Does a Christian have to tithe?
Christians who want to please the Lord often have questions about tithing. The dictionary defines the word “tithe” as “a tenth part of something paid as a voluntary contribution or as a tax especially for the support of a religious establishment.” It was a common practice in the Old Testament and was required of members of the nation of Israel.
John Calvin, the establisher of the reformed faith claimed, based upon Malachi 3, that God had instituted tithing so that God’s people would be continually reminded that everything belonged to God.
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church preached about “earning all you can, saving all you can, and giving all you can.” For Wesley, the tithe was not the ultimate goal of the Christian; it was the standard, the normative mark, the common denominator.
Many Christians believe that this principle of giving one-tenth should be carried over to the New Testament in giving to the church and other Christian organizations. The late Billy Graham would fit into this category. He said, “We have found in our own home, as have thousands of others, that God’s blessing upon the nine-tenths, when we tithe, helps it to go farther than ten-tenths without God’s blessing.” However, even then the question as to whether to tithe from one’s net or gross income is not answered in Scripture, nor is the question of whether to give it all to the local church or to include other ministries. Such decisions should be based on personal conviction.
Pam and I strive to give ten percent of our income to something Presbyterian before taxes with the bulk of it going to the church. We have also supported our seminaries, Synod School, and national PC(USA) ministries.
Other Christians who tithe do so simply because they respect the Old Testament principle and find it a helpful place to begin in their giving. They do not believe, however, that tithing is a New Testament obligation. It is not mentioned in the New Testament except where it is describing Old Testament practices or in the Gospels where Jesus is addressing people who were under the Old Testament law. Note Jesus’ comments to the Pharisees in Luke 11:42.
A New Testament teaching on giving which may be helpful to you is found in 1 Corinthians 16:2: “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income.” This passage brings out four points: we should give individually, regularly, methodically and proportionately.
The matter of your giving is between you and God, and God always takes into account our circumstances. God knows when they are beyond our power to direct and control. The important thing is that we see giving as a privilege and not a burden. It should not be out of a sense of duty, but rather out of love for the Lord and a desire to see God’s kingdom advanced.
Second Corinthians 9:6-7 says: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each person should give what he or she has decided in his or her heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
The deeper question, you see, is this: What has priority in our lives? Is Christ really first—or do we put ourselves and our own desires first? Make sure Christ is first in your life, and then ask Jesus to guide you.
~ Pastor Scott Prouty