Tithes & Offerings, Blessings & Curses

"Sow a seed, reap a harvest"...

"Offerings are everything above the tithe"...

"Tithe is the first 10% of your gross income"...

"You can't give an offering until you tithe"...

"Tithing rebukes the curse off your money and your life"...

"You're robbing God when you withhold tithes and offerings"...

"Tithing is the only way to release a blessing over your finances."

I'm sure you've heard at least one of these declarations from the pulpit, from televangelists, from that enthusiastic member in the next pew. The American Church is saturated with erroneous messages on tithes, offerings, blessings, and curses. After practicing a religious, fear-based, anxiety-laden, investment formula for 15 years - and finding myself as broke as the day I began - I went back to the Scriptures. It's not that I don't trust Christian leaders, I simply had to comply with 2 Timothy 2:15 and see for myself.


Teachings on tithes and offerings are typically sourced from Levitical Laws. Looking at Numbers 18, I understand why God instituted this practice among the Jews. The Lord spoke to the priests through Moses, saying, "...You shall attend to the obligations of the sanctuary and the obligations of the altar, that there will no longer be wrath on the sons of Israel" (Num. 18:5, all paraphrases mine). Numbers 18:12-15 tells us that the first of all the produce, oil, grain, and animals in the land were to supply the Tabernacle (eventually the Temple) and to replenish the priests' physical needs.

Numbers 18:19 says, "All the offerings...which the sons of Israel offer to the Lord I have given to you and your sons and your daughters with you, as a perpetual allotment." By this, we know every generation of priests was bound to a life of service, commanded to keep the fire burning on the altar and continually offer sacrifices for the nation's sins. Verse 20 declares, "You shall have no inheritance in the land nor own any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the sons of Israel." The priests had no land rights or private property.     

In Numbers 18:21-28, the Lord said tithes were given to the priests as an inheritance for services rendered in the Tabernacle/Temple. They were also responsible for giving a "tithe of the tithe" back to the Lord. Levitical priests were consecrated men primarily commanded to minister in the presence of God on behalf of the nation. Serving God was their only occupation. Thus, tithes were required to supply the priests with food, and sacrifices were used to cover the sins of the people. This is the Old Covenant. 


When curses are connected to tithes and offerings, and non-tithers (as well as those who give less than 10%) are accused of robbing God, church leaders are abusing Malachi 3:8-11. I highly recommend reading the entire book of Malachi (it's short) to grasp how the priesthood had transgressed God's commandments and instructions to the Levites (Mal. 2:4-7). In Malachi's day, the priests offered lame and blind animals to God while keeping the best portions for themselves. They defiled the altar by using impure kindling for fire, and some sacrifices were the byproduct of bribery and extortion. 

A curse, then, was the result of breaking covenant with God and leaving the nation's sins exposed. Malachi's prophecy is about God's grievances and reconciliation with Israel. It has nothing to do with the financial conditions or obligations of 21st-century Christians. I wouldn't go so far as to say tithes and offerings are absent from the New Testament, quite the contrary. However, ministers who pronounce curses and likewise provoke non-givers are not speaking by the Spirit. 

Furthermore, following Levitical Laws doesn't apply to anyone living on this side of the Resurrection. Orthodox Jews may still believe the Law is in effect, but we know Gentiles were never included in that covenant. Tithing was a commandment under the Law; we are not under the Law. The sacrifice provided in the body and blood of Jesus is perfect and complete. Nothing (especially not money!) can be added or taken from it. Christ fulfilled the Law (Matt. 5:17). In Him, we are redeemed from the curse of the Law (Gal. 3:13-14).


I actually believe in and practice tithing as a spiritual principle in my walk with God. Christians are instructed to give and one-tenth is mentioned in Scripture, so that's the amount I aim to start with. Sometimes I have it, sometimes I don't. In all the years I've been saved, I've never received one of those miracle "checks in the mail." And no matter how much I've tithed, I've never had more than enough money. All things considered (including my poor choices), I'm no longer phased by the guilt-trip sermonettes during "offering time." God is well aware of my financial situation. He could instantly change it if He wanted to.

I often wonder if prosperity preachers have considered that tithing precedes the Law. Do they know there was a priesthood before the Levites? In Genesis 14:17-20, after Abraham experienced a war victory where he liberated his nephew and secured more land, he met a priest-king, a servant of the Most High, and paid tribute by offering him a tenth of the war spoil. In turn, Melchizedek blessed Abraham (mostly likely with prophetic words, not a refund with interest). In Hebrews 7, the writer explains that Christ is of a higher priestly order than Aaron; He is an eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek (also in Ps. 110:4). These Old and New Testament passages should be enough to convict believers to practice what the father of our faith demonstrated (Rom. 4:16). Jesus is greater and worthy of it all.

