No, It’s Robbing Yourself
My husband and I were newly Christian and in seminary when a friend told us about tithing. She stressed the importance of giving a full 10 percent before taxes, before anything else, so that we would be giving God the first fruits of our labor.
We recoiled at the thought, but she said this practice had given God room to work miracles in her life. She and her husband had once put their last dollar in the offering plate, only to have the pastor turn around and give them the whole collection. My husband and I began this plan right away and never even considered making our tithe after taxes. It seemed petty to make such calculations when giving to a God who gave us everything, including his Son.
Soon, we had settled into a pattern of giving 5 percent to our local church and 5 percent to charity. But one year, when it was time to renew our annual pledge to the church, I was convicted that a radical increase was necessary. God says, “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse” (Mal. 3:10, ESV). For our family, that means the local church. So the full 10 percent should go to our church, while charitable gifts (alms) were to be an additional offering.
When I began sharing this with my husband, we were in for a surprise. He had separately come to the same conviction. The problem was that we had just promised 5 percent of our income to a missionary. Overnight, we went from giving 10 percent of our income to giving 15 percent.
Yet we never suffered. We saw God meet our needs in ways that bordered on the miraculous. People were always giving us things we needed but couldn’t afford: a sewing machine, a lawn mower, a new refrigerator. More than once, we found an inexplicable extra $50 in our savings account.
Over the years, our total giving (including alms) has ranged from 15 to 20 percent. We found, like others before us, that once we determined to make our tithe the first payment each month and this habit became routine, all other expenses fell into place.
God uses strong language about tithing (Mal. 3:8–9). We live in a time that is offended by that strong language, and resents any implication that we ought to do or not do something. We regard ourselves as customers, even in church, and expect to be treated with deference, for the customer is always right.
This kind of exhortation has a way of backfiring. So the best I can say is: At least try. Aim to give a percentage of your income. Start with whatever percentage you give now, and raise it a little each year. In time, you will reach the tithe.
Then you will be giving as generously as the people of the Bible, who lived in conditions we would see as abject poverty. Like them, pay God before you pay Caesar, for there is no better indication of your priorities.
Frederica Mathewes-Green, author of ten books, blogs on Christian spirituality and Eastern Orthodoxy at frederica.com.
No, Put Away the Calculator
David A. Croteau
The question here assumes that tithing in some way is required for Christians. The word tithe means 10 percent, not necessarily “a tenth of my income.” The biblical definition of a tithe is “giving 10 percent of one’s increase from crops grown in the land of Israel or cattle that feed off the land of Israel.” It was consistently connected to the land of Israel. A tithe was done multiple times a year, probably equaling more than 20 percent of crops. No one was ever commanded to give 10 percent from their general income (just crops and cattle). So unless you are under the Old Covenant and have crops based in the land of Israel or cattle that feed off the land of Israel, you do not qualify to tithe (Lev. 27:30–33; Num. 18:21–24; Deut. 14:22–29).