There has been innumerable arguments and controversy over the concept of the tithe over the history of the New Testament Church. Here are just a few things that have been said over the years, and some are still parroting these arguments today:
- The tithe is purely an Old Testament concept
- There isn’t a command in the New Testament to Tithe
- Christians are NOT required to Tithe
- I spread my tithe over many charitable organizations
- I give my tithe directly to the poor
- I give a tithe and that is it because the rest is mine
- I tithe as much as I can but usually 2-3% of my income
Before we go on let’s define what a tithe is. What is a tithe? The word tithe means tenth part. In fact, it is and was the first, tenth part. Meaning, we give to God first before we use our income and resources for other things. Is that all that the Jews were required to give? No. There were offerings and sacrifices above and beyond the tithe. All in all, the Jews gave to support the temple (tabernacle in the desert), the priestly system and the various opportunities for prayer and worship. In addition to all of that, they gave directly to the poor in the course of life as they came and went. Over the years I’ve read various papers and articles on the topic of giving in the Old Testament. The reports of giving based in the Old Testament usually land in 23-25% range of produce and income.
Even if you vehemently argue that the tithe is no longer required, where does that leave God’s kingdom work outline in the New Testament? Beyond that, what is your motive?
How do we support our pastors?
How do we support missionaries and missionary organizations?
How do we support the work of the local church as a local mission?
How do we provide a meeting place to gather for worship and other ministry and fellowship activities?
How do we provide a meeting place for children/youth ministries?
How do we provide vans to pick up people in the highways and byways for recovery ministry, Bible Study and worship?
How do we provide electronic equipment that supports our gatherings and meetings?
How? Yes. We give with a commitment to Christ and His Kingdom work through the local church.
My next question is this. If the Jews gave 10% and sacrifices and offerings above and beyond that, what should new covenant believers give? Is it less?
Our giving includes but are not limited to these things:
Give to the poor without others knowing. (Matthew 6:1-4) Note: Besides your personal gifts to the poor, Heartland meets needs of people who are in need through the deacon ministry.
Support missions that are helping those in need. (1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 8:9-15) Note: Besides your direct gifts to missionaries and missions related organizations, Heartland gives the first 12% of all general, undesignated contributions.
Give freely and generously with cheer. (2 Corinthians 9:6-7) Note: We are stewards of God’s resources. Everything we have belongs to God and we should give cheerfully as He directs.
Support those who preach. (1 Timothy 5:17-18) Note: Besides your gifts of appreciation and holiday celebration given directly to our pastors, Heartland provides a salary for our pastors.
Giving sometimes means trusting God with all we have. (Luke 21:1-4) Note: When we give from our first fruits, sometimes there isn’t anything left over.
It is undeniable. Disciples of Jesus are to give generously and freely. For many in the West, this standard will mean giving more than 10 percent. It certainly doesn’t mean giving less. And, for that matter, it doesn’t mean giving God what is leftover. God deserves the first of our income and resources. Notably, a tithe is often used by Christians as a baseline, but you can’t make an argument based in scripture to give less.
What happens if we don’t give generously and cheerfully? The results are undeniably tragic. The Barna and Pew researchers report worship attendance numbers and giving numbers and they are abysmal. Yes. As a result, many local churches are closing, and denominations are doing less, in some cases much less, in the area of church planting, evangelism and missions. What are the numbers? The average Christian attends church gatherings 2 times a month. With that, on average, Christians give 2 ½% of their income. Do these numbers even sound Christian? Are they consistent with the sacrifice and mission of Christ? Do these numbers reflect a love for Christ and His kingdom work? No. Of course not. It reflects a love for money and idolatry. What must we do? It’s time to reflect. It’s time to repent. It’s time to take our stewardship seriously. It’s time to get focused on our love for Christ and respond in obedience. I have a thought. Maybe we should just forget the arguments about the tithe and let God lead us in generous and cheerful giving!
A Work in Progress,