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Should We Tithe? A Biblical Analysis of Tithing

Enjoy this guest post today from Josh Mann.  Josh has started a new blog recently at BiblioCentric.com.  Take a look… I think you’ll enjoy it!

You’re sitting in church enjoying the music, minding your own business when suddenly you notice it. Out of the corner of your eye you can see the offering plate coming towards you, and you hastily reach for your wallet. “How much did I give last week?” you think to yourself. “Twenty, yeah it was twenty, that was a lot, this week I think ten should suffice.”
For the average church go-er this is probably close to the experience they have with giving financially to their church. They know the bible talks about tithing (and their radical Christian friends do it) but they may not be sure what tithing is, or if it is for today. However, a close look at the biblical precepts for giving in the context of the New Testament church will yield a clear answer. Let’s see what God’s word says.

What is tithing?
First things first, what is exactly is tithing? Biblically tithing was an Old Testament command that God gave to ethnic Israel. Leviticus 27:32 says “The entire tithe of the herd and flock–every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod–will be holy to the LORD” (NIV). In fact God even rebuked Israel for not paying their tithes. Malachi 3:8 says “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ In tithes and offerings” (NIV). As you can see God took tithing very seriously when it came to his dealings with Israel, but what about his covenant with the church? Does God command the church to tithe?

Is tithing a New Testament Command?
You might find it interesting to know that Jesus, nor Paul, nor any of the New Testament writers ever commanded the church to tithe. In fact the only time tithing is ever mentioned in the New Testament is in the context of Israel, or in dealing with the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. Just as a reminder, the Pharisees were still practicing Judaism. So, if the bible doesn’t command Christians to tithe, what does it tell us to do with our money? I’m glad you asked.

Why do Some Say That Tithing is for Today?
Some people believe that tithing is still a command for the church today. Let me say first of all that giving ten percent of your income to your church is by no means a bad thing (in fact most Christians don’t even do that!). One of the main verses that people will use when trying to build a case for tithing is Luke 11:42 “But woe unto you, Pharisees! For ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone” (NKJ). They’ll say “See! We are commanded by Jesus to tithe today.” However, in this text Jesus is clearly talking to Pharisees who were not Christians but rather Jews. In fact, Judaism had not even been displaced with Christianity at this point; rather it was a time of transition. The context of the passage is that Jesus was reproving the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. In the corresponding text in Mathew 23:24, Jesus says “Blind guides who strain out a gnat, and swallow a camel” (NKJ). This verse refers to God’s command that the Jews should not eat unclean meat which both a gnat and a camel are. If we conclude that Jesus was commanding us to tithe in Mathew 23 and Luke 11, then why don’t we conclude that Jesus was commanding us to refrain from eating unclean meat? Especially when the context of both of those chapters is clearly Jesus comparing the Pharisees rigorous keeping of the law, with their neglect of the heart of the law which was justice, love, mercy etc.. The answer of course, is that Jesus clearly was not commanding the church to do anything here, nor does the New Testament harbor any command for the continuation of tithing.

What are the New Testament Commands for the Church in Regards to Finances?
To start with, let’s go to 1 Corinthians 16: 2. It says “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made” (NIV). Did you see the command?” In keeping with your income”. In one sentence tithing is proved not to be a command for the church today. Why? Because the command is telling us to give proportionately to our income, not just ten percent across the board. We must also understand that in the context of this verse when Paul says “collections” he means taking up a love offering for the persecuted Christians in Jerusalem. Right there you have yet another principle that tells us that tithing is not for today; that those who have been blessed financially in the church are supposed to support those who struggle financially (which does not mean God has not blessed them) in the church. Sometimes this responsibility may require more than ten percent.

The Spirit of the Command
The summary of the biblical principles for the giving of our finances in a God honoring way is clear. The Bible urges us to give more than ten percent if we have to ability to and a corresponding burden to do so. We are also to give to Christians who have a financial need. To not do so is actually a sin (James 2:15). Above all else, the main motivator for our giving ought to be love, which is the supreme command for the Christian. We give to the church out of a love for God and his word. By the same token, we give to our needy brothers and sisters because of our love for them. Christians are no longer bound to tithe, just as Christians are no longer bound to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times a year. The law of Moses was displaced when Jesus came to institute the New Covenant. Nowhere in the New Testament are Christians commanded to tithe, rather to guide their giving with love and the desire to glorify God in finance.



18 Responses to “ “Should We Tithe? A Biblical Analysis of Tithing”

  1. andyboal says:

    I would go a little further with the theory.

    Every penny comes from God, ultimately.

    Therefore, if I can live on 10% of my income without neglecting to take proper care of myself to be fit to serve God, should I give all of the other 90% to God? Would this be a proper use of the ability he has given me to earn money, to benefit the church?

