Many Christian debate over whether tithing is still required after Jesus’ death and resurrection. But before I join the debate, let’s define what tithing is and is not.
Tithing VS Giving
People often confuse tithing with giving, and they use these words interchangeably as if they are one and the same. But Old Testament tithing and New Testament giving are nothing alike.
Giving can be in any amount or in any percentage. And the amount you give is totally voluntary. It’s a relational thing entirely between you and God.
Scripture commands that we give. But each one of us must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
But when a pastor or legalist talks about tithing, he is not talking about Biblical giving. Tithing is not giving. Tithing is not voluntary. Tithing is not just any percentage. The Biblical tithing in the Old Testament is the requirement that every Jew give 10% of their possessions back to their creator.
Prior to the death and resurrection of Jesus, tithing was the law. You had to tithe for God’s favor. You could volunteer to give extra $, food or property as a gift offering. But forking over your 10% was mandatory.
Arguments for Tithing
Tithing proponents often refer to Malachi (Old Testament) to claim that if you don’t tithe, you are robbing God. They also claim that when Jesus was resurrected, all 613 laws were fulfilled and abolished except of course for the tithe. The reason they give, is that tithing was around before the Mosaic law ever existed. And historically, they are correct.
Way before Moses, Abraham, the father of the faithful, gave Melchizedek a tenth of all his goods. And so the logic is that if the tithe existed before the law, then the tithe continues to exist after the law.
Lastly, Jesus Himself mentions tithing at least twice, and it is referred to at least 6 times in the New Testament. In one instance, Jesus actually rebukes the pharisees for not obeying the weightier matters of the law along with tithing. So there’s no question that tithing was important even in Jesus’ day.
Arguments for Why Tithing Is No Longer Required
For the reasons below, I am completely against the tithe as a legal requirement. However I see nothing wrong when you cheerfully give 10% simply because you want to.
Tithing References After The Resurrection
One thing the pro tithers hate to admit, is that after the resurrection, tithing is never mentioned as a requirement in any New Testament verse. Indeed, if tithing is still required, shouldn’t Paul, Peter, John or James have spoken about such?
Why were they all silent on this matter? Some insist that Paul never mentioned tithing because such would be obvious to his audience. In other words, the Jews of his day knew all about this requirement, so it would be like telling your own grandmother how to suck eggs. Useless.
But this argument falls apart when you consider who Paul’s audience really was. Paul didn’t just talk to Jews. Paul also evangelized to the Greeks, the Romans and various other gentile cultures. Tithing would not be obvious to these people, who unlike the Jews, did not have 613 commandments to follow. Tithing would certainly have needed to be explained to them. And yet Paul never talked about tithing even once in his letters.
Tithing Before Moses and the Law
Pro tithers insist that the tithe is ever alive and in full force, because it existed at least from the time of Abraham (6 centuries before the law that Jesus came to fulfill by His death and resurrection).
They base this on the fact that Abraham himself gave a tenth of his goods to Melchizedek. Pro tithers then use this incident to claim this is why we must tithe every week. But where do they get this from? Abraham voluntarily gave 10% to Melchizedek. Scripture does not say this was ever required of him.
Also, Abraham didn’t tithe to Melchizedek regularly. And certainly not weekly. Based on Scripture, we have every reason to believe this was a one shot occurrence. Something Abraham did while passing through on his many travels.
In fact, before Moses and the law, we have no indication at all that tithing was done at regular intervals. At best, we have sporadic accounts of people tithing such as Jacob, but with no indication this was a widespread or weekly practice. And with Jacob too, this act was voluntary. He gave 10% because he wanted to.
Where The Weekly Tithing Comes From
The first examples of weekly giving (post resurrection) are from the New Testament collections in Corinth. To help support the Christians in Jerusalem, Paul had instructed the Corinthians as follows: On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.
This would have been the perfect time for Paul to have told these ignorant gentiles, “Hey, when I mean keeping with your income, I mean you must give at least 10%.” But he never mentioned a percentage. And we know that Paul, a former pharisee, was very precise with all his instructions.
So it seems that to reach their conclusions that tithing is both mandatory and to be done weekly, pro tithers must selectively cobble together things from before the law, during the law and after the law. They must rely on one shot voluntary occurrences from before the law, the routine tithing done under the law, and the routine weekly giving done in the New Testament after the law was abolished. All to support an argument that somehow, this ten percent “tithe” is mandatory, and to be given weekly into the church offering bowl.
It’s a lot of legal gymnastics. And it still doesn’t explain why Paul never once mentioned the tithe while making his weekly collections. Isn’t it a bit ironic that our church pastors frequently mention the tithe during the weekly offering, but yet for some reason, the Super Apostles Paul, Peter, John and James never did so?
The Mystery of This 10%
To me, this ten percent sounds very much like the Mosaic law in disguise. Except the pro tithers don’t tell the whole story. According to at least one source, the Old Testament law required multiple tithes which would have pushed the total amount to around 23.3 percent.
Keep in mind, the tithers of today are almost always talking about money. But under the law, people were tithing their possessions too! And what about tithing our time? Tithers never mention that do they? So why aren’t pastors and other pro tithers demanding we contribute 23 percent instead of 10? If we’re going to be in bondage to the law, let’s do this thing right!
Giving After The Resurrection.
The scary part (especially for the legalist) is that God wants much more than just our money. He wants our heart. The Lord is not interested in silly percentages or numbers. God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He’s not gunning for your money. He’s gunning for YOU. And He wants ALL of you.
This means your time, your treasure, your devotion, your obedience. Your thought life! Even your willingness to be willing. And yet He knows our hearts wander. This is where His grace comes in. Jesus can breathe life into your dry bones. And if you ask Him to, He will give you a heart for cheerful giving.
You can’t please God by giving under compulsion. But you can certainly give cheerfully and joyfully. (no matter what the amount)
God has commanded us to be givers. His two greatest commandments are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. And to love our neighbors like ourselves. This cannot be done without some sort of giving. But there’s no formula to it.
And when we give, it demonstrates our faith in God as our provider. Giving softens our hearts to the things that God cares about most. And better yet, when we give, it delights Him immensely.
The Lord encourages us with material and non-material blessings when we give. And He warns us that we may lose out on blessings when we don’t give. On a personal note, the Lord Jesus transforms my heart whenever I give to others. And often when I give, I receive great joy, love and understanding that is utterly supernatural.
So there are plenty of good reasons to give. But you are not required to tithe.
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