So far in this series, we have shown from the bible that tithing was a part of the Old Testament and as such Christians are not under any obligation to pay tithes. We have also looked at all the Old Testament proof texts that are consistently used by tithing advocates to promote tithing. We also see that the curse, as found in Malachi 3, is strictly associated with the Mosaic Law. This Law was nailed, along with Christ Jesus, to the Roman cross. As such the curse along with the tithe was fulfilled by Jesus’ death.
We have looked at how the tithe was viewed in the New Testament. It is clear that the tithe was not viewed in high esteem by Jesus. The reason was simple; tithing was, and is, a way in which religious people could parade their righteousness in front of others and God. We will look more at this aspect of tithing later in this post.
No Rules for Giving
The main point of this post is to examine giving in the light of the New Testament. The first thing that Christian’s should understand is that looking for “hard and fast” rules is a futile search. Rules tend to make things nice and neat. What happens with rules, however, is that instead of being a fence to protect one from danger, they become walls to separate Christians from other Christians. Each new rule simply vindicates a professed Christians’ self-righteousness. I have heard this from one of the church pastors that is a key leader in that movement’s top leadership. This pastor required that members not only be tithers, but in order to be moved up into leadership they be double tithers! This is not how church leadership is to be determined (Titus 1:5-9; 1 Timothy 3:1-10; 12-13).
The good thing about rules is that they give clear indications of another’s spirituality to others. It gives people the minimum requirements that good people need to live by. The problem with living by rules, however, is that they lead to a Pharisiacal attitude. For instance, if ten percent is the bare minimum one can give, then if I give more than ten percent I am more spiritual than one who does. Tim Keller describes this in his book The Reason for God:
The tendency of religious people ... is to use spiritual and ethical observance as a lever to gain power over others and over God, appeasing him through ritual and good works. This leads to both an emphasis on external religious forms as well as greed, materialism, and oppression in social arrangements (p. 59).
What Keller describes above is the only result of legalistic religion.
Attitude is the Goal of New Testament Giving
New Testament giving is not about duty but attitude. New Testament giving is to be liberal and with the goal of demonstrating a generous heart rather than the paying of a tax. John speaks of giving as a natural outflow and evidence of loving (1 John 3:16-18). Paul commended the church in Phillipi for their gift to him, and stated that it was evidence of their growth in Christ (Phillipians 4:16-17).
Paul told the church in Corinth that Christian giving should be cheerful, not begrudgingly or under compulsion (2 Cor. 9:7). Christian giving should not be based on emotional manipulation or pressure, but on a clear decision to give. New Testament is an act of trust in a God who supplies all of our needs according to His riches and glory in Christ Jesus. The Greek word translated “cheerful” is hilaros from which we get the English word hilarious. New Testament giving should make a Christian hilariously happy. Contrast this attitude with the emotional manipulation and compulsory payment of a tithe. Further New Testament giving should be based on the income of the individual believer (2 Cor. 8:11-12). If a person can afford to give a tenth (or more, or less) is solely a matter of conscience. Based on this it is incumbent on church leaders and pastors to be careful to not place undue pressure on church members, nor tell them how much to give, i.e., ten percent.
The New Testament view of finances is to be that of stewardship. In other words, Christians will make an account of everything they have been gifted with, including finances. This is what Jesus speaks of in the parable of the talents as found in Matthew 25:14-30. What Jesus warned against was wasting opportunities because no one gets a second chance. The purpose of stewardship is to manage the resources given in the best way possible. If one’s attitude about giving is based on one’s attitude, then giving, as a practice, loses its value as a religious deed.
Unforced giving is the voluntary transfer of wealth from the well-off to the less well-off. This includes, but is not limited to, the sharing of meals with people one would not normally eat with. What the New Testament calls philoxenia, literally “the love of strangers, is the natural outworking of love (1 John 3:16-18). This word is also found in Hebrews 13:2; Romans 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9; 3 John 5-8; c.f. 2 John 10-11. This love of strangers is also a requirement for elders in the church (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 3:2). This requirement of hospitality is a requirement for widows seeking assistance from the church (1 Timothy 5: 10). Further Scripture requires that the weak ones in the church be borne up by the strong, in other words the church is to help those that are unable to support themselves. This is especially applicable to the widow, the orphan, and those that labor for the sake of the gospel.
