Dear Pastor: Do New Covenant Believers Tithe?

Dear Pastor,
I have given in the past, but now I have questions about tithing. I would like to know more about tithing and was hoping that at some point you could visit with me about it….or address it from the pulpit.

Thanks,
[redacted]

R.C. Sproul marvels:

Recently, I read an article that gave an astonishing statistic that I find difficult to believe is accurate. It declared that of all of the people in America who identify themselves as evangelical Christians, only four percent of them return a tithe to God. If that statistic is accurate, it means that ninety-six percent of professing evangelical Christians regularly, systematically, habitually, and impenitently rob God of what belongs to Him. It also means that ninety-six percent of us are for this reason exposing ourselves to a divine curse upon our lives. Whether this percentage is accurate, one thing is certain — it is clear that the overwhelming majority of professing evangelical Christians do not tithe.

What is the tithe, and does it still apply today?

The Bible has many instructions regarding the tithe. The tithe is a concept of 1 out of 10. Sproul again: “We are required to give ten percent of our gross annual income or gain. If a shepherd’s flock produced ten new lambs, the requirement was that one of those lambs be offered to God. This offering is from the top. It is not an offering that is given after other expenses are met or after other taxes have been paid.”

Generally, the tithe was to be given to the Lord’s servants, the Levites (Numbers 18:21ff). In the Old Testament, many alms for the poor were above and beyond the tithe (e.g. Exod. 23:10-11; Lev. 19:9-10; 25:35-37; Deut. 15:7-11; 24:12-15). The tithe had many purposes, including: to support the priesthood (Num. 18:21-32; Deut. 14:28-29); to honor God in sacrifice and feasts (Lev. 27:31; Num. 18:26-28; Deut. 14:22-26); and to feed the aliens, widows and orphans (Deut. 14:28-29; 26:12).

Some people argue that the tithe is no longer applicable in the New Testament era, as this was only for the Old Covenant era. (Many would say that now Christians are called to the rule of giving generously and cheerfully; II Corinthians 9). However, the New Testament nowhere revokes the command to tithe, and Jesus himself affirms it (Matt. 23:23; Luke 11:42). Moreover, the passage generally used to support this argument (2 Cor. 9:7), does not apply to tithes, but to a special gift for the needy. Of course, the New Testament also affirms the need to care for the poor apart from using the tithe (Matt. 6:3-4; 19:21; Mark 10:21; Luke 14:13; 18:22; 19:8; Gal. 2:10; Jam. 2:1-17). The Apostle Paul even commands believers to set aside their financial gift on “the first day of the week” (I Corinthians 16:1 – 2). “In short, Christians have obligations both to tithe and to care for the poor (Galatians 6:10). The Bible does not seem to warrant giving to the poor in place of tithing, or to warrant tithing in place of giving to the poor.” Further, because both the Old and New Testaments have the same divine Author, and because the one covenant of grace interweaves through both halves of Scripture, Christians read God’s Word assuming continuity unless we are told something is abrogated or ceases. We are told that animal sacrifices have ceased in the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. We are not, however, instructed to cease our giving to God.

Not only does Scripture direct our thinking this way, but church history confirms this as well. Sproul points out:

Church history also bears witness that many in the early church did not consider the tithe as having been abrogated in the new covenant. One of the earliest (turn of the second century) extrabiblical documents that survives to this day is the book of the Didache. The Didache gives practical instruction for Christian living. In the Didache, the principle of the giving of the first fruits or the tithe is mentioned as a basic responsibility for every Christian.

Christians in all ages have sought to think about their worldly wealth in terms of belonging to God, that we are merely stewards, and our obedience merely begins by returning ten percent to Him. This is simply a part of understanding that we are not our own, we have been bought with a price (I Corinthians 6:19 – 20), and that all we are and all we have belongs to God!

One thought on “Dear Pastor: Do New Covenant Believers Tithe?

  1. Tithing is never addressed to the gentile believers in Paul’s epistles. The only thing addressed is giving. Please stop trying to mix new wine in to old old wineskins.
    Oh foolish Galatians.

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