Did you know that Christians are never commanded to tithe? This is something that religious leaders would never want you to know but Christians are not required to give a specific percentage of anything to the church. We are free to allow the Holy Spirit lead us in the amounts we should give, when we should give, and who we should give to. All of everything we have belongs to God and as his stewards (managers) we are free to give what we have purposed in our hearts to give; not grudgingly, or of necessity (2 Corinthians 9:7). The term “of necessity” refers to someone being compelled by a rule or regulation like the law of tithing. When this verse is quoted, it is usually out of context. Paul wrote this to encourage saints in Corinth to give to the poor saints in Jerusalem, not to cover the church building mortgage.
In Philippians, the church is commended for giving towards Paul’s ministry expenses as a missionary, which would have included travel, lodging, food, and clothing, not for building a huge sanctuary or ministry complex for the glory of a man or a congregation. Furthermore, Paul calls the gift of the Corinthians a “grace” (see 2 Corinthians 8:1-7, KJV). If something is done by the law, then it ceases to be grace, whether it’s circumcision, tithing, keeping the Sabbath, etc.–
“For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” (Galatians 5:3-4)
Unfortunately, too many modern day believers have supposed that gain is godliness when, in fact, godliness with contentment (over what you already have) is great gain (1 Timothy 6:5, 6). This mentality has been accepted by church leaders, so in order to get the luxuries they covet for their ministries, they use the tithe as a way to tax and spend.
“And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” (1 Timothy 6:8). God will provide what we may lack in his own time without attempts to manipulate people by using the tithe.
Why did Jesus talk about tithing?–
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.” (Matthew 23:23-24)
Jesus was speaking to religious leaders who sought to justify themselves by the law. He was pointing out how they fell short, because if one attempts to fulfill the law, offending in one point is equivalent to breaking the whole law (James 2:10). Jesus also told the parable of the Pharisee (who bragged about tithing) and the tax collector to illustrate that one cannot be justified before God by the works of the law (Luke 18:9-14). Additionally, Jesus had not died yet, so the Mosaic law was still in effect for the Jews. If Christ had wanted tithing to continue for the New Testament church, the apostles would have repeated it in their writings as they did for Christ’s other commandments. Christ fulfilled the law for us so we wouldn’t have to. Paul did not even mention tithes in 1 Corinthians 9 when he discussed the rights of apostles and others who work in the ministry to receive financial benefits from other saints.
What about Abraham and Jacob who lived before the law and paid tithes? Yes, they tithed, but it was of their own freewill, not by commandment of God. Abraham did not tithe of his personal possessions, but of the spoils of war once his whole life (see Genesis 14:5-20). Jacob tithed to fulfill a vow he made to the Lord. If we use the argument that tithes preceded the law as its validation, then what about the sabbath (Saturday) or circumcision? They preceded the law also, yet we have no obligation to keep them. This is proven by the apostles’ writings when they refer to these practices as works of the law (see Acts 15:22-29 and Colossians 2:16).
Christ said several times he desired mercy rather than sacrifice (Matthew 9:13, 12:7) if the choice had to be made between fulfilling a law or meeting a person’s needs. When it came to giving to the temple, he blasted the religious leaders’ tradition of encouraging people to give instead of meeting the needs of family members (Mark 7:11-13). If the choice has to be made between giving to the church or providing for one’s family, in spite of what law or tradition might say, charity must begin at home because “if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” (1 Timothy 5:8)
There have been times in my own life when I had to withhold giving to the church to meet the needs of family members. I gave it freely because I had it and afterwards had nothing left for the church. After helping out my family, do you think I worried about what I would give in church? No way, because I knew God was aware of my situation. As a matter of fact, I believe God prompted my relatives to ask me for money and prompted me to give it to them freely.
What about Malachi 3, the oft-quoted robbing God scripture? Malachi was speaking to Levites who were neglecting their duties in temple worship and its upkeep. God told them in Malachi 3:3 that he would purge them so their sacrifices would be pleasant. They were causing the whole nation of Judah to suffer because of their irresponsibility. The Levites were responsible for placing the tenth of the people’s tithes into the storehouse (see Nehemiah 10:38), but they kept it for themselves.
The days of Levites being in charge of worship and upkeep of a physical temple are over. All Christians are God’s temple (“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” [1 Corinthians 3:16]) and his royal priesthood (“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people” [1 Peter 2:9]). Therefore, commandments about religious routines given to Levi under the old law don’t apply to us. Our new covenant with God is better than the old one. The book of Hebrews discusses this fact thoroughly.
In summary, God has given us the freedom to use the resources he entrusts to us in any responsible way we see fit. Whether or not we give 10% of our earnings (gross or net) to the church is up to us. God has not obligated us to tithe. We are free to give more than 10% or less than 10%. We can give to our local church body or to a neighbor in need. We can give an amount one time per year or every week. However God moves us, that’s what we should do.
–Harry A. Gaylord–