Why Tithing Is Mandatory

Gary North

Let’s review the five points of the biblical covenant:

1. God’s sovereignty
2. Man’s delegated authority
3. God’s law
4. God’s sanctions (positive and negative)
5. Inheritance in history

This is understood in terms of five questions.

1. Who’s in charge here?
2. To whom do I report?
3. What are the rules?
4. What do I get if I obey? Disobey?
5. Does this outfit have a future?

These five points are inescapable in economics.

1. God’s original ownership
2. Man’s stewardship
3. God’s kingdom: “seek first”
4. God’s blessings: “all these things”
5. The inheritance: “the meek shall inherit the earth”

Acknowledging God’s Sovereignty

God lays down His law. He has the right to do this, for He is sovereign.

One of the marks of His sovereignty is His collection of the tithe. It belongs to Him. It is a minimal token of His sovereignty. It is a symbol of His sovereignty.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone (Matthew 23:23).

Jesus was harsh on the scribes Pharisees — intellectual leaders of Israel. They tithed. That was good, Jesus said. It was not good enough.

He was not telling them ignore the tithe and pay attention to the weightier matters of the Mosaic law, exercising honest judgment, showing mercy, and exercising faith in God and His works in history. He was telling them to do all of the above.

I have already presented my analysis of the parable of the talents. I pointed out that the owner (God) delegates control over money (and everything else people own) to His subordinates. They become responsible for administering this capital. They act as trustees or stewards. They do not own these assets. God does.

God distributed these assets in terms of His assessment of their abilities. Their past performance influenced Him. He had assessed their abilities already. He assumed no major changes in these abilities and performance.

He tested them to make sure. He gave them control over His assets temporarily. God has done this with you, too.

You have received assets from God. Your assets reflect God’s assessment of your abilities. You should assess your past performance as He has.

You have been given an opportunity to do better. The #1 test of performance: the tithe. The tithe is a mark of subordination to God.

Pay God First

The tithe imposes this principle: God is to be paid first. God receives His money “off the top.” This is your affirmation of His sovereignty. This affirms your dependence on Him for whatever success you achieve in life.

The tithe is numerical: 10% of net income. God does not tax capital. He taxes only the fruits of capital. If you plant 200 ears of corn (on which you have paid your tithe), and 2000 ears grow, you tithe on 1800 ears. God does not tax seed corn. He does not tax you twice on the same goods.

If you make $10,000 on one investment and lose $10,000 on another, and you sell both in the same time period, then you owe no tithe. You pay on the net increase. There was no increase.

Under the Mosaic law, if a man had 9 sheep, and one died while another was born, he owed no tithe. Only nine sheep went under the rod. He owed the Levite only the tenth sheep (Lev. 27:32). In short, he tithed only on the net increase.

The tithe is continuing: paycheck by paycheck. The tithe requires faith in God’s sovereignty. You are announcing to God and yourself the following:

“I am not fully in control.
I do not trust my abilities 100%.
There will be a stream of future income.
This income will fund my kingdom-building activities.

Who Receives the Tithe?

You owe your tithe to your local congregation. This was affirmed by the prophet Malachi. “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” (Malachi 3:10). There was only one storehouse in each community. It was controlled by the Levites, the priestly tribe.

The local congregation should prosper along with its members. It should suffer with them, too. The tithe funds the church’s base of operations. The tithe makes its income more predictable.

The tithe is not institutionally enforced in our day. This does not mean that it is not mandatory.

The tithe requires continuing self-assessment. You must determine what your net income is after return of capital. God does not tax capital. The tithe is on net income. A farmer pays a tithe on what the seeds produce, not on the replacement of what was planted.

Success and the Tithe

Your tithe reflects your degree of economic success.

By establishing the minimum owed, the tithe reduces guilt for not giving enough. Everyone is under the same percentage obligation, but no more. Offerings are voluntary donations above the tithe.

The tithe requires careful budgeting. By paying the tithe, people learn from an early age how to budget. They must keep track of their income. This is an important self-discipline.

Tithing also makes it easier to save. People get used to the practice of not spending all of their income. This attitude is transferred to thrift: Pay yourself second.

I have written a report on tithing. It demonstrates biblically that Christians owe God a tithe. If you have doubts, read it.

You Also Owe God

You want to get out of debt. You think that by allocating all of the money you save to paying off debts that you will get out of debt faster than if you pay your tithe. This assumes that God will not honor your tithe by increasing your income or by showing you cheaper ways to live, or both. He may not. That is His business. But the prophet Malachi announced this:

For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. 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. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts (Malachi 3:6-12).

The prophet Haggai warned against not building the temple after the Israelites’ return from captivity. These people had short-changed God by short-changing the church.

Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that warneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes (Haggai 1:5-6).Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house. Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit. And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands (Haggai 1:9-11).

The Book of Job made it clear that men never have God in a hammerlock. God can do what He wants. But He honors His work in the long run.

For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it (Isaiah 55:10-11).

Allow me to summarize:

God is sovereign. You are not.
You are responsible to God. God is not responsible to you.
Tithing is morally mandatory.
God blesses those who tithe.
God prefers a tithe on more rather than less.

Conclusion: If you want more, then pay your tithe.

I have written a book on this: The Covenantal Tithe. It is sold by American Vision.

Homework Assignment

Examine your budget. Then think through how you can pay your tithe by cutting expenses. Write down each item to be cut and by how much. This will become the basis of your re-structured budget.

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