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Tithing—I believe every Christian should do it.  But can I preach that?  Like you, I’m committed to preaching only what the Bible clearly teaches.  Unfortunately, I’ve always found the Bible’s teaching about a believer’s responsibility to tithe to be fuzzy around the edges.  Off the top before taxes?  Off the bottom after taxes? All to the church (ours in particular!)?  Off of income or off of possessions?  Of course, the problem isn’t with Scripture.  The problem is me. 

When it comes to giving, my own preferences, opinions, and training make it hard for me to approach relevant texts with a clear and teachable mind.  On the one hand, I know that the tithe is “law” and that, in Christ, we’re no longer under the Law.  Still, it’s hard for me to fathom how anyone can honestly taste the sweetness of God’s grace only to turn around and “Scrooge” God by giving Him less than 10%.  The very idea makes me want to raise my voice, pound my pulpit, and thump my Bible!  Which is exactly why I’m not yet ready to preach that sermon on tithing.  But I’m getting closer. 

On a recent jog, I began to think again about the issue of tithing.  It occurred to me that there’s more than one way to tithe. In fact, three distinct forms of tithing are practiced in the Bible. Only one is legitimate for the believer. 

The form of tithing most often addressed in Scripture is “tithing as covenant.”  This practice of tithing was specific to Israel as the covenant people of God.  It was part of the Mosaic Law (Leviticus 27:30-33; Numbers 18:21-32; Deuteronomy 14:22-29). Under the Covenant, God promised to materially bless Israel for obedience and, conversely, to judge them (strip them of their prosperity) for disobedience (Deuteronomy 28 and Malachi 3:8-12). 

This model for tithing has no direct relevance to us as New Testament believers.  In Christ, we live under a new covenant.  Our lives are not governed by the written code but by the indwelling Holy Spirit who writes His “law” on our hearts (Galatians 5:18; Hebrews 8:7-13).

The Bible also describes a second kind of tithing that is both condemnable and, I fear, far too common—“tithing as legalism.”  In Jesus’ day, it was the religious leaders who practiced this perversion of Israel’s covenant tithe.  Christ’s condemnation of legalistic tithing was absolute:

“Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.  These you ought to have done without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Matthew 23:23-24)

In His relationship with Israel, God intended the tithe to be an avenue to blessing.  The religious manipulators of Jesus’ day turned the blessing into burden.  Instead of expressing faithfulness to God—and oneness of heart with God for ministry and the poor—the tithe became little more than a means to satisfy “religious obligations.”  Such satisfaction leads to pride (Luke 18:9-12) and, in the end, restricts giving.  After all, once our “obligation” is satisfied, what more could God want?  It’s no wonder Jesus so strongly denounces legalistic tithing. 

Yet, how easily the sin of the Pharisees can become our sin, too!  Effective ministry requires money—money that comes from God’s people.  Believers need to give—for both their own sake and the sake of the Kingdom.  Since they need to give, we need to preach about giving.  When we do, however, we must be careful not to turn blessing into burden.  We must refuse to preach “tithing as legalism.”  So what’s the alternative? 

Tithing as worship!                

In Scripture, “tithing as worship” was practiced prior to both the establishment of “tithing as covenant” and the perversion of “tithing as legalism.”  The principle of “tithing as worship” is “pre-Law.”  It’s established in Genesis 14:17-24 where Abram gives a tenth of his plunder to Melchizedek, King of Salem.  Melchizedek, in turn, blesses Abram.  Hebrews 7:1-10 defines the significance of these acts, declaring that it is the superior who blesses the inferior, and the inferior who pays tithes to the superior. 

“Tithing as worship,” then, is first an act by which we acknowledge that God is both our superior (the Sovereign Lord) and the source of all blessing. 

But “tithing as worship” does more than acknowledge God. It expresses our personal allegiance to Him.  We see this in Genesis 28:10-22.  Here, God reveals Himself to Jacob in a dream.  In response, the patriarch vows, “the Lord shall be my God…and of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.”  For Jacob, the “tithe as worship” became a natural expression of his decision to follow the God of His Fathers.  In the same way, the “tithe as worship” becomes an almost instinctive way for us to express our allegiance to the God of our Salvation.       

