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What Does the Bible Say About Tithing in the New Testament

What Does the Bible Say About Tithing in the New Testament?

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What does the bible say about tithing? Is tithing in the New Testament? Are Christians required to tithe? Read this chapter from Your Finances God’s Way for answers.

Giving, and the amount Christians should give, is a controversial topic. If you’ve been in the church for long, you’ve probably heard different opinions. And you may have your own thoughts based on your experiences up to this point. May I ask you a couple of questions?

First, maybe you have been told that Christians should give a tithe, but does the New Testament teach tithing? The word tithe is a noun meaning “tenth,” which is why many Christians think we should give ten percent. If you’ve been taught this, take a moment to consider whether New Testament verses cause you to think this way. I believe it’s clear that Christians are commanded to give, but they’re not commanded to give a tithe, which brings me to my second question.

Second, if you’ve believed that you must give a tithe, will you consider a different view if it is supported by Scripture? The obvious question you might ask is, “If we aren’t commanded to give a tithe, then how much do we give?” That’s the topic of the next chapter. In this chapter, I want to show that God calls us to give willingly.

Having asked those questions, here’s a principle I’d like to ask you to begin applying in your heart: God wants us to give out of thankfulness rather than out of obligation. Keep in mind how much God has done for you so you’re moved to give out of a heart of worship versus out of duty.

Please don’t assume any of this is merely my opinion. I believe it is vital for us to be convinced by God’s Word alone, and on this topic, understanding what Scripture teaches requires some technical information. Bear with me as we get this foundation in place!

TITHING IN THE NEW TESTAMENT ISN’T COMMANDED

Not long after becoming a Christian, I heard that I should tithe. As my familiarity with the New Testament grew, my confidence in this claim waned because I couldn’t find any supporting verses. Giving a tithe is clearly commanded under the Old Covenant, which is associated with the Mosaic law. But Christians today are under the New Covenant, which is associated with the law of Christ. Paul notes this distinction in the New Testament:

To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews. To those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those under the law; to those who are without the law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without the law (1 Corinthians 9:20-21).

Paul said to win Jews to Christ, he would put himself back “under the [Mosaic] law,” which means he hadn’t been adhering to the requirements of that law since coming to Christ. When he tried to win Gentiles (“those who are without [the Mosaic] law”), he ensured he wasn’t under the Mosaic law. But to prevent readers from thinking he was without any law, he said he remained “under law toward Christ.” The point is that there’s a clear distinction between two different laws and how they relate to our giving:

  • the Mosaic law, which is associated with the Old Covenant (which we are not part of), and its mediator, Moses, commands giving a tithe
  • the law of Christ, which is associated with the New Covenant (which we are part of), and its mediator, Jesus, doesn’t command giving a tithe1

The tithe was God’s way of paying the priests who served God’s people all through the Old Testament era up through the time of Jesus’s earthly life. After Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, He became our great high priest (Hebrews 4:14). This produced a change, because “when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well” (Hebrews 7:12 ESV).

Two Categories of Commands

The Mosaic law was divided into two categories. First are the moral commands, or what we think of as the commonsense commands, such as, “You shall not murder…commit adultery…steal…bear false witness.” These commands are based on God’s nature, which defines morality for us. Because God’s nature doesn’t change, morality doesn’t change, and because morality doesn’t change, the moral commands don’t change. Because the moral commands don’t change, they are brought forward from the Old Covenant into the New Covenant. They’re part of the law of Christ and are still binding for us today.

The second category is the ceremonial commands, which are amoral (not moral or immoral). These commands are not common sense in that we wouldn’t intuitively come up with them. Think of the commands related to sacrifices and offerings, feasts and festivals, abstaining from certain foods (such as pork and rabbit), farming certain ways, and avoiding mixing certain fabrics. The command to give a tithe was also ceremonial, and thus it was not carried forward into the New Covenant and is not part of the law of Christ.

One fact that might surprise many people is God didn’t even command giving a tithe in the Mosaic law. He commanded giving multiple tithes: one for the Levites, one for the use of the temple and the feasts, and one for the poor of the land (Leviticus 27:30-32; Numbers 18:21-32; Deuteronomy 14:22, 28-29; 26:12). All these tithes pushed the total closer to 25 percent. If people want to put themselves “under the law,” as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:20, they should give closer to one-fourth of their earnings rather than one-tenth, for one-fourth is what the Old Testament Jews were commanded to give.2

Further complicating the situation for people who feel bound to give a tithe is the fact the Mosaic law commanded giving a tithe on grain, wine, oil, and animals. How would this apply today? I suppose the best we could do is give away one-tenth of our food, clothing, and possessions. Instead, God has a better (but tougher) way for us to give today.

A Higher Standard for Giving

Like many people, when I began reading the Bible, I started “in the beginning” with Genesis, which I loved. Exodus was also enjoyable, but then I reached Leviticus. Maybe some new believers have liked reading the 613 commands in that book for the first time, but I admit that I didn’t. I moved to the New Testament and started reading through Matthew. I reached the Sermon on the Mount, and it changed my life.

At that time, I didn’t know Jesus was contrasting the Mosaic law and the law of Christ, but I could tell He was raising the bar. Six times He quoted the Mosaic law, “You have heard that it was said…,” followed by, “But I say to you…,” revealing the higher standard the law of Christ set regarding murder, adultery, divorce, swearing, revenge, and love (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28, 31-34, 38-39, 43-44).3

Because the law of Christ raised the bar in these areas, we can conclude that it raised the bar for giving too. As Christ’s followers, ten percent shouldn’t be seen as the end of Christian giving. It should be seen as the beginning!

