Should we tithe?

This article addresses tithing to a church.

God doesn’t need our money

We do not give money to the cause of Christ because God needs our money. God can accomplish His plans without our money.

Ps 50:12 "If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is Mine, and all it contains.

We give to the cause of Christ out of thankfulness for what God has done for us.

Ps 50:14 Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and pay your vows to the Most High;

It is important to understand that God is able to accomplish His will without our money. Therefore, even if we give God a billion dollars we should understand that we have done nothing to help God.

Giving money to God is beneficial to us. We will see just how our giving benefits us a little later.

So then, don’t let anyone convince you that God’s work will fail if you don’t give money to him or to his ministry. And further, don’t let anyone convince you that if you have given money to the cause of Christ then you have done God a favor.

Tithing in the Old Covenant

They were expected to tithe under the Law

As far as we know, giving to God began with Cain and Abel.

Gen 4:3-4 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. 4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering,

Tithing (i.e. giving a tenth) began with Abraham.

Gen 14:20 And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand." He gave him a tenth of all.

But Abraham was not commanded to tithe. He did it voluntarily.

Tithing continued with Jacob, but Jacob too was not expected to tithe. He did it voluntarily.

Gen 28:22 "This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God's house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You."

The Law required all Israel (except the sons of Levi) to tithe. These tithes were used to support the temple and the sons of Levis.

Lev 27:32 'For every tenth part of herd or flock, whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the LORD.

So under the Old Covenant a person was required to tithe. If a person did not tithe it was considered robbing God.

Mal 3:8 "Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, 'How have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings.

So tithing was quite important for those who were under the Law.

Tithing was not the most important provision of the Law

It is important to understand that even though giving was important under the Law, it was not the most important thing in the Law.

Mt 23:23 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.

Even when under the Law, giving was not as important as justice and mercy and faithfulness. In fact, you could tithe diligently and, like the Pharisees, still be on your way to Hell.

Note that in Mt 23:23 Jesus implies that giving was a provision of the Law. This observation is important because if the Law does not apply under the New Covenant then neither do the Old Covenant laws on giving.

Tithing in the New Covenant

We are not required to tithe

The Law and the Prophets (i.e. the Old Testament) were applicable only until John the Baptist began to preach the arrival of Jesus.

Mt 11:13 "For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John."

Lk 16:16 "The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it."

The Law was a shadow of the good things to come.

Heb 10:1 For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near.

The old covenant, based on the Law, was a shadow of the new covenant. Therefore, since the new covenant has come, the old covenant is obsolete.

We have been released from the Law.

Rom 7:6 But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.

Heb 8:13 When He said, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.

Since we have been released from the Law we are no longer under the command to tithe.

Gal 2:21 "I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly."

One cannot say that since tithing began before the Law, therefore even if the Law is no longer applicable one must still tithe because Abraham tithed, and he did that before the Law. This is because Abraham did many other things too, like having Ishmael through Hagar; so are we to use our servant girl in this way too?

Further, we don’t read of Abraham tithing regularly of his income, but just once, and that too, not of his regular income but off his spoils.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a follower of Abraham, but of Jesus.

In Ac 5:1-11 we see an instance of someone profiting financially on something but not expected to tithe. In particular, in verse 4 we see that Peter told Ananias that the money that Ananias got from selling his property was in Ananias’ control. If Peter expected Ananias to tithe then he would have told Ananias that only 90% was in Ananias’ control.

Ac 5:4 "While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God."

So it should be clear that in the New Covenant we are not required to tithe.

We still can give, but in a different way

As we saw, the Old Covenant Law was a shadow of the real thing. What then is the real thing that is now in effect under the New Covenant?

Under the New Covenant not just 10% of our income, but 100% of everything we have belongs to God. It is not just our money, but our time, our eyes, our ears, our hands, and every part of us – all of these belong to God.

Under the Old Covenant, we could do what we want with the remaining 90% of our money. If we wanted to buy expensive furniture we could do it. We didn’t have to ask God for permission to do it because that 90% belonged to us.

