My pastor says we should tithe. What does the Bible say?

(Answered on 10/17/2015 Program)

Tithing is a Hebrew term sometimes used today to describe the Christian’s giving money to the congregation they attend. While it is used twice in the New Testament to describe the religious payments made by Jews to the temple (Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42), we want to know if this term is used in the various passages that instruct Christian’s about giving.

Let’s first look at tithing in the Old Testament the Lord said He was due:

Leviticus 27:30-34 30 ‘Thus all the tithe of the land, of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord. 31 If, therefore, a man wishes to redeem part of his tithe, he shall add to it one-fifth of it. 32 For every tenth part of herd or flock, whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the Lord. 33 He is not to be concerned whether it is good or bad, nor shall he exchange it; or if he does exchange it, then both it and its substitute shall become holy. It shall not be redeemed.’” 34 These are the commandments which the Lord commanded Moses for the sons of Israel at Mount Sinai. (NASB)

There are several interesting details here but notice that a tenth of the sustenance from the land and even live stock were to be dedicated to the Lord (holy – set aside for a purpose). These were commandments for the Israelites to keep.

Definitions

  • Tithe: from the Hebrew ma’aser, meaning “A tenth part or payment of a tenth” (See Strong’s number h4643). The corresponding Greek term used in Matthew 23:23 is apodekatoō, having a similar meaning as it relates to the Old Testament law calling for giving a tenth (See Strong’s number G586)
  • Holy: from the Hebrew qodesh, meaning “set-apartness, sacredness, separateness” (See Strong’s number H6944). In this context of giving, their offerings were to be designated for the sacred uses of the Lord.

We learn more about how this gift from the people was to be used in Numbers:

Numbers 18:21-24 21 “To the sons of Levi, behold, I have given all the tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service which they perform, the service of the tent of meeting. 22 The sons of Israel shall not come near the tent of meeting again, or they will bear sin and die. 23 Only the Levites shall perform the service of the tent of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity; it shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations, and among the sons of Israel they shall have no inheritance. 24 For the tithe of the sons of Israel, which they offer as an offering to the Lord, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance; therefore I have said concerning them, ‘They shall have no inheritance among the sons of Israel.’” (NASB)

God explains His arrangement to support the Levite tribe and those of the Levitical priesthood was to give them the tithe (the tenth given to the Lord). The Levite tribe did not receive the inheritance of land and possessions the other 11 tribes would, but they would have the offering to the Lord for their use because they were responsible to serve in worship activities (in the tent of meeting). While some suspect the combined amount given in tithing for various things could have totaled more than 10%, it appears the amount God specified for giving was in principal 10%.

Are We Bound To The Old Law?

This tithe offering was mandatory (commanded) under the old law and was for the particular purpose to fulfill the need to support the Levites serving in worship. This might appear like an example for Christians (God’s people) to support those serving in worship (preachers, teachers, pastors, etc.) with the giving of 10% of their possessions (tithing). Giving 10% as seen in the old law is a reasonable guide to know what God has historically expected of His people, yet is this specified in the new law that replaced the old law (Hebrews 8:13)?

Under the old law that God had Moses deliver to His people, it required animal sacrifice (Leviticus 9:3-4), scheduled feast days (1 Chronicles 23:30-31), extensive process for cleansing the sick (Leviticus 14:1-32), restrictions on types of animals that could be eaten (Leviticus 11:1-47), and several passages regarding tithing among many other religious ordinances. But the new testament doesn’t call for priests from the Levite tribe or tithes to support them since this priesthood was replaced with the superior high priest (Jesus) and new law:

Hebrews 7:11-12 11 Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? 12 For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also. (NASB)

The book of Hebrews discusses how Jesus was a unique type of priest of the order of Melchizedek that brought about a better system and of necessity, replaced the old law. The old law or first covenant has become obsolete (Hebrews 8:7-13) with the arrival of God’s “new” covenant making those who have died with Christ therefore released from the law (Romans 7:1-6). So if we are not bound to the extensive things proscribed in the old laws, what is expect in the new law regarding giving?

New Testament Instructions On Giving

In 1 Cor 16:1-15, Paul gives instruction to the Corinthian church regarding making a collection to provide for Christians (saints) in need:

1 Corinthians 16:1-2 1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. 2 On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come. (NASB)

From these verse we learn:

  • When they were to give: on the “first day of the week” (implying weekly on that day)
  • Who is to give:Each one” of them (assembled Christians)
  • How much they should set aside in their gift:as he may prosper” suggesting one gives as they deems they are able to give. Note how this allows personal discretion considering their ability and does not specify 10% (tithing as required in the OT)
  • Why they should set things aside over time (regularly): so “that no collections [needs to] be made when I come“, that is, so they’d be prepared with the assembled gift when Paul arrived

2 Corinthians 8:1-13 is another good passage that points to the example of the Macedonian’s in their generosity and voluntary giving:

2 Corinthians 8:1-4 1 Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, 2 that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. 3 For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, 4 begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints (NASB)

Here we learn:

  • Even in hardship and poverty, they were joyfully about giving help
  • They gave very generously, even sacrificially (beyond their ability)
  • They gave willingly (of their own accord)

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 is a passage that encourages a helpful attitude about giving. It brings to mind that the members are thoughtful enough about their giving that they have consciously thought about what they have intended to give to the church

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 6 Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work. (NASB)

We learn from these verses:

  • One’s reward is proportionate to the what is invested
    • It implyies one might expect generous rewards if they are generous (Note that the rewards may be in heaven and not on earth)
  • Giving should be done:
    • with forethought (“as he purposes in his heart“)
    • without feeling hesitation or reluctance
    • not out of a feeling of obligation
  • God loves those who willingly and gladly give for others benefit
  • We can give with confidence knowing we will not be left with out what we need. God will provide abundantly for our needs and enable you to have everything needed to accomplish works that God approves (Matthew 6:25-34Do not worry“)

God’s Guide To Christian For Giving

A principal to guide those faithful to God in understanding most things He expects of us is His desires that we obediently respond to Him out of a willing heart. (Isaiah 1:19-20). Though God setup a formal system of tithing to meet a need, there are examples of “freewill offerings” that were given by those “whose hearts moved them” to provide materials and service for building things God specified for worship (Exodus 35:20-29). In the New Testament, we find God does not specify an amount but does appeal to the principal of a willing heart.

What we’ve discovered is that the Christian is not under the old law that expected tithing (giving 10%) to provide as an offering to God to support the priesthood. Instead, the Christian is under the new covenant and to provide for needs of others in their giving as an offering to God. To answer the question raised, the Christian is not required to tithe but is to give with the attitude God loves. So whether your gift is at or around 10%, you now understand from scripture that the Christian is to plan their giving, give generously, give regularly, give in proportion to the abundance they have, give cheerfully, without fear of need, and give willingly.