Larry Slawson received his Master's Degree from UNC Charlotte in 2018. He specializes in history and theology.
Are Christians Required to Tithe?
Are Christians required to tithe? How much should the average Christian give to his/her church each Sunday? When should they give, and where should this money be given? Is tithing even required during this dispensation? These are just a few of the questions that will be addressed in the sections that follow as we attempt to understand God’s word in relation to this very controversial subject.
As we progress into our study, the author hopes to demonstrate one profound truth: the act of tithing was a law given exclusively to Israel during the Old Testament and does not apply to the Church today. As such, Christians are not required to provide weekly, monthly, or annual tithes.
Before we proceed, it is important to note that this work is not an attempt to criticize, slander, or attack Christians (or the Church itself) for their practices and beliefs; nor is it an attempt to diminish the importance of charitable giving and donations to local assemblies. The author’s sole purpose in writing this article is to explore the fundamental fallacies that surround current views of tithing, and to demonstrate why these views are not supported by Scripture.
As with any work that discusses Biblical matters, individuals should never take the word of this author (or others) as fact. Rather, they should examine the Bible for themselves to verify what has been explicitly stated. In doing so, it is the author’s hope that you will be better informed of the Scriptural passages (and reasoning) behind the fallacies of modern-day tithing.
How to Divide the Word of Truth
Before we explore the issue of tithing, it is important to first describe the division of humanity that is described within the Bible. One of the primary reasons Christians get so confused about the issue of tithing is due to the fact that individuals have never learned how to properly “divide the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15).
When dealing with a subject such as this, it is vital that individuals understand “who is speaking in the Bible,” “who is being spoken to,” as well as “what is being spoken about” when reading their Bible. Asking these three questions will help you to understand a number of Biblical issues with greater assurance, clarity, and truth.
Regarding the human race, it is also important to understand that God has divided the entire human race into three separate groups. These include the Jews, Gentiles, as well as the Church. As the Bible states in I Corinthians 10:32: “Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God.” Understanding this distinction will aid you in deciphering “who is being spoken to” in the Bible more clearly.
Who are the Jews? The Jewish people are individuals that descended directly from Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, as well as the 12 tribes of Israel (Halff, 2). Gentiles, on the other hand, consist of all the other nations (and individuals) of the world (also known as the “Greeks”), while the Church consists exclusively of born-again believers (including both Jews and Gentiles).
Who Was the Law of Tithing Given To?
Now that we understand the basic division of humanity, we can now discuss the origin of tithing in the Old Testament. As we study Scripture, we find that the law of tithing was an ordinance given exclusively to the Jews (and not Christians) by the Lord Himself (Halff, 2). Leviticus 27:30, 32 establishes what the tithe consisted of, while Numbers 18:21-24 and Hebrews 7:5 denote who the tithe was given to:
- Leviticus 27:30, 32: “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree…the tithe of the herd or the flock…the tenth one shall be holy to the Lord.”
- Numbers 18:21-24: “Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform., the work of the tabernacle of meeting. Hereafter the children of Israel shall not come near the tabernacle of meeting, lest they bear sin and die. But the Levites shall perform the work of the tabernacle of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity; it shall be a statute forever, throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance. For the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer up as a heave offering to the LORD, I have given to the Levites as an inheritance; therefore I have said to them, ‘Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.’”
- Hebrews 7:5: “And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham.”
As can be clearly seen in these three verses of Scripture, tithing was a law (and command) given exclusively to the Jewish people to provide for the Tribe of Levi. According to the law, the Jewish people were to provide a tenth of their corn, barley, oil, wine, cattle, and flocks as their tithe. These items (and livestock) would then be brought into the storehouse which was connected to the Temple.
What Was the Purpose of Tithing?
In many ways, the law of tithing served as a form of “income tax” for the Jewish people, as the system was utilized by God as a means to provide for the tribe of Levi (who were in charge of spiritual affairs and Temple services). This was crucial for their survival, as the Levites were the only tribe of Israel not permitted to own (or cultivate) land, or engage in business/trade.
