To read my previous post on tithing, key here.
Once you have become convinced from Scripture that the Lord expects Christians to tithe, then you must decide where to give the tithe. I once was asked the question, “Is giving tithes to the Lord necessarily giving to the local Church in the New Testament? Aren’t Christians free to give wherever the Spirit leads?” I have asked the Lord the same question myself. "Lord, where should the tithe be given? Can the tithe be given elsewhere besides the local church?"
Based on what I have read in the Word of God, my opinion is that we must support our local church. What would it be like if nobody supported his or her local church this way? How would any church operate? It would be wrong for people to benefit in so many ways from the church (teaching, preaching, visitation, prayer, counsel, worship, fellowship, healing, deliverance, etc) and not share all good things with those in oversight.
The Storehouse is God’s House
A pastor told me about 20 yrs ago that if I choose where to give my tithes, then I become the Lord of the tithe. It’s true. The Lord instructed us through the prophet Malachi to bring the whole tithe into the "storehouse" so there may be food in "God's house." "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this," says the LORD of hosts, "if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. (Mal 3:10). In saying this, the Lord showed that the storehouse and His house are one and the same.
According to the Law, the people were to bring their tithes to the temple, so we know that was the storehouse, known as God’s house. There are over two hundred references in the Old Testament to the “house of the Lord,” but one of those will suffice. King David said, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD.’" (Psa 122:1)
Jesus also said of the temple, "My house will be called a house of prayer" (Mt 21:13). In that case, He was obviously referring to the temple in Jerusalem. But He also told those same people, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." (Joh 2:19). In this case, He was not referring to the building. The apostle John explained, “But He was speaking of the temple of His body.” (Joh 2:21).
And the apostle Paul explained that the church of God is the Body of Christ, and we are His temple. “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1Co 3:16). Just as Jesus referred to His physical body as the temple, His corporate Body on earth is also the temple. So in the New Testament, we know that the Body of Christ is the house of God. And this is how we must now apply the words of Jesus that His house would be called a house of prayer.
There are many more New Testament references to the house of God. The apostle Paul said, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” (Gal 6:10). The household of faith referred to the people of God, the church. In Paul’s instructions about the qualifications for elders, he also said, “But if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?” (1Ti 3:5). Here Paul made a direct correlation between a man’s ability to manage his own household and his ability to take care of God’s household, which is the church of God.
So the temple in the Old Testament is now the Body of Christ, God’s household, a house of prayer, and the temple of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it means that in the New Testament, you should give your tithes to the church.
Some believe they are free to give their tithes directly to other believers, like strangers, widows, orphans, the oppressed, and the poor. No doubt, those are important needs that are near to the Lord’s heart. However, I tend to think of giving to those needs as “offerings” given above and beyond the tithe, or “alms to the poor,” if given to the poor.
On the other hand, if we maintain our interpretation of the "storehouse" as the local church, then we would give our tithes to the local church. This would be in line with common sense, as well as the scripture about sharing with those who teach you. Paul said that, “The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him.” (Gal 6:6). He also taught that we must not muzzle the ox, and the worker is worthy of his wages (1 Tim 5:18). He was clear that this applies to ministers of the gospel who have dedicated their lives to preaching. Would God be pleased if a disciple gives his tithe to a widow while his pastor and family go hungry and without proper clothes or shelter?
In the New Testament, the disciples shared all good things with their elders, which were the apostles in Jerusalem. They brought their gifts and laid them at the apostles feet (Act 4:35; Act 4:37; Act 5:2). It was the apostles who then determined how those funds should be distributed, and to whom they should give them. Where there were widows in need, the apostles used the funds to ensure the widows received a distribution of food. And the apostles were not getting rich off this money either. Peter and John told the lame beggar that they possessed neither silver nor gold!
The collection Paul took for the poor disciples in Jerusalem was similar. He wanted people to set aside a sum of money in keeping with their income each week, based on what each one had decided in his heart to give. He wrote to the Corinthians, “On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come.” (1Co 16:2) Then when Paul came to Corinth, the local church overseers gave the money from the church members to Paul. “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2Co 9:6-7). In turn, Paul took the gifts and delivered them to the saints in Jerusalem. This was a ministry to the saints (2 Co 9:1).
