DO I HAVE TO TITHE?
Does it sound familiar to you when the pastor at one point during the church service says: “It‘s now the time for you to give your tithes and offerings.”?
“Tithing” means giving 10% of your income to the church, and “offerings” is commonly known as giving to a mission project, guest speaker, or for instance, another ministry or person.
I remember it was several years ago, when I was going through some testing times, a preacher I knew, accusatorily insinuated that the reason I was going through difficulties was because I wasn’t tithing, and therefore the wrath of God was upon me. Of course he knew nothing of my giving, but I was still thrown off, feeling condemned and guilty, thinking to myself: “What if he is right? Maybe I missed giving my tithes, or maybe I still owe God money for months passed?” But then I heard God’s voice whispering to me: “I do love you. This has nothing to do with tithing.” God was trying to tell me that even though this preacher was condemning me, He still loved me regardless and that this man had missed the point entirely.
After this experience, I was determined to find out what the Bible really teaches about tithing since I, over the years, have met many Christians who also wrestled with a tremendous guilt, toiling with the question of whether they were sinning against God if they didn’t tithe. To my surprise and shock, I couldn’t find any place in the entire New Testament where it is advocated for us to give tithes, that is, for us to give 10% of our income to the church. Tithing is NEVER being taught in the New Testament. Period!
In the Old Testament, it was so that every year, by God’s law, a Jew had to give 10% of his entire crop and all his produce, and all of whatever he had. This yearly giving of 10% was called the “Levite Tithe.” At that time, the Nation of Israel was ruled by God through priests, so the people paid 10% to support the Levites, as they were appointed by God to work for the government.
You must set aside a tithe of your crops — one-tenth of all the crops you harvest each year.Deuteronomy 14:22 NLT
Give it to the Levites, who have no inheritance among you, as well as to the foreigners living among you, the orphans, and the widows in your towns, so they can eat and be satisfied. Then the LORD your God will bless you in all your work.Deuteronomy 14:28-29 NLT
Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me! But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’ “You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me. You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for your land will be such a delight,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.Malachi 3:8-12 NLT
This kind of tithing is being referred to in the New Testament a couple of times as a historical fact, as you can see in the following passages when it talks about Abraham paying tithes to Melchizedek, priest and king of the city of Salem, and also how the Levites under the Old Covenant were to receive the tithes of the people.
This Melchizedek was king of the city of Salem and also a priest of God Most High. When Abraham was returning home after winning a great battle against many kings, Melchizedek met him and blessed him. Then Abraham took a tenth of all he had won in the battle and gave it to Melchizedek.
Consider then how great this Melchizedek was. Even Abraham, the great patriarch of Israel, recognized how great Melchizedek was by giving him a tenth of what he had taken in battle. Now the priests, who are descendants of Levi, are commanded in the law of Moses to collect a tithe from all the people, even though they are their own relatives.Hebrews 7:1-2, 4-5 NLT
The other times when tithing is mentioned in the New Testament, are when Jesus warns against the hypocrisy of the teachers of religious law and Pharisees who tithed and yet ignored other important parts of the law.
How terrible it will be for you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest part of your income, but you ignore the important things of the law — justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but you should not leave undone the more important things. Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat; then you swallow a camel!Matthew 23:23-24 NLT
Here, Jesus clearly spoke in accordance to the “Old Covenant” laws, since the Law of Moses was still in force during the lifetime of Jesus here on earth. It would have been ‘sin’ for Him at this time to teach against it. Jesus was just reinforcing that tithing was a requirement under the Old Covenant and therefore He commanded a man, that he had just healed from leprosy, to uphold the pertaining requirements of the Old Testament law.
Jesus touched him. “I want to,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared. Then Jesus said to him, “Go right over to the priest and let him examine you. Don’t talk to anyone along the way. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy, so everyone will have proof of your healing.”Matthew 8:3-4 NLT
Finally, another place where tithing is mentioned in the New Testament is when Jesus tells His disciples the parable of two men who prayed. In the parable, one man self-righteously proclaimed how good he was in keeping the law, and the other man admitted to be a sinner and cried out to God, to have mercy on him.
Then Jesus told this story to some who had great self-confidence and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a dishonest tax collector. The proud Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else, especially like that tax collector over there! For I never cheat, I don’t sin, I don’t commit adultery, I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.‘Luke 18:9-14 NLT
“But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For the proud will be humbled, but the humble will be honored.”
As I was looking for other tithing verses in the New Testament, I did not find any requirements saying that Christians are supposed to tithe! That is simply because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died for us sinners and rose from the dead to set us free from the bondage of being a slave to the law.
And that’s the way it was with us before Christ came. We were slaves to the spiritual powers of this world. But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent Him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.Galatians 4:3-6 NLT
What does the Bible then say about how we should handle our money?
The decision making in how we handle our giving, should come from being led by what God tells us individually through the Holy Spirit. As believers in Jesus Christ, we ought to be controlled by His Spirit and God’s Word in how much money we should give, and through His Word we learn about the promises and rewards our generous giving awards us. No church should ever make us feel guilty about the amount of money we give, or try to control it!