    That’s a very broad statement, and has a lot of whys and wherefores with it, but it’s a discussion starter.

    • Josh Mann says:

      I agree that it is very broad, but i would say that God leads us based on our income to use our money as a means of worship, and not just as charity. If I am led to give twenty percent but you are led to give thirty then that’s OK. The bible allows for a high degree of variance on this. Thanks for the comment, and I agree I hope this will be a hearty dialogue. :)

      Josh Mann

  2. Helpful thoughts on giving, although you left out two of my favorite passages – The first is a PRE-Law understanding given in Genesis 14 when Abraham gives a tithe to Melchizadek. This has served to give me an assumption of the tithe apart from the Law. Not as a command but simply as an “of course!” Second is 2 Corinthians 8:1-3 which really gets to the heart of all believers living in dependence and giving in faith beyond their ability and certainly underscores the idea of giving of our own accord with thankful hearts to God.

    • Josh Mann says:

      It’s certainly a good point with Genesis 14, tithing was around long before the Mosaic law, however i would probably argue that this was predominately a cultural phenomenon, but it kinda sounds like you would tend to agree from reading your comment. I appreciate the analysis!

      Josh Mann

  3. Robert says:

    There is an assumption at play in all tithing discussions that needs to be resolved–that there was ever a single command or practice under the Old Covenant or at any time that Jews were called to give a tenth of their income.

    I have a sermon that discusses this whole issue, and a more academic paper, but here’s just one example of how we are confused about Leviticus 27.

    First, read it carefully. There are two facts about this first tithe (there are 3 in Scripture) that do not fit well with using it to establish the principle of a tithe as practiced by modern Christians. First, it did not apply to everyone’s income. It did not apply to income at all! Verse 30ff says that ten percent of the crops grown and the livestock raised by farmers belonged to the Lord. Free from this requirement would be those who made their living by other means, or those farming outside Canaan (Trans-Jordanians). So this first tithe was not about income, did not apply to all Jews, and from that, we get the evangelical tithe?

    http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=722121316227

    As I deal with each text that addresses a different tithe or offering required by God, through Moses, we see similar limitations and no proof that there was ever anything like the “evangelical tithe” in place. Thus, it’s impossible to argue that Jesus did or didn’t affirm it. And it’s impossible for this “tithe” that didn’t happen, even once, to be a guide for us.

    Hear the rest in the sermon above. Thanks for listening.

  4. MikeB says:

    The Mosaic Law is certainly obsolete with the coming of Christ and the New Covenant.

    But Jesus taught that some provisions in the Law were given because of our hard hearts (Matt 19). I think that giving is one of those areas.

    Paul reminds us that the OT is given as an example (1 Cor 10). I see 10% as a good baseline for giving. It is what God proscribed in the past and still leaves us with 90% of our blessings to enjoy.

    This is just a general observation but the avg giving for Christians of around 2-3% seems to fall short of the incredible blessings we have.

    Given the spiritual blessings we enjoy (Eph 1) and the physical blessings many have in the US, we should be known as a very generous people.

    • Josh Mann says:

      Hey Mike thanks for the comment .I whole heartedly agree with your analysis of giving in the modern day (visible) church, though I: think it is indicative of deeper spiritual problems than just a misunderstanding of tithing.

      Josh

  5. Sonlife says:

    very interesting discussion

  6. Dave says:

    If tithing was for today it would be clearly taught in the New Testament, especially as the church was being established in the book of Acts. Modern-day, or “evangelical” tithing, as one noted above is a relatively recent phenomenon in the church. In fact, I would go as far as to say it’s been a very destructive practice because it teaches that all giving must be done through the local church while many biblical examples of giving are person-to-person. Malachi 3 is probably one of the most abused/mis-used chapters in the entire Bible. Of course, then there’s “faith promise giving” but that’s another subject.

    • MikeB says:

      Dave
      I would say that 10% is a good guide for giving (see above), but would agree with you that giving could be done to multiple people/organizations including the local church, missionaries, needy in the neighborhood etc.

      Mike

  7. It would seem that under grace all of us could give more than a tenth of our income. Matthew 5:27-48 The law of love should allow us to give generusly of our finances to assist the poor and to spread the gospel.

  8. Ray says:

    So- we are supposed to tip 15%-18% but give God only 10%. Seems a bit wrong

  9. tithing says:

    If tithing was actually a clear and consistent pattern throughout scripture, i could see one making the case for this being a requirement.

