Douglas Jacoby, 2 March 2010 (30 mins)

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Introduction

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  • "Tithe" means 10%. It is not a synonym for "contribution."
  • Most Christians give away nowhere near 10% of their income.
  • It is not uncommon for 20% of the church to be giving 80% of the contributions!
  • Most denominations give around 2-3%. The wealthier groups give less (per capita), the poorer ones more.

Old Testament

  • Agriculturally based. See references in notes at end of this page.
  • Church and state were one; tithes supported the clergy class (the Levites).

New Testament? Problematic.

  • No single clear verse.
    • Matthew 23:23 applies primarily to the heart, not the level of giving. Moreover, it refers to the law of Moses, not the current age.
    • Matthew 5:20 cannot mean that righteousness is to be quantified, otherwise Christians would need to fast at least 3x a week (Luke 18:9-12)!
    • Jesus asked the rich young ruler to give 100% (Luke 18), Zacchaeus 50% (Luke 19), but never made this a law for others.
  • A tithe on gross income, or net income? There can be a tremendous difference, depending on local tax levels.
  • Asking members to give 10% is more a pragmatic expectation than a biblical principle.

So should we give?

  • Yes!
    • Matthew 10 -- support Christian workers.
    • Matthew 6 -- help the poor.
    • 2 Corinthians 8-9, Romans 15, 1 Corinthians 16 -- relief contributions for poor disciples.
  • There is an interesting correlation between one's level of giving and his financial condition, spiritual condition, and even level of joy.
  • Yet while there is no minimum, neither is there any maximum level of giving.
  • In my opinion, everyone ought to give liberally:
    • The poor, even the unemployed (though with wisdom and discretion)
    • Students (teens, university students)
    • Everyone!

Summary

  • Tithing is not mandated in the N.T., but giving generously certainly is.
  • There is no minimum, but neither is there any maximum!
  • Give generously, not under compulsion (2 Corinthians 9:7).
  • Strive to be in a position where we can help others (Ephesians 4:28; also 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, Titus 3:14).
  • "Freely you have received; freely give" (Matthew 10:8).

Further study