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“Tithing”, however, is an Old Testament concept and is – in a word – outdated.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.