An important topic today is the Biblical doctrine of Tithe. This is an especially popular teaching with regards to the prosperity gospel that has taken the world by storm. To that end I am going to walk through the Bible starting in the Old Testament passages on Tithe and work my way to the New.
If you are unfamiliar with the doctrine of the New Covenant I recommend you read up on that first by clicking HERE.
|Do we have to give 10%? Is that a law?|
The short answer is “no”. In truth, 10% is a church tradition not a Biblical law or even principle. Where do we see the concept of giving 10% in the Bible?
“After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” Genesis 14:17-20 ESV
In ancient Mesopotamian culture it was a tradition for a King or Patriarch of some kind to donate a tenth of his spoils to a pagan god of his choosing. The idea is that your favorite god may now choose to favor you in future battles. Above we see that Abraham honors the true God in this fashion and chooses to give a tenth of his spoils to Melchizedek, the High Priest of God in that day. We don’t see the direct connection in the text to this pagan tradition but it is interesting that it plays out this way.
The point is though that this is a one time historical event, not a prescriptive command. It is also worth noting that this is the only time Abraham ever felt the need to do this. We never see 10% as an on-going standard either descriptively or prescriptively.
Throughout the Torah we do see many commands to give money, particularly to the Levites as they had no inheritance of the land and had to live off what was given to them in tithes and offerings (Num 18:24).
“Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord ‘s; it is holy to the Lord . If a man wishes to redeem some of his tithe, he shall add a fifth to it. And every tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman’s staff, shall be holy to the Lord . One shall not differentiate between good or bad, neither shall he make a substitute for it; and if he does substitute for it, then both it and the substitute shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.” These are the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses for the people of Israel on Mount Sinai.” Leviticus 27:30-34 ESV
Above we see that both a tenth and a fifth is commanded of different things to be given in tithe. So a strict 10% isn’t necessarily consistent here either, it depends on what you’re talking about. I found a GotQuestions article online that addresses the issue of percentage very well in the old testament:
“Tithing is an Old Testament concept. The tithe was a requirement of the Law in which the Israelites were to give 10 percent of the crops they grew and the livestock they raised to the tabernacle/temple (Leviticus 27:30;Numbers 18:26; Deuteronomy 14:24; 2 Chronicles 31:5). In fact, the Old Testament Law required multiple tithes—one for the Levites, one for the use of the temple and the feasts, and one for the poor of the land—which would have pushed the total to around 23.3 percent. Some understand the Old Testament tithe as a method of taxation to provide for the needs of the priests and Levites in the sacrificial system.” –GotQuestions
An important thing to understand about ancient Israel is that they were a theocracy. There was no separation between Church and state, the Church literally was the state. Tithe in this system is simply taxes. Furthermore, with the old covenant being obsolete (Heb 8:13) we shouldn’t even be turning to the old testament for laws on tithe or giving. If your pastor is telling you not to “rob God” (Malachi 3:6-12) and pay up in tithe that is an indicator that he has not properly divided his covenants. If this is a new concept to you I recommend you read my series on the New Covenant.
|New Covenant Tithe (taxes!)|
The Christian Church is not a theocracy. We exist in many Christian and secular countries across the world. Though there are laws pertaining to this in the new covenant they are not nearly as extensive as those we find in the old. At its most basic the government is responsible to enforce the Moral Law of God and be a curb against sin. When they fail in this it is God’s place to judge them not ours as the Church (Rom 13).
Because of this we are commanded to pay our new covenant tithe, which is taxes. Furthermore, there is no strict percentage. It ultimately amounts to whatever the government deems prudent. We are supposed to pay it and complain to God if we have a problem with it so that he can judge them, not to the Government.
“For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” Rom 13:6-7 ESV
“Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Matt 22:19-21 ESV
If you pay your taxes to the government then you pay your tithe and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. Being anti-government is very popular these days but we would be wise to remember that God has placed them here for a reason.
|New Covenant Giving|
Here is where we get down to the brass tax. Are we commanded to give in the New Covenant and if so how much?
“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” 1 Tim 5:17-18 ESV
Above we see that the Pastor needs to get a paycheck. Hey, that’s fair! He works hard and preaches the Gospel, he needs to be cared for and paid fairly. That doesn’t mean he needs a 60 million dollar jet, but we shouldn’t be making him buy 20 year old cars and wearing 1970’s suits with those goofy ties from the thrift store either. He should receive a fair wage in line with his education and experience.
What should be our attitude about New Covenant giving? The scripture says we should be cheerful about it.
“So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction. The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:5-15 ESV
Some will twist the above passage to say that if you give more money you will get more back somehow some way. Read the passage carefully word for word, nowhere does it directly promise proportional monetary returns on your offerings. Only a first world capitalist mind is capable of reading this into the text.
It does promise blessings but it does not specify them as monetary in nature. And we know this to be true. The Church uses our offerings to hire pastors and missionaries that preach the Gospel. One plants, another waters, and God provides the increase. In this the kingdom of God grows and this is the greatest blessing ever. Money will rot and burn but those saved by the Gospel of Christ will be a blessing in your life for all eternity.
Besides that, charitable giving with the expectation of receiving money for yourself is not giving cheerfully, it is giving in a selfish manner and should be condemned.
This is not to say that God does not bless his sheep monetarily. But there is no magic button where you can be 100% sure that he will bless you in this regard. Even the apostles themselves faced impoverished and grisly ends. We should trust all we have and all we are to God, if he blesses one in riches praise the Lord, if he blesses one in poverty and tribulation then praise the Lord. In all things Praise the Lord.
So the question remains, how much should we give? The apostolic teachings of the new covenant do not give a cut and dry percentage. We should give as much as we can. I don’t believe we should impoverish our families or deny our children what they need to give instead to the church. But there is nothing wrong with sacrificing a few extras when possible. There is nothing wrong with 10% either, and that means there is nothing wrong with more than 10%. Do as Paul says, give as much as you can cheerfully.