Why Jesus Didn't Tithe | The Truth About Tithing
Okay, church checkers. Let’s talk about tithing.
This year we’re going to focus a lot on the topics of tithing, freewill offerings, and Christian generosity. There are tons of lies being propagated all throughout the Christian Church on these topics, which I believe are for financially exploitative reasons. So let’s knock ‘em down, one at a time.
Unfortunately, I would argue most Christians don’t know the basics about what the Bible teaches on tithing, freewill offerings, and Christian generosity because of the lies their churches have repeatedly taught them. I didn’t either until just a few years ago.
My hope and goal with posts like this is to raise awareness about these lies and spread the truth about biblical tithing, stewardship, and Christian giving. Not necessarily to discourage Christians from being generous or giving to their church, but to protect them from potentially exploitative and deceptive churches who seek dishonest financial gain. We should be generous as Christians, but we should be generous to the needy, not the greedy. As good stewards of our money and as Christians, we should be responsible donors as well, and responsible donors protect themselves and their loved ones from fraud and exploitation.
But we’ll get to all of that later. For now, let’s get to the truth about tithing.
Before we jump into the surprising fact that Jesus didn’t tithe, let’s review what biblical tithing actually is, so no one’s confused about what we’re talking about.
What is Tithing?
Contrary to popular belief, tithing isn’t what our churches tell us it is. In fact, virtually every church I’ve ever attended or observed is wrong, either intentionally or unintentionally, about tithing. I could write a book on this lie (actually, I am), but for now, let’s briefly cover what biblical tithing is and is not.
1. Tithing was a temple ordinance of the Mosaic Law for the people of Israel.
No, it’s not the first ten percent of your income that goes to the local Christian church, and it’s not for “all believers” either. It was a temple ordinance, not a Christian ordinance, that originated in the Mosaic Law to be practiced by the people of Israel and no one else.
(Deut. 1:1-3; Lev. 27:34; Neh. 10:28-29; Num. 18:25-26)
2. Tithing wasn’t money; it was food and animals grown and raised in the holy land of Israel.
Tithing also wasn’t money. Church leaders conveniently neglect this biblical fact when telling us it comes from money. It didn’t come from the Israelites' monetary salaries, and yes, they had them. God specifically instructed the Israelites to tithe from the increase of the holy land of Israel, and nothing else. Of every description of the tithing ordinance in Scripture, not a single one describes tithing as money. It had to be taken from the increase of the holy land of Israel.
(Deut. 12: 17; Num. 18:25-31; Neh. 10:37-39; Luke 11:42)
3. Tithing was separate from the firstfruits offering and the freewill offerings.
Not only is tithing not a Christian ordinance according to the Bible, nor is it money, it also wasn’t the first ten percent of the increase of the land of Israel either. The firstfruits of the Old Covenant between God and Israel were actually separate from the tithe and consisted of a small basket of produce or the firstborn of a herdsman’s flock in the land of Israel. It was not a part of the tithe and it was a very small portion, but just like the tithe, it wasn’t money either. It was food and animals from the land of Israel.
In the New Testament, the firstfruits of the New Covenant are Jesus Christ Himself and the first believers. This should give you a good idea of what that means New Covenant tithing comprises. Here’s a hint: it’s about faith, not food, animals, money, or anything else.
(Deut. 26:1-4; Lev. 23:17; Num. 18:13-17; 2 Chron. 31:5; 1 Cor. 15:20-23; )
4. Tithing was only to be given to the Levitical and Aaronic Priests of Israel.
Biblical tithing was specifically instructed by God to be given to the priests of the tribes of Levi and Aaron, and no one else. It was their inheritance from God. If anyone else received the tithe or even went near the tabernacle, they would be put to death. According to Scripture, no one except the Levitical and Aaronic priests can accept the tithe. For Christian pastors today to twist the tithing ordinance and take it for themselves is to twist God’s Law for dishonest financial gain. This is the literal definition of fraud.
5. Only landowners and herdsmen that could afford the tithe were required to tithe. People of different vocations, such as carpenters, fishermen, tax collectors, and craftsmen were not required to tithe. Additionally, the poor, widowed, orphaned, and foreigners were exempt from the tithe. Instead, God provided for the poor and supported them through tithing and gleaning laws.
Biblical tithing was not for “all believers” in Israel, nor for all the citizens of Israel. It was strictly for herdsmen and farmers within the land of Israel with enough land and herds to tithe while still providing for their own families. This excluded people without land and herds of animals, and the poor.
In fact, not only were non-landowners, the poor, the widowed, the orphaned, and foreigners exempt from the tithing ordinance, but they received from the tithe and were further provided for by gleaning laws as well. The gleaning law allowed the poor to pick from the gleanings of anyone’s harvest in the land of Isreal.
(Deuteronomy 24:19-21; 26:12; Lev. 23:22; Isaiah 52 & 55)
It’s these last little-known facts about biblical tithing that brings us to the purpose of this post: Why Jesus didn’t tithe.
Why Jesus Didn’t Tithe
Given the biblical definition and facts surrounding tithes and offerings, we know Jesus didn’t tithe.
First, like His earthly father Joseph, Jesus was a carpenter. He was not a landowner with herds and crops. Therefore, He literally couldn’t tithe according to Scripture. As we’ve already well-established, only herdsmen with the land and crops to tithe were required to tithe. Those of other trades didn’t tithe. (See #5 above)
Second, just like His parents and most of His disciples, Jesus was also poor. Contrary to what most churches teach us, the poor, just as those of different trades without land and animals, were exempt from the tithing ordinance. In fact, as we’ve already established, the poor were supported by the tithe and the gleaning laws God established in the Mosaic Law.
How do we know Jesus was poor and therefore not only exempt from tithing but also supported by it?
Jesus’ parents paid the smaller offering of the poor when He was born. (Luke 2:22-24; Lev. 14:21)
Jesus and His disciples benefited from the gleaning laws for the poor. If Jesus or His disciples weren’t really poor, they would have been stealing from the poor by gleaning. The Pharisees scolded them for gleaning on the Sabbath, but not stealing from the poor. Therefore, Jesus was poor and had the right to eat from the gleanings of anyone’s harvest in the land of Israel. (Deut. 24:19-21; Matt. 12:1-2; Mark 2:23-24; Luke 6:1-2)
I haven’t attended every single Christian church in America, but I’ve attended a lot of them, and the vast majority of the ones I’ve attended don’t teach the truth about tithing. And by the vast majority, I mean 98 or 99 out of 100.
Most of the local churches I’ve been to teach us tithing is a biblical principle of Christian generosity that applies to all believers, but that’s not true.
They teach us it’s the first ten percent of every Christian’s paycheck, which goes to the local church, regardless of how rich or poor that Christian is, but that’s not true.
They teach us Jesus loved to talk about money and it was His favorite topic in the Bible, but that’s not true either.
Once we read what the Bible says about tithing for ourselves, there’s no denying the facts: <