The New Testament Tithe?

What is the NT Tithe? How much? Should we give according to the law or love?

This note is but a brief representation of what the Bible teaches about "tithing" vs. "giving." I am grateful for and highly recommend Dr. Russell Earl Kelly's, "Should the Church Teach Tithing? A Theologian's Conclusions about a Taboo Doctrine," Writers Club Press, (January 11, 2000) for a more complete study of this most important of biblical topics. Many of my thoughts below come from interacting with Dr. Kelly.

An important distinction needs to be made in regards to the Christians "giving" today. As we will briefly see below tithing was mandated for Israel when they lived in the Promised Land. There were essentially three tithes for Israel. This was the Law of the land. However, today the Church has expanded outside the borders of the Promised Land. Today the Church is no longer under the law (Rom 10:4; Gal 3:23-25; Eph 2:15; Col 2:14). Today the Christian should "give" out of love, not law. This distinction is important to uphold - as it is part of the Gospel once delivered to the saints (Jude^^nbsp^^1:3).

As John Owen once wrote:

I shall take leave to say, that it is no safe plea for many to insist on, that tithes are due and divine, as they speak,- that is, by a binding law of God,- now under the gospel. . . . The precise law of tithing is not confirmed in the gospel . . . it is impossible any one certain rule should be prescribed unto all persons (Works, vol. 21, pp. 324, 325).

Old Testament Tithing Facts:

Let us momentarily look at some basic facts regarding "tithing" in the Old Testament:

(1) Agricultural Tithe - The Old Testament (OT) tithe was on the "land" (food-based), not upon "every individual." It was on the produce of one's fruit and olive trees, the increase of one's fields and flocks (Lev 27:30-33; Num 18:21-25; Deut 14:22-29). Of the flocks only every tenth animal that passed under the shepherd's rod was given (Lev 27:32) - if one only had 9 animals then there was no animal tithe.

There was no scriptural requirement to give on non-agricultural increase. However, there was a "voluntary" tithe in regard to the plunder of war, which is what we find in Abram's tithe to Melchizedek. This tithe was: (1) "voluntary" and (2) "a vow" (Abram insisted since he had made a vow - Gen 14:22-24). But, the Bible does not record if Abram gave tithes before or after this incident with Melchizedek. While it is true that Abraham offered a voluntary tithe before the institution of the law (Gen 14:20), we also must note that Abraham was circumcised before the law (Gen 17:10). Circumcision is not a requirement for believers today. In fact, Paul specifically says that this is not part of our relationship with God (Gal 5:11, 12). Note, that Jacob also gave a voluntary vow tithe (Gen 28:22).

(2) Increase of the Land - The OT tithe was on the increase from the land, showing God's provision and ownership of the Promised Land (Lev 27:30-33; Num 18:21-25; Deut 14:22-29). "Be careful not to neglect the Levites as long as you live in your land" (Deut 12:19). The majority Church no longer lives in the land. It is constantly expanding to every tribe and nation (Rev 5:9; 7:9). Of course, the Levites no longer exist either.

Jewish Rabbis today use a patron system of so many $$$ for each seat in their synagogues to raise funds, as they no longer can receive tithes to support a Temple and Levites that no longer exist (at least their idea of the Temple existence). This shows how closely they associate the OT tithe with the Promised Land.

The majority of New Covenant Christians live outside the Promised Land (see Deut 12:19). While not referring to the moral law, New Covenant Christians are exempt from the OT law (Rom 2:12; Gal 3:23-24; 4:5; cf. Rom 7:1) - which Christ fulfilled (Matt 5:17-20; Acts^^nbsp^^13:29). They do not need to "tithe" (Deut 12:19).

(3) Three OT Tithes - There was not one tithe in the OT, but three: (1) one going to the Levites and Priests, (2) another to be consumed at the feast of Tabernacles, and (3) another every third year for the relief of the poor. See "The Old Testament Tithe?" below.

If tithing is still obligatory, shouldn't the NT Church be paying "three" tithes? If one desires to argue for the "continuation" of the OT tithe, then all three tithes need to be mandated - not just one tithe of 10%. There is either continuity or there is not? If one desires to place himself under the law, then he needs to obey the entire law (Rom 7:1).

(4) Seventh Year: No OT Tithe - As the land was to remain fallow and trees unharvested every seventh year, there was no OT tithe from the land in the seventh year (Exod 23:11; Lev 25:11-12). If we desire to stress continuity of the law then we need to ask, "Do NT Churches who teach a NT tithe skip the seventh year?" If not, why not? See #3 above.

