The Truth About Tithing
“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.”
2 Corinthians 9:7
In the book of Acts, there is an account of a man trying to buy God’s Spirit–literally (see Acts 8:18-19). His name was Simon. He thought that by giving his money he’d have the ability to do what the apostles were doing. Peter gave him a firm tongue-lashing about how incorrect his thinking was. Had Simon known the truth–that he could receive the Holy Spirit for free—he wouldn’t have offered money. Of course, now he knows.
Sometimes we have to have cold water thrown in our faces for us to be able to understand certain things–to “snap out of it.” The truth about tithing is no different. Like Simon, we can incorrectly believe that God’s favor and protection can be bought through our legalistic giving. “You gotta rebuke the devour!” they’ll say. Now, I already know that I will get a lot of kick-back on this subject, so I’m going to present every rebuttal I can possibly think of, beginning with what I just stated above:
“Matt! How can you say that tithing is legalistic?! That’s just wrong!”
Friend, the word tithe literally means ten percent. That is a law in itself–a mathematical law. So let’s define the word “law.”
- Webster’s Dictionary claims a law is: a rule or order that it is obligatory to observe. Obligatory means you are obligated. “You have to do this, or not do this–or else.”
- According to the Old Testament, a law was something you physically did, or refused to physically do, in order to gain God’s approval–or to be sure you didn’t lose His approval.
Anything we physically do is a “work.” For example: I do this, so that I get that. I don’t do this, so that I don’t get that. Paul makes clear to the Romans how wrong this is according to the gospel because the gospel is based solely on grace. What is grace? Grace is absolutely free, un-earnable favor. If you can earn it or lose it, it was never based on grace. Here’s Paul’s proof:
“And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” (Romans 11:6)
This can apply to anything in the Christian life, not just tithing. Say, for example, a Christian believes that attending a Bible college or seminary will earn them favor with God. That is a work–something in which they are physically doing. Therefore, if earning righteousness–or keeping righteousness–is the motivating factor behind their studies, their academia is dung, it’s total crap. Paul said this, not me, after listing off all of the “amazing feats” he had accomplished (see Philippians 3:3-8).
This is why pastors need to stop lying about tithing. Some pastors just don’t know any better, but some do. The ones who aren’t telling the truth about tithing are too fearful of the church not getting the funds they need. So, they manipulate their people with the pressure of not being blessed by God if they don’t tithe.
“Matt, you’re a false teacher! Read your Bible! You are wrong! God Himself will make you suffer for saying we aren’t supposed to give any money to the churches!”
Relax. Take a deep breath and count to ten…it’s gonna be okay. You might burst a blood vessel if you don’t. Friend, listen, I’m not saying don’t give, I’m saying change why you give. The same way you got saved should be the same way you give: with grace.
You didn’t abide by any law to get saved, but instead, you died to the Law so that you could live for God! (See Galatians 2:19). You were saved by grace, not by Law observance. Therefore, there shouldn’t be any law percentage in your giving either. A percentage is a law. Instead, you should give gracefully from the core of your being, as a heaven-ready saint (see Colossians 1:22, Romans 5:1).
Give whatever you want, whenever you want, to whomever you want–without a numerical equation. Numerical equations are laws. So is any type of physical effort to achieve anything with God. This is why Jesus did so many physical acts in front of the Pharisees when He wasn’t supposed to be–acts which went against their Law (see Mark 2:23-24, 3:1-6). Further, Jesus only refers to tithing when He is pointing out the hypocrisy of those who were focused on their tithe rather than on important matters of the heart (see Matthew 23:23).
There is not one single verse in any New Testament epistle which states a New Covenant believer must give ten percent of their money to anyone. Paul, Peter, James, John–none of them wrote anything in any of their letters about tithing. Don’t you think if tithing was a part of the gospel they’d say so? This is why we should completely remove the word tithe from our vocabulary and replace it with a different word: giving.
