The Truth about Tithing - Giving in Grace
A New Testament Perspective (Part 1)
By Andy Neckar
Tithing is not a New Testament principle of practice. We determine this by looking into both the Old and New Testaments. In the New Testament, all references to tithing are either referring to the law or to the practice of Old Testament believers. (Matt 23:23; Luke 11:37-44; Heb 7). In the Hebrews 7 reference, the insufficiency of the law is contrasted with New Testament grace. In the Old Testament, the references to tithing were given under the law, which does not apply in the church age.
New covenant teachings are overlooked for old covenant practices, thus limiting both Christian responsibility and freedom due to the church's regulated rules for giving. Christians traditionally give monetary tithes and offerings to the local church. As a result of the rules and obligations of monetary tithing placed upon Christians, some find that they are in the unfortunate position of not being able to fulfill their desire to support those in need.
Ironically, Christians are taught to let the Spirit guide their walk in Christ, yet they are given rules to guide them when it comes to their giving. Goodness and kindness are identifying traits of the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 makes it clear that the fruit of the Spirit cannot be regulated because against such there is no law. Consequently, the old covenant tithing ritual should not be used to govern Spirit-led giving. Today, it is not possible to fully walk in the Spirit in the area of giving, while following modified rules and regulations of old covenant tithing.
All too often tithing Christians accuse other Christians of not obeying the whole Bible simply because they do not give tithes and offerings to a local church. Accusations are made, sometimes with love and sometimes with hostility, (i.e. "Attitude and Accusations of a Baptist pastor" 7/98 CNV) such as, "Do you believe the whole Bible, or just the parts you want to believe?" or, "You will be cursed for robbing God of His tithe." What some people fail to realize is that tithes and offerings, as defined in the Bible, have nothing to do with Christian giving. Neither do old covenant practices have anything to do with the call of Christians to love one another. Tithes and offerings have a purpose for those under the law. According to the Bible, however, supporting one another is handled in a completely different way under the new covenant.
The reason for these articles are not to discourage the church from securing financial support from Christians to support those in need (Acts 2:41-45; 4:32-35; 1 Cor. 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 8:1-11). Indeed, the church requires money to support itself and its outreach ministries, and should encourage its local members to provide accordingly. The issues of interest, however, are those involving the method used to collect the money - through monetary tithes and offerings - and its impact on corporate and individual responsibility.
Many people in today's church believe that tithing is the only way to give to the local church and that giving to the local church is the only way to determine their own level of godliness or faith. In fact, some pastors teach that a person's spiritual growth is determined by simply looking at whether or not monetary tithes are given.
The true calling of Christians is, in fact, to focus on giving to those in need. "And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these".(Mk. 12:31). "For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." (Gal 5:14) Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." (Gal 6:2) When giving to the needy, one is actually giving unto Jesus (Matt. 25:35-40).
Although the church needs financial support, it should not be at the expense of the needy or sound doctrine. Unfortunately, the problem of careless biblical interpretation has led to traditional giving based on isolated portions of the tithing ritual. Christians in the Bible did not give tithes and offerings
When Christians respond to the will of God in meeting the needs of fellow Christians - as well as others - they are actually giving to the church. Not giving to the "local" church every paycheck should not be confused with not giving to the "living" church.
The priority of Christian giving today revolves around supporting the local church rather than supporting the needy. This limits the spontaneity of the cheerful giver, and keeps the Spirit of Christ within some Christians captive to superficial and unbiblical practices.
Christians are free from the rules of monetary tithes and offerings. Searching God's word reveals that Christians did not tithe anything in the Bible, and therefore, should not be mandated to tithe anything in today's churches. Giving is done freely, liberally, and without strings or human standards attached, thus allowing Christians to mature spiritually.
