The Law of the Tithe
Dr. Stephen E. Jones
The tithe is meant to be the nation's tax system to support God's Kingdom government on the earth. However, in a time of captivity, such as when Judah was taken captive to Babylon, the law can only be applied a little differently. Also, God's Kingdom has not had a political manifestation for many centuries. And so we must apply the law of tithing a little differently according to the spirit of the law.
First, the law of tithe is based upon God's ownership of the earth, which He created in 6 days. Genesis 1:1 says, "In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth."
Because God created all things, He therefore OWNS everything that He created. When God set up His kingdom under Moses and Joshua, giving Canaan to the tribes of Israel, He said in Lev. 25:23, "The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me."
God does not really give anyone land. God merely gives men the privilege of inhabiting His land and working the land to produce food or other things. Their privilege is conditional upon their obedience to His laws. If they violate those conditions, God has every right to disenfranchise them and to bring others in as laborers in His land. For this reason, God disenfranchised Israel (745-721 B.C.) and later Judah (604-586 B.C.). Judah was allowed to return after 70 years, but again it was under God's terms and conditions.
When God disenfrancised Judah, He expected them to submit to His judgment. Jeremiah 24 speaks of "good figs" and "evil figs." The good figs were those of Judah who submitted to God's judgment and went to Babylon. The evil figs were those who decided to fight God's judgment. But Jer. 27:5 says, "I have made the earth, the men and the beasts which are on the face of the earth by My great power and by My outstretched arm, and I will give it to the one who is pleasing in My sight. And now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant. . ."
We know from Nebuchadnezzar's dream that is recorded in Daniel 2 that this "Babylonian captivity" is actually an extended captivity. It includes Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome, along with a "little horn" extension of Rome that takes us even to the present day. In essence, this captivity put Babylon into the position of responsibility to rule the Kingdom under divine law. Of course, they have not done so, and for this reason God is even now bringing judgment upon that system, disenfranchising them at the end of their time.
Meanwhile, the Babylonian tax system takes from us far more than the 10 percent tithe, but that is their responsibility before God. Since God has sold us into the hands of Babylon for the past 2,600 years, legally speaking, the tithe is part of the tax system of each nation. There is no law that tells us to pay more tithe to a church or religious organization. If money is donated to a religious organization, it is technically not a tithe, but an offering.
What Income is to be Tithed?
As we stated earlier, the tithe is based upon the fact that God created and owns the universe. In essence, God provides us with land, sun, rain, etc. by which we may grow crops and produce things directly from His labor. As a return on His labor, He wants a 10 percent return, while we get 90 percent as payment for our labor.
The tithe is a tax on all production where men use God's labor (creation) directly. The tithe is on the increase of the fields and of the flocks and herds. Lev. 27:30 says, "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."
Verse 32 continues, "And for every tenth part of the herd or flock, whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the Lord."
We see, then, that 10 percent of the crops, the fruit of the trees, and the flocks and herds is to be tithed. The principle behind this is the fact that God wants a return on His labor. So 10 percent ought also to be paid when people harvest trees for lumber, fishing, and electricity. This is what the local or state government is authorized under God to collect as its tax revenue. Ten percent of that is to be sent to the federal, or national level.
Everything else that government may tax is done without divine authorization. Governments tax other things, because they desire power. Money is power, and so they want more money in order to control more people. That is the Babylonian way. But it is not God's way.
Lev. 27:32 says, "If, therefore, a man wishes to redeem part of his tithe, he shall add to it one-fifth of it."
Lev. 27:31 specifies that if a man wants to pay his tithe (tax) in money rather than giving lumber, wheat, or fish to the government, he is to add 1/5 of its value to the 10 percent. In such a case he would actually owe the government 12 percent of the value.
But those who work for a company making shoes do not owe any tithe from their paycheck, because they are not deriving any income directly from God's labor. The leather for the shoes came from the cow, which came from the herd, which was already tithed (taxed).
It is unjust to tax a man twice for the same increase. The Babylonian governments do this all the time. It is called "value added tax." This happens when the lumberman is taxed for the trees he has harvested and sold. Then the furniture makers are taxed for the same lumber after they had added value to it with their own labor. Then the wholesalers are taxed for their labor. Then the retailers are taxed for their labor. In each case, the government taxes the labor of the people, rather than basing the tithe upon God's right to receive a return for HIS labor.
