Tag: The Biblical Principles of Tithing

Biblical Truth About Tithing

Biblical Truth About Tithing

If you belong to a Church that teaches and practices the principle of tithing, chances are you know Malachi 3:10 by heart and can very well recite it from memory. It’s because this is what pastors and church leaders are most likely to quote when exhorting their congregation to give their tithes and offerings.

Accordingly, God commands us to give our tithes and when we choose to disobey Him, then we are robbing Him which consequently puts us under a curse. But what does the Bible teach with regard to tithing? What are the biblical principles of tithing?

Biblical Principles of Tithing

The subject of tithing has been an issue of disagreement among Christians and still is today. Although followers of Christ generally agree on almost every essential or fundamental doctrine, there are certain topics that remain unsettled. No matter how we all try to stick to the Bible and submit to its final authority, we still have differences in as far as minor theology is concerned.

When it comes to the subject of tithing, it is important to see that there are two extremes that Christians must by all means avoid. First is the temptation to conclude that tithing is not for Christians today, and so I am not in any way obligated to give and I can keep all the money to myself. The other is to use Malachi 3:10 and other tithing texts to make people feel obliged to give more than what they’re willing to give, and to feel guilty if they don’t.

Is Tithing a Commandment?

The word tithe means a tenth. It was an ancient form of worship that predates the Mosaic Law. The first explicit reference to the tithe is found in Genesis 14:20, where Abraham paid a tithe to Melchizedek, a priest of God Most High, giving him a tenth of all the spoils from battle (See also Hebrews 7:1-2). Later, we read of Jacob vowing to God “a full tenth” (Genesis 28:22).

However, these tithes were not given in response to any specific laws about tithing. They were simply expressions of gratitude to God for His mercy and grace. Abraham and Jacob were pleased to worship the Lord by offering a tenth of their income.

Later in redemptive history, God commanded His people to give a tenth of their income for the support of His work. As part of the Mosaic Law, God commanded the Israelites to provide for the maintenance of the temple and the Levites.

The Levites were the one tribe of Israel who did not receive a portion of the land which God graciously gave to Israel. For the Levites, the priesthood was their inheritance (Numbers 18:24). As priests, they were to serve the other tribes. In order to provide for their survival, God appointed the tithe (Numbers 18:21).

Tithing, therefore, was an important part of Israel’s covenantal life with God. It was a great sin to withhold tithes, and to do so was to steal from God. That’s why when we go to the book of Malachi 3:8-9, God indicted Israel for the sin of breaking their covenant with Him by withholding their tithes. (Note: If you’re reading from the New International Version, the passage heading reads: “Breaking Covenant by Withholding Tithes.”)

In Malachi 3:7, God starts off with a general charge of disobedience, that is, turning away from His decrees, and then narrows it down to a specific charge of disobedient giving in the next two verses quoted earlier. When God’s people fail to obey His word with regard to giving, they are robbing Him.

Conversely, if Israel would show their trust in the Lord by obeying Him with the tithe, they would have their needs met and be blessed (Malachi 3:10).

Are Christians Commanded to Tithe?

The New Testament gives no explicit command for tithing. We don’t read Jesus and His disciples teaching the necessity of tithing. Neither can we find any statement that they tithed. It is also significant to note that tithing is never mentioned in any instructions to the Church, although much is said about giving.

If the Church is supposed to give ten percent, it seems strange that Paul did not mention this when he wrote to predominately Gentile churches, which would not be familiar with the Law of Moses. So why should we tithe when the early Church did not practice tithing? The strict tithe seems to be linked to the old covenant, that is, God’s covenant with the nation of Israel.

Nevertheless, there is some continuity between the old and new covenants when it comes to giving. Just as Israel was to provide for the priests in the old covenant, the Church is to provide for the ministry of the Gospel in the new covenant. The apostle Paul makes it very clear that the ministry of the Gospel is to be supported with the resources of the Church. Paul gives very straight-forward teaching on this topic in 1 Corinthians 9:14.

When Paul wrote to Timothy, he quotes some general laws from the Old Testament and applies them to the ministry of the Word. (See 1 Timothy 5:17-18) Also when Paul wrote to the Galatians, he says, Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches (Galatians 6:6). To this end, every Christian should be mindful of his responsibilities in supporting the budget of the congregation to which he belongs, so that the aforementioned needs are being met.

No longer under Law but under Grace

Christians who say we do not have to tithe argue that tithing is an Old Testament Law and is applicable only to the nation of Israel. We are not physical Israel and we do not own the land so we are not under the Law. We are living under grace in the new covenant and so tithing does not apply to us.

Christians who are against tithing also argue that using the ten percent measure in our giving to God is limiting what we can give, thereby limiting our blessings. In other words, why limit your giving to a mere ten percent when you can give more? This month you may choose to give fifteen percent, next month twenty-five percent or more and the following month perhaps a bit less depending on your financial needs. This seems reasonable and acceptable, don’t you think?

