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Is Tithing Still Necessary? An In-Depth Guide

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Donations to churches across the nation have been declining for decades. Meanwhile, charitable contributions in the United States have reached record highs. However, this surge in charitable giving has shifted its focus from churches to non-profit organizations. Does this trend imply that the relevance of the traditional practice of tithing has waned?

The decrease in available charitable funds directly affects the operational capacity of ministries. Consequently, church authorities are compelled to explore strategies for augmenting donations to fulfill the financial requirements of their congregations. One observed approach employed by ministry leaders involves an intensified emphasis on education. Specifically, they aim to educate their congregants about the importance of adhering to the “tithing” discipline.

Nevertheless, the question remains: Does this educational approach yield the desired results in boosting contributions?

Is Tithing Necessary and Relevant? You Bet!

From our standpoint, imparting teachings about tithing holds a significant and integral role within the framework of Christian beliefs. Nonetheless, we also hold the viewpoint that promoting and instructing tithing specifically for the purpose of financing a church is a delicate matter, with potential ethical concerns.

With this in mind, the focus of this article will be to delve into the concept of tithing, exploring its ongoing relevance, and contemplating how ministries can integrate teachings in a manner that fosters a thriving faith community while ensuring the sustainable financial support of the church.

A Word of Caution

We’d like to preface this by saying that this article is fairly long. Furthermore, if you are content with your church’s current approach to tithing and find that it adequately meets your requirements, you might consider concluding your reading at this point.

For those with a different perspective, our conclusion is this: it’s time to reconsider the equation of tithing with giving to your church, as they are distinct concepts.

To begin with, what exactly is tithing? In simple terms, it entails setting aside a tenth of your income. Numerous passages in scripture expound upon the practice of tithing, given its central role in the traditions of the Jewish people.

Now, why 10 percent? Etymologists suggest that the foundation of the term “tithe” in the context of Jewish culture can be linked to a word denoting our ten fingers. According to Jewish rabbis, this connection signifies a tie to the labor of our hands.

An Act of Recognition

To elaborate further, the concept of tithing signifies a deliberate acknowledgment of the intricate interplay between God’s blessings, divine authority, and our active involvement in the tasks we undertake. It is a practice that involves contributing a portion of our “first fruits” or initial gains from our efforts.

This concept is profoundly meaningful. It prompts each individual to contemplate their perspective on and connection to the work they undertake. It’s certainly convenient to view our work’s outcomes solely as products of our own intellect, strength, and cleverness.

However, those who embrace the concept of tithing remain firmly grounded in the realization that, while they certainly contribute to outcomes, they do not do so in isolation. Tithing serves as a means of fostering an attitude of humility and appreciation. It underscores the understanding that our accomplishments are not solely our own.

Tithing Relevancy in the Bible

Our viewpoint on tithing and its relevance to Christians, including its potential connection to church funding, gains support from three distinct passages in the New Testament:

  • Matthew 23:23 & Luke 11:42
  • 2 Corinthians 9:7
  • Hebrews 7

Matthew 23:23 & Luke 11:42

Within these passages, Jesus admonishes the religious authorities for transforming the act of tithing into a mere external ritual. They lost sight of the fact that all spiritual practices should ideally lead to transformative shifts in individual lives. The same can hold true for the teaching and encouragement of tithing. It’s conceivable for tithing to be presented in a manner that focuses solely on outward gestures, neglecting the crucial aspect of internal change and adopting a fundamentally different attitude towards our resources.

It’s also worth noting that in this passage, the tithe being discussed pertains to spices. This illustrates that tithes in the Old Testament encompassed a variety of offerings. These included crops, wines, and other resources. Tithing doesn’t exclusively involve monetary contributions; it’s fundamentally tied to how we perceive and manage our resources.

A couple of observations arise from this. Jesus doesn’t explicitly instruct people to abstain from tithing. However, He appears more interested in the outcomes derived from the practice rather than the practice itself. If faced with a choice, He seems to prioritize qualities like mercy, justice, and compassion over strict adherence to tithing.