"[Jesus] has become [our High Priest] not on the basis of the law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life...so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant (Heb. 7:16, 22).

God intended tithes to be a tribute, an offering of thanksgiving out of our free will. He did not institute a cursing/blessing system with Abraham. When tithing was codified in the Mosaic Law, God primarily connected giving to obedience and worship. Christians, too, are commanded to give to those in need (Luke 10:29-37and generosity is required to fulfill such passages as 1 Timothy 5:17-18 and Matthew 28:19-20. However, we are no more or less justified by giving to churches. If pastors make tithing a church membership requirement, I suppose that's their prerogative. I'm simply clarifying that this is not the only (or best) interpretation of Scripture. 


I've already covered the abuse of Malachi 3:8-11. But what about the gross misuse of Scriptures like Luke 6:38. The context of this verse literally has nothing to do with money! Read Luke 6. When it comes to Proverbs 3:9-10, I agree that this teaches us to honor God with our money. But "first fruits" is not defined as "10% of our gross income." Before the time of the kings, the Israelites did not pay taxes. So, there was no such thing as "gross income" when tithing was first instituted. The American Church applied this doctrine for its own reasons.

How about 2 Corinthians 9? The entire chapter deals with attitudes of giving (i.e. give cheerfully, not under compulsion). The passage never hints at an amount but says God will provide seed for sowing (as He always has). Interestingly, in 1 Corinthians 9, Paul discusses the rights of an apostle to demand payment for laboring among the churches. He then forfeits that right, stating: "If we have sown [in] you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your material things? If others partake of this right over you, shouldn't we? Nevertheless, we have not used this right, but suffer all things, lest we hinder the gospel of Christ" (1 Cor. 9:11-12).

When Jesus sends His apostles out to do the work of the ministry (Mark 6:7-13), He instructs them not to carry money or material possessions. Eastern hospitality dictates that those receiving sojourners must provide for their physical needs. In case it's not obvious, apostles (rendered "sent ones" in Greek) are not pastors ("shepherds"). Sent ones are more akin to missionaries than pastors. Indeed, the interpretation of an American pastor is so broad that one can don the title without overseeing any souls (i.e. "Administrative Pastor", "Events Pastor", etc.).


I appreciate pastors who take on ministry as a full-time vocation. However, the Bible does not mandate church members to pay all their bills. Unlike the priests of old, pastors today have the liberty to get a job (perhaps this might help them understand the struggles of working people). We are not responsible for meeting the financial obligations of nonprofit organizations. No one should be guilt-tripped into funding visions, dreams, guest speakers, or multi-real estate ventures (a.k.a. megachurches). Telling congregants that God cannot or will not bless them until they give a certain amount is an overstep of authoritative boundaries. It's also a lie. God doesn't need our money, the church does. If ministers kept it real, people would probably give more!

Tithing is not an investment strategy. Nowhere in Scripture does God guarantee that giving away 10% of our gross income will result in exponential wealth. Furthermore, I don't care to be told "it doesn't count" if I give a different amount or designate the 10% to a specific ministry within the church. It's my money. God gave it to me and He gives me the freedom to choose what to do with it. Also, I pay (a lot of) taxes and the church pays none. If my money isn't good in one place, it's guaranteed to be good somewhere else.

When my choices are between paying the rent or tithing, God doesn't curse me for paying the rent. If I give less than 10% of my gross income, I refuse to believe that I've somehow robbed God. I'm not disrespecting my leaders by supporting other ministries I'm connected with. As I said, God is well aware of everyone's financial situation and He doesn't seek to burden us with the requirements of the Law - this is why Christ came. It's not God's will that we give out of fear, manipulation, or compulsion. 

Giving is a discipline that I view as being in the same category as fasting. Jesus clearly instructed His disciples to do both. He never said the Father would curse them if they didn't. Mature believers, who respond to conviction, will diligently tithe and fast out of obedience to God. The success of church ministries is a peripheral matter where the fear of the Lord is concerned. Nevertheless, if you can afford to give liberally, you should. This is a gift and a privilege and it keeps you from falling in love with your money (1 Tim. 6:20).

Some ministers claim Jesus talked about tithing "a lot." I don't see that in Scripture. He talked a lot about money, yes, and warned us not to worship it (Matt. 6). He also mentions giving quite a bit but doesn't consistently specify an amount. The only place I find "tithe" in red letters is in His rebuke to a bunch of religious zealots who tried to justify themselves (Matt. 23:23). Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites and told His disciples to do as they say but not as they do (Matt. 23:3). The widow who gave her last in Luke 21:1-4 was demonstrating faith in God. This is not a formula for supporting church ministries.

In the context of Scripture, give is primarily a verb, not an adjective and tithing is foremost an act of worship, not an amount.


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