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Tithing: How should Christians give?
Jacobus Erasmus, 12 October 2018

As stated in the previous posts, I believe that Christians are under no obligation to tithe. That is to say, a Christian is not required to give ten percent of their financial income to their local church institution in a recurring fashion, such as monthly or weekly.

However, this does not mean that Christians should not be giving some of their income away, or that the New Testament does not provide principles for giving. Let us examine some of the passages in the New Testament that offer guidance for giving.

We will begin with 1 Corinthians 16:1-2:

Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come (1 Corinthians 16:1-2 ESV).

This passage teaches at least two important principles. First, our giving should not be a once-off act but it should occur regularly, such as weekly or monthly. Second, the phrase "as he may prosper" implies that we should give according to our wealth and ability; we should not give to the point of personal affliction. The NIV states verse 2 as follows: "...each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income...".

The next passage is 2 Corinthians 9:6-7:

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:6-7 ESV).

Here Paul makes three points. First, generous giving results in blessing. Second, we should give out of a loving, cheerful attitude and not out of a grudging attitude or because we feel guilty. Finally, the amount to give is a personal decision made in our hearts.

In 2 Corinthians 9:10-12, Paul says that we should give to help meet the needs of those in ministry:

He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God (2 Corinthians 9:10-12 ESV).

He makes a similar point in 1 Corinthians 9:13-14:

Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:13-14 ESV).

We may summarise these principles as follows:

The implication of this is that most Christians, or at least most middle to upper class Christians, should probably be giving more than 10% of their income to those in need, including those in ministry. Unlike tithing, however, we should be giving out of love and our giving should be rooted in our relationship with God. Indeed, tithing may be a hindrance to one's giving, since tithing gives the impression that, by simply giving 10% of one's income, one's responsibility to give is satisfied. As Andreas J. Kostenberger and David A. Croteau write ("Reconstructing a Biblical Model of Giving", 2006:260):

Research has shown that even in churches where tithing is taught the members are giving less than ten percent. It may be possible that the teaching of tithing actually causes at least some people to give less. Many do not take into consideration that the motivation for not teaching tithing is one of faithfulness to Scripture, not greed.

In conclusion, as I see it, there is nothing inherently wrong with a Christian giving 3% or 10% or 30% of their income. There is nothing wrong with dividing your offering amongst various people or organisations, such as giving a portion directly to a family member in need, a portion to a ministry you believe in, and a portion to your local church. There is, however, something wrong when a Christian gives out of guilt, or gives grudgingly, or has been mislead into thinking that they are robbing God if they do not tithe.

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