No Mention of Tithing in the New Testament

The final reason we know we’re not commanded to give a tithe (or any percent, for that matter) is that it’s not commanded, or even recommended, in the New Testament. The word tithe appears only four times (Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42; 18:12; Hebrews 7:5-9), and none of these passages are instructions for church-age Christians to give a tithe.4

The epistles are the instruction letters for New Covenant believers (those under the law of Christ), but there’s no mention of giving a tithe. Considering there’s extensive teaching on prayer, love, forgiveness, serving, and many other topics in the epistles, this silence is inconceivable if God expected us to give a tithe.

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT TITHING IN THE NEW TESTAMENT? GIVE WILLINGLY INSTEAD!

Why doesn’t God command us to give a certain percent? Because He wants us to give willingly out of thankfulness, versus giving out of obligation to a command. Second Corinthians 8 and 9 provide the richest, most detailed teaching on giving in the New Testament. Keep these chapters in mind because we’ll repeatedly draw from them to understand Christian giving.

Paul told the Corinthians, “See that you excel in everything [and that would include giving]. I say this not as a command” (2 Corinthians 8:7-8 ESV). This is interesting! Paul was an apostle, which means he had the authority to command his readers to give. We know he wanted them to give because that was the point of this portion of his letter, but right when it sounded like he was about to command them to give, he clarified that he was not doing that. Why? He wanted them to give willingly!

In the next chapter, Paul said,

I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation…let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:5, 7).

The Corinthian believers promised they would give, but they hadn’t yet because it’s much easier to talk about giving than to actually give. Paul reminded them of their promise by sending Christians ahead to get the gift, but he still wanted it to be a willing gift and not done under obligation. He didn’t want to force the gift out of them. The words “grudging obligation” refer to the conditions when giving. We’re not supposed to give because of external pressure, such as the demands of others. When giving is done this way, it resembles taxation more than worship.

Paul’s words are clear, which is why it’s disappointing when Christian leaders disobey them. We can’t help but think of televangelists and pastors saying almost anything to get people to give. They will guilt, shame, lie, and make ridiculous promises if it helps them obtain one more dollar. They aren’t trying to help people grow in their relationships with the Lord. Instead, they’re motivated by greed and covetousness. Bible teacher Warren Wiersbe said:

During my years of ministry I have endured many offering appeals. I have listened to pathetic tales about unbelievable needs. I have forced myself to laugh at old jokes that were supposed to make it easier for me to part with my money. I have been scolded, shamed, and almost threatened, and I must confess that none of these approaches has ever stirred me to give more than I planned to give. In fact, more than once I gave less because I was so disgusted with the worldly approach.

Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2: Ephesians–Revelation (Colorado Springs, CO:
David C. Cook, 1989), 656.

Writer Mark Twain once quipped, “I was so sickened by the long appeal that I took a bill out of the plate.”7 5.

We don’t pass the plate at Woodland Christian Church because the Bible says people aren’t supposed to give “of necessity.” Instead, we offer different ways for people to give when and how they want. To give praise to God, I’ll share that He has always taken good care of us. I can’t think of one leadership meeting that has ever involved concern over our finances. You might think that’s rare, but as elders, we keep coming back to how it’s our position to trust God to provide, but it’s not our position to tell the congregation how much to give. Instead, we encourage the congregation to pursue God in this area and seek His guidance on how much He would have them give.

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT TITHING IN THE NEW TESTAMENT? WE MUST DECIDE HOW MUCH TO GIVE!

Paul said, “Let each one give as he purposes in his heart” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Can I be honest with you? I don’t like these words! I prefer black-andwhite instructions. I have joked with my wife that I was born under the wrong covenant, and that I need the precision of the Mosaic law. I don’t want to have to decide how much to give. I want God to tell me.

You can’t miss the point, though: If we were commanded to give a tithe, Paul would have said, “Let each one give a tithe.” But he didn’t. This means no one can tell you how much to give, and that includes your pastor. You’re welcome to email me when you finish this book. I love to hear from my readers! But if you say, “I read your whole book and I still don’t know how much to give,” I’ll reply that you are correct because you must decide the amount on your own. The New Testament doesn’t tell us how much to give, but it does give us principles to help us determine the amount, and we’ll look at those in the next chapter.

For now, I can tell you we shouldn’t decide casually or flippantly. I’m not saying we need to agonize over how much, or fast and pray for extended periods of time, but the decision shouldn’t be taken lightly. In the Amplified Bible, 2 Corinthians 9:7 reads, “Let each one give [thoughtfully and with purpose] just as he has decided in his heart.” We must put some effort into deciding the amount because God is looking at what’s in our hearts versus our hands.

GOD SEES THE “HEART GIFT” VERSUS THE “HAND GIFT”

Imagine a man has a wallet divided into two sections. In one section he puts the money for the offering. In the other section he puts the rest of his cash, which is a considerably larger amount.

When the offering is taken, he accidentally reaches into the wrong part of his wallet, takes out the large amount of cash, and puts that in the plate. After the service he realizes what happened, tells the pastor, and comforts himself by saying, “It doesn’t really matter, though, because I gave it to the Lord, and He recognized the amount I gave.”

The pastor asked, “How much did you intend to give?”

The man answered, “I intended to give the smaller amount, but I accidentally gave the larger.” The pastor replied, “Then that’s what God recognized because that’s what you decided to give in your heart.”

Wow, that’s telling, isn’t it? Think of it like this: If we want to give more but can’t, God recognizes that, because He sees what’s in our hearts. If the hand gives more than the heart wanted to give, God recognizes that, too, because He sees what’s in the heart versus in the hand.

GIVING WILLINGLY IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

You might ask, “If God wanted His people to give willingly under the New Covenant, why did He command them to give a tithe under the Old Covenant?”

