Is Tithing for today?
Charles asked a question about whether tithing was still applicable under the New Covenant, especially if it was just for the maintenance of the temple cult. Here is my response:
Tithing is not specifically addressed in the New Testament and so there are various beliefs concerning whether the law of the tithe is still applicable. I will share with you my thoughts. In your question you state: "neither Jesus nor the apostles ever so much as suggested this duty [tithing] to the disciples." Technically this is not true. In Matthew 23:23 Jesus says to the Pharisees (with the disciples there listening) that they tithed but neglected justice, mercy and faith. He then states, "These things should have been done [tithing] without neglecting the others [justice, mercy and faith]." One could argue that he only meant under the Old Covenant but that is not specifically stated; so you see, the New Testament does advocate tithing, at least as a principle. Now saying that, I would agree that looking at the New Testament as a whole and the statements of Paul and Hebrews that we are no longer under the law of Moses (Romans 9:20-21; Hebrews 7:12) and therefore no longer under a law of the tithe. The New Testament also says very little about the Sabbath and seems to indicate that we are no longer under the law of the Sabbath either (one of the Ten Commandments). We may not be under the law of Moses that deals with the tithe or the Sabbath, but that doesn't mean we are not obligated to set aside a day for worship and rest (Hebrews 10:25) as well as to regularly give. The church did take up an offering, seemingly on a regular basis on Sunday, to help the ministry of the church. These gifts were given to the leaders of the church who were responsible to decide how those gifts should be used in ministry (1 Corinthians 16:2; Acts 20:7; 4:34-37; 2 Corinthians 9:6-8). So first we see that Jesus did address tithing and did not abrogate it like he did with the kosher food laws (Mark 7:19). Second we see that regular giving is still required, though not in a legalistic sense, but rather a principle of regular giving (2 Corinthians 9:6-8). And third we should notice that whenever Jesus talked of the law, he did not soften the requirements, but rather went to the heart of the matter, making it more stringent if anything; we see this in his Sermon on the Mount. When he discusses adultery he says don't even lust; when he mentions murder, he says don't even hate. I can't imagine asking Jesus, "Now that we are under the New Covenant, even though we are supposed to regularly give, can I give 5% instead of 10%?" If anything 10% is a good measure to start with, but we should be willing to go further as God leads us. My recommendation is that a person should start at 10% and give this to the local church's general fund. Anything beyond 10% the believer can give to whatever ministry he or she feels led to give to. For new believers, it is sometimes wise to start giving less than 10% (maybe 5 or even 2 or 3), because of the shock to the budget; but he or she should gradually seek to work up to 10%. God is not going to zap you if you don't immediately start giving 10%. But to those who don't give or use the New Covenant idea as an excuse to give less, I would say that you can't out give God and you shouldn't tempt God. He owns everything and so all we have is His. He calls us to be good stewards of all that He has entrusted to us. The principle found in Malachi 3:8-11 still applies to the Christian:
8 Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, 'How have we robbed you?' In your tithes and contributions.
9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you.
10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.
11 I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts.
(Mal 3:8-11 ESV)
Hope this helps,
Larry Siekawitch, Ph.D.