Many denominations teach that Christians are to tithe. Are we commanded to tithe today?
The command to tithe
The first instance of tithing that we see occurs very early in the scriptures. Genesis 14:20 we see Abraham tithing the things he had been given to the high priest Melchizedek. This is verified in Hebrews 7:2 where we see Abraham gave a tenth of everything. This is the first example of giving a tenth of everything. We do not find a command to tithe until Leviticus 27:30-32. This is what the Lord spoke to Moses for the people to follow. The tithe is also found commanded in Deuteronomy 14:22-28. Thus, throughout the old law, the Hebrews were to keep the tithe. We see Jesus refer to the tithe in Matthew 23:23. The Pharisees would enforce the tithe upon the people and upon themselves, but had no regard for other elements of the law like justice, mercy, and faith. For this they were condemned. It is interesting that Jesus does not condemn them for tithing, but for not doing the other things of the law as well as tithing. But Hebrews 10:9-10 tells us that we are sanctified by the second covenant, not the first covenant, for the first covenant has been taken away. Do we have a command under the second covenant to tithe?
A higher standard
The new covenant of Jesus Christ does not have the command to tithe, but I believe that the Lord has put us under a higher standard than under the first covenant. The following are some passages that we need to consider when we look at how we are to give today.
1 Corinthians 16:2. This is the most common passage referred to in answering the question. “On the first day of the week, each of you is to set something aside and save to the extent that he prospers, so that no collections will need to be made when I come.”So here we see that we are to give according to the extent he has prospered. The word for prospered does not mean paycheck, but that is what we commonly think in our minds. But the word refers to a prosperous journey. We are to give according to what we have increased by the Lord. Thus we get what we sometimes say before the collection, to give of our ability. The idea is to give according to how well off we are in this journey of life.
2 Corinthians 9:6-8. “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” Here we see that we are to give generously in all circumstances, not just simply in regard to the collection. The reason is two fold: those who sow sparingly will reap sparingly and God loves a cheerful giver. So the heart behind our giving is important. 2 Corinthians 8:8 tells us that all giving is a test of the genuineness of our love.
Proverbs 3:9. “Give honor to the Lord with your wealth, and with the first-fruits of all your increase:” (BBE). Here we see from under the old covenant that God wanted the firstfruits of the possessions they had.
Mark 12:41-44. “Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.” Jesus commends and exalts the giving of a poor widow and the attitude we see in this text can apply to our giving today as well. The rich were putting in large sums of money, but they were giving the excess and the leftovers. The widow gave first to the Lord from all she had and then took care of herself with the rest.
I believe this is the principle that Jesus has laid out for us in the new covenant. Servants of God are to be cheerful givers, giving from what they have in this life, and giving their first fruits. This is a greater command than the tithe that was given under the old covenant. Some can give more than 10% because they have prospered well in their lives. Some cannot give 10% because they have not be prospered as much. I would argue no matter who we are, because of the riches of this land, the place we live, and that we are not in need, that we all have prospered much. Remember the conditions of poverty among Christians in the first century and compare them to our conditions. We are very rich and our giving ought to reflect this.
Must we tithe?
No, there is no command to do such under Christ’s law. But many want to have a benchmark to know if they are giving enough or not. But, in my opinion, I do not think the tithe is something we should completely throw out of our minds. In my opinion, it can be a good benchmark to see how we are doing. It is what God demanded under the Old Law with reason. Abraham gave a tenth before the Old Law was given. Whether God commanded this before the Old Law or Abraham did this from his heart, we are not informed. Though not binding today, I believe we should consider our giving if we are well off and prosperous yet only giving only 1% of our possessions. It is interesting sometimes to add up what we make weekly along with all the things we have and see what 10% is. Are we willing to give that up to the Lord? We must have the heart that will give all things back to the Lord. Let us give “as we have prospered.”