Should Christians Tithe 10%?

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As you read this article, please remember that truth often offends those who believe they already have it.

I believe that this writing is absolutely necessary and I even contemplated purchasing a half-hour slot on Christian TV with an infomercial on the subject. It only costs about $1000.00 per half hour-it would be well worth the cost.

I can just imagine my spiel: For ONLY $20.09 (or ten percent of your income, which ever is greater) you can find out how not to tithe. But wait, if you order in the next one second I will personally send you a tithe envelope that has been soaking in the Jordan River-which is the same river that Jesus was baptized in. What a deal. Get ready for a blessing. Send me $20.09 in 2009 to release from the bondage of debt. Do it now-time is running out.

Oh, how I know that you have been waiting to read this thought.

You probably already have your ten percent in hand ready to wave in the face of your local pastor and say, "Nah, nah, nah,-I knew didn't have to tithe."

But before you start using your tithe envelopes to kindle the fire, there are a few things you should know. I must warn you that these few things could get me excommunicated from a church. Notice I said "a" church, not The Church. I could lose my minister's license. I could be disassociated with the university alumni board. I could be labeled a heretic-although that might be a welcome change to what people already call me. Four hundred years ago I could have been burned at the stake. Nevertheless, speaking the truth is worth every risk. And it's kinda fun too!

You know, every minister has an obligation to preach the truth-whether he personally agrees with it or not, and not speaking period is the same as not speaking truth. I know that most pastors naturally preach about tithe because it benefits them and their church. Certainly, churches could not operate without money. That much is axiomatic. But there is a way to not preach about tithing that will bring in every dollar that is necessary to operate effectively. Wouldn't you like to know how? As a pastor, wouldn't you like to reclaim that precious extra ten to fifteen minutes on Sunday speaking about something else? OK...then just send a self-addressed, stamped envelope, care of Scott E. Smith, P.O BOX...

I first wrote about tithing a few years ago and I gave my treatise to a local seminary professor. When he gave me his feedback he asked if I truly believed what I had written, because in his own words, "It was very humorous."

I left that alone and essentially buried my research so no one else could find it.

But lately the Lord has been speaking to me again about the issue, so I guess I will reopen my treasure trove on the topic.

By the way, if ever it seems like I don't know WHAT I am talking about, you are probably right. I don't claim to know WHAT I am talking about. But I do

know WHOM I am talking about. And that's what matters.

We all know what the church says on the subject of tithing. We all know what pastors and ministers say on this subject. We even know what has been handed down to us from Sunday school teachers and parents and what they say, but WHAT DOES GOD SAY?

I think you will be surprised.

First, have you ever thought about the different religious groups that give money to their churches?

Catholics tithe 10% of their income.

Mormons tithe at least 10% of their income.

Presbyterians tithe 10%.

Baptists tithe 10%.

Pentecostals tithe 10%.

Jews give 10%.

Even Muslims give a percentage. It is called the Zakat (about 3%)

Every Christian denomination practices a form of tithe.

Nearly every church, cult, religious group, affiliation, etc. preaches that their followers should give a certain percentage to the "work" of the ministry, or whatever it is that they do. Now please do not take my sarcasm to mean that I am anti-church or even anti-giving. That is certainly not so; but I am anti-religion. Religion is that set of rules that people say to follow to get God's attention. They say that if we follow them we will be blessed, and if I don't then I will be cursed. But even that is selfish thinking. But this is not why God instituted laws for Israel. These laws were to guide, protect and instruct until the Person of the Holy Spirit was sent to the earth to be an inward witness instead of an outward construct. These laws did not necessarily begin with Moses, but were evident from even the Creation account.

So do we need to give 10% of our hard-earned income to the church or not? Let's look at this a little closer. First, why should we give 10 and not 11 or 12, 13 or even 20%? Without getting into biblical typology and symbolism there is something interesting about numbers that we should know. Do you know what numbers are? Numbers are limits. A limit is a law. As humans, we measure everything in numbers because we are measured in numbers. Time has a limit-it is not eternal. We will not live past 120 years. Therefore we are subjected to numbers. We limit every thing in numbers. The speed limit, limit of times we can use a coupon, credit limits, etc., etc. We even numbered the commandments in the Bible. There are 10 major commandments that sum up the whole of God's will and there are 613 "branch" commandments which go into greater detail.

