We are part of a drastically changing world, a world of uncertainty. Within my short life, I have seen recessions, out of control spending by government, rise of terrorism, a global pandemic, fall of communism, and a housing market crash, just to name a few. I remember how hard it was coming out of college, post 9/11, to even find a job. With that said, money matters to most Americans and even the smallest amounts can be the difference in owning a home, saving for retirement and putting your children through college. As families are balancing their checkbook, they are still tithing 10% of their income to a home church. But with all this uncertainty and monetary stress are beginning to open their Bibles to see exactly why they continue. Is tithing mandatory for Christians? So, we are going to take a Biblical perspective on tithing to begin understanding the concept of giving in the Bible.
Biblical Perspective on Tithing: What does the Bible say about it?
Long before Uncle Sam came knocking on your door for taxes, the Bible speaks directly about how everything that exists on Earth belongs to God. The first mention of the tenth of “tithe” in Hebrew comes from Abram (Abraham) in Genesis 14:19-20:
This was a one-time offering to Melchizedek, King of Salem (Jerusalem) who was a priest of the Most High God. Later, Jacob lays his head on a rock and is reminded of God’s promises to his people while dreaming. In Genesis 28, he pores olive oil on the rock and names the spot Bethel (house of God). He then vowed to give God 1/10th of everything God gives him.
The Old Covenant
What we now know of tithing, however, comes from Leviticus 27:30:
Following this early commandment from Mosaic law began with what was referred to as “first fruits”. But remember, we can’t pick and choose from the Bible and the Mosaic law of tithing didn’t stop there. Deuteronomy 14 also required festival tithing of 10% for religious feasts and events. Then they had to tithe to the poor every third year. There was also sin and guilt offerings (Exodus 29, Leviticus 5) Cereal offerings, Drink offerings, peace offerings, and the Votive offering. (Leviticus 1, 2, 3, 7; Numbers 6, 28, 29). Needless to say, the tithing of first fruits was only the beginning of giving. However, through their giving they were immensely blessed by God for obeying the law.
Is Tithing Mandatory for Christians?
But then the Son of Man arrives on Earth to teach of God’s love and to create a new Covenant. But during His life, we have no doubt that He obeyed the Mosaic law. Any earnings He made, I am confident He tithed. And He encouraged His followers to do the same. Matthew 23:23:
Many want to take this as Jesus saying that tithing is mandatory for Christians. However, this is more about calling out the Pharisees who were more concerned with being seen than truly being men of God. We know this by reading the chapter in its entirety. He is speaking to a crowd of Jews and criticizing the religious leaders. He even states in Matthew 23:3, “so obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach.” Today, we wouldn’t follow the teachings of a Jewish Pharisee, but the people listening were still under the old covenant.
Tithing vs. Giving: What’s the Difference for Christians?
There are only two options here. Either follow the full Mosaic law which would result in tithing closer to 40% or see this ancient commandment as part of the old covenant. You cannot pick and choose what part of the law you wish to abide by, it’s all or nothing. In reality, tithing promotes a fundamental teaching from the teachings of Paul, which is to give regularly, which is needed by modern day churches to continue to operate. It also provides security for missionaries in the field who rely on giving to continue their outreach.
The answer to “should Christian’s tithe,” is two-fold. As Christians, we are not commanded to “tithe,” in the sense that God spells out a percentage we are required to give from the income from which we are blessed. But we are commanded to “give cheerfully and generously.” Therefore, we are told to provide for the needs of our home church in addition to listening to the Holy Spirit as He convicts us to give to special offerings, help the struggling, and support our missionaries in the field.
Understanding the Concept of Giving in the Bible
“Tithing” places a limit on how we give to our church, but giving and offerings are more in line with Paul’s teachings from 2 Corinthians 9: 6-7,
Therefore, if you find that giving 10% to your local congregation is what works best for you, then continue to give that amount! We are called to support the church’s operations and mission and 10% is as good amount as any to help pay for building maintenance, pastoral staff and outreach ministries. However, as Christians, we don’t stop there. We listen to the Holy Spirit who guides us to ways we can further God’s kingdom. Sometimes that is volunteering in our church and “giving” our time and talents. Other times, that is “giving” monetary offerings to help fund projects and ministries that touch our hearts.
I am the first to admit that some churches have lost their path. Some are more focused on the “show” each Sunday than the praise and worship of the Almighty. But there are also churches who are investing into the community and taking a step of faith by building rooms for youth and small group programs. They invest in Christian Mother’s groups and child outreach. And many try to pay pastoral staff generously for all the work that goes into preaching, teaching, caring, visiting, loving, writing, and greeting. When you see these churches making a difference, you begin understanding the concept of giving in the Bible and what you help support.
The Cheerful giver
God wants you to give cheerfully and without regret or anguish. It’s about loving Him more than the money you are contributing and wanting to see the fruits He blessed you with, multiplied for His greater purpose. The money you give isn’t yours, but God’s. And when you give it cheerfully and generously, you show your appreciation to God for His blessings on your life. At the end of the day, God is our one and true Father. Just like any parent, He wants to see us prosper and live a life of peace and happiness. But He commands us to worship no other Gods. When we give generously, it is a way of breaking our dependence on Earthly wealth in faith of spiritual wealth.
Understanding the Concept of Giving in the Bible by Example
I remember reading a story about a man you probably have never heard of Gilmer Hinson. He lived within his means, donated regularly to his church and was always willing to lend a helping hand. If you read the article, you learn that he started a career with Lowes, a home improvement store, by sweeping floors and slowly worked his way up to helping open new stores across the South. he retired from Lowes 40 years!
Outliving his wife, he passed at the age of 94 years old. But the surprise was that from his humble living, he ended up donating $10 million, in Lowes stock, to seven local organizations including two churches, a hospital, a Bible college, a community college, and two foundations. He figured he couldn’t take the money with him and was happy just living his life as a “simple farm boy.”
God blessed Gilmer with more than he ever needed in life. Instead of lavish spending and self-indulgence, Gilmer and his wife lived a life full of love and appreciation for God’s blessings and passed on their excess to help others. This man truly had an understanding of the concept of giving from the Bible.
Biblical Perspective: Tithing vs Giving and the Difference for Christians
Don’t let anyone make you feel like you are required to do something where your heart isn’t leading you. If giving $100 means not eating, then eat and live to give another day. But if you believe in your church’s mission and you don’t give your time or monetary support, what does that say about your character if you are able and unwilling? As Paul says, “sow sparingly and reap sparingly, but sow generously and reap generously.” Sometimes this is in the form of our time and sometimes it is money. And when we sow generously with money, sometimes we reap generously in a spiritual way. Praise God for this blessing because love, kindness, comfort… these things are priceless.
To be Christian isn’t to meet a quota, but to be the exception. Money holds no power on Christians because we know our salvation was purchased at an unpayable cost. Jesus chose to have nothing so that we could have everything, and for that, I find comfort in giving willingly and abundantly. Remember that Christ would rather have your faith and love than all the wealth on Earth. So, if you can’t give money or even time right now, give love. Help the sick, the broken, the lost and show them the way to unimaginable wealth beyond anything this life can afford. The point is to give. Give and do it cheerfully for without God, we have nothing.