One church member asked me to give my thoughts on what (in his own words) is this “New Testament tithing and offering.”
Well, first of all, the word “tithe” is an old English word which simply means, “ten percent.” A tithe simply means a tenth of something or ten percent. The idea of giving a tithe or ten percent of what one produces out of his labor in the land was part of the package of laws and statutes which was called the Law of Moses given at Mt. Sinai to the Israelites (Deut. 14:22).
Tithing and Offering in Ancient Times
Before the Law of Moses was given, the practice of tithing and/or giving of offerings were already being done by people such as Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:2-5), Abraham (Genesis 14:20) and Jacob (Genesis 28:22). It was usually an act of voluntary giving of one’s own resources to give thanks, honor and worship to God. It was their way of giving glory and honor to the Lord. It would seem to me that tithing and/or the giving of offerings were a cultural practice during those ancient times.
Before the giving of the Law of Moses which commanded them to tithe, these people of God were already tithing and/or giving offerings of what they had. It showed before God the worshipper’s heart.
Old Covenant Obsolete
Many years later when the Law of Moses was given at Mt. Sinai to the Israelites, tithing was among those laws that the Israelites were commanded to obey and diligently follow. As a young new nation of about 3 million people who came out of Egypt, they needed the tithes for the upkeep of the tabernacle and for the support of the Levites who took care of the tabernacle and other priestly duties. When the old covenant became obsolete, the tithing law (which was part and parcel of the Law of Moses) was also abolished (Gal. 3:24-25; Heb. 8:13).
The Bible Teaching Throughout: Generosity
Under the New Covenant, there is no law that commands Christians to tithe. But please take note, that the act of giving voluntarily from the very beginning was never abolished. The tithing law enforced in the Law of Moses that was abolished did not abolish the principle of giving. Giving from the heart has always been there. Generosity was never abolished. Giving especially for those in need has always been encouraged and is the right thing to do. It reflects who God is, the God of love, the God who is love. This is not just the New Testament teaching but the teaching of the Old Testament as well. Generosity or giving from the heart is the teaching of the whole Bible.
If one were to check the whole Bible—from the Old Testament to the New Testament—what God is teaching is the voluntary act of giving, from the heart. It is generosity that is being taught all throughout. It was never about percentages or ten percent. The New Testament teaching emphasizes giving from the heart—a cheerful giver—not merely the compliance-mode of giving ten percent just to follow the letter of the law (2 Cor. 9:7). We should always practice generosity especially for those in need and for other worthy causes like donating for calamity victims, supporting the preaching of the gospel or supporting the work of the Body of Christ.
Nowadays in our modern age, some people don’t actually know the literal meaning of the word “tithe” and people just normally use the word “tithe” loosely to mean “giving an offering” without thinking of a literal ten percent. I have no problem with that. That is just a terminology they use to mean giving. That then to me is the “New Testament tithing and offering.”
To me, it’s just a terminology that people today use. I take it to mean, the voluntary act of giving offerings to God in honor and worship to him. I take it to mean generosity. I don’t make a big issue out of it when people use the word, “tithe.” I think I understand what they mean.
We give not because we are forced to do so because of a law (the Law of Moses) or for fear that we will not be blessed financially if we don’t give. Giving in order to get is not real giving at all. But rather, we give from the heart because we love God and we love our fellowmen. We want to honor him and worship him through our voluntary giving. This has always been God’s teaching all along—before, during and after the Law of Moses—since the time of Abel and Cain up to now. God has always taught us generosity — especially for those in need and also to support the work of the Body of Christ.