Is Tithing for today?


Tithing

Charles asked a question about whether tithing was still applicable under the New Covenant, especially if it was just for the maintenance of the temple cult. Here is my response: 

Hi Charles, 

Tithing is not specifically addressed in the New Testament and so there are various beliefs concerning whether the law of the tithe is still applicable. I will share with you my thoughts. In your question you state: “neither Jesus nor the apostles ever so much as suggested this duty [tithing] to the disciples.” Technically this is not true. In Matthew 23:23 Jesus says to the Pharisees (with the disciples there listening) that they tithed but neglected justice, mercy and faith. He then states, “These things should have been done [tithing] without neglecting the others [justice, mercy and faith].” One could argue that he only meant under the Old Covenant but that is not specifically stated; so you see, the New Testament does advocate tithing, at least as a principle. Now saying that, I would agree that looking at the New Testament as a whole and the statements of Paul and Hebrews that we are no longer under the law of Moses (Romans 9:20-21; Hebrews 7:12) and therefore no longer under a law of the tithe. The New Testament also says very little about the Sabbath and seems to indicate that we are no longer under the law of the Sabbath either (one of the Ten Commandments). We may not be under the law of Moses that deals with the tithe or the Sabbath, but that doesn’t mean we are not obligated to set aside a day for worship and rest (Hebrews 10:25) as well as to regularly give. The church did take up an offering, seemingly on a regular basis on Sunday, to help the ministry of the church. These gifts were given to the leaders of the church who were responsible to decide how those gifts should be used in ministry (1 Corinthians 16:2; Acts 20:7; 4:34-37; 2 Corinthians 9:6-8). So first we see that Jesus did address tithing and did not abrogate it like he did with the kosher food laws (Mark 7:19). Second we see that regular giving is still required, though not in a legalistic sense, but rather a principle of regular giving (2 Corinthians 9:6-8). And third we should notice that whenever Jesus talked of the law, he did not soften the requirements, but rather went to the heart of the matter, making it more stringent if anything; we see this in his Sermon on the Mount. When he discusses adultery he says don’t even lust; when he mentions murder, he says don’t even hate. I can’t imagine asking Jesus, “Now that we are under the New Covenant, even though we are supposed to regularly give, can I give 5% instead of 10%?” If anything 10% is a good measure to start with, but we should be willing to go further as God leads us. My recommendation is that a person should start at 10% and give this to the local church’s general fund. Anything beyond 10% the believer can give to whatever ministry he or she feels led to give to. For new believers, it is sometimes wise to start giving less than 10% (maybe 5 or even 2 or 3), because of the shock to the budget; but he or she should gradually seek to work up to 10%. God is not going to zap you if you don’t immediately start giving 10%. But to those who don’t give or use the New Covenant idea as an excuse to give less, I would say that you can’t out give God and you shouldn’t tempt God. He owns everything and so all we have is His. He calls us to be good stewards of all that He has entrusted to us. The principle found in Malachi 3:8-11 still applies to the Christian: 

8 Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions.

9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you.

10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.

11 I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts.

(Mal 3:8-11 ESV)

 

Hope this helps,

 

Larry Siekawitch, Ph.D.

Advertisements

8 thoughts on “Is Tithing for today?

  1. Bob Klackner

    I agree with the practice of tithing. However I am challenged the the idea that our tithe NEEDS to go the the LOCAL church. Living in one of the richest countries in the world and supporting the local church with all my tithe seems to me over kill as I witness first hand the ministry needs in 3rd world countries. Where is the biblical principle that directs us give our tithe to the LOCAL church as opposed to the God’s CHURCH? I struggle with the lack of support for ministries that are dealing with life and death efforts in favor of supporting some rather wealthy ministries in the US that worship in elaborate worship centers.