First, the tithe served a similar purpose as the taxes we pay today.6 In the same way that our taxes support the government and its services, the Old Testament tithe supported the Jewish nation’s priesthood and their services.

Second, even though God commanded specific tithes from the Israelites, He still wanted His people to give willingly even under the Old Covenant. Consider these examples.

In Exodus 25, God wanted Israel to build the tabernacle. Because it’s the Old Testament, we might expect Him to say, “Every man must give a tithe so the tabernacle can be built.” Instead, He said, “From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me” (Exodus 25:2 ESV). There’s no mention of giving a tithe even though the Mosaic law had just been instituted in the previous chapter.

Later, Moses said, “This is the thing which the Lord commanded, saying: ‘Take from among you an offering to the Lord. Whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as an offering to the Lord’” (Exodus 35:4-5). We might expect Moses to say, “The thing that the Lord has commanded is a tithe,” but he appealed to the people’s generosity because he wanted them to give willingly. A few verses later, parts of Exodus 35:21-29 record this:

Everyone came whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing, and they brought the Lord’s offering…They came… as many had a willing heart …All the women whose hearts stirred… The children of Israel…whose hearts were willing to bring material for all kinds of work which the Lord, by the hand of Moses, had commanded to be done.

The words “heart was stirred…spirit was willing…willing heart…hearts were willing” describe the willing giving God wanted even under the Mosaic law. There’s a strong emphasis on the people themselves (their hearts and spirits) versus an external source, such as the priests or law. This prevented them from giving “of necessity” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Regarding giving to the poor, Deuteronomy 15:10 says, “You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him” (ESV). This language is similar to 2 Corinthians 9:7: give freely and “not grudgingly.” Again, Deuteronomy 16:10 says, “Keep the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand.”

Solomon described the giving that results in blessing: “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want” (Proverbs 11:24 ESV). Giving willingly is elevated, while giving reluctantly causes suffering.

Which one—a willing giver or a reluctant giver—better describes you? Often the best way to learn who we are and who we need to be is by example. Let’s consider two Old Testament givers.

Jacob Demonstrates Giving Unwillingly

In the Old Testament, Jacob tricked his brother, Esau, out of his birthright. Jacob’s mother, Rebekah, told him to flee because Esau wanted to murder him for his deception. Jacob had to leave his family behind, not knowing when or if he would see them again. At this low point in Jacob’s life, God spoke to him in a dream and made him many wonderful promises. When Jacob woke, Genesis 28:20-22 tells us what happened:

Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”

I read this and picture God sarcastically saying, “Wow, I can’t believe it. Jacob, you’ll give Me a full tithe!” Jacob hasn’t been given the name Israel yet, which means he’s still “heel grabber” versus “God prevails.” He tried to manipulate everyone in his life, including God. The bargain he wanted to strike was that if God would do these things for him, then God would be his God and he would give Him a tithe. Jacob’s loyalty and giving was conditional. He implied that if God didn’t do these things for him, then God wouldn’t be his God and he wouldn’t give Him a tithe. But we don’t make God our God and give because of what He will do for us. We make God our God and give because He is God and because of what He has already given us.

At times, we can be tempted to give unwillingly like Jacob. We might pray something like, “God, if You’ll do this for me, then I’ll do this for You. If You’ll give me this raise…bonus…car…house…, then I’ll give You this in return.”

If we give unwillingly, consider what God can and can’t bless. He can bless the gift, which is to say He can still use the money for His purposes. He doesn’t look at the gift and say, “This was given unwillingly so I can’t do anything with it.” But can God bless us? It’s hard to imagine any spiritual benefit for the giver when the giving is done reluctantly versus willingly. Let’s consider Abraham’s example to see what it looks like to give willingly.

Abraham Demonstrates Giving Willingly

When Abraham rescued his nephew, Lot, by defeating four kings, he came to possess considerable wealth. After returning from the battle, he met Melchizedek, and Genesis 14:18-20 records the encounter:

Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And [Melchizedek] blessed [Abraham] and said: “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he gave him a tithe of all.

The “principle of first mention” states that God reveals the truest meaning of words the first time they’re used in the Bible. When the word tithe appears in Leviticus, it’s part of the Mosaic law, which is to say it’s commanded. But when the word tithe occurs for the first time in the above verses, this is 500 years before the law was given. This is the truest tithing because it demonstrates giving willingly apart from the law. Abraham gave “as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity” (2 Corinthians 9:7). He gave like a New Covenant believer under the Old Covenant!

Melchizedek was a king and priest who blessed Abraham. Abraham responded by giving willingly to him. Jesus is also a king and priest: He’s the King of kings (Revelation 19:16) and great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14). Considering how much more Jesus has blessed us than Melchizedek blessed Abraham, how much more willingly should we give to Jesus than Abraham gave to Melchizedek?

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT TITHING? THANKFULNESS PRODUCES BETTER GIVING THAN LAW!

Because there was no law commanding Abraham to give to Melchizedek, his giving was motivated by thankfulness. Giving out of thankfulness is superior to giving out of obligation, as evidenced by these two Old Testament accounts.

First, the people of Israel gave for the construction of the tabernacle. Exodus 36:3-6 records:

[The builders of the temple] received from Moses all the contribution that the people…brought for doing the work on the sanctuary. [The people] still kept bringing him freewill offerings every morning. [The builders] said to Moses, “The people bring much more than enough for doing the work that the Lord has commanded us to do.” So Moses gave command, “Let no man or woman do anything more for the contribution for the sanctuary.” So the people were restrained from bringing (ESV).