On the other hand, Christians who hold to the view that tithing still applies to believers today often quote Malachi 3:10 where the command to tithe is given by God Himself. They also cite Matthew 23:23 to argue that Jesus affirms tithing when He rebuked the Scribes and Pharisees for neglecting the weightier matters of the law such as grace and mercy but commended them for tithing in mint, anise, and cumin. They believe that the tithe and offerings are two separate things.

Biblical Principles of Tithing

Your tithe is the tenth of your income while your offering is any amount that you want to give to God from the remaining ninety percent, on top of your tithe, that is. For your offering, you can give as much as your heart desires. But the tithe is a fixed amount, that is, the tenth of all the blessings you received from God.

The only problem I see with dutifully practicing or imposing tithing is the tendency for it to become ritualistic and mechanical. Legalism would start creeping in, standards might be set up which aren’t necessarily biblical standards and hypocrisy would arise. Take for instance the self-righteous Pharisee in Luke 18:12, boasting about his tithing as proof of his righteousness.

The Standard of Giving in the New Testament

If the compulsory Levitical tithe was particular to the Levitical priesthood and the New Testament does not explicitly command a strict ten percent of one’s income, just how much should the believer give? Paul gives us at least three guidelines. Let us then consider carefully the following three principles.

1) Give freely, generously and cheerfully.

In 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 Paul says that He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” There is no prescribed amount that one must give. The amount you give is something that only you can decide but however much you give, do it with joy.

So you say, “Great to hear that. It means I can give what’s left after I have settled all my bills and set aside my budget for this month.” Of course, you’re free to give what you’re willing to give but will it make you joyful knowing that you’re not giving God the best? Are you cheerful to give just two percent or maybe five percent of your income to the Lord?

While ten percent is not a strict requirement for the new covenant, it is nevertheless an excellent guideline. Christians must do well to make ten percent of their income the minimum of their giving as an expression of their joy in the Lord.

2) Give consistently.

In continuation of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian Church, he gives us direction. He says, On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.”

We are to establish the practice of setting aside a certain amount of our resources for God’s work, just as you would anything else in your monthly budget and financial planning. Whatever amount we decide to give, we are to do so consistently on a weekly or monthly basis. We don’t choose to give a certain amount this month and skip it next month or the month after, then give again after that. The support of the local church relies upon the regular giving of the members of the congregation.

3) Give as the Lord prospers you.

Consider Paul’s commands above: as he may prosper. It means our giving should be in proportion to what God has given us. As God increases your income, your giving should increase accordingly. We see how the old covenant practice of tithing can be applied in the new covenant. When we set aside ten percent of our income, whether we make a little or a lot, helps us to give as the Lord prospers us.

Biblical Principles of Tithing

Biblical Principles of Tithing

Tithing is a matter of the heart. The main principle behind tithing is the fact that what we do with our money shows where our heart is (Matthew 6:21). By giving ten percent or more of our income instead of keeping that money for ourselves, we show that our heart isn’t tied to our money and that we love God more than our money.

Always remember that everything we have belongs to God, He just entrusted them under our care. Even though most of us probably work for the money we make each month, even God has a hand there – He has given us the ability to do our jobs (Deuteronomy 8:18).

If we are able to grasp what God has fully given to us, we are certain to agree that ten percent doesn’t even feel like much. If Abraham tithed to Melchizedek whose priesthood was based on the law and the Old Testament saints who were living under the Law practiced tithing, how much more for us today who have been redeemed by Christ and are now living under His covenant of grace?

I believe that it’s a big mistake to use the we’re no longer living under the law but under grace as an excuse for the people of God not to give. It’s very easy for you to say that you are faithfully obeying God. But what if the Lord says, “Oh yeah? Why don’t we get more specific. How is your giving?”

It’s important to realize that giving is one of the litmus tests of your relationship to God. Your Bible knowledge maybe impressive and so as your prayer life and years of service in your Church ministry. But what about your stewardship of the money that God has entrusted to you?

Do you maintain integrity in terms of money matters? Are your priorities and motives for earning, spending, saving, and giving in line with biblical standards and principles?

*Recommended Resource: Perspectives on Tithing: Four Views
By David A. Croteau, Scott Preissler, Ken Hemphill, Bobby Eklund, Reggie Kidd, & Gary North

The Biblical Principles of TithingWas the tithe just for Israel, or is it also applicable to Christians?

Must a tithe go only to your local church, or can it be received by any Christian organization? Do we tithe on the net or the gross amount?

Perspectives on Tithing presents in a point-counterpoint format the most common views about how Christians are to give of their financial resources, addressing the myriad of questions that surround the complex issue.

Ken Hemphill (Empowering Kingdom Growth) and Bobby Eklund (Eklund Stewardship Ministries) contribute “The Foundations of Giving” while the book’s editor, David A. Croteau (Liberty University), writes “The Post-Tithing View: Giving in the New Covenant.”

A chapter by Reggie Kidd (Reformed Theological Seminary) is called “Tithing in the New Covenant? ‘Yes’ as Principle, ‘No’ as Casuistry.”

Finally, Gary North (Institute for Christian Economics) looks directly at “The Covenantal Tithe,” and Scott Preissler (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) provides the epilogue.