Is tithing a New Testament standard? In other words, is it our responsibility to tithe or just to give what God purposes in our hearts?

The concept of tithing is giving ten percent of your profits to God. It was a requirement for the Israelites living under the law of Moses to give a tenth of their harvest and herds. "And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD'S. It is holy to the LORD. ... And concerning the tithe of the herd or the flock, of whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the LORD" (Leviticus 27:30, 32).

Of the funds collected, two-thirds went to a national collection to support the temple, the priests, and their families. "Speak thus to the Levites, and say to them: "When you take from the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them as your inheritance, then you shall offer up a heave offering of it to the LORD, a tenth of the tithe. And your heave offering shall be reckoned to you as though it were the grain of the threshing floor and as the fullness of the winepress" (Numbers 18:26-27). The Levites did not receive land in Canaan as part of their inheritance, instead they received support from the other tribes in recompense for their priestly duties. Even though they were being supported by the tithes, they were also required to tithe from their profits.

One-third of the funds collected stayed local and was used to support the priest as well as the destitute. "At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do" (Deuteronomy 14:28-29).

However, these were not the only gifts given by the Israelites. There were offerings made of the first harvest and the first born in flocks. They were also required to give offerings for their sins, as well as offerings of thanksgiving. And on top of all this, they were able to give voluntary offerings.

Under the New Testament, God did not specify the amount to be given. Instead, He asked for freewill offerings. "So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver" (II Corinthians 9:7). Notice that the one purposing is the giver, not God. God doesn't dictate the amount we are to give, but the giver decides how much he wants to give.

Christians are encouraged to give generously. "But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully" (II Corinthians 9:6). But, God is not expecting Christians to impoverish themselves in their giving. "For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have" (II Corinthians 8:12). The giving is to be based on your prosperity. "On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come" (I Corinthians 16:2).

Therefore, there is no requirement to tithe on the Christian's part. Instead, God asks for generous, freewill offerings from His people.

March 15, 2005