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As such, God required tithing as a means to support the tribe of Levi who worked full-time as servants of the Lord. These tithes were required regularly (each year). The same sort of policy exists in modern-day governments, as individuals pay taxes in order to support the President, police, government officials, and various workers as they perform their official duties in office. Without a support system in place, these institutions would collapse overnight.
How do we know that the Levites were the only ones who received tithes? Hebrews 7:5 gives us our answer: “And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law.” As this verse clearly demonstrates, Levitical priests were the only individuals ever given the authority to receive tithes from the people (not modern-day churches as espoused by many preachers today).
What Is Storehouse Tithing?
It has often been claimed by preachers that the local church is the storehouse mentioned throughout the Old Testament. Using Malachi 3:9-10 as a basis for their claim, these same individuals proclaim (through the use of fear tactics) that all tithes are required to be given to the local churches. But is this true? Let’s examine Malachi 3:9-10 more closely.
As it states: “Ye are cursed with a curse, for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
These verses (above all others) are utilized by advocates of tithing to support their view that the “storehouse” mentioned above is the local church. It is important to note, however, that Malachi 3:9-10 is not referencing the Church (as this was discussed in the Old Testament before the Church age had even begun). Likewise, God is speaking exclusively to the Jews in these verses, which can be determined in the very first verse of Malachi 1:1.
As it states, “The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi”. As we discussed in prior sections, it is imperative that individuals determine who God is speaking to, as well as what God is talking about when examining Biblical truths. As these verses demonstrate, the Lord is clearly speaking to the Jewish people, and is directly referencing the storehouse that adjoined the Temple (which served as a “warehouse” for the tithes brought to the Levites).
Notice what the Lord says: “Ye are cursed with a curse, for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.” When Malachi first wrote this Scripture, God was speaking to the Jewish people during a time when they were in an extremely backslidden position. To remedy the situation, God was even willing to make a bargain with the Jews, telling them that if they would tithe, He would provide them with ample rain from the heavens, and bless their land.
This does not apply in the modern-era, however, as the tithe no longer applies to the Church. As Christians, we do not have to bargain with God in this manner. As Ephesians 1:3 states: we are “Blessed…with every spiritual blessing…in Christ.”
As we have seen in these verses, it is difficult to see how anyone can apply these passages of Scripture from the Old Testament to the Church. Tithing was a command given exclusively to the Jews, and was to be taken directly to the storehouse that adjoined the Temple. In the modern era, there is no storehouse in the dispensation of Grace.
Likewise, there is no tribe of Levi today that is capable of receiving the tithe. The Temple of Jerusalem (where all this occurred) was destroyed in AD 70 when Titus entered Jerusalem alongside the Roman Army and scattered the Jewish people around the globe.
Is the Church the Storehouse?
Nowhere in the Bible will you find that the Church is the storehouse. It is quite surprising to see the number of individuals (especially preachers) that take Malachi 3:10 out of its context. Even more surprising is the number of preachers that lead their congregation to believe their churches are the “storehouse” mentioned in this verse.
A number of preachers have even told their congregations that terrible judgments await them if they don’t give money to their local church and that sickness, poverty, and other misfortunes will be rained down upon them for not tithing. Such proclamations, however, are a tremendous misinterpretation of Scripture and have no Biblical basis whatsoever.
Is Tithing Required Today?
To summarize what we have covered so far, it is important to remember that we (the Church) have never been under the Law of Moses; rather, we are under the dispensation of Grace. All curses and penalties of the Law were completely abolished when the Lord Jesus was “made a curse for us” (Galatians 3:11). Today’s born-again believers (the Church) are now justified through their faith in Christ. As Paul states: “We are not under Law, but under Grace.”
Many claim that the tithing law from Old Testament times was a permanent ordinance; however, that is simply not true. In Colossians 2:14, the Apostle Paul states: “having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”
Whereas Malachi 3:7,14 shows that tithing was once a requirement, Colossians demonstrates that Christ did away with “the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us…And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” In other words, the law (which included tithing) was fulfilled and abolished at the cross. Nothing could be plainer than this truth.