    Most people do not realize the inconsistent nature of tithing in the bible

    1). – Heb. 7, Abraham only gave from the spoils of war and not from his wealth. 2). Num. 31, Israel gave less than 1% of their spoils of war. 3). Lev. 27, Only farmers and herdsman gave a tithe from their increase. Carpenters, lawyers, blacksmiths, etc. were exempt from tithing from their occupational income. 4). Deut. 26, the poor received tithes and did not pay them. 5). Gen. 14 & 28, First you see Abraham giving a tithe which may come across as a requirement, then you read about Jacob, who voluntarily offers the tithe upon certain conditions. 6). Then finally, there is not a single mention to the Church about how to continue or modify the tithe to fit within the infrastructure of the Church.

    - jared

  10. Chris says:

    I always wonder whether people questioning tithing is about Biblical integrity or about alleviating their’s or someone’s conscience. I also find that most people who teach this are NOT pastors. If Christians average giving is 2-3% now and we teach them that the tithe is not the base of giving, local churches would be in big trouble. If we teach them to send their tithe or a portion of it to whoever they want and not the local church where they are spiritually fed and cared for– local churches would be in trouble. Tithing is a spiritual principle before, under and after the law. It is an antidote to greed and for many people once they begin to tithe, it leads to greater generosity. Also giving the first 10% demonstrates trust to God as our provider and that He comes first in our life. Of course, it is about our hearts not jut obeying the law, but giving the first 10% is a test of our hearts. The principle of tithing supports local churches all over the world and has for hundreds of years. Of course everything we have belongs to God, but He knew what was in the heart of men and how powerful greed is. It is interesting to me how a few anti-tithing authors and bloggers have found insights and revelation that is wiser that multitudes of scholars, denominational doctrines, and practicing pastors that teach tithing as a principle to follow and have for decades.

    • Melvin says:

      Chris, thank you so much for your words of wisdom. I was getting a little confuse on the subject of tithing. After reading your comments the confusion is gone. I’m tithing now and being blessed beyond measure for doing so. Twice in the pass I stopped tithing and things really got bad for me. Lost of jobs each time, got in financial trouble etc. Each time I started back tithing the Lord would pour out blessings that my cup couldn’t hold. I made a promise to God this last time I started back tithing that I will give 10% of my earnings no matter what. But I must say this, after reading recently that tithing is not really a New Testament command and that maybe I really don’t have to pay tithes. Greed began to cross my mind, I began to think what I could do with that $300.00 tithes. Then I had to snap out of it, I had to rebuke that thought. God has proven himself to me more than once for putting him first. Then I had to think about my promise. Tithing may not be a command for Christians, but doing it as you said Chris demonstrates trust in God as our provider and he comes first in our lives. I’m making it a choice to continue tithing, out of love for God.

      • ed says:

        is your God a gambler? every time you supposedly give 10% he re pay you with interest. also you did not loose your job because you did not tithe.,and God has to prove himself to you..now that’s courage ….
        did you stay home and some one knock and say
        “I have this great job for you,,God told me to tell you”
        is that what you mean.

  11. Danny Daniels says:

    2 Cor. 9:7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. KJV

    2 Cor. 9:7 You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” NLT

    God’s plan for the church involves a new covenant with better promises. God intends for his church to be spirit led in all things. We are supposed to be sensitive to the leadings and promptings of His Spirit. This applies to how and when we give as well. Listen to God. Obey. That is it. God knows best.

  12. Jay says:

    We Already Tither.

    Your Already a Tither!
    Currently the Federal Government spends 58% of it’s expenses on Poor
    Programs. (Welfare, Social Security, MediCare, MediCaid, Food Stamps, etc…)
    See the official Chart here:
    http://www.businessinsider.com/usa-inc-2010-income-statement

    So for every 1.00, the government uses 58 cents of it for these programs. So technically you support the poor already with your income. A little simple math and we can actually see what your share is.

    Formula: Your Monthly Taxes / divided by 58% / = ? / divided by your Monthly Salary = Your Percentage

    [e.g. Take your monthly taxes and divide it by 58%. Then take that figure and divide it by your monthly gross salary.

    Mary makes 1,600 per month, she has $460 in taxes every month.
    Divide: $460 / 58% = $266
    $266 Divided by 1,600 = 16%. Mary’s percentage is 16% of her income every month to support the poor.

    Congratulations! Your Already a Giver!

    WHY IS THIS SO? Because old levitical law prescribed tithing to take care of the widows, orphans, and poor. There was no Fed or state tax at that time. So the only way to give was to establish a giving ordinance through mosaic law. Now this law is already forced through the U.S. government and tithing is redundant. We already support the widows (Social Security), orphans (Food Stamps, Housing), and poor (Medicaid, etc…) through these programs. See book by George C. Barna “Christianity” if you dont believe me.

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