What Does The Bible Teach About Giving? Is Tithing Biblical?

by Jack Wellman on November 11, 2012 · Print Print · Email Email

Are Christians required to tithe or are we under a new covenant?  Does the Bible teach 10% in giving or just give what we can?  What does the Bible teach about how much a Christian should give?

The Tithe

The tithe is actually part of the Mosaic Law but was being used even before Moses.  Abraham gave 10% of everything he had to the King of Salem, Melchizedek (Heb 7:1-2, Gen 14:20-24).  The word tithe is from the old English word for tenth, meaning 10%.  The tithe was spoken of in the last book of the Old Testament by Malachi as he wrote, Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings (3:9).  Notice that the tithe was plural, as in tithes.  There were actually three tithes that Israel had to pay:

  • The first tithe was the 10% portion of everything that they made and this was for the Levitical priesthood to live on (Num 18:21, 24).
  • Secondly, there were the tithes of the feasts each year (Deut 14:22-27). The tithes for the feasts were in the best interests of the families who tithed.  They could use these funds for whatever their hearts desired during the feasts of the Lord.
  • Finally, there was a tithe for the poor which was only given every three years (Duet 14:28-29).

All of these tithes were commanded.  These tithes would be what we would call today a flat-tax.  Instead of people who are rich finding all sorts of loopholes to not pay taxes, the rich paid the same percentage as the poor did.  These tithes were never commanded to nations other than Israel.  There are no Scriptures indicating that Gentile nations were under this system.

The Tithe that Binds

As was said earlier, there are no Scriptures that commanded non-Jewish nations to tithe any of the three tithes. In fact, there are no Scriptures in the New Testament that show that tithing (10%) is commanded.  The religious leaders of Jesus’ day still tithed but they let everyone know about it.  When the Jews made their offerings, they kept their offertory box outside of the temple for obvious reasons, so that everyone could publicly see them put their offerings in it.  Luke 21:1 records As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.” This was obviously done for show but what Jesus said next is very important regarding offering becauseHe also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “I tell you the truth,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on (Luke 21:2-3).  Here we see that the widow didn’t tithe at all like the rich did, because she gave all that she had.  That is above and beyond the tithe because she gave out of her poverty while the rich only likely gave 10% out of their riches.  Some people who have more could probably give more than 10% but those who have little, should give what they are only able to give.  Paul says as much in 2 Corinthians 8:2 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.” Paul says something very important about giving here. If the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what they don’t have.  God would never expect someone to give more than they have available but to give according to what one has.”

New Covenant Giving

God would never expect someone to give more than they have available but to give “according to what one has.”

Today, under a new and better covenant, we are not under the legalistic requirements of the tithe because if we were, then we’d have to also be giving the three tithes as required by the Law in the Old Testament.  As James said, For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10). If you’re going to tell others that the tithe is still binding, then you’re going to have to pay the second and third tithe also.  Every year that means that you should be giving 20% of your gross income, because the tithe was a 10% of everything you had and every third year you’d be required to pay 30% gross of everything you had for the year; allocated for the poor.  You can not keep some of the Law and not all of it.  The same thing goes for the Sabbath. For those who try to keep the Sabbath the way it was required in the Old Testament, then you couldn’t even start your car (no fires could be started), you couldn’t drive to church (couldn’t travel that far on the Sabbath), you couldn’t even prepare meals on the Sabbath…unless you’re willing to be stoned!

A Cheerful Giver

God cares less about how much you give as He does about your attitude of giving.  Let your conscience guide your giving, or as Paul says, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7).  Paul wrote, “But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced” (Phil 1:14).  This does not mean that it’ll make you happier just to give tiny amounts.  Paul thought of that as he wrote, “The point is this:  whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Cor 9:6).

Jesus wanted us to be generous givers because the giver is more blessed than the one who receives it. In Luke 6:38 Jesus says,Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  This is a superb analogy.  If you took some wheat and put it into a container you could shake it and remove some of the air and space and yet more would go in.  Jesus is saying by the same measure that you give, you will be measured back the same but it will be poured into your lap, meaning that it will overflow or be more than you have given. This is not a wealth or prosperity message but a sure promise of God.  He may not return financial gains for your offerings, but He might give you good health, a nice home, an unexpected gift or whatever. You can never out give God.  A saying in the Proverbs also speaks about pouring something back into your laps for those who give.  God says, See, it stands written before me: I will not keep silent but will pay back in full; I will pay it back into their laps (Isaiah 65:6).  The Proverbs also say,He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done (Prov 19:17).