However, under the New Covenant, everything we do must be for the glory of God. 100% of our time, 100% of our money, 100% of our bodies must be used in line with the desires of God. It is the acquiring of this attitude that is of great importance when we become believers. Then, we will never have a problem with giving anything to anyone as and when God directs us to so.

The tithing in the Old Covenant was just a shadow of this.

Giving in the New Covenant

Are Christians expected to give?

Tithing was commanded in the Old Testament. The Old Testament is obsolete and the New Testament applies to those who are born again.

There is no direct commandment in the New Testament that we should tithe (give a tenth of our earnings to the church).

However, giving is not exactly optional. Jesus didn’t say "if you give" but "when you give." This implies that He expected us to give. But note that he was talking about giving to the poor, not to a rich church pastor. Yet, He didn’t explicitly ask us to give. That is because we must give only because we want to give and not because we were commanded to give. The attitude in giving is more important.

Mt 6:3 "But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,

In fact, in 2 Cor 8:8 Paul clearly states that it is not a command.

2 Cor 8:8 I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also.

It makes God happy when we give, but it is very important to Him that we give out of gratitude, and not out of compulsion or out of a desire to receive something from Him.

What are the prerequisites for giving?

First give yourself to God

We should first give ourselves to God (2 Cor 8:5).

2 Cor 8:5 and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.

God is more interested in us than in our money. If we do not first give ourselves to God then God will not be pleased by our sacrifice, no matter how much we give. The reason why God had regard for Abel’s sacrifice and not Cain’s was because God had regard for Abel and not Cain (Gen 4:4).

Gen 4:4 Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering;

If there is anything in your life that is offending God, any sin that you are not willing to give up then there is no point in you giving your money to God.

Get out of debt

We can only give to God what belongs to us. If we owe someone something we should first pay him or her off and then give to God from what remains. It does not make sense to give money for God’s work when we have debts that have no collateral (e.g. credit card debt, but not car or house loans).

Rom 13:8 Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.

If you owe money to someone pay him back first before offering to God (Mt 5:23,24).

Mt 5:23,24 "Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.

Mortgages don’t count because they have collateral. However, personal debts and credit card loans do as they don’t have collateral.

But don’t use your being in debt as an excuse for not giving to God. For example, if you are buying unnecessary stuff (i.e. stuff that you do not need to survive, like high quality furniture, cable TV, expensive phones, tablets, laptops, sporting equipment, expensive vacations, etc.) before you have paid off your debt then you can’t say that you can’t give to God because you are in debt!

Further, if we have cheated anyone or stolen from anyone we need to first pay them back before we think about giving money to God’s work. Otherwise, God will not accept our gift. Remember how Zaccheus paid back whatever he took unjustly before he was saved? God will also not bless us financially if we have cheated others and not made restitution.

Provide for your family

We should ensure that we are providing for our own family before we provide for the needs of others. It does not make sense to be giving money for God’s work when we cannot even support our own family.

1 Tm 5:4 but if any widow has children or grandchildren, they must first learn to practice piety in regard to their own family and to make some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God.

1 Tm 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

What should our attitude of giving be?

We must give cheerfully, not grudgingly, and not because we have to.

2 Cor 9:7 Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Never give because you are compelled to or because you will look bad if you don’t give.

How should we give?

We should give in secret; otherwise we will lose our reward.

Mt 6:1-4 "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you."

In general, our motive for giving should be pure. We should not be giving to gain any honor or position. We should be giving out of gratitude and thanksgiving to God and out of concern for God’s work and our fellowman.

How much should we give?

We can give as much as we want. How much we give is totally up to us.

2 Cor 9:7 Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

We must give as God as prospered us (1 Cor 16:2).

1 Cor 16:1-2 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come.

We should keep in mind that all our money belongs to God as He purchased us. Thus we must give even more than 10% if He prompts us to. Also, all our money now belongs to God we cannot complain if all our money is taken away due to persecution.

Mk 12:41-144 41 And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. 43 Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, "Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; 44 for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on."