(5) Levite Tithe no Longer Exists - The OT tithe went to the Levites. It was not for upkeep of buildings or programs; these came from "offerings." So tithes and offerings were different. The Levites tithed on the tithe he received to the Aaronic priests. This was to pass on the agricultural increase given to them. The Levites can no longer receive tithes - their line no longer exists. "Be careful not to neglect the Levites as long as you live in your land" (Deut 12:19).

(6) No Wage Tithes - The OT/NT Scriptures say nothing about a tithe on wages, income from trade or investments, nor about the produce of land "outside" the Promised Land. Gad was outside the Promised Land proper, but the tribal region of Gad was part of their promised inheritance from God. So, in essence they were in their Promised Land. Accordingly, we see that there was no obligatory tithe outside the Promised Land. Compare with #1 above.

There was no OT law that required a tithe, much less three tithes (see "OT Tithe" below) on one's salary. Though mentioned in the OT: (1) fishermen (Lev 11:9-12), (2) those involved in mining (Deut 8:9), (3) in the lumber business (1 Kings^^nbsp^^5:7-12), and (4) in construction work (1 Kings^^nbsp^^5:13-18) are not instructed of the necessity to "tithe."

7) No Poor Tithe - The OT never commanded the poor to "tithe" (they could give "offerings," but not required to tithe, Lev 5:11-13; 14:21; 7:8), rather these were to recieve from the tithes, offerings, gleanings, and Israel's bounty (Deut 26:12-13; Mal 3:5; cf. Lev 25:6, 8-15, 23-35; 25:16-25; Num 36:4; Deut 24:19-21; Esther^^nbsp^^9:22; Ezek 46:17). Robert Spender in Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of OT Theology states:

Beyond direct legislation a number of institutions contained special provisions for the poor. Gleaning laws focused on the widow, fatherless, stranger, and poor (Lev 19:9-10; 23:22; Deut 24:19-22). During the Sabbatical year debts were to be canceled (Deut 15:1-9) and Jubilee provided release for Hebrews who had become servants through poverty (Lev 25:39-41; 25:54). During these festivals the poor could eat freely of the produce of all of the fields (Exod 23:11; Lev 25:6-7; Lev 25:12).

Further stipulations to aid the poor included the right of redemption from slavery by a blood relative (Lev 25:47-49), support from the third-year tithe (Deut 14:28-29), and special provisions regarding the guilt offerings. This latter law illustrates the relative nature of the concept of poverty. If someone cannot afford the normal atonement lamb he or she can bring two pigeons (Lev 5:7) but further consideration, (substituting one-tenth ephah of flour), is made for one who cannot afford even two pigeons (Lev 5:11). Clearly, the Law emphasized that poverty was no reason for exclusion from atonement and worship.

Dr. James Kennedy wrote:

Those who are poor do not give tithes, but receive them either directly from loving neighbors and friends or through the ministry of the clergy. Any gift given by a poor person would be a free-will offering, not a tithe. The tithe is God's tax, required for those who make a profit from their labor. It is not required from those who are on welfare or who are living from their savings.

Our first economic duty is to allow for the essential food, clothing, and housing for our families. The tithe was not intended to prohibit us from providing essential, physical support for those who are members of our household (1 Tim. 5:1-8; Matt. 15:3-9).

(8) Storehouse Tithes (pl) - The LORD commanded the Israelites to "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house . . ." (Mal 3:8-12). This text is OT law (see Lev 6:14-23). Malachi^^nbsp^^3:8 uses the plural "tithes" (x3, see the "OT Tithe" below) not the singular (x1). To teach only one 10% tithe from this text then would be error - as tithes here equal a minimum of 23.33%.

The storehouse is where one would store the "agricultural" tithe in the OT. Note again, the tithe emphasis on agricultural increase. A miner could not put anything in the storehouse. Additionally, most Christians are no longer in the Promised Land, they do not own farms, and the Temple is no longer standing. When Jesus gave the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20) to the Church, this "storehouse" mandate could no longer be in effect for "every tribe and language and people and nation" (Rev 5:9; 7:9).

To place New Covenant Christians literally (word for word) under this text today would be to test God (Acts^^nbsp^^15:10; Gal 5:3) and rob Christians of their freedom they have in Christ (Rom 8:15; Gal 2:4; 5:1, 4-5; 2 Cor 3:17). To use this text to enforce NT tithing is to rob Scripture of its original meaning and thus to teach another gospel (Gal 1:9).

