Christian tithing - What does the Bible say?

Christians tend to struggle to understand this issue. In many churches, tithing is misused and over-emphasized as a technique for bringing money into the church. On the other hand, many Christians do not offer anything to help the church, ignoring the biblical encouragement to give to the Lord. Giving is meant to be a blessing to the giver, but sadly many people think of it as a price God exacts in return for health, wealth and prosperity.

First and foremost, it is important to understand that tithing is an Old Testament concept. The word "tithe" means "tenth" and was a requirement of the Hebrew law that mandated the Israelites to give ten percent of all they produced or earned to the Temple / Tabernacle (Leviticus 27:30; Numbers 18:26; Deuteronomy 14:24; 2 Chronicles 31:5). In addition, there were other laws which, when combined with the original tithe, made the total amount of required offerings closer to 23 percent, not the ten percent which is assumed in the modern church.

The Old Testament system of tithing can be understood as a taxation system that provided for the needs of those working for the Temple in the sacrificial system – the priests and Levites. Nowhere in the New Testament is it suggested that Christians are to adhere to a law-based system of tithing. Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 that believers should set aside something to support the church. But giving is to be done willingly and according to the giver's decision in regards to amount.

There is no mandate in the New Testament that a percent of income should be exacted from each Christian to support the church, but only that a person's charity should be "in keeping with income" (1 Corinthians 16:2 NIV). As a guideline, some churches tell their members that ten percent is a "recommended minimum" for giving. But it should never be enforced upon a church's members in an official way or said to be a necessary element of a member's salvation.

The Bible tells us that giving is important and is a great benefit to the spiritual health of believers. We should give what we are able to give, and generosity is always a good thing. But the New Testament focuses on motive rather than strict percentages or tithes. Giving is meant to encourage faith, as we pray and ask for wisdom from the Lord as to how much we should give, and in what manner (James 1:5). Our giving should be done cheerfully to glorify and worship God by serving His people - our brothers and sisters. "Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7).

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