“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.” – 2 Corinthians 9:6-7
I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior back in the early 80s and began attending a Gospel-preaching church shortly afterwards. Three or four times a year the pastor would preach on financial giving to the church. He stated that although the New Testament doesn’t command tithing – giving a tenth of your gross income as the Israelites were obligated to do in the Old Testament – that tithing should be our minimum practice since we New Testament saints have so much more to be grateful for. I wasn’t familiar with tithing since I came from the Catholic church where contribution amounts weren’t mandated.
When pastors appeal for funds they often omit mention of 2 Corinthians 9:6-7. Christians are not obligated to tithe as the Israelites were. The Old Testament tithe was, in essence, a tax used to support the theocratic Israelite government of priests and Levites. When all the offerings were included, an Israelite actually gave about 20% of their income/possessions each year. The United States is not a theocracy and the average citizen already pays about 20% of their earnings to the government.
Yes, I fully realize the church needs the financial support of its members. It’s a privilege to support God’s work. But the only New Testament passage that speaks directly to financial giving is 2 Corinthians 9:6-7. A Christian should prayerfully consider (with their spouse if married) how much income to give to the church each week. For some it will be less than 10%, for some it will be more. A tenth of an annual $25,000 income means a lot more to the earner than a tenth of a $250,000 annual income.
I’ve heard pastors put the squeeze on their sheep as if the tithe is still binding. Well, if you believe the tithe is still in effect you had better be following the other 612 Old Testament laws. Our previous pastor said from the pulpit that anyone who criticizes the tithe doesn’t tithe. That’s probably true but it’s not the point. Are New Testament Christians commanded to tithe or not? Is our guide the Old Testament tithe or 2 Corinthians 9:6-7? Many Christians bear a heavy guilt trip because they can’t tithe. Statistics show evangelical Christians give on average about 4% of their yearly income to the church. That means there’s a LOT of non-tithers out there. Are those who tithe “better,” more obedient Christians than those who don’t? Some pastors would have you think so. And let’s not forget the televangelists! The whole TBN prosperity gospel empire is built on the promise of gaining great financial rewards if you send in your “seed money” check, even if you can’t pay your bills. Many people send their money, some on credit cards they’re already struggling to pay off, fully expecting a financial windfall from God based on the promises they hear on TBN.
When we were looking for a church three years ago we considered a popular non-denominational church just five miles from our home. I checked out their website which required potential members to “Commit to giving the tithe (10% of your income) or taking faith steps to move toward the tithe.” Hmm. What happens if a new member makes the commitment but stops giving 10% because of financial difficulties? Do the tithe police pick them up for interrogation? Is their membership rescinded? How unbiblical! Giving should be between the giver and the Lord. Period.
Everything we have belongs to the Lord and we are commanded to be good stewards of God’s resources. Some of us are better stewards than others. Some people get hit with a heavy financial burden. But God doesn’t want us getting puffed up about our ability to give nor does he want us giving grudgingly or by coercion. What a privilege it is to be part of the Lord’s work! Give cheerfully and ignore the arm-twisting.
Does God require me to give a tithe of all I earn?
John MacArthur, Grace to You