I’ve come across various articles online complaining that churches are too literal about God’s command in Malachi to give ten percent, because now we are in the age of the new covenant. They reason that since Jesus has come and the old ritual laws of the past no longer apply, we should just give freely and generously as the Spirit inspires us with no set amount, which means that the law of tithing no longer applies.
Some teach that we should be giving much more than just a tithe. Just as Jesus took Old Testament commands and expanded them to mean much more than previously thought, giving should also have a greater significance today than just adhering to a law of ten percent. That sounds great, and I agree we should be even more generous than the ancient Israelites who gave out of compulsion. But who actually gives beyond ten percent on a regular basis just out of the desires of their heart? If there were no baseline of at least ten percent, most people would quickly decide that God hasn’t inspired them to give anything at all, and feel content to just give God their pocket change, if anything. When giving is motivated by random moods, faith disappears and emotionalism takes over. Giving that honors God has to be done out of a rational choice that usually goes against what we feel. If giving doesn’t feel uncomfortable it probably isn’t of much spiritual value. God gave us a baseline of ten percent for a reason.
In ancient Israel the tithe went to the Levites, the priests, to provide for their needs and the needs of the Temple. Tithes were also given during the various festivals. So if Jesus teaches us to go beyond the Old Testament ways of simply following rules, and follow Him instead with all our hearts, a radical change in attitude towards possessions would have to set us apart from the rest of the world. To have a biblical perspective on wealth, we’d have to stop caring about it – and care a lot about it at the same time. It sounds contradictory, but let me explain:
We’d be so convinced that God is a true Father who provides for His own, that we don’t worry about tomorrow, and are unafraid to give. No clutching wallets for fear that He will leave us destitute, because as He provided daily manna in the wilderness, we have no doubt that He’ll provide if we give. At the same time, we take great care to administer what we do have, great or small, as all our money has come from His hand. It’s a gift from heaven, not a possession. We do this by being generous in our giving, and by being careful stewards of what we receive.
A lackadaisical attitude isn’t the same as trusting God for the future, and neither is stinginess the same as being a good steward of your money. Jesus consistently taught that God’s laws aren’t to be observed just outwardly, but should change us to the very core of our being. We should tithe joyfully and in gratitude, looking forward to more of God’s provisions, unlike the Pharisees who tithed to publicly show off how spiritual they were.
Did Jesus ever mention whether tithing was just an Old Testament law meant to be abandoned or not? When He rebuked those Pharisees who tithed even the tiny leaves of their herb gardens, He commanded them not to leave tithing undone, but to do it out of a pure heart, with justice, mercy and faith. According to Jesus, the law of tithing still stands, but with a deeper meaning. So when we’re filled with gratitude and live in daily surrender, then tithing becomes a pleasure – it’s just the baseline of all else that we gladly give.
“Let every man give according to the purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7 MEV
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You tithe mint and dill and cumin, but have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done without leaving the others undone.” Matthew 23:23 MEV