Don’t be a hearer of God’s word only but be a doer (James 1:22). Consider supporting Compassion International by sponsoring a child in need.

First Portion

Let me say that a person’s offerings should go first and foremost to the local church that they attend.  Other offerings for different ministries should be after a person gives to their local church.  There are a great number of biblically sound and theologically grounded ministries that I won’t name here. Make sure that you are being a good steward of your money, you can check with the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA — ecfa .org).  This non-profit agency monitors Christian ministries to make sure that they are fiscally responsible with your donations and that the money goes to where and what you designate.  If the ECFA seal is missing, you might think twice about to whom you are giving because ministries that submit their financial records to this agency are accountable to where your money goes and donations and funds are monitored.

Paul spoke to the Corinthians about giving:

I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.  For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.  For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.  At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little (2 Cor 8:8-15).

Interested in more Christian answers? Take a look at these articles:

Resources: New International Version Bible THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide



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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Jean-Marc November 11, 2012 at 5:29 am

Thank you for this article Pastor
it really does make you think, we as Christs children should be cheerful givers for that’s what the Lord loves

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Jack Wellman November 11, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Amen Jean-Marc. Your comments are making me cheerful and I thank God for you my friend.

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Josh November 11, 2012 at 7:23 am

Thanks Jack for putting this study together! Great job on this.

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Jack Wellman November 11, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Thank you Josh. I believe in giving because like Elijah’s jar of flower, which had only one meal left in it, was continually replenished because this woman was first willing to give.

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israelmuzhingi November 11, 2012 at 8:05 am

As belivers we are GOD’s stuwarts so responsibity and accountebilty is expected from us so we have to be genarous like our maker’s charector he loved the and gave us hs one and only son

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Jack Wellman November 11, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Amen my friend. I believe that we will all have to give an account for what we have been given by how much we have given away. Thank you my friend.

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Derek November 11, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Thank you for another well written article Jack. I always learn much when I read your articles. Your breadth of knowledge is outstanding and we are all edified by your words. I couldn’t agree more with you and being a “cheerful” giver is exactly what matters. God bless you!

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Jack Wellman November 11, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Thank you my brother. I believe that God does look at the heart, and since I know mine is wicked by nature, I must come continually for a cleansing (1 John 1:9). I also know that I can never outgive God. May God bless you too my Barnabas-like brother.

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Robert Driskell November 11, 2012 at 5:20 pm

Jack,
You hit the nail squarely on the head here. No legalism can replace a heart made generous by the love of God. John MacArthur, in one of his books, reminds us to remember whose money it is in the first place. Everything we have is God’s, we are simply His stewards. I try, and I stress the word ‘try’, to make sure that everything I have is used the way God wants it used. Thank you for another wonderful, thought-provoking, teaching. God bless you, brother.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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Jack Wellman November 11, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Thanks brother. I loved your comment. One person once asked Rockefeller, who had died early last century, how much money did he leave behind. Guess what…he left ALL of it behind. Chip Ingram (Living on the Edge Ministries) said you can tell where a person’s heart is by looking at their check book ledgers and seeing where their money is going. I am like Rockefeller (not rich of course) in that I can’t take any of it with me, so why not invest it in things that are eternal. God bless you and thank you Robert.

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Greg November 12, 2012 at 8:32 am

Jack,
Thanks so much for this! Do you think that Malachi 3:10 has any bearing on how generous our cheerful giving should be? How far should we go to “test” God in this?

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Jack Wellman November 12, 2012 at 1:13 pm

Greg, I tithe but it is more than 10% because I believe what Malachi taught still does allow us to be blessed for we can never outgive God and this test is not like testing God but trusting God. You should only go as far as you feel you should. It is not compulsory but from the heart. The heart is what God looks at, not so much the amount, however He will bless you in more ways than just financially like in family, job, home, resources, etc. The commanded tithe is Old Covenant but the principle still applies. Whatever we sow, we reap and we reap more than we sow but we also reap later than we sow, just like a farmer does. It is rare that it happens instantaneously or immediately but it does happen sometimes. Don’t give to get but give to help others and ministries.

