I've previously written a series of posts called "Freed from Tithing, Free to Give," and I also recorded it as an audio and video series, so what I'm sharing here is nothing new as far as my thoughts on tithing go, but I just thought I'd write this quick post about why I don't like using the word "tithe" in the church.
The convictions that I'm sharing here have been arrived at through my own sense of compassion for the church as I've studied tithing and giving and as I've seen how people have reacted and responded to various church teachings on all this.
I'll start out by saying that words do mean things. They are important. "Tithe" means one tenth, and so when someone says "tithe" in the church today, it connotes the meaning of giving ten percent of one's income to a church. I am dead set against that entire idea, and I'll explain why.
Back under the Old Covenant, and specifically at the time during the Old Covenant when the Levite system was set up, the Levites had no land to produce crops and no animals for food either. They were, in fact, forbidden to work the land and to raise cattle, etc. And so in that particular economy, God set it up so that the other eleven tribes would provide food for the Levites. That's the only reason "tithes" were given. Ten percent wasn't some "standard" that God had come up with for giving. It was essentially a calculated amount by which the eleven tribes would provide food for the twelfth tribe. The Levites also tithed a tenth of the tithes they received to the priests (a tenth of a tenth), and eventually a portion of the tithes (food) was also portioned out to provide for widows, orphans and strangers. It was a great setup for that particular system.
But here's the thing. The Israelites also had money and other possessions. They earned money, they spent money, they lent and borrowed money, they traded possessions, they redeemed people and possessions with money, and so on. But they were never commanded to tithe of their money! So if we look at how much the Jews really "tithed," including their money, they actually gave less than 10%. That's not to say that they never gave their money to help others. But they were never commanded to tithe of their money. Again, the tithes were food, set up to provide for the Levites, who were commanded to not work the fields for their own food. The point being, that God never set up "a tenth" as any kind of blanket standard for giving. Even Abraham's tithe to Melchizedek had nothing to do with money or income, but rather was a one-time tithe from the spoils of war. It had nothing to do with some "standard of giving" that God was supposedly setting up.
And so today it's not as if God is saying, "Hey Christians, look, see, I had the Israelites tithe ten percent, and so now you are under grace and so you should give much more!" Again, ten percent is not some magical number or some standard of giving that God set up. The church today is so very different from the Levitical system. SO very different! It's not a matter of eleven tribes providing for a twelfth tribe. We are now one body who supports and provides for one another (ideally). We don't have any certain amount of people setting aside food for another certain amount of people. It's a completely different way of life.
In the church today, we have individuals and families who make all kinds of different amounts of money and have all kinds of different amounts of expenses. There is no way to have a blanket "ten percent" as a standard for giving, even under grace. Take, for example, two families who earn $35,000 per year. One family had their house and vehicles given to them. They have two young kids who so far are relatively inexpensive to raise. They have no medical bills or other expenses that put them over the top. On the other hand, the other family has a mortgage payment and car payments. They have a teenager who is eating them out of house and home! They have two kids in college (not cheap!) and one who is getting married. They have medical bills piling up and house maintenance and repairs to keep up with.
You get the point, I hope. This example shows how extremely different our circumstances can be. It's a horrible, horrible thing (in my humble view) to tell everyone that since the Israelites gave 10%, then that's the very least we should do. It just doesn't work that way! It's true, I'm sure, that there are people who really could give more to provide for the needs of others. I would hope that they would step up and help others out in big ways!
But at the same time, I know people who are struggling to try to come up with ten percent of their income to give "to a church," and there are those who feel guilty because they simply cannot do it. And so my point here is that not only should they not be struggling to try to give what they cannot give, nor feel guilty for not being able to do it (and not told that 10% is the least that they should give), but in a caring church environment, with people who care for the needs of people, they should really be the recipients of the giving of other people.
My point here is that I really do not like the use of the word "tithe" because it means ten percent, and it's simply not a possibility for everyone to do that. Christian giving is simply giving cheerfully whatever a person is able to give, as they decide in their heart to give. There is no blanket amount or percentage that should be used, in my opinion, as I look across the vast array of people and families in the church today. No one should ever feel pressured by an amount or percentage, nor be pressured to give at all.
Again, I have a lot of compassion for people, as I've been in the church all my life and have seen so many people struggle with this "tithe" thing. It need not be, and so my ongoing goal is to help to free people from the "tithe."