27 August 2010

Question of the Week:
Does the Bible Require Tithing?

by Anne Lang Bundy

"If money be not thy servant,
it will be thy master."
~ Francis Bacon

What does the Bible say about tithing?
~ follow up to last week's question about prosperity theology

Tithing is repeatedly directed, in both Old and New Testaments.

But the follower of Jesus is given different directions.

Tithing's history begins with Abel's offering (Genesis 4:4-5), and the tithe by Abraham of one tenth of his spoils of war (Genesis 14:20). The Law of Moses required a tithe from both produce and animals (Leviticus 27:30-32). Jesus told the Pharisees that justice, mercy, and faith were more important than tithing even as He confirmed tithing as their obligation (Matthew 23:23).

Primary reasons for tithing are:
• to worshipfully honor God and express thanks for His blessings (Deuteronomy 26:9-10);
• to provide for the material needs of those who are set apart by God as His full-time ministers (Numbers 18:21; 1 Corinthians 9:11,14);
• to provide for the material needs of "the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow" (Deuteronomy 26:12-13; James 1:27).

Scripture indicates that refusal to tithe offends the Lord:

"Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, 'In what way have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings."
~ Malachi 3:8 (NKJV; also see Isaiah 43:23-24)

Those of us who belong to Jesus are not bound by the tithing directives of the Old Testament law, nor are we explicitly commanded to follow the example of the early church by selling our assets and owning everything in common (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32,34).

Nonetheless, 1) everything in the earth belongs to the Creator; and 2) Christians have been purchased by Christ. We own neither ourselves nor the material possessions given us as gifts (1 Corinthians 4:7). We are therefore held to a higher standard than simply tithing.

Jesus said the cost of following Him is this:

"So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple."
~ Luke 14:33 (NKJV)

And the reward of leaving treasures behind for Him is this:

"Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life."
~ Luke 18:29-30 (NKJV)

To forsake all we have may or may not mean saying goodbye to it. But at the very least, each of us might examine how tightly we cling to health and wealth, time and talents, even lands and loved ones. Tithing money (as well as time) is a good practice—but it represents only a starting place for stewardship of what the Lord has entrusted to us.

© 2010 Anne Lang Bundy
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  1. This may sound strange...but I'm thinking about how I can give back other things He's bestowed upon me, like my gifts, my writing, my parenting skills.

    How can I hand that to Him? Am I willing to? Just stuff I'm mulling over.

    ~ Wendy

  2. I gladly give Him all I have, wish I had more money to give, but gladly give of whatI do have.

  3. Great answer. It's quite a revelation to live under grace, and grace goes beyond. The tithe sets 10% as the requirement, but under grace, it is a starting point and invitation to surrender all. We are to model generosity as our Savior did.

    Thank you Anne for all you do! You are a blesing.

  4. well, nearly every church i've attended whether it was evangelical or pentecostal wanted the 10% from the congregation to pay for their minister(s) needs. ...have yet to see/witness a church take care of the widows. usually it's the opposite!the last church i was involved with gave a sermon on it which more or less stated that our tithes should be plain and simple a heart response. but then added to it. the preacher said 10% is an offering but if we added to that...it would be considered as a gift. of course that church was not only into authority and submission but also into the prsoperity teachings as well. "POOR" Benny Hinn was asking his friends for a million dollars recently on TV. it was posted on you tube. it makes me sick.... my mother was very faithful in her tithes but also gave to many other ministries as well. in turn, they sent her forms to fill out so that she could leave them all their property as well. aaarrrgggh. i should have stayed out/avoided this topic.

  5. Wendy ~

    I don't think this strange at all. The very desire to honor God honors Him. He says those who honor Him, He will honor (1 Samuel 2:30). As you confirm to Him that you wish to use what He's entrusted to you for Him, He will most certainly show you how to live that out.

    You make me smile. : )

  6. Denise ~

    Like the widow with two mites, our gifts are not measured by strict quantity, but by the portion of our hearts they represent.

  7. Jason ~

    To surrender all is a very high calling. No matter how much we think is on the altar, the Lord will reveal what more we have to give. We never run out of gifts from Him to offer back.

    And thank you for the encouragement. I wish I knew how to offer more.

  8. Bud ~

    You make a good point about the way churches use tithes. I can tell you that distributing church monies to those in need can be difficult to put into practice. I once spent a good chunk of afternoon trying to help a woman get assistance, and finally paid it out of my own pocket. When I came back to check on her, out of genuine concern, it turned out that she'd lied about everything to rip me off. *sigh* It gets even more complicated when the government gives out welfare. In the early church it was much more clear cut. Assistance was given to people in need who were part of the church community, who were personally known to the church leaders.

    While there's no doubt that tithes should not support lavish lifestyles for ministers, it is not a solution to refuse offering tithes to modestly supply the honest ministers.

    Close church ties enable us to better know how tithes are being used, and should certainly influence our decision about which churches we believe are faithfully living out the many instructions the Bible gives for church leadership.

  9. I haven't out given God yet. I'm also a prime example that He will give back pressed down, shaken, and running over, just look at that avalanche waiting to happen in my garage. ;)

  10. T ~

    You still working on that garage?

    Agreed. Whether it be a tithe of money or giving up anything else the Lord asks of me, I've yet to find anything I've offered Him that He did not return far exceedingly more to me.