To tithe or not to tithe? Why should I give? Who should I give to? Is it under Law or Grace?
These are some of the questions I have heard a lot throughout my years as a Christian and even more so since I’ve been part of a leadership team in a church.
There are actually 5 areas of giving exampled and repeated in both the Old and the New Testament, tithing is only one aspect of what God wants us to do in this area of giving.
#3) Apostolic giving
#4) Alms giving
#5) A lifestyle of generosity
Let’s talk about tithing first…
It has been my own personal observation that many of the people who struggle in the area of giving, do so because they have succumb to the false teaching that tithing is “under the law.” They think because we now live in a New Covenant of Grace (which we do) – tithing, because it originated in the Old Testament, is part of Law and not Grace. A simple study of Scripture reveals to us that tithing was actually an act of Faith that was exampled 400 years before the Law was given and had nothing to do with the Law.
In Genesis 14:20, Abram gave Melchizedek (the High Priest) a 10th (tithe means a 10th) of all he had recovered. This is the first mention in Scripture of the tithe (10%) being given to those who function in a priestly office. A few verses later, in chapter Genesis 15:1 it says after “these things” – this act of Faith – tithing, the Lord came to Abram and began to establish His covenant with Him. It was a covenant that was based on Faith and not a covenant that was based on Law. God says in verse 1, “I am thy shield (I will protect you) and thy exceeding great reward (your reward will be great).” All of this took place 400 years before the Law was even revealed.
God’s intention for the children of Israel was for them to act on this covenant of Faith but it was because of their rejection of Him (God), that 4 centuries years later, He had to relate to them through the Law. Abram was saved by Faith.
This Old Testament act of Faith called tithing – is repeated before the Law was given and after the Law was given.
A New Testament example for the tithe can be found in Matthew 23:23. The Pharisees are very careful to tithe even on the smallest amount of increase that comes into their lives but that they do so, hypocritically, because they ignore more important things: law, justice, mercy and faithfulness. Jesus says you should tithe, yes, but you should not leave undone the more important things. What is He saying here? Jesus is warning us of doing things for outward show while ignoring the motivations behind why we do what we do. He (Jesus) is assuming that tithing is a normal part of a believer’s life. It’s never a question with Jesus as to whether tithing is to be done or not.
Now let’s look at it from a simple, more practical stand point. What was the purpose of the tithe? In Genesis 14 it was for the support of the high priest of God. In Numbers 18:20-26 it is re-established that it was for the priests who served in the Tabernacle. In verse 21 it says, “As for the tribe of Levi, your relatives, I will pay them for their service in the Tabernacle from the tithes from the entire land of Israel.” In verse 25 & 26 the Levities are told to receive the tithes from the Israelites and they are to give a tithe of that tithe they received to the Lord as a gift, which represented their (the priest’s) harvest offering.
Malachi the prophet points out that the tithe is for a very specific need in the storehouse, it is not for us to decide where it goes. Your tithe (your 10th) is not for supporting other ministries outside of your local church. We can’t arbitrarily decide where that money goes and call it our tithe.
Never was the tithe used for any other purpose than the support of those who served in the Tabernacle. Whenever money was needed for buildings or stuff inside the buildings (Tabernacle, temple, houses of worship) — offerings were received. On top of that, offerings were given (over and above the tithe) on many occasions for various feasts, festivals and sacrifices to the Lord. The number of times that tithes and offerings are repeated in the Old Testament – before the Law and after the Law was given – are too numerous to include in this particular post.
OK, continuing on this theme of the practical purpose of the tithe… we’ve already seen that Jesus Himself established it in Matthew 23 and we can safely assume that those who functioned as elders in the New Testament Church were also supported by the tithe. Their salaries came from the tithing of the New Testament believers. 1 Timothy 5:17 says, “The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” There isn’t one translator who disagrees that this passage is talking about their salary. The NLT says that elders who do their work well should be paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching. One of the Greek words that is translated “Elder” is “Poimain”, in Acts 20:28 Paul says to the elders of the Ephesians Church to be sure that you feed and shepherd (Poimain) God’s flock, His Church… This word is where the word “Pastor” comes from. So someone who functions in a pastoral or shepherding role in the New Testament Church and does their job well is worthy of double honour (the Amplified says, “of adequate financial support”). Nowhere do we see in the New Testament that any pastor (elder, shepherd = poimain) that this adequate support or double honour comes from any offering that was collected. So where did it come from? It is quite obvious that it must have come from the tithes of the New Testament believers.
In the Old and New Testament we have different examples of offerings, some of which we’ve already covered above i.e. church property, stuff inside the buildings, stuff to run the place, etc. put into today’s terms: rent/mortgage, light bill, office supplies, sound equipment, banquets… it was all done through offerings – over and above the tithe (which is the word for a 10th).
