This is a common misconception. While tithing is certainly a part of the Old Testament law, it both pre-dates the law itself, and is again affirmed by Jesus in the New Testament. Some 430 years before God gave the Israelites the law through Moses, Abraham, having returned from defeating a conglomerate of kings, was recorded as having given a tenth of the plunder to the priest Melchizedek (Genesis 14:17-20). A few years later, and still centuries before the law was given, Jacob is recorded as promising to tithe to God from “all that [He] has given [him] (Genesis 28:20-22).
Thus, when the law was given and a system of tithing was instituted (see Deuteronomy 14:22-29), this was not a new practice. Nor was tithing abolished when Jesus fulfilled the law. Indeed, Jesus affirmed the practice when He chastised the hypocritical Pharisees who were tithing but failed to exercise justice, mercy and faithfulness. Jesus told them they “should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former” (Matthew 23:23). In other passages of scripture, Jesus presupposed tithing as the means of funding His ministry on earth (See Matthew 10:9-10 and Luke 8:1-3). The Apostle Paul had this same method of supporting kingdom work in mind as well stating that “the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14), acknowledging that he himself was supported by others (2 Corinthians 11:9) and by arranging a collection from the Corinthian church to take to those in Jerusalem in need (2 Corinthians 9).
While some may still persist in a belief that because we are under “grace”, we no longer need to tithe, it is important to remember that grace always has a higher standard than the law (Matthew 5:17-20). Indeed, each time Jesus referenced a law that had been set forth in the Old Testament, He then set forth a higher standard, essentially raising the spiritual bar. For example, while the Law commanded not to murder (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17), Jesus taught that it is wrong to even be angry with a person (Matthew 5:22). Though the Law prohibited adultery (Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18), Jesus taught it is wrong to even look at a woman lustfully (Matthew 5:28). And when provided the opportunity to comment on the amount people were putting into the temple treasury, it is noteworthy that Jesus held in esteem the widow who gave 100% of what she had to live on (Luke 21:1-4).
Far from being an irrelevant Old-Testament teaching, tithing not only transcends the law, but in a world where we live under grace, the tithe – 10 percent — is simply a starting point for our giving.