How Much Should Christians Give?

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Have you ever wondered …

Why does the church want my money?

Am I just paying membership dues or something?

Does the church need my money just to pay the building maintenance costs or church workers?

What does the church do with my money?

These initial ponderings lead to some serious reflection: Why should I give? How should I give? How much should I give?

Today we will answer the question –

How Much Should Christians Give?

From the very beginning we each need to be reminded that God does not need your money – God could make money if he wanted.  One of the reasons we give money  is because of what it does in our own hearts and lives. God changes us through giving. He makes us more like himself through giving.

The Old Testament Practice of the Tithe

In the Old Testament people practiced a way of giving called the tithe. The tithe was commanded by God. A tithe means a tenth.

Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. (Deuteronomy 14:22, NIV)

A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord. If a man redeems any of his tithe, he must add a fifth of the value to it. The entire tithe of the herd and flock—every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod—will be holy to the Lord. He must not pick out the good from the bad or make any substitution. If he does make a substitution, both the animal and its substitute become holy and cannot be redeemed. (Leviticus 27:30-33, NIV)

In order to ensure that a person gave a tenth and did not make an unfair selection of what they were to give to God he simply asked that they give every tenth animal or a tenth of the produce.

Interestingly, in Mal. 3:8-10 God calls withholding a tithe (10th) stealing from him.

Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. (Malachi 3:8-10, NIV)

Photo Money Hand by Neubie

The New Testament Practice of the Tithe

The commandment to tithe is never specifically repeated in the New Testament.

There is a teaching that Jesus shares that points us in the direction of tithing.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. (Matthew 23:23, NIV) Underlining mine.

Speaking specifically about the tithe Jesus says, you should have practiced the latter.  While there was a misplaced emphasis Jesus, nevertheless, asked for an improvement of issues of justice, mercy and faithfulness WITHOUT discontinuing the tithe.  However, for a different perspective you could read about tithing in the Bible.

I think that every Christian would be blessed by developing the spiritual habit of tithing their income. I think that God’s truth that it is more blessed to give than receive (Acts 20:35) holds as true today as it did yesterday.

Unfortunately, I think many of us approach the tithe much like Abraham approached Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18:16-33). In that story God says he is going to destroy Sodom.  Abraham asked what if he can find fifty righteous people in the city.  OK, God says, I will spare them if you find fifty.  The pattern then continues with Abraham negotiating 45, 40, 30 , 20 and finally 10 people.  God agrees not to destroy the city if ten people are found.

Here is how our approach is similar to Abraham.  God, is it OK if I give 8%?  Sure, God might answer.  We quickly negotiate down to 5%, 3%, 1%?  At times we seem to act like giving is a spiritual habit to be avoided. What if we were to turn that the other way? Will you really still care for me if I give, 5, 8, 10 ,12, 15%? If we are asking God how little we can give and still be OK, I suspect we are misunderstanding God’s teaching about giving.

Related Articles:

How Much Should I Give?

What Is the Difference between Personal Finances and Biblical Finances?

Can Money Buy Happiness?

Comments

  1. says

    The OT tithe was always only food from inside Israel. Although money was common even in Genesis and essential for sanctuary worship, money is never included in 16 texts which describe the contents of the tithe. Jesus, Peter and Paul did not qualify as tithe-payers and neither were the poor or those who lived outside Israel. There was no minimum standard for everybody to follow.

    The whole law was a test –not merely tithing. Obey ALL to be blessed; break ONE to be cursed. Galatians 3:8-13 clearly replace the tithing blessings and curses. Malachi 3:10 only applies to the dishonest priests of 1:6; 2:1; 2:17 and 3:1-7. Read Neh 10:37-38. The people were commanded to bring their tithes to the Levitical cities.

    “”"The commandment to tithe is never specifically repeated in the New Testament.”"”—AFTER CALVARY. Mt 23:23 is a discussion of “matters of the law.” Jesus could not command His Gentile disciples to tithe because it was not lawful.

    Paul boasted that his wages, or pay, was working for free (1 Cor 9:12-19). You use Acts 20:35 out of context. Paul was telling church ELDERS to work to take care of the needy in their congregations! This has been REVERSED today. Acts 15 and 21:20 clearly teach that the Jewish Christians in Judea continued to TITHE TO THE TEMPLE for over 30 years after Calvary.

