and other questions I get about tithing…
As Christ-followers we must wrestle honestly with the Bible’s teachings about money, stewardship, and generosity. As we wrestle, we will inevitably experience the tension of how the world views money versus how God views money. These tensions will create some questions, and below are several great questions I’ve asked personally or been asked by others.
Are Christians supposed to tithe since we are no longer under the Law?
The logic here is that Jesus set us free from the Law and since the tithe was part of the Mosaic Law, then Christians are not obligated to tithe anymore. Jesus did, in fact, set us free from the Law as a means of being righteous before God; now we are righteous by faith in Jesus, receiving His righteousness as our own (2 Cor. 5:21).
However, we must wrestle with the fact that Abraham tithed before the Law of Moses was given and that Jesus affirms the tithe in Matthew 23:23. Furthermore, when Jesus taught about the Law, He taught that He came to fulfill it, and then He intensified the Law’s requirements. (See His teachings on what constitutes murder and adultery as examples of this.) Jesus did this because God is after the heart and wants obedience and good works to flow from a heart that is fully devoted to Him. Christ-followers have been given a new heart, or a new value system, that esteems and treasures Jesus above all.
So how does the “heart” show up in giving? Through radical and often sacrificial generosity that testifies to the worth of Jesus and our ambition for His global mission. Understood this way, the tithe is a great place to start in our giving.
Should I give or tithe off the net or gross?
The Old Testament describes tithing as being a “first fruit,” meaning the first of what we make as income. We should give back to God first, before giving or spending anything else.
Should I get out of debt first or start giving first?
I firmly believe the Bible teaches that generous giving should never be neglected for any reason, as long as a person has an income. We see in 2 Corinthians 8:2-3 that the Macedonian churches gave more than they were able to give. This means that being generous was the top priority for how these Christians handled their finances.
Should I give only to my local church?
In the Old Testament, we clearly see that the tithe supported the work of the temple and that other offerings were taken for the poor and for other needs. In the New Testament, the church is the new temple (1 Cor. 3:16) and the central institution for global disciple-making. Therefore, Christ-followers should give first to the church—the only organization Jesus founded while on earth. However, the local church does not need to be the only recipient of generous giving. We should be open to any opportunity to bless others and partner in Kingdom causes as the Holy Spirit guides.
In conclusion, generosity and stewardship are areas we must constantly monitor our lives to guard against greed, materialism, and idolatry. Because God gave Himself to us in life and in death, we must continually die to the master of money and live joyfully under the reign of King Jesus. As we open up our hearts more to Jesus, we’ll find our hands opening up more to give, to bless, and to serve. This is why I encourage us all to stare deep at the love and mercy of God on display in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to meditate on His radical generosity to us, and to reflect on the cost of our forgiveness and new life … then give—not out of guilt, fear, or reluctance—but as response to the indescribable gift of God (2 Cor. 9:15).