Apostolic giving. Acts 4:34-37, “For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need. Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” Here we have the first example of apostolic giving, where money was given to the apostles for them to distribute to those in need. This was the type of giving mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 when he reminded the Church at Corinth as he did the other Churches about the offering being collected to help the Christians who were suffering in Jerusalem, many of whom had lost everything. Another example of apostolic giving is found in Philippians 4:10-20 where Paul himself is being supported by an offering.
The 4th type of giving we see exampled is Alms giving. In Acts 3:2 we see a beggar asking for financial help, or alms. In Acts 10:2-4 & 31, Cornelius’ gifts to the poor were noticed by God. In Acts 24 when Paul is giving an account of himself before Felix the Governor, Paul mentioned that he came with alms to aid people that were in need.
The 5th type of giving that we see exampled in the Old and New Testament is not a specific but a general lifestyle of generosity which in essence encompasses all the previous 4 types of giving I’ve already mentioned. In the book of Acts we see radical examples of people giving; people selling houses and properties to give in the form of an offering for various needs.
In our day and age, I’ve rarely seen a person who struggles with the idea of giving 10% of all their gross income (before tax), give anything that comes close to this radical example. What I have seen, unfortunately, is people who have not made God, the Lord of their finances – use “tithing is under the Law” – as their excuse for not being responsible in their local house of worship. In the majority of cases it was because of overspending and the result of the pressure of debt that causes people this mental struggle with regards to giving. It other cases it is a poverty mentality caused from a fear of lack that says, “I won’t have enough if I give”. It’s really a shame that many pastors have to struggle financially (many taking multiple side jobs) because people in local churches do not understand that Scripture gives us a clear pattern of how to support those who minister in the local church, through tithes.
The ideal is for every church and every believer that tithes support ministry staff (in their own local church body) and everything else including buildings, hydro etc. be supported through offerings. On top of the other two, every believer through their local church should lay offerings at the feet of those who function in an apostolic role in their lives for the furtherance of the Gospel internationally and for the support of those in desperate need. If a church (and believer) is doing all 4 already, it is safe to assume that they are being generous in every area of their life with the other resources we aren’t even touching on. Including everything they are a steward over… their time, their talent and their treasure.
On another note, the principal of “seed time and harvest” is evidenced from Genesis to Revelation and is something that applies to this area of our finances. There should be an expectation in our heart as a good steward that if we sow we will reap, in some cases 100 fold return. But what I have seen is that many people have given with the wrong motivation. They’ve not given out of relationship with God, out of love for Him or because they simply trust Him but they’ve given with the motivation to get something in return. They’ve put the cart before the horse. Matthew 6:33 says we need to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing things and being right) and then all these other things, the stuff we need – that we worry about, will be met. The motivation can’t be reward… the motivation has to be relationship!
The reality is, Paul the apostle spent a lot of time teaching on this principal of seed time and harvest in relation to our finances. There were times when serving the King (God) he found himself with little and there were times when he found himself with much. He learned in any and every circumstance to be content with the things that he had. His motivation was based on relationship and not on reward. Where many Christians get frustrated today is because they don’t understand that there are seasons in seed time and harvest. In some seasons they will plant and in some seasons they will reap. In the seasons where they have to plant, they have to be careful to not eat their seed. When you really get this ball rolling, the reaping and planting begin to overlap each other to the point where you are always sowing and always reaping. Blessed to be a blessing. Prosperity for a purpose.
The ideal is our motivation be correct like when Paul challenged the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 9:6-15, specifically in verse 7, which is an apostolic giving moment. Paul teaches us that each one of us should give as we purpose in our own heart, not grudgingly, sorrowfully or under compulsion, for God loves (He takes pleasure in, prizes above other things, and is unwilling to abandon or to do without) a cheerful (joy-filled) giver. This is where Grace comes in our giving. This Grace in giving can be applied to all 5 areas. Many Christians have been left with a sour taste in their mouths because tithes and offerings – which should be received in Grace – have been received under compulsion, out of necessity or desperation.
So if you find yourself in the place where you are giving grudgingly or out of necessity or not giving at all… or according to the Biblical pattern, then you need to meditate on these Scriptures (and others) until your mind is renewed and you are transformed in your thinking. Often our lack in the area of generosity is a sign of bigger problems in our relationship with God and also in our relationships with those in our church family.
God wants you to get to the place where you can trust your heavenly Father in this area of your finances of which He talks more about than He does about heaven or hell combined.
Other articles on this topic I’ve written and shared:
Money Money Money. What God has to say about it!
