I‘ve read a lot on the subject of giving, tithing and offerings over the years, and there seems to be no shortage of opinions on the topic. We've had posts exploring both the pro-tithing and free will giving sides of the debate here on this site.
I believe both sides of the debate are well meaning and I can agree with certain points on both sides of the issue. But today I want to explore the tithe from a slightly different perspective. I want to explore why tithing, as well as free will giving, are both for our own good.
Before looking at why giving is good for us, let's do a quick review of the two sides in the tithing debate.
The Tithe Is Biblically Mandated
A tithe (from Old English teogoþa “tenth”) is a one-tenth part of something, paid as a (usually) voluntary contribution or as a tax or levy, usually to support a Christian religious organization.
There are those who believe that the tithe of 10% is biblically mandated and is required of Christians. There are multiple verses that are used to support the tithe, among them Malachai 3:10:
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.
The tithe is also talked about by Jesus in Matthew:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. Matthew 23:23
So the tithe is law, that should be practiced along with justice, mercy and faithfulness.
The tithe of 10% is required, and anything above and beyond that is a free will offering. God is our creator and owns everything, we are only stewards of what he has given us. He has purchased us through his death on the cross and in order to be faithful stewards we must follow his word and give at a minimum 10%.
Giving is a question of faith, of gratefulness to our creator for his saving grace, and of love toward Him. Not only that, however, it is how the church is able to function, with God's help.
Is tithing good for the church? Of course, because it is fair, equitable, and, when all the members do it, it is always enough! The Lord’s work through His church must be underwritten, and the members are expected to supply it. I would ask: Is the proper question, “Am I legally bound to tithe?” Or, should the question be, “Am I grateful enough to the God Who has saved me, uses me, and has made heaven my home to begin underwriting His work on earth with my tithes but then, out of love, to give much more!”
God blesses us in our obedience to the tithe, and uses our faithfulness to proclaim God's word.
Our God has not changed. He still blesses and wants to bless. His promises were not just to the Jews in the Old Testament. They are to us. When we are faithful to underwrite the work of the church in the world, He reciprocates with “such blessings” that not only are our needs met, but we have enough left over to help others. The result in a vital testimony to the lost world that our God is real, and that He wants to be real to them.
The New Covenant And Giving In Grace
Some have avoided teaching the tithe because they believe it is part of the Old Testament law that was given to Moses to not only establish a religious system, but also to establish a nation's government. The tithe was in place to help establish the government and welfare systems at the time, and doesn't apply today for new covenant believers.
one thing that constantly trips up modern-day Christians is that we fail to remember that the Law given to Moses did not merely outline a religious system… it was a constitution establishing a nation’s government. Thus, we need not only to discern which laws were sacrificial in nature (as Christians, we hold that Jesus Christ is our atonement and makes all other sacrifices—and thus all laws requiring sacrifices—moot), but also whether certain laws were governmental or sacramental in nature. While this may be a simple process with the laws of a “secular” nation, it can get difficult when you’re dealing with a theocracy.
My studies keep drawing me to the same conclusion: God’s eternal Law of Love compels us to serve the poor, but the tithe laws were a form of taxation, and served as the welfare system for Ancient Israel. Thus, these laws only apply to those under the Old Covenant living in geographical Israel.
They say to continue teaching the tithe today is to engage in a sort of legalism. By trying to live under the law – and the tithe – we are in effect denying Jesus sacrifice:
For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing! Galatians 2:19-21 (NIV)
Paul Williams describes and expands on the idea on this site:
When we see to put ourselves back under the Law, we are acting as if Christ died for nothing. We are essentially ignoring God’s grace and denying Jesus! When we look to tithing to become our rule and strict standard for giving, we ignore the freedom we have in Christ – not to stop giving, but to base our giving completely on love motivated by God’s love for us.
So not living under the tithe doesn't mean not giving, to the contrary it means giving sacrificially out of love for Christ.
Jesus life and example is a much greater motivation for our giving than tithing can ever be. In fact, I think one reason we don’t see as many generous Christians as we should expect is because we fail to point to God’s love enough when we discuss giving. Instead, we focus on rules and regulations (the Law). It should be profoundly clear why basing our giving on Jesus Christ’s teaching and sacrifice for us is the ultimate motivation for generous giving. Tithing did not suffer for us. Tithing did not die for us. Tithing can never give us eternal life. Tithing will never love us. Consider how powerful those statements are when contrasted with what Jesus did for us. Think about what it would look like to base your giving on Jesus instead of tithing.
Giving Should Be Motivated By God's Love For Us
I believe both sides of the debate make great points, but I think for me Paul Williams makes a compelling argument when he talks about how the tithe is a sorry substitute and motivation for giving when compared to the sacrifice Jesus made for us.
Giving of ourselves and of what we've been given by God can be an act of worship and gratitude to Him. Being motivated by God's love for us should bring us to a place where we feel compelled to give and help others after all Christ has done for us.
In the end, both sides of the argument agree, we're called to give.
Giving Is A Byproduct Of A Relationship With God
Tithing and free will giving are both meant to bring us into relationship with Jesus, and in the end point us (and others) towards Him. Tithing and giving are for our own good when we do it in a spirit of love and grace.
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7
Giving is a natural byproduct of a changed life, and helps us to overcome the power of greed and a love of money. Giving helps us to be less selfish people, and helps us to be an example to others.
Giving As Worship
If I gave You everything
It would never be enough
But I'll give it anyway
To thank You for Your love
My whole life will be my offering
I give it back to You
I will give you everything
It's all that I can do
Giving of what we have been entrusted with is an act of worship, and expresses our gratitude to God for the sacrifices He has made for us.
Giving As A Sign Of Repentance
Our generosity can also show that we have truly repented and are following Christ. Having a reluctance to give may mean we need to examine our hearts and where our true allegiance lies. Our giving speaks to who we are – and who we serve.
It is through our giving that we speak the loudest as to whom we serve – God or Money. This is the area of our finances where we are most likely to show God’s love to others and have the opportunity to be a witness for Jesus. Our giving is to be completely motivated by love – joyous and cheerful as we realize that our sacrifice is not loss but gain in Christ. We give freely, generously, and sacrificially not out of compulsion or commandment but out of our joy and contentment in Christ. Such giving is a sign of our total commitment to Christ and His teaching, and it’s a very powerful witness to the world.
Whether you believe that the tithe is mandated for Christians, or whether we should cheerfully give what our heart has decided, I think we can all agree that giving is something that all Christians are called to do.
We must first follow Christ as our savior. Once we have made a decision to follow him, as a natural extension of our repentance before Him we give of ourselves, our time and our money as a way to express our gratitude and our desire to share his saving grace with others.
What are your thoughts on the subject of the tithe, free will giving and how generosity through Christ helps us to be better people?