When God evaluates your giving He doesn’t just look at how much you gave, but at what percentage of your income you gave. Sacrificial giving is of greater value. David understood this and that is why he said that he would not give to God that which costs him nothing.

1 Chron 21:24 But King David said to Ornan, "No, but I will surely buy it for the full price ; for I will not take what is yours for the LORD, or offer a burnt offering which costs me nothing."

What is the benefit of giving?

God is no debtor to man. If you give generously He will be generous to you (Lk 6:38; 2 Cor 9:6,10-11).

2 Cor 9:10-11 Now 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 everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God.

2 Cor 9:6 Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

As we see in Lk 6:38, this principle not only applies to giving money, but also to giving mercy.

Lk 6:38 "Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure--pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return."

Yet, our motive for giving should not be so that we can get something in return.

The other side of giving

We’ve looked at giving from the perspective of the church member. Let’s now look at giving from the perspective of those who receive such giving – a perspective I don’t find too many people talking about these days.

Is it okay for a pastor to ask for funds?

It is okay for one church or person to ask for another (1 Cor 16:1-4; 2 Cor 9:1-5).

1 Cor 16:1-4 1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. 2 On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come. 3 When I arrive, whomever you may approve, I will send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem; 4 and if it is fitting for me to go also, they will go with me.

2 Cor 9:1-5 1 For it is superfluous for me to write to you about this ministry to the saints ; 2 for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the Macedonians, namely, that Achaia has been prepared since last year, and your zeal has stirred up most of them. 3 But I have sent the brethren, in order that our boasting about you may not be made empty in this case, so that, as I was saying, you may be prepared ; 4 otherwise if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we-not to speak of you-will be put to shame by this confidence. 5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brethren that they would go on ahead to you and arrange beforehand your previously promised bountiful gift, so that the same would be ready as a bountiful gift and not affected by covetousness.

It is okay to make the needs of another known, as Paul did in 2 Cor 8.

However, churches should not collude with each other i.e. you ask for me, and I’ll ask for you.

Further, as we know, a bond servant works without any expectation of pay. On the other hand, a servant works for pay. So if you are serving God for money then you are not a bond servant of God but a servant of God. There is nothing wrong with that – just be aware that there is a higher standard.

Further, the servant’s expectation is that his employer pays him. Therefore, if a pastor is asking for funds from his congregation for his ministry then we know that he is employed by his congregation, and not by God. That is, he is a servant of the people, not a servant of God.

Is it okay for a minister to live off the church?

Yes, it is okay for a minister to live off the church.

1 Cor 9:3-14 1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle ? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? 2 If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. 3 My defense to those who examine me is this 4 Do we not have a right to eat and drink ? 5 Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6 Or do only Barnabas and I not have a right to refrain from working? 7 Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock? 8 I am not speaking these things according to human judgment, am I? Or does not the Law also say these things? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, "YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING." God is not concerned about oxen, is He? 10 Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops. 11 If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar? 14 So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.

1 Cor 9:18 What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.

1 Tm 5:17-18 17 The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, "YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING," and "The laborer is worthy of his wages."

Gal 6:6 The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him.

Jesus did.

Lk 8:1-3 1 Soon afterwards, He began going around from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God. The twelve were with Him, 2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means.

Paul did not.

1 Cor 9:15-18 15 But I have used none of these things. And I am not writing these things so that it will be done so in my case ; for it would be better for me to die than have any man make my boast an empty one. 16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. 17 For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. 18 What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.

1 Thess 2:9 For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.

2 Thess 3:8-9 8 nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; 9 not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example.

It requires greater faith to live off the church and yet preach the truth without compromise.

How should a church take money from its members?

I’ve been to churches that require you to formally commit (as in signing a document) to give 10% of your income to that church if you want to become a member of that church. I want to join a church, not a club, and so I never become a member of such a church.

In the New Testament, more is spoken about money than about anything else. Therefore, we need to pay extra attention to how we handle money as individuals and as a church.

