Monday, March 1, 2010

About Tithing

It was several years ago, when I was probably 18, that I sat and listened to a pastor talk about tithing as referenced in Malachi. I have no idea why, but the wheels in my head started turning, and I began to start wondering about the word "tithe", what it meant literally (by definition), what it meant in the days the scripture was written, and what it meant to us as Christians today. Thus a several-year search began on my part to understand it better.

And my conclusion? I do not believe that tithing, in the way it is taught in most churches, is even close to being biblical. None of the "tithing" that occurs now has any connection to the definition of tithing contained in the Bible.

I have sat in small group discussions and kept my mouth shut on this issue. I have listened to countless other sermons on the topic. I have heard notable speakers and authors use Old Testament law to try and convince those who listen that that's what God wants from us. And after searching on my own and doing my best to understand what those scriptures really mean, it actually bothers me when I hear the word tithe.

First, God did not require anyone to give money. It was always edible products, not money. Some say that's because "they didn't have money" back then, but this is not true. Money is first mentioned in Genesis, and Malachi (the book that is most often referenced for tithing) was written hundreds of years later. And for example, Deut 14:22&23 says, "Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always."

I also do not believe we are under the Old Testament law, and all the scriptures used to defend the idea of tithing are often cited from the Old Testament. There is one passage in Matthew 23:23 where Jesus talks to the Pharisees. But the Pharisees were under the law, and we are not. And actually, I believe the point of that scripture was to show them that they were more concerned with keeping the law than helping people.

Let me also say that it has always bothered me when I read or am taught that I must give 10% to a local church, and if I have nothing left to give, that's too bad. If there is a hurting family who just lost their home in a fire...or if the local food pantry is empty...or [you fill in the blanks] I can't give the way God leads me?

Some people write a "tithe" check like it's just another bill.

Mortgage - check.
Utilities - check.
Insurance - check.
Church tithe - check.

How is God honored in that? How do we turn our backs on "the least of these" as Jesus talks about in Matthew 25:45, but make sure and write our checks - sometimes all we have to give - to pay the utility bill of a church building?

Yes, I realize that some churches support outreach ministries like the Caring Center (in my current town). It is not that I'm saying we should not support a local church at all. I think we've just been given the idea that we HAVE TO give X amount or we are not being faithful in giving. And that's just not correct.

But don't get me wrong. Some people may feel led to give "10%" of their income to whatever God puts on their hearts. I believe God may be telling others to give's all His anyway. Teaching that we are commanded to give a set amount, however, is not a biblical truth.

So in conclusion:

The tithe was not about money; the tithe was an Old Testament law, which is no longer binding. When it was binding, the tithe was used to take care of people, not buildings. We are under a new covenant now. Paul instructs the Corinthian believers how they are to give. He says in II Corinthians 9:7 "Let each man give according as he has determined in his heart; not grudgingly, or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver." So each believer is supposed to give as he or she has determined in his or her heart. Someone can not give cheerfully if they are being forced to give. If a church can not survive on freewill offerings, maybe God is not part of that church at all.

For more info, click here. Or here. Or here.

Or take a few moments and just Google search phrases like "is tithing biblical"?


Ashley said...

Thank you for being willing to question things like this! I feel the same way you do...Lincoln was raised the other way...

roadrunner201 said...

The only thing that concerns me about your post is this: if we tell people, "don't worry about tithing, that's not what the Bible meant" who's going to keep the lights on and the heat working at the church, how is the pastor, who gave up perusing a better paying job, going to get his daily bread and support his family? And, as you pointed out, how will the church sustain ministry?

I get that you are not saying "don't tithe" and I totally get that there are some pastors out there who probably have too much of an income off of their church's tithe. And I TOTALLY get the need to NOT make people in financial straights feel guilty. That was done to my in laws when my father in law was unemployed and my mother in law was sick. The church told them they would not help them out because they didn't tithe.

I like the way we go about it at the church I go to. We have a congregational meeting every year where we are given a copy of the budget and how things stacked up over the previous year. We also take 15% of the money that comes in and the church "thithes" to missions and local ministries.

Chrissy said...

The church sustains ministry by offerings. By people giving "according to what he has determined in his heart." It should not be sustained by teaching people something that is not biblical truth.

Stephanie said...