New Testament Tithing Facts:

Let us momentarily look at some facts regarding the mention of "tithing" in the New Testament:

(1) Matthew^^nbsp^^23:23 - When speaking of tithing of mint, anise, and cumin (Matt 23:23; Luke^^nbsp^^11:41-42), Jesus was speaking to Pharisees, growing a spice garden in the Promised Land, who owed an OT tithe (x3, see the "OT Tithe" below). Did Jesus mean that to become righteous the Church today ought to exceed the three tithes the Pharisees were mandated under OT law to give? No, Jesus' point was that their legalistic giving did not work real righteousness for the Pharisees at all. They were not giving with a right heart, otherwise they would have been working acts of justice, mercy, and faith.

Note that all of the woes Jesus pronounces in Matthew^^nbsp^^23 were adressed to the Pharisees and scribes (Matt 23:13-16, 23, 25, 27, 29) who were under OT law. They were the ones who were stressing ritual observance, but yet were neglectful in their moral duty toward their fellow man. What Jesus does advocate? Luke^^nbsp^^11:42 says, "But rather give alms of such things as you have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you" (Luke^^nbsp^^11:41). In the OT an required amount is mentioned (tithe, 10%), but here the text mentions no specific amount. Rather the command is just to "give."

The tithing law was in effect only until the Cross. Jesus' command in Matthew^^nbsp^^23:23 does not warrant the continuation of any obligation to follow the law of OT tithes (much less "three") for Christians. This would be a violation of the Charter of Freedom specified in the Book of Galatians (Gal 5:1-2: cf. Gal 2:4). The essence of the situation in Galatia was that Gentiles were being told that they must not only believe in Jesus Christ to be saved, but must also accept circumcision and thereby commit themselves to observing Jewish law as the way of salvation (Gal. 2:3-5, 12; 4:10; 5:3-6; 6:12-13; cf. Col 2:16-20; Lev 23:2; 1 Chron 23:31; 2 Chron 31:3; Neh 10:33, etc.). However, this is a counterfeit gospel - which is no gospel at all - and therefore it was / is deadly (Gal 1:6-7). Pipa says, "To add to the gospel - whether works, sacraments, baptism, or anything else - is to detract from the gospel." Various shades of this 'philosophy' (a false gospel) were widespread among early Jewish Christians (Acts^^nbsp^^15:1; 21:20-21; Phil. 3:2-3; Col. 2:8-23).

Those who had been under the law (the Jews) had been delivered from it to something far better and so has the Church today. Paul wrote in Romans^^nbsp^^7:6: "But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter." The Christian who seeks to keep the law to be justified or sanctified has fallen from grace (Gal 5:4). Acts^^nbsp^^2:42 states that the early Church followed not Old Testament rules but "the Apostles' doctrine."

Tithing had been instituted when there was a need - when the priesthood came into being. But it was dissolved when a better Priesthood arrived (Heb 8:1-10:18). The ceremonial laws (see #3 below); the burnt offerings, the grain offering, dietary rules, ritual cleansings, laws concerning leprosy and slavery, the feasts, and the year of jubilee do not apply to the Christian.

(2) Mark^^nbsp^^14:41-44 - The widow woman that gave all (Mark^^nbsp^^14:41-44). She gave a free-will offering, not a mandatory OT/NT tithe. Note, she was still operating under the OT law. See #3 below. While one can teach "graced giving" from this text, one misuses this text if they attempt to teach a "mandatory tithe" from it! However, we should be grateful givers. Our desire, should be to give all we have. But this should not be the "mandate" of the Church.

(3) Luke^^nbsp^^18:12 - is often used to say that a Christian today should tithe on "all I receive" (Luke^^nbsp^^18:12). However, we know from studying the OT that the law never required a tithe on "all I receive," but only on specific agricultural items in Israel (Lev 27:30-33; Num 18:21-25; Deut 14:22-29; cf. Deut 12:19). Jesus told the parable in Luke^^nbsp^^18 as: (a) an antidote to self-righteousness on the part of the Pharisees and (b) unearned guilt on the part of ordinary people of Jesus' time who felt they could never be holy. So this parable's purpose was to set both people free from such slavery. Are you enslaved today?

(4) Hebrews^^nbsp^^7:9 - The fact that Abraham was blessed by and gave tithes to Melchizedek illustrates the superiority of Melchizedek and even more so Christ over the Levitical priesthood (Heb 7:1-10). However, the text goes on to note that when the priesthood is changed, so does the law! Has the law remained the same? No (Heb 7:12). If there was a change in the Levite ceremonial system then this effects the tithe. The laws that commanded tithes to be given to the Levites are obsolete (Deut 12:19), unless re-established elsewhere in the NT.