The Path from Poverty to Wealth | A True Life Lesson
Very interesting stuff and helpful. I would like to question the part about the tithe being supported in the new testament. The only example you gave is actually still an old covenant example, Jesus was teaching the law when he upholds tithing (like he taught many other laws, so the law could accomplish it’s purpose in convicting people, especially self-righteous people, of sin in preparation for recieving a saviour). So while I don’t have a problem teaching tithing according to faith such as Abraham did, I can’t find a new covenant example of it (doesn’t mean there isn’t one I haven’t looked too hard yet). I believe if we teach people about giving and how to walk by the Spirit then he will put desires to give in us and motivate us to share and give joyfully. So the teaching you’re talking about here is very helpful and in the hands of the Spirit, very powerful!
Also your point about giving out of relationship is very good. Often our lack in the area of genorosity is a sign of bigger problems in our relationship with God and also in our relationships with those in our church family.
Thanks Julie, let me unpack this a bit more. You’re right, the Law was fulfilled and abolished but remember that this wasn’t part of the Law, tithing predates it by 400 years, it was part of the covenant of Faith that Abram/Abraham and we both operate in today. Tithing was part of that covenantal interaction between God and Abram.
Also remember that this pattern of support was in operation for thousands of years including before the Law so when there isn’t contrary Scripture in the New Testament or any type of contrary teaching recorded – it’s safe to assume that this should be carried on by the New Testament believers, after all elders who do their job well are worthy of “double honour”.
There were certain types of sacrificial offerings that were connected with the Law which are no longer valid in the New Covenant times we’re living in, but the practice of tithing is not connected with the Law.
The pattern of creation isn’t repeated in the New Testament but we still believe it and teach it. The promise that God made to Noah to never flood the Earth again still stands today. The promises that God made to Abraham, that all the nations would be blessed through him, are still in operation today and we inherit it today as children of God. These were all things that predated the Law and things that continue today. These are things we can all agree… are fabulous and I’m sure we’re all greatful for. Every principal and promise that were established before the Law still live on in our lives in the here and now, including the principal of tithing.
It’s easier to understand when you place it outside of the Law.
Are you saying that tithing is not also in the Law of Moses? Having trouble understanding what you’re saying in the beginning of your comment, probably just me as my head is spinning from kid drama…
I agree that we can tithe as Abraham did, and also that those who minister full-time in the church are worth paying! (However it is important to note that Abraham also practiced circumcision as part of the same covenant and circumcision is expressly taught against in Galatians, for spiritual purposes that is) I just don’t agree that any giving should be mandatory by any kind of law or regulation, but should be Spirit led. I think the Spirit can and does lead us to give faithfully and regularly, even set percentages such as the tithe, and also more spontaneous gifts to the church as a whole or as individuals, or to unbelievers etc…
Hope I’m making sense, enjoying the discussion and look forward to reading the upcoming book!
Yes you’re right circumcision is taught against in Galatians – for salvation – but it is silent on the issue of tithing (which has always been a minimum of a 10th because the word ‘tithe’ literally means 10%).
I’m just saying that it didn’t originate in the Law and those who use “we’re under grace” as an excuse not to give, don’t have a foundation to do so. Under the Law of Moses they were actually made to give 25%…
We would never make anyone pay their tithes – or tell anyone they “must or else” but we’d hope they’d have the revelation that God is only trying to get something to them – not take something away.
Always and forever is the ideal that we give out of a cheerful heart, not because we have to but because we want to. Because we see value in supporting our local leaders, in giving alms to the poor, in supporting the apostolic gifting and because of this we want to give.
We should definitely ask God what we need to give and it should always be a spirit-led issue… more times than not… He’s asked me to give more than I planned on! 🙂
Giving to the Lord is a generous, spontaneous and joyful act in response to the Grace that God has done in our hearts. It is a privilege and a wonderful continuation of our worship.
Didn’t God set aside a specific part of the garden of Eden for himself, ( tree of knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life ) and give control of the rest to Adam and Eve? HE set the example for us before any law took effect or any human actions were made. Because of this, wouldn’t setting aside the best as HE did not transcend Old and New Testament?
Increase your tent – could that mean your sphere of influence? Publish these annointed words…
Amen Max! I totally believe that – thanks for adding to the discussion.
