When it comes to tithing, Christians aren’t biblically required to give 10 percent of their income to the church, as Jesus cares more about an attitude of generosity than a particular number, two pastors have said.
In a recent video posted on the Gospel Coalition website, Jonathan Leeman and John Onwuchekwa discussed what the Bible says about tithing and what it means for Christians.
Leeman, author and elder at Cheverly Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., said that tithing — a word meaning “tenth” — was required of Old Testament Israel in a certain way.
“I don't think we are required to give a 10th of our income in the same way Old Testament Israel did,” Leeman said. “We're not under the mosaic covenant law in the same way. In fact, they had more than just the tithe. They had a number of things that were required of them. But no, I don't think it applies to us directly. So observation one, not a particular percentage.”
Leeman added that believers aren’t “compelled” to tithe, citing 2nd Corinthians 9:7, which reads: “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
“I would say Christians are called to give cheerfully, generously, and according to their means,” he said. “So on the one hand, no, I don't think we can give Christians a particular percentage, but I think, one, according to your means, two, generously, three cheerfully.”
The pastor encouraged listeners to “prioritize” their church, adding: “I think that whatever percentage I have as a Christian, the first of it should go to my church.”
Onwuchekwa, pastor of Cornerstone Church in Atlanta, Georgia, agreed that Scripture outlines that tithing and giving to one’s church is for the support of the pastor, the relief of the poor, for the advancement of Gospel works.
“The Christian's life is really centered in the church,” he said. “So it does make sense that as we give, I do think that the church is that home base, that primary place that we give to.”
Onwuchekwa added that Jesus, when it came to tithing, celebrated a widow who gave it all and then told a rich man to give it all. According to the pastor, tithing isn’t necessarily referring to a particular percentage, but rather, an attitude of generosity.
“Christ, He's saying, ‘Give me it all,’” he said. “But He is talking about an attitude where we just know that it's all His. I think when we know that and have a vision for what He did for us, then I do think that when we do talk about trying to give according to our means, we create a generous group of people and not folks who just kind of grin and bear it and give under compulsion.”
Although the subject of tithing is addressed in the Bible, only 39 percent of pastors say they or other leaders speak from the pulpit about tithing or giving to the church at least once a month, according to a 2017 study from the Barna Research Group. According to statistics, only around 10 percent to 12 percent of all Christians actually tithe or give one-tenth of their income to the church.
Previously, Dave Ramsey, CEO of Ramsey Solutions and author of Financial Peace University, revealed he regularly tells pastors to stop stressing the importance of tithing to congregants who aren't good stewards of their money.
"Unless," he clarified, "you've done two sermons on ... debt — one on getting out of debt and one on getting on a budget."
"That's the ratio for me instead of just tithe, tithe, tithe," he said. But when pastors fail to address debt and setting a budget, he said, the reaction to a sermon about tithing is often "yeah right, I've got a light bill. That's a great spiritual concept. Maybe someday I'll get around to that.'"
Getting out of debt leads to giving, the financial expert said, "Because if you're out of debt and on a budget and you love Jesus, I think tithing is a natural thing that occurs."
In an op-ed for The Christian Post, Chuck Bentley, CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, encouraged believers to tithe regardless of their financial situation: "Remember that giving is not a tax or a legal requirement to please God, but a voluntary act of worship. It is a tangible way to express our love to God," he explained. "Give, even if you can only afford $1. As you give, ask God to multiply it for His Kingdom."
"At the same time, I recommend that you begin to save so you can establish an emergency savings account," he added. "It is important to give first, then save next, even if it is a very small amount in each category! By working on these goals simultaneously, you will begin to make important changes in the way you manage your income."
"When the offering plate comes your way, thank God for all He's given you and that your heart's desire is to give more to Him," Bentley said. "Don't worry that your gift is small. It's between you and God!'