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Richard November 12, 2012 at 6:22 pm

This is contrast to teaching from the church.God bless you as you teach the message of the bible.

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Sam Jones November 13, 2012 at 8:27 pm

Jack I have to ask you, in the bible it said that God created light. And then later it said he created the stars and the sun. How is this possible? I’m just curious.

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Jack Wellman November 13, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Sam, great question my friend. Let me say that God IS light (John 1) and so the “Let there be light (singular…for the sun?)” (Gen 1:3) was partly a separation of day from night (Gen 1:4-4) because the light was separated from the darkness. Later in Genesis 1:14 he said, “Let there be lights (plural) in the expanse of the heavens (meaning the stars). So God may have created the sun first for the life on the planet to exist as life is dependent upon sunlight and water, which both came before vegetation and animals, you might notice. Does this make sense?

Regardless, there were no human witnesses, and we know that God created and as Creator, He can do it any way and in any order that He chooses. The Bible does not say that He created the sun and the stars at the same time but the firmament [Gen 1:14) could mean, the outer reaches or the stars in the outer galaxies and solar systems.

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Roland November 17, 2012 at 8:31 am

Thank u pastor, it really touches and truly God loves a fearful giver.

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Hubert November 17, 2012 at 9:00 am

Hello Pastor Jack,
Am just thankful that I learned much about your article. As a Church leader who have experience Jesus amazing love and is still enjoying what Jesus have done in my life personally; I want also to share to the people.
I believe that the more we give back for His Ministry so shall be more souls will be save as well. As you have written, we cannot out give God. But when we keep giving for His Ministry’s need His Church will keep growing as well.

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Dana Molla November 17, 2012 at 9:14 am

I believe in giving the tithes and offerings. Sorry you left out the fact that we the gentiles are grafted in the olive tree. We have become one in Christ and what was settled for the people of God goes on in the NT. Jesus didn’t even discuss things like praying, giving, fasting. He said: When you pray, when you give, when you fast. Why? Because He didn’t change it. If He would He would talk about it and teach the disciples. He said I haven’t come to admonish the law but to fulfill it. In Christ we have the grace to give not only the tithe but everything we have belongs to Him. Praise God! His are all we have and all we are. Everything is a gift from Him, even life and breath.

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John Lemmon November 19, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Hi Jack.
Good article, but if I may there is one small correction needed. You said, “Abraham gave 10% of everything he had to the King of Salem, Melchizedek.” This is not correct. Abraham gave a tithe of the spoils of the war he had just won to Melchizadek, which was not his own property but belonged to the other kings he was fighting with. Abraham himself took nothing apart from the food his men had eaten and the share of those who went with him. He paid no tithe from his own wealth in this instance. Whether he did at other times is not recorded but it is a common misconception that Abraham tithed as this tithe was from the spoils of war.
This is a minor point, but worth noting. Otherwise a good post.
God bless.
John

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Kamran E. Faazzal November 22, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Greetings in Jesus name.

Hi Dear Jack.
I have read your article for the very first time because I’m new here. I do appreciate you by touching a very sensitive issue of The Holy Bible because as long as my observation about the tithe every church and every Pastor is taking it very seriously and tell it very effective for the present church regarding one’s prosperity and key to success in life.
But I have still some lack of knowledge regarding “tithe” but I know it only, that ” every true believer acts upon the teaching of The Holy Bible”. It doesn’t matter what is it? As long as I myself like this verse the most in The Holy Bible, regarding offerings /thanksgiving/tithe 1- Samuel. Chapter 15:22 “And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”
So, I believe we should obey The Holy Lord rather than everything in life and I think then all is done in our lives which is written in The Holy Bible under the “guidance of The Holy Spirit,which is our true “Helper” in life.
HALLELUJAH ! HALLELUJAH ! HALLELUJAH !
May God bless you. Amen !