The very essence of the word tithe is a limit, or a law. Now, please stay with me here. For you pastors and church leaders that are reading this, I think you will be glad you finished it.

The tithe is a word that describes a tenth of something. It does not necessarily mean a tenth of money. It can be a tenth of anything. But if we are talking about the biblical concept of tithing it refers specifically to grain, produce and animals (and in rare instances money). The storehouse that is mentioned in the often quoted Malachi passage and elsewhere was a place in the temple that was reserved for food for the priests-the ones doing the sacrificing in the temple and tabernacle. Some towns even had storehouses with a tenth of the produce for widows, orphans and strangers since these people often had no way of providing for food. The priests as well did not have a normal income, so the law made provisions so these men and their families could eat. Every farmer and rancher was to provide a tithe. It was essentially an Old Testament religious tax. Only if one of these ranchers or farmers had to travel too far to the storehouse would they convert their grain, produce or animals into money. But this money was not taken to the storehouse. Read what God has to say on this subject:

Leviticus 27:30 And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD'S: it is holy unto the LORD.

Deut. 14:22-28 You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. 23 And you shall eat before the LORD your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. 24 But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the LORD your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the LORD your God has blessed you, 25 then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the LORD your God chooses. 26 And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household. 27 You shall not forsake the Levite who is within your gates, for he has no part nor inheritance with you.
28 "At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. 29 And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do

 Those who tithed were ranchers and farmers. Without their offerings the ritualistic system of atonement and all the other offerings would have ceased. They needed those who grew olives to give a small portion to make the anointing oil to anoint the priests who would officiate before God on behalf of the people. They needed vine growers to supply the juices for the drink offerings. They needed grain for the grain offering. They needed animals for the animal sacrifices. All these were needed to continue their ritualistic and religious temple ceremonial system. Without the ten percent of these items this system would fail. (If you want more details on these practices read the temple and tabernacle books by Edershiem.)

Have you ever heard this taught in a church?  I had never heard any of this until I researched it. But before you go off thinking that I teach that a person should not tithe you should read the rest of this email.

There is an Old Testament concept of tithing.

But there is also a New Testament concept as well.

If you want to live by the Old Testament then by all means saddle up your donkey and bring in a tenth of your sheep, grapes, and olives to the temple. Oh, I forgot. You might have trouble finding a temple...since it DOESN'T EXIST. At least not yet. It was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD and has not been restored since.

The Old Testament concept centers on bringing a strict 10% of these items to the temple.

It is interesting that nowhere in the New Testament does it mention to give a ten percent tithe. It has references to those who practiced the Law, but it does not encourage the NT church to do any such thing. That would make sense since Christ did away with the ceremonial law (not the moral, civil, or natural laws), the laws of ritual which restored the people of Israel to God by offering a sacrifice for sin. We no longer need to have a sacrificial system. We are definitely free to practice this system, but we would need to keep all the law in order to achieve success. We cannot keep all the law. It is impossible. Christ was our final offering in this system. Read Hebrews chapter nine. If you want to build an altar and splash blood on everything then go right ahead. This is exactly what they did in the Old Testament; I will, however, place my trust in Jesus Christ who did all the shedding of blood that was necessary.