Rather than hound the Christians in Corinth about forking over a tenth of their earnings, Paul educated them about giving–not tithing–when he said:
“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.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)
Notice that Paul tells them to give freely and not under compulsion. Calculating ten percent can easily be compulsive, “Is that before or after taxes?! What about my tips? What if I give someone a loan?! Do I tithe on my birthday money?! Oh God, please be easy on me if I’m wrong!”
Another version of this verse says “don’t give under pressure.” Any action of a Christian which is done under pressure is not coming from God. Remember, we are branches who produce spiritual fruit, and Christ is the vine (see John 15:5). To grow fruit, branches are never pressured by the vine. Instead, they simply rest and be themselves. This is why frantic, pressure-filled, or even emotional giving, should always be a red flag for us to pause, pray, then proceed.
We are to be doing everything from a state of rest (see Hebrews 4:11). Sure, we are at war, spiritually, but even the armor we put on is Christ in us coming out of us–this can only be done by resting gracefully in Him (see Ephesians 6). By way of an attitude of rest, we can naturally allow Christ to live through us to produce the good things He wants us to produce (see Galatians 5:22-23). This includes our giving.
“Matt, you think you’re soooooooo smart. Are you saying that we don’t have to give anything at all?! Are you saying we can just relax?!”
Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. We are free. God has set things up this way because He knows that love cannot exist or thrive without freedom. Without freedom, everything we do and don’t do is a duty. No intimate relationship is based on duty. The Galatians couldn’t get this in their thick, legalistic heads. They were trying to earn more of God’s favor through physical acts. Paul corrected them:
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)
Slavery is forcing people to do things–or to not do things–because we legally say so. With slavery, we don’t even earn anything. That’s exactly what the Law did, it created religious slaves. It caused its observers to be slaves because even when they did what it said for them to do, they still didn’t earn anything from God. God has always been concerned with our hearts and faith in Him–not in Law observance (see Genesis 15:6, Romans 4:3). Any jerk can obey laws, but to understand our Creator, love and belief in Him must be present. This is why Jesus died! So we could be free from the whole Law and enjoy uninterrupted fellowship, right now! (See Romans 8:2).
So why is it we will agree that Christ has set us free from the slavery of Law except for giving away a tenth of our money?…Simple: Bad teaching. Bad teaching that attempts to combine Law with grace–a self-destructing, double-talk mix of the Old and New. Confusion would be a great way to describe it.
Many pastors have incorrectly taught their congregations that in order to be blessed by God they must give a tenth of their money to their church. Some even falsely claim that the tithe is only the beginning! They say that if a person gives an offering above the tithe, they will become extremely wealthy. “The tithe is just to be sure you get to keep what you got! An offering will get you more!” This is a lie. Honestly, it’s not just a lie, it’s an anti-gospel Ponzi scheme–especially when they say an offering above the tithe will generate great wealth.
If this were the truth, then why doesn’t that pastor simply give away all of their church’s money to another church, and then sit back and rake in the dough? After all, wouldn’t that be even more holy? Wouldn’t that cause God to open up the floodgates of heaven even wider? It’s garbage, it’s slavery, it makes no sense for a reason: it’s not the gospel.
Further, tithing has never made anyone wealthy except for the pastors who preach this falsity. Saying that God promises “a return on your monetary investment” is a lie from Satan himself. You can’t buy God’s favor, He’s your Dad! What kind of good parent would do such a terrible thing to their kids? Who would force their kids to give them money, so they will give their kids back even more money? No parent in their right mind would do this! This stupidity would be called mental abuse, and that’s what the lie of tithing is doing to God’s children! It is damaging many souls!
Just imagine if you told your child, “Here, take this twenty dollars and go have a good time at the mall. But if you don’t bring me back two dollars, you can forget about eating dinner tonight. And, if you bring me back five dollars, because you gave above the ten percent, I’ll give you dessert! But don’t you dare rob me of at least my ten percent! It’s mine and I want it back!”