    Like

    1. Very good question. First, to understand why we should tithe to our local church we need to understand the difference between the local church and the universal church. In the Bible the concept of “church” can refer to a local congregation that is organized around an elders/deacons leadership, or it can refer to the universal body of Christ. Most of the New Testament references refer to the local church rather than the universal church (e.g. 1 Corinthians 12-14 on the body of Christ refers to members of a local church ministering in a local context). A word search on “church” will bear this out as you notice the church at Ephesus, the church at Corinth, etc. International ministries like the offering for the Jerusalem believers who were experiencing famine were still done through the local churches. The gifts were “laid at the feet” of the leaders and they dispersed them as they saw fit. Second, a proper understanding of a corporate identity as opposed to individualism must be discerned. Today we are rampant individualists in the U.S. for the most part. We don’t take seriously the concept of becoming a part of a body where we are no longer in complete control. The people in Bible times would not even comprehend the extreme individualism of our day. When you became a part of the family/body of a local church you submitted to the authority of the leadership. You had full trust that the elders/deacons would use the money wisely. The idea that this is my money so I am better equipped in deciding where the funds should go would not have crossed their minds. You may not have agreed with every decision of the leadership, but you embraced the vision of that local body. Finally, it is important that each local church works with the greater body of Christ and supports/helps ministries in need in other parts of the world; this did not happen very much in the early church simply because it was not feasible for the most part, but it is much easier now. Missions should be holistic in that they evangelize and take care of the needs of the people throughout the world. A church that is only focused on its own survival should change its view. You use the phrase “elaborate worship centers.” This phrase can be understood differently but in general I would agree that too much money spent on the facility is not a good use of resources. Some say that it is needed if you want to grow to be a mega church, but others would question whether mega churches are as effective as smaller churches or not. Statistics reveal that smaller churches reach more people for Christ than bigger churches on average, but not in all cases. One way to assess this is through a baptism ratio; this is not perfect but it can generally reveal how effective a church is. Larger churches typically have a 40-50:1 ratio of average attenders to baptisms. In other words it took 40-50 people to reach one person for Christ that year. Healthier churches would have a 10-20:1 ratio, and this is typically truer of smaller churches. Other factors to consider are children/youth programs and missions giving. Smaller churches do not typically have the best results in these areas. Overall it seems to me that middle-sized churches are the most effective churches. Of course this could be debated. House churches avoid overhead expenditures but they often become ingrown and ineffective, especially in evangelism and youth ministry. Ideally, a church should have as little overhead as possible with spending their money primarily on salaries, missions, and ministry related expenses. Notice I put in salaries. The Bible is clear that its leaders should be compensated for their time. In the U.S. economy this accounts for a lot of the giving, but it works out in effective ministry so it is worth it. If everyone in the church gave to separate ministries all over the world, putting in a little bit to their local church, the ministry of the local church would not be able to function in the way it could if each member gave the tithe to the local church and above the tithe to those ministries they personally feel are important.
      At Harvest we own our two buildings, so the only cost is maintenance. We give around 15-20% to missions, evangelism and ministry to the poor. We also encourage and support Compassion International and HELPS International as ministry to the poor in underdeveloped countries. We encourage our people to go on mission trips as well. Our baptism ratio last year was 16:1. In previous years we were at 10:1. I believe when a group of people who are called together, work together to advance the kingdom of God including sharing their time, talents and money in the local church setting under the New Testament model of elders/deacons leadership, the most people are influenced positively for the kingdom.

      Like

  2. charles

    Are you suggesting that if it is not repeated in the New Testament it doesn’t apply to us? If that is the case then we must accept sorcerers, mediums and spiritists because the NT does not address this issue.

    sure it does.. Galations 5;20

    I will respond to the rest of your post soon..

    Thanks!

    Like

    1. Pastor Larry

      Galatians 5:20 only mentions sorcery. Deuteronomy 18:9-14 lists several sins not mentioned in the New Testament including fortune telling, interpreting omens, casting spells, consulting a medium or familiar spirit, inquiring of the dead. The last one alone would open the door for praying to saints even though that was a “detestable thing” according to this passage. One thing you are not realizing is that the principle “if it is not in the NT then we are not obligated to it” is actually not in the NT. It is a belief of the dispensationalists, but it has not been the belief of the church in church history. The fulfillment principle is actually in the NT so it would be a far better principle to go by in discerning what laws are still applicable.