The people gave so willingly Moses had to tell them to stop! Here we see a command connected to giving, but it was a command to stop. This is what hearts of worship produce. While I doubt we’ll ever be told to stop giving, I can say that we’ll always be motivated to give more when we give out of thankfulness.

The second example might involve the greatest amount of wealth ever accumulated in the Old Testament. David wanted to build the temple, but God told him he couldn’t because he had “shed much blood (1 Chronicles 22:8). Because David was eager to make the temple a success, he did everything he could to help, stopping short of doing the actual building. He collected all the materials, stating that it included “one hundred thousand talents of gold [7,500,000 pounds] and one million talents of silver [75,000,000 pounds], and bronze and iron beyond measure, for it is so abundant” (1 Chronicles 22:14). How was so much wealth accumulated? The people gave willingly and joyfully:

[David asked], “Who then is willing to consecrate himself this day to the Lord?” Then the [people]…offered willingly…[They] rejoiced, for they had offered willingly, because with a loyal heart they had offered willingly to the Lord; and King David also rejoiced greatly. Therefore David blessed the Lord…“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly as this?…As for me, in the uprightness of my heart I have willingly offered all these things; and now with joy I have seen Your people, who are present here to offer willingly to You” (1 Chronicles 29:5-17).

Again, this echoes the language of 2 Corinthians 9:7. The people gave willingly and joyfully (variations of each word used ten times), not reluctantly or under compulsion, and this prefigures the way God wants His people to give under the New Covenant.

It’s important to observe that the Mosaic law wouldn’t have produced this much generosity—the people would have stopped giving well earlier. Only thankful hearts can give this much because they’ve been moved to do so as an act of joyful worship.

This is another reason it’s so sad when televangelists or church leaders try to get people to give out of obligation. What they should do is preach Christ and build people’s love and thankfulness for Him. Then people will give willingly because of what He has done for them.

JESUS WILLINGLY GAVE MORE THAN A TITHE

Jesus gave Himself completely for us. This is illustrated no better than by the burnt offering, which is a wonderful type and shadow of Christ. The key verse is Leviticus 1:4: “[The priest] shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.” Let’s consider how each part looks to Christ’s sacrifice:

  • “[The priest] shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering”— This communicated the transmission of sin to the animal, like our sins were transmitted to Jesus on the cross: “The Lord has laid on [Jesus] the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
  • “…and it shall be accepted for him”—“Him” is the sinner, so this is substitutionary atonement. The animal died in the sinner’s place, like Jesus died in our place.
  • “…to make atonement for him”—The burnt offering made atonement for the sinner, just like Jesus “is the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:2).

Three verses—Leviticus 1:9, 13, and 17—record that “the priest shall burn all of it on the altar, as a burnt offering…with a pleasing aroma to the Lord.” Paul applied this imagery to Jesus: “Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2). Burnt offerings were completely consumed, and Jesus is the true and greater burnt offering completely consumed for our sins. Instead of giving us 10 or 25 percent, Jesus gave us 100 percent. How could this truth not motivate us to give much better than any command?

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT TITHING? FOCUS ON GIVING WILLINGLY!

We give because we’re thankful. What an incredible gift God has given us in being able to worship Him this way! When we give willingly and not of necessity, we can be encouraged that we’re giving the way God desires, “for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Because we’re not commanded to give a tithe, in the next chapter we’ll discuss the principles that help us decide on an amount. As you continue reading, keep Jesus in mind because only His radical act of self-giving can consistently move us to give as God desires—willingly out of thankful hearts of worship. Are you ready to jump in with me?

Your Finances God's Way by Scott LaPierre front cover
Your Finances God's Way workbook by Scott LaPierre front cover

The text in this post is from my book, Your Finances God’s Way, and there is an accompanying workbook and audiobook. I am praying God uses the book and workbook to exalt Christ and help people manage their finances well.

  1. The book of Galatians is our Declaration of Independence from the Mosaic law. Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (ESV). The premier book about not being under the Mosaic law still commands us to “fulfill the law of Christ.”
  2. Leviticus 27:30-32 and Numbers 18:21-32 describe the general tithe given to the Levites. The second tithe is in Deuteronomy 14:22: “You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year” (esv). The third tithe occurred every three years for “the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow” (Deuteronomy 14:28-29; 26:12 esv). The three tithes totaled about 23 percent annually.
  3. Matthew 5:21-22—“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder [Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17]…But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment.”
    Matthew 5:27-28—“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery’ [Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18]. But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
    Matthew 5:31-32—“Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce’ [Deuteronomy 24:1]. But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery.”
    Matthew 5:33-34—“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord’ [Leviticus 19:12; Numbers 30:2; Deuteronomy 23:21]…But I say to you, do not swear at all.”
    Matthew 5:38-39—“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ [Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21]. But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”
    Matthew 5:43-44—“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor [Leviticus 19:18] and hate your enemy’ [Deuteronomy 23:6]. But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”
  4. The first and second instances are in Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42, when Jesus condemned the religious leaders: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone” (Matthew 23:23). Jesus said that “the others [should not have been] undone” because the New Covenant hadn’t been instituted yet at the Last Supper, when Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20). Because they were still under the Old Covenant, they were still expected to give tithes.

    The third instance of the word tithe is in the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector. In Luke 18:12, the Pharisee said, “I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all I possess.”

    The last place the word tithe occurs is in Hebrews 7:5-9, recounting Abraham’s encounter with Melchizedek and giving him a tithe. It’s simply a record of the account, versus being prescriptive, or commanding us to give a tithe.

  5. Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Encouraged (2 Corinthians): God Can Turn Your Trials into Triumphs (Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook, 2010), 104
  6. Tithing was the national taxation system for the nation of Israel. The parallel for us is paying taxes, which the New Testament commands. Jesus said, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21 ESV), and He set an example by paying the temple tax (Matthew 17:24-27). Paul said, “Because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (Romans 13:6-7).

