Today, a reader named Melissa shared this comment on my summary of tithing in the Bible. (I’ve edited it a little for clarity, but I did not make any drastic changes.)
“I have been a faithful ‘tither’ for years, raised by parents who were faithful tithers. And there has been something about ‘tithing’ that has always had this ‘check’ within me, even when I was adamant about ‘wanting to tithe’ and knowing ‘God’s promises’ about tithing. I began researching about tithing to basically find out where the 10% of all my gross income should be going. Let me tell you it has led down a completely different path!!!! It has led me closer and closer to who Jesus is: GRACE. Jesus IS grace personified. Grace presented giving over and over and over!!!!! I WAS a cheerful and faithful tither…now I will allow grace to lead me to be a cheerful and faithful giver!!!! I appreciate the revelation that the Holy Spirit has given you and others about giving from the heart and not tithing from a pocketbook. God is NOT about numbers!!!”
In my response, I thanked Melissa for her comment because it’s exactly for people like her that I wrote those articles on tithing. You see, some people accuse me of being greedy, stingy, or just trying to make excuses not to give because of what I’ve written about tithing. Because I don’t teach tithing, they assume that I don’t want to give – or that if I do then I don’t want to do it generously.
Nothing could be further from the truth! If anyone spends just a little bit more time reading what I’ve written about New Covenant giving and generosity, they’ll see that I am actually trying to teach us to be even more generous than what those who teach tithing demand.
The difference is that I’m trying to point us to the ultimate example of giving: Jesus Christ. He is the full revelation of God’s will for us in all things, including giving. And while looking at Him and trying to follow Him, no one will be making excuses not to give. You can’t help but want to give to those in need in response to His grace, mercy, and generosity.
We don’t need demands and obligations and curses to urge us to give if we will only look to Jesus and follow His example. Those who follow Jesus and abide in Him will have such overflowing love for God and others that you won’t be able to hold back their generosity. You don’t need to tell them to give 10% or be cursed and you don’t need to promise them riches and blessings to get them to give. They want to give because they have God’s love living in them!
This is the real purpose of my articles about tithing. It’s not to excuse us from giving. It’s not to find a way to give less. And it’s not to destroy churches and make them go bankrupt (yes, I’ve been accused of that). The real purpose of these articles is to open our eyes to the truth about giving. And that truth is found only in Jesus Christ – not in the Law.
I want people to see that tithing as it is taught today is far from Biblically accurate. I want them to understand the grace we have received from and in Jesus. I want them to experience both the freedom and the joy that comes from giving with a pure heart motivated by love for God and love for others. I want them to get past this letter of the Law stuff and focus on the Spirit. It’s about a transformation of going from “What’s the least I must do to fulfill my obligation to God?” to “How can I more fully express my love for God and for people? How can I please and serve God completely?”. I want us to let go of the shadow and take hold of the the One who came. I want us to let Jesus be our example for giving and fully follow in His steps.
I pray that all who read what I’ve written about tithing will realize that it’s not just about arguing over words and trying to make excuses or justify ourselves. My goal is not to cause more division, strife, or arguing, but to open our eyes to the truth in Scripture and gain a fuller understanding of what Christ did for us, what He wants us to do, and how we can start living that out. I will try my best to be clear about those things, but it doesn’t always come through.
So just know that when you read something I’ve written about tithing it’s not so we can keep more for ourselves. It’s so we can let go of the shadow, cling to Jesus, and be free to experience the relentless, irrational generosity that God has for us and to begin sharing that with others.
I don’t really understand why people argue about the “rules” surrounding tithing. The best advice I’ve ever heard said to “give with an open heart.” That’s what it really all comes down to.
Oops, I’m sorry — right after I posted that comment, I saw your request not to put the URL in the Name section! I normally write “Paula @ AffordAnything.org” since it shares both my name (for a personal touch) and my site (so I can get my name out there), but in the future I’ll just stick to my name only. Sorry about missing that direction in my first comment!
Don’t worry about it.
