Should Christians today pay tithes?

Q. Should Christians today pay tithes?

My response to this question would be similar to the one I gave to an earlier question about whether Christians today should keep the Sabbath. In that post I said, in part:

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The obligations of the Old Covenant are transformed into opportunities under the New Covenant. Tithing provides a good example of this. Under the Old Covenant, the people were required to give a tithe (that is, 10%) of their crops and other income to the Lord. But the New Testament never speaks of tithing as a requirement. Rather, it says things such as, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (Another way to put this is, “Don’t give if you wish you could keep it; don’t give if you feel you have to. God loves those who give because they want to give.”)

So the emphasis in giving is on the desire of the heart to honor and obey God. This doesn’t mean, however, that Christians shouldn’t tithe. Tithing is actually a very good spiritual discipline for us to adopt. A spiritual discipline is a structure that we build into our lives to make sure that we actually do what we want to do in our hearts. So by keeping track of our giving, and making sure that it’s at least 10%, we structure our lives in such a way that our good intentions are actually fulfilled. (After all, those who give because they want to can reasonably be expected to give at least as much as those who gave because it was a requirement.)

When we do carry out the desire of our heart to express our devotion to God in tangible ways, then we take advantage of an opportunity to do good. In the conclusion to the passage about the “cheerful giver,” Paul explains, “This service that you perform [i.e., your giving] is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people, it is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.”

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So, at least as I see it, while Christians today are not required to give 10% of their income, setting 10% as a goal and using that for personal accountability is a good way to ensure that we do fulfill the desire of our hearts to be part of God’s work through generous giving. And in that sense, Christians today indeed “should” tithe.

Author: Christopher R Smith

The Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith is an an ordained minister, a writer, and a biblical scholar. He was active in parish and student ministry for twenty-five years. He was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the New International Version (NIV) that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. His Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide series is keyed to this format. He was also a consultant to Tyndale House for the Immerse Bible, an edition of the New Living Translation (NLT) that similarly presents the Scriptures in their natural literary forms, without chapters and verses or section headings. He has a B.A. from Harvard in English and American Literature and Language, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and a Ph.D. in the History of Christian Life and Thought, with a minor concentration in Bible, from Boston College, in the joint program with Andover Newton Theological School.

One thought on “Should Christians today pay tithes?”

  1. Great teaching.. I was never a person who enjoyed giving, I was cautious about it.. What really made it different for me was getting deeper into my relationship with God, becoming grateful for what the church and fellow believers have done for me, being reminded of how others have freely given to me. Being reminded of how God freely gave His Son for us. This encounter with God changed everything for me about giving. Surely we can give some of our income to help someone in need or towards building the church. We have been blessed, we should pay it forward. When the time is right though, we all have that beautiful encounter with God that leads us to give with our whole hearts. Giving is very much about the condition of your heart and not so much about the amount you’re giving.

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