There seems to be a great deal of confusion today over the principle of Christian tithing. What does the Bible teach about the tithe? Is it more important for me to give to church or to charity? Does it even matter? Maybe you’ve asked yourselves these questions before or maybe you’re just confused about the subject. Either way, this article seeks to give a basic, no-nonsense approach to Christian giving that might surprise you.
As you will see, much of the confusion over tithing in the church today has to do with Christians misunderstanding their purpose and mission. Hopefully by the end, we will all be a lot clearer on what The Bible actually says about giving.
- The tithe in the Old Testament was a requirement of the Mosaic Law for the nation of Israel to give ten percent of their income to the Lord. (Deuteronomy 12:17). The word tithe actually means a tenth and we see that principle in scripture (Leviticus 27:30-33).
- While the New Testament church is not bound to this Old Testament law of the tithe it still observes the principle behind it, that, as God has prospered us, so we should honour and worship God with our substance and with the first fruits of our increase (Proverbs 3:9-10)
- Many Christians observe the principle of the tithe (10%) as an automatic gift of love and worship that comes right off the top of our income, to honour the Lord with our substance.
- Many Christians observe the percentage of the tithe (10%) as a good place for any believer to start but is by no means a restriction to giving more, or a legalistic attempt to gain God’s favour.
- The primary responsibility for Christians is their local church. This is God's vehicle for carrying out his mission on the earth. Giving, as demonstrated in the New Testament, is done in and through a local church (1 Corinthians 16:1-3; Philippians 4:15-16)
There is certainly a place for individual giving and there are many great Christian and secular charities out there. I’m all for that and I commend any Christian who would want to bless someone less fortunate with financial support, especially if this is used as a tool for sharing the gospel. But the problem is that this is seldom the case. Many Christians spend their entire lives simply giving to people for the sake of giving. Some might ask, ‘What’s wrong with that?’ Well, nothing but ultimately what good is it going to do? If you give financial support to a poor Muslim child in Palestine until he’s old enough to take care of himself and his family, he’s still never going to get to hear about Jesus. Your money should go to the local church so they can do both! Take care of people’s needs and share the gospel in order to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Now that’s money well spent!
So this brings us to the main problem with tithing today. The problem is that the lines have been blurred in the church. By that I mean that much of the church, particularly in the West, has lost sight of its purpose and mission. Rather than seeing its sole purpose to carry out the command of Jesus Christ to reach the lost and make disciples (Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:15), they’ve become pre-occupied with humanitarian relief efforts. In other words they are trying to Christianise the world and make it a better place to live. So in terms of giving, there’s no distinction between the local church and a charity that gives. Not only is this a huge problem but it’s also completely unbiblical. Let me be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with giving to a charity or humanitarian aid. It’s a very noble and Christian principle, but the priority must be the local church.
The world is going to hell in a handbasket (2 Peter 3:10, 1 John 2:17). It will never submit to Jesus Christ until his millennial reign (Revelation 20:1-6), so this Utopian idea that many church leaders have today about making everything right through humanitarian aid before He returns is total fantasy. This is at the very root of the problem with Christian giving nowadays. If Christians can get a proper, Biblical understanding of what their purpose is - to honour and worship God with their substance and with the first fruits of their increase - then they will understand the purpose of the tithe.
Giving to support the work of your local church is the main priority but if you want to know of a charity which helps people practically and shares the gospel then I’d have to recommend Compassion UK. Their primary focus is releasing children from poverty and exposing them to Christian teaching. They receive practical support to help them achieve their dreams and put their trust in God.
For more information visit:
Adam Brennan is a digital producer at Premier
The content of this article was inspired by the material contained in the Crossroads Baptist Church discipleship course composed by Pastor Brian Clark.