We should not operate in a system of limits or laws that dictates how much we give to God. We need to give not out of obligation to a law (which we will never fully keep) but based on love. I need to repeat that. We must not give based merely on a law, but out of love. We should not be obligated to a system to keep up our religious attempts at appeasing God. Because at some point we will fail and we will fail miserably. There will come a time that you might lose a job, can't give your ten percent and it will seem like you are carrying the weight of the world because you can't give what you are OBLIGATED to give, or even commanded to give. Oh, and by the way, in order to keep giving a strict 10% you must also follow all of God's other economic requirements to obtain His blessing. You cannot fail in one point of the law and keep one point and expect a blessing. God said to not owe anyone anything (and this is even in the New Testament), and not to borrow money but to be lenders to many nations (Pro. 22:7; Rom.3:6-8) . If you have ANY AMOUNT OF DEBT (debt is something you are still paying for that you have in your possession: car, house, stuff purchased with credit cards with a monthly balance, etc.) you have failed in the system of the law. You could give God 100% of your money and you would still be out of His will in the law. But that is a system not based on love. (By the way, why don't we hear just as many mini-sermons from the pulpit about getting out of debt as we do tithing? If we get the church out of debt they would have more money to serve the Lord with--but this takes time, patience and correct teaching. Paul said, "OWE NO ONE ANYTHING SAVE LOVE. That's just a side-ramble).

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. James 2:10 NASB

My pastor in Bible College gave an illustration that I think will drive home this point. He said that one afternoon he had received a disturbing phone call from a collection agency. Apparently, the agency was calling him because one of his congregants was deep in debt and they claimed that they could not meet their obligation to them because they had to give their tithe to the church. After hearing this the pastor became furious. You can probably guess what his next sermon was about. The point is this: you cannot erase one of God's commands by trying to follow another. You cannot be in debt and tithe and expect God to bless you. This pastor told his congregation that if they were in debt that they should settle those obligations each month BEFORE they gave to the Lord. Yes, he was a supporter of the 10% tithe, but at least he had some common sense.

I think that it is funny to hear preachers talk about how they are against religion, but when it comes to financing their mini-enterprises they openly endorse following a rigorous rule of tithing ten percent. Many do this out of a lack of trust. They don't truly trust God to keep their church running-and believe me, if any church is doing the will of God no man will need to keep it going and no man can keep it going. (I say this in love...)

We should not operate on a system of limits or laws when it comes to worshipping the Lord; a system of law that dictates how much we are to give to God. Now I know that there are those out there that will say that people are free to give what they want to the Lord at their church, and that is probably long as they give at least 10%. Who would turn down extra money? If we really want to practice this to the "T" we should parade our ten percent of animals and produce through the doors of the church every week. I wonder if they have offering envelopes big enough. Please do not misunderstand my intentions. My intention is to love the Lord with all my heart-and I can't do that if I am tied down to a specific percentage.  

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matt. 22:37-39)


What law is not covered in these two commandments? I think sometimes some in the church want to add the third greatest commandment: tithing 10% of our income.

When we love someone and someone loves us there is an intimate communion that is shared. It is not built on a system. We are free to do what we want. But don't get me wrong, those who desire love will always convey their expectations, and they should. But giving expectations and giving commands are totally different. The way God dealt with man in the Old Testament is different from the New Testament. (It would help to review the dispensations for a better understanding). God expects man to love Him because He loved us first.

I have a question: Would it be love to tell my spouse that she had to devote 10% of her time to cooking and cleaning every week, and that if she would come through I would give her my blessing? Could she love me if all she ever gave was her ritualistic 10% of her time to do the tasks? Wouldn't she be acting like a robot? That isn't love, that is slavery. Love is not based on limits but on freedom. Christ came to take the religious burden and He nailed it to the cross.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For My yoke is easy, and My burden light. (Matt 11:28-30)

The word for "Burden" is actually Torah, or the law. Christ wants us to move from having a religion with Him to having a genuine relationship. One that is closer than any other that we have on earth. He knows that keeping the law, any law, religiously and ritualistically is burdensome. It is like having a heavy block of wood hanging from our neck. This is why He calls it a yoke. A yoke is a piece of wood that farmers would place over the neck of the oxen to do what they wanted it to do. They placed leather cords around the block of wood and if that ox would veer off the intended path the farmer could put pressure on the yoke, which would hurt the ox's neck. The ox was the farmer's servant, his slave, to do what he wanted him to do. And oxen live outside the home, in the field or in the barn. They do not commune with the farmer on an intimate level. The ox only exists to do the will of the farmer. I think that is some people's mentality of God. We are servants; we exist only to do the will of the Father in heaven. But is that an accurate portrayal of Almighty God. No, my Bible says I am no longer a servant who lives outside the house. Yes, there was a time when I could not partake of my Father's house, but I made Christ my Lord. I am not a servant. I am a son of God. I am led by the Spirit. I am not obligated to a law. But I give everything I have out of love and my relationship with my heavenly Father-and I don't just restrict this to a certain percent of money.

Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. Gal. 4:7

Just recently my wife and I were watching what some have called the best Christian movie in years. In the movie, a man who finds himself in a struggling marriage receives a "love dare" book in the mail. He is encouraged to start a 40-day trial in re-affirming his commitment to his wife. When he started his journey he failed miserably. Why? He was following the book to the letter. He had not truly put his heart into it. If the book said to do one thing, he would do that one thing and wait for his wife to come around. She never did-until he began to love out of his heart and not with the letter of what he was supposed to do.

I can only admonish those reading this to love the Lord. My heart is that we all realize how much He gave to us by sending His only Son, Jesus, to die so He could take the punishment that was due for us--yes, we broke His commands and we offended a holy and just God. But Jesus came to restore us to the Father by shedding innocent blood. Those who place their trust and confidence in Christ are joint heirs with Him. That means I am a son. That means I am destined to live in the household of God. And I am not a servant.

Honor God by giving not merely money, but also your time. Time is our most precious commodity. Some will say that it is grace. But in order to enjoy grace, we must first have been given time. We cannot buy time. Time is a gift to all that walk, have walked, or ever will walk this earth. And time is running out for everyone that is alive today. Everyday a pixel of sand is dropping into the lover portion of the hourglass. And some of our hourglasses are a little bit wider at the juncture that separates the top from the bottom. 150,000 people die every day. EVERY DAY.  It is time to stop teaching the strict observance to a law-to a system that was intended to show us that we couldn't keep it. That was the truest function of the law. It is time to love God with ALL of what we have. Don't give 10% when you can honor Him by giving 15, 20 or more. Don't give Him ten percent in a religious act and let your family suffer if you cannot give it (I Tim. 5:8). Show Him your heart. Give also of your talents and your abilities. If more people would volunteer their time and talents in churches and ministries across the world, they wouldn't need to beg for more money because much of their costs could be deferred by volunteers showing up to do yard work, bookkeeping, mechanical maintenance, cleaning the churches, etc. If you can't give money, give your time, and what you can do as a gift to God through a ministry, a church, or even a neighbor.

I simply wrote this because I believe that people are burdened down and are being condemned that they cannot fulfill the legalistic requirement that some have imposed to give 10% of their income. I want everyone to know that Christ is not looking at your hand, and what you can put in it-He is looking at what is in your heart and what you freely give to Him out of love. We may just need to cleanse that place and make more room for Him. As we do we will give much more freely, not out of obligation or compulsion, but out of a love for Him. We will also stop teaching this as a strict requirement from the pulpit. Read about the widow who gave her last pennies. She didn't give 10%, but out of love. "I tell you the truth," Jesus  said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on"

Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Cor. 9:7

Stop giving only 10% every time the plate is passed. What if Christ only gave us 10% of his love; only 10% of a crucifixion? Love God today. Start by giving a portion of your time talents and treasure to Him. If you already give 10 percent, don't stop giving. Just make sure that you are doing it out of love and that it is not for your own blessing or so you can look good for the pastor. Some people actually give so someone else can notice them.

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore (B)keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a (C)yoke of slavery. Gal. 5:1

Here is a collaborative witness:

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association also admonishes us to give out of love:

"The important thing is that we see giving as a privilege and not a burden. It should not be out of a sense of duty, but rather out of love for the Lord and a desire to see His kingdom advanced."


Hebrews 7:5 And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham:

Ephesians 2:15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;


(NOTE: Debt is symbolic of sin in the Bible. What do you think giving is symbolic of? (hint" righteousness...).



Testimony: I heard this message preached at our home church shortly after I sent it out on my email list. Apparently someone fowarded it to the pastor. Thank you Lord!

Copyright 2009, Scott E. Smith