(This is a guest post I put together for onemoneydesign.com)
Being the author of a Christian book on finances and managing a blog along the same lines, I run into an array of reactions regarding the practice of “tithing”. One thing that is consistent, however, is a heated comment something like: “STOP telling Christians to tithe! Tithing is a legalistic, Old Testament Law that gets pushed on believers. Under the grace of the new covenant, God desires us to give with our hearts as the Spirit leads us.” This is quite a loaded statement, and I believe it well worth taking a moment to unpack it.
Naturally, we should look to what the Bible says about tithing under the new covenant. Oh, if only it were that easy! Simply put, the New Testament does not directly confirm or refute the tithe. We cannot, with certainty, say the Biblical argument lies on one side of the fence or the other (continuing or abandoning the tithe). What we can say, however, is that the New Testament commands Christians to give generously, liberally, sacrificially, secretively, willingly, and proportionally (and all of this from a pure heart).
So is the anger towards the concept of tithing justified? Perhaps. I believe the person that is angered at the continued teaching of the tithe because it sets the bar too low for the grace giving Christian should be given room to speak. After all, the commands for the Christian’s giving in the New Testament are a much higher standard than a “10% tithe”. But is the anger towards tithing really arising from a disappointment that Christians have settled for too low of a standard?
Let’s dig in where the rubber meets the road. Google search it: What percent of Christians tithe? The results of countless surveys are staggering–ranging from as low as 4% and topping out somewhere near 40%. For safe measure, we will place the bar dead center: We will assume that approximately 20% of Christians give 10% or more of their money to the Lord’s work. So, before addressing whether or not we should stop telling Christians to tithe, we must recognize that approximatley 80% of Christians give less than what the tithe requires. There is a disconnect here. The most common reaction to tithing is resentment based on a Biblical call to give as the New Testament requires, yet the pudding lacks any proof. More and more Christians get offended that churches try to teach the practice of tithing, but the anger (statistically speaking) is much more likely to come from someone who gives far less than a tenth. Something is amiss.
So what to make of the tithe?
1. First off, I admit that–yes–there are many churches that have taught the concept of tithing incorrectly in a variety of ways (legalistically, under compulsion, etc.). That aside, I find it very difficult–perhaps even impossible–to use the New Testament’s commands for our money to justify giving less than 10% as a long-term lifestyle decision.
2. Secondly, there is nothing wrong, primitive, or legalistic about a Christian deciding to tithe (you can turn any command into legalism). A heart that has sought the Lord with honesty and decided to set apart 10% to God’s work based on the instruction of the Old Testament is doing far more than the average believer.
Continue on in grace and truth. Those of you who are passionate that the tithe is too limiting, too little, too far from the scripture’s high calling–keep on. The church needs more voices like you. Those who are passionately against the continued teaching of the “old testament tithe” but give far less than it requires need to reflect honestly over the following question: “Should someone who gives so little be handing out advice on generosity?” True, Christ has set us free from the Law, but something is amiss when we use our freedom to give less and keep more for ourselves.