Tithing is a feature of the Law of Moses. The word means “a tenth part” and shows up in the Old Testament about forty times. God required the children of Israel to give a tithe of all their produce.
All the tithe of the land, of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s … every tenth part of herd or flock shall be holy to the Lord” (Leviticus 27:30-32).
Because the tithe of the land effectively belonged to God, He could speak of their withholding the tithe as robbery (Malachi 3:8). God promised to bless those who brought the tithe (Malachi 3:10, Proverbs 3:9-10).
This tithe was used to provide for the Levites, who had no inheritance of land in Israel (Numbers 18:21-24, Nehemiah 10:34-39) and who were forced to neglect their duties when Israel failed to tithe (2 Chronicles 31:4, Nehemiah 13:10).
But more importantly, giving the tithe was an act of rejoicing and thanksgiving, recognizing God as the giver of all blessings (Deuteronomy 26:1-12). God owns everything (Haggai 2:8) and He doesn’t need to hit up His people for money to survive or accumulate shiny things (2 Samuel 7:6-7, Acts 17:25). Instead, His people need the opportunity to honor God!
So, should Christians tithe? If you mean “tithing” as a synonym for “giving” then the answer is yes, absolutely. If you mean “tithing” as “giving 10%” the answer is yes, sure, if your heart is stirred to do so (Exodus 35:21-22).
Nowhere in the New Testament does God demand a tenth of our income. The word “tithe” never appears in the New Testament except in four contexts which deal with Old Testament worship. The passages which address how much a Christian should give simply say, “as he may prosper” (1 Corinthians 16:1-2) and, “as he has purposed in his heart” (2 Corinthians 9:7). The New Testament never identifies a specific percentage.
There are religious groups that require a 10% offering to be in good standing, but this is “compulsion” (2 Corinthians 9:7). No one can determine for you how much to give. If your family purposes to give 10%, that’s a wonderful blessing! Some say, “if a tithe was good enough for the Jews, I who am blessed in Christ should do at least that much or more!” That’s a lovely, godly way to think of it. Remember, too, that the Law expected Israel to give on other occasions too, above and beyond the required tithe!
If you choose to give a different percentage, that is between you and God. I’ve always been touched by the fact that our building was constructed by the offerings of those who dug down deep and gave more than 10%. Great things happen when we put God first. Whatever percentage you decide, here are some principles:
1.) Giving to God should be a planned and prayerful decision, not a haphazard last-minute scramble to separate crumpled bills from pocket lint. “Purpose in your heart.” Make the offering a line in the family budget, and set it aside first (Leviticus 23:10-14). Have your check written before you leave the house.
2.) Treat the offering as joyous worship (Deuteronomy 16:16-17). God didn’t want the people showing up for worship “empty-handed” (Exodus 23:15) and neither should we. As the plate goes around, there should be some of the same introspection as there is with the Lord’s Supper. “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
3.) Ponder with thankfulness on the source of all blessings. Everything we give to God came from Him in the first place (1 Chronicles 29:14)! Giving teaches us to prioritize and participate. No bake sale or car wash could ever replace what God commands—a freewill offering from the hearts and hands of His people.
4.) The offering should be generous, even sacrificial (2 Corinthians 8:2-5, 2 Samuel 24:24). If you feel, “I’d give this $20, but then I couldn’t go to the movies tonight…” so much the better, as the “profit increases to your account” (Philippians 4:14-19).
5.) Meditate upon the wonderful uses of the offering. It spreads the gospel (Matthew 28:18-20). It helps needy saints (2 Corinthians 8:13-15).
6.) Give to God, not the church. It’s not really about paying the church’s bills, decisions which are sometimes subject to the folly of man. Don’t support obvious sin, but take comfort that leaders shall give an account (Hebrews 13:17). To think, “this congregation obviously doesn’t need my giving,” takes our eyes off the reason to give.
7.) Meditate on 1 Corinthians 16:1-2. The offering is for every Christian, for every budget, for every first day of the week. God loves the poor, and such one need not feel less important for giving less (Galatians 2:10). God deserves your best, and if your best is a dollar, give it and rejoice (Luke 21:1-4)! —John Guzzetta