Updated: Dec 31, 2021
The concept of Abraham tithing as it is taught in many local church gatherings today is, where I have seen in so many places, out of context.
It seems those who would try to prove tithing is a scriptural concept for the believers of the New Covenant made in Christ tend to run to the fact that The Bible describes Abraham as “tithing” to Melchizedek (yes, it is often used as a verb).
Because of this the church ought to ignore the New Testament in regard to the fact that we are dead to The Law and instead, we should tithe? The conversation of law vs. grace is usually a controversial one.
The purpose of The Gospel Perspective is to interpret the Bible from the viewpoint of grace as we have it now in Christ under The New Covenant. We are not of the letter but of the Spirit. Our main focus is Jesus' and His finished work. Anything that would cloud our view of Jesus should be addressed from the perspective of the Gospel.
It is my goal and desire to honestly take a deeper look into this phenomenon (and it is an irregular story) of Abraham “tithing” to Melchizedek.
The story can be found in Genesis 14.
First, I will give a quick run-down of the narrative where Abraham “tithes” to a mystery man known as Melchizedek.
The chapter begins with a massive war between nine kings that gets very nasty. Throughout the mix-up and the fighting Sodom and Gomorrah are pillaged and Abraham’s nephew, Lot, is taken captive by one of their enemies. Abraham, is not going to have that, so he goes to get Lot.
Three hundred and eighteen men accompany Abraham as He proceeds to slaughter and defeat the people that took His nephew. He ends up saving Lot, and taking a bunch of goods (as was the custom of the winning party during a scrap in those days.)
Abraham has the pillaged goods in hand, he also has Lot, Lot’s goods, the women, and the rest of the people that were taken. On Abraham’s way back, the king of Salem and the king of Sodom meet Abraham. These two kings have already returned home from battle and started putting things back in their place.
Melchizedek meets Abraham with bread and wine, and Bera has come to reclaim His people.
Here is the part of the story that causes some confusion about our tithing today:
Genesis 14:16-19 “And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people. And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king's dale. And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.”
Abraham’s Towing Capacity
The scripture here is very clear about what Abraham had with him when he gave “tithes of all.” Herein lies a large part of the context. The Bible is not saying He gave a tenth of everything He possessed.
Whatever Abraham had in tow at the time is what He gave. So what did He give? The spoils of battle. Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils of battle to Melchizedek.
This fact is brought out again in the book of Hebrews:
Hebrews 7:4 “Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.”
Ok, now let’s say we are going to try to tell someone they should give a tenth to their church because Abraham gave a tenth to Melchizedek. Serious Question, are you going to do it like Abraham? Give a tenth of the spoils of battle where you just killed people and took their stuff?
Yeah, this has been taken straight out of context.
I have heard it hundreds of times that everything you give as a “tithe” should be given from your increase. Certainly, this is taken from Proverbs 3:9 where Israel was admonished to honor the Lord with the first fruits of their increase, and Solomon was referring to The Law of Moses.
We are not under The Law and never were. God likes it this way and as Gentiles we honor Him by choosing Jesus who has made us dead to The Law. (Romans 7:4)
So then, it was taught to me that I should give off the top of my gross income a tenth (tithe) to the local church because of what I just mentioned.
Unfortunately, when we rightly divide the scriptures, that is completely out of context.
Tithing the first fruits of your increase was a command of The Law of Moses, to which none of us were ever invited. (Ephesians 2:11-12)
There is also one more issue. Abraham didn’t give a tithe from the firstfruits of all His increase every time He received increase. If Abraham is such a prime example of tithing prior to The Law, then why didn’t God say He tithed from everything every time? Because He didn’t.
Abraham would have been one nightmare of a “backslidden” church member.
First, he takes several hundred men, murders people, and then steals their goods. Now, he isn’t tithing like most pastors think He should! What’s next? God couldn’t possibly use Abraham!! Wrong.
Some need to quite applying scripture to suite their fantasies of how they think it should be done, or twisting it to fit the error of generations past. No, Abraham didn’t tithe. He GAVE a tithe (tenth) of the spoils of battle. There is a huge difference, and He only gave that tenth ONE TIME during his entire existence on planet earth from all that we can tell from this account.
He never gave it again, ever.
You can’t make up some of the ways this has been twisted to support the lies of those who preach law over grace. It’s just a big stretch of scripture. Please be realistic and honest with the context.
Tithing Abe: Straight Out Of Context
Abraham giving a tithe to Melchizedek isn’t how most think of tithing, and it never has been.
- He didn’t give a tenth of His gross income, every time he received increase.
- He went to war, and killed people.. then looted the place and gave a tenth to Melchizedek.
- Really, there is no command from Melchizedek as to giving or how much He should give. The gift is out of sincere appreciation for who Melchizedek is and the blessing He gave Abraham (Vs 19). That’s great, and that’s what New Testament believers are encouraged to do.
- It is not a command to pay 10% to your local church (this is laughably not even close).
- This story is mentioned in The New Testament writings but its only purpose is to point out the superiority of Jesus Christ to Abraham (Hebrews 7:4). We find it in a letter written to Jews where the purpose is to convince them of how much greater The New Covenant is compared to The Old. There is still no command to tithe in any of those verses either. In fact, apart from that honorable mention in Hebrews, tithing is never mentioned again after the death of Jesus! Paul, Peter, James, John, and Jude never talk about tithing specifically, they say to give from the heart, and not because of The Law (1 Cor. 9:16).
Truthfully, this gives A huge testimony to grace giving. Abraham meets a priest of God, and decides that man is worthy of a gift. He gives to this mystery priest from a foreign nation after this priest blesses Him and His God.
Abraham gave to a person, not an organization. That’s also worthy of note, but I won’t belabor that.
The burden of proof is on anyone who claims that Abraham giving tenth of the spoils of battle is an example to the church under The New Covenant that they should follow The Law of Moses in regard tithe or they will be cursed. This is what is preached in our day and age by so many.
It is straight out of context.