There is no subject in the modern day church more polarizing than tithing. Even the very mention of the word brings strong emotional responses from both ministers and members. No one seems to be opposed to its validity, only its necessity.
Most group discussions on this issue will conclude that the Bible teaches us to tithe. However, where many of us seem to disagree is how much, or what is supposed to constitute a tithe. In my many years in ministry I have heard multiple beliefs as to how we are supposed to tithe. Some, in an attempt to save themselves money, have decided they should tithe their time not their income. Others have limited their tithe to 10% of their net income, while some would argue that the 10% should be based on your gross. Do we tithe on our tax returns? Do we tithe on unexpected money? How do we even know the tithe is supposed to be 10%?
The questions surrounding this subject are limitless! So what does the Bible really say about the tithe? Surprisingly, the Bible does not speak as much about tithing as you might think. Most English Bibles only use this word a handful of times and the majority of those are found in the Old Testament in the Law.
The most common Hebrew word for tithe is “ma’asrah” which comes from the less common root word “’asar” and simply means “A tenth, or to give a tenth” When we cross over into the New Testament the word tithe becomes even less common and is attributed to Jesus and the writer of Hebrews only. Neither Paul, nor any of the other biblical writers chose to include this teaching in any of their letters, which I find very interesting.
That is not to say they did not teach on giving. On the contrary, Paul spoke much on the subject and gives us some clear insight into what is expected of us under the New Covenant. Probably the most notable is Paul’s statements to the Corinthians in his first letter. Chapter 9 teaches us that we are supposed to give financial support to those who shepherd the flocks of God and allow them to “Eat of the vineyard and drink of the milk of the flock.”
However, I believe the most revealing teaching on the subject of giving is found in Paul’s second letter in chapter 9. Here Paul lays out 5 truths about NT giving:
- If you sow sparingly you will reap sparingly
- If you sow generously you will reap generously
- Give according to what you have decided in your heart (Led by the Spirit)
- Do not give out of compulsion (Law of tithing)
- Follow the Spirit and it will bring cheer in giving, not dread.
We should be teaching God’s children to be led by the Spirit in ALL things including their giving. The tithe is part of the Old Covenant Law and was never intended to be a part of the freedom of the New Covenant. In fact, the simplicity of the New Covenant is that we no longer have to toil under the burden of trying to live up to the standards of the legal system. We have been declared innocent by the One who fulfilled all the requirements of the Law. Now we are free from the Law and free to follow Who is inside us not be compelled by an external commandment. As Jeremiah prophesied in chapter 31; “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days…I will put my teaching within them and write it on their hearts.”
The New Covenant teaches us to simply be led by the Spirit in everything, for it is the Spirit of Truth which will lead us into truth. Not regulations or expectations of the institutional church. We are not limited to 10% or any percent for that matter. We are free and unlimited to give as the Spirit leads!
Several years ago I founded a small Gathering in Springfield Missouri. We grew and the offerings grew with it. At that time we were taking in about $1,500.00 per week. Suddenly, God showed me the NT principle of giving and I began to preach being led by the Spirit rather than giving by legal compulsion. An amazing thing happened…Our offering dropped to around $300.00 per week! This is exactly why pastors are afraid to teach a NT concept of giving.
Why did this happen? I discovered that the problem was that people have never been taught to be led by the Spirit. When given the freedom to decide they followed their selfish flesh. I no longer teach on giving. I teach people how to hear and follow the Spirit inside them and he will make sure everything is done in His order, even giving. For this is true New Covenant life.
R.A.G.E. Ministries, INC