There is good reason for this. Jesus pointed it out in Mt 6:24.

Mt 6:24 "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

Lk 16:13 "No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."

In order to serve God we must refuse to serve mammon. The best approach to this is to deal with financial things in the same pattern we see it being dealt with in the New Testament.

Most people think that how a church receives money from people is not important. I think that it is important because you can’t serve God and money.

Most churches pass a collection bag around during the service.

There is no Scripture that I am aware of that supports this practice. Also, we never read of Jesus passing a collection bag around before, during or after He gave a sermon. We never read of Paul or the other apostles doing that either. In fact, neither Jesus nor Paul or the disciples ever asked anyone to support their ministry.

That is how we should do things today as well.

So passing the bag is the opposite of how things were done in the apostle’s time.

In Ac 4:37 we see that church members laid their gift at the apostle’s feet. They went to the apostles with their gift, not the other way around.

In Ac 5:4 we see that there was no compulsion whatsoever for anyone to give anything to the church. But the expectation was to give without deceit if one were giving something. So if we have told the pastor that we will give 10% of our earnings to the church and we pretend that we are doing that but we aren’t then we are no different from Ananias.

Interestingly, it is quite likely that Ananias must have given about 90% and kept only about 10% for himself. After all, the people around him in the church must have had a fair idea of what his land was worth. So if he wanted to pretend that he was giving all of it he couldn’t have kept too much for himself.

Most pastors would have been thrilled to get that 90% and would have overlooked the deceit, attributing it to immaturity.

But God was more interested in the purity of the motive behind the giving. God was not interested in how much Ananias gave or what percentage Ananias gave, but only in the purity of the motive with which Ananias gave.

Now notice what Peter had to say in Ac 5:4.

Ac 5:4 "While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God."

If Peter believed in tithing then how could he have said that after the land was sold the amount it was sold for was under Ananias’ control? He would have said that only 90% of the profit was under Ananias’ control!

Further, while everyone else was selling their land and giving to the apostles it was not the expectation that anyone do that. This is important to remember. When we see others doing stuff for God we should not do the same just because someone else is doing it. We must only do it if we want to do it. Otherwise, we will be tempted to keep some back for ourselves and pretend that we are as spiritual as everyone else. Trying to be as spiritual as someone else was disastrous to Ananias and can be the same for us too!

Next, in Mt 6:1-4, we see that we are expected to give in secret. When you pass the bag around you make it impossible for a person to give in secret. Thus, you hinder people from keeping God’s word.

Mt 18:7 "Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!

Lk 17:1 He said to His disciples, "It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come!

There is a woe upon those who put stumbling blocks before others.

Next, God does not want the church to use money from an unbeliever to build the church.

3 Jn 1:7 For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles.

The ministers of God go out for the sake of the Name accepting nothing from the Gentiles. This is the pattern we must follow.

This is also pictured in the Old Testament.

Gen 14:22-23 Abram said to the king of Sodom, "I have sworn to the LORD God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, 'I have made Abram rich.'"

You see, Abraham did not want to take anything from an unbeliever.

Now tell me this: if Abraham had such an attitude, how much more so will God?

Can you imagine a scenario in the Day of Judgment where God is sending someone to Hell, and that person objects because he gave money in a church when the bag was passed around (in order to not feel embarrassed). This would put God in an embarrassing position, and would cause the enemies of God to blaspheme.

Such a situation will not happen because God will be able to show that person that whatever money he gave was never used to build the true church of God.

We should therefore never put an unbeliever who comes to our church in a position where he puts something in the collection bag to avoid being embarrassed. God will not accept such money and neither will He appreciate us putting Him in an embarrassing position.

When David gave the enemies of God cause to blaspheme God dealt with it severely. When we give the enemies of God cause to blaspheme it will affect our church.

Finally, we often hear in the church that we must tithe even when we are in financial distress. Such tithing, we hear, is an act of faith. Now I would like to see such churches practice what they preach by not taking a collection but believing that God will supply all their financial needs even when people are not forced to give to the collection box that passes under their nose.

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