Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Is Tithing 10% of Your Income Biblical?

Ah, yet another controversial topic! I have to say when I first studied this, I was shocked. So, here we go! Ready? There is not one instance of Christians tithing in the New Testament. Yes they gave money and possessions to help other Christians and the poor. Yes, they took collections for special needs. But nowhere do you see a mandate to tithe 10% of their income. Giving was strictly voluntary and was used to support other believers, apostolic workers, and to plant churches.

The tithe originated in the Old Testament with the Israelites. God instituted three kinds of tithes as part of their country's taxation system.  They tithed of the produce of the land to support the Levites. They tithed of the produce of the land to sponsor religious festivals. They tithed of the produce of the land every third year for the local Levites, orphans, strangers, and widows.  Therefore they gave a portion of their income or produce to support their national workers (priests), their national holidays, and their poor. Most modern tax systems today serve the same purpose. So, essentially, it was a country governmental income tax.

However with the death and resurrection of Jesus, all these laws and ceremonies became null and void.  So how did the concept of tithing become such a part of the modern Christian church? It had much to do with the move from homes into church buildings and the creation of a pastor and clergy who run the church. These men had to be paid, after all! And what about all the expense and upkeep of the church building? Somewhere around the 4th century, Christian church leaders began to advocate tithing as a practice to support the clergy. However it didn't become widespread until the 8th century.  Interestingly enough, the concept of tithing didn't originate with the Old Testament but rather with the early European economy. The use of a 10% tithe was used to calculate payments to landlords. Yet as the church grew and began to acquire more land, it picked up this common practice of 10% rent. By the 10th century, tithing to support the church became a legal requirement

Although the tithe is not a requirement in most churches today, some do require a person to be a regular tither if they want to serve.  Often it's the poor who suffer as they try to come up with enough money to please God, all the while fearing His wrath if they don't. How many times have you heard that the more you give, the more God will bless you? That sort of doctrine is rampant in today's churches. It makes God into a stock investor. We give him our money and He makes it multiply and gives it back to us! Yet is that true? Is it even Biblical?  What about the poor widow Jesus talks about in Luke 21 who gave only two small coins, but who gave cheerfully from her heart all that she had? This is God's idea of giving. Not that we have to give everything we have, but that we give voluntarily and with gladness! And without any expectation of return.

Many of the elders and apostles of the first century had an earthly vocation and didn't receive a regular wage, although Scripture does indicate that those who work full time for the church should be paid. But we have turned church into a corporation with a staff of people who need salaries, from the pastor to the secretary to the gardener, accountant, janitor, etc.  This is not what God had in mind.  In fact, when a church functions as it should, a professional clergy becomes unnecessary. A building is unnecessary. And therefore support of both by Christians becomes unnecessary and only a full time evangelist or missionary would need to be supported. Imagine how much good Christians could do if they gave to the poor and needy instead of to a new building fund or to support a pastor?

(Taken from Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna)


  1. Tues July 17th,
    "Morning, MaryLu."
    Well ... for "once", I am a tad speechless. Today's blog came as a surprise to me, and surely thought-provoking.
    I have always believed that: the first 10% of our earnings was to go to tithing. (And do you think I can now find the verse that says this ... uhhhh, that would be a 'no'.) I am in a Church that believes in and expects tithing to happen, and quite truthfully ... I am finding it a struggle.
    What you have shared is 'food for thought', no doubt about it. But, at the same time, it has 'caught me off guard' (so to speak), and I don't know what to say.
    Thanks for sharing this MaryLu ...
    I'll be intersted to hear/read what others say, too.
    I've been questioning some things going on in 'Church today', for some time now ... and finding I am becoming more disgruntled, unsatisfied, and disillusioned, as time goes by.
    For now ... I remain: "Witless in Welland" .... (or at least ... that is 'how I feel').
    Take care, and, God Bless,
    In Him, Brenda Hurley