In spite of this clear Biblical position on tithing though, a number of preachers, deacons, and church officials continue to uphold the law of tithing within their congregations. But did you know that God’s Word strictly forbids us to mix Law with Grace? Colossians 2:16 and Galatians 5:1 make these truths abundantly clear:
- Colossians 2:16: “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days.”
- Galatians 5:1: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”
Under the Law of Moses, the Jews tithed out of fear. Under the age of Grace, the Christian gives freely (due to their love for the Lord Jesus Christ). Under the Law of Moses, individuals tithed because they were required to do so. Under Grace, individuals give out of a genuine desire to do so, as the Holy Spirit that is within them causes them to be eager to give. As Romans 8:4 states, “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
If Tithing Was Given Only to the Jews, Why Did Abraham Pay a Tithe to Melchizedek?
One of the main arguments utilized by individuals in support of modern-day tithing is the story of Abraham giving tithes to Melchizedek in Genesis 14:20. Advocates of tithing state that Abraham tithed before the Law of Moses had even been given to the Jewish people.
As such, they proclaim that it is only logical that we observe the practice of tithing, as God clearly intended for this practice to stand throughout time. This argument, however, falls short in a number of ways, as they fail to realize:
- Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek was a freewill offering, and was never required from God.
- Abraham’s tithe offering was never brought to any specific “storehouse,” “sanctuary,” or church treasury (for more details, see Genesis 14:17-24).
- Abraham was approximately 80 years old before he ever tithed, and no other record of his tithing was ever recorded again in the Bible (indicating it was a one-time event).
- Abraham was given no promise of a “blessing” for his decision to tithe to Melchizedek.
It is also important to note that the tithe of Abraham consisted entirely of spoils of war, as he had just won a major battle against his enemies (as discussed in Genesis 14:16). Therefore, if we are to follow the logic of tithing advocates, and tithe in the manner of Abraham (as some preachers and individuals proclaim we must do), then Christians would be required to kill cattle, sheep, and goats for the purpose of a burnt offering to God.
Thankfully, these rules do not apply to Christians in the dispensation of Grace, as our instructions for giving are found in I Corinthians 16:1-2 as well as II Corinthians 8:2-4 and 9:7, respectively.
What Did Jesus Say About Tithing?
In the New Testament, the Lord Jesus Christ is recorded discussing the issue of tithing in three separate places. These include: Matthew 23:23, Luke 11:42, and Luke 18:9-12. In each of these verses, however, the Lord Jesus was speaking to unbelieving Pharisees and not to His disciples:
- In Matthew 23:23, the Lord said: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.”
As you can see in this passage, Christ was speaking directly to the Pharisees and was telling them that under the Law of Moses, their obligations were greater than paying tithes (Halff, 9). In reference to His disciples, however, Jesus never says a word about the act of tithing. In fact, you will not find a single verse where the Lord Jesus enjoins the act of tithing to born-again believers. Nor does He ever teach His disciples that they are to observe tithing.
The Law was given exclusively for the disciples of Moses, not for the disciples of Jesus, as we can clearly see in John 1:17, which states: “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” According to the Lord Jesus, the only “Law” that a Christian is placed under is the “Law of Love.”
New Testament Giving
Now that we have established what the Old Testament says about tithing, it is now important to look at what the New Testament says about giving. Listed below are a number of questions and portions of Scripture that detail Christian responsibilities (as well as the principles) of giving.
Can Christians Tithe?
Yes! In spite of what we have discussed, the decision to tithe is completely okay, but should always be done according to your free will (and not by a desire to keep the Law). Tithing in this dispensation does not have to meet a certain threshold either, as Christians are permitted to give as much as they feel called to do.
Many individuals can give a lot more than 10-percent of their income, whereas others have trouble giving less than this amount (due to bills and various debts). Whatever a Christian decides to give, however, should never be done through the Law, but through personal choice. As we discussed above, the law pertaining to tithing was done away with on the cross (Colossians 2:14-17).
