New Testament "Giving" beats Old Testament "Tithing" Practices

When I tell some people I don't believe in tithing, they automatically think I don't believe in giving. And such is the furthest thing from the truth.

I believe in generous and liberal giving.

I just happen to believe that since there is no more Levitical priesthood to support, I don't need to reimburse anybody for their services in a temple that no longer exists, or as a sign of gratitude to Yahweh for the land He's given Abraham and his children to dwell in forever.  Such is simply not my covenant, and such are not the promises that God has given me.

Instead, I recognize that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all these things commanded to the children of Israel, including the tithe.  And I believe we as Christians are no more called to tithe than we are called to circumcise our sons on the eight day of their birth, or to offer up any other type of sacrifice, because Jesus Christ has become to us our circumcision, our sacrifice, and our to tithe.  In light of such things, it simply does not make any sense to think we are required to tithe anymore.

And I don't think I'm alone in this feeling.

For all the preaching you hear in some churches, it is estimated that at best, only 10-15% of church members actually tithes a tenth of their gross income.  There are two reasons for this.  Either the church is full of greedy people who want to rob God, or the church is full of people who simply believe that God has called us to do something besides blindly writing a check every week to the church for an amount equal to ten percent of our income.

Granted, there is definitely a place for greed in this equation. But most Christians I know are very generous people.  Some give ten percent or more, and others give less.  But at the end of the day, I can't say I've ever known a Christian who wasn't a giver, because all have recognized that God has abundantly blessed them, and have by nature become givers themselves.

We as Christians are a people who recognize that Jesus Christ gave us His all, so we can't help but give as a result. Giving is as natural to a Christian as breathing is to all of humanity.

Whether people give ten percent, or whether people give less, I'm convinced God is just as happy with both sets of people just the same. And I believe God causes it to rain on both just the same (Matthew 5:45).  He is the same Lord, and is Lord of ALL! And He has blessed all Christians with every blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3), regardless of the percentage of income they sign over from their paycheck.

Contrary to the exasperated claims of some preachers, there is not a single Christian alive that God has cursed because of their failure to tithe.

We don't live under the threat of the Old Testament curses anymore.  Jesus Christ gave us a "better covenant" with "better promises," (Hebrews 8:6) a covenant that promises us "life" (2 Corinthians 3:6), and not a covenant that threatens us with "curses" and "death."  All the curses in this world Jesus Christ became for us on our behalf when He hung on a tree (Galatians 3:13).  Clearly, ministers who continue to threaten other believers with financial curses for failing to tithe clearly have a very deficient understanding of the atonement of Jesus Christ.

I believe because of what Jesus Christ accomplished for us on the cross, we need to rethink our giving practices.  For Jesus Christ has brought to this world a new and better way.  As great as the things were that God instructed Israel through Moses, Jesus Christ has freed us to live a way of life that simply was not possible under Moses.

Tithing was done in the Old Testament in order to maintain an old covenant way of life.

Tithing was commanded in order to preserve the temple order and feed the priesthood and their families.  It was also done in order to help the poor who were experiencing lack, even as they lived in the land of promise.  And in this, tithing it was very limited within its scope.  The blessings associated with tithing under the old covenant stopped at the borders of Israel.  Tithing was given in order to maintain everyday life within the borders of a theocratic state, and ultimately make it possible for Jesus to be born.  As a result, tithing had a very limited purpose and in its reach.

But now Jesus Christ, the seed ultimately promised to Abraham, has come.  And now, when we give, we do not give in order to maintain any sort of priesthood or theocratic state.  Nor do we give to the poor as a result of the promised land not being such a great place to live.  Rather, we give out of a result of being a people who have experienced the blessings of the Gospel being worked into the very fabric of our lives, and we give in order that other people across the entire world might experience the blessings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Instead of giving to maintain life, we now give in order to give life to others.

Can you see the difference?