This trash teaching has to stop! If I wanted to, I could give my child a $100 bill! I don’t expect her to give any of it back to me! I don’t give to my daughter so she will give any amount back, but because I love her! This is how God sees you! And let’s be clear about the verse in question; the Scripture which has been used to create the tithing law is Malachi 3:10:
“‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.'”
From the get-go, we’ve established the foundation of tithing incorrectly. Tithing had nothing to do with money whatsoever. Malachi is talking about…drumroll…grain! A “storehouse” stores grain! This is about food! God is not talking about a physical church building or cash, but about a grain silo and groceries!
This verse has nothing to do with Christianity or churches, but instead, the Jews and being able to feed the priests. Malachi was written hundreds of years before Jesus, and the first church building wasn’t even officially erected until 200 years after Jesus! So how are we going to take that verse and squeeze it into what we have on this side of the Cross?…By taking it out of context. We can make up a lot of stupid stuff by copying and pasting Scripture to complete our own agenda–tithing included.
The fact of the matter is that the Jews had to tithe their grain in order to feed the Levitical priesthood who weren’t allowed to earn a living because they were too busy doing priestly stuff. The grain tithe was so they could eat! How dare us for taking this particular verse and then retrofitting it into the gospel. What a deception! What a shame!
Another big zit on the face of Christian tithing is unless you are a Jew, you weren’t even invited to obey the tithing law. But more, even if you are a Jew, the Old Covenant is now obsolete anyway because a New Covenant has replaced it. The author of Hebrews tells us this. He, or she, claims Jesus’ death and resurrection created a new agreement between God and humanity:
“By calling this covenant ‘new,’ he has made the first one obsolete” (Hebrews 8:13)
It’s the same God of the Jews, but a new Covenant for everyone! The first Covenant–which included tithing–is put aside because it is worthless. Obsolete means worthless! There is a reason you don’t use a pay-phone any longer, and there is a reason you don’t live by the Old Covenant any longer–THERE IS SOMETHING BETTER! CELL PHONES AND JESUS!
Of course, I’m sure I’ll hear, “So Matt, do you think we should just rip out Malachi and throw it away?! How dare you! Jesus said not one jot or tittle will be removed from the Law!”
Friend, I’m on the same page as you. I agree that not one part of the Law will ever go away, Jesus was not lying when He said that. However, the Law was completed in Christ, and now we are living under a different system of belief not Law. Only unbelievers are under Law, and the only thing the Law will ever do for them is increase their realization of their need for a graceful Savior:
“For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the Law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God.” (Romans 10:4)
So sure, leave Malachi exactly where it is–don’t rip it out. It belongs in the canonized history book of our Savior’s lineage. But we Christians are not under a law from Malachi, or from any law in any book. Period. We are under a New Covenant based on faith in Jesus’ finished work (see John 19:30, Hebrews 10:10). When we mix in a drop of the Old Covenant with the New Covenant, it is no longer the New Covenant, but instead reverts back to the Old.
Paul was trying to get the Christians in Galatia to stop mixing in Old Covenant rituals with the New Covenant of grace. He called them fools for doing so (see Galatians 3:3). Their incorrect mindset was, “If grace is good, it would be even better if we mixed in some law with it”–NOPE! Paul put and end to this false teaching:
“A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” (Galatians 5:9)
Paul was telling them, “One law–just one–mixed in with grace, would be the same as one drop of arsenic mixed in with your Gatorade. Why would you do such a foolish thing?!” Jesus also warned us against combining the Old Covenant with the New. He said it’s like putting new wine into old wineskins–the wineskin will burst! (See Matthew 9:17). This would include tithing.
Let’s do another counterclaim to what I’m teaching here, let’s talk about Melchizedek. Now, some legalistic Bible scholars who don’t understand grace, will cherry-pick an event from the Old Testament about Abraham tithing to a mystery man named Melchizedek (see Genesis 14).