Moreover, it should be restated that Abram's tithe was both: (1) voluntary and (2) a vow. See Genesis^^nbsp^^14:21-24. This was not a "mandatory" 10% tithe.

Can we show in the NT where the obligatory tithe (x3, or even x1) has been re-instituted? No! But, we can show in the NT that a person is to cheerfully "give" (Rom 15:25-27; 1 Cor 16:2; 2 Cor 8, etc.), but not "tithe" (x3 or even x1).

(5) Rebuilding of the True Temple - The Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. Today however we are seeing an exciting "rebuilding" of the bodily Temple (1 Cor 3:9, 16-17; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16; Eph 2:21-22; 1 Tim 3:15; Heb 3:6). Simply put the Temple being built today is the Church. As the New Covenant Temple is being built it is to be provided for in the same way the rebuilding of the Temple was in the OT - with voluntary free-will offerings (compare: Ezra^^nbsp^^1:4, 6; 7:16; 8:25).

(6) Vow Tithes - Of course, there were various offerings due to vows being taken. Depending upon the vow these may be obligatory. If a person takes a vow to tithe 10% for the rest of his life then they are obligated to give 10% till death, etc. However, God instructs us not to be hasty with our vows (Ecc 5:1-7). With drastic changes in our economy this is wise advice to take. We note again that Abraham is only recorded to have made "one" vow of this type. We also note that Jacob made a voluntary vow tithe as well (Gen 28:22). While our desire should be to give 100%, this would be unscriptural to actually put into practice, as to neglect one's family in not biblical (cf. 1 Tim. 5:8).

(7) Jesus DID NOT Give a Mandatory Tithe - Jesus is not said to have "tithed" (Matt 12:1-2; Mark^^nbsp^^2:23-24; Luke^^nbsp^^6:1-2). Matthew^^nbsp^^12:1-2 says:

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, "Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.

While Jesus fulfilled the entire law (Matt 5:17-20; Rom 10:4) and rendered unto God what was God's (Matt 22:20-22), he was a carpenter and thus not involved in agricultural produce (from the land, increase from fields, vineyards, orchards, flocks, herds, and beehives). As such he was not obligated to give a normal "tithe." None of the disciples were farmers or herdsman and therefore they were not required to pay tithes either. All gave free-will offerings. They obeyed the law by not tithing!

In this incident they were practicing the law of gleaning, which was specifically for the poor (Lev 19:9-10; 23:22: Deut 24:19: Ruth^^nbsp^^2:2, 15). The Pharisees did not rebuke Jesus and his disciples for gleaning. They did not rebuke Jesus and his disciples for not paying a tithe on their harvest! The only accusation is that they performed work on the Sabbath day, which Jesus corrected the Pharisees for (Matt 12:3-8).

Jesus indeed "gave" to the poor, but a percentage is never mentioned (John^^nbsp^^12:4-6; Prov 14:31; 28:27; Jas 1:27: 1 John^^nbsp^^3:17-18). Jesus fed the poor, etc. (Matt 14:15-21; Luke^^nbsp^^9:12-15). He "gave" perfectly and sinlessly (Matt 5:48), but was never obligated to "tithe."

(8) Some Summary Points - God divinely prescribed terms of the tithe that cannot and should not be applied today:

(a) The majority of the Church does not live in the Promised Land.

(b) The Levitical tribe does not continue.

(c) The is no central Temple.

(d) Most Christians do not have agricultural increase from the Promised Land.

(e) Hebrews^^nbsp^^8 discontinued the mandatory tithe, as the Levitical priesthood no longer exists and a greater Priesthood now exists.

(f) There is no tithe on salary, wages, or "all I have" etc. in Scripture.

(g) The poor were not required to tithe.

Now for the rest of the story:

However, while the Old Covenant tithe is no longer applicable, we may and should learn from it. The Christian should give of the best of their increase, generously, supporting those preaching and teaching the Word. Moreover, they should assist the poor, the widow, and the orphan. However, this is not a "mandatory tithe." The New Covenant speaks about "giving," not mandatory "tithing." See the link entitled "Giving as a Part of Worship?" below.

