Many of us have been there at some stage. Sitting in the church pew or isle, the offerings container approaches and you think, ‘Oh, ummm…’ You check your wallet or purse even though you know you forgot to organise something to be in there – just so people know you at least tried and were not completely avoiding the tithe…
When chatting to fellow Christians about the tithe - whether and when we should, and how much etc., I have heard comments ranging from ‘nothing has changed since the old testament’ to ‘it is no longer relevant – since the resurrection.’
It has bothered me for some time as to the ‘rules’ of tithing – free from the bias of those who seek to fortune from people and also free from those who may be searing their conscious to justify giving nothing.
You may think for a moment it is straight forward, and what your church teaches seems to be sound. This was not the case for myself and some friends, we were taken advantage of in our early days as Christians and ever since, I highly scrutinise every teaching I hear and check the facts for myself.
After committing some time to this subject I initially became even more confused. Reading what others have to say on both sides became quite irritating.
I find when I have become irritated with a Christian topic; it is because I need to apply the freedom and simplicity of Christ to the subject.
The question here assumes that tithing in some way is required for Christians. The word tithe means 10 percent, not necessarily “a tenth of my income.”
The biblical definition of a tithe is “giving 10 percent of one’s increase from crops grown in the land of Israel or cattle that feed off the land of Israel.” It was consistently connected to the land of Israel.
A tithe was done multiple times a year, probably equaling more than 20 percent of crops. No one was ever commanded to give 10 percent from their general income (just crops and cattle).
So unless you are under the Old Covenant and have crops based in the land of Israel or cattle that feed off the land of Israel, you do not qualify to tithe.
The Bible teaches that Christian giving should be done in light of the incarnation. Many Christians I have spoken to who argue about whether the tithe (10% of our income) is still the standard for our giving to the Church.
I found Paul’s teaching addresses the debate in one verse. He says: "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich" (2 Corinthians chapter 8 verse 9). Is Christ's self-giving now the standard for our giving?
Our giving is to be inspired and instructed by Christ's inexpressible gift. In light of such a challenge, who could possibly satisfy himself with asking "how little a percentage is acceptable for me to give?" Do you try to get by with giving as little as possible to the Lord, or do you give in view of the Lord's sacrifice?
I found Mathew chapter 6 verses 1 to 4 spoke to me with some good principles on this subject also.
When you give, do not give for the incorrect motives of being admired by men but by God, and being rewarded by our Lord for giving in secret, practising charitable giving to the needy, if you see someone in need and you have the means to help them, we should do so.
Giving according to means
The Bible teaches that Christian giving should be done in accordance with our means. Paul is quite clear on this: "For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have" (2 Corinthians chapter 8 verse 12).
Put another way Paul is saying that you should give in proportion to what God has given you. He said it this way in 1 Corinthians chapter 16 verse 2, "each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper."
This means at least two things: (1) since we are all supposed to give proportionately, those who have more money are expected to give more (those who are particularly blessed materially must remember this), and (2) the Lord never asks us to give what we do not have, or contribute beyond our means. Are you really giving in proportion to the material blessings that the Lord has given you?
Too often we see those who have little give more than those who have allot.
Where to from here?
I have landed at the conclusion that the reference to a 10% tithe is obsolete. We give what we can, according to what we have – and not always necessarily in a financial sense.
A poor person giving 10% could struggle to do so when a rich person giving 10% would barely scratch the surface of the blessings they could provide.
So while 10% may be a good starting figure to use when you do not know where to start, pray what God expects of you based on your circumstances and give accordingly. Bless others with a sacrifice, as Christ sacrificed for you.
Michael Dahlenburg is an electronics technician. He is non-denominational and has previously been involved in church plants and assisting those in ministry. His interests include; enjoying family, home DIY, gardening, most things tech-related and driving his wife crazy with a constant stream of inventions! He lives with his wife Michelle and three children in God’s own land of Southern Adelaide, Australia.Michael Dahlenburg’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/michael-dahlenburg.html