Many Christians follow the religious practice of tithing. Probably most churches teach this practice as a requirement for obedient Christians. Some teach that tithing is required to be Christians or to be a member of a specific church. If tithing is this important, it might be good to know what the Bible defines as a tithe, it's history, and it's practice by Israel and Christians, as recorded in the Bible. You may end up surprised at what the Bible says. . . it isn't as cut and dried as some like to teach it.
Definition Of Tithe: A tithe is literally a tenth portion, given to God. It is not the same thing as offerings, gifts and alms. They are over and above the 10%. Now that there are deductions from ones pay for taxes, retirement, and many other things, it's popular to tithe 10% of the net pay, but this isn't a full tithe. There are some who want to claim their taxes as part of their tithe, since so many government programs are what charity used to do. I understand your feelings, but that isn't giving to God. . . maybe just the opposite.
History Of Tithe: The first tithe was from Abraham to Melchizadek, a tenth of everything he had just won in battle. The practice of tithing on everything was made a part of the Law under Moses. Tithing continued for thousands of years. Everyone gave a tenth of their possessions, which, nowadays, translates into a tenth of our gross income. In an agricultural economy, a tenth of the harvest and a tenth of all new livestock was given to God.
Giving Standard For Israel: For Israel, tithing was required to show proper respect for God. It was considered God's portion. Not to give a tithe was considered by God as stealing from Him. The Law required the tithe to be used to feed and clothe the priests and those working with them, to give to needy widows and orphans, and to bless Israel's visitors until they were assimilated into the tribe. They followed this, because every time money was needed for something else, like building a temple or tabernacle, a special offering or tax was used, not the tithe. Incidentally, before tithing to any organization today, it would be good to determine if this is what they do with the money. Clearly, if they believe a tithe is required by the Bible, they would feel bound to use the money as directed in the Bible. For those who honored God enough to give a tithe, He promised to open the floodgates of blessing.
Giving Standard For Christians: It's interesting to hear Christians discussing tithing as though it's required. Tithing is only mentioned in the New Testament 3 times. In every case, it's referred to as something the Jewish people do. . . not Christians. The author of Hebrews teaches Christians about tithing as something THEY (people of Israel) do, not something WE (Christians) do. In the New Testament, every time money is collected, they never use the word tithe, just offering, gift, etc. Furthermore, when Christian giving is taught in the New Testament, it's never taught as a requirement of membership, of maturity or of Christianity. Giving to God is always voluntary and never required. Those who teach Christians otherwise are unloving shepherds, fleecing the flock. It may be Jesus had these false teachers in mind when He said, “you can't serve both God and money. "
Of course, Christians who give a tithe to God are still to be admired and still to receive all the blessings God promises to tithers. False teachers can't negate God's desire to bless those who acknowledge Him in this way. Still, if the organization you're giving through is calling your giving a tithe, it would be good to expect them not to use the money for real estate development, finance charges on debt (known in the Bible as slavery), sending kids on vacation or other, non-Biblical uses for the tithe. Having been a staff pastor in churches, I've seen many wasteful, unbiblical ways donations are used. I strongly recommend you hold your church accountable for God's money. It would be better for you to give to the needy directly than to let your giving be wasted by an irresponsible organization.
So, if Christians aren't required to tithe, what is the Christian standard for giving to God? Actually. . . it's 100%. Now, don't pop a cork! I'll explain! The Bible says we Christians were bought at a price, we died and were born again, we are not our own, but we belong to Christ who redeemed us. So, everything we have and everything we are. . . is already His. By the way, this has to do with a lot more than giving. The Bible also says we are a royal priesthood, a holy people, ambassadors of Christ, with the ministry of reconciliation. This is why we have no requirement to give to support the priesthood. . . we are the priesthood! If we're Christians, everything we have and everything we are, already is in God's hands. . . it doesn't need to be given to anyone, unless God tells us to. Not someone claiming to speak for God from a pulpit, but God, Himself. The Bible says we have the mind of Christ. This is why Christian giving is always whatever you've decided in your heart, and not some arbitrary amount, because you are His and He's fully capable of leading you.
So, in giving as in every other area of Christian life, we're called, not to follow rules made by men, but to follow Jesus. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. If we continually give 100% of ourselves to him, we never have to worry about how much we need to give to someone else.
Glen Williams is Webmaster for Web-Church Christian Worship Online, an Ordained Minister, Founder of E-Home Fellowship (EHF), Co. He has been active in ministry since 1989. You can comment on his articles at Web-Church Christian Forums.