You must each make up your own mind as to how much you should give. Don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves the person who gives cheerfully. And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say, “Godly people give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will never be forgotten.”
For God is the one who gives seed to the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, He will give you many opportunities to do good, and He will produce a great harvest of generosity in you.2. Corinthians 9:7-11 NLT
Yes, you will be enriched so that you can give even more generously. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will break out in thanksgiving to God.
Whether you are able to give 5% of your income, or at other times you may be able to give 20, 30, or even 100%, the point is that you are giving the appropriate amount of money the Holy Spirit directs you to give. This is how the apostle Paul instructed the Christians in Jerusalem to give each week:
On every Lord’s Day, each of you should put aside some amount of money in relation to what you have earned and save it for this offering.1. Corinthians 16:2 NLT
Who to give money to
First and foremost, we need to take care of our own family, making sure they have food, clothing, and shelter. If we don’t, according to the Bible we are “worse than an unbeliever.”
But those who won’t care for their own relatives, especially those living in the same household, have denied what we believe. Such people are worse than unbelievers.1. Timothy 5:8 NLT
As a believer, we each have a duty to support the church we join, which pays for the pastor, the elders, evangelists, teachers and other ministry services.
Elders who do their work well should be paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “Do not keep an ox from eating as it treads out the grain.” And in another place, “Those who work deserve their pay!”1. Timothy 5:17-18 NLT
Those who are taught the word of God should help their teachers by paying them.Galatians 6:6 NLT
How grateful I am, and how I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but for a while you didn’t have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need. But even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty. As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this. Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once.Philippians 4:10-17 NLT
We should support missions financially
But before I come, I must go down to Jerusalem to take a gift to the Christians there. For you see, the believers in Greece have eagerly taken up an offering for the Christians in Jerusalem, who are going through such hard times. They were very glad to do this because they feel they owe a real debt to them. Since the Gentiles received the wonderful spiritual blessings of the Good News from the Jewish Christians, they feel the least they can do in return is help them financially.Romans 15:25-27 NLT
We need to be willing to help a brother or sister in need
Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, “Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well” — but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?James 2:15-16 NLT
We are free from the guilt and bondage of the Law of Tithing! We do not have to give religiously or mechanically anymore, because Jesus Christ in His unconditional love gave His life for us, and in return, we eagerly give our lives, including our money, out of our love for Him.
If you are really eager to give, it isn’t important how much you are able to give. God wants you to give what you have, not what you don’t have. Of course, I don’t mean you should give so much that you suffer from having too little. I only mean that there should be some equality. Right now you have plenty and can help them. Then at some other time they can share with you when you need it. In this way, everyone’s needs will be met. Do you remember what the Scriptures say about this? “Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough.”2. Corinthians 8:12-15 NLT
The Bible never ever commanded New Testament believers to tithe 10% of their monetary income! As a matter of fact, there is no command or example in Scripture that has anything to do with tithing money!
It is very hard for those who are tithers to admit they are wrong and have been fooled. Many are bound by guilt and fear of being cursed or punished if they don’t tithe! But, if they still insist on tithing, then they should do it the way the only 3 people or groups of people in the Bible have done it.
All these people had money and some lots of it, and yet they did not tithe one cent of it! Let’s start with Abraham, who only tithed ONCE in his entire life. That one time, he did not tithe from his wealth or normal income, but of the spoils of war. (See Genesis 14:20)
So, to try to insist that Abraham’s one time tithe on the spoils of war means that every Christian must give 10% of their regular income every month throughout their entire life is absolutely ridiculous.
Next would be the Israelites living under the Old Testament law of Moses who had agricultural products and livestock. These were farmers and ranchers who had to bring the 10th portion of their crops and livestock ONCE A YEAR to the Levites as stated in Malachi 3:10 NLT: “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!”
If Malachi 3:10 applies to the New Testament believers, then the entire Old Testament also applies to us, and so would the law system of blessing or cursing based on behavior rather than Christ’s work on the cross!
Last, but not least, there were the Pharisees who were Old Testament Jews, living under the Old Testament laws, whom Jesus rebuked, saying: “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your MINT AND ANISE AND CUMMIN, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel!” Matthew 23:23 NLT
As we can see, tithing was never about money and never meant for the church, the body of Christ! Under the New Covenant, the Bible gives clear instructions to the New Testament born-again believer on giving, when it says: “You must each decide in your heart how much to give.” (2. Corinthians 9:7 NLT) and “On every Lord’s Day, each of you should put aside some amount of money in relation to what you have earned and save it for this offering.” (1. Corinthians 16:2 NLT)
Therefore, STOP TITHING!!! IT WAS NEVER MEANT FOR YOU, THE NEW TESTAMENT BELIEVER!!! It’s a false doctrine!
Copyright©2009 Edwin & Sophia Christiaan