A couple things they will use for their stance of tithing as New Covenant believers is:
- Abraham tithed Melchizedek–which was before the Law was given by Moses.
- In Hebrews, a New Testament epistle, the author refers to tithing Melchizedek.
Both stances crumble pretty quickly when you dive into Scripture for yourself. For number one, Abraham didn’t tithe Melchizedek grain, but spoils of war. How can a Christian tithe their booty to their local church if they aren’t confiscating plunder from war? So this theology is just straw-grasping.
How do I know it was spoils of war and not grain or cash? Because Abraham had just won a battle, and afterwards, he met up with Melchizedek to hand over the loot. This had nothing to do with tithing to a church, so this argument falls flat on its face.
For number two, Hebrews 7 goes into great length explaining the relationship between Abraham and Melchizedek. Some scholars claim that Melchizedek was Jesus appearing in the Old Testament before He came as a baby. Just read Hebrews 7:3:
“Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.”
Sounds like Jesus to me, or at least a foreshadowing of Him. But let’s not get off track here. The author of Hebrews goes on to tell how important Melchizedek was, so much so, that he deserved a tenth of Abraham’s plunder (see Hebrews 7:4). But then he says how much more important Jesus is! The author claims, “Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant” (Hebrews 7:22, my emphasis added). Here’s more proof:
“The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the Law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.” (Hebrews 7:18-19)
So if the former regulation, the Law, was weak and useless–and tithing is a matter of the Law–then how much better is our giving based on grace?! How much more authentic and loving is our giving when it’s done from the heart?! Immensely!
Many Christians won’t even give two or three percent because they think it won’t count! And some give more than ten percent because they think by doing so, they are forcing God to buy them that new car! These types get great satisfaction by putting their money envelope in the basket with the amount written real big just so the person next to them can see them doing it! We gotta stop counting numbers, and start being branches! Branches have it so easy!
Friend, God does not bless us because we give Him a percentage of our money as if He’s our Heavenly Broker demanding His cut before He continues to work. No, He blesses us because we are His children, just the same as any loving parent would do.
Your Dad can’t be bought. He gives to you because He cares for you. Truth be told, with Christ living in you, you are already blessed with every possible blessing! (See Ephesians 1:3). Should we give? Absolutely! But we need to give whatever we want to give, because we want to give it. As a New Covenant believer, you can give 10%, 2%, 89%–or even 0%–there is no law in giving. You can’t legislate love or God’s blessings through any particular number. You are free.
So today, my friends, know this: We don’t give to get. We don’t give to keep what we got. We give because we are natural givers at heart. We give because God lives in us and He is the greatest giver of all time (see John 3:16). So let’s all begin to give, but give with the right motives. Let’s give because we are not under any pressure to give, but because we are cheerful givers!
A prayer for you: Heavenly Father, today I want to thank you for the revelation of your grace giving. I can remember the days I’d feel terrible about myself because I “tithed” but I wasn’t sure if I tithed to the exact percentage. You know full well how I lived in fear and condemnation over my tithing–eventually giving up altogether. The torment Satan created in my mind through this law was terrible. Thank you for setting me free! Right now, I lift up all of the pastors who are reading this, directly to you. Begin to reveal to them that you know how much their bills are, and you know what they need. You know their goals, ambitions, and plans, and you want the gospel to spread just like they do. However, you want the gospel to spread based on the truth of tithing being a law which we are free from. Take the pressure off of them this very moment, so they can take the pressure off of their congregations. Give them peace knowing you will take care of their financial situations, organically, with the truth. And for everyone else who is not a pastor, help them understand that their giving should be based on their love for you. Like a hand-made, uneven, clay coffee-cup that says “Daddy,” you take our gift with a warm smile and a hug. We are your children and you are our Dad. Help us all to understand this amazing truth on the deepest level possible. Amen.
This devotional is from 60 Days for Jesus, Volume 3. Get your copy here!