Way to step out there and blog about something that could be considered a touchy subject in the Christian community!
That being said, I've thought about this issue for a while now, wanting to understand what it is we are supposed to do as Christians. While I don't think we are under the OT Law anymore, we can still look to it for examples and we can still learn things from their practices. I've been working my way through the Bible so the OT is freshly on my mind. :) What stuck out to me about their giving what that it was a tenth of the first things of what they had. And they were told to make it an offering to the Lord.
I definitely think that it is a matter of the heart above all else, and only the Lord sees our hearts. The widow who gave what she had was looked upon with favor while the Pharisees who gave their "10%" with haughty hearts were not.
I know in our household, tithe IS written out as a check like the other things and I don't see that as a bad thing. We are stepping out in faith saying that we are committing to giving 10% first to God, through our local church. We also have friends we give to when we have some extra who are serving in different places. And, through our church, we have opportunities to serve and help those in need.
In the NT, the church was responsible for taking care of the widow, the homeless, and those in need. I think the church as a whole has strayed from that, but I still see it as my responsibility to stay faithful to what I believe the Lord wants, and requires, from us.

ishatrisha said...

coincidentally, we just finished up our stewardship sermon series for the year. like you said, i have always been taught to tithe 10% of my income to the church. my pastor may have even said that thing about "robbing God", but thats not where his sermons ended. He focused on letting us know that God wants to bless us through our giving.

I actually hadn't been tithing for years, since my divorce. these sermons didn't make me feel bad about that. i did feel convicted to start tithing again.

i can see where what you say is biblically sound, and that many people probably agree with you. I like being able to give my tithe and even "above and beyond" as i've been taught over the years when i feel led to.

If church's don't talk about it, then how are new christian suppose to know what God asks of them and what he wants to do for them?


Chrissy said...

Churches should teach cheerful giving. Not that we are bound to Old Testament law and that we are some how robbing God if we don't give a set amount like 10%.

Jessica said...

I hopped over from Blog Frog...I have ALWAYS struggled with this. I grew up in a church and attended a Christian school as well.

I like what you have brought out and am sharing your blog with many others.

As for the poster earlier that mentioned who is going to pay for the pastor's salary...this is STRICTLY MY OPINION...if that pastor is truly called to pastor that church...he will be provided for!

Thank you for being so bold as to step out on this subject!

Melissa said...

We do give 10% to our church, but that is what we are convicted to give. I am on our church Board though so I know exactly how the church spends its money and that it is being spent to help others. The church needs money so that different ministries within the church can function to its fullest potential. It's sad that many church's pastors have beaten people over the head for their money then misuse the people's money.

I believe that God tells each person what he expects them to give and honors our giving when we listen to Him. He knows every person's situation and heart. I think His main concern is that our heart is right (being a cheerful giver) when we give. In the NT Jesus told the rich man to give all of his money away to the poor because his heart wasn't right.

Wendy said...

I have NEVER had it explained to me that way before. Thank you for doing the research. I have always felt guilt because I couldn't afford 10% of my income to give and always say to time, next month, next year, when the bills are paid off, etc. I know that God loves me for just giving and supporting other causes, like needy family, etc. Being a Christian is hard - no one said it would be easy, understanding it is hard - I guess if we pray about it and follow heart we're living by God's plan?? Thank you again for taking the time and sharing with us. I've always wondered about it, too.

goofdad said...

I am thankful that my church asks us to tithe "Time, Talent, or Treasure" ...

Yes, we're feeling the crunch in these tough economic times, and yes, we do hear about it on occasion. It has meant that our Pastor has had to go on 3/4 time and find other ways to supplement her income because we simply don't have enough money to pay her.

It also means we have people like me and my family who spend inordinate amounts of time volunteering at the church. Need something hauled? My truck and trailer are there. Need the community hall rearranged ... my teenagers are a phone call away.

Because we don't have the money, we donate our time and our talent.

In the end giving CAN'T be about the money. It MUST be about giving what we can, happily and freely, when we can. This is what we can give now. And we all make it through on that.

CRAZYMOM said...

I appreciate your tackling a touchy topic.

Our old church asked that you try to give approx. 10% of your time, talent or treasure. And the giving did not have to go to the church. They stated very clearly (for example) that working at the local soup kitchen counts as a tithe. I like that philosophy. I don't see how militaristic giving is honoring God.

Rick said...

