Is Tithing an Iron-Clad Rule for Christians?

The question remains for many Christians today: Does the Bible require believers to tithe (or give 10 percent of their income) just as God's followers did in the Old Testament?

The short answer: yes and no, according to evangelical pastor J.D. Greear.

Pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C., Greear has received many questions about whether or not tithing is biblical. The question, many times, goes back to "are we under law or under grace?"

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Greear maintains that although "Jesus left us under NO PART of the law, not the tithe or anything else," the idea of giving 10 percent of all that God gives remains a "good guide."

"We are no longer under the theocratic nation state of Israel, but how God has set up his economy for His people has not changed," he wrote in a blog post. "The law was given to help people live in the shalom of God. That's what gives the law (principles like taking a Sabbath and the tithe) an enduring effect."

Tithing, he stressed, is not an "iron-clad rule" for Christians as it was for Israelites. At the same time, the Gospel calls for a higher level of response to God's laws, he argued.

"[T]he law said 'Don't murder;' yet, Jesus said the Gospel demanded we love our brother always and not hate him, not even our enemies," he wrote. "So, if the law says 'Give 10%,' what kind of generosity does the Gospel call for? Would it not be GREATER generosity than 10%, just as the other commands were also intensified in Christ?"

A report released last year on the "state of church giving through 2009" revealed that tithing among Protestants hit its lowest level in 41 years. Parishioners were only giving about 2.38 percent of their income to the church in 2009, down from 2.43 percent in 2008, according to the report by empty tomb, inc.

Also, a 2011 survey found that a majority of evangelical leaders do not believe the Bible requires tithing. The National Association of Evangelicals survey revealed that 58 percent do not believe tithing is required while 42 percent do.

Nevertheless, most of the NAE leaders said they give at least 10 percent of their income and maintained that Christians should give out of generosity.

Pete Wilson, senior pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, holds a similar view.

"If you ask me if you should tithe I would say. Probably not. I think you should actually be giving a larger proportion of your income away," he stated in a May blog post.

"The grace of Jesus Christ should compel us to give more than the law ever required!"

In the same way, Greear believes that for "Gospel-touched people, tithing should never be the ceiling of their giving, but it should be the floor."

And Christians should set aside that "tithe" first rather than last after other expenses. For him, the principle of "firstfruits" also means tithing pre-tax.

"[M]ost of us, even those with more than we need, will almost always feel like we can't 'afford the 10%.' I never get to the end of my month with 10% of my income just laying around. That's why I think the principle of firstfruits is so crucial to living under God," he wrote. "Firstfruits should go to God, 10% is a great place to start."

Recognizing that his arguments on tithing could come off as "self-serving" and "manipulative," considering his role as a pastor, Greear urged those who are suspicious to give their tithe somewhere else.

"[I]f this bothers you, we don't need your money. Give it somewhere else, but I want you to experience the joy of obedience and faith in this area," he stressed.

In response to a reader who maintained that tithing ended at the cross and who further rejected the argument that those who don't tithe are robbing God, Greear made one thing clear: "God doesn't need our money or our worship or our commitment or anything else."

"The church service is entirely about what God has given to us in Christ and how we freely respond to that out of our worship and sacrifice and money," he stated. "God doesn't need anythign (sic) that is offered in worship. We are the needy ones. So, our giving is to God, but in response to what God has done, and used to propagate even more of what God is giving to us."

The Summit Church pastor gives more than 10 percent of his income to the church. While he and his wife started at 10 percent, he said they have yearly increased the percentage of what they give and now give "way above the tithe to our church, and then beyond that" to other ministries.


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