Well, the only reason I wrote articles discussing the “rules” (in terms of what the Bible teaches) was to show that what many claim as Biblical truth is not really rooted in Scripture but in their own ideas or someone else’s. If someone said they’re going to start tithing only produce and they’re going to keep all three tithes the Bible describes, I’d still be writing to encourage them to understand our relationship to the Law (similar to what Paul wrote in Galatians and Colossians).
But you’re right – when you get to the root of what giving is about it is giving with an open heart. Thanks for commenting!
Being honest with ourselves will allow for giving with an open heart!
“Custom without truth is error grown old.” -Tertullian, Third-Century Theologian
Galatianism went unchecked somewhere in history. That led us down this slippery slope back into legalism. Thankfully lovers of truth are raising up who will endure rejection for their love of Truth(Jesus).
“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as self-evident.”-Arthur Schopenhauer, nineteenth-century German Philospher.
Loving people will be the key to seeing people come to embrace the simplicity of the Gospel.
People only have value for people who value them. If you want friends show yourself friendly. If you want to be heard listen.
Thanks for your comments, Matt! As always – helpful and something I really need to keep in mind as I discuss these issues with others.
Thanks for sharing this article. I think most people misunderstand my motives about giving. A large purpose for me in life is to free people from the bondage of tithing, and direct them towards a life of sacrificial giving. Sometimes, it’s hard to get people to see the open freedom outside of their cell if you can’t convince them that their chains are gone.
Exactly, Jared. That’s my hope, too – to free people to give generously, joyously, and sacrificially out of love instead of obligation or command.
The gift of giving has been a large part of my life and I feel that its quite often misunderstood by others. I have based my business around charity. Where every year 10% of my profits are donated to the charity of my client’s choice. I do not do it out of obligation nor out of any other selfish reason, I do it because I truly believe that is what I am supposed to do. I am supposed to help those less fortunate out of no pity, but out of love. To share my successes with those who truly deserve the helping hand. God gave me a purpose and I am thankful for that.
You have very interesting discussion here. Thank you.
I would like a comment though on the following line of thought. Lets start with this verse
(Rom 15:4) For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, so that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
I am especially challenged by the fact that when the apostles established the 1st church they did so guided by the old testament, as understood in the light of teaching by the Lord regarding the newness of life.
In this regard, Paul began educating the believers on the mindset of God regarding the upkeep of ministers and the institution through which they minister.
Look at this:
(1Co 9:8) Do I say these things according to man? Or does not the Law say the same also?(1Co 9:9) For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox threshing grain.” Does God take care for oxen?
My challenge to you all is this. Paul clearly is guided by the Law to understand the mind of God regarding up keep of the ministers. Why should any one of us teach in a way that encourages children of God to disregard the mind of God communicated to one generation.
Has God changed? (Mal 3:9, Heb 13:8; Jam 1:17). I will say NO!
Didn’t he say in 2Ti 3:16-17 ALL Scripture is God-breathed, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, (17) that the man of God may be perfected, thoroughly furnished to every good work.?
What all scripture here? New Testament? No. These Apostles where using the old testament to teach. We only have the benefit on the new testament inspired by God to clarify the grey areas between the new dispensation and the old.
Haven’t we guys gone too far in making a doctrine on issues that even Jesus and he disciples choose to ignore?
Mat 23:23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin, and you have left undone the weightier matters of the Law, judgment, mercy, and faith. You ought to have done these and not to leave the other undone.
Here the Master teaches on subjects that are not in the law, subjects that rightly belong to the new covenant, but combines them with issues of the old covenant.
Who then are we to discourage another man’s flock from following the doctrine the man is persuaded in?
In my opinion, if a matter can be traced to pre-law era, we should not be hard and fast about it.
I agree the teaching on tithe, apply curses, threaten withholding of blessing is an extreme that is also suspicious. Abraham did not give to be blessed. He was already blessed so he gave in appreciation. What do we learn? We give tithe in appreciation. That is how tithe must be taught.
Please comment in light of these arguments I raised, I will be pleased.
Hi, Tony. Thank you for your comment. I would say that making a doctrine out of tithing would be going too far, but it sounds like that is what you are trying to support. Jesus and the Apostles largely neglect tithing but they talk immensely about giving generously. The Old Testament is certainly helpful in understanding God’s desires for us but not as a rulebook to dictate what percentage we should give.