I agree with most of what you have written. There were times in the OT that tithing was done with money (see Duet 14:25) but most of the time it was what they had raised. The purpose of the tithe was to support the Tribe of Levi, who had NO inheritance in the land. The other 11 tribes were to tithe to them. From Levi came the priest. This money and produce, etc is what the Levites lived on. The tribe of Levi was to then tithe WHAT HAD BEEN TITHED TO THEM to the temple/priest. You are absolutely correct in your assumption that we are NO longer under the Law and NOT required to tithe. Any pastor who says so is trying to put you back under the law. Now that is not to say that we should not give to our local church. I believe that our first priority should be to the local ministry of our church. The outreach should be done from your local assembly. (see 1 Cor. 16:2) But, there is NO set amount. I believe that I am responsible to God for how I spend every penny, for He owns it all. Look at Numbers 18:20-32 for the purpose of the tithe. The bottom line is, we cannot tithe today, for there is NO tribe of Levi, no Temple. We are to support those who labor full-time in the ministry, but there is NO LAW requiring it or establishing an amount.

Life Laugh Latte said...

Lots of good points here. For me and hubs it was about holding on loosely to the things of this world. No problem going on this expensive trip, or buying that expensive thing we didn't really need...but writing a check and putting it in the offering hurt. We have prayed a lot, asked God to help us see beyond our selfishness, and now feel at peace about giving generously. But, that was a very long process. Holly

Mama B said...

You are my answer to a prayer. I"ve been praying hard about what to do with a % of money I'm about to receive (which is in itself an answer to prayer!). My Mom just lost her job and needs help financially and I was praying about whether it would still be considered a 'tithe if I were to give her the 'typical' 10% as opposed to my church. Long story short I really think me finding this blog (from MckMamas) was Him putting my mind at ease. Thank you!

jl said...

Takes a lot of courage to post that. Churchianity will not likely agree with you, but the truth is what we need to seek, not the approval of men.

Anonymous said...

So of course the "tithe" is OT law, but all we have we have b/c of the Lord and is 10% too much for us to physically part with? For those who say that they can't afford it.. I challenge you to pray about it, write a true budget of what you spend and try it out. There are plenty of times when I don't know where the money comes from, but I do know that we give our first and best every week and on everything we bring in and we always make it. If I paid bills first, giving God my leftovers or the back end of the paycheck, I don't believe my outlook would be so certain.
Also, God does not NEED your tithe or offering to pay workers or keep the lights on... Seriously he is Way bigger than that. It's an obedience thing not anything else.

Chrissy said...

When a single mom of 4 loses her job and is on food stamps, do you think she is disobedient to God if she can't give 10% of whatever money she comes up with? What if instead she gives some of the food she buys with those food stamps to a food pantry? What if that's her way of giving? (I actually know of a time when this happened to a girl I went to church with. I heard her tell this to a group, and no one really praised her for it. I couldn't believe how people seemed to act like this wasn't pleasing to God).

No, 10% is not too much for me to part with. In fact, I could probably part with more, and if God asked us to, we would. We no longer have yard sales because I believe God was telling us to give it all way, so we donate everything to the Caring Center here in town. I have been giving/supporting a family locally who is adopting. Those are just two examples, I don't want to sound boastful, so I'll stop at that. The point is...yes...we give, too, and that was not the point of this blog. My point was not to say we should not give. My point was that we are often taught that we must give a certain amount or God is not pleased. And that is not biblical truth.

Anonymous said...

I am not trying to be argumentative and I realize fully what your point of this blog was. I agree that pastors should not push what is not biblical. I am still a firm believer, however, even the woman in your last example should give a portion of whatever money she had back to God and He would reward her for it and take care of her. Yes, there are plenty of other things besides giving money that are pleasing to God and that is between your heart and God's. I would not judge the girl for doing what she thought she should, but I wonder whether illegally using food stamps would be a good choice of how to please Him.

Chrissy said...

How is giving a portion of what she bought with food stamps an illegal use of them? I realize this is a bunny trail off of the original subject, but still...

I wonder if I know you personally. Do I? Because I have a feeling I do. If not, it would actually make me feel better! ;o) You are the only anonymous post on here...

Anonymous said...

It is illegal to use government assistance for the benefit of those other than for who it was issued to.

Anyway, you do know of me but don't know me well. Like I said previously, I am not trying to be argumentative--I hate confrontation. We are both women of strong views. I would like to thank you for challenging me... I have been thinking about your post since I read it and while I have always believed in tithing, I am now wondering why. It is bothering me that my church still as well as so many others still pushes it. It is something that I have always thought was in my heart because it was biblical, but now I'm really in need of some sould searching and time on my knees. I sort of feel like some ministers have failed us. I hope I didn't upset you although, deep down I think you enjoy this sort of friendly debate.
Anyway, thanks again--even though this will probably cause at least one sleepless night for me.

