TITHE OR NOT?
J. S. Smith
To tithe or not to tithe? That is
often the question.
The law of Moses regulated the giving aspect of Hebrew worship with the
tithe. A strict ten percent offering of certain animals and produce was
mandated, leaving little personal consideration to the worshiper himself. He
could obey or disobey, but the amount he was supposed to give was etched in
To many modern preachers and worshipers, this sounds like the perfect system
and yet even Old Testament experience shows that humanity can mar it.
Malachi wrote, "And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil?
And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your
governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably" (Mal.
The Jews imagined a loophole in their worship, by which they could offer to
God their refuse and expect his approval. Their hearts were disconnected
from their worship and they were simply going through the motions in the
least expensive way imaginable (cf. Isa. 1:10-20). God was not pleased.
Jesus could have reformed the tithe and instituted it for his new covenant
after the cross. Things that were lawful and approved prior to the cross
were not necessarily added to the new testament of Jesus Christ. Animal
sacrifice was left behind, as was incense burning, the Sabbath and
instrumental music in worship. The apostle Paul described this transition as
the abolition of "the law of commandments, contained in ordinances" which
formerly separated Jew and Gentile (Eph. 2:14-22). A parallel passage says
the old law was taken out of the way and figuratively nailed to Christ's
cross with him (Col. 2:11-15). If we make an attempt to justify our actions
or our worship choices with the law of Moses, we fall from God's grace (Gal.
So, while numerous passages regulate the tithe for Israel under the Old
Testament, a different and incompatible form of giving is prescribed in the
New Testament. The tithe does not fit in the church because God did not put
The practice of the first century church was that each member laid something
aside on the first day of the week, forming the treasury of the local
congregation, from which it funded its evangelism, edification and
benevolence work (1 Cor. 16:1-4, cf. Phil. 4:15-16, Acts 4:32-37).
In regulating this offering, no apostle ever demanded anyone earmark 10
percent of his funds as the mandatory gift. Instead, the saint was commanded
to "give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for
God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7). The purpose in one's heart must
also reflect the degree to which God has prospered him (1 Cor. 16:2).
Is that more, less or the same as ten percent? Some still would prefer a
number mandated for them, instead of this act of worship being left up to
their discretion. Sorry, the new covenant is a law written on the heart and
it requires the involvement and development of your own selflessness and
participation. "He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who
sows bountifully will also reap bountifully" (2 Cor. 9:6).
Because it is the first day of the week on which the saints made their
offering, it is reasonable to conclude that this was part of their weekly
assembly for worship, fellowship and communion (Acts 20:7). For this reason,
the collection plate is passed every Sunday and only on Sunday in churches
of Christ, so that each church's members can fund the work of God in that
The worshiper is set free from the restrictions of the tithe and liberated
to purpose in his own heart what he will give. Give liberally and lovingly
and remember that everything you contribute is simply returning to God a
portion of what he entrusted to you (James 1:17).
Woodmont Beacon, Edition 98, 22 September 2002