  2. I wrote this once and it all disappeared. Here's take 2.
    I believe you have to be very careful when you base today's church solely off of what the 1st century church did. Times have changed and it's okay the church has changed too. I do believe you have to base church off what the Bible says and you need to be careful when you infer something just because it's not mentioned in Scripture. Does the New Testament say to tithe 10%? No. Does it say not to? No. In reality you should probably give beyond that. The poor widow gave all she had, but that doesn't mean you have to give everything. But you do have to be willing to give everything if that's what God asks of you. Ask the Lord how much He wants you to give and be glad when you do so. He will bless you. Maybe not with money, but he will bless you somehow. That's a promise.
    As for the elders and apostles not getting paid in the 1st century, that's not really true. At least not according to Scripture. In 1 Corinthians 9:14 it says that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. That means the church should support them. In 1 Timothy 5:17 it talks about elders getting a double portion if they preach or teach. That means...pastors get paid. And Paul is the one who said this. Paul didn't want to be paid and he supported himself with tent making, but he absolutely said pastors should be paid. That means, according to Scripture, the church should be supporting the church leaders.
    Do I believe a church should require you to tithe? No. Do I believe a church should expect it? Yes. At least if the church believes in Scripture. Each person should give how they feel led, but know what the Scriptures say first. Don't just believe me because I said it. Please look it up and be led by the Holy Spirit.

  3. Tithing is biblical ... but not 'christian'.
    Tithing is a good example of how the organized church has picked up a grain of sand, and declared it a desert.
    As believers, we can't focus in on a specific line without understanding the whole story.
    Everything must be measured against the finished work of Jesus.
    - Scott

  4. Yes, Brenda, this caught me off guard as well.. but I've read it in two different Christian books now and have searched Scripture and must say I agree with this. Too often we just go along with what our church has always done without stopping to think whether something is really from God or not? or is it merely tradition? And you certainly aren't Witless!! It's good to question things. Read the Bible and seek the Holy Spirit's wisdom.

    Kacie, I hate that when my entire post disappears! Sorry you had to write it twice. I knew this post would set some people off. Please know I took this info from a book called Pagan Christianity which I'm reading right now.
    I'm sorry if I inferred that church leaders weren't paid in the NT church. As you aptly pointed out, yes some were. What I meant was they didn't do church like a business as we do today with a building and an entire salaried staff. I don't believe this is Biblical. (Please see my other posts on this) Or better yet, I encourage you to get the book, Pagan Christianity. IT explains it much better than I can. The entire series is about how most of our church traditions have come from pagan practices. It's rather eye-opening! Anyway, I completely agree with you that each person should give how they are led. Jesus commands us to give to others out of love.. to help the poor and needy, the widows and orphans, and of course to support the full time teachers and evangelists of the church. but nowhere are we required to give a certain percentage.

    As Scott says, it's all about the finished work of Jesus. We are under grace. The church is still trying to exist under the law.

  5. While I think the "church" has over-stepped its bounds on some things, I found a few things in the NT which refute this article.

    Matthew 23:23(NLT)23 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things."

    The same thing is said in Luke 11:42.

    In both instances, they are the words of Jesus. Why would he admonish the Pharisees to do something he would make "null and void" in a few short years?

    If you move to Hebrews 7, you'll see that Abraham paid a tithe to Melchizedek--BEFORE the law was establish. So even if the LAW is "null and void", tithing is not exclusive to the law.

    Just like the pain of labor(for a woman) and working the land (for a man) was not abolished with the death of Jesus (oh, how I wish it had been), neither do I believe tithing was abolished then either.

    Now...all of this is MY interpretation of the Scriptures and I can testify that giving, joyfully, my 10% has reaped untold benefits, though not all of them have been monetary.

    I believe God's if/then statements of the OT apply to us today. IF we obey, THEN he will bless us (and I'm no longer speaking specifically about tithing).

    God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I think it's arrogance on our parts to choose which things he stays the same on and which things he changed his opinion on-unless it is SPECIFICALLY written in the Word (and not necessarily exclusive to our canonized version of the Bible).

    Okay, so I'm stepping down now. Please do not flame me. The above statements are my opinion (and probably not MaryLu's), but I wanted to show you a different perspective than that which was shown in this article.