      Like

  3. charles

    Interesting… the Ten Commandments were done away with and have been replaced by a new covenant.. that of Christ. We are to follow all he has commanded.. in fact he re-stated and expanded on all of the commandments except the sabbath commandment. I believe this is because, just like circumcision, there were ceremonial laws that were done away with.. the sabbath included. I don’t think you can use the verse in Hebrews that states to ‘not forsake assembling together’ and add it to the done away with sabbath to say ‘it’s a sin’… after all.. what does it mean to assemble? bible study at home with another couple? why not?

    Like

    1. Pastor Larry

      Are you suggesting that if it is not repeated in the New Testament it doesn’t apply to us? If that is the case then we must accept sorcerers, mediums and spiritists because the NT does not address this issue. Klein states, “Interpreters should accept all of the OT laws as ‘useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness’ but only as one discovers how those laws are fulfilled in Christ.” Admittedly it is easier where the NT specifically deals with a particular law, but we must apply the Fulfillment principle of Matthew 5:17 to every case. In reference to the Sabbath it seems that the rules surrounding this law as found in the Pentateuch were given to Israel as a nation for the time God was only working through that nation. Jesus fulfilled those laws by making the church a transnational people, rather than national and therefore no need for the law. But the principle behind the Sabbath, the need for regular rest and worship with God’s people, is still binding. You say I can’t use Hebrews 10:25 but I certainly can. The HCSB translates episunagoge as “worship meetings.” “Not staying away from our worship meetings as some habitually do.” You can see the word synagogue in the Greek. The NT church from the very beginning patterned the church assembly after the synagogues borrowing from Nehemiah 8 where they read from the Scriptures and then gave the meaning to the congregation – expository preaching. They also had prayers, fellowship, the Lord’s Supper and singing praise to God (Acts 2:42; 1 Cor 14:26-40). These passages are not talking about casual Bible studies, but rather local churches’ regular meetings. The book of Acts reveals that the early church immediately changed the regular day of Saturday to Sunday. Acts 20:7; Jn 20:19, 26 (8 days reveals one week because in ancient reckoning they began counting with the current day) reveal this. The breaking bread refers to the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 10:16). The word for Church (eklessia) literally means “called out ones” but it was the OT word in the Septuagint used for when the Jews officially assembled together. The Septuagint was the Bible of the early church so they chose this word very specifically to refer to believers who regularly assembled together. This was the unanimous practice of the early church and throughout the ages because they knew these things. Modern ideas that we don’t have to go to church are based on ignorance of these texts. The Ten Commandments understood as the summary of the moral law and therefore applicable to all people of all time, though not all time with the cultural trappings of Deuteronomy, is the best way to understand the question concerning the Sabbath in particular as stated in these NT passages and as practiced in the NT church in Acts and subsequent history. The principle of the Sabbath was not a ceremonial law, but rather a gift from God to us as Jesus stated in the NT (Mk 2:27).

      Like

  4. charles

    Thanks Larry. I would agree that we are encouraged to give in principle.. but 10% is not part of the command.. i think we would do well to steward God’s finances in the way we are lead though.. I’m interested in your comment on the Sabbath.. are you stating that we are keeping the 4th commandment by going to church on Sunday??

    Like

    1. Pastor Larry

      We are not under the Mosaic law of the Sabbath, but the principle of the law found from the beginning of creation is to set aside a day for rest and worship. The church clearly changed the day from Saturday to Sunday. If someone works on Sunday they could go on another day, but that is the day the church changed it to in order to honor the resurrection. We are commanded to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, not in a legalistic fashion, but as a regular practice. It would be a sin to stay away from church – the assembling of believers who are covenanted together as a local church to worship and hear God’s word. We can certainly go on vacation, fishing, hunting (many of our men will be gone this Sunday – opening day) or just because you sense God leading for whatever reason that day, but if this is a regular practice you are breaking the principle found in the fourth commandment. The Ten Commandments are a good representation of the natural law God put in everyone’s heart and Moses added explanation for the Jews under the Old Covenant that we are no longer under.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s