It has been a long time that I last wrote one of these articles. Some social interactions I had recently have led to this article. Someone asked, so I am obliging. Whether you are a Christian or not, you are likely to have heard one preacher or the other say that the Christian who does not tithe is bound to fail – or “will be tight” in life. In other words, your success in life is tied to the tithe. Hence, the question, Is tithing essential to achieving success in life?
In this article, I will touch on the example of Abraham, the Bible commandments to tithe, what Jesus said about tithing, and what Jesus’ appointed representatives, the apostles, had to say about it too. Grab a cup of whatever rocks your boat and let’s get started.
First, a clear definition of the word “essential”:
Essential: something that is indispensable or necessary.
From the definition, you can see that my use of the word tallies with what certain preachers say: if you want to succeed, you must pay the tithe (10% of your income) to God through the church you attend.
If we are clear about the claims, we shall now proceed to address the question.
Oxygen is essential to life. That means no-one will live without a supply of oxygen. If you doubt it, please present yourself so I can choke you. Come with a lawyer, a police officer and a signed statement absolving me of blame though; I have no intention of going to jail to prove it to you.
Jokes apart now, it does not matter who is involved; starve a person of oxygen and they will die. If we discover tomorrow that there are certain strains of the human race who do not need oxygen to live, we have to drop oxygen from our list of life’s essentials. That is correct reasoning. Anything you can do without is not essential.
In the same way, if tithing is essential to success in life, there should be no-one who has succeeded in life without paying 10% of their income to the church. Correct? Let’s narrow it down: there should be no Christians who have succeeded without paying their tithe.
But what do we have? Billions of non-Christians throughout the ages have lived and succeeded (many of them acquiring more stature and wealth than Christians), without ever paying 10% of their income to a church;
Even worse, there are many non-Pentecostal and non-Evangelical Christians who do not believe in tithing all around the word, and who have lived (or are currently living) successful lives. They have risen to the pinnacle of their fields, made money, and achieved all divine and human standards of success.
The Example Of Abraham
When it is pointed out that tithing as they preach it was an Old Testament Jewish thing that was instituted as part of the Law Of Moses, pastors are quick to point to Abraham’s example in paying the tithe to Melchisedec (who I fondly call Melchi). Abraham lived many years before Moses, you see.
However, if you read that passage well, you will observe a few things:
- Abraham was already a successful person before meeting Melchi and giving him that 10%. Father Abe was so successful that he had a personal, trained army that he led to war against four kings! It was after that battle that freed Lot that he met Melchi.
- Father Abe did not pay 10% of his income. He paid 10% of the spoils of war. It was extra cash. This was not from his regular flow of income.
- After this single encounter of Abe with Melchi, the latter pretty much disappeared from the face of the earth, so Abe did not go on paying a tithe to him. It was a one-time encounter.
But let us not go too far: the point is that Abraham succeeded without ever paying a tithe, and even that one time that he did, it was not from his wealth, and it was not a continual thing. If grand old Abraham didn’t need the tithe to succeed, it isn’t essential to your success either.
Tithing As Commanded In The Bible
I will touch a few quick points on what the Bible teaches about tithing.
- It was commanded to the Israelites to take care of the Levitical priesthood. The Levites did not get an inheritance in the land. Their only job was to minister in and around the temple. They were not allowed to do other work. God instituted the tithe as a means through which the rest of Israel would support and feed them.
- The tithe was not money; it was food and drinks. It was an agricultural thing.
- Israelites who did not pay the tithe were cursed. That famous passage in Malachi? It was addressed at Israelites who withheld the tithe. They were robbing God’s temple workers who were not permitted to do any other work, hence robbing God.
- The tithe is not once commanded by Jesus or the apostles in the New Testament. Why? Jesus came to shut down the Levitical priesthood and to do away with the order of the temple. Churches are not temples and pastors are not priests. The entire church of Christ are the temple and the priesthood – and are commanded to work with their hands. Apostle Paul and others worked with his hands. They were not Levites. Your pastor is not a Levite.
There are a few more Old Testament references to the tithe, and some of them include commandments about changing the tithe to money and buying food and drink for you and your family to consume. Yes; people were told to eat and drink their tithe.
Oh; wait! In the New Testament, Jesus mentioned the tithe in passing once: that time he was criticizing the Pharisees. He was rebuking the Pharisees (who were Israelites, just to be sure) and he didn’t say to pay it either.
Is Tithing Essential To Achieving Success In Life?
So, let’s go over the key points again.
Abraham did not need the tithe to succeed. He did pretty well for himself without ever paying tithes before meeting Melchi. Plenty of people in the Bible before and after Abraham did not pay the tithe either, and succeeded. The early church did not pay the tithe and succeeded as well.
Lots of Christians around the world today succeed without paying the tithe. Surprise, but Pentecostals and Evangelicals are not the only ones who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord. As a matter of fact, there are quite a number of evangelical Christian denominations that do not reckon with the tithe and do not practice it. The Christians there succeed too.
The tithe is a Jewish, Levitical, Old Testament practice. Like everything pertaining to Levitical ministry, it was abolished with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Which is why none of the apostles (the men that Jesus delegated to represent him after he was gone) preached or commanded it. Not one of them.
Have you ever wondered why the Holy Spirit inspired Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, Paul, John and others to write all those books of the New Testament but somehow forgot to remind them to include at least one reminder to tithe in all their stories and letters? Aha. Yet certain pastors today (supposedly inspired by the same Holy Spirit) spend more time preaching about the tithe than any of the other topics that the apostles wrote about. Go figure.
Go And Succeed
Nobody today requires the tithe to succeed in life. Nobody today is cursed for not paying the tithe. Anyone who claims otherwise is either deliberately or ignorantly misinterpreting the Bible. And to those pastors telling people that they will go to hell if they do not pay the tithe, Haba, bros!
Christians are commanded to be generous in giving to support the ministry and to help those in need. If you do that, you are fine. That may mean giving less than 10%. It may mean giving more. It is entirely up to you. Just be a generous person. Don’t let anyone put fear in you. fear is a very useful tool in the hands of those who seek to control others.
After digesting all this information and still believe that your success in life is tied in any way to paying the tithe, you have been badly brainwashed. That is not a very nice thing to admit to oneself (or for me to say to anyone), but don’t sweat it. It is nothing personal. We have all been brainwashed in some way or the other at some point in time. Hopefully, you will come around to seeing it.
Now, go and succeed in life! Nothing is holding you back – not even the “almighty” tithe.