Is tithing in the New Testament?
There is presently a teaching that is gaining traction among Christians, which asserts that giving tithes is no longer a requirement in the present New Testament church. There are several reasons given for this position. Two of the most common reasons are:
1. Since tithing is not specifically taught in the New Testament, it is no longer enforced.
2. Tithing is under the law; thus, it is no longer required in the New Covenant.
Giving tithes is not one of the cardinal beliefs necessary for redemption. (It is not as important as the deity of Christ or mercy and justice, see Matthew 23:23). However, it is still an important issue we must grapple with since Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, that is where your heart is.” Hence, God uses finances as a gauge to see who or what we value the most in life (Matthew 6:21). Jesus also measured the sacrifice people made when they gave money to support the work of God (Mark 12:41-42).
What could the Church do if every member was able to tithe consistently? That’s a question that many churches are asking as they have started running into financial issues over the years.
Here are some alarming statistics in the American church from Health Research Funding:
- Total Christian income in the United States is $5.2 trillion annually, nearly half of the world’s total Christian income.
- People making 20k or less are 8x more likely to tithe than those making 75k or more.
- If Christians followed the Old Testament standard of giving across the board, $139 billion would become available yearly for additional ministry work.
- Thirty-seven percent of people who attend church weekly and identify as Evangelical don’t give any money to their church.
- People who tithe regularly typically have less debt than other demographics. Eight out of 10 have zero credit card debt, and 28% are entirely debt free, including not having a mortgage.
For centuries, thousands of churches and most mainline denominations have depended on the tithes of the faithful to meet their budgets and have provisions to fulfill their mission. Although the above two arguments seem persuasive, the following are reasons why tithing is still a requirement in this present kingdom age:
1. The principle of giving God the first portion of our income or blessings was instituted centuries before the Law of Moses. Thus, giving tithes is not “under the Law” because it predates the law.
- It was handed down from Adam and Eve to their children (Genesis 4:4).
- Abraham practiced tithing (Genesis 14:20).
- Jacob made a vow to tithe to God (Genesis 28:20-22).
2. The New Testament did not have to teach tithing because the early church was Jewish. The Old Testament was their text, and thus tithing was already assumed.
- Suppose tithing is no longer in force because it was not explicitly taught in the New Testament? By following this line of reasoning, Christians can also say that bestiality and incest are acceptable since Jesus never specifically taught against these sins (Leviticus 18:22-23.)
3. Tithing was either taught or implied in the New Testament.
- Jesus encouraged people to tithe (Matthew 23:23).
- Romans 2:22 condemns the robbing of temples which Malachi 3:8-11 seems to indicate had to do with holding back the tithe. The Jews were generally never guilty of robbing the temple's contents, so this verse in Romans could point to the withholding of food from the storehouse.
- First Corinthians 16:2 seems to imply that giving was based on a percentage of a person’s income.
4. Old Testament principles for giving have been carried over (in principle) to the New Testament.
- Because there is no longer one central tabernacle or location for worship, the tithe is to be left with the elders at the gates (Deuteronomy 12:8-12). Also, since the Spirit is now poured out on all flesh and all believers can enter the Holy of Holies by the blood of Christ, one central location is no longer applicable (Hebrews 10:19-23).
- Deuteronomy 14:28: When it was too far to travel to give the tithe, it was to be left in decentralized locations across the nation with the elders at the gates. This fits the pattern of the New Testament, with local churches spread across the globe (1 Corinthians 16:2).
- In Malachi 3:8-14 the Lord commands the tithe to be brought to the storehouse. In our case, in principle, the storehouse seems to fit local churches best because of their need to store money to fulfill their divine mandate to take care of God’s people and preach the Gospel.
- The poll tax (Numbers 3:47), first fruits (Proverbs 3:9), various offerings, and the tithe, if added up, come to much more than 10% and were used to minister to the following:
- To support the Levites (Numbers 18:24; read 1 Corinthians 9:14 and 1 Timothy 5:17 for the New Testament equivalent).
- For the aliens, fatherless, and widows (Deut. 14:29; read James 1:27, 1 Timothy 5:3-4, Acts 2:45 for the New Testament equivalent).
- To build the sanctuary (Exodus 25:1-8).
- Poll (head) tax for the upkeep of the sanctuary (Numbers 3:47).
Consequently, although we no longer have a central temple and follow the same mosaic guidelines for giving, the general principle is always that the tithe belonged to the Lord, way before the Mosaic law was instituted. If you do not give what God wants you to give, then God cannot show you what He wants you to have.
Dr. Joseph Mattera is an internationally-known author, consultant, and theologian whose mission is to influence leaders who influence culture. He is the founding pastor of Resurrection Church, and leads several organizations, including The U.S. Coalition of Apostolic Leaders and Christ Covenant Coalition.
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