  6. I just had this conversation with my adult daughter this morning. We've both just finished the Viola book.

    For myself, I do believe the tithe is a valid practice for Christians, based on the scriptures Ginger mentioned in the gospels and in Hebrews, as well as a couple others in Paul's letters. However, I don't think it should be "mandatory" and I shudder at the idea of churches sending out invoices at the end of the year for estimated tithes.

    What does the tithe accomplish? If nothing else, it keeps me in a constant position of acknowledging God as my source, not my job, not my deeds, not ME. In other words, it points my faith in the right direction. (On a side note, tithing opened up some miraculous doors of provision in our lives... because we were giving 10%, or because we were giving in faith, I can't say.)

    At the same time, I wonder where the best place for my tithe is? Is it the orphanage in South America, or the cushy pastoral salary at my local church? Is it the televangelist, or the family down the street struggling to pay the light bill?

    Thanks, MaryLu, for being bold enough to ask these questions in a public forum. I believe these are things we need to examine as followers of Christ.

  7. Hi Ginger! Thanks for coming by! I promise no flaming!! I've never been good at it anyway. I love these great discussions. It really helps to hear everyone's viewpoints. I can answer a couple of your objections.. only because I read the book from which this post came from.
    The Tithing Jesus spoke about in Matthew and in Luke refer to the Old Testament way of tithing which would be abolished after Jesus created the new covenant with His death and resurrection.

    And the tithing to Melchizedek was only a one time tithe from Abraham and was never mentioned again. It was not something he did regularly or something that came from his income. It actually came from the spoils of war, which at that time was customary to tithe 10%.

    Yes, God is the same. He never changes. But He does change His covenants with us. When the New Covenant came into effect, the Old went out, otherwise we would still be sacrificing animals on the altar and stoning adulterers and not eating shellfish. :-)

    The New Covenant is Jesus. It's not Jesus plus some rules. It's just receiving Him, knowing Him and following Him.

    Having said all that, I also tithe! And I agree, doing so has really blessed my family. And I don't think the writers of this book are saying don't tithe. I think they are saying don't make it a law that you follow, but rather something that your love for Jesus and the Holy Spirit lead you to do.

    Again, I appreciate all the comments here! It's a great discussion. Blessings!

  8. Thank you, Niki! I've often wondered the same thing. Where does God want me to put the money He has given me? Does He really want it to go to a building fund? Or wouldn't it do more good to feed some orphans somewhere or like you said, a family I know who needs some help. I guess that's a matter of prayer and trusting He will guide me.

    I don't believe it's the amount that matters to God.. but the condition of our heart, right? Are we giving till it hurts but doing so with a joyful heart? Or are we just giving the bare minimum and being grumpy about it. LOL.

    Anyway, thanks for your thoughts. :-)

  9. Wed July 18th,
    "Morning, MaryLu."
    Just wanted to add ... that I found the verse(s) I was talking about ... Malachi 3: 1-12 ....
    But starting here with Verse 8: "Will a man rob God ? Yet you rob Me. But you ask, 'How do we rob You?' In tithes and offerings." Verse 10: "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse (Church), that there may be food in My house. Test Me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of Heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it." Vs 11 - "I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit," says the Lord Almighty. Vs 12 - "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land," says the Lord Almighty.
    I still believe that tithing 10% (at the least) is Scriptural. Though I do understand what you were sharing yesterday.
    Take care, and, God Bless,
    In Him, Brenda Hurley

  10. Well said MaryLu. I sometimes wonder if people get tithing confused with giving though, as well. As far as I know, tithing was for a specific people (the Jews), for a specific reason (that which was taken care of and done with, in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ). Yes, we are to give - but I think it goes farther than money, and isn't necessarily for the pastor wages. We are to give from a Jesus heart - because it is a natural outflowing of our saved souls. We can give money gifts (ie. - for starving people in Africa and other mission-type things), we can give our time (ie. - the lady down the street had surgery and you offer to pick up her groceries or vaccuum her house); both of which come under the banner of LOVE, which is the principle message of the Gospel. From our love for Jesus, comes our love for others. You can't put a percentage on that. I think that's what Jesus really focused on teaching new believers, Jews, and non-Jews. The law was fulfilled in Him. Rules and regulations that had been passed on to the Jews, were no longer needed to be followed after Christ's resurrection. It was finished.
    I don't know ... just my thoughts.
    It's definately a topic that shakes people up, since it has beeen taught for so long to be one way. But, it's good to challenge the traditional (often human) view, and dig deeper to discover God's truths.
    Thanks MaryLu! :)

