Is Tithing Obligatory?

Hi Roger,

A short time ago I heard a sermon by Glenn and it seemed that he was teaching that tithing was obligatory. However, as I study the New Testament scriptures it seems that generous (as one is able) and cheerful giving is taught to New Covenant believers rather than tithing.

Please explain and thanks.

Andy


Dear Andy,

I will deal with you query regarding the “giving generously and cheerfully” at the end of my answer. But, first, let me lay a foundation by tracing the significance of tithing.

 

At face value the answer to your question is simple. Jesus endorsed the principle of tithing. If Jesus taught that the top-ten percent of what we make is immediately set aside to give to God, then we set aside the top-ten percent and bring it to God.

 

While scolding the Pharisees for neglecting the proper-heart attitudes of love and relationships, Jesus endorsed the practice of tithing. Matthew quoted His pronouncement in Matthew 23:23: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices — mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”

 

The Pharisees should have practiced the heart attitudes of justice, mercy and faithfulness (the latter) without neglecting their tithes (the former).

 

The word “tithe” literally means “the top of the heap.” This comes from the large pile of treasures Abraham captured from the four kings who kidnapped his nephew, Lott, and his family. He took the top portion of the captured spoils of war and offered it to God through Melchizedek, the priest of Salem (Jerusalem).

 

The principle of tithing is instituted in Genesis 14:18-21: “Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.’ Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.”

 

By the way, this passage is authenticated by the Book of Hebrews as a deliberate foreshadowing of Jesus Christ. Jesus is identified as the high priest (Melchizedek) who offers bread and wine on the cross. Melchizedek received from Abraham a tenth as an offering to God. Jesus taught that giving the top tenth was a required offering to God.

 

Occasionally, someone will negate paying tithes by declaring that tithing was part of the Mosaic Law and we are now living in the age of Grace not “under the Law”. But, notice, the principle of tithing was put in place almost 500 years before God gave the Law to Moses.

 

God considers neglecting to pay a tithe to be the same as robbing from Him. In scolding the priests in the Book of Malachi He declared in Malachi 3:8-12: "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit," says the LORD Almighty. "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land," says the LORD Almighty.

 

Notice the above curse. Could you ever imagine God placing a curse on His people? This tells us that He considers the tithe to be not only an act of worship but also a recognition of submission to His Lordship!

 

On the other hand, notice the promised blessing for those who faithfully offer to Him the top portion of their income. By the way, this is the only place in the Bible where God invites us to test Him. What an offer!

 

Now, let’s delve into the “giving generously” part of your question.

 

Even a cursory reading of 2 Corinthians 8-9 reveals that Paul was encouraging those who were financially blessed to give to a special offering for the beleaguered church in Jerusalem. Famine was raging there and all were suffering. Paul was in the process of collecting an offering throughout the churches of Greece to take personally to the brothers and sisters in need. By the way, notice throughout the passage how Paul stimulated competition among the churches to see which would give the most! He was a master fundraiser!

 

In 2 Corinthians 9:6-11 he wrote words of principle and encouragement: “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. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work…. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

 

The issue before us is not, “Do I tithe or do I give generously as I am blessed?” We do not choose one over the other! We do both! We bring our tithes to God. In addition, many use the term “offerings” to describe giving over and above our tithes. No matter what our income level the tithe is portrayed in the Bible as a minimum—a minimum starting point. Even the poorest are to give a tithe. This puts us not only in obedience to God but also in position to receive His blessing (Malachi 3).

 

Biblical economics is designed by God to increase our income so that over time those who have more can share with those less fortunate. Out of our surplus comes our ability to give generously to others.

 

Unfortunately, most American Christians have little or no surplus. They have neglected simple Biblical economics. As a result, they are up to their eyeballs in debt and can’t afford to pay off their credit card debts—much less to pay God His tithe. They have spent God’s money on themselves. Can you imagine that He is less than impressed—to put it mildly? Robbing God—by the way, the term really means “embezzling from God”—still goes on today.

 

Where do we give our tithes and offerings? In the Old Testament God had the people bring their tithes to the Temple in Jerusalem which He referred to as the “storehouse.” I think that a good parallel today is the local church we attend. The tithes provide for the ongoing existence and funding of the ministries of the church.

 

On the other hand, I think that our offerings may be given to any good cause which furthers the Kingdom of God on earth. For example, the Lord promises blessings to those who care for the poor. Evangelization and global outreach are other giving places to consider.

 

Do we pay our tithes based on our gross or net income? We base our tithes on what we make—not on how much we have left after the government takes out its taxes. God comes first—not the government.

 

Well, Andy, I hope this answer provides some insight to your question. I will look forward to seeing your tithes and offerings in a giving envelope this Sunday—just kidding.

 

Love,

Roger

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