Should Christian Giving be Done in Secret?
Yes! In fact, the Lord Jesus Christ actually tells us that all giving should be done secretly (with discretion). As He states in Matthew 6:3, “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” This is in stark contrast to Old Testament tithing practices, as giving during this dispensation required an individual to count it, measure it, speak of it, and make it known (thus, making everyone acutely aware of one’s income and the amount they were giving).
As such, this verse, in itself, destroys any notion of Christians being required to observe the law of tithing in the dispensation of Grace, as it goes against everything Christ taught in this chapter.
Is Christian Giving a Personal Matter?
Yes! As I Corinthians 16:2 states: “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.” In this portion of Scripture, it is clear that the decision to “give” is a personal matter.
No preacher, deacon, or church member has any right (or authority) to tell an individual how much he/she should give, or where an individual should be giving their money. The matter is a personal choice between you and God, and should be directed by the Holy Spirit.
How Much Should Christians Give?
Referencing I Corinthians 16:2 again, we can see that Christian giving should be proportionate to what has been given to them by God. As Paul states, the amount is not specific, and should be done “as God hath prospered him.”
Some Christians are able to give 90-percent or more of their money to the cause of Christ. Others can only give small portions of their income (if anything at all). Whatever the case may be, individuals should give according to what God has provided them with through the direction of the Holy Spirit.
Christian Giving Must be Voluntary and Spirit-Directed
Christians should always be prepared to give whenever the Holy Spirit directs them to a specific cause or need. As we saw in I Corinthians 16:2, the Apostle Paul was discussing a special offering that had been established to help the poor saints living in Jerusalem at the time. Through this “relief offering,” Paul was urging the Corinthian believers to lay aside any money they could spare (“as God hath prospered him”) to help the poor saints.
A number of preachers use this passage to justify the act of storehouse tithing in the modern era, but this is simply not true. Nowhere in this verse does Paul tell the individuals to place their offerings within a specific storehouse or church treasury; likewise, each of the believers were asked to lay aside (store) what they could until the time came to deliver it to the poor. Again, no storehouse existed for this purpose within the church. Rather, each of the believers served as their own “storehouse,” of sorts, keeping their “store” through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
This concept of Spirit-led giving is further explained by Galatians 5:18, which states: “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” According to Matthew 23:23, Hebrews 7:5, and Leviticus 27:30-34, tithing was part of the Law of Moses and the old covenant but was done away with through Christ’s work on the cross.
When individuals willfully place themselves under the law of tithing, therefore, it is apparent that they are not being led by the Holy Spirit. All giving during this dispensation of Grace must be directed by the Holy Spirit. According to Romans 7:6, the Bible states: “But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.”
As this verse implies, the Law is not the Christian’s standard for living in the modern age. Our primary concern should always be what the Holy Spirit would have us do. Individuals should give as much as they can to the cause of Christ but should ignore the Law and its decrees when doing so, as they were nailed to the cross and were done away with by the death of Christ.
To try and practice tithing according to the Law is to place yourself in direct bondage (similar to Israel), and fly directly in the face of God and our requirement to serve Him in the “newness of the Spirit.” Christ made all born-again believers free from the bondage of the Law. If we will only yield ourselves in submission to the Holy Spirit, He will guide us in the spirit of Christian giving.
Christian Giving Should Be Done Willingly and Cheerfully
Giving should never be performed by Christians for the purpose of easing our conscience, or because we feel required to do so. It should also never be done for the purpose of making a name for ourselves, or because we see others doing it. Born-again believers will give freely due to their love of the Lord Jesus Christ, and because of what the Lord has done for him/her.
II Corinthians 8:12 offers an illuminating verse to Christians and the act of giving. It states: “For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.” This highlights a major difference between giving under the Law and giving under Grace. The only gift that God accepts is that which comes from the heart and is untarnished by specific motives.
