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Tithing: Genesis 4:3-7
Jacobus Erasmus, 04 October 2018

The first passage to appear in the Bible, and which some people use to argue in favour of tithing, is Genesis 4:3-7. The passage reads,

In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it" (Genesis 4:3-7 ESV).

In order to evaluate whether this passage may be used to support the notion of tithing, two important questions must be answered:

  1. Does the passage describe the act of tithing?
  2. Does the passage command us to tithe?

The answer to both these questions is "No". First, it is obvious that this passage is not describing the act of tithing. The passage:

The point of the passage is not to describe in detail why Cain and Abel brought an offering to the Lord. Rather, the passage forms part of a larger narrative that illustrates how destructive jealousy can be in families and among siblings, and that God encourages us to "rule over" our sinful (and jealous) desires by placing our faith in the Lord. As Hebrews 11:4 says,

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks (Hebrews 11:4 ESV).

Second, Genesis 4:3-7 contains no information to even suggest that God requires us to give ten percent of our financial income to our local church. This fact is, once again, obvious.

Therefore, Genesis 4:3-7 simply cannot be used to support the notion of tithing. To read tithing into this passage is to insert our own imagined meaning into the text.

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