This used to be easy. Growing up we are taught that ten percent of everything we received belonged to God. We owed him that ten percent. That is tithing.
How we paid that tithe was to donate it to whatever local congregation we attended. Those in charge were free to use it for the needs of the fellowship– a facility, pay salaries, fund its programs and also to help people in need. We are not free to give it where God might lead. If we wanted to give anywhere else, it would have to be above my tithe. That is storehouse tithing.
To be honest, I was never fully drawing the Biblical lines to that conclusion.
Abraham tithed as an act of gratefulness to God even before the law was given.
The New Testament is silent about tithing as a practice of the early church. Nowhere is it encouraged and yet they demonstrated great generosity in their giving.
For many years we missed that, blinded by the need to fund the facilities, salaries and programs of the institutions we served. Without committed tithers we simply could not have funded the things we thought were so important to us. It was easy to take the Old Testament tithe as an easy proof-text for our needs.
A Different Way of Giving
My conclusion is quite different. No, I don’t believe tithing is wrong,
I simply view it now like everything else in the Old Testament.
It is only a shadow of something far more real that God wanted to show us in Jesus. And, like every other old covenant shadow, when you discover the real substance of giving you will see that tithing is a cheap substitute by comparison.
“You mean we don’t have to tithe?” That is a good question, because it opens the motives of tithing. It is like a bill–an obligation we owe God. Once it is paid, we can run off with the remaining 90% and spend it however we like. Not to give it, in Malachi’s words, is to rob God of that which we owe.
The New Testament paints a different picture.
Jesus never mentioned tithing as a practice for his followers. And though giving is a constant theme of Acts and the Epistles, tithing is again not mentioned. Instead we see something else at work.
Believers gave not because they had to, but because they chose to.
Those who lived in relationship with the Living God, were so shaped and blessed by His generosity, that they responded to others around them with that same generosity.
When Peter addressed Ananias for lying about the money he was giving, he made it clear that the church had no claim on it. “Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal?” (Acts 5:5)
When Paul took up a collection for the believers in Jerusalem, he made it clear that it was not his command, but an opportunity. ” 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)
Giving because we have to is not really giving at all. It is just another obligation to meet and far from what God really had in mind.