This is the sixth and final post in a series on tithing, as it’s taught in many churches today. This series examines all 17 Bible passages which speak of tithing, and is taken from a term paper I wrote in 2006. The first post included the series outline and an introduction, and covered the two passages where tithing was mentioned prior to the Law of Moses (Genesis 14:8-24 and 28:8-22). The second post examined how tithing was prescribed under the law of Moses. The third post looked at how tithing was enforced by a king (Hezekiah), a reformer (Nehemiah), and two prophets (Amos and Malachi). The fourth post examined what Jesus and Hebrews 7 said about tithing, along with an overview of tithing in history. The fifth post discussed different ways that the law of Moses is viewed today, and included a summary of the book of Galatians, followed by an analysis of tithing in light of Christ having fulfilled the law. This post will feature a study on New Testament giving, a conclusion, and references.
F. New Testament Giving
When faced with the idea that the modern practice of tithing may not be Biblical, some would naturally be concerned that a “no tithe required” position could pose a financial threat. In other words, if people stop “tithing,” can Christian leaders maintain their livelihood?
This becomes a matter of trusting that God can speak to the hearts of individual believers and guide them as to how they should give. It’s also a matter of having faith that God can meet the legitimate needs of ministries, even without the modern tithing system to lean on as a crutch. It’s also good to remember that western churches today are run like businesses, unlike the early church. Building mortgages, staff salaries, lobbies and foyers, parking lots, etc. are major factors in a lot of church budgets today, but they are extra-biblical and do not reflect the financial needs of the early church.
Regarding giving in the New Testament, Pastors David Clark and Bryce Carter (2006) admit that “giving is of little value” unless it comes from a willing heart. At the same time, however, they strongly question whether God ever gave man “the right to decide how much He requires.” Anonymous Pastor (2003), who teaches tithing, also affirms that giving should be done willingly, cheerfully, lovingly, thankfully, and with pure motives.
The following is a brief overview of a number of passages which show the progression, patterns and principles of New Testament giving. It’s clear that the poor, needy, and widows are still a priority:
[A] Acts 2:44-45 (The earliest believers were together, had all things in common, sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all based on need.)
[B] Acts 4:32-37 (There was great unity. No one claimed personal possessions, as they had all things in common. No one lacked. Lands and houses were sold. The proceeds were brought to the apostles, who distributed them based on need.)
[C] Acts 6:1-4 (The number of disciples had grown. The Hellenists complained that the Hebrews were leaving their widows out of the daily distribution. Seven men were chosen to be overseers.)
[D] Acts 11:27-30 (During a time of great famine, the disciples, “each according to his ability,” sent relief to believers in Judea. Paul and Barnabas brought the supplies to the elders.)
[E] Acts 18:3 (Paul earned some of his salary in his trade as a tentmaker.)
[F] Acts 20:34-35 (Paul did secular work to help support himself and his companions. He also wanted to demonstrate that “you must support the weak.”)
[G] Romans 15:26 (Believers from Macedonia and Achaia contributed to poor saints in Jerusalem.)
[H] I Corinthians 4:11-12 (Paul, at times, went hungry, was poorly clothed, was beaten and was homeless. He and his companions also did secular work with their own hands.)
[I] I Corinthians 9:1-18 (Paul was being examined, and defended his apostleship. He was possibly seen as inferior to the other apostles because he was working. He quoted from Moses to show that those who serve deserve to be supported. Paul had not even used his rights, though the Lord had made a provision for “those who preach the gospel [to] live from the gospel.” He preached the gospel out of his duty to the Lord, but he had chosen to also do secular work on the side so that he could “present the gospel of Christ without charge.”)
[J] I Corinthians 16:1-3 (Paul didn’t want to take up a collection for the Jerusalem saints in person when he came. So the Corinthian church, like the Galatian church, was to “lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper,” on the first day of the week. They had already promised to help the needy Jerusalem saints, affected by the famine.)
[K] II Corinthians 8:1-24 (Paul did much collecting on behalf of others. He rejoiced that the Macedonian Church received the grace of God, and had given freely, willingly, and beyond their ability [cf Romans 15:26]. The Corinthian church had already taken a year just to assemble their gift, even though they were wealthy. Paul desired financial equality in the churches. Titus and another brother had been sent to collect their gift on behalf of the needy.)
