Questions About Tithing

by J.D. Greear

“Over the years I have gotten (and had myself) questions about whether or not the tithe (giving the first 10% of our income back to God as prescribed by the law) was biblical. Let me give you brief answer to some of those questions that demonstrate how I have learned to approach them.

1. Isn’t tithing Old Testament law? Aren’t we free of that? Yes and No.

A. Tithing is a part of the law, and Jesus has definitely fulfilled it all in our place so that we are free from it’s bondage. However, the purposes of the law were (generally speaking) 3-fold:

1. To show us what God was like;

2. To reveal how far short we fall of God’s character;

3. To show us how to thrive in the creation God has placed us in.

None of those 3 purposes faded with the death of Jesus. If anything, Jesus’ coming intensified them. We saw more of what God was like, what holiness was like, and what a man acting in perfect harmony with creation was like. As it relates to the tithe, the law reveals the unchanging character of God and how He expects us to view the money HE provided for us. A minimum of 10% that he has given to us, whether we are rich or poor, is to go back into His work. This is how He set up the world order. This is why the “tithe” principle (the first 10% of income going into God’s work) is taught pre-law (Abraham); law (Moses); post-exile (Malachi); and even affirmed under Jesus (Matthew 23:23). God’s purposes for creation haven’t changed. We are no longer under the theocratic nation state of Israel, but how God has set up his economy for His people has not changed. God doesn’t lay the financial weight of the entire world on any of our shoulders, but He has given His people a plan whereby they do their part. The law was given to help people live in the shalom of God. That’s what gives the law (principles like taking a Sabbath and the tithe) an enduring effect. Thus, the idea that 10% of all that God gives to you is given for you to give back to Him remains, I believe, as a good guide to our giving.

Now, let me be clear — Jesus left us under NO PART of the law, not the tithe or any thing else! But the law, in that it reflects God’s character and his ordering of creation, is still good, and still functions as a guide to how we are to live under God in this world. Men and women of God throughout the Bible, including Abraham and Jesus, seemed to recognize that. See John Piper for more on this.

B. If anything, the Gospel raises the level of our response to God’s laws. True obedience, Jesus says, goes much deeper than the behavior standards the law require. For example, the law said “Don’t murder;” yet, Jesus said the Gospel demanded we love our brother always and not hate him, not even our enemies. The law said “Don’t commit adultery;” yet, Jesus said that the Gospel demanded people not even “look on another woman with lust in our heart.” So, if the law says “Give 10%,” what kind of generosity does the Gospel call for? Would it not be GREATER generosity than 10%, just as the other commands were also intensified in Christ? In other words, if the people who saw God’s generosity in the Exodus responded with giving 10%, how much more should people who have seen the cross? This is why you see the early church giving FAR beyond 10%. So overwhelmed by the generosity of Christ, they wanted to pour out their possessions for those in need (2 Cor 8:9).

For Gospel-touched people, tithing should never be the ceiling of their giving, but it should be the floor.

Tithing, in and of itself, is not a iron-clad rule for Christians as it was for Israelites under the law. That said, “giving our firstfruits to God” most definitely IS a biblical principle, true of God’s people in all places and at all times. And 10% is a great place to start with that.

2. Should I give the tithe “pre-tax”, or post-tax? In the OT, God called the tithe a “firstfruit” (cf. 1 Cor 16:2). This meant their giving to God came first before anything else. That teaches pretty clearly that our giving to God comes before Uncle Sam takes his share. God gets the firstfruits, not the second ones.

3. When during the month should I give? The principle of “firstfruits” also show you, in my opinion, that the tithe check should be written first, and not at the end of the month when you see how much left over you have. If you do the latter, you will inevitably never have enough to give God 10%. You’re giving him your scraps. But if you do the former, you will inevitably adjust your lifestyle around what you have left. And, God also will find a way to multiply His blessings to you. I’ve seen that happen in my own life multiple times. It’s pretty exciting.

