The Ten Percent Tithe

tithingTithing is a tricky thing.  If a church pastor preaches a sermon on tithing, he will be accused of being interested only in money.  The pastor’s salary (minister, priest, etc) is probably set in the church budget.  It’s not like if the church has a good day at the offering plate, he’s going out to Golden Corral after the service.  But try to teach on the subject of tithing if you don’t believe me, and see if  words like meddling or greedy aren’t tossed around freely.

The issue I wish to address here is the practice many Christians have of tithing exactly ten percent of each dollar earned.  I mean to respond to questions such as:

  • Is tithing an Old Testament command?
  • Are Christians required to tithe?
  • Does Jesus demand a tithe?
  • How much should one tithe, if anything?

The most commonly accepted tithe to make is ten percent, as mentioned earlier.  It is easy to find ten percent tithers in the Old Testament, even before the Law is given at Mount Sinai.  Abraham gave the priest Melchizedek such a tithe, long before there even was a Moses.  Many site Leviticus 27:30, and sometimes verses following, as the basis for a ten percent tithe.  There are offering envelopes with this verse printed on them, that read “a tenth… holy unto the LORD.”  Well, that’s sort of what that verse says.  It says any tithe given will be holy unto the LORD, but does not specify ten percent.  And the ten percent tithe in the Law was only one tithe; there were also taxes collected, free-will offerings, and special collections taken up to do the religious and civil work of the Hebrew kingdom.  Even in the Old Testament, it’s complicated.  It gets even more so in the New.

In the New Testament, we read that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.  We live under grace, and not old covenant legality.  One could argue the civil law is still in effect, but the religious codes, the food laws, those were specific to the nation of Israel.  So, on that basis alone, one could argue that tithing is not required.  Tithing was a law, we are not under the Law.

But the church now, as before, is required to do certain things, like care for widows and orphans.  The New Testament is clear about supporting your clergy as well; and missionaries.  Without financial support, your local church could not even keep the lights on, much less fulfill the Great Commission.  When it comes to our finances in the New Testament, the “ten percent” rule might actually be holding us back.  Rather than ten percent being required, we find verses like Acts 11:29, where each gave according to his ability.  Some of us are able to give far beyond ten percent.  2 Corinthians 9:6 says we should give willingly, v. 7 even telling us that “God loves a cheerful giver.”

I assure you that if you have been regularly practicing tithing ten percent, your church (and pastor) appreciate it.  Tithing is Old Testament Law; we should be offering or giving to the church.  And even if we give ten percent, we still must honor God with the other 90.  What Jesus requires is much greater than ten percent of what we have; he requires the whole thing, and not just our money.  As Paul reminded the Corinthians, we are no longer our own but have been bought with a price. Our tithes, offerings and gifts (including time and talent) belong to God; and he is worthy to receive them.

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8 thoughts on “The Ten Percent Tithe

  1. One question I said I would answer is “Does Jesus demand a tithe?”

    When pressed with this same question, Jesus asked to be shown a coin. He asked whose picture was on it. When the man answered “Caesar,” Jesus told him to give to Caesar what was Caesar’s, and to God what belongs to God.

    Now, you decide for yourself how much that is.

  2. Clark,

    Thank you for your comment on my post. It brought me to yours and other than a fine point or two, I have no problem with what you say. We are not opposing views.

    However, you miss out one point. You talk about the tithe but neglect to point out that the word itself means “one tenth”. For instance, you mention “a ten percent tithe” but there is no other tithe. There cannot be a 10% fifth or a 10% fourth. To talk about a 10% tithe is redundant—it is the same as saying a 10% tenth.

    Anyway, my posts only suggest that to hold NT Believers to a tithe law is wrong. We should give to support ministry and we should do so gladly and willingly. But to press people into “obedience” based on the Law and the tithe—in my opinion—is scriptural heresy.

    In the church I attended, there was little focus on helping the orphan and the widow—or the homeless, etc. I know because I was on the Benevolence Committee and had to at times speak on a Sunday morning to ask for funds to help someone. It was not in the budget but was based on designated offerings. No, the “tithe” went to pay a salary for a pastor, youth pastor, associate pastor, secretary, mortgage, utilities, and ministry materials. It helped to buy new projectors, a new sound board, microphones, and the like. It pays for mowing and snow removal. But the ministry to the community in which it sits is anemic. If that community doesn’t come in the front door, little is done otherwise.

    My wife and I give to other active ministries that are reaching and changing lives on a daily basis. They’re not busy playing “church”.

  3. Pingback: Tithing Us » The Ten Percent Tithe « The Master's Table

  4. I don’t believe the tithe is essential in order to drum up some support for the ministries within the Church. To assume that the Holy Spirit is capable of convincing a missionary to travel to the remote parts of an African jungle but is not capable to direct others to give freely is ludicrous. Tithing has no place within the structure of the Spirit led Church.

    – jared

  5. how much should be given to the Pastors or ministers who worked full time in the church? is there a percentage required to be given for the ministers from the tithes?

  6. A full time pastor should be given a salary that he can live on. New Testament scripture insists he be paid what is due, but does not list such a numerical percentage. If your pastor graduated from college and then spent another 4 years in seminary, his salary should be equivalent to those in other professional fields.

    A pastor is very much a servant of the church and the community. While spending a lifetime in pastoral service should not make one rich (the wrong type of person might be attracted to the job) a pastor shouldn’t be kept poor either. Some would have a church pastor never quite able to purchase a new car nor wear a suit that wasn’t a gift. The exact figure will vary depending on the size and location of a church, but the pastor should have a standard of living comparable to that of his members.

  7. What about senior citizens without income anymore but totally dependent on their savings or pittance retirement fund, and this money is eaten up by inflation every year.

    What ten percent can be imposed when there is no earning at all, but disbursement all the time.

    Pastors and priests should then also ask God to give senior citizens a discount, but that is ridiculous, because senior citizens don’t have earning at all, not even the interest on their savings can fight the yearly inflation: senior citizens just hope and pray that they don’t outlive their savings or their pittance retirement fund whatever.

    So, pastors and priests whatever, they should ask God to impose upon Himself to give senior citizens a re-imbursement of their life expenses as to at least make up for the yearly inflation.

  8. I approved the above comment but I’m pretty sure it’s a troll. For one, the post I wrote is not about a legalistic command to tithe. God loves a cheerful giver; if you are going to begrudge dropping any amount in the plate, you should just keep that money. You will not be blessed by the offering.

    Secondly, this comment is not written from a Christian/biblical perspective. Jesus commends the widow who offered two small coins (mites) for giving all that she had. Her faith was in God to provide, not retirement savings or the government.

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