How Much Should I Tithe?
The word "tithe" means "one-tenth." A common question that I've heard all throughout my Christian life is, "Should Christians tithe off of their gross income or net income?" Please excuse my incredulity, but come on! - The whole basis of the question is wrong! It assumes that "tithing" is for Christians, and that it has to do with money! Let's begin, through the scriptures, to put those ideas to death. I do want to point out as we get into this that I am differentiating between "giving" and "tithing." "Giving" is part of the Christian's new nature, and is done through grace - just like the rest of the Christian life. Unlike the 10% tithe, "giving" has nothing to do with a set amount or a legally prescribed amount, but rather has much more to do with a cheerful heart that truly desires to give. Christian giving is by no means limited to money, but may involve the giving of possessions, time, talents, services and other resources. Tithing, however, is a completely different story.
More Than One Tithe
It may come as a surprise to many people that Malachi 3 is really only a small portion of the scriptures that talk about tithing. Did you know that? Judging by all the tithing teachings that I've heard in my life, you'd think that Malachi 3 was "IT" when it comes to the teaching of tithing!
Notice the Malachi passage says "bring all the tithes (plural) into the storehouse." What tithes? And what storehouse? It seems the modern church is ignorant about all this (doesn't really have a clue what this really means) - and in fact has, in its ignorance, turned the Malachi passage into something that it is not! However, Israel - the actual people to whom the laws were given - knew exactly what was meant. Under the system of law that they lived in, many instructions had been given in regards to various tithes, and each tithe had various purposes. As we go through them, take note as to whether or not any of them had to do with income or paychecks - or money in any way! Also take note as to the frequency of each tithe (weekly? monthly? yearly? every three years? etc). And take note as to where the tithes were taken to, and how they were distributed and used. And finally, take note as to whether the people had a free choice on whether to tithe or not! (In other words, could they decide in their hearts to give cheerfully, or did they have to give).
Abram's Voluntary Tithe
The first mention of a "tithe" in the Bible is in Genesis 14, and it actually wasn't a legally prescribed tithe, but rather a voluntary one. I'll summarize the story, but make sure you read the story for yourself. Again, it's found in Genesis 14. It's a quick and easy read! In short, a handful of kings had gone to war against another handful of kings. During one battle Abram's nephew, Lot, was captured, along with his goods. So Abram planned and executed an attack, and was able to bring back Lot and all of the goods that had been taken. Then Melchizedek king of Salem blessed Abram, and Abram "gave him a tithe of all."
I don't know how many times I've heard this story used to teach the "principle" of tithing. I've heard it said that it was through "Abraham, the father of our faith," that the principle of tithing was introduced, and so we can follow Abraham's actions as an example of the principle of tithing since we're his children by faith. Well, remember - Abram's tithe was a one-time tithe! It wasn't something Abraham continued to do, nor did it have anything to do with his salary or employment earnings. He won back the goods that had been taken from his people, and he offered a tenth of it to Melchizedek. It's that simple.
Tithing Not a "Type" for New Covenant Giving
This one-time tithe of Abram was never meant to be used to promote or teach a principle of tithing or giving in the New Covenant church. In fact the writer of Hebrews gleans something out of this story that does have to do with the New Covenant, but it has absolutely nothing to do with Christian givng! You perhaps know that many things in the Old Covenant are "types and shadows" of the "substance" of the New Covenant. It seems that many Christians reckon Old Covenant "tithing," and the Old Covenant "storehouse" as a type and shadow of Christians giving money to a church. But nothing could be further from the truth!
The book of Hebrews is the only place in the New Testament where we find "tithing" represented as a "type." In Hebrews 7, Abram's tithe to Melchizedek is used to show the need for something greater than the Levitical priesthood (i.e. the need for perfection through the priesthood of Jesus). It says, "Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him." If you read all of Hebrews 7, you'll see that the whole point of Abram's tithe being brought up has nothing to do with Christians following some principle of tithing, but it has everything to do with showing how the Levitical priesthood was not the way in which perfection was to come about! More on this in Part 7. The point here is that Abram's tithe is not used in the New Testament as an example of Christian giving.
Abram's tithe was given out of abundance and out of thanksgiving, not out of sacrifice or obligation. It wasn't given as a result of being "convicted" by a sermon on "giving." It wasn't given to a local church or congregation of people of faith. It wasn't given to help a given cause. It wasn't given to pay a salary to Melchizedek or his "staff," nor to pay for building costs or church programs. It also had nothing to do with a principle of sowing so that he could reap. It was simply a voluntary one-time offering. Let's please take it for what it was, and not make it into something that it wasn't!
Jacob's Voluntary Tithe
In Genesis 28:22, Jacob said to God, "of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to you." This, again, was a voluntary tithe, and it was only one man. Jacob said this of himself. All of the rest of the people didn't make this same pledge. I don't know of any other examples of the voluntary giving of a tenth. There could be more but I don't know of any. (If you know of any, please let me know). The thing I want to point out is that there is hardly enough evidence, in my opinion, to conclude - or even to merely suggest - that tithing (giving a tenth) was ever meant to be a normal part of the lives of people of faith. It's conjecture at best, with a stark absence of other examples of voluntary tithing in the lives of the Old Testament saints.
We do see plenty of examples of giving all throughout the Bible! Giving is done by all sorts of people in all sorts of ways and in all sorts of sizes and amounts. Giving is done in corporate ways and in ways that are much more personal. (More on this in Parts 9 and 10). But to me there seems to be an underwhelming amount of evidence that would support the idea of tithing (giving a tenth) as a principle in the lives of believers.
Part 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10