A third, and critical, element of “tithing as worship” is thanksgiving.  “Tithing as worship” expresses overflowing gratitude toward God.  It breaks free from guilt as the motivation for giving.  Its ultimate focus is the condition of one’s heart—not the percentage of one’s income. 

On the topic of percentages, I find the words of John H. Walton and Andrew E. Hill to be practical.  They write,

“How are we to show our gratitude to God other than by giving back a portion?  If 10 percent was considered an acceptable portion by God as an expression of gratitude then, why should we view it any differently today?  We might consider 10 percent as a benchmark just as we consider 15 percent a benchmark for tipping.  The extent of the customer’s gratitude and appreciation is demonstrated in the size of the tip.  It would be considered the ultimate rudeness or the consummate insult to leave no tip at all.  So it is to God if we return no portion to Him.  In addition, there are occasions when the situation calls for a contribution exceeding the benchmark.” (Old Testament Today; Zondervan: 2004, 270-271) 

Again, it must be said—ultimately, “tithing as worship” isn’t about percentage of income.  It’s about the overflow of one’s heart.  Second Corinthians 8:5 is clear.  When we first give ourselves to the Lord, any act of giving pleases Him—whether above or below the “benchmark.”  “For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.” (2 Corinthians 8:12)     

How, then, can we preach the tithe?  First, we recognize that “tithing as covenant” has no direct relevance to New Testament believers.  Second, we acknowledge that “tithing as legalism” is just plain sin—both for those who practice it and those who preach it. Only the principle of “tithing as worship” remains.  That’s the tithing we can preach!  “Tithing as worship” is our opportunity to acknowledge that God is God.  He is ruler over our lives.  He is the source of every blessing we enjoy.  More than that, “tithing as worship” expresses our allegiance to God in a very personal and concrete way.  And finally, “tithing as worship” manifests a heart overflowing with thanksgiving toward God. 

With this in mind, perhaps we should be less concerned with whether people tithe and more concerned with why they tithe.  Ultimately, tithing isn’t about percentage of income or money in the plate.  It’s about worship! 

Tithing as worship—I think that will preach!

