What does it mean to “tithe”?
While under the Law of Moses, the Israelites were commanded to give a tenth of what they earned back to God. The term “tithe” means “tenth”. The text of Leviticus reads:
“Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord's; it is holy to the Lord. If a man wishes to redeem some of his tithe, he shall add a fifth to it. And every tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman's staff, shall be holy to the Lord” (Lev. 27:30-32 ESV).
Should a Christian “tithe” today?
The commandment to give a tenth was for Israel for a specific purpose. This command falls under a law/covenant that we are not under today. The Old Testament Law was given to the Nation of Israel (the Jews) in order to separate them from the rest of the nations of the world and to prepare them for the coming of the Messiah. All of the laws, the requirements, the feasts, the sacrifices, the priesthood, how to worship, the Sabbath and more, were designed to lead one to the Messiah (Jesus). Now that Jesus has come, that system has been done away. Notice what the Apostle Paul wrote the Galatians:
Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. (Galatians 3:23-26).
The Old Testament Law was like a math tutor hired to get a student ready for a test. Once the student masters the material and takes the test, the tutor is no longer needed. The student may look back at what he learned, but ultimately, the tutor's purpose has been fulfilled.
Are Christians supposed to give?
Yes! Several passages show that giving should be part of the Christian’s life and part of the activity of the assembled Church. In 1 Corinthians 16 the Apostle Paul encourages the church in Corinth to give every Sunday.
Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper... (1 Corinthians 16:1-3).
Although the command in this passage is specifically for one church to gather funds to help Christians in another region, it seems that a pattern is being established for the church to give when they meet. Notice, he says that he also “directed the churches of Galatia” to do this.
How much should I give?
No where in the New Testament is an amount or percentage specified. God wants us to be generous givers and God knows our hearts. If we are pushing ourselves to greater generosity all the time, God will be pleased. The second letter to the church in Corinth reads:
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, (2 Corinthians 8:1-3 NAS).
Paul complemented the giving of the Macedonian Christians, because they gave “beyond their means”, this is a great example for us as well.
How should I give?
Oftentimes it is hard for us to give. We selfishly want everything for ourselves and have a hard time sharing. God never wants us to give with a bitter heart. We must give cheerfully and plan ahead on how much we are going to give. God does not wants our “leftovers”.
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7 ESV).
God has given us so much! Let’s always be generous people who cheerfully give to others and back to Him.