If you’ve read my articles on tithing, you might begin to think that I hate tithing. (In fact, I almost titled this article “I Don’t Hate Tithing”.) Or maybe you think I’m just stingy. Although that conclusion would be difficult to reach after reading my thoughts about New Covenant giving. But the truth is there’s a deeper reason behind why I teach against tithing as a giving standard for Christians.
Tithing is the Old Testament example and standard for giving. It was part of the Law of Moses given specifically to the Israelites through the Old Covenant. But Christians today are no longer under that covenant. We’re under the New Covenant. And you see an interesting trend when you look at what the early Christians were taught about giving.
Keeping in mind that the New Covenant began after Jesus’ death on the cross, consider the teaching you find in the New Testament about giving. Can you find any passages where tithing is used as the example that Christians should follow for giving? I’ll wait while you look.
I can already tell you that you won’t find any. I know because I’ve looked. I’ve searched long and hard to find all the verses in the Bible that talk about personal finance. And you know what I’ve found in the New Testament about giving? The only example ever used to explain how much Christians should give is Jesus. Not tithing, not the Old Testament offerings – only the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
That’s a significant statement. We’re supposed to give like Jesus did?! That sounds so difficult. How can I ever be that generous? How do I even calculate that for my budget??? But He is our example for giving as Christians who want to honor God. No, it’s not as easy to figure out as 10% of your income, but there are some general giving guidelines we can glean from the New Testament. New Covenant giving requires a deep, intimate relationship with God and demands that you spend time in His Word and in prayer seeking His will.
Recently, I did a personal finance Bible study at my church for our winter Sunday school elective. When we started talking about tithing and giving, one person brought up the statistic that Christians only give about 2-3% on average. I also brought up the fact that only about 6% of Christians tithe to their churches (though about 27% of evangelical Christians give at least 10% of their income to charities). With statistics like that, why would I even try to teach something beyond giving 10%? We can’t even get to a tithing standard. How can I expect Christians to give generously and sacrificially???
But I think that’s our first mistake. We think that by teaching tithing we’re giving Christians a simple, straightforward guideline that they can follow for their giving. It’s clearly taught in the Old Testament and even comes with curses and blessings. Surely that will motivate people to give generously. And that’s the problem.
The reason I teach so strongly against tithing is because we have a much greater example and motivation for giving. Tithing never suffered for us. Tithing did not die for our sins. Tithing will not grant us eternal life. Tithing does not love us.
But Jesus did suffer and die for our sins. Jesus will give us eternal life with God in Heaven. Jesus does love us – extravagantly, generously, sacrificially – even to the point of death!
Brothers and sisters, why would we choose to continue using a lesser, weaker example for giving? We wonder why no one is motivated to tithe. Why don’t we teach giving based on Jesus’ life and sacrifice? How can our response to His gift be anything other than love, which will then produce generous, sacrificial giving in us? We can dismiss tithing and come up with excuses why we can’t afford it right now. But we cannot dismiss the gift of Jesus – the gift of His death for our sins so that we can have eternal life. The Holy Spirit will compel us to give if He is our focus.
So if you wonder why I teach against tithing, that’s it. I don’t care if you disagree with my thoughts about why tithing no longer applies to Christians. I’m not here to debate the Law versus Faith (or Grace) ideas with you. But can’t we agree that teaching a giving standard based on Jesus’ gift to us will result in more generous, more sacrificial, and more cheerful Christian givers than teaching based on tithing? Let me know in the comments.