Tony Sago
February 11, 2012
I think the nt is about love and grace alot of pastors teach tithes with guilt that most people are giving grudgingly seem like most pastors dont care as long as they get the money know body really talks about 2 corinthain ch 9 exspecially those who teach tithes most pastors have put the yoke back on the people that GOD took off us I can say more but the fact of the matter pastors have to be more intune with the spirit to understand that the devil is really behind this if they would teach free will giving not forcing giving it will be much better its a grace thing
Oun Kwon
February 10, 2012
Ed, it's true that the real issue is stewardship. For that reason, the word <b>tithe</b> should better be unmentionable from the pulpit.
Ed Ethridge
February 10, 2012
In my comment the (10) is 10 percent and the 80 is 80 percent of the parables...symbols did not show up for some reason.
Ed Ethridge
February 10, 2012
Could it be said that "IF"our people,His sheep understood grace that the tithe or giving would not be an issue? Also,I am pursuaded that the issue at hand is not really giving or tithing but the Biblical principal of stewardship.As we all know the word steward means house manager.We are resonsible for the whole not the part(10).If the true ekklesia understood and practiced good stewarship because they understand grace resources inn our churches would never be an issue.The Gospels speak much about a man and his gold,around 80 of the parables speak about money.Three widows gave it all flour,oil and two mites and God GAVE His only son should we shrink from preaching and teaching on the subject that began at the cross.
If we preach on certain practises or customs we must have a sure biblical foundation for it. To justify instructing a Christian fellowship that tithing is a divine requirement because it predates the Mosaic Law is clearly in conflict with scripture. The issue of circumcision that Paul deals with in Galatians proves this. Circumcision predated the Law. It was initiated by the same man who give a tenth of the spoil to Melchizedek, Abraham. God commanded him to circumcise Isaac when he was eight days old. If we justify the insistence or even the custom of tithing on this basis we are therefore in conflict with the word of God because Paul will not allow it for circumcision. How therefore can we allow it for tithing? The hidden agenda behind all such suggestions is to lay unscriptural burdens on the people of God, therebye implying that a superior Christian status can be attained. When we examine the principle of tithing in the Old Testament we discover that it was to provide an allowance for the Levites, the priestly family. Who are the priests today? When a man stands up in a pulpit and is called a pastor or minister does that make him a priest? If someone was born again spiritually this morning is he not a priest? We need to rid ourselves of Judaistic thoughts and practises and realise the Divinely taught superiority of Christianity.
Modesto Mercado
February 9, 2012
John E. Miller, I agree with you. I teach my church that if you give yourself to God, you give from the heart, but you also do it as a way of worship. As you said and I agree with you Paul makes it clear to the Galatians that if you insist on one part of the law (i.e. circumcision) you must keep the whole Law. Christianity goes much further than tithing. Nobody wants to preach how the church was giving in the new testament because we will have to do the same. Can we do just as the church used to do in Acts 4:32-37? Why the prosperity preach don't preach it? I stand with John and I preach it when I talk about tithing in my church We must be ready to place all our possessions and even our own lives on the altar and we should do it for Jesus.
I suggest that you might be interested to look at Robert Sickler's (#19) sermon on "The Prosperity Gospel etc.
Paul's Gospel to the Gentiles did not include tithing. It is not referred to in any teaching or preaching in the New Testament. Paul makes it clear to the Galatians that if you insist on one part of the law (i.e. circumcision) you must keep the whole Law. Christianity goes much further than tithing. We must be ready to place all our possessions and even our own lives on the altar. If we preach tithing we are holding back and teaching others to hold back.
Gene Speight
February 8, 2012
About Abraham. Where did he get the idea to give a tenth? Did he tithe on all of his income or just the spoils? Did God give him the idea of the tithe? We have no word on these questions. If we are not careful we can get into generalizing regarding his giving method. I, too, have been struggling with the tithe. It is not because I am necessarily against the idea. My concern, as it has already been mentioned, I believe the concept of tithing has gotten completely away from what giving is all about. Again, this has already been touched on in varying degrees. It seems to me that teaching the tithe has led church members down a path that ignores the greater implications of giving. It is easier to give the tithe and think duty has been done. However, Jesus placed great emphasis on abiding in Him, using our time and talents for the building up of His church, ministering to the needs of our people and those within the community and missions around the world and at home. But most of all for God's glory. And what brings God glory? Abiding in Christ, growing spiritually, winning the lost to Christ, using our time and talents in ministry and discipling new converts. As a pastor for almost forty years my problems have not been with those fitting into this criteria but with those who have the most money to give (tithe). Also, the church should comply with the teachings of Christ first, set its goals and plans and challenge the people (true followers of Christ) to support the goals and plans to do God's work. Sorry to have rambled but I had to get my two cents worth in. Thanks for all of your comments. This is indeed a very serious but touchy subject.
