What does the Bible really say about money and giving? You often hear the words ‘tithe’ or ‘tithing’ thrown around when Christians talk about their giving, but this kind of language often betrays a fundamental misunderstanding about what the Bible actually teaches about how we should treat our money.
The logic usually goes something like this: A tithe is 10% that you give to God. Tithing is in the Bible. Christians believe the Bible. Therefore, Christians should give 10% of their money to God.
Seems to make sense, right?
Well… no. Hopefully this post will clear a few things up.
What Does The Bible Teach About Tithing?
In the Bible, the Law of Moses required that the Israelites tithe, giving a tenth of their income/assets to God. Tithing is biblical. But it’s worth noting that there wasn’t just one tithe – there were three. There was one annual tithe for the Levites, another annual tithe for worship festivals, and another 3-yearly tithe for the poor.
For those who aren’t mathematically inclined, that adds up to 23.3% per year. So if you’re really into tithing, you should probably step up your giving a bit. Maybe at this stage you’re a bit less keen on tithing as you were before – 10% seemed like a much nicer figure, didn’t it?
Do the Old Testament Tithing Laws Apply Today?
The short answer is no.
Are you an Israelite, descended from Abraham, born under the Law? If not, you’re not a part of the Old Covenant. You may have heard this good news already, but God has made a new covenant with His people in Jesus. The old covenant is no longer binding on us. Jesus perfectly obeyed the Law in order to free us from it. That’s why we’re not bound by the commands of the Law of Moses any more.
Do you circumcise your sons? Do you make animal sacrifices at God’s Temple in Jerusalem? Are you bound by the Sabbath laws? No. So why would you tithe?
Well, you shouldn’t. I mean, you can if you really want to. But the Bible doesn’t teach that you should. Christians aren’t required to tithe. And it’s actually really important that we don’t get stuck in the mindset that we have to tithe; this has big implications for the way we view money in general.
The Problem With Tithing
There are two huge problems with a tithe-mindset:
1) It often results in obligation-based giving. If the Bible requires us to give 10%, then it’s very easy to give that 10% begrudgingly, because we have no choice in giving it or not. This attitude is completely contrary to the New Testament teaching on giving, as we’ll see below.
2) It often results in people giving no more than 10%. A corollary of the tithe-mindset is that if 10% is God’s, then the rest is mine. It’s easy to think that once the 10% is paid, then our obligations have been met, and we’re free to spend the rest as we please. This self-centred approach is also completely out of line with what the Bible teaches about giving.
If we’re not supposed to tithe, then what does the Bible teach about how Christians approach giving?
New Testament Teaching on Giving
The Bible teaches that everything we have is given by God. This isn’t just a New Testament thing, either – it’s all throughout the Bible (Deuteronomy 8:18, Ecclesiastes 5:19, 1 Corinthians 4:7, et al.). Everything is given by God. So it’s not like God gets 10% and we get the rest to spend as we please. It all comes from God, so it’s all His.
If you think that being freed from the tithe means that you don’t have to give any more, then you’ve totally missed the point. We aren’t required to give a tithe, but we’re freed to give us much as we are willing and able.
The New Testament’s teaching on giving is probably best summed up in 2 Corinthians 9:7: “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” We are not under any compulsion to give, but are instead freed to give as much as we would like.
This means that, as a Christian, you don’t have a set rule of how much to give. There is no percentage that you have to maintain. Instead, you should give whatever you have decided in your own heart to give. We are not obligated by rules, but rather motivated by love.
This means that if you’re genuinely unable to give as much as 10%, you have no reason to feel guilty. It also means that if God has blessed you abundantly and you’re able to give as much as 30% (or more), then you’re free to do so, motivated not by compulsion or requirement, but by love and gratitude to God.
I know it’s easier to follow a percentage. It would be easier if Christians were simply required to give 10%, and then we were able to do what we like with the rest. But that’s not the way of the Christian life. If you’re a disciple of Jesus, then your whole life is his.
You don’t just give Sunday to God, and have the rest to spend as you please – your whole life belongs to God. And in the same way, you don’t just give 10% to God, and the rest is yours – all your possessions belong to God.
So please be careful about using ‘tithe’ language. Christians don’t tithe. Christians offer their whole lives to God, motivated by love and gratitude, because God has already given us everything we need in Jesus.
Instead of worrying about set percentage when it comes to giving, maybe ask yourself this question instead: “Am I honouring God as fully as I’m able to with all that He has given me?”