Some New Testament "Giving" (not Tithing) Principles:

The New Testament principle and freedom of "giving" (not tithing) is the sacrificial, cheerful, voluntary, and proportionately "giving" for the support of the ministry of the Word and relief of the destitute, and proper stewardship of all the rest as belonging to God. See Matthew^^nbsp^^6:2-4; 25:34-46; Mark^^nbsp^^4:24; Luke^^nbsp^^6:38; 12:15, 34; 20:25; 21:1-4; Acts^^nbsp^^2:44-45; Romans^^nbsp^^15:25-27; 1 Corinthians^^nbsp^^16:2; 2 Corinthians^^nbsp^^8:2-5; 9:6-12; 1 Timothy^^nbsp^^6:17-19; Hebrews^^nbsp^^13:16; 1 Peter^^nbsp^^4:10-11, etc.

So, the Christian should "give" voluntarily out of love, not law. They should "give":

(1) Of their increase, as the Lord supplies and directs.

(2) As their first priority determined beforehand, not as an afterthought of what is left. The Christian should not be asking, 'Ok how much do I have to give this month,' but rather with overwhelming joy and excitement, 'How much do I get to give? Can I give even more this month?', etc. Praise God !!! . . .

(3) Of their very best.

(4) Sacrificially. Sacrificially. Sacrificially.

(5) Cheerfully. Joyfully. Excitingly.

(6) Providing for the preaching and teaching of the Word, the sending of preachers, and the relief of those suffering; believers first, then others.

(7) Though the elders and deacons (caring for the poor, widow, and orphan) of the Church.

(8) Fulfilling any promises or vows we take to do something extra for the Kingdom of God.

(9) As a graced privilege,

not a burden.

(10) Out of a sense of love for Christ, his Kingdom, his people, and others.

However, the New Testament "giving" is not a mandatory 10% tithe. You can search as you may, but one can't find this NT command in Scripture to tithe! Even the fourth membership vow for the PCA does not mandate a tithe. It says, "Do you promise to support the church in its worship and work to the best of your ability?" Note that this does not say "tithe" (a mandatory 10%), but "support . . . to the best of your ability." "Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind" (Rom 14:5).

Note, that the PCA BCO 54-1 mentions a "tithe." However, BCO 54-1 is not constitutionally binding. Note that it also differs, for substance, with previous Presbyterian deliverances: (1) the 1854 Assembly's reference to the tithe as "presumption" and (2) the 1933 language of "worthy portion." It is interesting that the Westminster Confession of Faith (21:5), as originally written, contains no reference to collections as either an ordinary element of worship or as an occasional element of worship.

What a Wonderful Gift: Giving

We have the "privilege" and "freedom" of "giving." Praise the Lord!!! Take this opportunity to prayerfully, joyfully, and sacrificially consider what the Lord would have you give today - and everyday - to your Church, the poor, and others. See the link entitled "Giving as a Part of Worship?" below. Calvin wrote:

Alas for our indolence! - which appears in this, that while God invites us with so much kindness to the honour of priesthood, and even puts sacrifices in our hands, we nevertheless do not sacrifice to hiim . . . For the altars, on which sacrifices from our resources ought to be presented, are the poor, and the servants of Christ. To the neglect of these some squander their resources on every kind of luxury, others upon the palate, others upon immodest attire, others upon magnificent dwellings. (Calvin, Commentary, Phil 4:18).

God does not limit us to a law of a mere 10%, or 23.3%; rather as he has abundantly given to us, now we have the opportunity to give back what is already his (Psa 50:10, 12; 89:11; 1 Cor 10:26; cf. Exod 9:29; Deut 10:14) according to his Spirit.

However, he understands the plight of the poor, the widow, and the orphan. He provides for them through you and I (Exod 23:11; Lev 19:10; 23:22; Deut 15:9, etc.). In his providence, God even provides for the poor through miraculous means at times (1 Kings^^nbsp^^17:7-24; Matt 14:13-21; Mark^^nbsp^^6:31-44; Luke^^nbsp^^9:10-17; John^^nbsp^^6:5-15). And even the poor may be impressed by the Spirit to give a free-will offering of some kind. At times they are moved by the Holy Spirit to be the most generous of givers of all (Mark^^nbsp^^12:41-44; Luke^^nbsp^^21:1-4). Oh, the wonderful work of the Spirit of God and his gift of giving! How will you exercise this gift, this week, this month, and for the entire year?

'It is more blessed to give than receive' (Acts^^nbsp^^20:35; cf. 2 Cor 9:6-7).

Historical References:

This teaching is not something new. It has been taught for centuries. Even many current theologians teach New Testament "giving" and not an Old Testament "tithe." Below is an incomplete, but adequate, list to make the point.