It is a good thing to challenge our traditions, and tithing is just that: a tradition. As you pointed out, tithing was brought to fulfillment in Christ. In fact, tithing is really a form of tax more than it is a form of giving. I recommend we drop the use of the word tithe and replace it with giving. There is plenty of New Testament scripture to teach us the importance of giving. There are three NT points I recommend we consider. Start with the first two: 1) the condition of our heart when we give; and, 2) regular scheduled giving. Forget about percentages, yep I know it is scary for a preacher to do this! When we have mastered the first two points (at some consistent level) then we can move on to the third point: 3) generous giving. If a person cannot master the first two points there is no way they their giving will ever be any more than a filthy religious rag. If we can teach the people these three points we will have covered the NT basics of giving.
Rusty Watson
February 8, 2012
I too enjoy these conversations. Much is gained from them including insight as to where some may be coming from and their particular denominational influences. I would say to one of the guys that I do not avoid 2 Cor. 9:7. A wise old preacher once said, "Text without context is pretext." The context of 2 Cor. 9:7 is not at all about the topic being discussed here but rather about the heart Paul had for the saints in Jerusalem and the offering being received from the saints to be given to the church in Jerusalem. This is why he would say that they were to give as they had been given to by God but has nothing whatsoever to do with the subject of tithing!
Oun Kwon
February 8, 2012
Tithing was something of the Old Covenant, effective for Judaic people. So the answer to the title is No. It was similar to taxation to support political-religious governing authority. It has no place in the New Covenant. One may give all or none to one or all. Tithing as worship? - Sounds like baloney.
I really appreciate everyone's input. I benefit greatly from it. I actually wrote this article about six years ago. Like most of you, I continue to wrestle with the issue. In my series through 1 Corinthians, I came to 16:1-4 this week. Here's what I said about tithing on Sunday. It represents my present thinking on the topic. So how do we decide how much we should give to God? Paul says, we should decide what to give based on how God is prospering us at the time. In verse 2, the NIV puts it this way, Each one...should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income... Notice what it doesn't say. It doesn't say, Each one of you should tithe. Please understand that there's nothing wrong with giving a tithe of your income to God. No matter what our income has been, Nancy and I have always used the tithe as our starting point for giving. But here's the danger. Tithing too easily becomes legalistic. As believers we're under grace not law. You can give God 10 legalistically without ever giving Him your heart. What good is that? But not only can tithing be legalistic, it can also become an excuse for being stingy! If you make $1000/month, a tithe is most likely a sacrificial gift for you. If you make $10,000/month, a tithe is likely no sacrifice at all. For some people, stopping at a tithe is stingy! That's why, when it comes to giving, there's no set percentage of income that applies to us all. The New Testament is clear-God owns more than 10 of our money! God owns it all! That means He alone has the right to tell you how much you should give. Ultimately, what you give is between you and God. If your heart is right, He'll let you know exactly what you should do. Whatever that is, if you do it, you'll be blessed! Thanks again for the input and the chance to wrestle through these things together!
Steven Long
February 8, 2012
I agree with giving completely, but not tithing! If the bible cannot contradict itself, why does everyone stop clear of 2 Cor 9:7? Maybe because it totally conflicts with the teaching on the tithe, as well as the fact nowhere in scripture can you find where one church was taught the tithe, they were taught to give out of a generous heart. Your correct in the fact that giving isnt about a number, its about the heart. Maybe if the church didnt have so much overhead, it would spend more time raising up people of generosity, instead of bill payers. I had a pastor tell me once that with no tithe there would be no church. I beg to differ sir, with no Christ, there would be no church! You say that effective ministry requires money. I shoot to lead at least one person to Christ a week as well as walk along side of them and disciple as many as I can, and sir, it doesn't cost me a thing. Have a Blessed Day!!!!!
Steven Long
February 8, 2012