Non-tithing Christians believe grace giving is "mandatory to support the real church," as opposed to monetary tithes and offerings as being "mandatory to support the four-walled church" (the institutionalized form of church that most Christians attend on a weekly basis). The giving that Christians do for the local church should be the "desire" of the one giving the gift (2 Cor. 9:7) and not a "requirement" of the one receiving the gift based on some measurable standard.
Call Your Giving What It Is.
The Bible does not refer to Christian giving as a form of tithing, therefore Christians should not refer to their financial support as tithing either. Instead, the Bible refers to Christian donations as acts of grace or simply, giving (2 Cor. 8:1-7).
If Christians call their giving something other than what it is, someone may apply stipulations where none belong. If the Christian community calls its financial support to the church 'tithing,' someone can and will place additional rules on its giving. As a result, some of the rules and regulations associated with tithing are attached to what should be an act of grace. This is what is happening in today's church. For instance, people who want to give as they have decided in their heart to give are now told they will be cursed for not giving 10 percent of their income to the local church - all because their monetary gifts are called "tithes".
Pastors should not apply old covenant rules and regulations to what should be Spirit-led acts, such as giving to the church. In order to end the confusion surrounding Christian giving, Christians must first stop calling their giving by the name of tithing and call it what it is - grace giving.
When reading that Christians should not tithe, do not assume that it means to stop giving to the Lord or supporting the local church. These two concepts are completely unrelated. The local church is a good work and should continue, but through grace, as led by the Holy Spirit, and with the correct priorities in place. (Excerpted from an introduction to the book "Beyond Tithes & Offerings" by Michael L. Webb & Mitchell T. Webb)
Am I preaching that there is no giving required by Christians today? Does Paul say to the Corinthian Christians, "Hey, you don't have to give any of your finances to support the work of the Kingdom of God"? No! That's not what he says either. There is a balance to be found here. It is called Christian Stewardship! It is not called tithing, and Malachi 3:10 does not apply to us today. Still, giving our finances does apply to us, but it is not to be confused with the tithing law of the Old Testament!
Question: Are we to be governed by the law of the tithe as found in Malachi 3:10? Answer: No! Absolutely not!
Question: Does this mean that we don't have to give our finances to support the ministry of God? Answer: No! Absolutely not! However, the difference is that we have moved from law to grace and from the tenth to the whole!
Let's look at another New Testament passage about the giving of finances to support the work of the Kingdom of God. "Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God. But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (Phil. 4:15-20).
You know what's missing from this text? The word "tithe" or "tenth" or any implication thereof. I remember many times hearing preachers' stand in pulpits in financially wealthy churches and say things like, "You can help parachurch ministries with your finances, but your tithe belongs here. If you want to give money to help the poor and needy of India (or Hico for that matter), you may do so with your "offerings" but not your tithes. If you want to give over and above your tithes, then that's okay, but Malachi says that you are to bring all of your tithes into the storehouse, and that is now your local church. So, if you give your tithes anywhere but the local church, you will be, as Malachi says, 'robbing God.' And, if you are robbing God, then you are sinning against Him and His church."
Again, I have to ask, why didn't Paul make this point (or Peter? or John? or James?) If what some modern-day preachers say is correct. And if there was the slightest chance that the Philippian Christians might misunderstand Paul and send their "tithes" to him and thereby sin against God, he would have certainly said to them, "Oh, by the way, I am not talking about your tithes! That belongs to your local church. But, if you want to help my ministry over and above your tithes, then you may." Can you imagine someone like the Apostle Paul-being inspired by the Holy Spirit-accidentally leading people to sin against God? Of course not, and yet he doesn't think it important enough to make this grand distinction between "tithes" and "offerings" that many preachers today do.
Why do you suppose that is? Well, it goes back to the fact that tithing is not the undeniable answer to the issue of financial giving to the work of the Kingdom of God. Of course Paul doesn't make an issue of tithing with them because tithing was not an issue!