Finally, I would discourage any man’s flock from following a doctrine the man is persuaded in if that doctrine is false and opposed to the teachings of Jesus. We can’t pick and choose which Bible verses we want to follow. If you want to keep tithing as it is described and enforced in the Old Testament (which, by the way, no one actually teaches…), then how can you choose to not carry along with it all the other commands and regulations? Clearly, the way of Jesus exceeds the OT law both in revelation and standards. We would do well to learn from Him rather than trying to support ideas we think are good. By the way, this will not lead to a lack of support for ministers, churches, or missionaries.
Thank you sir. We agree about not making
tithe a doctrine. That is why I asked if it is correct to teach it as if
its wrong, when its not necessary or correct to make it a doctrine. You man of
God have searched scripture concerning this matter more deeply and I was hoping
that when we have agreed that it is not a fundamental doctrinal issue, we could
then move on to highlighting the correct way or attitudes to tithing when it is
required, without making another doctrine of “no tithing”? In your
own words ” Jesus and the Apostles
largely neglect tithing but they talk immensely about giving generously”.
Matters that where wrong according to Jesus and the disciples, they
confronted, what was not wrong, they left unchallenged.
I am clear about keeping tithing under the old covenant.
That is law, and its abolished. What I would like to reconcile with, which
indeed fits well with the new covenant giving, is the way Abraham, the father
of faith, gave it. So is the promise of Jacob. That’s before the “Old Testament”
– if by that we mean the law.
For consistence of application of ALL SCRIPTURES, I am
hoping for a comment on how we would apply the scriptures on tithing in the old
testament section of the bible, which are inspired of God, written for our
learning, and are also profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction,
for instruction in righteousness.
I have written two articles on Abraham and Jacob, which may help you:
They hardly support tithing as it is taught today.
Jesus did challenge tithing in the way people used it for self-righteousness and justification and when they neglected the weightier matters like justice, mercy, and faith.
I think we can look at tithing as a clear indication that we ought to be giving generously and we can learn from the ways the tithe was used: supporting the priests & Levites (ministers & church workers today?), caring for the poor, orphans, widows, and strangers/foreigners, and celebrations (feasts & festivals, which was an aspect of the OT tithe).
The reason I push so hard against tithing is because the Church has largely overemphasized tithing and neglected generous giving as demonstrated by Jesus and the Apostles. 2 Corinthians 8 & 9 give the most extensive discussion on giving in the New Testament and don’t mention tithing at all. While we may be able to look back and learn from it, it is not a necessary element of Christian giving today. In fact, it can blind us to the radical love and generosity of Jesus and keep us focused on exactly the wrong things. That is my only reason for writing against tithing. If someone wants to give 10%, that’s fine by me. But I’d be happier if they want to give even more.
Paul, I stumbled on your article about Tithing a month or so ago on the Bible Money Matters website. It was a God sent and really opened my eyes. I have been a tither and giver for years. Recently the pastor at the church I attend announced that he had a banquet for the members who gave the most money in 2012, which he described as the top 38% of the members in the congregation. I was very bothered, not because I was not extended an invitation to the banquet, but because of what I believe the bible teaches about the widow’s offering compared to the rich people’s gifts. Please give me your insight into this. Money seems to be the topic every Sunday for one thing or another and he is constantly offering pictures, books, prayer cloths and etc. for all kinds of seed offerings. I am considering looking for another church to attend.
Thanks so much 4 your insight,I. Realy appreciated your point of empasising on the teaching of jesus in regard to be a cheerful giver. However I strongly belived that jesus never trivialize nor ignore the issue of tithe when he said in mat 23:23 that they pay tithe but left others undone. He was only teaching them that there are other more valuable heavenly recognised deeds that work hand in hand with tithing. But not that he relegate it. OT and NT are what formed the scripture as 2 tim3:16 says. In conclusion God loves a. Cheerful giver both in tithe and any other of giving or offerings and must be motivated by the love for God Almighty. Thanks