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Giving / Tithing 

Almost every protestant church teaches the doctrine of tithing; however, few churches go into the Biblical history and original purpose of tithing. This is because the current definition of tithing taught in churches is different from the Biblical truth of tithing found in the Old Testament. The most obvious difference is that the Old Testament tithe was never a tithe of money; the Old Testament tithe was always a tithe of produce, animals or other goods.

Click here for an explanation of Tithing in the Old Testament

Biblical teachings shift focus in the New Testament from requirements to Christian freedom. In a similar manner, passages on giving changed from a required percentage tithe in the Old Testament to offerings and voluntary giving in the New Testament. Instead of looking at his income to determine how much to give, a New Testament Christian looks at his heart.

The Old Testament law was given to the Israelites; the church today is not bound by any of the Levitical laws. Protestant churches are part of the New Testament church, which started at Pentecost and was followed by the indoctrination of gentiles. Paul gave the following order to the first gentile churches of Corinth and Galatia.

On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. (1 Corinthians 16:2)

Paul tells the churches to collect a sum of money on the first day of each week, or Sunday, and to save the money for when it is needed. There was no indication of a specific amount or percentage to be given, Paul simply said to give according to your income. There are several instances of where Paul teaches to be willing to give; however, there is not a single instance where Paul mentions giving 10 percent.

He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. (Ephesians 4:28)

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. (1 Timothy 6:17-18)

Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. (Romans 12:13)

The common theme of these verses is to share. Paul's opinion of giving is far from the legalistic stance that many churches preach today. The passages describe an ideology of sharing, where one person's need is filled by the other people in the group with no thought of reciprocity. A person should give because they have been blessed by God and desire to show love to others through the giving of their posessions. Some people may be unable to give anything while some people may be able to give a high percent of their income. Jesus teaches that the size of the gift is not as important as the spirit of the giver.

And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward." (Matthew 10:42)

"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' (Matthew 25:34-40)

The best New Testament passage on giving is found in the book of 2 Corinthians, where Paul is admonishing the church for not giving to support the ministry of the missionaries. He tries to explain the concept that giving money to the ministry is like sowing seeds in a field. The more money that is given the more people can be sent to do the Lord's work which will result in a larger amount of people becoming believers. The money was to be given to send out missionaries and to be used to reach lost people for Christ. It is also important to note that he does not give a specific amount or percentage to be given; Paul says to give what was decided to be given and to give willingly.

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: "He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever." Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:6-15)

It is impossible to close the discussion on giving without discussing the purpose of the gift. Paul makes it clear that the purposes of Christian giving were to provide for those in need and to fund the work of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. The early church met in homes and did not have large religious campuses like the churches today. It is sad that most of the money given to churches today is used for administration (building maintenance and salaries), while little is actually used for its intended purpose of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In a day where pastors earn hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, drive luxury automobiles and live in mansions; it is hard to imagine that the early Christian leader Paul said:

"Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have not coveted anyone's silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' " (Acts 20:32-35)

We believe that Christians have the responsibility to give as they are willing and lead to give; however, we also believe that the church leadership has a responsibility to ensure that the money is used for the intended purposes of providing for those in need and spreading the gospel. A church that continually talks about tithing and stewardship in an effort to hit their annual budget is most likely not using the funds for their intended purpose. A church that correctly uses the offerings will make an impact in people's lives, which will make Christians want to get involved and give more to support the meaningful ministry.