To Tithe or Not to Tithe

I was reading some comments tonight on this question of tithing 10% to the church. Here is my response to this question, “To Tithe or Not-To-Tithe Today.”

In looking at the NT, there is NO instruction given regarding giving for the NT Christian, with the exception of God loving a “cheerful giver.” Most of the criticism that I see with the 10% test, (not necessarily here0 is made by people who do not see a need to give that much. I guess I could agree that I might be more “cheerful” giving 5% than 10% or whatever… just like getting my year end tax statement; if the tax amount comes in less than what I am expecting, I can be “cheerful.” One might conclude the reason that there is NO teaching in the NT on tithing may well be that the principle was commonly expected, there was no need to spend time on it.

I believe the real test is to see how much we can give as opposed to how little we can get by giving… so in some respects this whole discussion may be poorly presented in the first place. I teach to start out where you believe you can… and then increase your giving… and you will find out that God will indeed bless the attitude of your heart and your faith in Him to provide… I also believe your attitude about giving your money says more about your confidence in God than it does anything else… I do like the question, if you cannot trust God with 10% of what HE has given to you in the first place, how do you know you can trust Him with your eternity. It is at the least, a thought provoking question.

Lot of arguments and different angles… when we are looking for ways to give less, I am convinced we are looking down the wrong road.

It is correct to say that the NT does NOT demand or even teach giving 10% to the church. It is also fair to say, that the church does deserve support from its members and from those that come to find support from the ministry of the church. While I know of a few who are “over-blessed” financially from their ministries, the majority of pastors laboring on church fields are grossly underpaid and under appreciated and not prayed for and not supported as they ought to be supported. I am convinced that if we did a better job in all these areas, this discussion “to tithe or not to tithe” probably would not even be a discussion.

Grateful to be in His Grip,

><>

Advertisements

14 responses to this post.

  1. We are in basic agreement. However, Jesus did comment on the rightness of tithing. But tithing was practiced before the giving of the Law. Many argue that tithing went out when we were freed from the Law by grace. However Abraham and Isaac both tithed. The way I see it, if righteousness by faith was before the Law, tithing occupies a similar position. There is something proper about 10% for God.

    I would think that the tithe should be looked on as the minimum that we should give, not a legalistic maximum. The cheerful giving text is really about a special offering, not unlike our special offerings we receive in our churches. But all giving to God should be cheerful simply out of gratitude for to God who gives all things. It always amazes me how much people will spend on sports and other activities but are so stingy with the things of God. Not only do they refuse to tithe, they want to do everything in church cheaply–bring their worn out furniture to the church, get a tax write off, bring old and broken toys for the nursery, etc. But you will occasionally read about someone who live on the 10% and gives the 90% to God. You don’t read about it too often because such people do not tell their stories. Someone finds out and rats them out, so to speak!

    Finally you are correct about the pay and appreciation of pastors, at least from my experience. But, we still go on because we work of God and not the church. I have whined about my pay for years but we have remained faithful to give and give abundantly. My wife works and makes it possible for me to be a pastor. And so far, God has taken care of us. I still worry somewhat about retirement, but I figure that God has a few things planned to make it all work out.

    Reply

    • Concerning this statement (below) … when did Isaac tithe on anything?

      Randy Davis wrote:

      Many argue that tithing went out when we were freed from the Law by grace. However Abraham and Isaac both tithed.

      Reply

  2. Randy,

    Whether tithing is a New Testament requirement or not, here’s a question. How many churches today would take/accept a tithe of anything (such as grain, rice, wine etc) other than cold hard cash? I see Biblical tithing more often to be -however not entirely- in the form of goods rather than currency, but the modern church doesn’t apply that. Perhaps they already have enough bread and wine in their pantry. Blessings…

    Reply

    • Churches use to do exactly that when we still lived in agricultural world. But our medium of exchange has changed. I assume that you don’t work for grain or rice or wine but for cold hard cash. And by that fact you have answered your own question. You don’t give to God what you would not have for yourself.

      Reply

      • Randy,

        I guess my point was that I don’t see tithe -exclusively in the form of currency- as a Biblical requirement. Perhaps you do.

  3. ” You don’t give to God what you would not have for yourself.”

    Great Point. Thanks.

    ><>

    Reply

  4. Posted by Vernelle Smith on August 15, 2011 at 11:59 am

    Robert, My husband has been in the hospital and very seriously ill. I missed 6 Sundays from church. I believe that God has provided so well for me that I have a responsibility to give back a portition of what he has given me. Those 6 Sundays loomed large in my tithing but I made up all of them and truly know that God has blessed us so much a long the way. May God continue to bless you in your ministry.

