There are thousands and thousands of pastors and teachers, particularly in the U.S., who will tell us that the answer to that question is “ten percent” – the tithe.
They’re all wrong.
You may refer to my earlier, more comprehensive post, but I was recently moved to emphasize the following points:
- The succinct, sufficient Biblical answer to the question “How much should a Christian give?” is provided in 2 Corinthians 9:7 —
“Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
- On the apostolic authority of this one verse, I submit that any putative tithe-requirement for the Christian is explicitly voided.
- More to the point, the demanding of the tithe by church leadership is clearly forbidden by this verse (if the people are to give “not grudgingly or under compulsion”).
- The New Testament cites no example of a church asking for, or collecting, a tithe.
- New Testament collections were specifically for assisting the poor, not support of the local church.
- Demanding the tithe, defining a numerical standard of obedience, insults the poor (and exalts the rich) in exactly the way James 2:1-5 warns against:
My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor.
- Tithing, as taught in the modern church, looks nothing like the Old Testament tithe, which:
- consisted of three different contributions, amounting to about 23%;
- was levied on landowners only (Deut. 14 & 26);
- was livestock and grain, never money;
- was used for supporting (among other things) the local civil government.
- Poor people in Israel, those without crops or livestock, paid no tithe. One searches the Law in vain for the requirement that they do so.
- In any case, we must never build doctrines for the church out of Israelite Law, which applies to a different people and time.
I don’t write this because I am greedy to hold onto my money, any more than I believe a pastor teaching tithing is greedy to get his hands on his flock’s money. In fact, I recognize I am bargaining from a weak position, since my giving is much lower than it ought to be. But what motivates me most strongly is an aversion to legalism. Tithe-teaching smells funny to me, as a grace-minded person. What I think I smell is the corruption of the freedom that believers ought to experience. Teaching tithing is incompatible with teaching grace. It is incongruent with the gospel.