Are Christians Required to Tithe?

Posted: May 13, 2011 in bible, books, christianity, theology

The short answer is, “No.”  Thomas Schreiner, writing in his book 40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law, can help us with the long answer:

  1. In the Old Testament, one of the main tithes (there were around 12 altogether, totaling a lot more than 10%) was the one given to the Levites and priests.  This was to support the Temple and sacrificial system, a central element of Israel’s covenant with God.  However, “the tithe is irretrievably tied to the old covenant, which is no longer in force.” (220)
  2. Under the Old Covenant, there was a tithe celebrated every three years in the city of Jerusalem.  However, “such a practice can hardly be normative for the church of Jesus Christ today,” for, “the Jewish nation is no longer the locus of God’s people…[and] the earthly Jerusalem is no longer central to God’s purposes.” (220)
  3. Jesus did not command tithing for Christians.  His few instructions about tithing (Matt. 23:23; Luke 11:42) should be understood in much the same way Christians understand Jesus’s instructions regarding sacrifices in the Temple (Matt. 5:23-24).  “[Jesus’s] positive words about tithing are explicable when we consider that Jesus ministered before the Cross and Resurrection,” and were directed toward Jews living under the Old Covenant law. (220)
  4. Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek (Gen. 14) is simply a non sequitur in this discussion.
  5. Finally (and most conclusively), nowhere in the New Testament is tithing ever mandated for Christians.
Here is Schreiner’s helpful summary:
Even though tithing is not mandated, there is no call in the New Testament to hoard one’s possession or to live selfishly.  Believers are commanded to support those who proclaim the gospel (Matt. 10:10; Luke 10:7; 1 Cor. 9:6-14; 1 Tim. 5:17-18)… God is to be our treasure, and hence believers are to give generously and freely.  For most believers in the West, that means giving more than a tithe.  Still, the tithe itself is not mandated by Scripture, and Scripture is our rule and authority rather than a tradition that requires believers to tithe. (221)
  1. tojerusalem says:

    Wow. Quite the divorce between covenants that’s not entirely appropriate. “The Jewish nation is no longer the locus of God’s people” seems rather telling, to be honest. I’m not defending Christian tithing, I’m just saying the guy’s foundation for why Christians shouldn’t tithe is a little narrow and deals with the Testaments in a way that subordinates Old to New, and demonstrates a poor understanding of the purpose of Old Testament Deuteronomic practices.

    I’ve appreciated your posts Matt!

  2. itsnotaboutu says:

    I think the notion of “tithing” is still very appropriate for us today. Why not give 10% of your earnings to the church to further ministries? Its a good foundation for people that don’t know how much to give, but you are right in saying that its not necessarily a “commandment”.

    Nice post,

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