Old Testament Roots
If you want to really hear from God on where to give your tithes, then prayerfully read Numbers 16-18. The instructions are very clear.
First of all, we need to understand that the Lord chose Moses and Aaron to preside over all the tribes of Israel. Yet Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, who were Levite, grumbled against them. They assembled together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, "You have gone far enough, for all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is in their midst; so why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?" When Moses heard this, he fell on his face; and he spoke to Korah and all his company, saying, "Tomorrow morning the LORD will show who is His, and who is holy, and will bring him near to Himself; even the one whom He will choose, He will bring near to Himself (Num 16:3-5). Note that Moses said the Lord would show who is His, who is holy, and would bring near to Himself the one whom He will choose.
Moses asked the Levites why it wasn’t enough for them that the Lord had separated them from the rest of the congregation to serve in the tabernacle. He asked them if they also wanted the priesthood, too (Num 16:8-10). At Moses’ command, they took their censers, put fire in them, and lay incense in them in the presence of the Lord. “Moses said, ‘By this you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these deeds; for this is not my doing. If these men die the death of all men or if they suffer the fate of all men, then the LORD has not sent me. But if the LORD brings about an entirely new thing and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that is theirs, and they descend alive into Sheol, then you will understand that these men have spurned the LORD.’ As he finished speaking all these words, the ground that was under them split open; and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men who belonged to Korah with their possessions.” (Num 16:28-32).
In this instance, God showed who was holy and who was not. “So they and all that belonged to them went down alive to Sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. All Israel who were around them fled at their outcry, for they said, ‘The earth may swallow us up!’ Fire also came forth from the LORD and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering the incense.” (Num 16:33-35). In addition to Korah and his 250 men, a total of 14,700 people died that day in a plague from God on account of Korah.
Then the Lord went a step further. He had the leader of each of the twelve tribes present their staff to Moses. Aaron’s name was written on the staff that represented the tribe of Levi. The Lord said that the staff that budded, blossomed, and produced almonds would indicate the man He had chosen. “Now on the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony; and behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds.” (Num 17:8)
This proved that God does have a man whom He chooses. “So the LORD said to Aaron, ‘You and your sons and your father's household with you shall bear the guilt in connection with the sanctuary, and you and your sons with you shall bear the guilt in connection with your priesthood. But bring with you also your brothers, the tribe of Levi, the tribe of your father, that they may be joined with you and serve you, while you and your sons with you are before the tent of the testimony. And they shall thus attend to your obligation and the obligation of all the tent, but they shall not come near to the furnishings of the sanctuary and the altar, or both they and you will die.” (Num 18:1-3)
From this passage we learn that the Lord gave the priesthood to Aaron as a gift to serve him while he and his sons were before the tent of testimony, but they did not have the right to come near the furnishing of the sanctuary and the altar. God gave Aaron and his sons the responsibility to carry out the obligations of the sanctuary and the altar. He said, "So you shall attend to the obligations of the sanctuary and the obligations of the altar, so that there will no longer be wrath on the sons of Israel. Behold, I Myself have taken your fellow Levites from among the sons of Israel; they are a gift to you, dedicated to the LORD, to perform the service for the tent of meeting.” (Num 18:5-6)
Now the next part is key to understanding who gets the tithes. “Then the LORD spoke to Aaron, ‘Now behold, I Myself have given you charge of My offerings, even all the holy gifts of the sons of Israel I have given them to you as a portion and to your sons as a perpetual allotment. This shall be yours from the most holy gifts reserved from the fire; every offering of theirs, even every grain offering and every sin offering and every guilt offering, which they shall render to Me, shall be most holy for you and for your sons.” (Num 18:8-9). The Lord gave Aaron charge of His offerings that the sons of Israel gave as holy gifts to the Lord. He gave them to Aaron and his sons as their portions and as a perpetual allotment. All the gifts that were not put through the fire were for him and his sons. The Lord continued in the following verses after this to detail all the kinds of gifts that would belong to Aaron and his sons.
