The Tithing Hypothesis (Part 1)

In the last post (The Talent Potential), we posed several questions one might consider if they were to evaluate how well they are managing all that they have been entrusted with by God. In directing our attention to how we manage our finances we posed two questions:

  • Does God provide guidelines for how much we should give?
  • Does God provide guidelines for whom we should give to?

In this post (and the next) we will wrestle with these questions.

Before we do that we will briefly examine the question: does the tithe (10%) of the Mosaic Law have any applicability to the NT church?

The Mosaic Law commanded each Israelite to tithe (give 10%) of their increase for a variety of reasons, including providing for the needs of the Levitical priests. Some of these tithes were to be brought to the storehouse in the Temple (Neh 13:12; Mal 3:10). Some of the tithes were used to support Levites in their cities (Num 35:1-5; Neh 10:37). The Levites (at least those in and around Jerusalem) were to serve God and thus were not able to earn a living, nor did they have an inheritance like the other tribes of Israel. They were to be cared for through the tithe offerings.

See, I have given the Levites all the tithes in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they perform—the service of the tent of meeting. (Num 18:21)

Under the New Convenant the Mosaic Law is rendered obsolete (Heb 8:13) and we are no longer under the law (Rom 6:14-15; Gal 5:18). At the Council of Jerusalem the Mosaic Law was recognized as non-binding over the Gentiles (Acts 15:5;28-29).

The church is a New Covenant community, therefore we can conclude that the Mosaic Law’s mandate to give 10% of their increase is not binding on the disciple of Christ. Nor is the disciple required to bring their tithes and offerings to the “local storehouse”.

“Wheat close-up” by User:Bluemoose – via Wikimedia Commons (modified)

Giving with a Purpose

While the tithing system may be obsolete, it is important to remember that the Mosaic Law used a mandated tithe to accomplish three major purposes.

  • The livelihood of those who minister (Num 18:21)
  • Community worship and celebration (Duet 14:22-16; 16:10-11)
  • Taking care of the poor and needy (Deut 14:27-29; 26:12)
    • there were also other laws to care for the poor (Deut 16:10-11; 24:19-21)

In replacing the Mosaic Law, the New Covenant is considered a “better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises” (Heb 7:22; 8:6). Under the better covenant these purposes still need to be met through the giving of disciples.

  • The livelihood of those who minister (1 Tim 5:17-18; 1 Cor 9:14; 1 Thes 2:5-6,9)
  • Community worship and celebration (Acts 2:42-47; 1 Cor 11:20-22)
  • Taking care of the poor and needy (Rom 15:26; 2 Cor 8:11-15; Gal 2:10; James 1:27, 2:15-17; 1 John 3:17)

The early church was recognized for accomplishing all of these purposes (Acts 2:42-47) and as members of a better covenant we are to encourage each other to accomplish these purposes (Heb 10:19-25).

Purpose of our Giving

We may not be required to give “under compulsion” (2 Cor 9:7) or “command” (2 Cor 8:7), but we are encouraged to give voluntarily, eagerly, cheerfully, and generously (2 Cor 8:3, 11; 9:6-11). It is rightly said that in giving, both the giver and the recipient are blessed (Acts 20:35). But rather than focus on this aspect of giving, let’s look at the act of giving as a part of discipleship.

A disciple is not greater than his teacher,
nor a slave greater than his master
(Matt 10:24; John 13:16, 15:20)

We are called to be like our Master and walk as He walked (1 Cor 11:1; 1 John 2:6). We are to be transformed into His image (Rom 8:29). And if we know anything about God, He is a Giver.

  • God gave His only Son (John 3:16)
  • Jesus gave His life (Rom 5:8; 1 Thes 5:10)
  • The Spirit gave gifts (1 Cor 12:11)

And when Jesus came to earth, He gave up all the glory of heaven for our benefit

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that although he was rich, he became poor for your sakes, so that you by his poverty could become rich. (2 Cor 8:9)

As we evaluate our investment of all God has entrusted to us, we should ask: does our giving emulate the grace and generosity of our Master?

Paul even goes so far as to say that our giving is a test of our genuine love for others (2 Cor 8:8) which means it is also a test of our love for God (1 John 3:17; 4:8).

make sure that you excel in this act of kindness too. I am not saying this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love by comparison with the eagerness of others.(2 Cor 8:8)

When evaluating our giving does it show our love for God and others?

Does God provide guidelines for whom we should give to?

Under the New Covenant we have much freedom in how we direct our giving, but it is clear that the things God wanted to accomplish through giving under the Mosaic Law are just as applicable today as they were in Israel thousands of years ago. How much we give and to whom we give should communicate to those around us that we are disciples of Christ. We should use these purposes as guidelines on how we can wisely invest what God has given us. We should be involved in our local church (Heb 10:25) and some of our giving should be used to build up this community. However, we are not limited to giving to our local church. We should consider giving to a variety of individuals and organizations that are serving God by proclaiming the gospel and helping the poor.

all Scripture quoted from the NET Bible

2 thoughts on “The Tithing Hypothesis (Part 1)

  1. Pingback: The Tithing Hypothesis (Part 2) | Dead Heroes Don't Save

  2. Pingback: Society of Evangelical Arminians | This Week in Arminianism

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s