The truth about Abraham, Melchizedek, and Tithing

“‘and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!’ And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” Genesis 14:20 (ESV)

Here is the first mention of tithing in the Bible. Abram gives Melchizedek (a priest of God who was also the king of the city of Salem) a tithe of the booty taken in war. Notice that what Abram tithed was not wheat, corn, wine, oil, or cattle from Abram’s personal possessions, but rather booty taken from conquered nations.

The same event is told to us in the book of Hebrews:

“For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 2 and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. 3 He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever. 4 See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils! 5 And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers,[a] though these also are descended from Abraham. 6 But this man who does not have his descent from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. 7 It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. 8 In the one case tithes are received by mortal men, but in the other case, by one of whom it is testified that he lives. 9 One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, 10 for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.” Hebrews 7:1-10

There are a number of things we can learn about tithing from this section of Scriptures.

We do not see anything in these passages that tell us that Abram (later changed to Abraham) tithed on a regular basis from his own posesssions.

From Hebrews chapter 7, we learn that the priests of Levi, from the family of Aaron (far inferior to the priestly order of Melchizedek) also receive tithes from the people, according to the law.

Many church leaders claim that Abraham’s tithing of the spoils of war predated the Law of Moses, and so even if the Law of Moses is done away with, we must still tithe because Abraham predated the Law of Moses. Is this really true?

Many church leaders teach that this Scripture is the first proof from the Word of God that Christians are to tithe ten percent of their salaries to the church. Is this really true?

Let’s look at what we learned from these Scriptures.

Abraham went to war on Sodom’s behalf in order to rescue his nephew, Lot. Abraham then gave 10% of the spoils of this war to Melchizedek. Abraham allowed Sodom to keep 90%, while Abraham himself kept nothing.

How is it possible then that this one single never to be repeated act is supposed to be Scriptural evidence that Christians must give 10% of their annual salaries, not the spoils of war but their money, and not once, but year after year, and not to Melchizedek, but to church leaders? It just doesn’t add up.

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