32 Responses

  1. Thank you for this!
    I don’t believe tithing is a law for us today!!
    I’m so tired of pastors (good willing pastors) replacing the church today into the temple or Leviticus practice to keep the money coming in, putting on guilt trips if tithing is down, teaching you only get blessed on the offerings after your 10 %.
    God wants us to be giving! Paul asked for help because he was 24/7 out preaching and teaching! And still didn’t ask all the time. He worked as well. But never taught a 10 % or any percent.
    Churches push the tithe more than teaching taking care of your own, widows in your family and the poor. All centered around paying to your church!
    I would have so much more respect if a pastor got up to the congregation and said this is our monthly budget and would ask you to pray to the Lord and ask him to guide you on donations to help keep out doors stay open. It should be gifts of giving! I believe they would get more if they would just teach the truth of the word instead of putting the congregation under the law.
    If I found out before church that my neighbor just got out of the hospital, lost wages due to illness and trying to feed her kids and the Lord pressed on my heart to give that family more than the church that day. That’s exactly what I would do. My pastor would say I was not lined up with God. I believe we should give for sure! If you have a stingy heart, pray to our Lord to give you a generous heart! Giving is the biggest high.
    Thank you for teaching truth✝️🙏🏻✝️🙏🏻✝️.
    Kimberly

    1. Kimberly,
      Thank you for letting me know. I’m blessed that my post ministered to you.

      In all fairness, some pastors teach tithing, but it is not because they are greedy. They are convinced that it is a biblically commanded practice for today.

  2. I appreciate this article a lot!!
    Churches teach that your first 10 % goes to the church, and offerings. Then after to the poor and needy… This bothers me. if I was to give 10% of my money to a family that I heard had health issues and lost wages and barely putting food on the table for their kids, and I knew about this and out of my heart stopped by on the way to church to give it to them, then I put 5% in the plate at church. Does that bother God?
    I’m so tired of the guilt and manipulation of pastors. Churches have replaced the old temple Levites and priest giving to the church now!!! I get giving. I love to give and help! I see in the New Testament Paul asking for a gift to help with his food as he was 100% away preaching and teaching… people gathered in homes not big buildings.
    I would appreciate churches just saying, this is our budget for lights, overhead and if you can all pray and help with gifts what you feel the Lord leads you to give, we would appreciate that!
    But no, they pour on Old Testament laws maybe talking about helping your widowed family should be even more important!!! And others.
    Thank you so much for this! I have been thinking like this for years. For those who have a hard time giving, pray and ask God to give you a heart to give! I don’t believe in the Law of tithing though!! ✝️🙏🏻✝️🙏🏻✝️❤️❤️
    Kimberly

    1. Kimberly,
      Thank you for letting me know. I’m blessed that my post ministered to you.

      In all fairness, some pastors teach tithing, but it is not because they are greedy. They are convinced that it is a biblically commanded practice for today.

  3. Hi Scott, having read through all the comments, I wanted to firstly thank you for opening the discussion on the tithe and what motivates us to do so.
    What I did find interesting and you confirmed this in the earlier posts is that those who give to God cheerfully (whether under conviction or otherwise) seem to be blessed in a number of ways. If it is the scriptures on tithing that guided them to this point and gave them a point of reference, then I imagine that that is a good thing.
    If the point is to prove that they are wrong to use the scriptures on tithing as the basis of their giving then I am not sure there is merit in the constant challenging of their motives.
    Suffice that they are indeed giving joyfully and their hearts attitude is aligned to God.
    Perhaps the focus should be more on what our hearts attitudes should be rather than arguments around the law. We should be encouraging going beyond the requirements of the law even though grace allows us so much latitude.
    If this is indeed your intention, please be more explicit around this as it will assist many newly born Christians understand that your heart attitude is as important as your actions.

    1. Lance,
      Thank you for reading and commenting. I appreciate your thoughts! You wrote…

      If the point is to prove that they are wrong to use the scriptures on tithing as the basis of their giving then I am not sure there is merit in the constant challenging of their motives.

      The title is, “Do Christians have to give a tithe?” versus “Should Christians give a tithe?” or “Can Christians give a tithe?” No, the point is not to prove that people are wrong to use Scripture on tithing. I was hoping the first sentence would build on the title of the post and make it clear that people can give a tithe. And I would argue that if people are using the New Testament, Scripture would convince them that they don’t need to give a tithe. You also said…

      Perhaps the focus should be more on what our hearts attitudes should be rather than arguments around the law. We should be encouraging going beyond the requirements of the law even though grace allows us so much latitude. If this is indeed your intention, please be more explicit around this as it will assist many newly born Christians understand that your heart attitude is as important as your actions.

      The point of this post, which I hoped the title would make clear, is answering whether Christians have to give a tithe. Regarding the heart attitude when giving, which I completely agree with you is crucially important, is the topic of other posts. For example, here’s one I wrote about giving sacrificially out of a heart of worship. Would you read this post and let me know your thoughts?

  4. The idea of tithing is an interesting one. The word tithe literally means a tenth of something.

    God definitely calls us to give cheerfully. I’ve noticed in our life that before we gave a tenth of everything we had, it was more difficult to give. When we actually gave a tenth, it was interesting to see how God provided through that. Now we give more. The minimum is around 10-13% but most of the time if we are able we give more and we don’t think about percentages. Once we realized that it’s God’s money and we see that He will provide for others and even us through giving, the legalistic idea of only giving so much goes away. I think this is what Christ was focusing on…the legalistic approach. Because through legalism we miss out on a connecting relationship with God. We do things out of obligation rather than love and we are first and foremost called to Love God and love others, than to give. b
    As far as why it wasn’t mentioned more in the New Testament, I think that answer can be found in Acts 15 when the Jewish Council met to determine the best ways to instruct new converts without overwhelming them to the point of distress.