    Vernelle Smith

    Reply

  5. Vernelle,

    Thanks for sharing your story. I have David on my prayer list. God indeed blesses those who depend on Him and I believe a big part of our dependence has more to do with how we live our lives and depend on Him with what we do than what we say.

    For you who are reading this post, this is a close friend of my mom who is sharing her story and not speaking theologically so add her husband, David to your prayer list. Thanks.

    Grateful to be in His Grip,

    ><>

    Reply

  6. The reason God required a tithe of Israel was because of a covenant with Jacob. God had promised to bring Jacob into the land of Canaan, and Jacob, of his own volition, promised that he and his descendants would return a tithe of fruits of that land back to God. This is recorded in Genesis 28:20-22.

    There is no record of God commanding or requiring tithes of anyone before this time. When Abraham tithed to Melchizedek he tithed on the spoils of war, but when God required the tithe of Israel, he did so only after they entered into the promised land, and even then the tithe was only on the increase of that land.

    Agriculture (crops and animals) were tithed, and the tithe was counted conservatively. Animals were passed under the rod, and only the tenth animal was the tithe. If someone had nineteen sheep, they tithed one sheep unto the LORD. (Leviticus 23:32). He was not required to estimate the monetary value of his herd and tithe the value of 1.9 sheep. The hire of the worker in the field or of the craftsman was not tithed at all.

    In other words, the tithe of Israel was always about God’s covenant with Israel from the beginning. God made a promise to Jacob, and it would be kept, but likewise he also took Israel’s promise seriously as well. Because the tithe belonged to God, he could chose to do with it as he wished. He decided to give it to his priests, but he could have done anything with it that he wished.

    Craftsmen and laborers had nothing to tithe, and even the Israelite that had herds in Egypt or the wilderness was not commanded to tithe until he entered Canaan. If an Israelite found himself taken away from the land (such as by a foreign army) he would have been “outside the jurisdiction” of the land regardless. It was always about Jacob’s promise to God (Genesis 28:20-22) in response to His initial promise (Genesis 28:13-15).

    There are various implications that stem from this, but I think it helps to consider the tithe from the proper biblical perspective. It was not a tax imposed by the church or required of believers. God gave the land to Israel, and Israel promised that if God would really keep that promise, then his seed would give a tenth from that land right back. Jacob did not have to make that promise.

    Today, the Christian is typically a Gentile that is outside of Israel, and thus reaps no agricultural increase from the land of Canaan. Even a Jewish farmer in Jerusalem would have a hard time finding a local priest of Levi to deliver his tithe.

    This might raise some questions of a different sort:

    * How did Christ expect his church to operate without a tax?
    * If the priesthood has been changed, who are the new priests?
    * How much of our lives are we required to give to God?

    This post is starting to become a little long by itself, so I will leave those questions unanswered for now. However, another question that could come up might be, should anyone be telling people that they are required to pay a 10% church tax – does the end justify the means?

    I think that the scripture shows that we should be very careful that we never tell someone that they must pay what God does not require, but if someone has pledged anything to God of their own free will without fraud or coercion, that pledge must be kept (compare the circumstances of 2 Kings 5 with Acts 5.)

    2Ki 5:20 KJV
    (20) But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, Behold, my master hath spared Naaman this Syrian, in not receiving at his hands that which he brought: but, as the LORD liveth, I will run after him, and take somewhat of him.

    2Ki 5:25-27 KJV
    (25) But he went in, and stood before his master. And Elisha said unto him, Whence comest thou, Gehazi? And he said, Thy servant went no whither.
    (26) And he said unto him, Went not mine heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee? Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants?
    (27) The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.

    Namaan had made the offer, but it was not required and thus he was released. Gehazi desired that money and lied to the man, who believed him in innocence. It was not Elijah who struck Gehazi with leprosy, but God himself approved that judgment. I think we should take note.

    Reply

    • The only statement that I can really agree with is the statement, “There are various implications that stem from this, but I think it helps to consider the tithe from the proper biblical perspective.It was not a tax imposed by the church or required of believers.”

      You are correct… it was NOT A TAX.

      Lets consider WHAT you wrote. You seem to suggest that God made a promise to bring Jacob back to his homeland and THEN Jacob promised to give God a 10%. You are correct. God did NOT command Jacob to do this. Abraham was not commanded to give a 10% of the spoils of war… not to mention his acknowledging God for protecting him and keeping him safe. Seems to me there is an uncommanded act of thanksgiving to return a tenth for what God had given to them.

      You statement is equally interesting: “It was always about Jacob’s promise to God (Genesis 28:20-22) in response to His initial promise (Genesis 28:13-15).” It seems that the crux of your treatment of the tithe is because Jacob decided on his own to give God this tenth and it became some kind of ritual that Israel picked up on and continued. If that is what you are saying, that is some theory.