  11. Really this book being reviewed/summarized is pretty radical! The information on tithing isn't new to me, and I do not believe in legalistic percentages to the exclusion of the spirit and purpose of Christian giving. However, funny thing...it's often not the poor who object to Biblical giving, it's the quite-well-off of my generation who want to justify their selfishness and lack of commitment in a "spiritual" way.

    Why would anyone suggest that only evangelists or missionaries should be supported by the church? (And I AM a missionary!) How should a pastor live who gives his full time to caring for the flock? Sure, he could get a regular job and minister in the congregation just like anybody else, but that certainly would mean that he has a lot less time to give to people. My college age daughter is working as a summer intern in church ministry. Now I'd think it's great if she VOLUNTEERED to visit the widows of the church, but if she was flipping hamburgers at McDonald's she wouldn't have time to drink those ten cups of tea a day!

    And where do we propose to meet as a congregation if not in a church building or other facility (that obviously needs to be paid for)? Am I willing to open up MY home to EVERYONE EVERY week or even more often? Is anyone else? Believe me, I have done this, and joyfully, but...I wouldn't recommend it as a long-term solution. Just the things consumed, soiled, damaged, or stolen add up to a good chunk of a rent somewhere :)

    I know I sound like I'm on a rampage, haha! I'm all for back to the Bible, but in some areas I see practical reasons for the way things have developed in the church. No one should be made to feel obligated to give a certain amount, but there is nothing unscriptural about people committing together to pool their resources for the benefit of them all.

  12. Well, I certainly stirred a hornet's nest with this one! Wow.

    Brenda, the authors addressed that verse you mentioned. Again it comes from the Old Testament, old covenant tithing system where the people's tithes were used to support the Levites, the temple, and the poor and needy. That was abolished with the resurrection of Jesus.

    Caroline, thank you! I believe you summarized it perfectly. Under the new covenant, giving is not required but should come from a heart filled with God's love to help those in need!

    Diane, the book is only going through our modern church traditions and showing where they came from.. how we got them. They aren't suggesting any changes, but merely want to open our eyes to see that perhaps the way we are doing things may not be the Biblical way. Of course they are not suggesting we stop supporting our church leaders and staff! In the present modern church that would be horrible and like you said, suicide to so many Churches and charities.

    In their solution book (which I haven't read yet) I assume they will provide solutions to getting back to Biblical Christianity. I intended to read that and post those here, but now I'm not so sure. Maybe this is a topic some of you can research on your own, if interested. Radical? I think theses authors (and yours truly) merely want to be obedient to the Spirit of Christ. Whether that's to remain doing things the way we have been or to make drastic changes... I'm open to whatever the Lord wants.

    Anyway, I do appreciate all your thoughts and ideas.. and I apologize if these posts have ruffled some feathers. God Bless!

  13. The ONLY people in the Old Testament that were commanded to tithe were those who INHERITED THE PROMISED LAND WITH EVERYTHING ON IT. They got the land, house, animals, crops, etc. ALL FREE AND CLEAR. No mortgage payment or rent to pay. And THEY were commanded to tithe on the crops and animals and take it to the Levites who INHERITED the tithe INSTEAD OF the promised land with everything on it. No one else tithed. Wage earners did not tithe. Jesus did not tithe as a carpenter. Paul did not tithe as a tent maker. Peter did not tithe as a fisherman.

    God defined His tithe in Leviticus 27:30-33 to be a tenth from HIS increase of crops and animals. NOT money. NOT from anyone's income.

    No Christian Church ever taught anyone to tithe from their income before 1870.