    Acts 15:19-21

    19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”

    We know that as believers we are supposed to do more than the 3 things addressed in the letter sent to the new believers, but it’s a process of learning and growing and they had access to the law of Moses which the Christian leaders at that time believed was extremely important to still understand. They did not see it as null and void.

    I would also point out that the Bereans were counted noble because they tested Paul’s words against Scripture, which was the Old Testament. Everything that is said in the New Testament can be found in the Old. The Epistles help explain many things to new believers who had no history of God or his of workings before hand, but they were always pointed back to the Scriptures.

    1. Hi Kristi,
      You said a few things I particularly agreed with:
      1. “Now we give more.” – This looks to one of the weaknesses associated with holding woodenly to an Old Testament viewing of giving a tithe: God might expect many people – especially people in the US – to give much more than 10%.
      2. You alluded to – on a few occasions – the way God wants us giving: joyfully, voluntarily, etc. This is the opposite of the way people give when bound by a command. Another weakness associated with giving 10% “because you have to.”

      You said, “as believers we are supposed to do more than the 3 things addressed in the letter sent to the new believers.” That’s right! And then those things are explained for us in detail in the epistles, so we don’t have to wonder, “Should we or shouldn’t we?” The absence of a command to tithe in the epistles is particularly significant. Instead of being told how much to give, we’re told how to give…which you mentioned: joyfully, cheerfully, etc recognizing it’s ultimately God’s money.

  5. First, Christians are not under the Mosaic Law
    I disagree that Christians are not under mosaic law. Christ himself said “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” – Matthew 5:17-18
    Now, generally Christians use this verse to say “look, He did away with the law”, but that’s not what He said. He said He came to fulfill the law. So, what did He fulfill. Did he fulfill Sabbath keeping? No, that points back to creation, not forward to Christ. Did he fulfill murder? No, that’s about respecting God’s creation, not about Christ. And so forth. So, what did He fulfill?
    He fulfilled the sacrificial system of the Old Testament. So, everything connected with the temple ceremonial system. We no longer need to sacrifice animals, because they were pointing forward to Christ’s sacrifice.
    We no longer need to worry about being ritually clean or unclean because those were about the temple system.
    So, I disagree that we are no longer under “mosaic” law. It’s God’s law, not Moses.
    Jesus kept mosaic law. After He died, his disciples continued to as well. So did Paul.
    Acts 24:14, Acts 25:8, Act 18:21, Romans 7:25
    Paul even tells us that we only know what is sin because of the Law (Romans 3:20), so if we don’t keep it, then we don’t even know we are sinning. (Romans 7:7)
    And then of course, the pivotal verse is Romans 3:31, where Paul says that faith doesn’t abolish the law, it upholds the law. He says that the law is good and holy (Romans 7:12), that the Law is spiritual (Romans 7:14), That he delights in God’s law (Romans 7:22).
    There are so many verses about this that a Christian cannot uphold the idea that the law is done away with. 1 John 3:4 says that if you sin, you transgress the law, because sin IS the transgression of the law. 2 Corinthians 6:14, the passage about being unequally yoked calls unbelievers “lawlessness”. Therefore, believers should “follow the law”. Because that is righteousness.
    Romans 4:7 sys that blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven. Why would they need to be forgiven if we didn’t need to hold to them any longer?
    Hebrews 1:9 says that God hates lawlessness.
    Lastly, Romans 10:5 says “For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the Law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.”” In other words, “mosaic law” = righteousness!
    This is not a legalistic approach to faith. We don’t keep the law because it will keep us from heaven. Rather, we keep the law because we respect our Father, our Creator, who designed us and knows what’s best for us. It’s what I hope my children will do. If they break my rules, I won’t kick them out of the house, but I hope they will keep them out of respect and love.
    Plus, it’s a direct commandment from Jesus to keep His commandments (John 14:15). Sometimes we forget that Jesus is God. He was there when that “mosaic law” was written. Those are His commandments too.
    So, that’s just about you saying we’re not under the law.
    Then we have the problem of you saying it was a mosaic law. It predates mosaic law. Genesis 14:20 and Hebrews 7:4 tells us that Abraham gave the priest of God 10% of his income (his spoils of war in this case). That seems to be a very specific number to just be a random occurrence. I think he was inspired to give that much.
    My point is that we need to follow mosaic law, and that it predates mosaic law, so this point isn’t valid.

    1. Jay,
      In the Old Testament people were under the Mosaic Law, or what could be called the Old Covenant Law. In the New Testament, believers are under the Law of Christ, which could be thought of as the New Covenant Law. You can read more about it in this post I wrote: The Law Christians ARE under.

      If you don’t garden a certain way, wear tassels, etc. then you shouldn’t say we’re under the Mosaic Law. You’re being inconsistent. In another post you said we’re not bound to the ceremonial portions. So then at least you’d have to say, “We’re only under some part of the Mosaic Law.” Or you’d probably say, “We’re under the moral commands.” I would generally agree with that statement in that the morality of the Mosaic Law was carried forward into the Law of Christ. But then again, we’re still under the Law of Christ and not the Mosaic Law.