Supporting the Poor
There are two areas in which Christians are to give: the poor and those who labor for the sake of the gospel. The “poor” is defined by Scripture as the widow and the orphan. This is so important to the first century church that James calls the care of the widow and the orphan as “pure and undefiled religion” (James 1:27). In the time of the writing of the New Testament, to be a widow or an orphan meant that you had no one supporting you and that meant that you would probably die of hunger. Today, this scripture can be applied to mean that no widow or orphan should have to rely on the government dole for their subsistence.
It is interesting to note that the first century church was the first “welfare state” (Acts 6:1-3). The difference between then and now is that back then the wealth transfer was voluntary and based on the confiscation of income under the power of the law. This provision was not demonstrated by the paying of tithes or through gleaning, but in a daily provision (Acts 4:34-35). That this provision was based on voluntary giving and not compulsory tithing is evidenced by Peter’s rebuke of Ananias (Acts 5:4).
Further Scripture admonishes Christians to honor widows who are widows indeed (1 Timothy 5:3). Scripture then describes for us how widows qualify for church assistance: they had to have neither children nor grandchildren (1 Timothy 5:3), they must be over the age of 60 while younger widows were to remarry (1 Timothy 5:4-16). Lastly, church assistance was always in additional to individual members’ generous gifts to these people.
Supporting Those Who Rule and Teach the Church
The second area of Christian giving is to those who labor for the sake of the gospel. There are a number of Scriptures that deal with giving to those who labor for the gospel. Just as in the Old Testament where the Levites were called to abandon all other manners of employment, and were to be supported by the people they ministered to, so to the church is to support the elders that rule over them (1 Cor. 9:13-14). We see that Jesus abandoned the trade of his father (carpenter), and his disciples abandoned their trades to follow Jesus and were supported by others (Luke 8:3). The apostle John encouraged this sort of giving (3 John 5-8), as did Paul (Galatians 6:6; 1 Corinthians 9:11). It is clear from New Testament scripture that the hearers were to support the one that was teaching them.
The conclusion of the matter of New Testament giving is to that it is strictly a matter of attitude and not action. New Testament giving is to be marked by hilarious volunteerism as opposed to begrudged taxation. This is why Christians must give as opposed to tithe. The difference is attitude. Attitude is what marks the life of a Christian. Are you motivated by love for God, or by the love of men? Most of the tithing advocates I have ever heard speak on the giving tend to speak of tithing as something to beat God into obedience to our wills. This is not the purpose of giving. Giving is to cause us to divorce ourselves from the idol of money, and focus on the propagation of the gospel and the expansion of the kingdom of God.
With all this in mind, what should your attitude be about tithing? Simply put, tithing is not for Christians, and is not something that Christians should be participating in. Not that Christians are excused from giving rather Christians are excused from tithing. Tithing is a relic of the Old Testament, and should remain there. Sadly, too many Christian pastors use tithing to beat their members over the head to get them to give either out of a sense of obligation or a sense of fear. This ought to never be done in the Christian church. Tithing is, as the picture at the beginning of this post states, the pastor's law and not the Lord's law.
On the other hand, what should a Christian’s attitude be about giving? Simply put, a Christian’s attitude about giving should be gratitude, joy and liberality. A Christian should also remember that the majority of her giving should go to one of two areas; the poor and those who labor for the gospel. These two areas are scripturally mandated, that does not mean, however, that Christians are excused from other forms of giving. Ultimately, Christian giving is dictated by the conscience and financial circumstances of the individual Christian, and no one, no pastor, no self-proclaimed apostle or prophet, and not even another Christian should impose their personal views of giving on another Christian.
It is my prayer that this series has been both educational and a blessing to you. I pray that those in tithe advocating churches will look at the tithe scripturally and apply scripture to the tithe and move from obligatory tithing to joyous and generous giving. If you had questions about the tithe, I hope that your doubts have been laid to rest. I know that I wish I had something like this when I first heard of tithing and the curse. It would have eliminated a lot of unnecessary guilt in my life.
Our next series on the Jude3blog will be dealing with the resurrection of Jesus.