    The correct biblical approach to the tithe is that it was never repeated after Calvary to the Church just as the Church was never commanded to kill disobedient children, kill those trying to worship God directly or forbid tithe-recipients from owning property.

    Abraham is not an example for Christians to follow regarding tithing: (1) pagan spoils of war, (2) nothing of his own, (3) only once recorded, (4) kept nothing, (5) gave the 90% to the king of Sodom.

    Russell Earl Kelly
    http://www.tithing-russkelly.com

    • Lenita says

      Thank you Mr. Kelly!

      I started studying about the tithe to teach that it is what we are to do, only to find out that it ISN’T required. I’m actually sickened by the idea of it now. I was a tither and giving out of my gross along with an offering or should I say 3-5 offerings throughout the week. I’m saddened that when I was in need, the church would not help me. They sent me everywhere else. I’ve decided to give as God directs me to give because it is truly cheerful.

  2. Craig says

    Thanks for your thoughtful reply.
    As a summary, “I think that every Christian would be blessed by developing the spiritual habit of tithing their income.” Perhaps one might be more comfortable using the word ‘give’ instead of ‘tithe’. Undoubtedly, giving is a healthy spiritual habit. One that I hope all of us increase in rather than decrease. This is the core message of this post.
    I do appreciate your feedback.

  3. Kellen says

    I believe christians should not hoard their riches and profits for self-purposes. if God has blessed you and given you riches, He meant it for a purpose. “What you receive as gift you must give as gift” Matthew 10:8. In the Bible, it says we need to suffer with Jesus. God didn’t create us for our own comfort and pleasure so we shouldnt always try to make ourselves as happy as possible.

    With all the millions suffering over the world, a little donation would help greatly. You would be putting God’s will above your desires and could end the suffering of so many people without even sacrificing much yourself. And hopefully, you will be willing to give even more than that until you’re making big sacrifices as Jesus taught. It’s clear from the Bible that God’s will involves helping the poor, feeding the hungry, and doing what we can to improve the world around us. Imagine if you just lived on what you needed and gave the rest of your income away each year how many lives that would save. I plan on giving at least 20% of my income to help the needy of the world no matter how much I make and I have promised myself that my family will never live on more than $100k. I think other Christians should do what they can and give what they can as well. Is that 5th pair of jeans or North Face jacket or new tv really worth the money that could be used to save lives and help the world. $40 is a pair of jeans or it’s life-saving medical treatment that they otherwise would not be able to afford for two people in a developing country or 80 days of food for someone in Africa believe it or not. It’s obvious which is more important and what is the right thing to do and what God would want you to do. Be willing to make sacrifices for others and for God’s will as Jesus taught.

    • Craig says

      Kellen,
      I’m thankful for your personal commitment and focus on issues of poverty.
      What is so difficult about this topic is how personalized it is. There is no way to set a standard for all Christians, but we do all need to prayerfully consider out responsibility in the kingdom of God.

    • Lenita says

      Kellen,
      My children and I have moved around for the last year. I don’t have a home of my own, my car broke down on me and the church only says that it will pray for me. Mind you, my husband was unemployed and I was providing for four out of less than 30,000 a year and giving 300 plus dollars every month plus multiple offerings. I thought it was part of my duty as a Christian to give God His tenth off the top. I’ve always lived below my means. Now, I’m stuck living with others and my family is separated and all the church can say is “I will pray for you.” I just started a new job making half of what I was making before. I have to use someone else’s car and drive 100 miles a day. I burn a third of my check on gas. I still praise God every day, but I do not believe the church should take tithe from the poor only to turn around and send them elsewhere for help (with a prayer of course.) Every so often, the church gathers funds and moves to another location that’s bigger and more expensive to maintain. I’m sickened by the so-called church. We could have services under a tent for all I care and help the needy and spread the WORD of God, so that people can get saved!

  4. says

    One of my favorite things that our pastor shares on tithing is that God calls us to give not because of what it does for others, but for what it does to our own hearts.

    • says

      Quinn,
      I’m sorry, but I think that a website that provides ‘average giving amounts’ is a very poor resource for deciding how much to give. In my case it suggested 2% of my income. Hmmmmm.

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