Christians in some Churches are struggling with the ever-present issue of tithing, or paying 10% of their income to the Lord. Does the New Testament teach this? Some Church leaders place a lot of weight on a person’s ability to tithe. Is a tithe a good guide to giving or are there other factors to consider?
On the other hand, I know of some mean Christians who ignore the importance of contributing adequately to His work at all.
This week I will try to bring God’s Word to shine on this matter. Hope it helps!
Tithing originated in the Old Testament, when all the Israelites were instructed by God’s Law to give one tenth of all their earnings to the Tabernacle of the Lord [and later, the Temple]. Actually there were, in addition, extra tithes and expected contributions which amounted to a whole lot more than just 10%, which all men had to pay in order to provide for the living of the priests and Levite families.
There are many preachers and authors today [often Pentecostal] who rely completely on the Old Testament pattern to teach the need to tithe now. In view of what Paul had to say [see below], this is just poorly-disguised legalism, in my opinion.
What Did Paul Say?
The Apostle Paul made it quite clear that Christians should regularly set aside an amount of money to support the work of the Church. [1 Cor 16:1-2].
Nowhere in the New Testament does any writer attempt to compel believers to give to the Lord a certain proportion of earnings. In fact, Christian giving is to be a joy and a blessing. It is meant to be done out of thankfulness for God’s blessings, knowing we can never repay Him for His goodness to us.
A tithe is a tax, but a gift is voluntary. Our giving is to be ‘cheerful’, not done grudgingly. [2 Cor 9:7].
I believe that if a person realises that God has blessed him / her to the point that they can afford to give a regular 10% to the Lord’s work and not leave his family in dire financial deprivation, then, if it is given willingly, a 10% ‘tithe’ may be a good thing.
There will be some families today in Australia who cannot afford 10%, despite the help given by Centrelink, but the same principle would apply: the gift should be given willingly and thankfully to the Lord.
A single person with a good income on the other hand may be able to afford much more than 10%, and again, his conscience must be clear before the Lord.
A certain American pastor boasts that he tithes 90% of his income: however I believe we must avoid publicising our generosity in order not to lose our eternal reward.
Tithes and Offerings
In the story of Jesus and the widow who contributed her whole income of two mites, we see the perfect example of willing and sacrificial giving by a poverty-stricken lady with no known support whatever. [see Luke 21:2].
It may seem rather extreme or careless to us to give away all our money if we have a responsibility to provide food and shelter for our family and children, but the real point of the story is that Jesus wanted to teach His followers that, if we are really abiding in Christ, we will treat His kingdom with such importance that there is nothing in this life that we should not be prepared to give in order to participate in eternal life.
We should all pray, study and ask for God’s wisdom in the matter of how much we should give. [See James 1:5].
The important thing is that all our offerings ought to be presented to the Lord privately, with a pure motive and a cheerful attitude of service to the Lord’s work, not ‘reluctantly or under compulsion’. [2 Cor 9:7].
No-one can make that decision for anyone else: God alone will judge.
Give to What?
In a rich country like Australia, although living expenses are high, a 2-income family with several children are generally so much better off than at least 90% of the world.
And since most Christians belong to the middle and well-off classes of society, with good superannuation and the kind of medical care unequalled in the rest of the world, I believe we can learn a lot from the New Testament teachings about giving.
Many of us, including some pensioners I know, freely contribute not only to the local Church but also to evangelical Christian charities like ‘Barnabas Fund, ‘Gospel for Asia’ and the like.
Those charities are doing the work of the Church which the local Church may not be able to do, and are often much better than the denominational charities which have largely de-emphasised the salvation of souls.
There are many factors which must be considered in determining what to give to, and how much.
Is your present Church slack in presenting the gospel? Are its programs and ministries faithful to the Great Commission, or is there too much emphasis on the social gospel? Maybe persecuted Christians in other countries are in much greater need than our own affluent Churches.
The Prosperity Gospel
A really pungent stink in the nostrils of God at the moment must be the devil-inspired prosperity gospel.
This money-oriented perversion teaches, o so persuasively, that God’s blessings are upon those who are rich, and the opposite applies if you are poor.
How dare such preachers imply that a poverty-stricken, persecuted Christian family in Syria at the moment, for example, could be accused of faithlessness toward God, when they are caught up in the very thing the PG preacher is not: that is the faithful expression of living a true Christian witness like the martyrs of old.
How I wish we could all see their need of our prayers and support.