A dollar coin. That was what my parents used to pass to my brother and me before they dropped us off for our children’s service.
It was a weekly ritual: My hand would already be stretched to the front seat of the car, proudly proclaiming, “Pass me my offering please!”
This childhood routine slowly faded away as the years passed. Looking back on it makes me wonder, did I feel obligated to give just because my parents said I should?
Are Christians even supposed to feel obligated to tithe? Before we dive into those questions, let us break down the basics.
First of all, what is tithing?
When we turn to the Old Testament, we can see that the practice of giving to God – giving offerings – had been around since the events described in Genesis.
- Cain and Abel gave offerings to God (Genesis 4)
- Abram tithed to the order of Melchizedek (Genesis 14:19-20, Hebrews 7:9)
- Jacob vowed to tithe a tenth to God (Genesis 28:20-22)
The Israelites were also commanded to give a tenth of the crops they grew and the livestock they raised to the Lord (Leviticus 27:30), which, along with Abram and Jacob’s examples, is how most believers land on the principle that they should give back 10% of their income to God.
We also see that tithes are given to the Levites after the establishment of the Levitical priesthood (Numbers 18:21).
This was the Lord’s way of providing for those set aside for His service, full-time, who were also expected to tithe back to the Lord (Numbers 18:26).
Tithing is thus a commanded and established practice through the Old Testament of giving back to God, as seen later in the time of King Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 31:4-5), Nehemiah (Nehemiah 10:35-37) and Malachi (Malachi 3:8-12).
Tithing is giving to God. Not tithing? That’s called robbing God (Malachi 3:8).
But tithing’s so OT, it’s different now…
…or is it?
Some Christians believe that the Israelites were obliged to tithe on the basis of the Law. But now that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and fulfilled the law, we are free from such obligations.
Well, Jesus Himself said in Matthew 5:17: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
Jesus did not abolish tithing or giving. He came to fully flesh out the law, to illuminate the beauty of God’s commandments, and to live it out as an example for all His disciples.
Jacob gave a tenth; Jesus gave His all. In every way, Jesus raised the standards – and that is a truth that should inform our giving and tithing today.
On a historical note, it can also be seen that tithing is a practice that carries on from the Old Testament times into the New Testament and Jesus’ time (Matthew 5:23-24, Mark 12:41-44).
So do Christians still need to tithe today?
This is a question that is best personally answered after having considered the following:
- Tithing precedes the establishment of the Levitical order
- Tithes and offerings are very important to God
- Jesus said it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35)
- Jesus gave everything
- God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:6-7)
The heart of the gospel is that Jesus willingly sacrificed Himself on the cross as atonement for our sins. His self-sacrificial and giving nature is a core trait of who He is.
As His children, we are called to imitate Him (Ephesians 5:1). Tithes and offerings are avenues for us to grow in Christlikeness.
Like the woman who demonstrated her indebtedness to Jesus by anointing His feet with expensive perfume, we give as a response to the abundant blessings God has provided us with and for what Jesus has done on the cross for us (Matthew 26:6-13).
This article won’t tell you how much to give, but it will remind you to give cheerfully. Our offerings should come from a pure and generous heart.
We are told to give cheerfully and willingly, not reluctantly or under compulsion or out of ulterior motives.
Christians must treat tithing with the seriousness it deserves. Because God views it seriously, we need to ensure that our giving and generosity are aligned with God’s Word and commandments for us.
One simple way to do this is to ask ourselves, “Am I giving cheerfully or reluctantly?”
If the answer is “reluctantly”, perhaps it’s time to examine our hearts.
At the end of the day, it is not so much about the amount we give.
Rather, God is more concerned with the spirit and heart with which we give.
All that we “own” is given to us by the Lord. And so giving to the Lord is really about giving back a portion of what He has provided for us, be it wealth, time or any other possessions we may have.
As such, let us give our tithes and offerings from a heart that is willing. May we be cheerful givers!
- Do you tithe or give offerings to God?
- Why or why not?
- What does the Bible have to say about tithes and offerings?
- How does this challenge your practices and beliefs?