The talk on tithing is such a disputed subject that many times divides the body of Christ. Many books have been written and published by scholars just to explain the many views about tithing. I remember many believers who says that if you observe tithes and offering then you are under the law. I fully agree! But my question is how can you observe giving to the Lord without breaking the law and without being under the law? The key is generous giving. But before we talk about real generosity, let me explain a bit about tithing.
In the Old Testament, the tenth part of what they normally receive are offered to God like the war booty (Gen. 4:18-20) and income (Gen. 28:22). They observe this to support the ones who are in the full-time ministry position like the Levites and the priest, along with the orphans, widows, and foreigners (Num. 18:20-32; Dt. 14:28-29). They also tithe their agricultural produce for the family feast at the sanctuary celebrating God’s provision (Dt. 14:22-27). They do this because this is their means of livelihood. The Rabbi’s in the New Testament understood that there are three separate tithes in the laws, a Levitical tithe, a tithe spent celebrating in Jerusalem, and a charity tithe. And if they neglect this practice of tithing then they are robbing God (Mal. 3:8).
The New Testament church did not talk about tithing probably because it was not an issue for them. The topic about tithes only became a very controversial subject in our generation. This is not so with the first century church because nobody was questioning the way they give. It is very unlikely that a former Jew who becomes a believer like Paul will just ignore the law without seeing the real meaning behind it. Many believers today are saying that we should not observe tithes because we are not already under the law. This is partly true. Yes, we are not under the law but the law must still be upheld through our giving. But how? Remember, Jesus only reprimands the Pharisees in their practice of tithing because they neglected to include justice, mercy, and faithfulness (Mt. 23:23). Is observing tithing wrong?
The practice of tithes and offering is also included in the shadow of the new things to come not just the sacrifices (Heb. 10:1). There is a new thing about giving or a reality that we can find in the New Testament church practice. In fact, a number of the laws were clearly expounded in the New Testament. Some examples could be cited like, “You shall not commit adultery” which is part of the Mosaic law (Exo. 20:14). Are we not to observe this anymore just because the law were handed over to the Israelites? We observed this under God’s grace when Jesus expounded this law by saying, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt. 5:28). How about Sabbath? Is Sabbath only meant for the Israelites? Unfortunately, the Jewish Pharisees during Jesus’ days became legalistic with this law. And there are even a number of Christians today who also apply this kind of Pharisaical legalism into their lives. But Jesus expounded on this law saying true Sabbath is resting in Him when He said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28). Did Jesus break the law?
He did not! He even said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Mt. 5:17)
In fact, there are more than 600 laws that the Israelites are observing. A number of these laws has connection with ceremonial laws, civil laws, moral laws, and dietary laws, which includes the types of clothes they wear and the cutting of hair. One of the purpose of these laws that was ingrained in their Jewish culture is to set them apart from their pagan neighbors. How was this expounded in the teachings of the New Testament? Actually, the believers are commanded to set themselves apart from the world through the way they do things for the glory of God because we are not of this world (Jn. 15:19).
As we can see, the laws are still in place because we are called to uphold the law in totality. As Paul says, “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law” (Rom. 3:31). The Greek word for “upholding” is understood also as establishing or supporting which means believers should strengthen it. In the Contemporary English Version this verse was translated, “Do we destroy the Law by our faith? Not at all! We make it even more powerful.” How do we make giving more powerful if we will give back less than ten percent of what we have? Obviously, believers surpasses the law that exceeds the righteousness of the Pharisees because of His grace in us (Mt. 5:20).
Therefore, in giving our tithes and offering, we do not observe the legalistic system of the Pharisees, nor the triple tithings and offerings done by the Israelites. We give more than the ten percent to uphold the law but with a pure motive, worship, cheerfulness, and freedom to decide in our hearts as we are led by the Spirit of God to give between 11% to 100% just like the New Testament believers. 1 After all, if one sums up tithes and offering, that becomes more than the tithe. A believer who gives below ten percent is breaking the law of God showing excuses. While a believer who regularly gives the exact ten percent in his lifetime is under the law of God showing legalism. But a believer who gives more than the ten percent is supporting the law of God showing Christ’s grace working in His life in the aspect of giving. This is true New Testament “tithes and offering” which is generous giving or grace giving.
“God comes right out and tells us why he gives us more money than we need. It’s not so we can find more ways to spend it. It’s not so we can indulge ourselves and spoil our children. It’s not so we can insulate ourselves from needing God’s provision. It’s so we can give and give generously.” – Randy Alcorn
1 Just like how the Israelites support the work of the Lord, we give our “tithes and offering” by means of generous giving to the Lord through the local church to fulfill the great commission of making disciples.
© Jun Divierte 2021