Furthermore, although Jesus addresses the religious leaders regarding their tithes, He doesn’t specify which type of tithe is under discussion. Interestingly, a meticulous examination of the scriptures reveals the existence of multiple “tithes” throughout the year. A quick calculation tallies these tithes to around 23.3% of resources annually. It’s plausible that the tithe Jesus refers to is outlined in Numbers 18, concerning how the Levites (religious leaders) were expected to tithe from the offerings they received from the Jewish community.

2 Corinthians 9:7

Within this excerpt, Paul is urging the Corinthians who follow the Christian faith to stand by their fellow believers enduring persecution in Jerusalem. This is a cause that Paul frequently addresses. It’s notable that in this passage, Paul not only underscores the urgency of the situation but also encourages the Corinthian Christians to contribute according to their own considered choices, willingly and free from any sense of reluctance or external pressure.

The underlying motivation for their giving is to be a sense of joy, not an obligation. These early Christians would have been acquainted with the Jewish practice of tithing and would have grasped the intended outcome – that it hinges on the disposition of the heart. Someone who genuinely believes that their resources are intertwined with God’s blessings and provisions would naturally give with a spirit of joy.

Hebrews 7

This passage presents an intriguing analogy between Jesus and an individual from the Old Testament, Melchizedek. Abraham’s encounter with Melchizedek occurs after a battle, and Abraham voluntarily offers a tithe from the spoils of war. What adds to the intrigue is that Abraham’s act of giving is not mandated by any requirement.

Notably, this “tithe” given by Abraham predates the establishment of the specific giving guidelines laid out in the laws and customs of the Jewish community. The motivations behind Abraham’s gesture are open to interpretation. Perhaps he offered the tithe as a gesture of reverence for the triumphant outcome of the battle or as a gesture of respect for the attainment of peace after conflict.

Alternatively, he might have given out of the belief that Melchizedek would allocate the resources wisely, considering Melchizedek’s titles as the “king of righteousness” and “king of peace.” Regardless of the underlying reasons, this character exists both prior to and following the era of the “Old Testament Law.” This fact makes it challenging to assert the complete exclusion of this practice from the discussion.

Key Takeaways

Upon analyzing these passages, certain conclusions and insights come to light:

  • Promoting tithing as a spiritual practice aligns with acknowledging God’s involvement and provision in one’s endeavors. However, urging tithing with the sole purpose of meeting church expenses and covering overhead costs is not ideal. There’s no explicit textual evidence indicating that tithing was intended to serve as a means of supporting and funding an institution in a “post-temple” context.
  • Clearly communicating financial needs and inviting members of your church to contribute according to their own hearts is commendable and something we encourage. However, framing tithing as a measure of maturity or a gauge of one’s closeness to God is not advisable and could border on manipulation.
  • Encouraging tithing and giving towards tangible needs is praiseworthy, as tithing emphasizes the mindset of the giver. Conversely, advocating for tithing solely to benefit your church’s financial situation is less commendable. Therefore, if you allocate a portion of your weekend services to collect “tithes and offerings,” consider taking care to avoid framing these moments exclusively as contributions to the ministry. Instead, present them as a part of the worship service aimed at reminding everyone about the virtues of tithing.

And of course…

  • Educating individuals about tithing as a mindset that shapes their perspective on the resources they receive is commendable. However, advocating for tithing by insisting people give exactly 10% of their income is less desirable. Equally limiting is confining someone’s consideration to just that 10%. Many individuals might willingly contribute more than this percentage with genuine enthusiasm. Moreover, when the church’s requirements are transparently and concisely communicated, its needs should certainly be regarded as a worthy cause to contribute toward.

Both tithing and contributing to a church share a connection and frequently complement each other. However, it’s important to note that they are distinct entities. Our conviction (substantiated by supporting evidence) is that churches effectively managing this connection engage in specific practices. They successfully address their financial necessities while simultaneously fostering and nurturing a valuable and age-old discipline.

P.S. This article provides a glimpse into the kind of insights and concepts that churches explore and navigate within our DonorWerx Framework. To counter the challenges of the “Church Giving Epidemic,” shift your focus towards enhancing mission impact and reducing dependence on raising church operational funds. Schedule a Discovery Call with one of our giving experts today!

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