This is the best teaching on tithing I have heard yet! Thanks
A lot of people don’t like to hear preaching/teaching about money but I believe it is a heart and trust issue
Thanks Amanda, my hubby’s been working on it steady for the past 6 months for the book, gathering information, studying the Greek and Hebrew and a lot of time in prayer.
people tend to get upset about all this talk about finances coming from the pulpit. Yet, one of the major problems in lives are finances. Many believe we are blessed to be poor or at least not rich, or just to have enough to get ourselves by. They will take on extra jobs trying to make enough to pay the bills. They feel proud because they believe they are working hard to provide for their family while at the same time depriving the family of valuable time together, even missing church and important occassions because they have to work. (I know this too well because that was me years ago) When the revelation of Seed time and harvest hit home in my heart and head – things changed. What comes out of our pocketbook is important BUT what comes out of our mouth is vital. Combine an object, our confession and planting as we purpose with our heart will move you out of POOR AlLEY into BLESSED STREET. We are experiencing this blessed life. The Bible is full of teachings on finances. Dig in and you will find wealth.
Absolutely for sure, good stuff Dad. Watering our seed is just as important as planting it in the first place. Our words can bring life or death to our lives, including to our seed.
Happy Easter…tell the kids Auntie Lala loves them!
It's been a while since I wrote this post…. I thought I'd reintroduce it as the topic seems to always be on the forefront with those in the church.
There are other Scriptures that I found to add to this post and to answer other questions that have come about on what to pay a Pastor and where does the money come from?
I added the Greek or Hebrew words to show it's real meaning. The first one I briefly talked about in the post…
1 Timothy 5:17-18, “Let the elders (presbyteros = term of rank or office) who perform the duties of their office well be considered doubly (diplous = twofold, double. From the root words, dis = twice and pleiōn = greater in quantity) worthy of honor [and of adequate financial support] (timē = a valuing by which the price is fixed. From the root word tinō = to pay, to recompense, reward), especially those who labor faithfully in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, You shall not muzzle (Chacam = to stop up) an ox when it is treading out the grain, and again, The laborer is worthy of his hire.” (Amplified)
The Scripture verses before and behind this one deal with finances in taking care of people. How to take care of widows, your family and Elders in the Church. To take care of them well.
Those two verses are related to and taken from content within the following Scripture verses.
Deuteronomy 25:4, “You shall not muzzle (Chacam = to stop up) the ox when he treads out the grain.”
Luke 10:7, “And stay on in the same house (oikia = an inhabited edifice, a dwelling – from the root word oikos = the house of God, the tabernacle) eating (esthiō = to consume) and drinking (pinō = what serves to refresh, strengthen) what they provide, for the laborer is worthy of his wages (misthos = dues paid for work, reward). Do not keep moving from house to house (church to church).” (Amplified)
And then there are:
1 Corinthians 9:14, “[On the same principle] the Lord directed that those who publish the good news (the Gospel) should live (get their maintenance) by the Gospel.” (Amplified)
1 Corinthians 16:1-2, “NOW CONCERNING the money contributed for [the relief of] the saints (God's people): you are to do the same as I directed the churches of Galatia to do. On the first [day] of each week, let each one of you [personally] put aside something and save it up as he has prospered [in proportion to what he is given], so that no collections will need to be taken after I come.” (Amplified)
Now none of those verses say a specific amount to pay the Elders and those who work in the Church, all we know for sure is that those who were of that House, brought a tenth to that House. 100% of that tithe (a tenth) stayed within the House for taking care of the priests, etc.
The New Testament continually tells us that an Elder is worth double. The question is, "Double what?" Double the tithe?? I don't know but I do know that it means — paid well!
That makes me think of my job and what I make or am willing to work for or am worth being paid for what I do.
What would you consider, for yourself – in your job, to be a worthy wage? Is it double that for an Elder? I do not know, but in the very least, it is a minimum of the tithe (a tenth), which is the very most minimal amount God talks about over and over again.
All questions are good but what is most important is the motivation behind the questions. Questions from a humble heart are always a good thing, restoration and revelation happens way more often that way. 🙂
Regarding a Pastor's wage…
Dh doesn't work a secular job, but the amount he makes with a family of 5 to support has not allowed us to get ahead either. Saving for the future is almost non-existent. Putting something aside for our kids future? Near impossible.
I have been subbing to "keep us afloat". Now, many families in this day and age have 2 working parents. We have been blessed to be able to allow me to stay at home thus far. But, the plan is that I will go back to work next year. I'm sad, but glad I've had this long with my kids. Sadly, my 20+ volunteer hours at the church will have to come to an end too.
The church just cannot afford to give us a much needed raise. Dh is intending to ask for an extra weeks holiday for next year.
Dh refs football for two months straight and is looking into reffing wrestling during the winter months to supplement. I never worked outside the home until he moved into full-time ministry. It had to be done…raising 4 kids on his salary was impossible.
We've never been able to save for anything… including our childrens' college. This last year was the first time in 30 years we were able to save any money… empty nest… no college to help with.