The answer is simple and straight-forward: ten percent. But tithe critics will rely on your ignorance of the Old Testament tithing laws to make you doubt this simple answer…
Because there were multiple tithes in the Old Testament, the critic claims that those of us who support to the mandatory, binding New Covenant tithe should preach 20% instead:
5 – If tithing is required today, how much should we give?
As noted above, the number was certainly more than 10 percent and closer to 20 percent. Those who advocate tithing should probably settle on 20 percent.
As I explained in the previous article, there were three tithes in the Old Testament:
- The Levitical tithe, which was 10 percent of the increase of the ground (Numbers 18:21-24).
- The tithe of the feasts, which was another 10 percent every year. This was celebrated annually in Jerusalem. Everyone was forced to spend 10 percent of their earnings on “whatever they desire.” It helped the Israelites remember God’s blessings. Because it was a long way for some to travel, they could convert their produce to money to make it easier to carry (Deut. 14:22-27).
- The tithe of celebrations, which was 10 percent every three years to be spent in a local celebration (Deut. 14:28-29).
The critic is correct that the Old Covenant tithes were certainly more than 10%, and more like 20-30%.
But as I explained in the previous article, the second and third tithes have been abrogated because they were land and seed laws. Their foundation was in the landed inheritance of Palestine given to Israel as an inheritance in the conquest of Canaan. They were also based in the seed laws that enforced tribal separation, which ended with the advent of Jesus Christ.
The first tithe, the Levitical tithe, was both an aspect of the priestly laws and the land laws. The tithe was tied to the land laws in that the tithe was given as the Levites’ inheritance, and the increase of the landed inheritance produced by the Israelites’ labors was the source of the Levites’ tithe. The Israelites’ tithe was primarily agricultural, the first fruits of the ground.
The tithe was an aspect of the priestly laws because the Mosaic covenant’s priestly line was trusted to the tribe of Levi. Prior to Jesus, the high priest came from the descendants of Aaron. But Jesus’s obedience and sacrifice are the basis of His priesthood. Jesus was from the tribe of Judah, not Levi, so the rules had to change:
“For when the priesthood is changed, the law must also be changed. For the one about whom these things are said belongs to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. Now clearly, it is from Judah that our Lord was born, a tribe that Moses never mentioned concerning priests. What we say is clearer yet if another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek. It was not based on the law of fleshly descent that he became a priest, but instead was based on the power of an everlasting life” (Heb. 7:12-16).
The tithe of the New Covenant is based on the priesthood of Melchizedek, to whom Abram gave a tithe of his victory spoils. And, because of the principle of covenantal representation, the entire nation of Israel tithed to Melchizedek when Abram tithed: “And, in a manner of speaking, Levi, who received tithes, also paid tithes through Abraham, because Levi was in the body of his ancestor when Melchizedek met Abraham” (Heb. 7:9-10).
Melchizedek established the principle of the tithe. His tithe was 10 percent. And so, as members of the royal priesthood of Jesus Christ, who is after the order of Melchizedek, we are no longer under the rules established under the Levitical priesthood. Melchizedek made it clear: His tithe is 10 percent.
There is a practical benefit to preaching the tithe: everyone knows exactly how much they owe God. Believers should not want to rob their Lord and Savior. They can pay God what they legally owe Him and remove their guilt:
To preach the covenantal tithe is to show covenant-keepers a way to escape from guilt. The tithe places an explicit limit on what covenant-keepers owe God, and through which institution they owe it.Gary North, The Covenantal Tithe, page 107
Many critics of the tithe will say we either owe more than 10%–some variant of “all we have,” or “everything”–or that it is up to us as individuals to choose how much to give our High Priest.
Quoted in The Covenantal Tithe is this example of a critic’s view:
There is no universal answer to that question. All Christians should give something, but there is not a universal amount or percentage required. Each believer must look at their situation in life, their church, and those around them to seek out possible needs. Furthermore, a mindset focused on eternity, and not the moment, will desire to give sacrificially to God’s work on the earth. From some paychecks God may require one hundred percent, from oth- ers five percent. Obedience to his leading is key.
The problem with this view is that it saddles the believer with guilt. Gary North explains:
This doctrine of indeterminate economic obligation transfers a load of guilt to the covenant-keeper. Under the Mosaic Covenant, God intervened in history through Moses to prohibit the congregation from giving too much in the wilderness before the tithe was formally instated as a binding legal obligation on Israel…
In the post-A.D. 70 New Covenant era, God’s covenantal agents do not lawfully speak with this degree of authority. The Bible does; ordained agents do not. So, if the Bible does not speak authoritatively on the matter of what percentage of their income covenant-keepers owe to God, what is to restrain them in their quest to find peace in their minds regarding what they owe to God? By God’s specially revealed grace, the Bible does set forth this limit. God demands a minimum token payment of ten percent. He who meets this requirement can live guilt-free with respect to what he owes to God. Anything beyond this is judicially optional. We should call such optional payments “offerings.”The Covenantal Tithe, pages 107-108
The New Covenant tithe is 10%, based on the principle established by Melchizedek. The Old Covenant tithes have been annulled and revised on the basis of their status as land laws, seed laws, and priestly laws. The Levitical tithe was transformed when the priesthood changed, and the second and third tithes did not survive the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.