“Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfriuts of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine” (Proverbs 3:9-10)
Is tithing a command for the Christian? Is 10 percent the standard for Christian tithing or should one give as he has decided in his heart for God loves a cheerful giver? Here are a few brief misconceptions to consider:
1. “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Christians have to stop using this verse in relation to tithing! Giving? Sure! Offerings? Sure! Tithing? No! Giving in 2 Corinthians 8-9 is in the context of a relief offering, a collection for the Saints suffering in Jerusalem, not tithing.
2. “There is no command in the New Testament for us to tithe.”
First of all, isn’t this backwards from how we do a study on any other topic? If the New Testament does not abrogate a principal, doesn’t that mean it is upheld?
Secondly, Jesus affirms the tithe! In pronouncing woes on the Pharisees in Matthew 23, Jesus gives an interesting commendation on tithing which they “ought to have done.” The problem with the Pharisees was not their detailed attention to God’s law (“these you ought to have done” (v. 23)), but their disregard for the weightier matters of the law, namely “justice, mercy, and faithfulness.” In addition, Jesus supports the validity and continuation of God’s Law in Matthew 5:17-20 which I have discussed in a previous post.
3. “The tithe was a priestly law fulfilled by Christ our High Priest.”
Actually, Christ our High Priest (not of Levi but of Judah) traced his priesthood back to Melchizedek whom Abraham (and the descendants of Levi) paid tithes to. The tithe is not grounded in the Mosaic law. The superiority of the New Covenant to the Old and the authority of Christ as high priest is explained in Hebrews 7 by way of Melchizedek’s collection of a 10 percent tithe from Abraham. We are the inheritors of Abraham’s promise and as the priesthood of Melchizidek is an eternal priesthood, the mandate to tithe is permanent. The Levites tithed to Melchizedek through Abraham their ancestor showing his superiority and and obligation for us to continue to do so as well. As another put it, Levitical tithing, (lesser) ceremonial. Melchizedekan, moral (greater). In addition, certain characteristics could have been practiced by Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:4) and Jacob also spoke of a ten percent tithe (28:22).
4. Wouldn’t that be legalism?
Because of our strong (biblical) stance on salvation by grace alone through faith alone, not a result of works, we scoff at the idea of having any “rules” or “commands” this side of Jesus. However, a commandment is not legalism.
John states, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:2-3). Jesus himself says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
Even unbelievers are to obey God’s commandments (1 Tim. 1:8-11), however, no man can do so, hence the obedience and sacrifice of Christ. Once we come to Christ we are able to keep his commands, through the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:3-4), not unto salvation, but unto holiness (sanctification). What was once a condemnation has now become a delight (Psalm 119:97)!
When our rule for tithing is “giv[ing] as we have decided in [our] hearts,” we are left at the whim of the emotions of our heart at that moment in time. We are left with mere subjectivism. Our heart may not feel to give or we may only feel “led” to give say 1 percent. In fact, it is our hearts that are deceitfully wicked (Jer. 17:9), which is why our Lord has graciously given us a standard, His Word, so that we can look to his ways and not our own. Malachi 3:8-12 notes that God considers failure to pay the tithe as robbery. John Calvin commenting on this passage noted that those who neglected paying the tithe were guilty of “sacrilege” and had “defrauded” God. Charles Spurgeon noted, “Much has been said about giving the tenth of one’s income to the Lord. I think it is a Christian duty which none should for a moment question. If it were a duty under the Jewish law, much more is it so now under the Christian dispensation.”
Why are our churches burdened with debt? Why are our pastors left to beg their congregations as they struggle to keep the lights on, etc., ultimately hindering the bride of Christ from being light to a dark world, a “pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15))? Why are the churches paralyzed, unable to care for the needs of it’s members, the fatherless, the widows? Let’s stop letting our hearts be the final judge on how much we will give of he tithe that God has mandated, and look to his mandate as the starting point.
I am aware of the prosperity preachers as well as the abuse of funds by those in church office. That is another issue and not addressed in this post.
There is much to say about the social impact of faithful tithing by the church and a helpful read is Chapter 15 of God and Government by Gary DeMar.
“If the tithe is operating effectively, the State’s power, authority, and influence will diminish considerably. If vast amounts of capital are in the hands of God’s people through funds derived from the tithe, then the funding of a number of institutions, schools, and social agencies will propagate the ideals of the kingdom of God and not the kingdom of man. These institutions will be financed: either the people of God will do it through the tithe, or the State will do it through its power to tax.”
In the early church when needs arose, they were met (Acts 2:42-47). “There was no appeal to the State for financial assistance. Control remained in the hands of the people of God so that “there was not a needy person among them (Acts 4:34).”” Disputes were resolved within the bounds of the local believing body (Acts 6:1-6). “Control remained with the people of God on the local level.”