4. Should we give to the church, or other things? In the OT system, the tithe went to the work of God’s institution, the Temple. Caring for the poor beyond what the Temple did, or funding an itinerant rabbi, etc, all came out beyond the tithe. I believe the implication is that tithing should go to God’s new institution, the local church. Hopefully you have a church that you feel good about how they spend their money (not all on buildings, entitlement perks for members and pastors, etc) and you see them working in the streets and unreached parts of the world. Give some grace here, of course… it’s always easy to play armchair quarterback and talk about how you’d do it differently. I’d say if you trust your pastors, however, you honor God by giving to the institution He ordained. Then, give like a Gospel-touched fool beyond that to all the things God has put in your heart.

I hope this helps. I know some of you might think this is self-serving… as in when people tithe, my own means as a pastor are provided. I guess there’s no way around that for me, but I can tell you that my passion in this area has little to do with that. We have enough people who believe in our church that I’m not worried right now about where my next paycheck will come from. In other words, if this bothers you, we don’t need your money. Give it somewhere else, but I want you to experience the joy of obedience and faith in this area. I’d rather you obey the principle and give somewhere else (even if you come to our church) than I would miss out on this principle of trust and obedience because you think I’m being manipulative. God will take care of us. You focus on obeying Him, and if this feels manipulative, give to someone else besides the Summit Church.

5. How does this work out for your family, J.D.? When Veronica and I first got married, we had to stretch ourselves unbelievably thin to tithe. As God has increased our income over the years, we have yearly increased the percentage of what we give. We now give way above the tithe to our church, and then beyond that to ministries blessing the poor, carrying the Gospel to the world, and some to our church’s expansion project, Believe. We love it. Veronica last night said, “This is so fun… giving.” It really is more blessed to give than to receive. God really has multiplied what we have given to him and given it back to us “in every way,” –financially, in joy, in perspective, etc (2 Cor 8-9). We love it.

Here’s a recent message you might listen to, if it helps.It’s called “A Life Responding to the Gospel: 2 Chronicles 29:2-21″ preached on 2/21/11.

Here’s a tool for those of you who do want to give to our church.

Here’s info our church’e expansion project, Believe.

Always open to your comments! Do you have a great story about God’s faithfulness to you in the midst of your giving? I’d love to hear it. Post it below!”

-J.D. Greear,

3 thoughts on “Questions About Tithing

  1. Firstfruits have nothing to do with the tithe. This is proven in Nehemiah 10:37 where we learn that the firstfruits were taken to the temple for the priests, and the tithes were taken to the Levites who lived in the Levitical cities.

    Next, the tithe was never the first of anything. The tithe was the tenth, not the first. See Leviticus 27:32.

    Third, the tithe never came from income. It came from assets.

    Fourth, the tithes commanded by God was not and could not be money.

    Fifth, the tithe always came from a net amount, not from the gross. Abram gave a tenth of the net war spoils, and the Israelites tithed on the net crops and animals. If you need scripture to show it, let me know. I have it.

    Sixth, the Levitical tithe was given to the Levites. The Levites were servants to the priests. They were the ushers, singers, musicians, etc. Then the Levites were commanded to give a tithe of the tithe to the priests. Why don’t you follow that principle today?

    Seventh, wage earners did not tithe. I can give you a list of dozens of occupations that did not tithe. What happens to that principle in the New Testament?

    Eighth, since the poor benefits (ate) from the tithe, and did not tithe, why do you say everyone, whether rich or poor, should tithe today? Why not follow the principle laid out in the Old Testament that the poor don’t tithe, but rather receive a portion of the tithe?

    It certainly appears you pick the parts you want to carry forward, change many of them them, and ignore the parts you don’t want to bring forward.

  2. Third, the tithe never came from income. It came from assets.

    Fourth, the tithes commanded by God was not and could not be money.

