What does tithing in the New Testament look like? Should Christians tithe 10%?
Many churches and pastors preach that Christians should still tithe at least 10%. If you’ve ever sat through a sermon on giving you know that to be the case. But is that really the case?
I think most churches miss the mark on what the Bible, specifically the New Testament, teaches.
I want to take a fresh look at what the Bible teaches us about tithing. We will start in the Old Testament where the tithe was established, and then we will look at tithing in the New Testament.
What Is The Tithe In The Bible?
The tithe is a term that was common in the Old Testament. In essence the tithe was less of a gift as we think of it today and more of a tax for the Israelites. God commanded them to give back the first fruits of their income, crops, animals, etc… this was how the nation of Israel was funded.
The first instance of a tithe is found in Genesis 14:18-20 in which Abraham, the father of Israel, offers a tithe. Later in the books of law where God lays out how his people should live much more instruction is given on how the tithe should work.
Leviticus 27:30-33 gives us a clear picture of what the tithe is: ”Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord. If a man wishes to redeem some of his tithe, he shall add a fifth to it. And every tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman’s staff, shall be holy to the Lord. One shall not differentiate between good or bad, neither shall he make a substitute for it; and if he does substitute for it, then both it and the substitute shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.”
Commonly today a tithe is considered to be 10%. And there’s examples of that such as the first instance of a tithe that we looked at earlier in Genesis 14:20.
We tend to assume that in the Old Testament the Israelites gave a total of 10%. But in reality the total was likely much higher. There were multiple kinds of tithes given for different purposes. And when you add them all together the total is well above 10%, likely somewhere between 20%-30%.
It’s important to remember that tithing was first and foremost an act of worship commanded by God. But it was also how the nation of Israel was funded.
There’s another important detail we haven’t look at yet. Tithing is only ever mentioned in the Old Testament as part of the Mosaic Covenant, also known as the law. Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the law, and Christians are no longer bound to uphold it. More on that in a moment.
While tithing is certainly found in the Bible, many of the teachings that are being taught surrounding it are twisted and misrepresented.
Too many churches and pastors today simplify what the tithe actually is in hopes of receiving more funds for their church. Not only does that misinterpret what the Bible teaches, it also isn’t effective.
So all this means Christians don’t have to tithe right? We can use our money however we want and never give a dime? Well hold on…
Let’s jump into the New Testament to find out the answer to the question, “should Christians tithe?”
Tithing In The New Testament
The term tithe is not found in the New Testament. However, it’s far from silent on the topic of money. Jesus talks about it at great length as does the Apostle Paul.
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Overall the New Testament approaches the topic of giving much differently than the Old Testament. The Old Testament is much more black and white. It tells you what to give and when to give. The New Testament is a little more grey.
Really what the New Testament does is raise the bar. Giving in the New Testament isn’t a checkbox. It requires you to examine yourself and see if you are living in light of what Jesus has done.
So, what does tithing in the New Testament look like? Be generous.
2 Corinthians 9:6-7 sums it up nicely: “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”
How much should a Christian give? Whatever generosity looks like for them. Maybe that’s 5%. Maybe that’s 50%. Maybe for some generous means 90%. The New Testament doesn’t tell us. Instead, it challenges us to look at what Jesus has done for us to live generously for others.
That’s a big shift from the more stringent rules of the Old Testament. It raises the bar. Being generous isn’t a box you can check. It’s a heart we cultivate.
While Christians aren’t under the law that commands we tithe, we are called to live and give generously. This isn’t tied to our salvation. It’s what we do in response to salvation. We are to love God and love those around us. Part of that means practicing generosity.
So, what does that look like? Let’s bring down the Bible verses about tithing in the New Testament and find out.
Applying The Bible Verses About Tithing In The New Testament
Now that we’ve looked at what the Bible says about tithing and generosity, let’s look at how that plays out in our life. Here’s 4 ways we can apply this principle.
1. Give Generously
At this point we’ve seen the New Testament replace the command to tithe with the command to live generously (2 Corinthians 9:6-7, 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, Acts 2:32-37, Galatians 2:10).
Because of what Jesus has done for us we should live and give generously. God is to be our treasure, not money or anything else in our lives.
Christians are no longer required to give a tenth of their income. Instead we are to continually strive to be a generous people.
What generous is for you is up for you to decide. For many in the West being generous will mean giving more than 10%. But we should note that Jesus isn’t looking for a certain amount. He’s looking for you to give generously. For the widow that was a few pennies. For others that might be millions.
2. Give Joyfully
Giving shouldn’t be something that is forced or coerced. It should be something that is done with joy. After all, if we truly believe what the Bible says Jesus has done for us how can we not live and give joyfully?
2 Corinthians 9:7 reminds us of the heart we should have when we give. Sadly, many churches and pastors try to guilt their congregation into giving. But that’s not what the Bible teaches. We should never give because we feel forced, we should give because we want to.
If you don’t find yourself joyful when you give, you should search your heart to see why it is tied to your money.
3. Give Voluntarily
This builds off the previous point. Part of giving joyfully means that we give voluntarily. Again, many churches and pastors try to force the issue of giving.
Now, I’m not saying churches shouldn’t talk about money. They should, Jesus talked about money often. The point I’m trying to make is that the focus should be on the heart and not on guilt. The point of being generous isn’t to check the box, it’s to align our heart with God’s.
We should never feel forced to live generously. And when we feel unwilling to give we should turn to God and seek why we are feeling that way and ask him to work on our heart.
4. Give To Those In Need
The New Testament makes clear that followers of Jesus should be generous, and that they should give to those in need.
Specifically the New Testament tells us to give to the poor and to our brothers and sisters in need (Matthew 19:21 and 1 John 3:17). In other words Christians should care for other Christians and those who are in great need around us.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t give to your church. Many churches are doing those two things along with other ministries very well. The point is our generosity isn’t summed up in JUST giving to your church. That can be part of it, but not the sum total of it.
Let me just add a quick caveat. If your church isn’t showing you how they are spending their money I would recommend not giving to them. Now they might not show you exact salaries of individuals, but you should be able to see how much in total is spent on salaries. If their books are closed I would close your wallet.
A follower of Jesus has been given much. And because of the generosity they’ve received they should be generous toward others who are in need. Part of that can be giving through your church. But part can also be meeting the needs of those immediately around you.
Closing Thoughts On Tithing In The New Testament
Many pastors and churches try to twist what the Bible says about tithing to suit what they are trying to accomplish. It’s important that we know what the Bible teaches about tithing and more specifically what tithing in the New Testament looks like.
It’s easy to say Christians should tithe. But that sells should what the Bible teaches. Jesus came and fulfilled the requirements of the law and gave us a new way to live. Because of what Jesus has done for us we should do the same for those around us. While the tithe is no longer required, generosity should be a marker of our lives. How can you be generous with what God has given you?
Thanks for reading this blog post! I hope that you enjoyed it and that it helped you better understand tithing in the New Testament. If you found this post helpful would you share it with a friend or on social media? That way more people can benefit from it as you have.
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