The question of the tithe is one of those questions that illustrate the struggle we have with money.
Do we really need to give 10 percent? As we look at the tithe in the Bible, I’d like to start with three things that I believe are biblical and true – and I hope you agree with me:
1. All that we are and everything that God has entrusted to us belongs to him, and we are stewards of his blessings. …everything was created by him, and through him, and for him (Col 1:16).
2. God’s kindness toward us in Jesus, and all that that means, should consume us and be the heartbeat of every aspect of our life. We should have transformed minds that do away with being controlled by the urges of this world (Rom 12:2).
3. We should live lives that focus on bringing glory to God because the gospel is, by far, the most precious thing in the universe. Paul said that even the most mundane things of life, like eating or drinking, should be done for the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31).
So, with that as the foundation, is the tithe a requirement? No.
Four points about using the tithe as requirement:
- The Old Testament priesthood is gone. The tithe, at least for the most part, was in place to support the Levites and the whole system of the priesthood. Now, since Jesus, the perfect High Priest, has replaced the Old Testament priesthood, the tithe is no longer needed or even advocated in the New Testament. When the tithe is mentioned in the New Testament, it’s connected to Jesus’ scathing criticism of the Pharisees in Matthew 23, or to amplify the status of Melchizedek in Hebrews 7.
- Paul doesn’t lean on the tithe. When Paul emphasizes the need for giving, he doesn’t talk in terms of the tithe. Instead, he urges Christians to give as God has prospered them (1 Cor 16:1‑2) and he wants to make sure they know three things about giving in 2 Cor 9:7: 1-Generous giving means generous blessing. 2-They should give after thoughtful consideration and not because of coercion. 3-Giving should be done with joyful hearts.
- The tithe can become a giving maximum. While for most, tithing would mean giving more, it’s easy for the tithe to become a false and maximum target. So once the 10 percent goal is achieved and their duty is done, the 90 percent belongs to them. So the tithe as a requirement is usually considered the minimum or the maximum. For some, tithing might be oppressive; for others it’s a ridiculously small amount.
- There is a better way. Not an obligation but a shared vision. Through the presence of the Holy Spirit, Christians share God’s vision for the outcome of their salvation, existing for the glory of God.
Rule-making often reduces our ability to function as God intends – in Spirit-led freedom. I’m not saying that we must give 100 percent of our income to the church and missions. I’m saying that 100 percent of everything we have is important. It all belongs to God and we need a good foundation of truth when we think about giving.
We should be praying about our financial decisions. The house we buy, the car we own, the food we eat, the clothes we buy, and the way we think about college costs and vacations, and retirement are all important because the glory of God is involved in all of this.
When we think about the tithe in the Bible, the coming of Jesus brought a paradigm shift. The question “How much must I give?” is entirely out of place for the Christian. Hopefully, we’re praying, “God, make me aware of the value of the gospel, and help me glorify you in every financial decision I make. Help me be a good steward of your gifts. I want to care about what you care about.”
Tithes and offerings
It’s common for church leaders to use the phrase, tithes and offerings. This usually means that we believe in the ten percent as a requirement, and then it would be great if we give more. So, if you’re “dirt poor” and can barely put food on the table, you’re still shirking your duty if you don’t give 10 percent.
After really praying about this, some might start by working toward a 10% giving goal. But not because there is something magical about 10%. For others who are making big money, you need to be asking, why are you only thinking 10%? What are you doing with the 90%, and is that good stewardship?
Following Jesus in our giving
So, here’s a basic New Testament concept about giving – Being a disciple means giving because disciples follow Jesus.
…be imitators of God as beloved children. And walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us… – Eph 5:1-2
I’d like to finish this up with a verse from the end of the book of Hebrews. After the author of this fantastic letter speaks of Jesus and his salvation and how Jesus is superior to, and the fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrificial system and the profits, and after he warns the readers against leaving Jesus, and speaks about perseverance, he says this:
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” – Heb 13:5
God is our life-giving treasure, and he does not die, and he is the purpose of everything, and he loves you and will care for you and will see you home. While this world and its empty promises will leave, Jesus will not. And he will not turn his back on us. We don’t need to fear missing out on anything here, and we must not be serving money. We have Jesus, and he will care for us.
John Calvin said, As long as we have such a helper, there is no cause to fear.
So, those who have been given new life shouldn’t be asking how much must I give and how much can I keep? We should be asking how much can I give and how much must I keep?
Here is an article that you might like – 4 Truths About Christian Giving