Tithing — Does Scripture Mandate It?

Question from a Site Viewer
Tithing — does Scripture mandate 10% of your income?

Tim’s Answer
The tithe first appears in Genesis 14:20 where Abram gave to Melchizedek of tithe of all. This passage tells us nothing else about whether this was what God expected or what we should emulate. In Genesis 28:22, Jacob made a promise to God to give a tithe if God brought him back to the land. The tithe appears again in the law where God gave to the Levites the tithes of the Israelites and gave to the priests the tithe of the Levites (Numbers 18:21-26). God also commanded a tithe for the support of celebration (Deuteronomy 14:23-29).

In Malachi 3:8, the passage most often quoted on the subject, God tells the Israelites that they have robbed Him in their tithes and offerings. In the New Testament, the tithe is not commanded, unless the reference in Matthew 23:23 & Luke 11:42 is seen as an indirect command.

Though the New Testament teaches much on giving, it is strangely silent concerning the tithe. Thus, passages such as Romans 12:13, 20; 1 Corinthians 13:3; 16:2; 2 Corinthians 8 & 9; Galatians 6:6, 10; Ephesians 4:28; Philippians 4:14-19; 1 Timothy 5:17-18; 6:17-19; Titus 3:1, 8; Hebrews 13:16; James 2:14-16; I John 3:17-18 give us a great deal of instruction on giving, yet without ever mentioning the tithe.

I ask the reason why?

I think the answer is in who we are. Once we come to Christ, we die to the law (Romans 7) and we become a new creation, the first part of the eternal state God will create. As such, we die to the old creation and we are no longer under law. We are now simply His servants, responsible as stewards to do His will, answerable to Him for every action we take, and every dollar that He brings into our possession. Some of those dollars should be used to support ourselves (2 Thessalonians 3:12). That is where Paul begins with those who are not working. They should work and eat their own bread. Then, we should work to support our families. Paul tells us that if we do not support our families, we are worse than an infidel (1 Timothy 5:8). Then we should work to support others in need (Ephesians 4:28). We should support God’s ministers (1 Corinthians 9:9-14; Philippians 4:18; 1 Timothy 5:17-18). We should use our resources to lay up treasure in heaven, as Jesus taught.

Because of this, I think that the question is no longer whether we give a tithe, but whether we have given our all to Christ. If we give our goods to feed the poor, it profits us nothing without first giving ourselves to God in love (1 Corinthians 13:3). Once we realize that we have died to ourselves and the focus of our lives is now on serving our Lord Jesus, then as a good servant we no longer are free to act as if His resources are ours to use as we desire; they are His to use as good stewards of that resource.

However, I am not opposed to tithing, as long as it is not from a sense of legal duty, but from a sense of responsible stewardship. This, to me, is the difference between an action driven by an impersonal law and an action driven by a personal relationship to the Lord.

I do not want to give the tithe any more emphasis than what the New Testament writers gave it. It actually is not emphasized much in the Old Testament either. The emphasis in giving, as I see it in the New Testament, is to meet needs and store up in heaven treasures that help take our heart there.

Check out this message I once gave on giving, to help you understand more my thinking on this issue.

with my love and prayers,


One thought on “Tithing — Does Scripture Mandate It?”

  1. Greetings.
    If a person believes that he should put aside 10% of his income, then the next question should be is what does he do with it? There are no Levites to support and to give it to a preacher, which many do, is an assumption. I think it is better to freely give as you have prospered to support your local church and not to think that you are under a command to turn over 10% of what you have. Many “men of God” use the tithe system as their personal bank account and put a burden on the backs of the poor. The tithe was a “tax”, for lack of a better word, to support the temple and its workers, not to be used for personal gain.

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