I do not live under the Old Testament. And neither do you.
We don’t choose to. We are Christians.
The Messiah has come, and we need not fret over choices of meat or clothing with mixed materials. Yet it seems that the Christian church has a habit of clinging too tightly to some procedures in the Old Testament.
What do I mean? The tithe. And more specifically, the ten-percent standard.
I’m annoyed and irritated about this ten-percent standard as friends around me begin to finalize their budgets and churches encourage tithing.
This is how I look at it: if you’re going to practice any of the Old Testament, take it all. Live under the New or the Old promise.
Christians who persist in using any of the Old Testament’s standard of tithing are choosing the minimum standard of their generosity and choosing also to live under a rule, which often dodges the idea of cheerful giving – as the New Testament instructs.
Let me be straight. Giving is important.
Giving is really important.
“Tithing”, however, is an Old Testament concept and is – in a word – outdated.
“Tithe” means a tenth or 10 percent. The Old Testament law required that a tenth of all produce, flocks, and cattle be given to support the Levites (the priestly class in ancient Israel). In turn, the Levites were to give a tenth of that to support of the high priest (Leviticus 27:30-33, Numbers 18:21-28).
The New Testament nowhere commands (or even recommends) that we submit to a legalistic tithe system. The Christian church has taken the 10 percent figure from the Old Testament tithe and applied it as a recommended minimum for Christians in their giving.
We live under the new promise.
The New Testament talks about the importance and benefits of giving. We are to give as we are able. Sometimes that means less than ten percent; sometimes it means a lot more.
As a “poor college student,” I often feel guilty that I am not able to give ten percent. Then, I’m reminded that God loves a cheerful giver and He can multiply anything I am able to offer to Him. Most significantly, all tithes and offerings should be given with pure motives and an attitude of worship to God and service to the body of Christ. “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Each Christian should diligently pray and seek God’s wisdom in the matter of participating in giving. Rather than give a certain amount as an obligation, Christians are urged to share generously whatever talents, abilities, and wealth God has entrusted to them: “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully” (Romans 12:6-8).
The tithing rules in the Bible were based specifically on the religious and social system of ancient Israel and on the agricultural economy. Modern day questions about what percentage we should give and whether it should be computed on gross income, net income or wealth are not answered in the New Testament. Nor does it tell us how much of our giving should go to the local church and how much to help the need directly. Under the new covenant, we must pray and listen to our consciences and consider the needs of ourselves and our families (1 Timothy 5:8) when deciding how much to give and to which organizations or individuals.
There is no requirement.
Don’t take this lightly, though. Now might not be the time to buy twice as much Dutch Brothers as you usually do, unless you are buying it for yourself and friends, hint hint. Hopefully that didn’t strike a heart string.
Assess your personal situation. I can’t tell you, your pastor can’t tell you and any other influences in your life can’t decide how much of your finances you are able to give and who you choose to give it to. Give what you can and give it out of generosity. This means if you can’t give ten percent, then give what you can anyway. But more importantly, if you are using the ten percent standard to hoard the rest of what you have, stop using it as a defense. Give everything you can humbly and willingly to God.
Dan Anderson says
First I want to say that I agree with you that we are not under the Old Testament law and therefore should not have to rigorously keep the tithe.
However if we listen to the words of Jesus the standard in the New Testament is not 10% but more.
Mat 5:17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.
Mat 5:18 “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
Mat 5:19 “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Mat 5:20 “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
The scribes and Pharisees were the people during the time of Christ who did the best job of keeping the Law. In fact they prided themselves on giving God 10% of everything. Jesus makes it clear that it was going to take more than 10% to make God happy. If all that a person does is give God 10% they cannot hope to get to Heaven. That is what Jesus is saying.
So how can a person make it? Jesus points out in His conversation with one of the Pharisees that they would have to be born over again. A New Testament Christians we understand that Jesus, a Jew, kept the whole law, all of the commandment. He did it because He knew we could not. Our only hope of Heaven is to accept His righteousness.
What do I do when the offering plate comes by? What is the standard? For a lot of Christians the answer is confusing. We say 10% but the actual practice is much less. Maybe we toss in a couple of dollars to ease our conscience.
We need to have a Biblical answer. What did Jesus say? If you are comfortable putting in less than 10% you should not read any further!
Curious. Well it is a lesson that Jesus taught His disciples.
Mar 12:41 And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums.
Mar 12:42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent.
Mar 12:43 Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury;
Mar 12:44 for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.”
The answer seems clear. Not 5%, not 10% not even 90%. God is looking for 100%. If the woman put in all she had, then she had nothing left to live on and would have to trust God to take care of her. That would mean that most people both in that day and now are unwilling to trust God that much and would prefer to live on pennies instead of God’s riches.
A couple more verses this time from Paul.
Rom 12:1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
Rom 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
It is clear that Paul is not suggesting anything less than everything. Is it the Law. No Jesus took care of that. But it has everything to do with blessing. Paul’s suggestion is that we should, like the widow, give God everything and then live in His blessing. It is not the way we are taught nor is it something that we feel comfortable doing. But if God is in charge of everything, even our checkbook, then He will be able to use us to distribute His wealth.
Just something to think about.