The word “tithe” comes from the Hebrew word masser, which is translated “a tenth part.” The practice of giving a tithe originated in ancient Christian and Jewish communities.
Historically, believers would be required to give one-tenth of their income to the church. However, their income in those days was often not in the form of money as it is today, and was often agriculture or livestock. The debate in question today is whether or not this Old Testament practice is still relevant for today’s modern Christians?
Well, in short, yes and no…so let’s clear some things up.
How It Still Applies
The church is the hands and feet of Christ in communities across the nation. To be able to meet the needs in said communities, though, the body of believers has to be well funded. That is where this God honored practice comes into play as it was created for just such a purpose.
However, many believers want to pump the breaks and say, well Christians are no longer under the Old Testament Law that requires them to tithe. After all, Christians are no longer required to sacrifice a goat or dove for their sins, so why should they have to give a tenth of all they make to their church? This just happens to be a point Jesus addressed himself during his earthly ministry.
In Matthew 23:23, Jesus explains how it’s important for Christians to focus on justice, faithfulness, compassion and remain faithful in giving. There are also numerous occasions throughout the New Testament that endorse generosity. Add to this the fact that churches have to receive resources in order to be able to meet the needs all around them and one has a pretty good case for tithing.
Where It No Longer Applies
If believers want to make the case that Christians are no longer required by law to tithe, they would be right. No longer are Christ’s followers burdened with following the law of the Old Testament. But, Jesus came not to abolish the law, but fulfill it, and He actually raised the ante as it were on most the commandments.
For example, when addressing the Old Testament law against adultery, Jesus says, yes one shouldn’t commit adultery, but they also should avoid even looking at someone with lust in their eyes. Therefore, Jesus takes what was already a law and puts even more restrictions or demands on it.
The New Testament frequently endorses somewhat extravagant generosity. In essence, this means that believers, though free from the law regarding a tenth are actually encouraged to give more than a tenth now. They are required to “take up their cross and follow Jesus” or give their all. This oftentimes implies giving even more than simply 10% of one’s income. Therefore, while the specific amount isn’t required, giving is still encouraged.
Is a Tithe Always Money?
Speaking of tithing a tenth of one’s income, does giving always include money? The answer to this is no.
Sometimes, giving of oneself to the church can involve giving time. In fact, in many congregations across America, workers are needed more than any amount of money. People are needed to clean the church, greet guests, teach a class, sing in the choir on and on and on the needs go. They are truly valuable. Ask any pastor and they will confirm the need for workers is vast and overwhelming.
Therefore, believers who aren’t in a position financially to give as much as they would like can always volunteer as their way of giving to God – and this doesn’t even need to mean being in church.
Since believers are no longer under the law, there is also a freedom to give to other organizations or even to individuals as a way of being faithful to God. Of course, anyone who is a member of a congregation who is benefiting from services there should give to that location. However, giving doesn’t have to stop there. Believers can give anywhere and everywhere they want, not just their local places of worship.
In conclusion, believers shouldn’t look at the tithe as a law they have to keep – or as one to remove entirely. Instead, they should look at their giving to God as a way to thank Him for all He has done in their lives and through their church. How much percentage wise a person gives is therefore much less important than the heart behind the gift.
~ 1776 Christian