We give, not so much because we are thankful to God and want to honor Him for the increase we have experienced in our lives (though we do), but we give because we are blessed beyond measure, and want all the nations of the earth to be blessed, and to enjoy the overflow of what we have in Christ.  We give because we are thinking outside the finite blessings that were limited by the borders of Israel under the old covenant.  We give because we have a greater mission, a mission that tithing has no means of fulfilling.

I believe as Christians, we need to seriously rethink how we give and what we give to, as a result of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.    

Don't get me wrong, I am all for us giving to the support of the ministry of the church.  There are brothers and sisters who labor hard for the sake of the Gospel, and we and the rest of the world are in need of their "full-time" labor.  Let us bless these men and women financially, even as the apostles instructed us to do.  They are worthy of "double honor." (1 Timothy 5:17)

But if you study closely the pages of the New Testament, you will find that the early church was very  deliberate and focused in what it gave the vast majority of its money to.  Most of the money we see given in the New Testament was not given to ministers.  Nor is there one instance of a single dime ever being given towards a "building program."  Yet these are the very things we as the church spend our money on today.

Rather, if you actually study the giving habits of people in the New Testament, you will discover that the vast majority of money that people gave was for the benefit of the hungry and the poor.  Ministers received some financial support, but leaders like the apostle Paul taught that ministers should prefer to support themselves financially by getting a job, instead of "robbing" churches by drawing a salary (2 Corinthians 11:8).  Such is what he did for himself (Acts 20:34-35), and encouraged other ministers to follow in his example.

Such, however, is contrary to the spirit of this age.  In our culture, we find that being a "full-time" minister is one of the most coveted prizes in ministry, and it is highly sought after.  While many work bi-vocationally because they have to, I believe it is safe to say that the vast majority dream about the day when they can do such "professionally" and "for a living."  Such is blatantly an unbiblical attitude to embrace, yet it is the dream of just about every person I met in Biblical college and Seminary.

And I believe as a church, we have embraced such an attitude, because we still live very Old Testament lifestyles, and the practice of tithing only encourages us to foster such an attitude.

Remember, tithing was practiced under the old covenant in order to ultimately assist in maintaining life in the promised land.  It was very limited in scope and purpose.

Under the covenant that Jesus Christ has brought, we are no longer focused on maintaining a temporary program located in Palestine.  Rather, we are interested in taking the blessings of the Gospel to the uttermost ends of the earth.  We are freed from maintaining a program whose time has ultimately set with the coming of Christ.

Rather, God has called us as Christians to take the blessings we have received in Christ, and to ultimately share those same blessings to the uttermost ends of the earth.  And we are to do so by looking for and building relationships with individuals who are sick, poor, naked, hungry, and in prison (Matthew 25:31-46).  And as w forge relationships with such people, we cannot help but feel compelled to bless them as we have been blessed, as if they were Jesus Christ Himself.

These people are everywhere, and they ultimately need us to use our resources to help take care of them.  We need to seek them out, and we need to give our money to them.  And we need to give to them, not only by strategically forming ministries designed to assist the poor, but we need to find them one by one, and give to them directly.

Of course, we can continue to blindly write checks to a church for ten percent of our income.  And such is fine to do.

But when you really stop and think about it, tithing sucks compared to the practice of giving that is actually encouraged and practiced in the New Testament.  

In giving, we are free to actually be the church, and to share the blessings of the Gospel with the entire world.  In tithing, we model a form of giving that existed under the Old Testament, to maintain an old program that no longer exists, because that program has been replaced with Jesus Christ, and all that came with Him.  At its best, tithing could do little more than make some people fat under the Old Testament.  And such it continues to do for some ministries today.

Giving, on the other hand, and primarily giving to those who are in actual need, allows us to change the world, and the entire order of things.  It empowers us to all become ministers of the Gospel, and to make a difference in the name of Christ.. "Tithing" was done to maintain an Old Testament lifestyle.  "Giving" is now a means by which we share the blessings of the Gospel with those who need it most.

"Tithing" was practiced in order to maintain life under the old covenant.  "Giving" is now to be done to the end that others might experience the "new life" that is found in Jesus Christ. 

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