      Lev 27:29-34
      29 No person under the ban, who may become doomed to destruction among men, shall be redeemed, but shall surely be put to death. 30 And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s. It is holy to the Lord. 31 If a man wants at all to redeem any of his tithes, he shall add one-fifth to it. 32 And concerning the tithe of the herd or the flock, of whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the Lord. 33 He shall not inquire whether it is good or bad, nor shall he exchange it; and if he exchanges it at all, then both it and the one exchanged for it shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.'”

      34 These are the commandments which the Lord commanded Moses for the children of Israel on Mount Sinai.

      Num 18:25-26

      25 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 26 “Speak thus to the Levites, and say to them: ‘When you take from the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them as your inheritance, then you shall offer up a heave offering of it to the Lord, a tenth of the tithe.

      Deut 14:22-29

      22 “You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. 23 And you shall eat before the Lord your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. 24 But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the Lord your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the Lord your God has blessed you, 25 then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the Lord your God chooses. 26 And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household. 27 You shall not forsake the Levite who is within your gates, for he has no part nor inheritance with you.

      28 “At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. 29 And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.

      Deut 26:12-15

      12 “When you have finished laying aside all the tithe of your increase in the third year — the year of tithing — and have given it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be filled, 13 then you shall say before the Lord your God: ‘I have removed the holy tithe from my house, and also have given them to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed Your commandments, nor have I forgotten them. 14 I have not eaten any of it when in mourning, nor have I removed any of it for an unclean use, nor given any of it for the dead. I have obeyed the voice of the Lord my God, and have done according to all that You have commanded me. 15 Look down from Your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Your people Israel and the land which You have given us, just as You swore to our fathers,”a land flowing with milk and honey.”‘

      There is no doubt that God expected His covenant people to give a tithe, in thanks for ALL that He had given to them.

      Now… as I said in my original post, there is no NT precedent dealing with the tithe.

      There can be a couple reasons for it. First, Jesus had no intention for the tithe to be observed. He never said anything of the sort so I can assume that is not the case. A second reason is that the tithe was so ingrained in Jewish thought that it was simply understood that it was a principle to be practiced. I think the latter is the best explanation.

      Here is something to think about. if the law, which could not save a person commanded a tenth… which is actually just a start… there were other tenths demanded and then offerings above and beyond that… but lets keep it simple and most basic… if the law that could not save demanded a 10th…

      how much more should grace… that does save us… demand? Less or more?

      Here we are quibbling over whether or not the tithe is a Biblical principle to be taught today. I am sure we are all still grateful for ALL that God has provided to us… which was the basis for Abraham as well as Jacob… soo…. should we be LESS grateful for Grace that we were for LAW?

      I don’t think so.

      Consider James’ statement, in 2:18-24

      18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe — and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

      I will give my tenth because of my gratefulness to God for ALL that He has done for me and provided to me… plus some! You can give what you want…

      Remember a relationship with God demands our participation…. seems like Jesus spoke about a correlation between my priorities and my pocketbook … I know I cannot out give God… so might be good to see if I can… and if that statement is true… the more I give the more He gives! Seems like a great opportunity to see what God can do as I give back to Him!

      I do know this… when I give God my best… He gives me His best and His best is always better than my best.

      Thanks for your thoughts!

      ><>”

      Reply

  7. I think you may have misunderstood my point (see below):

    It seems that the crux of your treatment of the tithe is because Jacob decided on his own to give God this tenth and it became some kind of ritual that Israel picked up on and continued. If that is what you are saying, …

    That was not what I was saying. As to the first part, yes, Jacob decided on his own to set a conditional promise, that “…of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give a tenth unto thee” (Gen 28:22).

    But as the the second part, this was not a “ritual” but the fulfillment of a vow. God had promised to give him the land of Canaan, “the land in which thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;” (Gen 28:12). Simple observation shows two things:

    1. Although God be true, this promise was not completed in Jacob’s lifetime.
    2. Likewise, God did not ask Jacob or his seed to redeem his promise until the promise was fulfilled.

    So with reference to “a ritual that Israel picked up on…” I think you’ve missed the point. Jacob did not tithe, Joseph did not tithe, and their seed did not tithe until after they entered the land of Canaan, when God fulfilled his promise. Only then did God demand (command) his tithe of Jacob.

    I don’t think that anyone here is disputing that God commanded that Israel deliver the tithe of the land and the flocks, but the “crux” (if you will) is that this was not an arbitrary command, it was the completion of a specific vow once the conditions were met. God does not take vows lightly.

    The other arm of this “crux” is that commandments of God may have scope. As a simple example, one who has taken a Nazarite vow is commanded not to cut his hair or to touch grapes, raisins, or wine. The commandments of Mount Sinai were given through Moses to Israel in the form of a covenant, but they should not be forced outside their intended application. Even the dietary laws are an example: Adam was given every herb to eat, Noah was told that he could eat every thing that moved, but the children of Israel were commanded to abstain from the mouse and the swine.

