Tithing can be a difficult subject among Christians. Many pastors have preached on the subject, often during what they might call a “giving campaign.” I’ve heard many use Malachi 3:8, saying that people are “robbing” God if they aren’t giving ten percent of their income to the church. I’ve heard others say that “God will give you abundant blessings when you tithe” (i.e. nice house, new car, job promotion). Victoria Osteen once wrote in her blog, “When we honor His Word by giving our tithes and offerings, we are positioning ourselves under the open window of heaven.” However, Stephen Kirkendall, who wrote the book, “Stewarding God’s Money”, made an argument on the Christian Bloggers/ Writers Network Facebook group that I had never heard before.
“The tithe ‘is necessary’ for Jesus!!!! God uses 7 bible chapters building up to proof. Please join group. Full New Testament tithe proof. The sooner we start to acknowledge God’s honor, the sooner we might reverse the downward trend of Christianity here in the U.S.”
The 7 bible chapters that he is referring to is the first 7 chapters of Hebrews, although he was most hung up on Heb. 8:3, “For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer.” Kirkendall asked the same question many times, “What does Jesus need?” The few others in the discussion and I responded many times with on simple word, “Nothing.”
“. . . nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” Acts 17:25
The gifts and sacrifices that is being referred to in Hebrews 8 is grain offerings and blood sacrifices for the atonement of sins. The “something to offer” that “is necessary” would be Jesus blood on the cross as an ultimate sacrifice so that no other sacrifice will be needed ever again. This same explanation was given many times, nevertheless, a three-day debate ensued, with myself and a few others trying to explain that the main point of Hebrews is not that Jesus needs our tithe.
John MacArthur explains Hebrews 8 in his sermon, Christ Fulfills the Law (Feb. 1, 2016), https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-430/christ-fulfills-the-law .
“Coming into chapter 8, we read these words in verse 1: ‘Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest;’ a high priest who made the sacrifice of Himself; a high priest, Chapter 7 verse 24, who is permanent; a high priest, verse 25, who always lives to make intercession for us; a high priest, verse 26, who is holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens; a high priest who once for all offered up Himself; a high priest, verse 28, who is perfect forever. That’s the main point of everything that’s been said in Hebrews. What a high priest we have.”
One of the other people in the discussion, Karsten Kaczmar, had an extensive explanation regarding how Stephan Kirkendall was misinterpreting the book of Hebrews. I wanted to use some of these explanations for this blog post, but instead I decided to just go right to the source. I reached out to Karsten to see if he would rewrite his explanations for me to publish here, and he was happy to oblige. So, I posed three questions for him to answer:
• What is the main point of Hebrews?
• How does the translation from Greek change the meaning for some people like Stephen Kirkendall who is trying to say that something “is” necessary for Jesus?
• What is the importance of the tithe that is mentioned in Hebrews?
Here is his reponse:
It’s still surprising to me that so many people believe in tithing as a new testament paradigm, but when it does happen, it tends to be due to the content discussed in the book of Hebrews.
The author of Hebrews (it is unknown who this is) writes a letter explaining the significance of Christ in a glorious and unique fashion. His narrative voice sounds different from any other book in the Bible, and he combines rhetorical arguments with nearly poetic descriptions (think of the famous “heroes of faith” passage in Hebrews 11). For the author, everything points to Christ, the high priest and the supreme sacrifice. To our modern sensibilities, and possibly even to the original audience, the text is quite metaphysical and odd, which can lead to some strange interpretations. So, let’s break down the primary ways the book is used to defend tithing in modern churches, and look at why these arguments don’t actually align with scripture:
The “Order of Melchizedek” thing- This argument is taken from Hebrews 7, which says that Christ is a priest in the “order of Melchizedek,” which basically means he is of a higher priesthood than that of the Levites. The argument goes like this: Melchizedek was higher than the old covenant and he took a tithe (he actually didn’t by the way. He just took a tenth of the “spoils” which isn’t the same as a tenth of “income.” He effectively took a tenth of lottery winnings in our modern language. Even the author of Hebrews makes this delineation when explaining his point.) So Jesus too should be given a tithe, since he is our eternal high priest in the order of Melchizedek. Effectively, the idea is that tithing is a spiritual law that transcends the old covenant. This isn’t entirely wrong, but it is misguided.
Hebrews 8 explains that what happens on earth is only a shadow of heavenly things (Heb 8:5). This means that tithes given to men don’t count. Even if you give them to church clergy, they still don’t count. Jesus has to offer a sacrifice in heaven, so he has to have something to offer that he can give in heaven.
This is thoroughly explained in Hebrews 10, where that sacrifice is of course the one that Christ brings with him TO heaven, his perfect blood. The only thing that “is necessary” for Christ to offer in heaven, is his perfect sacrifice which he brought, which ended once and for all the need for sacrifices. Hebrews 10:8-9 makes this even more explicit, stating that both sacrifices and offerings are not what God desires, and that both have been done away with through the work of the new covenant of Christ.
The tense thing- This argument is far less prevalent, but some focus in on the fact that in Hebrews 8:1-3, the writer states that something “is necessary” for Christ to bring to the temple in heaven, and since He is already there at the time of this writing, then it must be something he hasn’t already brought yet. This argument from the tense used is done away with far more easily (although some still seem hung up on it).
Hebrews 9:1-5 uses past tense, then in the middle of his sentence in verse 6, the author switches to present tense. Here it is: “Now when these things have been so prepared, the priests are continually entering…” See the switch? “Have been” switches to “are continually entering.” The author is using rhetorical tools to craft an argument about what Christ did. He switches between past and present tense in order to convey both his point, and his imagery, in a way that the reader/listener can connect to and see.
Here’s an example. Think of commercials. Most commercials are framed in present tense. “Windows need cleaning? Use windex!” Now, look at the same line in past tense: “Did your windows need cleaning? You should have used windex!” (this isn’t actually an ad for windex. No one is getting paid to sell you cleaning products here) See how awkward and almost nonsensical it sounds to change the tense? It ruins the flow of the statement. This is why the author switches back and forth on his tense use, not because tithes are still needed after the perfect sacrifice of Christ’s blood.
Here’s why this matters: To say that even after Christ’s blood sacrifice which brought an end to the sacrifices and offerings, tithe offerings are still necessary is to say that Christ’s work wasn’t enough. It actually robs the gospel in a very strange way, because it says that Christ did enough to abolish all the law except tithing. That even though there aren’t priests anymore in a levitical sense (old covenant), and Christ is the only high priest in the order of melchizedek (new covenant), and even though we are now the temple of the Lord and the physical temple has been destroyed, that somehow we need to give money to a pastor to help run a building and organization because Christ still requires it. This is dangerous and highly unorthodox thinking, and it doesn’t get us any closer to the gospel.
The last thing I want to say is that if you tithe, please do not take this as an attack. I still tithe. I save a tenth of my earnings and give it to the poor, to those in need, or sometimes to the church I attend. There is absolutely nothing wrong with giving ten percent of your finances to a church. Just understand that you could just as easily give 20%, or even 5%. Christ completed the law, and he even completed it according to the order of Melchizedek. You are both free to give nothing, and free to give everything. If you are a Christian, Christ bought you with His very life. He gave it all, and all to Him you owe. God doesn’t own your 10%. He owns 100%.
Karsten Kaczmar is a Christian thought leader and movement builder. He is the founder Real Hope Rising and realhoperising.com, an organization working to transform how we do Christianity so we can be more like Jesus, and realize His vision for the Church.