“Then the LORD said to Aaron, ‘You shall have no inheritance in their land nor own any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the sons of Israel. To the sons of Levi, behold, I have given all the tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service which they perform, the service of the tent of meeting.’” (Num 18:20-21). Aaron did not inherit any portion of land among the Israelites, like the rest of them did. The Lord said that He was Aaron’s portion and inheritance! And the Lord gave all the tithe in Israel to the sons of Levi for an inheritance in return for their service to God.
"To the sons of Levi, behold, I have given all the tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service which they perform, the service of the tent of meeting. (Num 18:21)
And again, the Lord said, "For the tithe of the sons of Israel, which they offer as an offering to the LORD, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance; therefore I have said concerning them, 'They shall have no inheritance among the sons of Israel.'" (Num 18:24). The Israelites offered their tithe as an offering to the Lord by presenting them to the Levites, and the Lord gave the tithe to the Levites.
In the New Testament, the pastor stands in the role of Aaron and his fellow Levites. The pastor receives the tithes that the rest of the people offer as an offering to the Lord. The Lord has given the tithe to the pastor as an inheritance, since he has no other inheritance. The Lord is the pastor’s inheritance.
Pastors Must Also Tithe
Just as the rest of the people must tithe to the Lord, the pastor also must tithe. This is what the Lord said to Aaron and his fellow Levites.
Here is how it worked. The Lord said to Aaron, "Moreover, you shall speak to the Levites and say to them, 'When you take from the sons of Israel the tithe which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall present an offering from it to the LORD, a tithe of the tithe.’” (Num 18:26). The Lord told Aaron to tell his fellow Levites to offer to the Lord a tithe of the tithe. In other words, out of the tithe they received from the people, they were to offer a tithe of that to the Lord, the best part of what they received. The Lord considered that best part to be the sacred part, or holy part. It was dedicated or set apart.
He instructed Aaron to tell the Levites, “’So you shall also present an offering to the LORD from your tithes, which you receive from the sons of Israel; and from it you shall give the LORD'S offering to Aaron the priest. Out of all your gifts you shall present every offering due to the LORD, from all the best of them, the sacred part from them.' You shall say to them, 'When you have offered from it the best of it, then the rest shall be reckoned to the Levites as the product of the threshing floor, and as the product of the wine vat.’” (Num 18:28-30) This meant that the Levites must give the LORD'S offering to Aaron the priest. This was to be the best part of the offerings they received from the Israelites. After they gave this to Aaron, the rest of the tithes they received were to become theirs to eat and drink.
Putting it All Together
First of all, your tithe must be given to the Lord. But as we have seen, there is the question of where on earth those funds should be given.
In the Old Testament, God gave Israel's tithes to the Levites as an inheritance in lieu of land. This concept is in line with pastors today, and other full-time gospel ministers.
The first apostles chose not to neglect the word of God to serve tables. “So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, ‘It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables…But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.’" (Act 6:4). The twelve apostles were functioning in a dedicated role, serving the congregation through their devotion to prayer and to the ministry of the Word. It’s no different for pastors and other full-time ministers today, who have no other vocation. They have chosen not to make a living any other way, since they have dedicated themselves to their calling. In a way, many such pastors have no other means to provide for their families, and they have no other inheritance.
The same thing that applied to Aaron and the Levites applies to pastors today. They should receive the tithes that the people offer to the Lord in the sanctuary. And then they must offer to the Lord a tithe of the tithe. The rest of what they receive is theirs to live on, after they have given the best part to the Lord. Obviously there are boundaries set by each church on how much the pastor can receive as salary, so I think those will apply in each situation. Any issues with that need to be worked out with the church board.
The church of God is God’s household, the house of the Lord, also called the temple. Just as the tithes were brought to the temple in the Old Testament, they should be brought to the church in the New Testament. Therefore, I believe in supporting the local church with tithes, and then giving offerings elsewhere.
Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.
Author's note: If you enjoyed this article, you may also like "Is Tithing Required for Christians?" I also recommend The New Covenant, and Obedience by the Spirit. You may visit the Main Directory for Seeking the Lord, and also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus. Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?
“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15). He preached that we must repent and believe.
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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International. He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.