Giving and the Early Church

Irenaeus (A.D. 120-202)

Against Heresies, Chapter XIII of Book IV:

And for this reason did the Lord, instead of that [commandment], Thou shalt not commit adultery, forbid even concupiscence; and instead of that which runs thus, Thou shalt not kill, He prohibited anger; and instead of the law enjoining the giving of tithes, [He told us] to share all our possessions with the poor.

Tertullian (c. 150-220)

Apology, XXXIX, 1-18:

Our presidents are elders of proved worth, men who have attained this honor not for a price, but by character. Every man brings some modest coin once a month or whenever he wishes, and only if he is willing and able; it is a freewill offering. You might call them the trust-funds of piety; they are spent . . . on the support and burial of the poor.

Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs (p. 9):

Though we have our treasure chest, it is not made up of purchase money, as of a religion that has its price. Rather, on the monthly day, if he likes, each puts in a small donation - but only if it is his pleasure and only if he is able. For there is no compulsion; all is voluntary.

Givng and the Reformers

John Wycliffe (1328-1384) and John Huss (1373-1415) both likened tithes to free-will offerings. Wycliffe insisted tithes were not commanded in the NT. Huss and his followers concluded that the OT law was not binding on Christians. John Smyth (1609) said Christ abolished tithes due to the change in the priesthood. Francis Turrentin (1623-1687) declared that by OT laws such as tithing and firstfruits were not binding. He concluded that the method for supporting pastors should emphasize voluntariness. Please see Perspectives on Tithing: Four Views edited by David A. Croteau for a more complete history.

Martin Luther

How Christians Should Regard Moses, April 27, 1525:

But just as the Jews fail, so also do the Gentiles. Therefore it is natural to honor God, not steal, not commit adultery, not bear false witness, not murder; and what Moses commands is nothing new. For what God has given the Jews from heaven, he has also written in the hearts of all men. Thus I keep the commandments which Moses has given, not because Moses gave the commandment, but because they have been implanted in me by nature, and Moses agrees exactly with nature, etc.

But the other commandments of Moses, which are not [implanted in all men] by nature, the Gentiles do not hold. Nor do these pertain to the Gentiles, such as the tithe and others equally fine which I wish we had too. Now this is the first thing that I ought to see in Moses, namely, the commandments to which I am not bound except insofar as they are [implanted in everyone] by nature [and written in everyone's heart].

Charles Spurgeon

Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 68 vols. (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim, 1974), 47:97:

It is also noteworthy that, with regard to Christian liberality, there are no rules laid down in the Word of God. I remember hearing somebody say, I should like to know exactly what I ought to give. Yes, dear Friend, no doubt you would; but you are not under a system similar to that by which the Jews were obliged to pay tithes to the priests. If there were any such rule laid down in the gospel, it would destroy the beauty of spontaneous giving, and take away all the bloom from the fruit of your liberality!

MTP 28:694:

I have read some amazing statements upon the divine right of tithes. It seems to be established in the minds of some that if God gave the tithes to Levi he must, therefore, have given them to Episcopalian ministers: an inference which I fail to see! I should just as soon draw the inference that he had given them to Baptist ministers; certainly it would be no more illogical. The idea of our being priests, or Levites, in order to get compulsory tithes, would be too abhorrent to be entertained for a moment!

MTP 14:567-68:

Much has been said about giving a tenth of one's income to the Lord. Methinks that is a Christian duty which none should for a moment question. If it were a duty under the Jewish law, much more is it so, now under the Christian dispensation. But it is a great mistake to suppose that the Jew only gave a tenth. He gave very, very, very much more than that. The tenth was the payment which he must make, but after that came all the free-will offerings, all the various gifts at divers seasons of the year, so that, perhaps, he gave a third, much more near that, certainly, than a tenth!

I do not, however, like to lay down any rules for God's people, for the Lord's New Testament is not a great book of rules; it is not a book of the letter, for that killeth, but it is the book of the Spirit, which teacheth us rather the soul of liberality than the body of it, and instead of writing laws upon stones or paper, it writes laws upon the heart. Give, dear friends, as you have purposed in your heart, and give proportionately, as the Lord hath prospered you, and do not make your estimate of what you ought to give by what will appear respectable from you, or by what is expected from you by other people, but as in the sight of the Lord, as He loveth a cheerful giver; and as a cheerful giver is a proportionate giver, take care that you, like a good steward, keep just accounts towards the great King.

Various Individuals on Giving

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

. . . the question as to whether to tithe from one's net or gross income is not answered in Scripture, nor is the question of whether to give it all to the local church or to include other ministries. We feel that such decisions should be based on personal conviction . . . It (tithing) is not mentioned in the New Testament except where it is describing Old Testament practices or in the Gospels where Jesus is addressing people who were under the Old Testament law. Note Jesus comments to the Pharisees in Luke^^nbsp^^11:42 . . .

