Is the Tithe Biblical?

I recently received an email from someone calling the tithe an Old Testament practice that had no relevance to Christians under the New Covenant. Here’s what the email said in support of the author’s statement, “The Bible does not anywhere indicate that tithing is applicable or expected in our time at all. It was a system which was brought in following the exodus from Egypt and the forming of the children of Israel into a nation of their own.” Here was my response…

In looking at the Old Testament practice of tithing we see that Moses communicated to the children of Israel, we tithe “so that [we] may learn to revere the Lord [our] God always” (Deuteronomy 14:23). As we all know, learning to reverence the name of God is a timeless principle—as crucial today, as in the days of Moses. Long before Moses, the Bible records Jacob’s promise to God, “Of all that you give me, I will give you a tenth” (Genesis 28:22). Long after Moses, Jesus reaffirmed the practice of tithing (Matthew 23:23)—not for outward appearances, but as an outward expression of an inward reality.

In tithing, we learn the principles of Christian stewardship and what it means to depend upon our heavenly Father and less upon ourselves. Therefore, the tithe becomes our standard, not out of a sense of obligation or to earn God’s favor, but as an act of worship, recognizing that God owns it all. However, I would also assert that the New Testament raises the bar on this principle of stewardship, with 2 Corinthians 9:7 setting forth the central New Testament principle for giving, “Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver.” In other words, God loves a hilarious giver, which suggests that we are to strive to go beyond the tithe in our offerings. In fact, I happen to know of many great men and women of the faith, who give upwards to 60-90% of their income to the Lord, not out of obligation, but out of love and devotion to God, who they believe owns it all!

I do agree that nowhere in the New Testament does it designate a percentage of the income that a person should set aside, but it does say that our giving should be “in keeping with income” (1 Corinthians 16:2). Therefore, giving was strongly encouraged and a part of the New Testament system.  And because of Jesus’ words in Matthew 23:23, I believe that Jesus sets the “tithe” as the standard, but in no way should that limit us in our giving. For in looking at the Scriptures, we see that we can never out give God, and if we take this biblical practice seriously, I believe we will truly experience the blessing that it is better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). I also believe that as the church lives out this standard, which it is far from realizing, we will fulfill the Great Commission in our generation and meet the needs our communities and world (Matthew 28:18-20).

So what do you think? How might you add to the conversation?

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