Tithing Topical Study

Preaching and Worship Resources about Tithing

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The tithe is a biblical measure for giving that persists among Christians today, not as a moral obligation or law but as a broad standard. If you’re not giving at least a tenth of your income, there’s a good reason to ask why not. If you’re finding it easy to give the tithe, there’s no law against increasing your giving to 20 percent or beyond.

In Scripture

Abraham, Melchizedek The first instance of a tithe is when Abraham gave Melchizedek, the mysterious “king of Salem,” a tenth of everything he had plundered in battle (Gen. 14:18-24, Heb. 7:1-2).

Mosaic Law In the Mosaic law, the Israelites were required to give a tenth of nearly everything to God. It was mainly for the upkeep of the temple and income for the priests and Levites, as well as for the needy (Deut. 14: 22-25, 26:12, and many others).

Malachi, Robbery Malachi famously castigates the post-exilic community for not bringing the “whole tithe” into the storehouse, alleging that it was tantamount to “robbing” God. On the other hand, bringing the full tithe would influence God to open the “floodgates of heaven” with blessings (Mal. 3:8-10).

Pharisees While there is a great deal of instruction about giving in the NT (See 2 Cor. 7-8), there is little mention of the tithe. At one point Jesus mentions the way in which the Pharisees tithe “mint, dill, and cumin” (three easily obtainable spices). It’s an example of their over-fastidious attention to lesser matters while neglecting the “weightier matters” of the law, such as justice and mercy. Yet, he does not say that the tithe is wrong, but urges them to pay attention to these weighty matters “without neglecting the others” (such as tithing).

Points to Ponder

True Joy The tithe is the biblical standard, the baseline, for Christian giving, going as far back as Abraham, anchored in the law, and approved by Jesus. Preachers need to remember that for some in the congregation it may seem a real stretch when the family budget is very tight. I know of some who worked for years to get their giving up to this standard. For others, it’s much easier, and they may need to up the ante to find the true joy of giving.

Training Wheels Tithing is like putting training wheels on a kid’s bike. You bolt it only to your financial planning like training wheels. But once they get over the fear, and feel the joy, you leave the tithe in the garage like old training wheels, riding off to 15, 20% and more. I know of one very wealthy Christian who thrives at 90% giving, but isn’t really even counting any more.

God’s Promise The promise of God’s blessing in response to the title in Malachi 3:10 demands careful thought for the preacher. Does the blessing mean that God is necessarily going to fill the accounts of the faithful tither, or does the blessing refer the joy and general well-being the tithers experiences. Some preachers use the blessing aspect of the tithe to falsely promise wealth to the giver, making the tithe a kind of sanctified pyramid scheme, which is contrary to the whole foundation of tithing.

Richard J. Foster: “The tithe simply is not a sufficiently radical concept to embody the carefree unconcern for possessions that marks life in the Kingdom of God. ... It is quite possible to tithe and at the same time oppress the poor and needy. ...The tithe is not necessarily evil' it simply cannot provide a sufficient base for Jesus' call to carefree unconcern over provision. ...Perhaps the tithe can be a beginning way to acknowledge God as the owner of all things, but it is only a beginning and not an ending.”

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Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.