Some rambling thoughts about “tithing”

“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoevertt 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
http://www.gty.org/resources/questions/QA144/does-god-require-me-to-give-a-tithe-of-all-i-earn

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18 thoughts on “Some rambling thoughts about “tithing”

  1. Well said, Tom. This is an issue where we can quickly become legalistic. Also, any church that made me commit to a set amount would not be for me. I actually don’t have an issue with this being discussed, as churches and mission work simply put do take money. In fact, we just covered this in Sunday School.

    I use 10 as a baseline mostly because the math works. I won’t give less, but I love to give more if I can.

    Just some thoughts if you don’t mind.

    Our giving should be systematic and purposeful. Accidental or incidental giving never works. Of course, no church should ever dictate what systematic means!

    It should be sacrificial. I had a fellow ask my thoughts on the fact that his fancy truck and fancy mustang kept him from giving anything to his church. He had nothing left, in fact could hardly pay any of his bills. I shared my thoughts very frankly.

    It should be part of our regular outlay, not an after thought. God wants the first fruits, not the leftovers.

    Finally. God knows the heart. Need I say more?

    Good post, Tom

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the excellent feedback, Wally, and I agree with all of your thoughts. My thinking on giving has completely changed since I returned to the Lord. I used to give grudgingly. There was no joy in my giving. I think the church fosters those attitudes by laying guilt trips on people and “demanding” the tithe. I think the word, “tithe,” should be completely expunged from church vocabulary. Pastors are completely aware the Old Testament tithe is not a requirement in the New Testament covenant but continue with it anyway because they fear empty coffers. Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, CA seems to be surviving OK even though John MacArthur teaches against compulsory tithing. The big change for me came when I saw the church offering as an OPPORTUNITY to be a part of God’s great work of spreading the Gospel and ministering to people. There’s no better place to “invest” some of the financial blessings the Lord continues to give me. It’s like, “Are you kidding me? I get to part of all that?!?!?! I now sign my checks with great joy every Sunday morning. Unfortunately, I had to reach that viewpoint on my own. My previous pastors didn’t help me get there.

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      1. “Are you kidding, I get to be part of that?”

        Exactly! To actually see our giving producing a result is huge.

        We really are blessed, as folks are extremely liberal in their giving. In the last 5 years we have paid for a brand new building, paved an whole parking lot, and bought a brand new van. And the giving keeps up. That’s a blessing.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, giving should be between the giver and the Lord. But let us also be reminded that the “worker is worth his keep”. I don’t see any impoverished minister in the West (in fact, I’m surprised that they are v.v. wealthy), but in the global South serving the Lord could mean losing family and opportunities for a better livelihood–to receive “help” (ie, tithes) from their equally impoverished congregation is their lifeline. To see people giving out of their need instead of out of their excess really, really blesses me! And the Lord also blesses them in many, many other ways! God bless you, bro.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, and God bless you, too! Pastors and church financial committees push the Old Testament tithe model but it’s not biblical. It’s a great privilege to give to the Lord’s work but the arm-twisting and coercion are shameful.

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      1. I know, especially if there are first-time church attendants and that happened to be the sermon for the day–I just want to hide!

        But personally, Tom, I adhere to tithing (but have never imposed it on anybody). In the context of the OT, it ensured income for the Levites who did not get an allotment from the land (except the small towns and fields among the different tribes)–120% in total from the 12 tribes, but theirs was a special job!

        In today’s context (or should I say, in my ‘personal’ context), when I see churches having income-generating activities that provide exorbitant income to their ministers, I stick to the biblical “recipients” of tithes–the widows, the fatherless, the aliens/migrants, and the church/mission workers/”Levites” who are really in dire need or whom the Lord tells me to bless (regardless if in need or not).

        You might want to revisit these passages: 1) Deuteronomy 26:12-15; 2) Deuteronomy 14:22-29.

        God bless you and glory to Him! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. “Is their membership cancelled?” Interesting point. I have not found a Bible scripture that mentions “Church Membership”. I will do more research on this. We as Christians are the “Body” of the Church. Tithing I believe is what is in your heart. I don’t believe that Christ expects us to be book keepers. The Holy Spirit will tell you what to tithe as well as charities such as food banks…etc.
    Great article!
    God Bless

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Brian! Good question on “church membership.” I don’t believe it’s scriptural but it would seem the church needs some type of formal threshold for polity issues. The church should drop the term, “tithing.” It’s unbiblical coercion.

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  4. On a little tangent note I find that as a pastor if I’m ministering to people’s spiritual lives we find that indirectly it does impact giving. Not that I’m ministering for people to give but there is a correlation. We must make the main thing the main thing and I’ve not preach on giving for years and only recently did one last year. God is good and the more we understand that the more we give cheerfully out of love for the Lord.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your pastor’s perspective on this, Jim. We all realize pastors, church staff, utility bills, etc. won’t get paid if the membership doesn’t give. I think it’s fine to periodically remind the congregation of 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (and other passages such as 1 Timothy 5:17-18) as a basis for giving. But I’ve sat under some preaching about giving that was very heavy handed and manipulative and that held up Old Testament tithing as the expectation. Yes, giving to the church is a wonderful opportunity to share in the Lord’s work!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I only have a little window view of manipulative churches that are heavy handed with giving. When I was a young Christian I once visited a Bible study that was into prosperity gospel, the preacher got mad and even yelled that there were coins in the plate. Then they passed the plate a second time…it was crazy…

        Liked by 1 person

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