[L] II Corinthians 9:1-15 Paul announced that he would visit Corinth. Paul sent the brethren ahead to urge the Corinthian believers to have their promised gift ready before he arrived, out of “generosity and not as a grudging obligation.” Giving was to be done  as one purposes in his heart  “not grudgingly or of necessity”  cheerfully and  by God’s grace. Their service would supply the needs of the saints.)
[M] Philippians 4:10-19 (Paul had learned to be content, whether hungry and suffering need, or full and abounding. He was grateful to the Philippian believers for often sending for his necessities. They would receive fruit in their own accounts, and Paul promised that God would supply all their needs.)
[N] I Thessalonians 2:9, II Thessalonians 3:7-9 (Paul and his companions labored and toiled night and day, so they wouldn’t be a burden to the believers. They did it to be an example.)
[O] I Timothy 5:3-18 (The church was to relieve genuine widows, who had no one to take care of them. But if a widow still had believing family members, they were to take care of her. Those failing to provide for their own households had “denied the faith.” Younger widows were advised to remarry. Elders who ruled well were to be “counted worthy of double honor.”)
Giving from the heart was not a new concept in New Testament times. In the time of Moses, Scripture records numerous instances of freewill giving (e.g. Exodus 25:2, Exodus 35:4-5, Exodus 35:21-29, Leviticus 22:29). The people’s hearts were stirred, and they gave as they were willing. On one occasion, they gave far too much! They had to be restrained from bringing anymore (Exodus 36:2-7).
The New Testament insists that we belong completely to God, and we are not our own, for we were bought with a price (e.g. I Corinthians 6:19-20). Everything we have belongs to God, and we are to be good stewards of all that we have temporarily been given (e.g. Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 12:42-48, 16:1-13, 19:11-27). Regarding the subject of giving, F.F. Bruce concludes:
“Each Christian must come to a conscientious decision on this subject before God, and not be content to submit to the dogmatic statements of others; and it will be surprising if grace does not impel him to give a larger proportion than ever the law demanded” (David Yeubanks, 2006).
I do not assume that the majority of those who practice monetary tithing today do so out of selfishness, fear, or an attempt to validate their salvation. Most probably, they sincerely believe that what they are doing is required by Scripture. I sympathize with the 54% of US Protestant Christians who believe God requires them to tithe, but for whatever reason fail to do so. I wonder how many of them are needlessly racked with guilt.
I also don’t assume that all tithe teachers use the curse of Malachi 3:9 as a means to scare, pressure, and dupe their followers into forking over at least 10% of their income. Some do this, of course. Many, however, are simply repeating what they themselves have heard and been taught.
I must conclude that those who teach tithing today rarely, if ever, teach it consistent with Old Testament teaching. If they did, those in the agricultural sector would be urged to tithe, not 10%, but around 23% every year. They would ensure that the poor, widows, and orphans benefited greatly from their tithes. They would give to Levites living closest to them. They would eat part of their yearly tithes. Their tithes would be mainly food products. The Levites would have a problem, though. The former temple, with its storehouse, no longer remains.
If a person were to do these things, perhaps he could then say he is tithing according to the Bible. However, if he did so out of any kind of obligation, he would be in danger of falling into the same error as the Galatian church, putting himself under law, and falling from grace.
I believe that the modern practice of tithing represents a large deception in the Church, though not always intentional. If we choose to obligate ourselves to even part of the law of Moses, we are under obligation to keep all of it. Galatians 3:10 states, “For as many as are of the works of the Law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the Law, to do them” (emphasis added).
The Israelites had willingly agreed to be put under the curse if they disobeyed the law (Deuteronomy 27:11-26, 28:15-68), and they likewise anticipated blessings for obedience (28:1-14, 30:1-10). Centuries later, in Nehemiah’s day, they again “entered into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s law, which was given by Moses…” (10:29). Around this same time, God used Malachi to tell His people that they were under a curse for failing to keep His commands regarding the priesthood and the poor.
By fearing the curse spoken of in Malachi’s day, many are putting their trust in the tithe for protection and financial blessing, rather than trusting in God. We negate the work of the cross in our lives if we still fear that curse, or if we try to avoid it by keeping the Law. The implication of placing one’s self under the curse of Malachi 3:9 for failing to tithe is that Christ’s death on the cross is regarded as insufficient to redeem His people from the curse of the law. Tithing is what allegedly bring us out from under that curse.