I agree with giving completely, but not tithing! If the bible cannot contradict itself, why does everyone stop clear of 2 Cor 9:7? Maybe because it totally conflicts with the teaching on the tithe, as well as the fact nowhere in scripture can you find where one church was taught the tithe, they were taught to give out of a generous heart. Your correct in the fact that giving isnt about a number, its about the heart. Maybe if the church didnt have so much overhead, it would spend more time raising up people of generosity, instead of bill payers. I had a pastor tell me once that with no tithe there would be no church. I beg to differ sir, with no Christ, there would be no church! You say that effective ministry requires money. I shoot to lead at least one person to Christ a week as well as walk along side of them and disciple as many as I can, and sir, it doesn't cost me a thing. Have a Blessed Day!!!!!
Jack Justice
February 8, 2012
tithing predates the law......
While it is true that we are no longer under the Law, that certainly doesn't nullify the principles of the Law. Many who criticize the Bible use examples such as Lev. 19:19 "Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woolen come upon thee." Thy say these laws are silly and Christians are silly for believing the Bible. But what they don't understand, and sadly many Christians don't understand, is that God was teaching separation from the world. And while we are no longer under the Law legalistically the principle is still in effect. (2 Cor. 6:14-18). If the principles of the Law are no longer in effect then is Lev. 19:29 no longer in effect? "Do not prostitute thy daughter, to cause her to be a whore; lest the land fall to whoredome, and the land become full of wickedness." Jesus did not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it. (Matt. 5:17) He fulfilled the sacrifical law so that we no longer have to sacrifice animals, He is our rest so we are no longer under the Sabbath, He fulfilled the dietary Law so we no longer under it. (Col. 2:16, Acts 10:9-15, John 1:29). But the principles are still in effect. So if we are no longer under the Law then are adultery, stealing, lying, coveting, etc. OK? Jesus said in John 14:15 "If ye love Me, keep my commandments." (Also John 14:21, 15:10, 1 John 2:3-4, 3:22, 24, 5:2,3) This is the difference between Law and grace, we do not keep the law to make ourselves righteous, we do not keep the Law to be saved, we keep the law because we love Jesus. Christianity is not rules it is relationship, and when we love someone we should want to please them. If the only reason I don't commit adultery is because the law says I shouldn't then what does that say about my relationship with my wife? I shouldn't want to commit adultery because I love my wife and do not want to hurt her. Same with Jesus, He wants us to do right, follow His commandments because we love Him, but the commandments are still there, they still need to be followed. In fact, there are consequences if we don't. Both the Old and New Testements are for us today. 2 Tim. 3:16-17 "ALL Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is PROFITABLE for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good WORKS." ALL Scripture is profitable for us including the Old Testement. We simply need to rightly divide the Word of God (2 Tim. 2:15). Everything we have is a gift from God (Eccl. 5:19, James 1:17). To think that because we are no longer under the Law tithing is no longer in effect is to say that the wealth I have belongs to me and I will decide what portion to give back to the Lord. If God used the principle of tithing in the Old Testement, saying that people were robbing Him if they didn't tithe (Malachi 3:7-11) what does that say about the Christian who doesn't feel lead to give to God? Christians need to understand that God's house needs money to keep the doors open. If people don't tithe then how are the bills going to be paid, how are the staff going to get paid, how are ministries going to continue without funding, how are missionaries going to stay on the field without the support that comes from churches? Christians need to understand that God expects at the LEAST a tithe. If the tithe was needed to keep the Temple running, then the Church needs the tithe for the same thing. We give to the church because we love Christ and want to see the gospel message continue to reach souls for Christ. The principle of tithing is still in effect today even though we are no longer under the Law.
Gordon Besel
February 8, 2012
I like the distinction on the three types of tithing. I also find it helpful to speak of percentage / proportionate giving for the worship tithe based on 1 Corinthians 16:2. I believe closely tied to that is First-fruit giving because it requires us to trust God to provide for the needs of life.
Perry Ford
February 8, 2012
While the article was initeresting, I cannot agree with the idea that we should not tithe.
Daniel Peloquin of Rushing Waters Assembly Of God
February 8, 2012
Thanks for the article, I appreciated it. To Mark A. Teets, I think the intent of the article is that we are NOT under the Law, therefore teaching Tithing as delineated in the Law is not necessarily what needs to be done. But the principle of tithing certainly as a principle of relationship with God and as an act of worship is still very valid. We may no longer teach the dietary law, we certainly don't teach the practice of the sacrificial law, but the moral law and relational principle of worship and the moral law are very valid; in those, God does not change! They were pre-Law, and remain in this time of Grace!