Chrissy said...

I do like friendly must know me at least a little! ;o)

Chrissy said...

A tidbit more info: In the OT only crop-growers and heardsmen tithed. Carpenters, tent-makers, bankers, trads-people, etc did not tithe. Every seventh and fifteenth year tithing was halted. The land rested during these years.

Causey Fam said...

I know you wrote this topic a while ago, but I came across this today and remembered your topic and wanted to share...Don't know if you will even see it though.

From Dave Ramsey in response to a question and posted on

"my husband and I are on Baby Step 2 of your plan, and we’re working hard to pay off all of our debt. We’re Christians, but would it be a good idea to decrease our traditional 10 to 15 percent tithe while we work through the debt snowball?


Dear Janelle,

I’ve studied Scripture on this subject for about 20 years and taught in Christian settings. But I don’t want you to take my word as the final authority. What we’re about to get into comes from God, not some guy with a radio show, okay

When you look up the Hebrew word “tithe,” it literally means tenth. Not 10 to 15 percent – a tenth. The book of Deuteronomy says to give a tenth of your net increase. In Proverbs, it refers to the tithe as first fruits, off the top, before anything else. About 1,200 years of protestant Christian teaching has focused on the idea that the tithe goes to the local church, because it’s the New Testament representation of the Old Testament storehouse. The storehouse took care of the Levites, which were the priests—or pastors—and the widows and orphans. Today, the New Testament church in your community is supposed to use it for the same kinds of things: pastor’s salaries and helping people who are struggling.

Now, once we’ve said all that, the problem is that there’s enough toxicity in Christianity and twisted information that surrounds tithing to choke a horse! I want you to remember one thing, though. God doesn’t love you more just because you tithe more than the person sitting next to you. It’s not a salvation issue, either. We’re not going to get into performance-based legalism here. God thinks you’re cool! You’re his kid, and He’s going to love you even if you don’t tithe. But He knows what tithing does for us. It makes us focus on something other than ourselves. God doesn’t need your money, but He does want us to be loving and giving to the people around us.

I wouldn’t stop or reduce my tithe if I were in your situation. When I hit bottom 20 years ago, I tithed all the way into bankruptcy court and all the way out. Just please keep in mind that you shouldn’t do this because Dave Ramsey gave you a “rule.” It comes straight from God, and it’s a loving father’s instructions as to what’s best for his kids!


Clara said...

Something else that bothers me about the giving that people do is that they love to boast about it. There is nothing in the Bible to suggest that giving makes us better people. There IS a verse in the Bible however that instructs us to give in secret and never tell anyone - "Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly". (Matthew 6:1-4)
In Jesus' day, those who announced what they were giving were labelled "hypocrites" and they got their glory from men to the point that Jesus said THAT was their reward. However, if we give in secret and don't make a big deal about it (and it must be from our hearts, not a 10% OT tithe) or let others know (so secretive that our one hand doesn't know what the other hand is doing!), then GOD will reward us - and obviously so. It is NOT a thing for boasting or even TALKING about when we give something to the Lord - whether it be money, material things or our time. :)
Good post. Too many people think tithing is for today, but the Bible indicates otherwise.

Joshua said...

Awesome insight Chrissy. Thanks for providing a link to this post.

Shannon said...

WOW! Thanks so much for having the guts to post on this topic! This is something that has been on my mind and my heart for so long. I wish I had found your blog along time ago! My husband and I struggle with the guilt of not giving our church 10% every week. We go to a small country church and I live next door to the treasurer!So I constantly feel that certain people know we aren't giving our part or what they think is our part! I think it all started for me when I saw people around us struggling financially, while our minister could afford new cars and lots of toys! We felt like my husbands hard earned money was just paying for "things" for someone else!Simply because the money we put in the offering plate was going to the ministers salary. I know - it is none of my business what people spend their money on but when we witnessed this and we ourselves were just happy to have enough to pay our regualar old bills- this bothered us! That's when we decided to give to those who really need!!! You see, we came to the conclusion that giving of our "tithe" doesn't mean we have to give it to the church. We find it honors God by giving to a struggling Bible Camp that friends of ours from our Bible school days run or the three Compassion children our family sponsers monthly. I'm not going to lie, we live on one income so that I can stay home with our children, so that means there are some weeks that we struggle to pay Our own bills! I feel so much better after reading your topic! Knowing I'm not alone in my feelings on this! Thank-you so much for your wonderful insight :)

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