Tithing 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.