The Bible does not tell Christians to tithe. But it does tell us to give.
During my early years as a pastor, I taught that there is a principle and pattern of tithing (giving 1/10 of your income) in Scripture and that there is also a principle and pattern of giving offerings over and above the tithe. I taught this because it is what I learned from those who taught me. But as I learned the Scriptures through years of reading and studying, I became aware of facts that caused me to question my own thinking and teaching on this issue and to develop a new understanding of what God’s Word says about it.
One of these facts is that the most extensive New Testament passages on giving as a Christian are about helping other Christians in need, not supporting the work of the church. Most of the principles I had been teaching were from these passages (2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9, for example). I realized that I was bypassing the primary application of these truths, which is helping people in need, in order to urge people to give to the church. The very first “offerings” in the newly-formed assembly of believers in Jerusalem were designated to help others in need (Acts 2:45)! There are instructions to the church on giving to support the work of the church and the spread of the Gospel. But all of the passages need to be taught and applied in the way in which they were intended, and this is often not how they are presented.
Another fact is that all of the instructions on tithing in Scripture are directed to Jews under Old Testament law. Instructions to Christians in the New Testament are about giving to specific causes, people, and needs, motivated by and patterned after God’s free and generous outpouring of goodness on us. I want to emphasize this. Please understand that I am not saying there is no instruction to Christians about giving – there is a lot! But the formula, if you want to call it that, for giving as Christians does not involve calculating 10% of your income. It actually starts with considering how abundantly gracious God has been to you and then responding by giving a significant portion of your material resources to the work of the local church, the spread of the Gospel, and people who are in need. What I have observed in Scripture is that Christians are not instructed to tithe. They are instructed to practice grace giving.
This is the first post in a series on this topic. I am estimating it will require 7 more posts to address it completely. What I want to share with you is about being biblical in our thinking and practice. It’s not about giving so God will bless you. It’s not about taking care of God’s business so He will take care of yours. It certainly doesn’t eliminate the responsibility of giving. It is about appreciating and emulating our gracious God in tangible, purposeful ways. I hope to penetrate the fog of misunderstanding of Scripture, bad preaching (mine included), and plain old human selfishness and greed. I want to show, as clearly as possible, what the Bible says to today’s Christians about financial giving. I will also suggest some very practical steps for implementing biblical giving into our lives. I hope to point us toward living by God’s Word and toward living under God’s grace.