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Jack Wellman November 22, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Amen Kamran. You said it exactly. The tithe means literally 10% and the New Covenant never teaches anywhere that Christians are commanded to give a strict 10% but should give from their own hearts desires and yes, God desires obedience over sacrifice because God doesn’t really desire our money but our hearts but also let me say that we will WANT to give cheerfully to help those in taking the gospel to all the world but it is not a 10% exact but some can give less, some can give more but He looks more at the heart but Jesus also said, “where your treasure is (your money goes) so there will also be your heart.”

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John December 15, 2012 at 4:25 am

Hi Jack, this is about the most comprehensive explanation I have read about tithing and giving. I do not know how it is elsewhere but in Africa many pastors seem to preach that non-tithers are not going to heaven. As a result people give their tithes grudgingly, and I often wonder if this is what Christ would have preached. God bless you real good.

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Jack Wellman December 15, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Thank you so much John. I feel when they preach and teach tithing (10%) as a commandment then they are taking away the ability to give “with a cheerful heart” and are doing so out of obligation. God looks at the heart of the giver and He doesn’t say to the giver, look to this law. If they give out of compulsion, then it is no longer from the heart but out of fear. Thanks John. African (and many, many American) pastors are badly misinformed.

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Sonia February 16, 2013 at 4:15 pm

Hello Jack,
I just want to say thank you for this wonderful article.
God bless you.

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Jack Wellman February 17, 2013 at 1:23 pm

Thank you so much Sonia. I love to give because it is an expression of my love toward God and He has blessed me with so much more than I ever deserved and God will bless those who give from a cheerful heart.

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Ryan July 31, 2013 at 9:24 am

Bro. Jack I am in totally awe that you would dare to write on such a topic. For many years I have been searching the Bible for the evidence that so many churches use to use that Mal. 3 verse to hold the saints of the church age in bondage. I am so happy to finally see one pastor who knows and preaches what the Bible truly says about tithes. My concern though is simply this: if you and I know that there are 3 tithes mentioned under law why doesn’t the millions of Christians in the church know this? Why aren’t more pastors teaching their congregations this?

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Jack Wellman July 31, 2013 at 9:35 am

I believe most churches understand that the 3 tithes were part of the Mosaic Law and that even the tithe that was the 3rd one didn’t come every year either. To whom was Malachi 3 written too? The Jews who were robbing God during the times before the New Covenant. As Paul writes, God desires a cheerful giver, not one of compulsion or obligation, for where is the love in being commanded to do these? Many churches unfortunately still demand the tithing system…but I believe we ought to give MORE than just 10% of our gross….I believe we are to give as part of our worship and to trust in God to provide for us…… We should be giving because we want to, joyfully, not out of fear or strict orders. One note is that all of the Bible is written FOR us…but not all of the Bible is written TO us. That is we should all follow Jesus’ command to love one another but we understand that animal sacrifices were for the Jewish nation. Make sense Ryan?

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mark pernicano November 16, 2013 at 10:19 pm

thank you. this is the clearest explanation I have ever read.

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Jack Wellman November 17, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Thank you for the kind words Mr. Pernicano. I am glad you came to visit us sir.

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John December 8, 2013 at 6:19 am

Dear Jack,

I am so loving your article. Here in Africa like one of the comments above, Tithes is so compulsory that if you did not do it, you are hell bound.

Again, i seem not to understand why my pastor whom i so much love will always ask all Tithers to stand up on a Sunday service so that they will be specially prayed for. Everyone will by this way differentiate between those who tithed and those that did not.

Is this right?

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Jack Wellman December 8, 2013 at 5:05 pm

Thank you John for your encouraging comments. As for asking those who are tithers to stand up and then to pray for them I believe is wrong because that is something that is between us and God and having tithers rise up to be noticed can make the tithers full of pride and the pastor seems to value them and pray for them more than those who cannot give much or anything at all. I believe the pastor should not do this and to make tithes compulsory is to break 2 Cor 9: and Phil 2:14 where we are to be joyful in giving and give not out of compulsion or obligation or compulsory. I can tell that you believe this is wrong what the pastor does and you are right to believe this is wrong for it is not right. Great insight. Thank you John.

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