A New Testament teaching on giving which may be helpful to you is found in 1 Corinthians^^nbsp^^16:2: On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income. This passage brings out four points: we should give individually, regularly, methodically, and proportionately. The matter of your giving is between you and God, and He always takes into account our circumstances. He knows when they are beyond our power to direct and control. The important thing is that we see giving as a privilege and not as a burden. It should not be out of a sense of duty, but rather out of love for the Lord and a desire to see His kingdom advanced. Second Corinthians^^nbsp^^9:6-7 says: Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. The deeper question, you see, is this: What has priority in our lives? Is Christ really first - or do we put ourselves and our own desires first? Make sure Christ is first in your life, and then ask Him to guide you.

Dr. Russell Earl Kelly

Should The Church Teach Tithing (p.139-140):

None of the three main hermeneutical approaches to theology today support tithing. First, the advocates of covenant theology divide the law into moral commandments, ceremonial statutes, and civil judgments. They, next, recognize, and dismiss, tithing as a ceremonial statute. Second, advocates of dispensational theology also divide the law into commandments, statutes, and judgments. However, they see it as an indivisible whole, dismiss the entire law, and start over again with God repeating his eternal moral principles in the New Covenant after Calvary. Advocates of a third approach to hermeneutics between covenant theology and dispensational theology also dismiss tithing because of its cultic non-moral usage.

I highly recommend Dr. Kelly's "Should the Church Teach Tithing? A Theologian's Conclusions about a Taboo Doctrine," Writers Club Press, (January 11, 2000).

R. C. H. Lenski

The Active Church Member:

God has given us His divine Law, and the spirit of Christ, which is the spirit of faith and love, freely uses God's Law as a regulator of the Christian life. As Christians, however, we are under the Gospel, and that means that with faith and love we voluntarily obey the Lord and seek to do His holy will. Legalism is the name for all spurious law in the church. It is both the setting up of man-made laws in the church, and any obedience to such laws. . . . No church has a right to make laws by which bind its members; and no member has a right to obey such laws, and to allow his conscience to be thus bound. Both the church and the church member are legalists when they operate their church activities this way. The state may legislate; not, however, the church.

. . . Just as the Gospel alone rules in our hearts, so Gospel methods, or evangelical methods, should alone be used in our church activities. These methods use the power of faith and love alone, and no outward force. Hence these methods have the mark of Gospel freedom about them. The church member does what he does, of free will, gladly, gratefully, as a privilege. That is the evangelical method? The evangelical Christian goes to church from love of Christ, His Word, and worship. Only where the Lord sees this in the heart is He pleased? No mere outward performance satisfies the Lord, least of all doing what the Lord has nowhere Himself commanded. And worst of all, to try to buy His favor is to insult His blessed grace, through which alone His savings gifts can be made ours.

Legalistic methods look especially promising when it comes to getting money for the church. Why not impose a tax on the members, say a flat tax of so much per head, or a tax according to the property of the members? Would not that insure the sum desired far beyond the evangelical method of voluntary Christian giving? The trouble is, that though the money itself might be secured in such a legalistic way, the Lord has no use for it. The only money He will accept must come as a true offering made unto Him by willing hearts in faith and love. Such offerings can be gathered only by using evangelical methods, never by working legalistic ones.

Wrong methods always tend to corrupt right principles, and thus hinder the blessings we ought to receive. Right methods support true principles, help to show how beneficial they are, and thus win the approval and blessing of the Lord.

John MacArthur, Jr.

Commentary on Book of Romans^^nbsp^^9-16 (p. 233):

. . . Christians are not under obligation to give a specified amount to the work of their heavenly Father. In none of their forms do the tithe or other Old Testament levies apply to Christians.

Thoughts On Tithing (excerpt from sermon preached at Grace Community Church in Panorama City, CA):

Tithing, basically, is never, ever advocated in the New Testament; it is never taught in the New Testament - never!

Bruce Metzger

Oxford Companion to the Bible (p. 223):

The New Testament nowhere explicitly requires tithing to maintain a ministry or a place of assembly.

Tyler Ramey

Tithing Today: God's Plan or Designs of Man:

As far as the earliest early Church is concerned, neither the Apostles nor their disciples (the early Church Fathers) taught that tithing was a Christian obligation.