    Wrong: it was all. it was the firstborn, the first crops, the first fruit and money as well (which we even see in the new testament happening). Even the poor did tithe from what they received as a gift! Including the Levites and Priests, they again gave from their RECEIVED tithe.

    It was the first as well as a tenth. First meant: you gave back to God before you used the rest. You just set your priorities right.

    One thing is for sure: it was in many ways not a law, but a test. God said here “test me on this” . It is the only place in the Bible where He said we should test Him. So, tithing, beside the offerings is a privilege, not a strict law. And it is definately not a “prosperity” thing. You only return to God what is rightfully His, and because you set that appart for God, He blesses the rest. If a preacher tells you that you get a blessing depending on how much you give, he is telling you lies. But I also know stories of people who had no money and would give a tenth of their received crop (one peanut!!!) and got blessed because of that.

    Funny, always when the bible talks about money people get sort of angry, upset. Shows where their heart is…. Didn’t the bible tells us that not money (!) but “the love for money” is the root of evil?

    • Deut 14:22 – 27

      22 “Thou shalt truly tithe ALL the INCREASE of thy SEED, that the FIELD bringeth forth year by year. 23 And thou shalt EAT before the Lord thy God, in the PLACE which HE shall choose to place his NAME there, the tithe of thy CORN, of thy WINE, and of thine OIL, and the firstlings of thy HERDS and of thy FLOCKS; that thou mayest learn to fear the Lord thy God always. 24 And IF the way be TOO LONG for thee, so that thou art NOT ABLE to carry it; or IF the PLACE be TOO FAR from thee, which the Lord thy GOD shall choose to set his name there, when the Lord thy GOD hath blessed thee:25 THEN shalt thou TURN it into MONEY, and BIND UP the MONEY in thine hand, and shalt go unto the PLACE which the LORD thy GOD shall choose: 26 And thou shalt bestow that MONEY for [TURN it BACK into] whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for OXEN, or for SHEEP, or for WINE, or for strong DRINK, or for whatsoever thy soul DESIRETH: and thou shalt EAT THERE [in that PLACE which the Lord chose] before the Lord thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household, 27 And the Levite that is within thy gates; thou shalt NOT forsake him; for he hath NO part NOR inheritance with thee.”

      vs 22 and 23 CLEARLY show that those who were instructed to tithe ANYTHING at all [APART from the Levites] were SOLELY the families who had worked the soil of Israel – and those who processed that produce into wine, oil, flour etc.

      vs24 – 26 CLEARLY show that the money, here in THIS situation was NOT given – even as a PORTION of the tithe – but was to be turned/changed BACK into items of PRODUCE – this applied to EACH and EVERY Jewish farmer who found himself in the SAME situation – it HAD to be SHARED around, EATEN, and enjoyed before the Lord. So, he HAD to BIND UP the money he’d got from the sale of his PRODUCE – for it was to be used for ONE purpose ONLY – to ALLOW him to be ABLE to obey the Law by giving the 10% of the INCREASE of ALL of the PRODUCE which his business had received from the Lord, during the past year.

      re: “the love for money” is the ROOT of evil – so also is WRONGLY dividing the Word of GOD in order to make ‘merchandise’ of the flock of GOD.

      In light of vs24 – 26

      BEWARE of those who wrest the Word of GOD, by teaching:
      “Because there was NO money back in ‘THOSE’ days (like there IS in ‘THESE’ days) the tithe of the GROSS sum of your WEEKLY wage is therefore to be paid – it being ‘todays’ tithe – it is WRITTEN in the Bible – you must be obedient in this, or else be CURSED by God!”.

      Israel’s farmers were only required to give 10% of the INCREASE that they’d received over and above the original GROSS amount of stock/crop that they’d started the previous year with – NEVER 10% of the GROSS stock/crop they had in hand PLUS any INCREASE which they might have received during that year.

      Therefore, it stands to reason that people living in ‘THESE’ days should ONLY be required to tithe on just the INCREASE in their wage – as compared to what money they’d received during their previous financial year.

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