      You said, “Romans 10:5 says “For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the Law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.”” In other words, “mosaic law” = righteousness!” What about the verse right before it: “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”

      I also didn’t see you mention any verses from Galatians, which is our Declaration of Independence from the Law. The Law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, “but after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”

      You said, “[tithing] predates mosaic law. Genesis 14:20 and Hebrews 7:4 tells us that Abraham gave the priest of God 10% of his income (his spoils of war in this case).” I agree that Abraham gave Melchizedek a tithe. The Scripture says as much, but just because something is descriptive doesn’t mean it was prescriptive. Sacrifices also predate the Law, were commanded in the Law, and you would say are done away with. Just because something predates the Law doesn’t make it perpetual.

  6. I had made a comment on Scott’s Facebook live broadcast and he asked me to re-post it here (Sorry it took so long Scott, we were tied up in Church activities all yesterday). The original comments were quick thoughts typed on a phone, so here’s a better written response according to his points. I’ll break them up to make it easier. It’s quite long…

    1. Second, God commanded giving a number of tithes.
      Well, yes, and no. The three tithes were quite different. The first was given to God’s workers. In my denomination, tithes go directly to the denominational conference (it governs all the churches in our province), and goes to paying the pastors and administrators of the church. That’s how we’ve adapted tithe for Levites in our modern age. The local church doesn’t keep any of it. But we also don’t pay our pastors, the conference does.
      However, the second tithe was different. The people were to eat it. It was for the feasts. We no longer keep the feasts (they point forward to Christ), so, that tithe is no longer needed.
      Then there is a third tithe, which only happens once every 3 years (your 3 1/3%). That was not a tithe to the church or God either. This is a tithe to the needy. The poor, whether believers or not. Anyone who needed food.
      So, yeah, I think we should still be tithing. I think we should also be giving food to the needy, and the new testament upholds both of these practices. I’ll get into the tithing later on, I don’t think I need to list verses in the New Testament that tell us we should care for the poor. So yeah, I think devoting 3 1/3% to the poor is a good practice as well.
      In addition to that, the word used is a tenth. That’s a very specific word. They could have used the word “offering” or “giving”. Why “the tenth part”?
      Why did Abraham give a tenth part? Seems like the practice started at least at his time. Quite possibly earlier. Remember, the laws given in those books were from God to re-teach the Israelites what they had forgotten in a lot of cases. Many of the commandments given after the exodus were given prior to that as well. But the Israelites had been in Egypt for 400 years and had forgotten.
      Maybe ten percent is enough to make it hurt. It seems to generally be enough to make you struggle with the giving. Whatever the reason, 10% seems to be the standard given by God.

      1. Jay,
        I’m not quite sure what you meant by this comment. I said God commanded giving a number of tithes, you said, “Well, yes, and no” and then you went on to explain those tithes. I’m sorry, but what’s your point?

        My point is since God commanded a number of tithes – which you described – then people who feel bound to give a tithe should actually be giving much more than 10%. Approximately 25%.

        1. My point was that the second 10% was for the feasts, which we no longer hold. So, how should we given them? To what cause? We’ve lost the reason, therefore we no longer have to give. That was fulfilled by Christ.

          We still have the poor though. As I said, I think it’s wise to give that 13.3%. Sounds like good counsel from God, as always.

        2. Jay,
          It’s very interesting to hear you say, “That was fulfilled by Christ” in relation to tithing.

          That’s exactly what I would say as a reason for not being bound to give a tithe under the New Covenant…along with the fact that God wants us giving joyfully instead of begrudgingly (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).

    2. Third, God commanded a tithe on more than money.
      That’s because those people were growing grain, win, oil, animals. They were to tithe on the “increase” of their herds. Basically, tithing on their income. In a lot of cases, they didn’t use money, they just bartered. We don’t do that any more, so that’s not terribly relevant in our culture. However, if the dollar ever dissolved and we went back to a bartering system, then yeah, we should be tracking the increase of our assets and tithing from it. What amazing is that God created a system that both works with currency and without!

      1. Jay,
        Again, I’m not quite sure your point with this comment. Did you feel you needed to respond to each of my points? I don’t mean that harshly, but the last two comments didn’t disagree with anything; they simply explained my points in greater length.

        We have an elder in the church who runs a dairy farm. If he felt bound to keep the Mosaic Law then he’d have to give a tithe of his cows. Since you feel bound to keep the Mosaic Law you can’t say, “it’s not terribly relevant in our culture.” Culture doesn’t negate God’s Law. If you feel bound to the Law, then you should be keeping it regardless of culture.

        1. It’s the perspective on the points that’s different. You are arguing (as I see it) that the Old Testament are no longer relevant. I’m saying they are, though our methods may have changed.

          As for your friend with the dairy farm, yeah, I think he should title the growth of his herd. We’re to give of our increase. He increased.

        2. Hi Jay,
          I would never say the Old Testament is no longer relevant. I love the Old Testament and I have taught from it as often as I’ve taught from the New Testament. My first few years at WCC were spent preaching verse-by-verse on the life of David through 1 and 2 Samuel and into 1 Kings.

          But I would say we are no longer under the Old Covenant, and by extension no longer under the Mosaic Law associated with it. Instead, we are under the New Covenant and the Law associated with it: the Law of Christ.

