I was asked whether Christians have to give a tithe or tenth.
You might notice the title is worded, “Do Christians have to…” versus, “Should Christians…” or “Can Christians…” If you want to give a tenth, that’s fine. I know Christians who say, “God expected a tenth in the Old Testament, so I want to give a tenth in the New Testament.” Many people look at the Mosaic Law for principles to apply today, including in the area of giving, and that’s fine. But if you think Christians have to give a tenth, that’s different and you should keep a few things in mind.
First, Christians are not under the Mosaic Law
Giving a tenth was commanded under the Mosaic Law. Christians are under the Law of Christ, which carries forth the morality in the Mosaic Law: “Do not lie…steal…murder…commit adultery.” You see all these commands confirmed in the New Testament. But the ceremonial commands – including those related to giving a tenth – are not maintained.
Second, God commanded giving a number of tithes.
There was a tithe for the Levites, the use of the temple and the feasts, and the poor of the land. This actually pushed the total closer to 23.3%.
Even though I’ve met a number of Christians who say Christians should give a tenth, I’ve never met any who feel bound to this higher percent.
Third, God commanded a tithe on more than money.
Under the Mosaic Law, people were expected to give a tenth of their grain, wine, oil, and even their animals. I’m not sure how this would apply today. Give one tenth of food or clothes?
Again, I’ve met Christians who feel bound to give a tenth like the Law commanded, but I’ve never met any who actually give a tenth like the Law commanded.
Fourth, if you feel bound to give a tithe, you should feel bound to the rest of the law.
In Galatians 5:3 Paul said, “I testify to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.” (See also Rom 2:25 and Jam 2:10).
There’s no such thing as keeping part of the Law, or picking and choosing. If you feel bound to give a tithe because the Mosaic Law commands it, you should feel equally bound to obey the other 612 commands in the Law. Abstain from certain foods and avoid mixing certain fabrics together.
Fifth, the New Testament nowhere commands giving a tithe.
If giving a tithe was commanded under the Mosaic Law and then carried over to the New Testament, then we should feel bound to give a tithe. But the New Testament nowhere identifies or recommends a percentage to give.
The only time the word “tithe” is used in the New Testament is:
- Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42 when Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justifce and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done without leaving the others undone.”
- In Luke 18:12, in the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, the Pharisee said, “I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all I possess.”
- Hebrews 7 discusses Abraham giving a tithe to Melchizedek.
Outside of those verses giving a tithe is nowhere mentioned. When Jesus said, “These you ought to have done without leaving the others undone,” He was speaking to people under the Old Covenant. The New Covenant was not instituted until the Last Supper. Therefore, these people should have been giving a tithe. But the absence from the epistles – the letters of instruction for Christian living – is particularly significant. If New Testament believers were expected to give a tithe, it’s inconceivable that no letters would discuss it.
Now you should notice the post doesn’t say, “Should Christians give?” Even though Christians don’t have to give a tithe, they do have to give. So how do they know how much? That’s the topic of this post.
Do you have any questions or thoughts? What were your previous views of giving a tithe? Respond in the comments section.