  14. Thank you, Gary!! That helps a lot.

  15. You know, I've never read this book. In my opinion, no church should ever demand tithing. Attending a church service should not be a pay-as-you-go situation. I believe that if you are a member of your chuch, you should give whatever you can to help support that church. In my own life, I am unable to give any kind of monetary amount to my church right now, but I am able to continue to give of my time by teaching Sunday School. Giving isn't limited to money; our time is just as valuable and important. Any true Christ following church would allow it's members to follow God's leading in their hearts as to what to give. No one knows our hearts, but God, so I let Him be the one who demands what I give and how I give it, whether it be 10%(or more) of my money or my time. Great discussion, MaryLu.

  16. Wed July 18th,
    Hey again, MaryLu.
    Not to worry about me ... my feathers were not at all ruffled ... (just wanted you to know that). I appreciated hearing everyones' views, and was just sharing mine too. Just had never heard that perspective on tithing before ... it was certainly something to think about.
    Take care, and, God Bless,
    In Him, Brenda Hurley

  17. Chaplain.. well said! Thanks for joining in the discussion

    Brenda, I, too, appreciated everyone's views.. it's been really interesting. Have a great evening!

  18. The LAW was given to Moses to be shared with the Jewish people. It contains 613 commandments. By receiving the law, this set the Jewish people apart ... as the apple of His eye.
    The law was never intended for the gentiles.
    Tithing is part of the law.
    The law was a measuring stick ... something to show people their need for a Saviour by exposing sin.
    So even though the law itself is pure and holy ... trying to attain what the law commands is a waste of time ... as it is impossible.
    It was basically the Father telling man 'this is where you are to be'.
    It was to raise a bar to an unattainable level.
    So along comes Jesus, who seems to raise the bar even higher ... "even those who look at a woman commit adultery".
    But then Jesus does the unimaginable ... He removes the bar, says STOP TRYING (grace), and 'follow me'.
    He has ushered in a new covenant.
    We're now dead to the law (Gal. 2:19).
    We're not under the law (Rom 7:4).
    We're free from the law (Rom. 6:7).
    We're not supervised by the law (Gal. 3:25).
    We don't serve in the old way of the law (Rom. 7:6).
    We can live in the newness and freedom of the Spirit (Rom. 7:6; Gal. 5:13).
    The law wasn't fulfilled with Jesus birth ... it was fulfilled with his death and ressurection.
    This is why Jesus admonished the Pharisees to tithe - they were still under the law !
    Interesting story ... a few years ago, I emailed a Rabbi in Toronto and asked him if the Jewish people still tithe ?
    His answer ... there is NO tithing.
    The OT law of tithing was specific to who and how - for the Levites and stored in the Temple. Today, we have have neither (the priestly tribe of Levi is gone, and there is no temple). The Jewish people will not tithe if they cannot follow the law.
    If the Jewish people know the tithe is not required, why do the christians feel there should be one ?

  19. I've always said that if you can't sign your name to something ... maybe you should consider saying anything at all !
    On that note ... I forgot to sign my name to the previous comment !!!
    Sorry !!!
    - SCOTT :)

  20. Thank you, Scott! I kinda figured it was you. :-) I REALLY appreciate the time you took to type out all those facts. It really puts things into perspective and I hope everyone reads it. Nicely done. I particularly found it interesting that the Jews no longer tithe. but that makes sense when you think of it since there is not longer a temple or Levites.

  21. I have always thought it odd how some Christians today will quickly point the “but that’s in the OT, and we don't follow that” finger, but then will really push the 10% tithe. I haven’t read all the comments (normally I would, but I am really sleepy!), so I don’t know if anyone brought up the fact that in the OT, the tithe was more than 10% when you add up the three separate tithes they had to pay. Since the NT doesn’t give a command on this, I think it really is up to the individuals and families. We do see than in NT, the saints were very generous. And we have to remember that we are accountable to God for how we spend and give. That is my humble opinion on that matter!

    You are one brave woman for posting about anything to do with money and giving, MaryLu!

  22. Thank you Emma. I'm either brave or a complete fool!!

    You said it perfectly. We are accountable to God for how we spend and give. There's no law except Jesus loving the world through us!