We live at a time when preachers and churches are raking money collected from Christians and those who attend their churches. Many churches preach that Christian believers should tithe and give offering – thanksgiving, freewill, first-fruits etc.
– Do you think this is in agreement with the New Testament?
– What about planting seed so that God can bless your labour?
– What proportion of income should I give to the church?
We need to go back to the Bible and see the Biblical principles of giving. The following passages are the most basic when it comes to giving:
- Matthew 6:1-4;
- Acts 11:28-30;
- Romans. 15:25ff.;
- 1 Corinthians 16:1-3;
- 2 Cor. 8-9;
- Philippians 4:15
Please study them well at your convenient time and you will find these basic principles therein:
- Priority of giving to other Christians (Romans 12:13)
We are to take a special care of the brethren in faith when they are in need. For this reason Paul took it upon himself to provide materially for the Jewish brothers. This was a God-provided opportunity for the Gentile Christians in Philippi (Phil. 4:15) to show that they were united with Christ and were one in the same Body of Christ by supporting the needy Jews. Remember that many Jewish Christians considered the Gentiles as second even third-rate Christians since they were not in the initial covenant of God with its privileges.
They thought that all God’s blessings must pass through the Jews. How mistaken they were! When they were in distress and the Gentile Christians came to their rescue. You know the Mosaic Law could not allow them to take anything from Jews since they could be defiled. Though we must, as we have opportunity, do good to all men, yet we must have a special regard to the household of faith, Galatians 6:10. This was the time for Paul to prove to his Israel brethren that the Gentiles had been admitted into the commonwealth of God. It seems that it was the custom of the Jews in diaspora to send money to those Jews who dwelt in Judea. This was for the relief of the poor who were among them, and to make collections for that, supposing that there were many poor in Judea, more than in other countries, so that the rich among them were not able to bear the charge of keeping them from starving.
The first Biblical principle here is that we’re to give towards the needs of others and especially the brothers in faith (Galatians 6:10). No poor must be neglected, but God’s poor most particularly regarded. Though we are to love everyone, yet a special brotherly and Christian love is to be extended to those of our faith. This is the reason why we are to show a special concern for the needs of other fellow believers because we belong to one another.
- Give according to your ability
The second principle is that we are to give according to our ability as they did in Acts 11:29. No one ought to give beyond his ability so as to leave himself in debts. We have been given different abilities and possessions. The measure of our giving is according to how God had prospered you(1Cor. 16:2). Every man determined to send something, more or less, according to his ability, what he could spare from the support his family and of himself. What may be said to be according to our ability we must judge for ourselves, but must be careful to a make righteous judgment so that we do not give God what is left-over as many are in the habit. On the other extreme are the preachers who demand for their congregations to give to the last penny until they demand even their personal effects like watches, cell-phones, jewelry, clothes and shoes! Such is completely unwarranted by Scriptures and only serves to show the greed of the preachers (and greed or generosity of the givers).
- Give through the hands of trusted men
The third principle is that we are to give through the hands of trusted men who will not defraud those who are needy, or God. These churches sent the relief through the hands of Paul and Barnabas – trusted men. Again it was not by one man since there is always a need for one to check the other and to be accountable on the same. Further this would be helpful for witness since money is a big area where many are tempted to deceive. This is seen further because it was to be given to the elders who would be held accountable as they give the money to the needy through the deacons of the church.
The deacons are the specific officers in the church in charge of money (Acts 6) – not the pastors. Therefore, should pastors sign even the check-books? Well, only in the sense of providing oversight in all matters in the church. It is no belittling in an extraordinary case, for ministers of the gospel to be messengers of the church’s charity. However, to undertake the constant care of that matter would be too great a distraction from more needful of prayer and the ministry of the word. This is why the deacons have to take that role
- Give cheerfully, without grumbling
Fourthly, we are to give cheerfully without grumbling (2 Cor. 9:7). Christians are not to do any service under compulsion because they are serving God who can see all that and not men. We are therefore, to give liberally and in love since God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7). Please bear in mind that all that you have is from God and to complain while giving to Him is behaving like a child who as soon as he gets the toy from the father, is not willing to hand it back to the father so that he can be given some food! It is the cat or dog spirit and it should not be among mature believers.
- Give thoughtfully
Fifthly, we are to set apart what to give in the heart before giving – even store it up so that it is not impulsive giving (2 Cor. 9:7). It should be deliberate with thought and design and not by accident. No one should give more than they intended, and then regret afterwards. Or possibly, had they duly considered all things, they would have given more. There ought to be due deliberation, as to this matter of our own circumstances, and those of the persons we are about to relieve, will be very helpful to direct us how liberal we should be in our contributions for charitable uses. Persons sometimes will give merely to satisfy the importunity of those who ask their charity, and what they give is in a manner squeezed or forced from them, and this unwillingness spoils all they do.
We ought to give more freely than the modesty of some necessitous persons will allow them to ask. We should give freely, with an open hand, and cheerfully with an open heart, being glad we have ability and an opportunity to be charitable.
Is tithe binding for believers?
Christians are by far more blessed and privileged that the Old Testament believers. Consider these passages to prove this:
And all these (the Heroes of faith listed before), though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. (Heb 11:39-40)
Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. (1Peter 1:10-12)
We are more privileged and we know that a greater privilege demands a greater responsibility. Since the Old Testament believers were expected to give 10% do you think we would be required anything less? They were required to give by coercion a set figure but for us we are expected to give joyfully for much has been given to us!
For this reason, I believe that tithes are not binding for Christians today:
- There is no direct command to give tithes in the NT.
- There is no single examples of Biblical believers tithing. It is the Pharisees who gave tithes of all they had.
- Christian faith is of the heart and is according to what the Word of God and the Spirit engraves upon the heart of man.
- Christians are to give more than 10% for we see the early church with people who were giving everything to other Christians that they had planned well before hand.
There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. (Act 4:34-37)
They sold houses and lands to give to the needs of others because they had gotten a greater treasure – they sold what they could not keep to get what they could not have gotten. After all it is the Lord who had given to them. Does this mean that we sell all we have? NO! It means that we should consider that although we think that tithing is too much God expects His stewards to bring everything to Him, like Joseph Barnabas did!
What was given by those who had was not to the Apostles – it was to meet the needs of others and so churches should not simply jump into conclusion that everyone should sell everything because everyone else is not needy.
Finally you need to consider this:
– “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that Field.” Jesus Christ (Matthew 13:44)
– “I have held many things in my hands and I have lost them all. But whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.” Martin Luther
– “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Jim Elliot
– “The currency of this world will be worthless at our death or Christ’s return, both of which are eminent.” Randy Alcorn