Have you considered the act of tithing? It is important to know why you participate in certain practices! Is it Biblical? Or is it not? I took a class on Personal Finance last fall and had the opportunity to discuss this topic with a friend just a few nights ago. I thought I would include some brief notes of facts to consider in regards to the tithe. (this list is definitely not exhaustive, there is a book reference at the bottom, and if you leave a comment with your email address I’d be happy to send you an article further regarding the topic) In a nutshell: I think tithing is a tradition that is no longer obligatory. It allows us to get into the mentality that if I give 10% to God, I can keep the other 90%. From an examination of the Old testament one can see that there were many more requirements of giving besides 10% of one’s income. I hope these brief notes are thought provoking for you. Let me know what you think! Thanks for reading!
- Part of the economic system was the tithe.
- Why tithe 10%: It is simple, consistent, fosters your walk with God, ancient, benefits the church. (fosters local church commitment.)
- Problems with tithing: legalism, 90% of the money is mine, it relies upon questionable hermeneutic (you do not hold to other civil laws), one should actually be tithing 33 1/3% according to the OT, out of step historically, tithe has not been advocated historically; it is a Western evangelical tradition.
Tithing in OT:
- Word is used 41 times in the OT. It is generally described in the Jewish civil law as a joyful blessing. God expect this of you, and you get to do it for his glory. When it appears in the prophetic books it is described as negative, because the people are not tithing. There are two exceptions to the tithe being part of civil law: Abraham tithing and Jacob tithing. They both lived before the giving of the civil law.
- Genesis 14:20-There is no command here for Abraham to tithe to Melchizedek. He just does it. Tithing was known in ancient cultures. Abraham is tithing out of a sense of gratitude. He is not tithing of his own possessions. It is from the goods that he has captured.
- Genesis 28:22-We have Jacob fleeing from Esau and heading to Laban. As he is preparing to cross over to pagan land Jacob strikes a deal with God. If God will be with me…then the Lord shall be my God. Of all you give me I will surely give a tenth. Again, it is not asked of God. Contextually, at this time Jacob does not have a great understanding of who God is.
- The next time tithing appears in Scripture is in the civil law, 500+ years later. Under the Jewish civil law, there were three tithes proclaimed.
- -The Levitical tithe (Lev. 27:30-34; Num. 18:21-32; Neh. 10:37-38). The Levitical tithe was a yearly tithe that was proscribed to be roughly 10%. This was a means of financial support for the Levites. They had no land, so this was their livelihood. The high priest was to be given 10% of the 10%. The Mosaic Law specifies that the tithers could redeem their tithe at 120% of their value.
- -Called the “second tithe. Deut 12:11-12; 14:20-27. An additional 10% totally separate from the Levitical tithe. This is a tithe the people were to use themselves as the people worshipped for celebration/festival days. This could be used for travel to Jerusalem, sacrificial animals, etc. If you lived far from Jerusalem, you could sell your tithe, get the cash and head to Jerusalem.
- -The welfare tithe. Deut. 14:28-29; 6:12. This was to be given every three years on rotation. 10% of income was given to the temple to be used for benevolence. This is used to take care of orphans and widows until the Jubilee cycle was reset. The law specifies this is not to be used to support laze sluggards.
The New Testament and Tithing.
Four passing references to tithing:
- Matt 22:23/Luke 11:42- This is where Christ confronts the Pharisees; they are tithing, but neglecting the weightier matters of the law.
- Luke 18:12- Pharisee and tax collector in the temple. Here the Pharisee is condemned.
- Heb. 7:1-10- The writer of Hebrews is trying to demonstrate that Christ is of a superior order, and he appeals to Abraham tithing to Melchizedek, and Christ being of that order is superior. Again, there is no teaching here on tithing.
-There are plenty of occasions for tithing to come up. There are mentions of need and giving, but never on tithing. The Jerusalem council in Acts 15-16 rules out the civil law. (2 Cor. 8-9) The Bible does say to give cheerfully, generously, not showy.
The best single verse is 1 Cor. 16:2- On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.
5 observations from this verse:
Giving is to be:
Despite this everyone still wants a number. The average Christ should probably be giving at least 10% to the church, and probably far more than that. Does God require you to give 10%? Probably not because the tithe is not prescribed as moral law.
A good resource: Whose Money is it anyway? MacArthur
If you look at tithing intelligently, you cannot defend it. You can only defend it traditionally, which means the least 75 years of evangelicalism.