Is Tithing Required for Christians?

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The One Degree Podcast



Digital library of theological trainings with guided notes

Exegetical Bible reading plans and studies with daily videos going deeper

Monthly Theology Couch Chat discussing a theological hot topic


Our topic for this episode is tithing… What exactly is tithing? Is it still required for New Testament Christians?

Short answer: the New Testament Christian is not bound to tithe like the Old Testament Israelites were.

However, we make the case that tithing is still a good practice. We also discuss that the starting point for believers giving to their local church should be 10%. AKA: believers should be giving at least 10% of their gross income to their church and should be giving more to other places or even their local church on top of that.

A New Perspective on Money

I (Nathaniel) have been reading a lot of Randy Alcorn lately (side note: I can’t recommend him enough). He proposes that Christians need to have a new perspective on money. Too often, we let the world and culture influence us more than the Bible does. We’ll slap some “Christian-ese” on it to make us feel good.

We often have a mentality that if we give (no matter how much we give), what we gave is for God, but the rest is mine. I can do whatever I want to with it.

In reality, it is ALL God’s, we are just managing it. The parable of the talents teaches us that for every purchase we make, we should ask ourselves, “Is this faithful stewardship of what God has given me?”. 

For example, you could have a money manager. Their job isn’t to spend it for themselves. It is to steward your money well and use it in a way that you would want.

Do you allow Scripture or culture to formulate your view on money?

Old Testament Tithing

A tithe literally means “one-tenth” of something. 

There were three tithes in the Old Testament: the levitical tithe, the feast tithe, and the welfare/poor tithe. 

The Levitical Tithe

The Levitical Tithe is the first tenth of the harvest that was consecrated to God and given to the Levites (who were the priests).

This tithe essentially served as a provision for the Levites who were the priests and cared for the Tabernacle. They were not allowed to own their own land so this helped provide for them.

The Feast Tithe

This was almost like a type of savings account. Jews were regularly required to travel to Jerusalem for celebrations (like the Feast of Tabernacles). This tithe allowed them to finance their travels and celebrations while worshiping in Jerusalem.  

(Side Note: this tithe was NOT about taking vacations…)

A portion of this also went to the Levites.

The Welfare or Poor Tithe

This was set aside every third year for the support of the poor (widows, orphans, etc…).

It was not meant for sluggards, but for those who were legitimately poor due to various circumstances. 

Sabbath Years

Every seven years was a Sabbath year where they let the ground rest (no planting, only harvested what grew naturally, etc…). Israelites would not tithe during this year.

The Israelites (remember, they lived in a much poorer society and were greatly reliant on agriculture) were commanded to tithe an average of 20% every year over a 7-year period in order to provide for this year of rest. So, over the course of 7 years, they would tithe an average of 20% of their income.

This does not count the temple tax, the sin offering, etc…

What does the New Testament say?

Does the New Testament mention tithing? It does! There are only 3 instances of it though…

Matthew 23:23 – Jesus tells the Scribes and Pharisees that they tithe 10% of everything but neglect more important matters of justice, mercy, and faithfulness. 

Luke 18:11-12 – In this parable of the Pharisee and tax collector, the Pharisee brags about fasting and tithing.

Hebrews 7:1-10 – Abraham tithes to Melchizedek and Jesus is like Melchizedek. 

These are all incidental mentions of tithing. They don’t necessarily teach us about it. Tithing was also not mentioned by Peter, John, Jude, James, or Paul.

The New Testament doesn’t prescribe a tithe (but it doesn’t necessarily preclude it either). It does appear that we are no longer bound to tithing like we were in the Old Testament.

Not tithing was a big deal in the OT…

Malachi 3:8-9 says, “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you.”

Now you might cry “legalism” and you might be right, but answer this question: Do you really think God’s standards and desires for giving have gone down? Especially when the vast majority of us engaging in this conversation are richer than 99.99% of the human population throughout history? 

Doing things that please God is not legalism. This is holiness.

A Giving Paradigm

1 Corinthians 16:1-4 and 2 Corinthians 8-9 lay out a great giving paradigm. As Christians, when we give:

  • We should give regularly (1 Cor. 8:10-14, 9:3-5)
  • We should give personally (2 Cor. 8 and 9)
  • We should plan to give (2 Cor. 8:12)
  • We should give proportionate to our income 
  • We should give generously 

Tithing is one of the best ways to start!

Randy Alcorn is a huge proponent of tithing, and we agree with most of his arguments. We should not JUST give 10%, but that should be the start of our giving

When we fail to give it shows that we either 1) don’t care or 2) don’t trust God to provide. 

I (Nathaniel) am continually being convicted that Western Christians have allowed the culture to seep into how we view money. Look at Jesus’s praise for the poor widow with two copper coins. Look at the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12. But, look around at Western Christians. Who do we look more like? The poor widow or the rich fool?

Oftentimes, common Christian financial advisor advice is “save for yourself, and then be generous.”

What if I’m broke?

We’ve worked with a lot of college students who have the mentality that “I’m barely scraping by” or “I’m broke.” They believe don’t have to give money, so they will just focus on giving their time and talents.

While it’s admirable that they are still seeking to give, they should still seek to give of all three.

We are not talking about people who are living in extreme poverty. They are not as poor as the poor widow (ok, maybe not guarantee… actually yeah, I do) 

We are always building habits. What type of habit of giving are you building by saying “I’ll give later”? A lot of times you won’t, and even if you do, what happens if you hit financial hardship? Do you just stop giving?

Honestly, giving should hurt a little bit. You should feel it when you give.

In Art Rainer’s Money Challenge he has a three-fold strategy for managing money: give generously, save wisely, and live appropriately. The order is important too. I (Xan) love how it starts with giving. Even if you think you can’t do it, start by giving and trust that God will provide. 

Habits must be cultivated. They don’t just naturally happen- they must be cultivated.

What about Malachi 3?

We talked about Malachi 3 earlier. So, is it still applicable to us today?

The very next verse in chapter 3 says, “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.”

God says to test him in the giving of tithes. We need to remember this is in the context of the nation of Israel and not individually. 

We still think there is some general application (although Matthew 6:19-33 is a better verse to turn to).

Ultimately, we need to give generously and trust that God will provide. This is a foreign concept to us. We often think of us providing for ourselves, pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, etc… Instead, it is all God’s money. He gives it to us and it is our job to steward it well and give it back to Him.

“Money never stays with me. It would burn me if it did. I throw it out of my hands as soon as possible, lest it should find its way into my heart.

John Welsey

One Degree Shift

If you haven’t made tithing a regular practice, we challenge you to do so. If you already do, look for additional ways that you can sacrificially give!

Here’s an extra one: grab a book on money by Randy Alcorn and read it!

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