By the time the customer buys the furniture, most of the cost is to pay the taxes, because each one along the way has to increase his price in order to cover the cost of the taxes. Price inflation is primarily caused by many hidden taxes on every item that we purchase. That is the Babylonian way of doing things. It is NOT the way of God's Kingdom.
Tithing to Ministries
Most ministries do not understand the tithing law, so, like the government, they try to make everyone tithe to them, whether they owe tithe or not.
First, they are not owed tithe at all, for they are not the government. If they claim to be the true government of God's Kingdom, let them study our book, The Wheat and Asses of Pentecost. See especially the chapter dealing with King Saul, who was crowned king on the day of Pentecost. Saul was the king, but Samuel told the people that their kings would take their tithes (1 Sam. 8:15-17).
Saul was a political king who used religion as a tool to consolidate his power. So he took the tithes of the people to establish his government. Saul is a type and shadow of the Church under Pentecost during the past 2,000 years. During that time, the Roman Church was dominant, and it acted like King Saul. It took the tithes from the people and used the money to consolidate its political power. It then used this power to persecute the overcomers--even like Saul persecuted David.
Prior to Saul's coronation, the temple (Church) received the tithes, because God ruled the people directly. When Saul was crowned king, the government was transferred to men, and the people began to serve men, rather than God. Likewise, the Church in the past 2,000 years forced men to serve the Roman bishop and his priests--and were forbidden to serve God directly. The right to have a personal relationship with God was removed from them. The Scriptures were removed, and the people were told that they had no right to think for themselves or to hear God's voice.
The Church followed the example of King Saul, and as such it was an imperfect manifestation of God's Kingdom. Even so, if a priesthood demands the tithe, then their members ought to tithe. Why? Because those are the terms of their membership. If that is what they believe, then they are supporters of Saul's kingdom. If they disagree, they should be willing to pay the price by joining David's company that was not in submission to King Saul, but to God alone.
Even so, King Saul was not authorized by God to collect more than what the law allowed. The law does not obligate any man to pay 10 percent of his paycheck from Wal Mart, Payless Shoes or from their Social Security checks. Yet we find that many leaders in the Church demand such payment from their members.
This brings us to our second point: Not all income is tithable income. The problem is that they have learned their monetary policies from the Babylonian government, rather than from the Bible. They really do not understand the divine law at all, or else their "need for money" gets in the way of their biblical understanding. In many cases, the tithing law is just about the only biblical law that they believe was not put away. But because they have put away the rest of the law, they do not have a good comprehension of the law of tithe either. One must study the whole law in order to understand fully any specific law.
So how is a ministry to survive? If one removes the guilt factor, how can the Church get enough money to do what it wants to do? First of all, there are some very wealthy ministries that spend most of their time begging for money. They use highly refined methods of extracting money out of people, using a combination of guilt, fear, and greed to get people to send them more money. I myself do not have a very high opinion of such ministries. But there are also many smaller worthy ministries that struggle to pay the bills. How are these to survive without demanding tithes from the people?
Freewill (Voluntary) Offerings
Over and above the tithe is the provision for voluntary OFFERINGS. For example, Exodus 36:3 says, "And they received from Moses all the contributions which the sons of Israel had bought to perform the work in the construction of the sanctuary. And they still continued bringing to him freewill offerings every morning."
Unlike tithes, no one "owes" an offering out of obligation. Offerings come out of a heart of love for God and a concern to see His kingdom go forth. Offerings come out of a heart of love for God and a concern to see His kingdom established and the Word taught.
We suggest that offerings support the teaching of the Word, because the people will get the type of teaching that they are willing to support--for better or for worse. Beyond this, I have little to say, because I have always made it a policy not to tell anyone what they should do with their money. Their money represents their labor, and no ministry has the right to tell them what to do with it or to make any demands whatsoever.
We carry on our ministry according to the level of support that people give us, and we trust that God will meet our needs. Those who help us financially are participating in our ministry. Money represents labor. Any money sent to a ministry is the same as laboring in that ministry. Anyone who puts labor into a ministry will receive from God whatever reward is due that ministry--for better or for worse. It is the "cup of cold water" principle found in Mark 9:41.
Our teaching is given freely. The books and tapes, of course, have a price tag for the materials, but the information is given as freely as God has given it to me.
We are here to serve you, and we hope that you benefit by our studies.