How Much of What You Have Belongs to God? The house or apartment that you live in is God's house or apartment. He owns it. The fruit trees in your yard are God's trees. The car you drive is God's car. The clothes you wear are God's clothes. The books on your shelves are God's books. Your swimming pool belongs to God. The computer in your home is God's computer. Your furniture in your home belongs to God. Your business or job that you have belongs to God. Even the very air that you breathe . . . is God's air. You know what else? Your children and your spouse belong to God. Your relatives and your friends belong to God. The driver who cuts you off in traffic belongs to God! Are you being God's good steward in your relationships?
You don't "OWN" anything! You know that? We don't own anything. Think about it for a second. Almost everything that you now "own," your car, your house, your land, even your toothbrush, everything used to belong to someone else. Before you bought your furniture, it belonged to the furniture storeowner. Before you bought the food that you ate this past week, it belonged to the store or restaurant owner. Everything that you would claim to own once belonged to someone else. And, one day, everything you now "own" will be "owned" by someone else. I "own" a little pick-up truck that was owned by at least three people before me. And, if it should keep running, it may be "owned" by three people after me. If it stops running, then it will be owned by someone who "owns" a junkyard. Do you get it?
Think about it; everything that you "own" was "owned" by someone else before you, and it will one day be "owned" by someone after you. But, you will always be God's steward. No one can take that away from you.
You see, no one owned your stewardship before you, and no one will own it after you. It is yours! However, with ownership comes responsibility. The question is "Are you a good or a bad steward of God's things?" You must understand this major point: Ownership is Fleeting, but Stewardship is Forever.
When we get to heaven, God will say to some of His children, "...Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord." (Matt. 25:21) What "few" things is He talking about? Your house, your car, your job, your clothes, your money, and your relationships.
Let me ask you a question; Will He say to you: "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with the few things that I gave to you. Come and share your master's happiness!"? Compared to what God owns, even Bill Gates has only a few things! God owns your money. God doesn't just own your physical possessions, he also owns your money. He owns your wallet, or your purse, whichever the case may be. God says, "The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts."(Hag. 2:8).
So, the big question is not, "How much of my money should I give to support the Kingdom of God?" But, rather, "How much of God's money that He has made me steward over should I keep (to support me and my family)?"
When God's family members come knocking at your door, a door by the way that belongs to God, how do you respond to them when they come to collect a part of God's harvest that you have been a steward over? Meditate on that for a while.
Giving is an Act of Worship In Phil. 4:18-19 Paul states: "But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God. But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus".
When Paul says that the gifts that they sent are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God, he is using Old Testament Temple terminology. He is comparing the gifts that they had given to him (to Paul) to the worship of the Old Testament people when they gave sacrifices to God in the Temple worship. So, when we give to the work of God, we are worshiping God.
Isn't that amazing? God gives us everything. Then, we in turn give only a portion of it back to Him, and God is happy about that! Let me illustrate. If you gave me one hundred dollars, and I then spent $12 of that on a gift for your spouse, or child, what would you think of me? Probably that I was cheap! But, God says, "Isn't that wonderful? I gave my child $100 and he (or she) spent $12 of it on another one of my children." When you give, you are worshiping God.
So, giving your finances to the Lord's work is more than simply a duty or obligation; it is an act of worship. And, Jesus says that we are to worship God with our whole being! He said it this way:
Mark 12:30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
There are some people who have given a tenth of their income to their church for years who have never given a dime to God! For many people, "tithing" is a have-to law, and they perform their "giving" much like paying a bill. If your attitude is that you are "paying your tithe as a bill," then don't kid yourself into thinking that you are giving to God. Some of the Pharisees of Jesus day were doing that, and Jesus called them hypocrites.
People who say that they are good stewards of God's money because they faithfully tithe, I want to ask them, "Why do you tithe?" If they are tithing for the wrong reasons, then they are not practicing Christian stewardship. They may be giving money, but it is as empty as the person who "fasts" with his eye on the clock and his hand on the refrigerator door. Both of these two people, the so-called "faster," and the so-called "tithers" are deceived and fooling themselves. Jesus said that when you do your good deeds to be seen of men so that they will think that you are "spiritual," then you have your reward in full. God will not reward you. Your reward is the praise of men (Matthew 6:2-6).