Giving 10% of one’s paycheck to a church or Christian ministry is not, and never was, Biblical tithing. What was formerly supported by the tithes (Levitical priesthood, festivals, etc.) has now been fulfilled in Christ in such a way that tithes are no longer needed to support them. Clear provision has been made in the New Testament to continue supporting the poor, orphans, and widows, without the presence of the tithing system. There is also provision made for supporting the work of various ministries, especially in I and II Corinthians.
God’s people have been redeemed from the curse of the law, with its demand for perfection of which we all fall terribly short. Only Jesus was perfect. He became a curse, so that through Him “we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:10-14). In light of Christ fulfilling the Law, the modern practice of tithing has no solid ground on which to stand.
Anonymous Pastor. The Trinity of Giving. 2003. Source to remain anonymous.
Carter, Pastor David L. and Clark, Pastor Bryce G. Tithing Today. Eugene, Oregon: Bethel Church of God. 2006. At http://www.bethelcog.org/GA_TithingToday.html.
Constable, Dr. Thomas L. Notes on Nehemiah. 2004. At http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/nehemiah.pdf
Constable, Dr. Thomas L. Notes on Malachi. 2005. At http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/malachi.pdf
Constable, Dr. Thomas L. Notes on Matthew. 2005. At http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/matthew.pdf
Constable, Dr. Thomas L. Notes on Galatians. 2005. At http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/galatians.pdf
Constable, Dr. Thomas L. Notes on Hebrews. 2006. At http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/hebrews.pdf
Ellison Research. Clergy and Laity Disagree About Tithing and Charitable Giving. 2006. At http://www.ellisonresearch.com/releases/20060302.htm
Fee, Gordon D. and Stuart, Douglas. How to Read the Bible for All its Worth: Second Edition. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing. 1993.
Foy, Nathan. Tithing – Is it for Today? Desert Cry Ministry. 2006. At http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/tithing-is-it-for-today-nathan-foy-sermon-on-giving-general-82833.asp
Greenwood, Tim. Why You Should Tithe. Arcadia, California: Tim Greenwood Ministries. 2006. At http://www.tgm.org/WhyUShouldTithe.htm.
Hughes, R. Kent. Disciplines of a Godly Man: Tenth Anniversary Edition. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books. 2001.
Kaiser, Jr., Walter C. Toward Rediscovering the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House. 1987.
Kaiser, Jr., Walter C. The Christian and the “Old” Testament. Pasadena, California: William Carey Library. 1998.
Kelly Ph.D., Russell Earl. Should the Church Teach Tithing? A Theologian’s Conclusions about a Taboo Doctrine. Writer’s Club Press: New York. 2000. Available online at http://desatky.webzdarma.cz/rek.pdf
Kelly Ph.D., Russell Earl. Should the Church Teach Tithing? Acworth, Georgia. 2006. Essay at http://www.tithing-russkelly.com/
Narramore, Matthew E. Tithing: Low Realm, Obsolete, and Defunct. Graham, North Carolina: Tekoa Publishing. 2004. Available online at http://tekoapublishing.com/books/tithing/index.html
Nelson, Thomas The Holy Bible: The New King James Version. Philippines: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Pentecost, Dwight. The Purpose of the Law. Bibliotheca Sacra 128:511. July-September 1971 edition.
Snell, Jay. How to Amass Abrahamic Wealth. Livingston, Texas: Jay Snell Evangelistic Association. 1995. Available online at http://jaysnell.org/freebooks.htm.
Sparks, James. Why Modern Churches Are Carnal: God’s Plan for a Scriptural New Testament Church. Hico, Texas: Christian News and Views. 2005. At http://cnview.com/churches_today/chapter_6_truth_about_the_church.htm
Strong, LL.D., S.T.D., James. The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: With Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers. 2001.
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The Barna Group, Ltd. Americans Donate Billions to Charity, But Giving to Churches Has Declined. 2005. The Barna Group at https://www.barna.org/barna-update/5-barna-update/180-americans-donate-billions-to-charity-but-giving-to-churches-has-declined#.VH1oiDHF-So
Westby, Ken. Which is Scripturally Supportable: Tithing or Christian Giving? The Journal: Publication of the News of the Churches of God. 2006. At http://www.thejournal.org/articles/issue31/westby.html
Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia. Tithe. 2006. At http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tithe
Yeubanks, David. Study References and Quotes. 2006. At http://truthforfree.com/html/tithing-related/tithing/index.html
All posts from this series, and on the subject of tithing, can be found here.