Christians Should Not Tithe: Part Five

In Part One we looked at Deuteronomy 26, which describes a tithe given to support a yearly feast. Aside from being impractical, such a feast is no longer possible because we cannot go to a single, physical location where God dwells.

In Part Two we discovered that there was a third year tithe to support the community. Though the actual portions aren’t set, this tithe was divided into four categories, one of which went to the religious institute. Ultimately, the Levites received about 0.83% of the GDP annually.

In Part Three we learned that the entire system found in the Old Testament was a vast array of social, governmental, and religious regulations all fused into a single covenant—a covenant under which we no longer operate. To try and practice one small part of the covenant, divorced from the whole, does not work.

In Part Four we learned that though we don’t follow the old system, four principles emerge:

1. God wants to be Lord of every area of our lives, even our finances.
2. We are to be generous, but wise with those in need.
3. We are to support our community of faith and its structures.
4. We are to give sacrificially.

We also learned that under the New Testament we are under a new system.

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What, then, does that system tell us about giving? We cannot, of course, examine all that is said, but four passages loom over our discussion.

Paul has a set of instruction concerning giving that he not only gave to the church in Corinth, but also the churches of Galatia. Here’s what he says:

“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 NIV

Notice, it was a sum of money, not a tithe. How much is a sum? We don’t know. Here’s what some other translations say:

“set something aside” HCSB
“lay by him in store” KJV
“put aside and save” NAS

It is vague, and I think it was meant to be. How is this helpful to our discussion, then?

He does say to set aside an amount in keeping with one’s income. This is proportional giving. In other words, if you have little, give little; If you have much, give much.

Here’s the first principle for New Testament giving:

1. We should give a proportional amount

Paul repeats this sentiment to the church of Corinth in his fourth letter:

“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.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 NIV

Whatever we give, he says, should be a decisive amount. We are not to tip. We are not to say, “Oh crap! The offering!” and dig through our wallet or purse trying to find something. This requires planning and budgeting.

Plan it out, decide what to give, and do so with cheer. Here’s the second principle for New Testament giving:

1. We should give a proportional amount
2. We should give a decided amount with cheer

The example found in the early church paints a much broader stroke of generosity:

“For there was not a needy person among them, because all those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet. This was then distributed to each person as anyone had a need. Joseph, a Levite and a Cypriot by birth, whom the apostles named Barnabas, which is translated Son of Encouragement, sold a field he owned, brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” Acts 4:34-37 CSB

I would suggest reading the surrounding passage, but what we find here is giving that ranges from sacrificial to extravagant. Don’t think that because we don’t tithe that we don’t give. New Testament giving is actually more difficult. Here’s the third principle for New Testament giving:

1. We should give a proportional amount
2. We should give a decided amount with cheer
3. Our giving should range from sacrificial to extravagant

Finally, on several occasions Paul mentions the need to support leaders who teach and preach. These are what we would call pastors:

“The elders who are good leaders should be considered worthy of an ample honorarium, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” 1 Timothy 5:17 CSB

“In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should earn their living by the gospel.” 1 Corinthians 9:4 CSB

Here’s the fourth principle for New Testament giving:

1. We should give a proportional amount
2. We should give a decided amount with cheer
3. Our giving should range from sacrificial to extravagant
4. Give to have a resourced church

If I could sum up the commands to give, as presented in the New Testament, it would read like so:

A Christian should give a decided, but sacrificial proportion, with cheer, in order to have a fully resourced church.

What’s a good proportion at which to start?

This is not a rule, but you could try…

 

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For more on this topic, check out this audio:

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