We don’t pass a plate on Sunday mornings. This, consequently, raises the question whether we believe in tithing or not. Here’s a short answer:)
We believe in being good stewards of what God has given us. We also believe in being cheerful and giving with those resources. God wants us to be faithful, no matter how little or much we have. The New Testament teaches over and over about being faithful with what you have been given. Second 2 Corinthians 8–9 shows us eight principles on generous giving:
- Generous giving is sacrificial.
- Generous giving is something that only some people are spiritually gifted for, others must be taught stewardship.
- Generous giving is a gospel issue.
- Generous giving encourages churches to share with other churches and ministries in need.
- Generous giving is motivated by friendly competition (Paul challenges the Corinthian church to match the impoverished Macedonian church).
- Generous giving is about sowing and reaping.
- Generous giving is one of the many evidences that someone is truly a Christian.
- Generous giving promotes the worship of Jesus as God.
Why the 10%?
Tithe literally means “tenth.” In the Old Testament, the tithe referred to God’s people giving the first 10 percent of their gross income (also called “first fruits”) to God to fund the Levite priests’ ministry (Num. 18:21–29; 27:30). In addition to that, there were other tithes and offerings required of God’s people, including 10 percent paid for festivals to build community and for celebration (Deut. 12:10–11, 17–18; 14:22–27), 3 percent given to help the poor (Deut. 14:28–29), crop gleanings collected for the poor and aliens (Lev. 19:9–10), and other occasional additional tithes above and beyond regular giving (Neh. 10:32–33). All total, the “mandatory” Old Testament tithe resulted in over 25 percent of a family’s gross income going to God and ministry.
In the New Testament, financial giving among God’s people focuses on grace, generosity, and the heart, and not actual percentages of one’s income. The word “tithe” is rarely used in the New Testament, and when it is, it is usually mentioned negatively in rebuking religious types such as the Pharisees who gave their money to God but not their hearts and lives.
All we give is his
It cannot be overstated that when we give to God, we are not deciding how much of our wealth to give; rather, we are determining how much of God’s wealth to keep for our own uses. In 1 Chronicles 29:14 David articulates precisely this fact, saying, “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.”
God’s people today are not required to tithe. But, like everything else in the new covenant, our grace giving is to exceed Old Testament requirements of the law. Therefore, for God’s people, 10 percent should be a floor, not a ceiling, and a place to begin, not a place to end.