    3. Fourth, if you feel bound to give a tithe, you should feel bound to the rest of the law.
      You’re taking a point that was a covenant for the Israelite nation and applying it to gentiles (us). There are different categories of laws and we need to make sure we know which is which when deciding which to keep and which are no longer required.
      Those laws relating to the sacrificial system (as mentioned in point 1) were fulfilled by Christ.
      Those laws of separation that related to the Israelite nation we no longer keep. Things like mixing fabrics were to make it easy to tell an Israelite from a non-Israelite. At the time, God’s covenant was with one nation. They didn’t evangelize. Circumcision was a part of this category of laws. That’s why it’s no longer needed. God’s people has expanded beyond the Israelites since they rejected Him.
      There are also judicial laws which we don’t use, because we have our own judicial system. We don’t do “eye for an eye” anymore. We just make them pay money instead.
      There are laws about keeping clean and healthy. Not ritually, but physically. How to deal with mold and mildew, that doctors should wash their hands in running streams, etc.. Well, we still make doctors wash their hands in running water (though that’s a fairly recent change historically), but we have cleaning products to handle mold and mildew. We no longer have to abandon the house in most cases.
      And then there are laws governing our relationship with God. I do abstain from those foods that God says were never meant for consumption. Why? Because I think He knows better than I do about the animals He created. I tithe. Why? Because He tells me that if I do it, I’ll see benefits. I might not see more money, but our relationship is deepened. I don’t murder, because I respect His creation. I keep Sabbath because that’s the day He chose to memorialize Creation.

      1. Jay,
        I completely understand – and agree with – what you’re saying about laws of separation or holiness. See this post I wrote titled, “Israel’s holiness and the ceremonial commands.”

        My point is we don’t get to pick-and-choose, which it seems you think people can do. The Mosaic Law has never been a buffet. See the verses I quoted in the post. You take all of it as it is, or none of it. I anticipate your response: “So you’re saying we’re under no Law?” No, I’m not saying that. Like I said in a previous comment, we’re under the Law of Christ. Again, see this post, The Law Christians ARE under.

        You’re right, we don’t do an eye-for-an-eye. It’s interesting you mention that, because you’re showing not just that you think we’re not under the Mosaic Law, you’re quoting Jesus who said we’re not under it.

        Here’s something you said that I really, really appreciate: “I tithe. Why? Because He tells me that if I do it, I’ll see benefits. I might not see more money, but our relationship is deepened.” I think this is a great statement, but this is much different than, “I tithe. Why? Because it’s commanded by God.” If you want to tithe for the reason you mentioned, great, but don’t say it’s commanded when it’s not.

        Some people should be giving way more than 10%, and others might experience circumstances where 5% would be too much.

        You also mentioned keeping the Sabbath. This might be another can of worms, but the early church didn’t keep the Sabbath. They met on Sunday, the first day of the week, more than likely because it was the day of Christ’s Resurrection. Here’s a post I wrote about Church Age believers worshiping on Sunday instead of Saturday: “Should we gather on Saturday or Sunday for worship?

    4. Fifth, the New Testament nowhere commands giving a tithe.
      It’s interesting that you quote Matthew 23:23a. That’s the verse I would have used. What’s more interesting is that you cut it short. Here’s the full verse:
      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
      That last part is important, you can’t ignore it. Jesus said “You should have been doing law (note: law is a good thing according to Jesus), judgement, mercy, faith WHILE STILL TITHING.
      There’s your clear commandment from God Himself.
      Plus, there’s a problem with your argument. As discussed in point 1, the New Testament didn’t start a clean slate of “law”. It’s a continuation of the story. You don’t just throw everything out and say “well, if they didn’t say it in the new testament, then it’s not important.” Remember, for these people there was no New Testament. They relied on the Old Testament to tell them how to live. They didn’t repeat a lot of stuff, because it wasn’t necessary. They did repeat many things in the Old Testament when it came up for debate, or a specific thing needed to be taught. Jesus quoted the Old Testament far more than He didn’t.
      In short, I don’t see any of your points holding water. Rather I see a consistent message in the Bible of tithing to remind us that God is our Creator, that He gave us all we have, and only asks that we devote a tenth part to His service.

      1. I changed my post as a result of your observation. I don’t think it matters, because – as I added in the post – Jesus was speaking to those under the Mosaic Law and they did have to give a tithe as a result; however, if it makes me look intellectually dishonest, then I should have it.

        So Jay, besides this statement Jesus made to those still under the Mosaic Law, where do you see anywhere in the New Testament – especially in the epistles, which are the letters of instruction for Church Age believers – that we should give a tithe? Nowhere. It’s not even mentioned anywhere else in the New Testament, except when Hebrews mentions Abraham giving a tithe. But then it’s descriptive and not at all prescriptive.

  7. how interesting. This goes against a lot of what I have been taught. We do tithe because we believe it is biblical and everything we have is his to begin with. Interesting perspective and I have never heard it taught this way

    1. Hi Caroline,
      Maybe I wasn’t clear enough in the post, so I’ll ask so you can tell me if this is how you read it or not: Does it sound like the post is saying not to give at all?

      Also, since you said your family does feel bound to give a tithe, would you mind answering a few questions for me so I can understand the thinking behind this conviction? Since the New Testament doesn’t command giving a tithe, you must feel bound based on the Mosaic law, so…
      1. Do you feel bound to give all the tithes commanded in the Law or just one of them?
      2. Do you feel bound to keep other parts of the Mosaic Law, like avoiding certain foods, wearing tassels, etc?

      Thanks ahead of time for answering! I genuinely do want to understand!

  8. I’m so thankful that I have honored the tithe over the last 30 plus years. The teaching I received in giving our first fruits to our God who is such a giving God was so liberating and I am so grateful that I was taught truth and tested God in this way according to Malachi. God has blessed us above and beyond and I’m not just speaking monetarily. This post is so contrary to what we read in the scriptures and it is very disappointing.

    1. Hi Julie,
      Thanks for reading my post.

      Can you please answer a few questions for me?
      1. Which part(s) of my post did you disagree with?
      2. When you say you “honor the tithe,” which one? Like I said in the post there are 3-4 of them.
      3. What New Testament verses do you use to support giving a tithe?

      Thanks and hope you have a wonderful 4th of July!

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