    With this in mind, I would like to address a latter section of your last comment:

    There can be a couple reasons for it. First, Jesus had no intention for the tithe to be observed. He never said anything of the sort so I can assume that is not the case. A second reason is that the tithe was so ingrained in Jewish thought that it was simply understood that it was a principle to be practiced. I think the latter is the best explanation.

    If that reasoning is followed to its logical conclusion, then by the same measure Jesus never said anything against any of the law of Moses, which was completely ingrained in Jewish thought. Although he may have criticized certain priests, he never spoke against the Levitical priesthood, and he never spoke against circumcision. Is this really a good indicator?

    Extending the “is ten percent enough” reasoning we might also conclude that we should abstain from labor on seventh and first days of the week, that we ought to offer twice the amount of sacrifices just in case, and generally make a “fence around the law” as did the Pharisees in Christ’s day. This might seem slightly sarcastic, but I am trying to make a point and mean no offense.

    The completed “crux” of the argument is that we are not under that law at all and we shouldn’t be trying to imitate it. The early apostles did pay (or collect) tithes, but they gave their entire lives. So how much of our lives are we required to give to God?

    Even if you were attempting to apply the principle of the tithe to modern day Christianity, who would pay the tithe and to whom should it be paid? According to Peter, it seems that we all are supposed to form a priesthood of believers (see 1 Peter 2:5-9) which also seems to be supported by the words of John and Jesus (see also Revelation 1:6 & 5:10).

    In some times past, when men were obliged by their government to go to war, those that had money could exercise an option to pay a fee or hire another to take their place.

    Mar 8:35 KJV
    (35) For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.

    In this realm that we address, there is no requirement to fight, and as such one is allowed to seek to save his own life. One could shelter himself or attempt to hire another to take his place. Large groups of people may “chip in” their “tithes” to hire a professional to represent them. This might seem generous, but is this approach a healthy thing?

    Luk 9:62 KJV
    (62) And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

    God did not call us to “tithe” but to sacrifice our entire lives, which goes far beyond money or even the willingness to die. Yet if everyone was willing to serve as a priest and declare his profession (as in Hebrews 3:1, 4:14) then to whom would anyone “pay tithes?” “Tithing” was never preached by the apostles and martyrs, and I don’t think it was because “tithing” was simply assumed by the predominantly Gentile church.

    But one might ask, how would we build huge church buildings or establish church governments without a guaranteed income base that at least meets or exceeds ten percent of believers’ income? How could we maintain the distinction between clergy and laity?

    My point is, the “crux of the argument” if you will, is that maybe that isn’t what we’re supposed to be doing… the church taught giving and love and charity, not collection of tithes and offerings. And as a famous case in point, Peter didn’t build Saint Peter’s Cathedral.

    Reply

  8. Oops. That should have read,

    The early apostles did not pay (or collect) tithes, but they gave their entire lives.

    With emphasis on the not.

    Reply

  9. God did not call us to “tithe” but to sacrifice our entire lives, which goes far beyond money or even the willingness to die.

    So what is your problem with a tenth… if as you are suggesting we are to give our all… looks to me like your argument against the tithe is a moot argument… if we are to give our all… which I agree with BUT since most if not all fail to give our all, seems to me that a tenth is a great place to teach people to start and grow from there.

    Not sure what you are trying to say when you wrote, “But one might ask, how would we build huge church buildings or establish church governments without a guaranteed income base that at least meets or exceeds ten percent of believers’ income? How could we maintain the distinction between clergy and laity?” Which group are you in, clergy or laity? I do not see the standard as churches building large buildings and establishing church governments as a valid argument; the vast majority of churches are doing well to keep the doors open and pastors are struggling to make ends meet because christians are not doing what you suggest they should and that is give their all.

    Not sure what you mean when you say, “the church taught giving and love and charity, not collection of tithes and offerings.”

    Are you saying that we should just have “church” and people give what they want to give with no Biblical basis as to a standard to begin with? Let me say this… that is what we have in practice. If I were advocating the tithe as a basis for church membership or even regeneration itself then I could see a discussion relative to it’s Biblical basis. To use the concept as a foundation to build on where giving is concerned does not seem to me to be out of line where Christian concepts are concerned relative to the church and its mssion to reach it’s community with the gospel.

    ><>”

    Reply

  10. I have a question for Randy (if you’re still out there):

    You wrote:

    However Abraham and Isaac both tithed.

    Abraham once gave the tithe of the spoils of war to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:20, Hebrews 7:1-9, but when did Isaac tithe? And on what would he have tithed, and to whom would he have delivered it?

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: