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April 29, 2007

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Tithing is strictly an Old Testament concept. The New Testament turns the concept completely on its head:
We have our identity as Christians: those saved by Jesus through grace - nothing we do can save us (Eph 2:8-9)
We have our purpose through the Great Commission: go spread the good news of Jesus
We have been equipped by God to carry out our purpose through our health, talents, and money, but we do not own these - they are entrusted to us. This is the root of what it means to be a Steward. We are managing God's resources here on earth to carry out God's purpose for us.
So... must we give 10%? Forcing a precise number on how much we are compelled to give falls back into the morass of Old Testament law. 10%? That's not enough. No amount would ever be enough, because nothing you do can make you right with God - and it all belongs to God anyway.
Instead, view the use of God's resources as you in the role of manager with a purpose. What you do with God's resources towards His purpose are your ministries. The main features of Christian Stewardship are choice and empowerment - not sacrifice.
Spending money on raising a family is an act of Stewardship, staying out of debt is an act of Stewardship (no one has come to know the Lord through the interest paid on a credit card).
Now, giving money to the Church is good leveraging of God's resources towards His purpose -after all the Church is a whole institution designed to carry out God's purpose.
Now to come full circle - tithing is still a great rule of thumb. For most middle class Americans, giving 10% to the Church (or other institution you think helps carries out God's purpose) is about right - you have to budget, i.e. you must be the master over the money vs the money being the master over you in order to afford that amount. You also can't carry too much debt. For the rich 10% isn't nearly enough. Rick Warren (The Purpose Driven Life) has declared himself a "reverse tither" he gives 90% to the church and keeps only 10% - but that is because God has entrusted Rick with so much.
This post is already way too long. Sorry. but I have read and thought about this quite a bit. Most churches get this dead wrong and equate Stewardship with raising money. There are many other important nuances to this issue, we can discuss more if you are interested in a dialog.
So the quick answer to your questions:
* No
* No, but see above; it's a pretty good rule of thumb for most people in "First World" countries
* Irrelevant question - this is depends on how much God has entrusted to each individual
* Right now we give ~12% of the income God has entrusted to us to our church

BTW, your blog is written well and thought provoking; keep up the good work!

What in the world is a New Testament Christian?

Phil's post brings up many valid points. For the Christian, giving is a matter of the heart. "God loves a cheerful giver." It is not done from a sense of duty of fulfillment of a law. (Of course, the concept of tithing in the Old Testament pre-dates even the establishment of the Mosaic law, having been instituted in the time of Melchisedek. (sic?)

As Christians, we are indeed stewards. That said, we have tithed through thick and thin, and have always felt God leading us to do so. (Have raised three children to adulthood, been married 30 years.) I would estimate we also give appx. 12% of our total income.

However, we currently have some debt, the result of finishing putting the last kid through college and paying for our daughter's wedding in the same year. Our new hope is to once and for all banish all debt and then significantly reallocate the $$ we've been entrusted, to give more to the church and other causes.

One thing I know for sure: Debt will keep up from being effective stewards. And that can't be a New Testament principle! :)

I agree with Phil, I don't think that the tithe is a "law" for Christians today, but rather a matter of personal conviction. That being said, my wife and I give 10% of our income to our local church. It may not be a law, but it seems like a good idea.

With the giving rates as low as they are, I don't know how churches survive. Perhaps if every person gave regularly, 5 or 6% of income would do it. But for each of us that is giving 10% there is probably 2 families giving nothing at all.

I do believe in tithing and think that we as Christians should make every realistic attempt to do it. Whether it is a law or a statement of faith is irrelevant for me. I believe John 21:15 guides us to care after our less fortunate brothers and sisters with what God has blessed us.

I absolutely agree with Katy in that whatever we do it should be done cheerfully. If you are going to moan and groan and treat tithing like a tax, don't do it.

It is true that it is not a "law" per se (as in Old Testament commandment)... however, it is an act of obedience. Wouldn't we want to obey our God?

How can we say no?

Sounds like some of you have not read your Bible... and I mean the WHOLE Bible (not just the convenient parts).

Tithing 10% is being obedient. Anything above that is what is called an offering.

Yes, I believe in tithing. And yes, there are clear examples in the Bible where people give above and beyond what is required.

With that said... yes humbleservant, I agree. If you are going to mumble and groan and make excuses about it (or use PART of the Bible to rationalize why you shouldn't do it)...

then don't tithe!

We should be cheerful (i.e. genuinely want to give) when we bring our tithes and offerings.

I would love to see someone tackle Heather's question, since the reference to New Testament Christians was part of the original post.....

There are 25 OT tithing prinmciples and NONE of them are followed by the church. For example (1) tithe-receivers were not allowed to own or inherit land, (2) only non=-priest Levites eceived the OT tithe and not the priests or ministes of the blood, (3) tithe-receivers were to kill anybody trying to worship God without going through them to worship God directly.
Abraham is only an example of how to pay spoils of war pagan tithes. Most Christians should give more than 10% but there is no set percentage.The abuse is making the poor and infirm feel cursed because they cannot pay 10% Russell Earl Kelly, PHD

Well -- I think if you are a "New Testament Christian" (aren't all Christians New Testament Christians since Christ IS the New Testament?) you aren't called to give away 10%. You are challenged to give away 100%, although it really doesn't matter if you do or not since salvation comes from God and not from our actions. How many of us are really willing to give away everything?

"...Jesus said to him, 'If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me.' When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions. Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.' When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said, 'Who then can be saved?' Jesus looked at them and said, 'For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.' Then Peter said to him in reply, 'We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?' Jesus said to them, 'Amen, I say to you that you who have followed me, in the new age, when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Isreal. And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first." (Matthew 19:20-30)

What do I take away from this?

--We must cast aside everything which interferes with bringing us closer to God, but this is an end unto itself and we should not expect anything in return.
--Committing 100% is not a money thing, it's everything. It's setting aside EVERYTHING.
--Doing this guarantees nothing. It is impossible to earn our way into heaven. That is 100% a gift from God.

This is the most immediate passage that comes to my mind re tithing, although repeatedly through the Gospels Jesus is calling us to lay down everything and follow him. At the same time, some of his followers brought their monetary resources with them to support the physical needs of Christ and his followers during his public ministry.

So -- back to us. I think we tithe as we can. I think the fact that we have debt in itself prevents us from fully setting aside everything and following Christ, because we are not free. We have ties that bind us and prevent us from being fully able to drop everything and follow where God is calling us. In this instance I think tithing is optional, since we can serve God equally by putting our money towards our debt and thus breaking the ties that bind us to the world and prevent us from fully following Christ as we can by tithing an arbitrary amount based on the Old Testament.

As an illustration of this -- I have a young friend who recently felt very called to leave his career in engineering, sell his house and all his possessions and take up going on mission trips to minister to people and bring Christ to them. Because he had no other sort of debt like a student loan, this was entirely feasible and this is exactly what he did. Looking at my own life, I still have a significant amount of debt that I would have to walk away from to do such a thing, and so I am not free to give of myself so freely when called.

DB

The tithe is for all time. Refusing to pay the tithe is robbing God, as the Lord says in Malachi.

Malachi didn't go away because of Jesus. He came to fulfill the Old Covenant, not abolish it, and spoke directly about the tithe in Matthew 25. Jesus's condemnation of the Pharisees about tithing is in the context of His phrase "these you should have done, without neglecting the weighter matters of the law".

I have tithed for several years now. I started in college with 5% to test God, found Him more than sufficient, and increased to 10% fairly quickly. I recommend this to anyone, since God Himself says to "test me in this", the ONLY thing in the Bible to which God presses us to test Him.

While it is true that everything belongs to God, 10% is a token, a sign of our belief that 1) God owns everything and 2) we are not in control, He is.

In addition, there are offerings over and above the tithe that we should strive to give, but NOT out of compulsion. Rather, we should strive and pray to be like the Macedonians, who gave not just from their excess, but also their need.

I personally gave 15-18% of my income last year, and my only regret is that I didn't give more.

I will add another, more controversial point: the common theme in this thread that there is no reward (spiritually) for tithing is terribly false, and lowers the motivation of those who might otherwise give. Striving and being desirous of heavenly treasure is promoted by Christ himself ("Store up for yourselves treasure in heaven"), and we shouldn't pretend that tithing, giving or other good works have no value.

Ephesians 2:8-9 is often quoted... but folks seem to stop reading before verse 10: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." (NKJV)


Therefore, faith is primary, but faith & works are ultimately two sides of the same coin. Works without faith are worthless, but faith without works is dead (James 2).

Thank you orthros,

Very well put. Much better said than I could've ;-)

I appreciate your comments on giving and tithing. What you have put forth is Biblically accurate and approved. I follow the same principles you have put forth and obey the word according to those beliefs. I also believe that giving over and above the tithe should be common in a believers life.

The real issue here though is heart. Where is your heart? The Bible says that wherever your heart is so will you treasure be also. In other words wherever you are putting your money, your heart will follow. So, if you say you love God and serve Him your finances will bear out that truth. If you are simply living for yourself then your finances will also bear that truth as well. We are to give out of our love for God. If we love Him, we will obey Him. That's what the word says. Thanks for the discussion.

Adam
http://20challenge.blogspot.com
http://hunger4god-devotions.blogspot.com/

Heather/Katy --

Just to clear up the "New Testament Christian" line:

Basically, it's redundant. To be a believer in the NT is to be a Christian and vice versa. I just stated it the way I did since those opposed to tithing often say it's an Old Testament principle only. So I tried to be overly clear -- based on Christ's teaching, what does the tithe mean to you?

Sorry for the confusion. I'm looking forward to your answers now that the issue is cleared up. ;-)

You mentioned some time ago that, although the Bible generally instructs Christians not to test God, tithing appears to be an exception to this admonition. I'm not a Biblical scholar, so I'm interested (academically) if there are any other exceptions that you're aware of.

It's always interesting to read views on tithing. Seems like everyone is presenting some good points on both sides. One thing I've found out about tithing - it was God's idea, not mine! When I feel I don't want to - I can generally find lots of good reasons not to tithe. Because, to be a tither takes faith in action. If I don't think God will take care of me, then I'd better hang onto whatever I have...right? So, if I don't want to tithe - then I guess I think God can't or won't take care of my needs.

However, I've found that when I hang out with God...he always seems to give me a heart to be a GIVER!! I don't really need to be legal about it. It just comes from the heart.

Forgive the rambling...

I have been sporadic in my tithing for as long as I've been Christian, but I know that when I am obedient to God's call in this, I don't worry nearly as much about paying the bills, and they ALWAYS get paid. I've also noticed that when the money is scarce (as it is right now), but I tithe anyway, we are really blessed with peace of mind, and He frequently makes a way for us to have some fun without going into more debt.

As far as percentages, I think 10% is a good starting point. After all, nothing we have is ours, nor would we have anything if God didn't allow it. So, giving back to Him just seems logical to me.

Whether a requirement or not, I feel compelled to help my local church. Often I give 10%, but at times I can't due to bills and such. But I give what I can.

I too have noticed that when I am giving cheerfully I don't have to worry about next weeks/months bills or financial disasters coming out of nowhere. God provides for our needs and we seem to actually have more money to work with. I am always amazed at how God works!

We also give offerings when we can (over and above tithing). I really don't think it is a specific number (%) that you give, but how you give from your heart.

Seems someone gave an offering and was showy about it and another lady gave what she had. Didn't Jesus say she had given much more than him? Why, not because of the amount or a percentage, but why she gave and how she gave discreetly. (Don't let the right hand know what the left hand is doing).

1) Yes.
2) Yes. The Jewish people gave far more than 10% to God in the form of second (pilgrimage) and third (for the poor) tithes, temple taxes, first-fruit giving, and redemptions. It's more like 25%! Additionally, Matthew 5:20 states that our obediance to the law of the tithe must exceed that of the Pharisees. The Pharisees gave a tenth.
3) N/A.
4) Greater than 10% of my gross income.

I wasn't aware that the 10% I was tithing doesn't stay in the church. It goes to the conference. Therefore I'm going to make an honest effort to tithe 15%--10 percent to the conference and 5% to the church. I'm broke, broke, broke right now but, that's no excuse and besides, it's NOT my money, it belongs to God anyway~

I'll comment with a segment from a post I made on my blog Dec. 5, 2006:

The following was written by Dr. Andreas Kostenberger. Andreas J. Köstenberger serves as Professor of New Testament and Director of Ph.D./Th.M. Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a prolific author, distinguished evangelical scholar, and Editor of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society.

I appreciate him putting this out there, as it is a clear and concise address of the question of whether tithing is Biblical. Hat Tip to Paul S. (in the comments a few posts back) who pointed me to Dr. Kostenberger's blog "Biblical Foundations" where this was originally posted.

_______________________________________________________

The word “tithe” literally means “tenth” and is commonly used to refer to the requirement to give ten percent of one’s income to God. However, from the outset, it should be noted that nowhere was money ever tithed. The tithe in the Old Testament always referred to produce from the ground or herds. Some may respond that this is the case because people lived in an agricultural society. While this is true, however, “money” is mentioned about thirty times in Genesis alone (e.g., Gen. 17: 12, 13, 23, 27; 31:15; 33:19; etc.). Therefore, before tithing is ever mentioned in the Mosaic Law (Lev. 27:30), money has been referred to about forty times. The last reference to money before tithing is mentioned in the Mosaic Law even provides rules for an ancient banking system (Lev. 25:37)!
Both Testaments view the tithe within the larger framework of giving and worship. Prior to the giving of the Mosaic Law, tithing was not a systematic, continual practice but an occasional, even exceptional, form of giving (Gen. 14:20; cf. Heb. 7:4; Gen. 28:22). The Mosaic Law includes stipulations regarding the Levitical, Festival, and Poor (or Welfare) Tithe (Lev. 27:30–33; Num. 18:21; Deut. 14:22–29). Taken together, the annual tithe of the Israelites surpassed ten percent of their income, totaling more than twenty percent. Of the seven references to tithing in the Old Testament historical and prophetic books, the most important is that in Mal. 3:8 (cf. 2 Chron. 31:5–6, 12; Neh. 10:38–39; 12:44–47; 13:5, 12; Amos 4:4), where people are told to bring their (Levitical) “tithes and offerings” into God’s “storehouse” and agricultural blessings are promised for those who comply.

It should be noted that in Malachi, the withholding of tithes was a sign of a larger pattern of disobedience. The tithe mentioned by the prophet is the Levitical Tithe (Num 18:21). The offerings to which reference is made were a primary source of livelihood for the priests and were required (not voluntary) offerings. The invitation to test God is limited to the context of Malachi 3 and should not be universalized. For this reason the promised (agricultural) reward, likewise, does not carry over to people who may tithe today. Moreover, if this passage were consistently applied today, offerings—that which tithing advocates refer to as the freewill portion of giving that occurs after one has tithed—are not of one’s free will, but required just as tithes are. Therefore, if someone were to give only ten percent (not that the Jews only gave ten percent), this person would still be in sin for robbing God of “offerings.”
References to tithing in the New Testament are limited to three passages. In Matt. 23:23, the Old Testament tithing requirement is presupposed for Jesus’ audience. The scribes and Pharisees are excoriated for prioritizing the minutiae of the Law over weightier matters. Jesus was not speaking to members of a church, but to Jews still under the Old Covenant and thus obligated to tithe. Similarly, Jesus in Luke 18:9–14 denounces inappropriate religious pride on the basis of observance of the Law. Hebrews 7, finally, addresses Abraham’s giving of a tenth to Melchizedek in the context of Melchizedek’s priesthood being superior to the Levitical one. None of these passages have tithing as their primary subject, and none command tithing for the new covenant era. The case for tithing on the basis of larger systematic-theological or pragmatic considerations likewise fails in that, similar to circumcision, Jesus fulfilled the tithing requirement and replaced it with a command for New Testament believers to give themselves to God and to give liberally of their means (1 Cor. 9:1–23; 16:1–4; 2 Cor. 8–9; Phil. 4:15–17).

Where does that leave New Testament believers? We are not saying that it is okay to neglect giving. In fact, the New Testament contains sufficient guidance for our giving. Second Corinthians 8 tells us that our giving should be relationship-driven, grace-driven, and love-driven. However, nothing is mentioned regarding ten percent. Furthermore, 1 Corinthians 16 teaches us that every believer should give; that they should give consistently or systematically (albeit there the reference is to a special collection); and that the amount is relative to one’s income. Second Corinthians 9 stipulates that the amount should be based upon one’s heart disposition (v. 7); that we should give in order to meet the needs of fellow-believers; and that our motivation should be thankfulness to God for all he has done for us. This is just a sampling of the many principles the New Testament gives for believers in order to direct them in their giving.
For further study see their two-part series “‘Will a Man Rob God?’ (Malachi 3:8): A Study of Tithing in the Old and New Testaments” and “Reconstructing a Biblical Model for Giving: A Discussion of Relevant Systematic Issues and New Testament Principles,” Bulletin of Biblical Research 16/1 (2006): 53–77 and 16/2 (2006): 237–60, posted here and here.

Segfault --

I've heard people say that the verse in Malachi is the only time God says "test me" and I've never seen another reference advocating we test God. That said, I haven't explored the topic of testing God completely.

I'm not sure if tithing is required for all Christians. I certainly would advise it as a guideline, if not a law. For some, 10% may be a lot more than it is for others. I'm sure God expects no more of us than we can spare while still providing for our families. Then again, the widow's mite isn't an Old Testament story, is it? So we're encouraged to give even above what we think we can. Those whom God has blessed would be very short-sighted to think that everything they have is due to thier own worth. Giving is the Christian's way of acknowledging that what we have is owing to God's grace, more than to our own abilities, and that none of our worth is contained within our selves. Our money doesn't really belong to us anyway.

Our family tithes to our local church and then gives whenever we see a need we can provide. Giving is very much a faith-guided activity, and no one can say x% is the amount you should give. We must all prayerfully decide what God expects of us. Being able to decide how much financial responsibility we should carry for the Church is part of the freedom Christ provided for us. Tithing is an Old Testament guideline. We've been freed from the Law in some ways perhaps, but I've found that usually that freedom from the strict letter of the Law means more responsibility, not less.

In our family, we've found that there is not enough money for even our needs unless at least 10% comes off the top for the needs of our Church family. During times when we felt we really couldn't afford to tithe, but did it anyway, we always lived abudantly, somehow. On the other hand, when we've skipped the tithing even though we had plenty, we overspent, and generally hurt ourselves. We feel poor when we keep our money to ourselves! Either God truly blesses those who give till it hurts, or He's set things up so that giving actually increases your own control over what is left and makes it stretch further. If you don't believe that God actively influences earthly happenings, but works through natural law only, there are still reasons to give generously. Even aside from supernatural explanations for the prosperity that can come from giving, there is a definite negative psychological impact to holding on to money once you become convinced that it rightfully belongs to God and the community of believers.

When you become a miser and use your money only for your own good, no amount of money will ever be enough. When you give what you're able to give, and not a penny less, even outright poverty becomes less burdensome.

Whether tithing is required, a law, an obligation , or a duty doesn't matter to me. I like to do it so I will.

I wouldn't self-identify as a Christian, but I have read quite a lot of the bible, I hope its ok if I join in.

I always thought that one of the attitudes shown in the NT about giving away money (as in tithing) is the story of the rich man (?) and the poor woman, where the poor woman quietly gives more than she can afford. (Apologies for the lack of references).

I guess thats saying that we should challenge ourselves to give away more than we can afford and we should do it without making a big song and dance about it.

In answer to the questions:
1. Not really
2. Yes
3. More than last year and more than you think
4. A pitiful 1% (not based on those beliefs), but I'm trying harder

I remember a sermon about tithing from when I was a young girl. Here's what I remember:

Question: "How much should I tithe?"
Answer: "How much do you want to be blessed?"

~Pam

Also, I think the whole "God wants 100%" (see: db) argument stems from the "money is the root of all evil" misnomer. I like how people conveniently forget the "the love of" part on that particular verse.

Money can be used as a tool for Godly and Christian causes. It can build churches, feed the hungry, buy Bibles. It can provide medicine for the sick and education for the illiterate. I think if all Christian forsook all their money and possessions, we would miss an opportunity to make a profound impact.

While I don't think God wants everyone to be rich and/or to do anything to make money (that's that "love of" part), I do think God provides us with the means to generate an honest income so that we can use it to do His work and be a blessing to others.

And don't forget, tithing isn't just about cash: God wants 10% of your time doing His work, too. But that's a whole 'nother post...

Each believer should decide in their own heart what their financial generosity should look like. The question really should not be 'Should I give the 10% tithe or not?' The question should be 'Is a lifestyle that consumes 90% of my current income justified and pleasing to God?' We can always be challenged and stretched more. As others have mentioned, our income and resources is 100% God's and we are just stewards for Him. Maybe the reason the New Testament is almost completely silent on this issue is because Jesus wants us to ask a new question. No longer 'How much should I give?' but 'How much should I dare keep?'

I am the church. I fellowship at my house and at other Christians houses, much like the very first Christians did. Where exactly is this tithe you mentioned supposed to be given and for what purpose? I know what it was and where it was given under Mosaic law. I know Abraham gave a one time tithe under the condition that his army would win a battle. He promised to tithe the spoils of the war if his army was victorious. None of the Church I meet with has ever requested a tithe, neither do request a tithe when they meet with me. What tithe are you talking about?

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