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.