If you tithe, why do you do it? Are you doing it because the preacher says that it is God's law? In brief, are you doing it for the right or for the wrong reasons?
When we give money to God or to the work of God, we have to determine why we are doing it. If you just give a tithe because it is God's New Testament law, and if it really is God's NT law, then you are being obedient to the law of God, and that's good enough. But, if it isn't God's NT law, and you are doing it just because it is God's Old Testament law, well, obviously, you can see the problem here.
Dispensational churches certainly, for instance, wouldn't teach that you have to observe the dietary laws, but yet teach that the Jewish tax (the tithe-10%) has to be paid.
More examples-"For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law". (Gal 5:3)
Now circumcision was before the law, (Gen 17:10-11) the same as Abraham's tithing, (Gen 14:20) as was the seventh day Sabbath. (Gen 2:2-3)
Therefore, if we, as Christians try and keep the tithing law, the seventh day Sabbath or circumcision "because they were instituted BEFORE the law" we are debtors to do the WHOLE LAW perfectly. If we break any one point we are guilty of all. (James 2:10)
Do you want that? Can you live up to that? Only one man could live up to the law. I thank God for His Son Jesus Christ. AMEN.
Give Willingly and Cheerfully
But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: (not be forced) for God loveth a cheerful giver. (2 Cor 9:6-7)
Note these main points from this text:
1. You will reap what you sow. Give little, reap little. Give big, reap big.
2. Give what you have decided in your heart to give (why doesn't he say 10%? - there is no law of tithe here).
3. Do not give reluctantly [as some do, begrudgingly]
4. Do not give under compulsion [not be forced by some legalism -- most Christians feel forced to give their 10%],
5. God loves a cheerful giver. You cannot be a cheerful giver if, (1) you family is hungry (2) someone has forced you, by a twisting of the Scriptures-i.e. Malachi 3:10--to feel guilty if you don't give. [Portions excerpted from "The Spiritual Discipline of Christian Stewardship" by Rick Walston]
I believe many preachers who support the common unscriptural teaching on tithing are simply deceived, having bought the party line without honest questioning. The really sad part about the preachers following after "party line tradition" rather than God's Truth, is that they are depriving well meaning Christians of inherent blessing as a result of giving in grace as one proposeth in his heart. The result of "giving in grace" as opposed to "law tithing" is diverse. This diversity of belief can have severe consequences in the life of a believer---physical and eternal. Physical, in that the believer may be deprived of earthly blessings (benefits) here and now as he awaits the Lord's coming, and eternal in that he may lose the heavenly rewards awarded a good steward.
This is not to mention the danger if the person may begin to believe that tithing is a requirement of salvation as a result of this erroneous teaching.
If "all" the money goes to the storehouse (church when the person has membership) the head honcho (pastor) has stewardship over the finances. The BODY of CHRIST (individual member) is denied the gift of stewardship and the rewards that are promised to the trustworthy ones.
I must also mention that it is possible the pastors that teach OT tithing have little faith in the power of the Holy Spirit to convict a believer to give abundantly. Lack of faith in the Holy Spirit of God leads these "pastors" to resort to placing the believers under their "authority" and back under bondage to the Law of which the Holy Spirit made them free.
Saving souls is done the New Testament way, by the preaching of the gospel of Christ. Why then are finances preached the Old Testament way, by tithing? Are the preachers in search of a "guaranteed" income? You know--the same Spirit works in the heart of a lost person as well as a saved one. If preachers trust the Holy Spirit in the saving of souls, why not in the procurement of finances? Unless--ONE IS MORE IMPORTANT TO THEM THAT THE OTHER.
Think about it.