Rusty Watson
February 8, 2012
Two issues with this article: a. Jesus did not condemn the Pharisees for tithing, as a matter of fact, He said they ought to have tithed. b. We often forget that Jesus said we should give to God what is God's and to Caesar what was Caesar's. Indicating that God's part was still a tenth which what the word "tithe" means. For those who claim they are NT Christians to find what is God's part will force them to look backward into the OT which they may have some trouble doing. Personally I am a whole book believer.
Harry Bratton of Greater Faith Grace Bible Church
February 8, 2012
Just as we take on some of the personality and characteristics of natural parents, when we are born again into the family of God, we should naturally take on some the of traits of our Heavenly Father. God is a giver. So it should not ever be a problem for Christian to give. It just becomes part of our new nature. "If any man be in Christ he is a new creation the old has passed and all things become new." We as Christians should always want to and with great joy give our Time, Talents, Testimonies, and Treasures to honor our Lord Jesus Christ. I have leaned the only people who have a problem with tithing or giving is those who do not tithe or give.
Glenn Hawkins
February 8, 2012
It's interesting when one looks at the whole scope of church history. For the first 800 years of the church's existence, tithing was never an issue. It's my understanding that the poor in the church were not expected to give at all--it was those who were well off--and they gave because they wanted to, not because the church demanded it. I believe it was the pope who began to mandate tithing for everybody. And let's not forget proper exegesis: we don't take doctrine from a narrative--only as it's backed up by didactic functions of Scripture. Just because Abraham gave 10 of the spoils of war to Melchizedek, does that mean God has commanded it? and why stop there? God told His people through Malachi to bring the WHOLE tithe into the storehouse. Wasn't that somewhere around 30, when we take everything God told the children of Israel to give? It's true that Jesus never condemned the Pharisees for tithing per se. But neither did He condemn homosexuality--which is the very argument of the gay community to justify their sin. What are we to make of that? As a pastor, I've told the members of my congregation to NOT tithe. I told them to be generous--God commands that. But if we are saved by grace, why do we go back to the law to find out how much we should give? We are a new church (about 4 months old), but so far, we've always made budget. And even should there come a time where we don't, I'm convinced that the Lord will provide. And here is the challenge, I believe. If we as pastors demand the tithe, which in my mind has no direct mandate in Scripture for the New Testament believer, where does trusting in the Lord for the ministry come in?
Reverend Daniel Forster
February 8, 2012
As for me, I am not ready to preach on this issue either. Just a thought though...what about in acts 2:43-47? I realize this does not fit our culture..yet one is prone to question, should we still follow this model? It is after all the model Jesus really pre-set for us and the apostles. Just a thought.
Joshua Welch
February 8, 2012
Personally, I think tithing is a good benchmark. However, it is only a part of Old Testament law and I cannot, in good conscience, teach it. Nevertheless, I can teach what Jesus said in Matthew 5:20, "unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." Should we have a lower or a higher standard for ourselves than the scribes and Pharisees? Secondly, I feel as though you have misrepresented what Jesus actually taught in Matthew 23. He never condemned their tithing the mint, anise and cummin. He condemns paying attention to these minute details while neglecting "the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith." He even says, "These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone." The phrase "without leaving the others undone" indicates they were right in keeping the tithe but wrong in ignoring so many other concepts behind the law. Finally, giving "as he may prosper" may be less or more than ten percent depending on the person. We are to give "as a matter of generosity" as "cheerful givers" (2 Corinthians 9:7). God is more interested in the motivation of the mind than hitting the 10 mark. 2 Corinthians 8:12 says, "...if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have." Does the sacrificial 8 giving of a poverty-stricken Christian mean less to God than the 10 giving of a multimillionaire? I'd feel guilty patting one on the back while kicking the other in the shins.
Mark A. Teets of Community Bible Church
February 8, 2012
If the tithing is an OT practice that no longer applies to NT believers then how much of the OT applies? None of it?
Keith B
February 8, 2012
My first impulse was to say "No...we shouldn't teach tithing, as the OT model of tithing was a tax of sorts to support the priestly system and was actually more than 10". But I think the writer makes a good point that it's about being aware that God owns it all anyway--and our dependance on him.
Byron
February 8, 2012
That is really a great teaching on tithing.Thank you

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