Prior to tithing gradually becoming a mainstay in some corners of the early Church, "there was no support of the clergy by a systematic giving of a tithe." In time (several centuries after the Cross), "the tithe came to be regarded generally after the pattern in the Jewish synagogue." Up to this time, tithing was simply a suggestion that apparently generated more and more support as the power of bishops and presbyters grew.

As the power and position of Church leaders grew to reflect Temple era priests and the provisions that supported them, the Church eventually prescribed a tithe that included "money, clothes, and all your possessions," (Didache, 13:7 as quoted in Walter A. Elwell, ed., The Concise Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1991), s.v. "Tithing," by D. K. McKim, 513.) something generally not taught today and which is conspicuously absent in contemporary practice (David W. Bercot's edited work A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1998) Tithing in the early Church (ca. 4th Century) was supported by an appeal to passages like Matthew^^nbsp^^10:10 that says "the worker is worth his keep" (cf. Luke^^nbsp^^10:7), and First Corinthians^^nbsp^^9:11 that says "If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?" Some early Church leaders, however, "(like Irenaeus and Epiphanus) showed the argument drawn from these texts was not valid. Rather, freedom in Christian giving was emphasized." Merril C. Tenney, gen. ed., The Zondervan Pictoral Encyclopedia of the Bible, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing, 1975), s.v. "Tithe," by C. L. Feinberg, 758).

By the 6th century, the practice of tithing had adopted numerous man-made regulations which included certain portions to be designated for priests and parishes. This practice reflects common notions that Old Testament tithing directives regarding priest and temple maintenance have counterparts to church leaders - usually pastors - and church buildings. This belief in parallelism is shared by many Christians, and even has the support of numerous Christian leaders today.

Various Dictionaries, Commentaries, etc. on Giving

The Bible Knowledge Commentary (p. 1585):

While not requiring a tithe of believers today, the New Testament does speak of God's blessing on those who give generously to the needs of the church and especially to those who labor in the Word.

The Encyclopedia Americana:

It was not practiced in the early Christian church but gradually became common (in the Roman Catholic Church in western Europe) by the 6th Century. The Council of Tours in 567 and the second Council of Macon in 585 advocated tithing. Made obligatory by civil law in the Carolingian empire in 765 and in England in the 10th Century. . . . The Reformation did not abolish tithing and the practice was continued in the Roman Catholic Church and in Protestant countries . . . (until it was) gradually replaced by other forms of taxation. The Roman Catholic Church still prescribes tithes in countries where they are sanctioned by law, and some Protestant bodies consider tithes obligatory.

Hastings Dictionary of the Apostolic Church:

It is admitted universally that the payment of tithes or the tenths of possessions, for sacred purposes did not find a place within the Christian Church during the age covered by the apostles and their immediate successors.

Nelson's Bible Dictionary (s.v. tithe):

In the New Testament the words tithe and tithing appear only eight times (Matt. 23:23, Luke^^nbsp^^11:42, 18:12, Heb. 7:5-6, 8-9). All of these passages refer to Old Testament usage . . . Nowhere does the New Testament expressly command Christians to tithe. However, as believers we are to be generous in sharing our material possessions with the poor and for the support of Christian ministry. Christ Himself is our model in giving. Giving is to be voluntary, willing, cheerful, and given in the light of our accountability to God. Giving should be systematic and by no means limited to a tithe of our incomes. We recognize that all we have is from God. We are called to be faithful stewards of all our possessions (Rom. 14:12, 1 Cor. 9:3-14, 16:1-3, 2Cor. 8-9).

New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia Online:

In the Christian Church, as those who serve the altar should live by the altar (1 Cor., ix, 13), provision of some kind had necessarily to be made for the sacred ministers. In the beginning this was supplied by the spontaneous offerings of the faithful. In the course of time, however, as the Church expanded and various institutions arose, it became necessary to make laws which would insure the proper and permanent support of the clergy. The payment of tithes was adopted from the Old Law, and early writers speak of it as a divine ordinance and an obligation of conscience. The earliest positive legislation on the subject seems to be contained in the letter of the bishops assembled at Tours in 567 and the cannons of the Council of Macon in 585. In course of time, we find the payment of tithes made obligatory by ecclesiastical enactments in all the countries of Christendom.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge:

Tithing is not taught in the New Testament as an obligation for the Christian under grace . . . Because we are not under law, but under grace, Christian giving must not be made a matter of legalistic obligation, lest we fall into the error of Galatianism? See Galatians^^nbsp^^3:24-25; Romans^^nbsp^^10:4; Colossians^^nbsp^^2:14, etc.

Related Links:

The Old Testament Tithe?
Giving as a Part of Worship?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).