Why Don't We Tithe?

The sincere Christian is genuinely concerned about his stewardship of worldly possessions. On the first day of the week, he recognizes his responsibility to "lay by in store as he has been prospered." "But," says he, "just how much of what I have been prospered should I give?"

Many religious groups attempt to simplify this matter by teaching and requiring a minimum of one-tenth of their members' income. Some have even been know to send "bills" to their members, specifying the amount they should give. They point out that this system of tithing was effective under the law of Moses and, thus, will be equally effective today.

As a point of fact, if we try to use the Old Testament as our standard, we need to remember that, in addition to the tithe, the Israelites were required to purchase or furnish the animals for the many sacrifices, take time off work to attend the annual feasts, as well as take care of the needy among them. Some estimates of the total amount contributed by the Old Testament faithful range as high as one-third of their income! Many conscientious Christians give ten percent, and more, on a regular basis. But this does not justify the binding of an Old Testament ordinance on New Testament saints.

It is true, of course, that the subject of tithing is mentioned in the New Testament, but never in such a manner as to bind it upon our conscience today. The remarks of R. C. H. Lenski, well-known Lutheran scholar, bring this point into clear focus:

"One of the plain facts is that the Gospels mention tithing only three times, in three condemnations of the Pharisees, and all three are scathing in their severity. Three other references are found in Hebrews 7:5-9 and are merely historical. Although all the apostles were originally Jews and reared to tithe, with not one word did any one of them even intimate that in the new covenant the Christians might find tithing a helpful method of making their contributions to the work of the church. This strong negative is re-enforced immensely by the totally different method suggested by Paul when he called on the churches for a great offering, I Cor. 16:1, etc.; II Cor. 8:4, etc. Exegetically and thus dogmatically and ethically the New Testament is against tithing as being valid in the new covenant. Desire for more money, also for more money in and for the church, should not blind our eyes to the ways that are employed for getting it." – Interpretation of Luke, p. 661.

Christians are to give "as they have been prospered" (1 Corinthians 16:2) which suggests proportionate giving. But to bind the ten percent figure to bolster a sagging congregational budget is unwarranted. As badly as we might wish it were different, God has not, under the new covenant, reduced this matter to the simplicity of a mathematical equation. We are reminded of the abundance of God's blessings to us, both spiritual and temporal. We are made keenly aware of the great need for the gospel to be spread. And we are given assurances of continued ability to give (2 Corinthians 9:8). We are then called upon to wrestle with these sober considerations weighing heavily upon our conscience. We arrive at our decision, the execution of which not only supplies in generous fashion the needed money, but, in the process, causes us to mature and grow stronger in the faith. May God help us to appreciate the wisdom of His plan and to be more faithful in its practice.