no connection with tithing to endorse tithing for the new covenant church. For example, in order to fortify their beloved tithing doctrine, it has been alleged that "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil", as well as "fat portions" of livestock delineates a tithe. Beginning with Adam and Eve, let's now examine these accounts.
Adam and Eve: The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil
Let's takes a look at the following two passages:
Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." (Gen. 2:15-17)
Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.' “Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. (Gen. 3:1-6)
Since Adam was put in the Garden of Eden to work it, the claim by some pastors is that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil represented a tithe. In his article, "The Tithing Question", Word-Faith teacher Creflo Dollar states:
"We see a representation of tithing even as far back as the Garden of Eden. God told Adam that he could eat of any tree except one because it belonged to Him. Likewise, a portion of all our income belongs to God."
Such allegations by Mr. Dollar and other tithing proponents are a convenient assumption at best and twisted logic at worst. Other than being used as a test of Adam and Eve's obedience, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil has absolutely nothing to do with tithing. The Bible gives no indication in this account, or in any other passage, that this specific tree was one tree out of ten. However, there is a similarity in this account with today's tithing doctrine. In the same manner that Satan duped Eve to believe that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a source of supreme power for attaining infinite knowledge of good and evil, his (Satan's) ministers today are redefining the "tree" once more to manipulate, deceive, and defraud well-meaning Christians.
Unfortunately, many Christians are much too trusting, and will believe anyone who preaches from the pulpit without considering there are many false teachers in today's church (2 Peter 2:1 -3, 1 John 4:1). Like the Bereans, becoming more cognizant and skilled in biblical interpretation is the greatest defense believers can use against Satan's deceptive tactics.
It is a sad reality, however, that some readers will dismiss the truth because they are more intent on protecting the reputation of their church and pastor than on accepting the truth of Scripture.
The Offerings of Abel and Cain
The first time an offering is mentioned in the Bible is illustrated in the forth chapter of Genesis. When Abel and Cain presented their offerings to God, the Lord accepted Abel's while Cain's was repudiated.
Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. So the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?" (Gen. 4:2-6)
Some pastors use this account in their attempt to affirm the continuity of paying monetary tithes in today's church age. They claim that Abel gave in the correct manner (a tithe) to the Lord because he brought the "fat portions from some of the first-born." Cain's offering was rejected because he refused to bring the "fat" (tithe) of his income.
What we have here is more proof of scriptural hijacking by leaders in the church. They are reading a meaning into the text that fits their agenda or theological bias. It is evident that there is not a clue to the amount given by Abel and Cain; nor do we find anywhere in the scriptures where "fat portions" of flocks are equivalent to a tithe.
Cain was agriculturalist and Abel was a herdsman. After a period of time, Abel and Cain brought offerings corresponding to the labor of their occupations. Take note of the distinctions here: Abel brought "fat portions from some of the firstborn ....", whereas Cain brought "some of the fruits...." The dissimilarity between the two offerings is that Cain refused to bring some of the better of his first ripened harvest.
God found pleasure in Abel's offering because its quality was a reflection of his faith (Heb. 11:4, 6). By contrast, the Lord rejected Cain's offering because its inferior quality indicated that he had a lack of faith and possessed an evil and greedy disposition (1 John 3:12; Jude 1:11).
Many teachers in the church also attempt to define first-born and firstfruits as synonymous with tithes. Likened to "fat portions", these terms are misconstrued. Firstborn and first-fruits are some of the first offspring of animals or humans and some of the first premium ripened fruits, vegetables, and grains respectively. There is no specific percentage regarding the giving of firstborn and firstfruits.