If we maintain this thought process in our giving (doing it through pure love), God will bless us. What is the right motive for giving? II Corinthians states, let “each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” If our decision to give comes from a loving and willing heart, we can expect to receive a blessing.
However, when a Christian gives reluctantly or grudgingly, we should not expect to be blessed. Remember, God always sees the heart of an individual, as well as the attitude of the giver.
Christians Should Give Liberally
In reality, the entire matter of money (and “how much to give”) can easily be settled through the realization that all of our money actually belongs to God in the first place. Once we are saved and become born-again believers, everything that we possess (including both our bodies and money) belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ.
As I Corinthians 6:19-20 states, “you are not your own…for you were bought at a price.” Therefore, when we hold to the Old Testament belief that only a tenth of our money belongs to the Lord, we are greatly deceiving ourselves. Christians should give liberally to the cause of Christ, whenever possible.
Rewards for Giving
As we have discussed, Christian giving should always be done out of a loving and willing heart (and not for reward). This is not something that can be learned, as cheerful giving stems solely from a love for the Lord Jesus Christ, and will occur naturally when an individual humbly submits themselves to the direction of the Holy Spirit. For those that accomplish this, the rewards are far greater than the human mind could ever grasp.
II Corinthians 9:8, 10 gives an indication of our reward, stating: “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good word. Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness.”
In this verse, God promises to the faithful giver to provide bread for food, indicating that He will supply for our needs. Likewise, He promises to “multiply the seed you have sown.” This portion of Scripture references the “incorruptible seed” (or Word of God) that is noted in I Peter 1:23, indicating that the Lord will provide faithful and true givers additional opportunities to “sow” the Word.
God also promises in this verse to “increase the fruits of your righteousness,” showing that a cheerful and willing sense of giving will not only enrich us (spiritually), but will also provide us something to look forward to at the Judgement Seat of Christ. When the Lord returns, faithful givers will not only receive their reward for giving, but will also receive rewards for everything they have done here on Earth for the cause of Christ.
Where Should Christians Give Their Money?
As we have seen throughout our study of Scripture, a number of preachers proclaim that Christians should give solely to their local church. However, the Bible indicates that Christians can give their gifts and free-will offerings to anyone that is supporting and proclaiming the Word of God. As Galatians 6:6 states, “Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.”
As this verse indicates, born-again believers should share their money with (and support) individuals that are actively proclaiming the Word of God. This includes pastors, missionaries, teachers, Gospel tract distributors, and diligent Christian workers. In other words, anyone that provides us (and others) with spiritual encouragement and comfort is worthy of your support. This indicates that your money doesn’t always have to be given to your local church.
It can be provided to missions (both local and international), radio broadcasts, or even other churches that are in need. The only true requirement for giving is to ensure that your money is being utilized by a true professor of Christ; one that refuses to back down to the truth, or compromise on clear Biblical principles.
In fact, did you know it is actually prohibited by God to support a preacher, individual, or institution that doesn’t preach the truth? II John 10-11 proclaims: “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.”
If your church is not providing spiritual “food” or maintaining strict adherence to the Word of God, you should not support these “evil deeds” through the giving of money (the Lord’s money). As such, individuals should know as much as they can about their church and its leadership.
In conclusion, it is clear that no rules, commandments, or decrees exist in the New Testament regarding the issue of tithing in the dispensation of Grace (which we currently live under). Christians are to give freely and cheerfully when they can, but should never feel compelled by a church, preacher, or individual to do so. All acts of giving should be directed solely by the Holy Spirit through a humble submission to the Lord’s will.
To give according to the belief that Christians are bound to the Law (and the requirement for Old Testament tithing), however, is both fallacious and unbiblical. It is my sincere hope that this message has been a blessing to your heart!
- Halff, Charles. Should We Tithe? San Antonio, Texas: CJF Ministries, 2016. Print.
- The Bible. King James Version. Print.
- The Christian Jew Foundation. Bible Questions and Answers. San Antonio, Texas: CJF Ministries, 2016. Print.
- Pixabay Commons.
- Wikimedia Commons.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Larry Slawson